Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)
moved that Bill C-23, an act respecting the pre-clearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Madam Speaker, from this government's first day in office, we have been focused on the various drivers that will grow the economy, create good, solid jobs and genuine opportunity for the middle class and all those working so hard just to get there. That is why we cut middle-class taxes and bolstered family incomes with the new Canada child benefit. That is why we increased federal support for students, skills, and learning. That is why we are investing in innovation and infrastructure. That is also why we are seizing meaningful opportunities to expand international trade through new and improved trade agreements, trade missions and marketing, and initiatives that help move both people and goods across international boundaries in faster, easier, and more efficient ways, all while maintaining our safety and security and respecting our rights.
Bill C-23, an act respecting the pre-clearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, is very much aimed in this latter direction. The legislation would allow more Canadians and Canadian businesses to enjoy the convenience and economic benefits of clearing American customs and immigration procedures in Canada before entering the U.S.
Expanded pre-clearance will strengthen Canada's economic competitiveness by accelerating the flow of legitimate trade and travel while enhancing the security of our border. Moreover, it will allow more Canadian travellers to complete U.S. border procedures while under the protective umbrella of Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Canada and the United States are each other's top trading partners and the cross-border economy is essential to our shared prosperity. Nearly $2.5 billion in goods and services cross the Canada-U.S. border every day. In fact, some $1.5 million worth of goods and services have crossed that border since I began speaking about two minutes ago. Our exports to the United States constitute more than 20% of Canada's GDP, and two and a half million jobs rely on those exports to our southern neighbour.
There is more. In 2015, over 600,000 Canadian jobs were directly attributable to tourism and Americans represented over two-thirds of the nearly 18 million overnight visitors Canada received in that year. In all, more than 400,000 people cross our land border every day. Border benefits flow both ways. Some nine million U.S. jobs depend directly on trade with Canada and Canada is the primary export destination for 35 American states. Clearly, the movement of people and goods across the border is vital to the dynamism of the North American economy and a powerful engine for growth and job creation in both countries.
However, border delays and concerns about potential delays can be a very significant impediment to economic growth. Our government is committed to addressing that. A central element of our campaign platform was a commitment to build a solid foundation for greater trade, stronger growth, and more job creation by working to reduce the barriers that limited trade and promoting a steadier flow of people and goods.
Some years ago, Canada and the United States began working on a new legal framework for the pre-clearance system between the two countries, but it was not implemented and did not include a definite business plan for the expansion of pre-clearance. Through this past year, we tackled those deficiencies, building on more than six decades of successful pre-clearance experience between Canada and the United States.
Our expansion plans will begin with new pre-clearance services for air passengers at Billy Bishop island airport in Toronto and Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City, and for rail passengers heading into the United States from Montreal Central Station and on the Rocky Mountaineer railway in British Columbia.
We have also agreed to regularize pre-clearance operations at certain rail and marine sites in B.C. that currently offer a partial service. This improvement will be especially significant for the west coast cruise ship business.
One of the steps on the path to all of this expansion is the adoption of new legislation in both countries. The requisite American legislation was signed into law last December, after being adopted by Congress with, unusually, unanimous support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The related Canadian legislation is what we are examining today.
Before I get into some of the details of Bill C-23, let me take a moment to discuss what exactly pre-clearance is and what benefits Canadians can expect from its expansion.
Pre-clearance simply means that rather than customs and immigration procedures happening just after we cross the physical border or after landing at a U.S. airport, they happen in advance. Canadians who have flown to the U.S. from one of the eight airports in our country where pre-clearance is currently conducted, and that is Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto Pearson, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax, are very familiar with how pre-clearance works and what the advantages are.
Travellers are cleared for entry into the United States by U.S. border officials before they board the plane, which means they avoid lineups and delays after they land. They can also fly directly to any U.S. airport, including airports like LaGuardia airport in New York City or Reagan airport in Washington, D.C., which do not have full customs facilities and ordinarily receive only domestic U.S. flights. Pearson airport in Toronto, for example, presently offers direct flights to 50 American destinations. Without pre-clearance, that number would drop to 27.
Pre-clearance makes it easier, not only for Canadians to travel to the United States, but for Canadian businesses to attract American tourists and business travellers to Canada, which is obviously a major benefit for local economies. That is why there has been so much support for the planned expansion, which we announced last spring, that will be enabled by the bill before us now.
Following the announcement last spring, the president of the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Québec stated that we had reached a historic milestone in terms of the region's accessibility.
According to Mayor Régis Labeaume, the arrival of preclearance at Jean Lesage airport is a great victory for his city. In the words of the president of the Quebec City airport authority, “this grand project will forever change the face of the airport by considerably reducing travel times to the United States and by enhancing the client experience of our passengers”.
The president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce has said that the agreement to expand pre-clearance will help businesses grow and avoid spending time in border lineups.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the expansion because pre-clearance operations, which have existed in one form or another for over 60 years, have been, in the words of the chamber “a massive success” that “greatly reduce congestion at the border and allow for streamlined processing of trusted trade and travel”.
In short, Bill C-23 will be good for business all over the country, good for tourism, and good for ordinary Canadian travellers as well.
The first part of Bill C-23 sets out the Canadian legislative framework that will govern American officers conducting pre-clearance in Canada of people and goods bound for the United States. In general, travellers already familiar with the way pre-clearance works will not notice any difference.
As is already the case, American pre-clearance officers will be authorized to collect the same information from travellers that is collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at regular U.S. points of entry; and in many other respects including search authorities, detention authorities, and penalties for lying to an officer, Bill C-23 is generally similar to the law governing pre-clearance that is currently in effect and has been so since at least 1999.
I know there are always concerns about the authorities that U.S. officers would have in Canada just as there are always concerns across the border about the authorities Canadian officers would have in the U.S. I can assure the House that our government takes very seriously the need to protect the rights of travellers and to ensure that they are treated fairly and in accordance with the rule of law.
I will therefore take just a few moments to address some of the concerns that have been mentioned in public.
First, with respect to searches, the current law allows a U.S. pre-clearance officer to conduct a frisk search if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a traveller is hiding something or carrying something dangerous. This would not change under Bill C-23.
If there is a need for a search requiring the removal of clothing, the current law obligates U.S. officers to request a Canadian counterpart to conduct the search. This, too, would remain the same. The only difference under Bill C-23 is that the U.S. officer could conduct the search if no Canadian officer is available. This would be extremely rare, and any such search would be subject to the same legal and constitutional protections as would apply to a search done by a Canadian officer.
Further, historical experience over the past 60 years would indicate that any conflict in relation to those rules governing searches would have happened exactly zero times based on the experience over six decades.
With respect to detention, U.S. officers would not have the power to arrest or charge travellers in Canada. Rather, as is currently the case under existing law, a U.S. pre-clearance officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that a traveller has committed an offence must turn the traveller over to Canadian authorities as quickly as possible. With no exceptions, only Canadian authorities would determine whether charges should be laid.
