House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was oversight.

Topics

Procedure for Votes in ChamberPrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly understand the point being made by the hon. member for Chilliwack—Hope. Had the member for Vimy not apologized, I would certainly have shared in his sense—

Procedure for Votes in ChamberPrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

She lied.

Procedure for Votes in ChamberPrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to finish what I was saying.

I think we should, in this place, show some understanding for what it was like the first day we stood in this place. There are such things as rookie mistakes, and a little compassion would not be out of order.

Procedure for Votes in ChamberPrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for bringing this to our attention.

The NDP would like to come back on this and have that opportunity if that is possible.

Procedure for Votes in ChamberPrivilegeGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2020 / 3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before we proceed too much further, I believe that the points have been brought up, and it is very clear for us to observe what has gone on. Therefore, rather than have this go on all afternoon, I think hon. members will agree that I agree to go back, take a look at the evidence and then come back to the House with a ruling. I do not want this to go on, because I am starting to hear a repeat of the same arguments over and over again. I think I have enough information.

The opposition House leader.

Procedure for Votes in ChamberPrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, we would be happy if you would review those tapes. However, I have another perspective. In fact, I have some information such that individuals outside of this place actually saw that member in the elevator while the question was being put, which I would like to speak about.

Given your current ruling, I would be very happy if you would review the tapes, but I think there was only the whip and two other members who spoke. There are a lot of other people who may want to contribute to this. If we would be allowed that opportunity, it would be appreciated.

Procedure for Votes in ChamberPrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It will be part of the investigation. We will take it back, we will rule on it and come back to the House. We may be coming back for more information on that.

Before proceeding, I want to remind all members that, in the House, the honour of the House really depends on the honour of the individuals in the House, one at a time, and the weakest link can break down everything. Therefore, I encourage all members, regardless of where they sit in the House or what side they are on, to really take their responsibilities seriously.

We will come back to the House shortly with something on that. We are going to close it right now. I have enough information, and we will come back to the House.

International Convention Against Doping in SportRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Don Valley West Ontario

Liberal

Rob Oliphant LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the treaty entitled “Amendment to Annex I of the International Convention Against Doping in Sport”.

Bereavement CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a huge honour to table e-petition 2293, which was presented by Joshua Dahling of Port Alberni. He cites that the Canadian government recognizes the need to support families when a life is brought into the world, yet it does little with regard to support when a loved one dies. It is estimated that for every death, five people are impacted severely. Some experience lifelong symptoms including anxiety, chemical dependency, depression, divorce, suicide, homelessness and more. Although most people will experience the loss of a loved one in their lifetime, few have adequate long-term supports or resources to assist through bereavement.

Currently, the Canada Labour Code provides only three consecutive working days for bereavement leave, with strict guidelines regarding pay. Despite the mental health implications associated with loss, there is virtually no government funding designated toward bereavement care. Organizations like the Camp Kerry Society, which provides year-round services to individuals and families coping with illness, grief and loss, must raise funds for every client they serve across the country.

The petitioners are calling on the House of Commons and the Government of Canada to recognize the long-term implications suffered through bereavement and that there is insufficient support, to provide funding designated toward bereavement care and to increase bereavement leave from three days to an arrangement similar to parental leave.

The petitioners are calling on the government to take a serious look at this, and to help those people, especially those who may have lost a child.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to stand in this place and present a petition. This one reflects an issue that is of burning concern and interest. I have just completed nine rounds of public meetings in my riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands, and this issue came up every time.

It is the issue of anchorages that are basically free parking lots for freighters when the Port of Vancouver overflows. We have freighters that drag their anchors and park in places like Plumper Sound off the coast of Gabriola and all through the Salish Sea. There was an interim protocol that was supposed to have covered the issue. Transport Canada was looking at interim solutions and it was extended for a full year.

