Protecting Canadians’ rights at the U.S. border

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I am also a lawyer, but the member does not have to take my word for it either.

I was very pleased to be at the table at committee, although, again, I would have rather had my rights restored to present amendments at report stage. However, I did present about 12 amendments on Bill C-23 at clause-by-clause in committee.

To zero in on what is wrong with the bill, it is the nitty-gritty areas, and I completely agree with my colleague’s speech. If we look at what is called “traveller’s obligations” in the bill , when a traveller is in this pre-clearance zone, which is still Canadian territory, it is interesting that if the traveller chooses to withdraw, the traveller does not just have to answer questions from the pre-clearance officer for purposes of identification, but the traveller must also provide reasons to assist the agent in determining the person’s reason for withdrawing. The person should not have to offer a reason for deciding, on Canadian soil, to leave a place where he or she is being made to feel uncomfortable for any reason.

Again, as the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association said:

We are aware of no sufficiently compelling justification to eliminate the right to withdraw in situations where there is no reasonable suspicion of an unlawful purpose on the part of the traveller.

I think we in this place agree generally that pre-clearance is a good and convenient thing for travellers, but is it worth taking the risk of reducing the charter-protected rights of Canadians? It is fine to say that the U.S. officers operating on Canadian soil will be trained on how to apply the charter, but it seems to me that U.S. agents on U.S. soil seem to be only dimly aware of their own Bill of Rights, and therefore, I do not think they are going to become experts on our charter.