With respect to travellers wishing to withdraw from a pre-clearance area, they would be entitled to do so, but they could be required to identify themselves and give their reasons for withdrawing. This is simply to prevent the illicit probing of pre-clearance sites by people trying to find weaknesses in border security before leaving the pre-clearance area undetected.
With respect to the arming of officers, U.S. officers in Canada would only be entitled to carry the same weapons as Canadian border services officers do in the same environment. For example, because Canadian officers do not generally carry firearms inside airport terminals, U.S. officers would not be authorized to carry firearms there either.
Most importantly, the bill says explicitly that American pre-clearance officers must exercise their powers and perform their duties under this act in accordance with Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Act. As I said earlier, the alternative is for travellers to be processed entirely in the United States with no Canadian legal protections.
The pre-clearance agreement between Canada and the United States provides for full reciprocity, so that too is laid out in Bill C-23. No power or privilege is conferred upon the officers of one country and not the other. This is an important point to bear in mind as Canada studies and pursues future opportunities to set up Canadian pre-clearance services in the U.S. for people and goods that are bound for Canada.
Expansion of the service also includes pre-clearance of cargo. During the Prime Minister's recent visit to Washington, Canada and the U.S. both recognized the success of the existing pre-clearance operations for travellers, and we declared our mutual commitment to establish cargo pre-clearance in order to make trade across our border faster, easier, and more secure.
All of this fits within our government's overarching objectives of growing the economy and creating jobs, and it upholds our platform commitment to foster a productive relationship with the United States in the interests of our mutual prosperity and security, all while safeguarding our Canadian rights and freedoms.
Since I began my remarks about 20 minutes ago, over $25 million worth of goods and services have been traded across our border with the United States and more than 5,000 people have travelled across that boundary. However, the potential for even more trade and travel between our two countries and for greater economic growth is strong. We can and we must make the border flow of people and goods faster, easier, and more secure. That is what Bill C-23 would achieve, and it would do so while allowing more Canadian travellers to enjoy the protection of Canadian law and the protection of the charter when going through U.S. customs procedures.
This is an important debate. I thank the House for its attention this afternoon. I look forward to the constructive input that I am sure hon. members will offer during today's debate and throughout the legislative process on Bill C-23.
Hon. Tony Clement (Parry Sound—Muskoka, CPC):
Madam Speaker, it is my honour to rise today to discuss Bill C-23, preclearance act, 2016.
The previous Conservative government supported pre-clearance agreements with the United States and took several steps to enter into agreements to facilitate travel by Canadians. In 2015, Canada and the United States signed the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport Preclearance, which established a legal framework for new pre-clearance operations for all means of transportation.
In 2012, the government announced the creation of binational port operations committees at eight Canadian airports that provide a U.S. pre-clearance service. The Conservative Party's position is that transborder clearance agreements with the United States are important and help improve security and border integrity, and create jobs and growth in Canada by facilitating the movement of legitimate goods and travellers.
The bill does create a legal mechanism for border security officers in Canada and the United States to provide for the pre-clearance in each country of travellers and goods bound for the other country. Trade and travel between the United States and Canada are key to the economic success of both nations. More than $2 billion travels across the border every single day. We must take all necessary steps to facilitate this trade and travel while ensuring that our border is meaningful and secure.
Specifically, the bill before us today is the implementation legislation for the agreement on land, rail, marine, and air pre-clearance that was negotiated by the Conservative government. The bill is incredibly important for both our security and prosperity. It is important that legitimate travel and trade be able to occur as freely as possible while also leveraging the work done by the Canada Border Services Agency officers and Customs and Border Protection officers.
First, let us talk a little bit about pre-clearance, what it is and how it has been working, because contrary to what some would have us believe, this is not a new concept. As the hon. member just mentioned in the House, pre-clearance operations were implemented in Canada for the first time back in 1952 when the United States pre-clearance officers began screening travellers for United States-bound planes at the Toronto international airport. A formal pre-clearance agreement with the United States did not exist at that time. In fact, Canada and the United States reached their first air transport pre-clearance agreement in 1974.
Pre-clearance is designed, of course, to push the effective border out away from the homeland. What does that mean? It means in this instance that travellers are screened in their country of origin before boarding a flight rather than being screened when their flight lands. This is important, because threats are interdicted before they can enter a new country, and screening times become more uniform.
It may interest members to know that more than 12 million passengers at eight airports went through U.S. pre-clearance in 2016. In pre-clearance operations, border officers from the inspecting country, in other words, the United States or Canada, carry out customs and immigration inspections in the host country before allowing goods or people into the inspecting country.
The objective of pre-clearance is to improve and expedite the flow of legitimate trade and travel while continuing to ensure border security and integrity. If there was no pre-clearance, Canadians would not be able to take advantage of nearly half of the direct flights between Canadian and United States destinations. They instead would need to fly to an intermediary city in the U.S. and go through customs screening. This would increase of the costs of these trips, it would increase the amount of time these trips would take, and it would ultimately make travelling harder.
However, pre-clearance also has a security benefit. Potential threats to the other country can be stopped by law enforcement before they even cross the border. This type of action is important in the context of the broader beyond the border agreement. The United States and Canada have a long tradition of working together to ensure that the border remains open to legitimate trade and travel, and closed to terrorists, criminals, and illegal or unauthorized goods. Work done by the previous government has deepened and institutionalized this co-operation within, at, and away from the shared border. This is great work that was done by the previous government, and we are glad that it has been pushed across the goal line, but obviously there may be some imperfections.
Media have reported on concerns that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will be able to detain Canadians on Canadian soil. In my view, this criticism is overblown and is not matched by the legislation. The legislation is clear that CBP officers are not peace officers, and powers of arrest only lie in Canadian hands. However, individuals may be held for questioning at the discretion of the inspecting country officer. This, in turn, makes sense. Pre-clearance is effectively treating the customs checkpoint the same as if an individual approached a land border.
I look forward to hearing concerns from individuals and groups at committee stage about detention powers. If there are issues that need to be addressed, the committee can consider these. We all know that an important part of national security measures is maintaining the confidence of the Canadian people. The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness needs to explain to Canadians how the legislation will work. I would be happy to help him in this regard. He has to continue to explain that rights will not be violated, and that security will be protected.
We have heard a lot about national security these days and years. We have heard a lot about the Liberal campaign promise to significantly alter the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, more commonly referred to as Bill C-51. I would put it to this House that it would be a manifestly irresponsible course of action. The CSIS director has confirmed that the new threat disruption tools have been used over two dozen times. Removing these tools, which permits CSIS to do things as simple as talk to the parents of radicalized individuals, is tantamount to tying its hands behind its back.
We have heard the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness make comments about reviewing the passenger protect program as well. In most if not all of these cases raised in the media of individuals not being able to fly, the issue at play has been the American no-fly list. There is little that the minister can do about a policy of a foreign country, other than lobbying for its change.
We have also heard suggestions that the newly created offence for the advocacy or promotion of terrorism in general is too broad and will impede on the right of free speech, yet in the context of our national security review at the public safety committee we have heard from groups such as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and B'nai Brith Canada. They have unequivocally stated that these measures provide necessary safety and security to their communities.