The constituents and the petitioners on this petition have really had enough of the free parking lots for enormous freighters with their generators running and lights on all night. The petitioners call for the suspension of the use of outside-of-port anchorages in the areas targeted by the interim protocol. They call on the Government of Canada to develop a comprehensive strategy to resolve the inefficiencies created by the anchoring of freighters.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand at this time.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I hesitate to request a favour, but the member for Fredericton was standing at Petitions and was not noted before we moved on. I wonder if the House would permit the member for Fredericton to present a petition? I know we have moved on from the rubric of Petitions.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Is there consent?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Green

Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, this petition is about ending animal cruelty in Canada. The petitioners are acknowledging that animals are sentient beings capable of feeling pain, that they are not property. They are requesting additional protections for wild and stray animals. They state that it is imperative that those who abuse animals face conviction and significant penalty, and that loopholes in existing legislation too often allow those who have abused animals to escape penalty.

Human Organ TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be tabling a petition that is in support of two bills that were up in the last Parliament: Bill C-350 and Bill S-240. These were bills designed to combat the scourge of forced organ harvesting. Unfortunately, those bills did not pass in time in the last Parliament, but no doubt petitioners hope that similar bills will be brought forward and passed in this Parliament.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved that Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in this House to begin the debate on Bill C-3, concerning an independent review for the Canada Border Services Agency.

The Canada Border Services Agency ensures Canada's security and prosperity by facilitating and overseeing international travel and trade across Canada's borders. On a daily basis, CBSA officers interact with thousands of Canadians and visitors to Canada at airports, land border crossings, ports and other locations. Ensuring the free flow of people and legitimate goods across our border while protecting Canadians requires CBSA officers to have the power to arrest, detain, search and seize, as well as the authority to use reasonable force when it is required.

Currently, complaints about the service provided by the CBSA officers and about the conduct of those officers are handled internally. If an individual is dissatisfied with the results of an internal CBSA investigation, there is no mechanism for the public to request an independent review of these complaints.

The Government of Canada recognizes that a robust accountability mechanism can help ensure public trust that Canada's public safety institutions are responsive to the law and to Canadians. That is why I am honoured today to initiate debate on Bill C-3.

I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge the excellent and extraordinary work of two former parliamentarians: former senator Wilfred Moore and my predecessor, former public safety minister Ralph Goodale, who worked tirelessly to advocate for effective CBSA oversight.

This important piece of legislation that is before us today would establish an independent review and complaints mechanism for the Canada Border Services Agency. This will address the significant accountability and transparency gap among our public safety agencies and departments here in Canada

Among our allies, Canada is alone in not having a dedicated review body for complaints regarding its border agency. The CBSA is also the only organization within the public safety portfolio without its own independent review body.

The resolution of conduct complaints is critically important to maintaining public trust. We already know that many CBSA activities, such as customs and immigration decisions, are subject to independent review. Unfortunately, as of yet, there is no such mechanism for public complaints related to CBSA employee conduct and service.

I will provide some context for my colleagues and for Canadians. The agency deals with an extraordinary and staggering number of people and a huge volume of transactions each and every year. For example, in 2018-19, CBSA employees interacted with over 96 million travellers to and from Canada and collected on behalf of Canadians $32 billion in taxes and duties. Behind these extraordinary numbers is the story of all of us, Canadians in all walks of life and in all parts of our country who rely on the services of our border services agencies. Together, we expect that in the majority of cases we will receive, and do receive, a high degree of professionalism when travelling abroad for work and for leisure. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many members of the Canada Border Services Agency for their service to Canadians and for their professionalism they give their duties.

It is a fact that when dealing with that many travellers it is inevitable that some complaints may arise. That is why, in order to maintain the public trust in our system and to strengthen accountability for the important role that the border service officers perform for us, it is imperative that we have an independent review body to ensure that any negative experience is thoroughly investigated and quickly and transparently resolved.

