Parliament: Question on the Broad Scope of Bill-C23 Regarding the Power of US Border Officials Operating in Canada

On Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 in Debate, Parliament

Elizabeth May:

Mr. Speaker, I took Bill C-23 back to the riding with me so I could read it carefully over the weekend.

I recognize that the bill emanates from an agreement that was made between the previous U.S. administration under President Obama and the previous prime minister, Stephen Harper. I find it heavy-handed in its description of what U.S. agents would be able to do, particularly in relation to keeping Canadians, or those with permanent residency in Canada, longer to ask them questions, or pursue other avenues of questioning, including searches if the pre-clearance officer has reasonable grounds to think that this might yield fruit. This would be on a range of things, from whether or not someone might have concealed materials that are not allowed into the U.S., and fruits and vegetables come to mind, a trivial example, to falling into the net of being considered a potential terrorist threat.

Given the current bent of the U.S. administration at the moment, in its anti-Muslim actions, it puts a different complexion on this agreement than that which we might have been willing to accept from a previous U.S. administration. I wonder if the government party has been considering whether we should not have amendments to the bill to reduce the scope of power of U.S. authorities in pre-clearance.

Michel Picard – Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.

I am also pleased with the experience I gained from my former career in Quebec City, which means that I can confirm, convince, and reassure everyone that the professional work of customs officers is not done randomly, nor is it based on perceived notions or guessing.

Their training ensures that any measures taken are taken reasonably. Furthermore, any measures taken in Canada are protected by Canadian laws and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This means that in addition to any current, modern, or contemporary concerns that people may have, such as the ones raised by the member, it is a good thing that we have the pre-clearance here in Canada, precisely so that our laws and our charter apply.

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  • lsatenstein

    Michel Picard is talking about Canadian Customs. He does not represent Ameican Customs officers operating out of Canadian Airports or within the landmass of Canada. I have concern about the power given them. The Customs agents are not consulates, where Americans would rein supreme.

  • 1Tane1

    We need to stop the US agents from gaining so much power that they have the right to open your phone or computer and demand your passwords. This is an intrusion of our civil rights. The US has turned a corner and heading towards dictatorship and anyone that is against Trump will be considered a terrorist. 1/10 of 1% of the deaths in the US are caused by Terrorists, this is not enough cause to warrant taking away our freedoms and privacy.

  • Ewa J

    I have a recurring notion that a professional terrorist will be the last person who lets Customs identify him or her. They’ll have done everything it takes to cross a border smoothly, obtained correct documents, rehearsed all the right words. Many reported incidents lead me to think front-line inspectors don’t grasp the ultimate purpose of their very important work because higher-ups haven’t shared enough perspectives. Front-liners are taught what to do but not how to sense symptoms of a threatening ideology.

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