I would put to the House that we need to get serious about dealing with Canada's national security. We need to listen to the debate. We need to listen to the security experts. That brings me back to the legislation we are discussing today. Academic review after academic review found that pre-clearance allows border authorities to better utilize resources because screening is done away from the homeland.
A recent paper published by the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region has found:
|| The Preclearance agreement gives US Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency officials the authority to conduct border security and inspections in the other country prior to departure. By taking a perimeter approach to security, each country will address potential threats early and improve efficiency of legitimate travel and trade at the border.
One often-overlooked component of this bill is that it is not only pre-clearance in the air mode, but it is by rail as well. We know that travellers often move between Montreal, Quebec, and Plattsburgh, New York. In the absence of pre-clearance, once the train crosses the border, it must stop and all passengers must clear customs. This process can take up to one hour. It is cumbersome, needless, and can dissuade further travel due to increasing demands on time. Pre-clearance would allow customs inspections to occur before a passenger even boards the train.
This type of security measure leverages the resources brought to bear in both countries. If there is a security risk, an irregular migrant, or otherwise inadmissible person and if they attempt to travel, they can be stopped and dealt with in their country of origin. Border officials from the inspecting country and law enforcement officials from the host country can work together to ensure that the appropriate outcome is determined.
This legislation is focused on passenger travel, which is very important, but there is more that needs to be done. As I said earlier, more than $2 billion travels across the border each and every day. The government must proceed with pre-clearance of cargo, as well.
Under the leadership of the previous Conservative government, a truck cargo pre-clearance pilot project was conducted at the Peace Bridge crossing between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo, New York. This project has resulted in important lessons learned that can now be implemented to improve the pre-clearance times for cargo. These include eliminating user fee cash collection at the primary inspection, updating technology connectivity, and mandating advanced electronic filing of manifests for all commercial entries.
When this legislation was tabled, the Liberal government did make reference to the fact that the issues around cargo had been referred to a working group on pre-clearance. It has been several months now. I understand the hon. public safety minister also referenced this issue in his remarks today, but we would like to see some results soon.
The recent joint statement following the meeting between the Prime Minister and President Trump did not make any reference to this issue, nor did it make any substantial reference to the efforts to thin the border for legitimate trade and travel while ensuring that terrorists and illegal migrants are stopped in their tracks. This is concerning, but unfortunately, we have to wait, and I hope not wait too long, to see how this relationship will move forward.
We do have a government that has made some provocative statements in the past, whether it is tipping its hands on NAFTA negotiations or eulogies for Fidel Castro, statements that will not gain favour with our largest trading partner, and this of course is not an effective way to get results for Canadians.
However, I see the bill here today and I see that we can make progress on these issues. Let me take the opportunity to summarize.
Bill C-23 is basically good legislation. I am proud to support it going to the public safety committee for further study. The reasons for this are very simple.
First, the legislation would allow air, rail, and marine travellers to proceed to their destination on the other side of the border more quickly. That means smoother travel, and smoother travel is more desirable travel, and more desirable travel means an increase in tourism dollars spent in Canada.
Second, this legislation would allow Canada and the United States to leverage our shared security resources. CBP and CBSA officers would work together, along with their law enforcement partners in the FBI, RCMP, and local police forces, to ensure that terrorists, criminals, and illegal migrants are stopped at the earliest opportunity. Pushing the border out is a common-sense principle that we need to continue to advance.
Third, this legislation is the result of hard work and negotiation by the previous Conservative government. Former prime minister Stephen Harper and former president Barack Obama had a great strategy for our shared border, and this is another piece that would make our shared border work better.
We absolutely must ask the Minister of Public Safety and his officials important questions about the balancing of liberty, security, and trade. We absolutely must hear from important stakeholders, such as civil liberties groups, the Customs and Immigration Union, the National Airlines Council of Canada, important groups that deal with the issues raised in this legislation each and every day. However, on its face, Conservatives can support measures to streamline our border and to make it simpler to travel to and from the United States.
Mr. Matthew Dubé (Beloeil—Chambly, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by revisiting something that my colleague from Parry Sound—Muskoka mentioned. I completely agree with him. The NDP does have a different way of thinking relative to the Liberals and the Conservatives.
I must say that that is key to this debate and to our thoughts on Bill C-23. The New Democrats will always be in favour of making it easier to access and cross the border, but never at the expense of Canadian rights, and particularly not when those rights are compromised on Canadian soil. That is the key issue for us today.
We acknowledge the explanations that the minister gave. It is true that pre-clearance can make more destinations available to travellers. Take for example, a person who is departing from Montreal and travelling to the United States. The fact that he or she can go through pre-clearance at the Montreal airport means that there are many more destination options available. Why? Because the destination airports do not have to have American customs facilities.
The bill before us and the associated agreement were initially presented to us as a way to increase the number of destinations available to travellers. There would be then more airports in Canada with pre-clearance capability, for example, the Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City. There would also be Canadian customs officers on the American side of the border for the first time, which would simplify the process even more. However, this bill goes much further than that.
It is not just about expanding the number of destinations from which Canadians can go through pre-clearance or even having the presence of Canadians on American soil doing the same work that up until now had not been done, an option that was not available, which changes things in a positive way.
However, it is more than that. It is the powers that are given to American agents on Canadian soil that really give us pause. As with many of the debates that we have had in the House over the last number of weeks, since we came back to Ottawa after the holidays, this is another issue where the government cannot ignore the reality that the new American administration is just not the same. We are dealing with a situation that is unpredictable and rapidly evolving. Despite assurances from the government, despite the fact that the Liberals gave each other high-fives because no bad news was good news after the Prime Minister's visit to Washington a week ago, there are some serious concerns about what will happen moving forward.
Allow me to provide some examples.
There is an executive order that went relatively unnoticed because another one got all the attention, President Trump's discriminatory order that targets certain communities whose members are trying to escape a horrible situation, seek refuge, and rebuild their lives elsewhere. That is the order that grabbed everyone's attention. However, another order changed the way the law applies to protecting the private information of citizens who are not American.
Why does that matter? Because we live in a digital era where technology changes quickly. As everyone knows, there are two ways in which technology plays an increasingly important role at the border. The first has to do with our cell phones. We bring them with us to the United States. Access to international plans allows us to have a certain amount of data and minutes. These days, almost everyone travels with their cell phone.
Why is that important? Because we are seeing more and more stories now of uncertainty around what legal protections Canadians will have crossing the border when it comes to, for example, their cellphones. How does this relate to Bill C-23?
There is an example from this past weekend, which was covered in Daily Xtra. A Vancouver man was turned away at the border because he was asked for the password to his phone, and the agents went through his phone. The individual, who is a member of the LGBTQ2 community, was turned away because he was suspected of being a sex worker. Why? Because when they looked through his phone, he had dating apps and things like this, which many people have on their phones. It is is nothing unusual.
We could talk about discrimination based on the person's sexual orientation, but I will put that issue aside for the moment. The other issue was that he was told he had cleared his phone. What does that mean? It means a person has erased his or her text messages, browsing history, and anything else that could be used to profile a person or be used to be turn someone away. We do not want to name communities, but we certainly can think of which communities would be looking to do this with their cellphones, because they would be profiled at the U.S. border by a U.S. agent.