Currently, if there are complaints from the public regarding the level of service provided by CBSA or the conduct of CBSA officials, they are handled through an internal process within the agency. Our government has taken action in recent years to rectify gaps with respect to the independent review of national security activities.

We have passed legislation to create the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians which recently published its first annual report. With the passage of Bill C-59, our government has also established the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. With these two initiatives under way, now is the time to close a significant gap in Canada's public safety and national security accountability framework. This is exactly where Bill C-3 comes in.

The existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, or CRCC as it is commonly known, is at the heart of this proposed legislation. The CRCC currently functions as the independent review and complaints body for the RCMP. Under Bill C-3, its responsibilities would be strengthened and it would be renamed the public complaints and review commission, or PCRC. The new PCRC would be responsible for the handling of complaints and conducting reviews for the CBSA in addition to its current responsibilities with respect to the RCMP.

When the PCRC receives a complaint from the public, it would notify the CBSA immediately which would undertake the initial investigation. This is an efficient approach that has proven to lead to a resolution of the overwhelming majority of complaints. In fact, in the case of the RCMP, some 90% of complaints against the conduct or service of the RCMP are resolved in this way.

The PCRC would also be able to conduct its own investigation to the complaint if, in the opinion of the chairperson, it is in the public interest to do so. In those cases, the CBSA would not initiate an investigation into the complaint. In other cases where the complainant may not be satisfied with the CBSA's initial handling of the complaint, the complainant could ask the PCRC directly to begin a review of it. When the PCRC receives such a request for review over a CBSA complaint decision, the commission could review the complaint and all relevant information, sharing its conclusions regarding the CBSA's initial decision. It could conclude that the CBSA decision was appropriate. It may instead ask that the CBSA investigate further or it can initiate its own independent investigation of the complaint.

The commission also would have the authority to hold a public hearing as part of its work. At the conclusion of a PCRC investigation, the review body would be able to report on its findings and make such recommendations as it sees fit. The CBSA would be required to provide a response in writing to the PCRC's findings and its recommendations.

In addition to the complaints function, the PCRC would be able to review on its own initiative or at the request of me or any minister any activity of the CBSA except for national security activities. These, of course, are reviewed by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency which is now in force.

PCRC reports would include findings and recommendations on the adequacy, appropriateness and clarity of CBSA policies, procedures and guidelines; the CBSA's compliance with the law and all ministerial directions; and finally, the reasonableness and necessity of CBSA's use of its authorities and powers.

With respect to both its complaint and review functions, the PCRC would have the power to summon and enforce the appearance of persons before it. It would have the authority to compel them to give oral or written evidence under oath. It would have the commensurate authority to administer oaths, to receive and accept oral and written evidence, whether or not that evidence would be admissible in a court of law.

The PCRC would also have the power to examine any records or make any inquiries that it considers necessary. It would have access to the same information that the CBSA possesses when a chairman's complaint is initiated.

Beyond its review and complaint functions, Bill C-3 would also create an obligation to the CBSA to notify local police and the PCRC of any serious incident involving CBSA employees or its officers. That includes giving the PCRC the responsibility to track and publicly report on all serious incidents such as death, serious injury, or Criminal Code violations involving members of the CBSA.

Operationally, the bill is worded in such a way as to give the PCRC flexibility to organize its internal structure as it sees fit to carry out its mandate under both the CBSA Act and the RCMP Act. The PCRC could designate members of its staff as belonging either to an RCMP unit or a CBSA unit. Common services such as corporate support could be shared between both units which would make them more efficient, but there are also several benefits to be realized by separating staff in the fashion that I have described.

For example, staff could develop a certain expertise on matters involving these two agencies, their operational procedures and other matters. Clearly identifying which staff members are responsible for which agency may also help with the clear management of information.

Bill C-3 would also make mandatory the appointment of a vice-chair for the PCRC. This would ensure that there would always be two individuals at the top, a chairperson and a vice-chair, capable of exercising key decision-making powers. Under Bill C-3, the PCRC would publish an annual report covering each of its business lines, the CBSA and the RCMP, and the resources that it has devoted to each.

