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

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.