Why is this a concern with Bill C-23? Because this would be happening on Canadian soil. There are no guarantees, despite affirmations to the contrary, that the government can give us of how this would be charter compliant. We have lawyers who are raising this issue, wondering under what legality American agents would be able to apply executive orders coming down from the President on Canadian soil.
Beyond the issue of digital data and cell phones there is also the matter of the technology that the Americans want to put in place.
I commend the minister on one thing: he was proactive. He is currently talking to his U.S. counterpart about not implementing certain technologies at border crossings, such as fingerprint scanners. We are hoping for a positive outcome.
When it comes to a bill like Bill C-23, the question is what we will do when the Americans want to set up this type of technology. Will they do it? We have no idea.
The same goes for a citizen who would want to leave the pre-clearance facility. I asked the minister what assurances he could give us about providing citizens with the necessary protections. We were assured with the words “reasonable timeframe”, but what exactly does that mean?
The minister can cite precedence, but the fact remains that this is a rather open and vague term that allows a person to be detained and questioned for hours without any guarantees.
Why is this concerning? Because the situation has changed. American agents are being given powers over Canadian citizens on Canadian soil when they leave a pre-clearance zone. The minister is assuring us that it is simply to ask questions and understand their motives to ensure that no one is analyzing the pre-clearance zone. Certain security concerns need to be addressed and I understand that. However, this raises several questions.
Why is this needed now, when it was not needed in the past? Pre-clearance zones already exist, so there is no need to grant this power. Why does it have to be an American agent? Why could it not be a Canadian agent? How do we avoid the profiling that will inevitably result from this?
The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security heard from witnesses who spoke to exactly this issue, in the context of Bill C-23.
I would like to quote Madam Safiah Chowdhury, who is a representative of the Islamic Society of North America. She was at the public safety committee. Without being questioned by any member of the committee, she proactively brought up this bill as a specific example of some of the issues that concerned people about how we were broadly expanding the powers given to American agents at the borders, on Canadian soil, without taking time to ask ourselves what the consequences would be. She said:
|| Right now when I travel through, say, Pearson, if I am questioned in a way I don't like or I think infringes upon my rights or I think is trying to put me in a position that makes me answer questions that typecast me in a certain way, I have the opportunity to leave and go back to my home. However, under these provisions that are being presented, there will not be that opportunity. I will be forced to enter as a Canadian on Canadian soil and to answer these questions, especially given the climate in the United States. This is really worrying.
|| There are also concerns about how it disproportionately affects permanent residents, particularly of Muslim backgrounds, and how this may impact their ability to come back to their home country, the country they have adopted as home.
That last point is important. I know the minister will reassure us and say that these folks will not be detained indefinitely, that they are allowed to come back. However, we have to ask ourselves a real question, a question that has been raised by immigration lawyers.
For someone who is not yet a citizen, who is only a permanent resident, and who is undertaking the steps that we as members of Parliament have regularly witnessed through our work as we accompany our constituents when they go through this process, which is already, and rightfully so, a long and complicated process, what happens then? What kind of black mark is being left on the files of people because they have been questioned and potentially led down a path by an American agent, not a Canadian one, for the simple fact they are perhaps going to visit a sick family member in the U.S., or because they might have work obligations, or they might be entrepreneurs and have obligations through trade and other things?
This is a serious question and nothing we have heard from the government reassures us that this is not going to happen. When we hear testimony like that, it should give members pause. It certainly gives us pause.
Another very important issue is that of carrying firearms. I have already raised this with the minister. In fact, Bill C-23 amends the Criminal Code to allow American agents to carry firearms on Canadian soil. We were told that this is an example of reciprocity, in other words, these agents will only be allowed to carry firearms under the same circumstances as Canadian agents. That answer is satisfactory, if we take it at face value.
However, this raises another question, to which we have not received a satisfactory answer: where is this written in the act? In fact, the Liberals are quoting agreements that have no legal restrictions.
Memoranda of understanding are just not enough when it comes to something as serious as allowing American agents the right to bear arms on Canadian soil. The question has to be asked. Why is this new provision needed when pre-clearance already happens in many airports, and at the port of Vancouver, for example, in Canada. What requires this change? We do not have the answer to that.
Considering all the problems this will cause at the border, this is not just about human rights. It also has financial implications.
I want to share something we heard from the president and CEO of Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, an airport that could benefit from this agreement because it would have pre-clearance. Not all of the locations have been chosen yet. If we are looking for an example of where this could have a positive impact, that is the perfect example.
Gaëtan Gagné, president and CEO of the Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, said that the people of Quebec City are not “second-class Canadian citizens”.
What he meant by that was that the people should not have to pay for a service that is free in airports such as Montreal's. There is a financial factor in play here, and the federal government has obligations. We hope that the minister will be able to provide some answers during this debate.
I just want to come back to the question of biometrics, which I raised earlier in my speech, because I do want to quote, from the public safety committee, Mr. Alex Neve, who is the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada. We asked about the concerns regarding biometrics, and I want to qualify that. I recognize the minister's efforts with his American counterpart to not have these types of technology implemented, at least not at a rapid fire pace, but again it begs a question. If these technologies are implemented by the U.S. government, what impact will that have in the pre-clearance zone? I want to use this quote to raise that particular concern while we talk about the border. Mr. Neve said:
||...we certainly have signalled the very real potential that there are serious human rights violations that can ensue if, for instance, those new technologies aren't used responsibly. That's number one. Number two, they do not have effective safeguards in place, so it often comes down to questions of safeguards and review and oversight, and we know, for the large part, that Canada's national security framework is lacking on that front.
Given that uncertainty, it begs the question as to what would happen under those circumstances.
Peter Edelmann, who is a lawyer and a member of the executive of the section of the Canadian Bar Association dealing with immigration law, said he is concerned about the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He asked how we can be assured that the U.S. CBP pre-clearance officers will be subjected to the charter. The bill does not specify their status as agents of the state.
The other aspect that I want to raise is very troubling. To return to something else I mentioned in my speech, I would remind members that on Friday, in the House, I asked a question about the possibility of U.S. border agents asking more frequently for people's cell phones to gather information about social networks and other information on phones. I said that a cell phone contains much more personal information than a suitcase, for example. Consequently, searching the suitcase of a law abiding citizen, which contains his razor and clothing, for example, is not the same as searching his cell phone.
The parliamentary secretary answered that everything was fine since there are directives in place for Canadian officers. However, we still have questions about the obligations of U.S. officers. It is a matter of culture.
We know that our men and women in uniform follow procedures to ensure our safety in Canada, and we are very proud of that. Though we cannot go so far as to challenge American procedures, we can still ask questions.
In cases of violations committed by American pre-clearance officers, the inspecting party, in other words, the United States, will have primary jurisdiction over most offences, except murder, aggravated sexual assault, and terrorism.
