An independent agency for complaints against border services

OTTAWA – Travelers, detained immigrants and anyone who feels they have been badly treated by the Canada Border Services Agency will soon be able to complain to an independent organization.

U budget page will last a little unnoticed Tuesday announced that the federal government is now assigned to civilian review board and complaints regarding the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) as the added responsibility of handling complaints against the Border Services Agency.

Border services officers have the power to intercept travelers for questioning, to take blood and breath samples, to search, detain and even arrest people without warrants.

Currently, the Recourse Directorate within the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) handles public complaints about their interactions with officers. Courts, the federal Privacy Commissioner and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal also consider various concerns with respect to the CBSA’s overall work.

As a result, public complaints are not reviewed by an independent commission, prompting civil liberties advocates, refugee lawyers, and parliamentary committees to seek greater control over this agency.

Tuesday’s budget therefore provides $ 24.4 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, and nearly $ 7 million annually thereafter to expand the mandate of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. to the RCMP.

Some border crossings have left travelers frustrated and even furious. The agency has also been pressured to be more transparent about its role in the preventive detention of immigrants, following the deaths of people in its custody – 14 since 2000, according to a compilation by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. British.

100 million travelers

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Wednesday that the government wanted to act quickly to “fill the gaps”.

Thousands of CBSA employees manage the flow of approximately 100 million travelers – as well as several million commercial shipments – into Canada each year. They collect, analyze and distribute information on people and goods at land border crossings, terminals and ports.

This new complaint handling model adopted by the government is essentially a proposal by former Clerk of the Privy Council Mel Cappe in a June 2017 report commissioned by the Minister of Public Safety.

Mr. Goodale suggested that the new agency will not only handle complaints, but will also be able to initiate public interest reviews itself. Complainants would have the same remedies as those that already exist for complaints against the RCMP.

“We believe that by using an existing institution, building on this platform and expanding it, we will be able to act faster and it will actually be more cost-effective than starting from scratch with a completely new solution,” he said. Mr. Goodale.

Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for the minister, said the Liberal government was optimistic that it could proceed before the fall election. Ottawa to amend the Canada Border Services Agency Act, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act “and other legislation as required” to expand the mandate of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission relating to the RCMP.

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