The report would summarize its operations throughout the year and would include such things as the number and type of complaints, and any review activities providing information on the number, type and outcome of all serious incidents. To further promote transparency and accountability, the annual report would be tabled in Parliament.

The new public complaints and review commission proposed in Bill C-3 would close a significant gap in Canada's public safety accountability regime.

Parliamentarians, non-government organizations and stakeholders have all been calling upon successive governments to initiate such a reform for many years. For example, in June 2015, in the other place, the committee on national security and defence tabled a report which advocated for the establishment of an independent civilian review and complaints body with a mandate to conduct investigations for all CBSA activities. More recently, Amnesty International, in Canada's 2018 report card, noted that the CBSA remains the most notable agency with law enforcement and detention powers in Canada that is not subject to independent review and oversight.

National security expert and law professor Craig Forcese is quoted as saying that CBSA oversight is “the right decision”. Government expert Mel Cappe said that it is “filling the gap”. I would importantly note that the proposed legislation before the House benefited from invaluable advice proposed to the government by Mr. Cappe.

To support this legislation, we have allocated $24 million to expand the CRCC to become an independent review body for the CBSA. With the introduction of Bill C-3, proper oversight is on track to becoming a reality.

In the last Parliament, this bill received all-party support in the House in recognition of its practical contents that seek to maintain the integrity of our border services and to instill confidence in Canadians that their complaints will be heard independently and transparently. Though the bill was supported unanimously at third reading, it unfortunately did not receive royal assent by the time the last Parliament ended.

We have heard concerns from many members in this House about the date of tabling, and we are now reintroducing this bill at our very first opportunity as part of the 43rd Parliament. This will be the third consecutive Parliament to consider legislation to create an oversight body for the CBSA. It is overdue.

For all of these reasons, I proudly introduce Bill C-3. I am happy to take any questions my colleagues may have.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, I have two quick questions.

In the last Parliament, the bill was presented in mostly the same form. At that point in time, the National Police Federation, as well as the CBSA union indicated that they had not been consulted on this.

In the time between June when this was presented and now, who has the government consulted with and when and where did that consultation occur?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, I have had the opportunity to review the testimony at committee in the previous Parliament that addressed the bill. I took very particular note of comments made by a number of witnesses, including those representing the union in this case. They have been taken into full consideration in the preparation of this bill.

We look forward to the work of our parliamentary committee should this bill receive the support of the House to move forward. I think it is very important. In my experience, officers who do the important job of keeping our communities safe actually benefit from the transparency and accountability that is built into our oversight and review systems for complaints, both the service and in conduct. Articulating clear rules and a clear understanding for those officers so that they know what to expect and how the system works could be critically important to the success of their work.

It is our intent to do the work necessary to make sure Canadians can and will trust the excellent work being done by CBSA officers, and that there is an appropriate mechanism in place to resolve complaints of conduct or service when they arise.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, the early presentation of the bill has not given a lot of time to study it in detail as a newly elected member, but I am looking forward to further discussion and debate.

I note that when the Senate was dealing with this issue of oversight of the CBSA, it proposed a different piece of legislation, which was not supported by the government. That legislation called for an oversight body using an independent investigator, which would provide oversight to the agency, not just the complaint side. This was rejected by the government implicitly.

Further, there was concern that in the RCMP complaints commission, there was already a backlog of over 2,000 cases. Now we have, instead of creating a separate board, a combined board with two functions and possibly two investigative teams.

Are we going to end up with a situation where we are just having reviews of internal investigations or are there going to be separate independent hearings? What kind of oversight can this body actually provide in the absence of an oversight body of the organization?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, I have also reviewed previous Senate bills. As I have indicated, this is also a matter that has been considered over a number of years and the CBSA is the last of the public safety agencies to receive this type of oversight.