That seems fine, but what about assault in general? That is an important item that is missing from the list of exceptions. What sort of practices can be used during an interrogation? We do not know, but should assault be committed during an interrogation, there is nothing in the law to ensure that the American officer in question is subject to Canada's jurisdiction.
There are other concerns that I could mention, but I would like to conclude by saying that, although these concerns are nothing new, they are becoming increasingly important given the rapidly changing reality. Unfortunately, the government does not seem to be able to stand up and oppose President Trump's human rights violations and discriminatory policies.
With the time that is left to me, I do want to propose the following amendment:
|| That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
||“the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, because it: (a) neglects to take into account the climate of uncertainty at the border following the discriminatory policies and executive orders of the Trump Administration; (b) does not address Canadians’ concerns about being interrogated, detained, and turned back at the border based on race, religion, travel history or birthplace as a result of policies that may contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; (c) does nothing to ensure that Canadians’ right to privacy will be protected during searches of electronic devices; and (d) violates Canadian sovereignty by increasing the powers of American preclearance officers on Canadian soil with respect to the carrying of firearms and by not properly defining a criminal liability framework.”
Mr. Mark Holland (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member. I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this incredibly important bill, Bill C-23, Preclearance Act, 2016.
One of the largest priorities of our government is ensuring that our border runs smoothly, efficiently, and securely. Indeed, the relationship between Canada and the United States is a fundamentally important one to our economy. There is $2.2 billion in trade daily between our two economies. Of course, our friendship extends over many decades, and our border is often referred to as the envy of the world.
The meetings that were recently had in Washington with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to deepen that relationship obviously included the issue of pre-clearance, making it easier for goods, services, and people to move across our borders, and to improve security, the state of our economy, and the ability for us to do commerce with one another.
On the American side, they have already legislated the necessary measures to enhance pre-clearance. They did so in the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016. It is essential that we follow suit and do the same thing. Indeed, the Preclearance Act of 1999 only contemplates pre-clearance for air travel. I will be talking in a moment about why it is so essential that we expand that to other areas.
Already, folks would have used pre-clearance. I used it this weekend. There are around 30,000 Canadians a day who use it, and 12 million travellers annually at eight different locations. When we are talking about it, it is important to note that this is something that is already taking place with enormous success. I think it is important to contemplate what are some of the benefits, both of what is happening today but also what is being contemplated with this legislation.
There would be an increase in security. The ability to block somebody who should not be travelling from travelling in the first place is a massive advantage. It makes sense that we do not want somebody who should not be travelling to board that plane or that train or that ship in the first place. Pre-clearance gives us the opportunity to stop that from happening.
It also means that when it is on our side, if there is an incident where we have encountered some sort of violation, that we get the opportunity for prosecuting that domestically.
There is also an opportunity for greater border integrity along the same lines, because this would expand pre-clearance to also happen in the United States, something that has long been sought. That means that we could stop somebody from entering Canada, somebody who does not belong. Currently, that person would arrive in Canada, and we would then have to deal with them, removing them after the fact. Certainly that is a significant benefit.
To travellers and to our economy, there would be a great deal of benefit. Let us start with the benefit of being able to directly travel where one wants to go. Right now, as an example, at Jean Lesage in Quebec, if people want to go to Nashville, they have to go through a connection. There is no opportunity to fly directly.
By expanding this and by allowing pre-clearance to happen in Quebec City, the number of cities would be expanded from 27 to 50. It would give direct access to a number of different airports that we would not otherwise not have and, by the way, that no one else in the world does have. It could include LaGuardia or Reagan or Columbus, Ohio, or Milwaukee, or Richmond or, as I said, Nashville and many other locations.
This would be a tremendous benefit that I think is easily understood by anybody, for travellers to get directly where they want to go. I know everybody wants to avoid layovers wherever possible. That is not only a convenience factor, it makes the attractiveness of doing commerce between our two countries much greater as well.
The other thing that might surprise folks is, already, Pearson in Toronto is the fourth largest point of entry into the United States. Let us think about what that means. Imagine somebody is looking to do a cruise. They are coming from Europe and they want to see the B.C. coastline and go up to Alaska. It means that they can board that cruise ship in Vancouver, get pre-cleared, and be able to go to small towns in Alaska without having to go through any sort of border process or any sort of rigamarole. That is an enormously attractive thing for people who want to come and visit our two countries, to only have to go through one border process and be able to go through it in a much more efficient way in a place that would be larger and more capable of being able to process people effectively.
When we think about the cruise ship industry specifically, let us look at the size of it. It is $435 million of economic benefits just to the B.C. coastal region alone, and that includes 4,600 local jobs. Therefore, if we can use this to facilitate a greater movement of folks and be able to encourage that industry, obviously that is a tremendous benefit.
There have been some folks who have raised an issue of concern around security. I think one of the biggest points to consider on this is to imagine ourselves as travellers and we want to go to the United States. Where would we rather be checked? Would it be on U.S. soil or on Canadian soil where we have the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the protection of the Canadian Bill of Rights, the protection of the Human Rights Act, and the broader protections of Canadian law, period? If something goes wrong, I would imagine, as Canadian citizens, we would want to be on the Canadian side of the border. It is important, when all the powers are contemplated, that we have the full protection, force, and effect of Canadian law. Therefore, when one is travelling, I would think that one would feel a lot safer, a lot more secure, in having that pre-clearance happen on Canadian soil and under Canadian law.
We can look at some of the places we would like to be able to expand to. Obviously, we already have expansion possibilities of Billy Bishop, I mentioned Jean Lesage, Central Station, and Rocky Mountaineer Station in Montreal and B.C. specifically. I hope that this is only the beginning.
The vision of pre-clearance is one that allows travellers to move quickly and efficiently, and this bill would expand it as well to cargo so that we could see a greater exchange of goods and services moving more easily across our border. Canadians could know when they arrive at the border that they are doing so with the full protection of Canadian law.
Last, I would indicate that on the broader issue of the Canada Border Services Agency, we are committed to looking at oversight and making sure that we do an ever better job of delivering the services at the border. However, the more I get to know this file and have an opportunity to work with the minister, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank the incredible men and women who work at our border every day to help facilitate that trade between our two countries. I think this bill only furthers to support them in their noble goal to move goods and services between our countries and to deepen the trade that exists between Canada and the U.S.
Mr. Michel Picard (Montarville, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak today on the subject of a bill that will give Canada significant economic and security benefits, Bill C-23, the preclearance act.
As our country celebrates its 150th anniversary, it is important to note that this legislation honours the strong ties that Canada has proudly cultivated with its greatest trading partner, friend, and ally. These ties will persist between our respective governments, businesses, and people.
As we have heard, pre-clearance is a border management tool that does much to facilitate those ties, and it does so while contributing to our security and our economic interests. It has been part of our two countries' successful trade and border security relationship for a long time. Both countries have signalled an interest in expanding the program to new airports, including the Quebec City airport, and beyond air transportation, where it is currently used, to all modes of transport where and when it makes sense for both countries. The bill before us is the Canadian legislation needed to realize that vision.
