One of the frustrations I experienced in the last Parliament as a member on the Government side of the House was how certain Government bills and related legislation were at times intentionally mispresented by interest groups and others solely to incite opposition. As an example of this it was often implied that Bill C-51 “The Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015” would allow for peaceful law-abiding protesters to be arrested without cause at a protest or demonstration. These claims were erroneously made despite the fact the Bill contained language that clearly stated Bill C-51 specifically excluded “lawful advocacy or protest” from its application in defining legal and illegal protests with respect to “interference with critical infrastructure”.
When I became a member of the Official Opposition one of the commitments I made was to not use similar tactics that in my view only serve to mislead Canadians. I offer these comments as recently I have noted that a Bill introduced by the Liberal Government, specifically Bill C-23 “The Preclearance Act” is being targeted with many similar misleading and inaccurate claims much as was targeted at Bill C-51.
If you are unfamiliar with Bill C-23, in the words of the Liberal Government, it will expand the limited number of current US Customs staffed pre-clearance locations in Canada (as an example in airports such as Vancouver and Calgary for USA bound passengers) to a greater number of locations in Canada (that because of Bill C-23) will expand to include passage by land, water and train.
Some are claiming that Bill C-23 allows US Customs Agents to engage in activities that are against Canadian law while on Canadian soil. While these allegations have been successful in stirring up concern and opposition to the Preclearance Bill, the actual legislative summary is clear on this point and I quote accordingly “establishes that the exercise of any power and performance of any duty or function by a United States preclearance officer is subject to Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act”.
From another perspective, it has been suggested that entering the United States may be more difficult for some Canadian citizens as a result of the new administration. While I have not yet personally heard from any constituents to verify these claims I will observe that if a Canadian citizen is going to be refused entry into the United States for whatever reason it is far more convenient for that refusal to occur in Canada at a pre-clearance location rather than in the United States where a deportation and related unplanned air travel costs can present a far more serious inconvenience. For that reason alone I believe the Liberal Government is taking a prudent course of action in expanding the pre-clearance program that by most accounts has proven to be a simpler, more accessible way to travel across the border for those citizens who decide to visit to the United States.
I welcome your views on this subject: are you supportive of expanding USA pre-clearance as described above in Canada? I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.