There has been quite a significant discussion about the most efficient way to provide that transparency and accountability inherent in a complaints review process. We have learned many lessons from what has worked well for the RCMP, for example, and we are taking advantage of that.

The member has a legitimate concern about making sure we adequately resource this agency to do the work that we are tasking it with. We have budgeted an additional $24 million to make sure that it has those resources.

About 90% of the complaints received by the RCMP are investigated by the RCMP and reviewed by the existing agency. This has been adequate or satisfactory to the people who made the complaints. About 10% are taken for additional investigation or review or comment and are then turned back to the RCMP by the review agency. That is an appropriate balance of work. The real test is in how satisfied and trusting Canadians are that the authorities that we vest in our public safety departments and agencies are being used appropriately.

There are real opportunities to identify deficiencies in the services that we deliver so that they might be improved to the benefit of all Canadians.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to see this legislation back in the House. I also want to thank former minister Ralph Goodale.

It has been a concern for a very long time that the Canada Border Services Agency has no oversight body. I agree with the member for St. John's East that it would be better to have a more comprehensive overview body, but a complaints commission would certainly be an improvement.

I am concerned about the number of exemptions. The minister said in his remarks that any negative experience should be investigated and resolved. I agree, but this legislation would exempt conduct of CBSA agents when they are under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and are operating under their statutory authority, or, and this is rather discretionary, matters that could be more appropriately dealt with by other bodies, or the conduct of employees at detention facilities where CBSA detainees are housed, or, and this is an additional exemption in this version of the bill, which is different from the last Parliament, national security. The concern here is that we really need an oversight body that would review what Canada Border Services agents do.

Most of them are exemplary but I have heard stories that would curl the minister's hair. One was an indigenous man who came to our office for help a number of years ago. He was taken from his home on Penelakut Island just before Christmas, put in leg irons, and driven from Vancouver Island to a detention facility at Vancouver Airport. I do not think under this law we would have any room to complain of the treatment of an indigenous man being put in leg irons and driven to sure and certain deportation if we had not been able to intervene.

Is the minister open to amendments?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not mean to not take as seriously as it should be taken the story that the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands told. However, if we are going to curl my hair, we had better start early. I am losing it quickly.

Let me assure the member that it is our intent to establish an open and transparent complaints review system that Canadians can trust. In the circumstances that she described, and I do not have any information on the particulars of that, in my opinion, that would be captured under a number of different aspects of this legislation.

I very much value the important work of committee and look forward to this report going to committee. I believe that, through the important work of committees and even the other place, there is an opportunity to ensure that the legislation we pass on behalf of Canadians and this very important new oversight body will be effective in maintaining the trust of all Canadians. It will also serve the best interests of the officers of Canada Border Services.

I look forward to the work of the committees and working through the parliamentary process to ensure that we develop the best possible legislation to serve all Canadians.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I listened to the minister's comments and the questions of others. I want to reinforce the important role and work that border control officers perform day in and day out. I suspect if we were to do some sort of a time test over the last number of years, we would see the demand is going to continue to grow for these types of services. It is one of the reasons it is important for us to establish this oversight committee. There is perception and then there is reality and bringing the two of them together is a good thing. I believe the timing is right.

There was reference to the former member for Wascana, Ralph Goodale, and the fine work he did on this. Civil servants and different stakeholders have had the opportunity to get engaged on this legislation. I am wondering if the minister could provide his thoughts and reinforce the fine work that these individuals do day in and day out.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, I would acknowledge that CBSA officers have a tough job. There are 95 million travellers crossing our borders each and every year and $32 billion in duties and taxes are collected. They have a difficult task. Unfortunately, there may be some circumstances where, in the performance of their duties, someone is not happy with the services provided or the conduct of a member, so we need to make sure we support all Canadians and people using those services with a transparent and open system of review, but at the same time, ensure CBSA members are treated fairly and according to the rules, are well understood and are supported by those who represent them.