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The Liberals want to amend the CBSA Act — will the bill include promised external oversight?

Click to play video: 'CBSA demands passwords on devices' CBSA demands passwords on devices
A Toronto lawyer returning home with his computer and mobile phone had them seized when he refused to give Canadian border agents his passwords – Apr 19, 2019

The Liberals are poised to introduce a bill amending the laws governing the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the RCMP, raising questions on whether that legislation could make good on a pledge to create external oversight for the border agency.

According to the notice paper, which is where the government must give notice of new bills it plans to introduce in the House of Commons, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale intends to table “An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.”

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Rules state that bills must be announced on the notice paper at least 48 hours before they are tabled.

That means the bill in question could be tabled as soon as Tuesday morning.

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Cause of death undetermined in CBSA deportation death – Aug 9, 2018

In Budget 2019, the Liberals promised to spend $24.42 million over five years beginning this year to expand the mandate of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, currently the external body tasked with investigating complaints from the public to the RCMP.

That expansion in funding would see the mandate amended so it can serve as an “independent review body for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency,” the budget stated.

An additional $6.83 million would be allocated to the expansion each year after those initial five.

Currently, the CBSA investigates complaints against itself but groups including the BC Civil Liberties Association have called in recent years for the agency to come under independent review, like other major Canadian law enforcement agencies have, given its sweeping powers.

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A spokesperson for Goodale could not confirm the nature of the bill but acknowledged Budget 2019 did include a promise for external oversight.

“By Parliamentary convention, we are not able to speak to the contents of a bill until it is tabled in the House. Under notice rules, that could be as soon as tomorrow,” said Scott Bardsley, manager of media and communications for the minister.

“Budget 2019 noted that … the Government proposes to amend the Canada Border Services Agency Act, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and other Acts, as required, to expand the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to act as an independent review body for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency.”

It is unclear whether the legislation set to be introduced will be able to make it through the House of Commons in the remaining 29 sitting days before it rises for the summer.

The Senate is scheduled to sit for one week past the expected end of the House of Commons sitting.

In most cases, legislation that does not have royal assent by the time both houses rise will die and have to restart the process when the chambers reconvene.

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