Pre-clearance allows border services officers from the side performing the inspection to determine whether individuals and goods can enter that country while they are still physically in the host country.
We know from past experience that this works. Pre-clearance has been adopted in eight major Canadian airports. Indeed, every year, some 12 million passengers heading to the U.S. go through pre-clearance in Canada before they even board their planes.
From a security standpoint, it is best if border officials can address any and all concerns at the point of departure. From the travelling public's perspective, it is more convenient. Having undergone pre-clearance before boarding the plane, travellers can avoid long delays at U.S. customs, thereby shortening connection times and adding some predictability to their travel plans.
Passengers and airlines also benefit from the fact that they can now fly directly to domestic airports in the U.S. that do not have customs facilities for international arrivals.
This is how pre-clearance delivers economic benefits while helping maintain border security and integrity.
This bill will enable us to build on the success of the current air pre-clearance operations and expand them to other airports and, in fact, to all modes of transportation. The bill has an element of reciprocity, in that it will set up the legislative framework to govern potential Canadian preclearance operations in the United States.
I would like to use my remaining time to explain what pre-clearance will mean for the Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City. In March 2016, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security agreed, in principle, to expand pre-clearance to this location and three others, namely Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto, the Montréal Central train station, and Rocky Mountaineer, in British Columbia.
The potential of pre-clearance in terms of regional economic development spells good news for this city, which is known as the cradle of French culture in North America. Quebec City's mayor, Régis Labeaume, described this as a great victory for Quebec City. It is not surprising that Mayor Labeaume and Aéroport de Québec Inc., which manages the Jean Lesage International Airport, as well as several other businesses, senior officials, municipalities, and other business associations in the area applaud the news. This is a measure they all fought hard for because they understand the benefits to passengers and to the local economy.
In 2015, the Jean Lesage airport welcomed over 220,000 passengers travelling to the U.S. Once the pre-clearance facilities are in place, departing passengers will undergo pre-clearance by U.S. border officials before boarding. As a result, when passengers arrive in the United States, it will be as though they were arriving on a domestic flight. This will reduce connection times and make their travel plans more predictable.
These pre-clearance facilities will make travelling to the United States more convenient for passengers and could also greatly increase the number of passengers using the airport by attracting more tourists and American business travellers.
Right now, flights from Jean Lesage International Airport go directly to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale. Once the pre-clearance facilities are in place, the airport could offer direct flights to more American cities because planes could land at airports that do not have customs facilities.
That represents a significant economic advantage for the region. It will bring in approximately $75 million a year and create new jobs. That is why Quebec City and the Jean Lesage airport are so enthusiastic and eager to get pre-clearance facilities. I would like to close by reiterating that pre-clearance is an essential border management tool that will enhance prosperity and security.
Adding pre-clearance facilities to new sites, such as the Jean Lesage airport, will allow Canada and Canadian businesses to build even stronger ties with partners and clients in the United States in a way that strengthens our security and our economy. That is why Bill C-23 is so important. I therefore encourage members on both sides of the House to support it.
Mr. Tom Kmiec (Calgary Shepard, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to join the debate on Bill C-23. I will share my time with my colleague and very good friend from Mégantic—L'Érable.
I always begin with a Yiddish proverb, and I have one today: The door of success is marked by push and pull. I think this Yiddish proverb speaks about the relationship Canada has enjoyed with our friend, the United States, this long-standing relationship that predates Confederation, both our trade and military relationship, and families crossing the border back and forth.
This agreement, this legislation that would actually ratify the agreement and make it Canadian law, is part and parcel of that push and pull we have experienced on the door of success. Our economies are intertwined. America's success is Canada's success, and we would deepen that relationship through this agreement.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that a great part of this agreement and this piece of legislation was accomplished by our colleague on this side of the House, the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, a member I had the distinct honour of working for many years ago, when he was first elected to this House, so I know the amount of work he puts into everything he does on behalf of his constituents and for this great country of Canada. This agreement is thanks to him. He did the majority of the work in getting it here. Now we see the fruits of his labour in this legislation to implement the agreement.
We know that pre-clearance of travellers already happens. It would be extended, thanks to this agreement and this legislation, to air, land, rail, and sea. There would be a greater opportunity for us to deepen our relationship with our American friends. It would also reduce congestion and delays in land travel, which, as we know, declined back in 2001, in the post-9/11 period, and it has never really recovered since. Individual passenger travel across the border has never really recovered. I have a piece of data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics that shows that 34% fewer vehicle passengers actually entered the United States in 2014 compared to the year 2000. It has gone down significantly.
Most people choose to fly, and that is where they experience pre-clearance. This would expand to other ports of entry into the United States.
The relationship we have with the United States very few other countries get to enjoy, with the preferential access we as Canadians have to the American market. As the member of Parliament for Parry Sound—Muskoka said earlier today in debate, the earliest agreement we actually have for the border crossing dates back to the 1970s. It is a long-term relationship we have had with our friends to the south, despite the disagreements we have had over the years, whether on foreign policy, economic policy, or social policy. We do not let them get in the way of deepening our relationship so it can increase trade.
We know that many jobs are dependent on our trade with our friends in the United States and that 35 states have Canada as their number one trading partner. A lot of that is thanks to the goods we ship to them and vice-versa, the goods they ship to us.
In February 2014, as part of deepening the relationship, we tried things. We tried pilot projects to track cargo. A pre-inspection pilot was launched at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ontario. The pre-clearance tested in that situation could facilitate legitimate trade and travel.
An existing bilateral air transport pre-clearance framework makes air travel much more efficient for 10 billions-plus passengers, and every year, at Canada's eight busiest international airports, we get to experience that pre-clearance.
For the rest of the time I have, I want to go through different sections of the bill, which I think address some of the concerns I have read in the news and in some of the emails I have received from constituents who have expressed concerns about the bill. I will try to address them as I go through it.
Bill C-23 has many controls in place, and oversight does exist. As many members have already mentioned, a lot would be constrained, so the powers border officers would be given would be constrained by Canadian law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The power and performance of any duty or function would apply to U.S. pre-clearance officers just as much as to Canadian officers who would be there to help them, and they would be subject to Canadian law. We see in part one of the summary of the bill that the law would apply, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Part two of the summary says it “extends the application of other Canadian legislation that relates to the entry of persons and importation of goods into Canada to those preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters”.
Again, the preamble does the same thing. It mentions the concept of oversight. In the legislation, we see that powers would be given and then would be constrained through the law and through references to the charter or references to other pieces of legislation that would constrain the actions pre-clearance officers can take in the execution of the duties they would be granted through the legislation.
As an example, to ensure their security, Canadian and U.S. pre-clearance officers will be able to carry the same regulated items that the host country officers have in the same environment. In Canada, this means that U.S. CBP pre-clearance officers would be able to carry firearms at land, rail, and marine modes, but not when they would be conducting the pre-clearance of air passengers. Currently, Canadian law enforcement officers on duty during CBP hours of operation are able to assist, if required, in the eight Canadian airports with pre-clearance operations. That is freely available online on the government's website, so it should be pretty easy for most people to find.
