The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has sounded the alarm over the provisions in Bill C-23, which is now in the Senate. The BCCLA has a point.
The 1974 Preclearance Act makes travel easier when U.S. Customs is cleared at Canadian airports before departure. There’s no question that passengers going through the process are still on Canadian soil, in Canadian territory, and retain all the associated rights and benefits.
Bill 23 will expand preclearance areas and broaden the powers of U.S. border agents within those areas.
Right now, a person can exit a preclearance area at any time, but Bill 23 would authorize U.S. border guards to detain and question people who make that choice. Further, U.S. agents would be able to strip search a traveler if Canadian guards are not available, or if Canadian guards refuse to conduct a strip search.
What’s more, there appears to be no measure in the new legislation to hold U.S. guards accountable for their decisions.
The BCCLA made a submission to Parliament on this bill back in June and some changes were made, but the three concerns around detention, strip searches, and a lack of accountability are still in place. The association wants Canadians to contact Ottawa to express displeasure. But, most Canadians have no idea these changes are in the works, and there’s not likely to be any outpouring of outrage.
The federal government may have acquiesced to American demands for greater border security, and it isn’t hiding the thrust of this bill. It’s just not running it up the flagpole for a broad scrutiny.
Too bad for us.