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Canada  

New watchdog for CBSA?

The Trudeau government should create a new watchdog to handle public complaints about the Canada Border Services Agency, says a federally commissioned report.

The report, prepared for Public Safety Canada, also recommends the proposed body be able to look into trends and any systemic problems at the border services agency.

The new watchdog, the Canada Law Enforcement Review Commission, would scrutinize both the border agency and the RCMP, given the frequent overlap between the two enforcement organizations.

The June 2017 report by former Privy Council Office chief Mel Cappe, now a professor at the University of Toronto, was obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act.

Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, would not comment directly on Cappe's recommendations, but said the government is working on legislation to create an "appropriate mechanism" to review CBSA officer conduct and handle complaints.

The border agency's thousands of employees manage the flow of about 100 million travellers — as well as some 16 million commercial shipments — entering Canada annually. They collect, analyze and distribute information concerning people and goods at border points, air terminals and seaports.

Border officers can stop travellers for questioning, take blood and breath samples, and search, detain and arrest citizens and non-citizens without a warrant. 

The agency's internal recourse directorate handles complaints from the public, and other bodies including the courts, the federal privacy commissioner and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal examine various concerns about the agency's work.

The proposed body would roll in existing powers of the civilian review and complaints commission for the RCMP. It would cover the policies and actions of the Mounties and border agency, with power to initiate reviews. The minister and the two agency heads would also be able to direct or request reviews from the commission.

The commission, with a chair and four or five commissioners, would have power to compel documents and witnesses, as well as authority to dismiss frivolous complaints. Cappe suggests it issue non-binding recommendations to the RCMP and border agency to preserve the accountability of the agencies.



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