One thing constituents have asked me is whether U.S. pre-clearance officers have the authority to make arrests on Canadian soil. Again, no, not in this situation. As with the existing air transport pre-clearance agreement, they would not have the power of arrest, only the power to detain. If they are asking more questions, they have to get assistance from a Canadian officer. That is again part of the oversight and accountability format that allows for detention, not arrest, and a Canadian official has to be involved if an arrest has to be made. It is part and parcel of this deepened relationship, where we trust our American partners to the south to make good decisions and use good judgment. We trust in their training.
It will not be perfect, and I say that to everybody. I have had bad experiences at the American border, just as I have had bad experiences at foreign borders, much worse. It happens in certain situations and is sometimes unavoidable. They are people, and people make mistakes. That happens in all countries. It has nothing to do with the specifics of the law, which provides sufficient powers and then limits those powers in a reasonable way.
When I have travelled to other countries, there have been limitations placed on me or I was asked questions I did not want to answer. However, I am always free to say I do not want to answer the questions and remove myself. It can happen.
Like I mentioned before, the preamble of Bill C-23 refers to this constraining of the powers through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One thing I will mention, because it is quite unusual in debating legislation here, is that the powers, duties, and functions found in the bill include such headings as, “Frisk search — concealed goods”, “Strip search”, “Monitored bowel movement” in section 23 of the act. I find it quite unusual to have these kinds of headings in legislation, but, again, we are trying to be as specific as possible in detailing the types of powers being given and the limitations on the powers.
I have seen a lot of legislation come before the House which includes greater certainty clauses. There is one in this bill, clause 9, which states, “For greater certainty, Canadian law applies, and may be administered and enforced, in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters”. I have seen these greater certainty clauses in different legislation proposed by one of my colleagues, I believe it was Bill C-225, and in the physician-assisted dying bill as well. These greater certainty clauses give the indication to judges, should it ever get to that point, what exactly the legislation is trying to do. In this case, it clearly states that Canadian law applies equally to Canadian border officials and U.S. border officials in the process of applying their judgment to the functions they have been given, and that it is not unlimited, that it is absolutely constrained by reasonable limits.
Another limit in clause 10(2) states, “A preclearance officer is not permitted to exercise...any powers of questioning or interrogation, examination, search, seizure, forfeiture, detention or arrest that are conferred under the laws of the United States”. There is again that concept of limitation. We give them certain powers, but they are limited in other areas and constrained in the actions they can take.
Every officer goes through very intensive training before becoming responsible for border control. Through that process, officers learn about the different laws, what they can and cannot ask, what they can and cannot do, and how they are supposed to do their jobs. That is true for every occupation and profession throughout Canada and the United States. We are giving them certain powers, but then we are limiting them. It is part of the concept that with the agreement we sign, we will have expectations of border guards fulfilling their duties, as well as expectations of our own officials in the United States undertaking their duties. I am sure the Americans are having very similar debates on why they are allowing Canadian officers certain powers at their borders.
The bill is the culmination of work by a previous Conservative government and it should be celebrated. Through this agreement, we will be deepening our relationship with our partners to the south and that deeper trade in 20 or 30 years will absolutely create more jobs. I look forward to the bill going to committee. Then we can hear more specific concerns from witnesses. My constituents have shared some concerns with me and I look forward to having that back and forth through emails with them, explaining portions of the bill to them, and hearing what they have to say as well.
Mr. Luc Berthold (Mégantic—L'Érable, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank and congratulate my colleague from Calgary Shepard for his excellent speech. He gave us a lot of information about Bill C-23 and drew on his experience working with the public safety minister of the time to share with his colleagues his knowledge about those discussions. I thank my colleague, and I hope that many people heard his excellent speech.
Bill C-23 was introduced on June 17 by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I listened carefully to his words today as he gave his approximately 20-minute presentation explaining why the government decided to introduce Bill C-23.
I would like to come back to something that he said at the beginning of his speech. It came as no surprise to me, because since the current government was elected, we have been hearing its members regularly repeat the same talking points about the middle class and those working hard to join it and the tax cuts for the middle class, for Canadians who earn up to $200,000 a year.
That is worth keeping in mind because the definition of the middle class does not always make sense on that side. Including those who make up to $200,000 a year may be a way for our millionaire Prime Minister to put himself in that middle-class category.
As the government reminds us continually, what matters most to hard-working people is having a job, first and foremost. This government has been unable to create any full-time jobs in the past year. It does not have a plan. This is a government that cannot get results and that promises major infrastructure investments but cannot even make those investments happen, unfortunately.
If the government really wants to help the middle class, it should focus on creating jobs, not just repeating the same talking points day after day. I think Canadians would appreciate that. Bill C-23 is about Canada-U.S. relations. Unfortunately, in recent weeks, the government has not done much to improve our trade relationship with the United States.
One very concrete and specific example is diafiltered milk. This is a conflict we are having with the U.S. that could be resolved without even getting the Americans involved. I will say again that this is a conflict between the Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. A simple definition of exactly what milk is would resolve this dispute, which, despite everything, remains a stumbling block in our relations with the U.S.
There is also the other file on which the government has not really done anything, that is, softwood lumber. I am sure I will have the opportunity to come back to this in the coming weeks. The government has missed several opportunities to settle this matter.
As I am sure everyone is well aware, the U.S. recently elected a new government. With this new government come new policies. They are talking about tax cuts for everyone, the elimination of corporate taxes, cutting red tape, and of course no carbon tax.
Our Prime Minister recently visited the new president. One could expect this visit to improve and increase our cross-border trading. Unfortunately for Canadians, our Prime Minister did not talk about the problem of diafiltered milk. He did not talk about the softwood lumber issue with the American president.
Worse still than what the Prime Minister did not do during this meeting is what he did not do when he got back. The Prime Minister did not present a plan to help our businesses be more competitive. He did not announce a single concrete measure to help resolve the diafiltered milk issue.
There is nothing, no plan, no proposal to resolve the softwood lumber file. There is no plan to reduce business taxes and no intention to keep the promise to lower taxes for small and medium-sized businesses.
However, everyone in the House knows who the main job creators are, those who truly build our economy, especially in regions like mine and those of my colleagues in Lévis—Lotbinière and Calgary Shepard.
Small and medium-sized businesses play a major role in creating jobs everywhere. Unfortunately, the government has no intention of keeping its promise to lower taxes for SMEs. Not only is there no plan, but on this side of the border, we are getting a carbon tax.
In order for Bill C-23 to improve matters, the government must start by setting the example. It has missed the boat in terms of relations with the United States.
However, I have to say that Bill C-23 does indeed come from a government with vision. I am not, however, talking about the current government, but about a good government. I am referring to the vision set out on February 4, 2011, in a document released by former U.S. President Barack Obama and then Prime Minister Stephen Harper, entitled “Beyond the Border: a Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness”.
This declaration established a new long-term partnership focused on an approach to security and economic competitiveness based on the common perimeter of our two countries. This means that we will work together not only at the border, but also beyond the border, in order to enhance security and accelerate the legitimate movement of people, goods and services. To achieve this goal, the leaders asked that a common action plan be developed, and that is what is set out in this document.
