On Wednesday June 14th, Liberal MPs on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security made significant amendments to Bill C-23, the Preclearance Act, 2016, in order to ensure Canadian’s rights and freedoms under the Charter are fully protected. After concerns were raised that certain sections of the legislation did not sufficiently protect Canadian travelers, the committee adopted 10 amendments to the bill, some of which were adopted unanimously with all-party support.
The committee held 6 meetings on the bill, heard from 26 witnesses and received 14 briefs. Pam Damoff, MP Oakville North-Burlington and a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, reported the bill back to the House today for its consideration of the committee’s report.
Liberals inserted into the legislation a process for travelers to notify senior Canadian officials in the event that a traveler is mistreated by border officials. One of the Liberal amendments also requires that all preclearance officers be provided with specific training on Canadian law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “Canadians need to know that American officers working on Canadian soil understand and respect all Canadian laws and our Charter rights,” said MP Damoff.
“We heard strongly from Canadians that they wanted to be able to go through preclearance, to get through customs faster and more efficiently, while ensuring that their rights under the Charter were not abridged,” said Rob Oliphant, MP for Don Valley West and Chair of the Committee. “These amendments accomplish that.”
“We heard from witnesses and from Canadians in our ridings that assurances needed to be given that US officers would be trained in the Canadian laws they will be upholding, and that there needed to be somewhere to go in the event that a mistake was made or that a Canadian was mistreated. That is why we added both those elements to the bill,”
Member of Parliament, Oakville North-Burlington
In addition, the committee strengthened the existing safeguards concerning searches to require that all searches, including frisk and strip searches, will be conducted according to Canadian law and the Charter. Liberal MPs on the committee also reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring consistent and effective protections for LGBTQ2 persons at the border, recognizing that this would best be accomplished by the full legislative review which will follow the passing of Bill C-16, currently in the Senate. Finally, all parties agreed on the need to include an independent review of the legislation after five years.