Without the working group set up by the previous government, which had a vision for Canada, there would be no Bill C-23. Nevertheless, let us talk about this bill, which we will support, naturally, so that it can go to committee for thorough study with the help of experts.
This is an act that implements the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America signed by the Conservative government in 2015. It builds on the Agreement on Air Transport Preclearance Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America. It imposes reciprocal obligations on both countries to facilitate travel and trade while enhancing security.
This bill contemplates new Canadian locations, including Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto, the Montréal Central Station, and the Rocky Mountaineer Station. Pre-clearance is currently performed at eight Canadian airports, including Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax.
The Liberal government decided that the economic advantages outweighed the costs and is therefore going to work to pay for American customs infrastructure on Canadian soil. The airports in question will provide the facilities and equipment needed and cover the costs related to hiring, training, and equipping American officers.
This issue is very important to residents of the Quebec City area, and the Jean Lesage International Airport is happily looking forward to acquiring pre-clearance facilities. In fact, in the past, people were impatiently urging all governments to get these pre-clearance facilities. Dozens of businesses, executives, municipalities, and chambers of commerce publicly expressed their support for pre-clearance facilities at the Jean Lesage airport.
I would like to quote the president and CEO of Aéroport de Québec Inc., who said the following in a 2015 news release:
|| Installing a U.S. Customs pre-clearance facility will bring considerable economic spinoffs to the region, while making it easier for our passengers to travel to the United States....It’s a key added benefit for Québec City and an undeniable asset that will stimulate and support economic growth in the region and across eastern Québec.
I would like to add that all of Canada will benefit.
We are therefore going to support Bill C-23. This matter has been under consideration for a long time, and economic and tourism stakeholders have been waiting. It will give Quebec City and the other airports involved greater access to the American market and American territory, and I believe that that will be beneficial to all Canadians.
Ms. Julie Dabrusin (Toronto—Danforth, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.
I am happy to speak to Bill C-23, the preclearance act, 2016. This legislation has a number of significant implications for Canada. It is important to our economy and our security, just as it is for our bilateral relationship with the United States.
I have heard concerns from some people in my community about the bill and its perceived impact on the rights of Canadians. I will address these concerns in the course of my speech, but I would like to note at the outset that I am confident the legislation will not adversely affect our rights. In fact, the rights accorded to Canadians under a pre-clearance regime clearly include the extra protections we enjoy in Canada due to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Border management is a top priority for our government, with officials from Public Safety Canada and its portfolio agencies working closely with their counterparts in the United States on a wide range of issues to ensure that we keep our border effective and functional.
Border management is a priority for our government and for senior officials at Public Safety Canada and the agencies within its purview, which are working closely with their American counterparts on a wide range of issues to keep our border effective and functional.
This includes putting in place the best framework and policies that allow for the smooth flow of people and goods while securing our border. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we are enthusiastic to make further bilateral progress on the pre-clearance initiative. To put the statement “smooth flow of people and goods” into context, more than 400,000 people flow back and forth between Canada and the United States every single day. Close to $2.5 billion in two-way trade moves between these two countries every day.
Pre-clearance has long been a part of our strong border relationship and will be key to our future one. With this bill, we have the opportunity to usher in even greater security and economic benefits when it comes to Canada-U.S. border travel. Let me highlight the key elements of this bill and why it is so important that members join me in supporting its passage.
Once passed, this bill will open the door to move ahead with the ratification and implementation of the land, rail, marine, and air transport pre-clearance agreement which was signed by Canada and the United States in 2015. That door, once opened. will offer tremendous benefits to Canadians. There are two primary benefits from this legislation. One, it sets out the legislative authority governing pre-clearance operations conducted by the United States and Canada, including possible future expansion to additional sites and modes of travel. Two, it provides the basis necessary for Canada to eventually conduct pre-clearance in the United States just as the U.S. has done for so long in Canada.
Indeed, the United States has conducted pre-clearance in Canadian airports for many decades. As I live in Toronto, I have seen the pre-clearance regime that is currently operating in one of our airports, that being Pearson International Airport. It is currently operating in eight major Canadian airports, and in five pre-inspection sites in B.C. for rail and marine. Last year, more than 12 million passengers went through U.S. pre-clearance in airports located in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto Pearson, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax.
Pre-clearance has been a boon for business and leisure travel from both nations. For Canadians, having pre-clearance in Canadian airports allows us to land in U.S. airports that have limited or no customs facilities. It nearly doubles the number of American destinations that are accessible directly from Toronto.
The first part of the bill sets out the important aspects of pre-clearance, including where and when new sites can operate, who will have access to the pre-clearance areas, what U.S. pre-clearance officers can and cannot do while working on Canadian soil, and how Canadian police and CBSA officers work with the U.S. officers.
It is at this point that I would like to address some of the concerns that I have heard about this bill. In particular, some have raised a concern that Canadians will have diminished rights in the pre-clearance zones. It is stated, not only in the preamble but also in clause 11, that the operations of pre-clearance by U.S. officers on Canadian soil are subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The preamble states, among other things:
|| Whereas the exercise of any power and performance of any duty or function under United States law in Canada is subject to Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act;
Clause 11 of the bill states:
|| A preclearance officer must exercise their powers and perform their duties and functions under this Act in accordance with Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
This statement in the preamble and the wording in clause 11 are very important to me. I believe they respond to some of the concerns I have heard. In fact, the bill appears to provide greater protection to Canadian travellers in a pre-clearance zone than we would have at a U.S. border crossing in the United States on American soil. We would not have the protections of the charter, our Bill of Rights, and the Human Rights Act. These are things that are specific to our rights in our country.
I need to underline that there is no compromise on this. Canadians expect us to keep their rights and values top of mind in all of our work, and this is no exception. On this point, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has been abundantly clear.
As it has been clearly established, all pre-clearance activities in Canada must be conducted in compliance with Canadian laws, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There can be no compromise on that. Canadians expect us to always make their rights and values a priority in all of our work, and this is no exception.
The second part of this bill is where we see the reciprocal element come into play. Along with the enforcement authorities that have been provided under U.S. laws, it would give the Canada Border Services Agency the authority to conduct pre-clearance in the U.S., in all modes of transport: land, air, rail, and marine.
This legislation would pave the way to expand the benefits of pre-clearance to any site and any mode of transport in either country pursuant to future agreements.
As we have heard, this legislation will pave the way to expand the benefits of pre-clearance to any site and any mode of transport in either country pursuant to future agreements. Canada and the United States have already announced their intention to begin the expansion with the Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, the Billy Bishop airport in Toronto, Montreal's Central Station, and the Rocky Mountaineer Station in British Columbia. These sites were covered by agreements in principle signed during the state visit to Washington last March.
Already in Canada we have made these announcements. The necessary American legislation was adopted last December. It is now time for Canada to do likewise, so we can move forward with this important initiative. Bill C-23 would allow us to build on more than 60 years of pre-clearance co-operation.
I encourage all members to give this legislation their support.