May 7, 2019 11:19 am
Updated: May 7, 2019 3:01 pm

Liberals table bill to bring CBSA under external review by RCMP’s civilian complaints board

A Toronto lawyer returning home with his computer and mobile phone had them seized when he refused to give Canadian border agents his passwords. As Sean O'Shea reports, Nick Wright says he would not unlock the devices because of solicitor-client privilege and clients' documents on the encrypted devices.

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The Canada Border Services Agency could soon have to answer for its activities to an independent review board.

And that same board, currently tasked just with reviewing complaints from the public into the RCMP, is getting a new name to reflect its expanded mandate.

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

On Tuesday morning, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tabled legislation in the House of Commons to rename the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission into the Public Complaints and Review Commission, and task it with probing the activities of Canadian border officials.

That comes after the Liberals promised in Budget 2019 to bring the border agency under independent external review.

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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.

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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.

The bill is set to face a time crunch as both the House of Commons and the Senate head into their final month and a half of sitting.

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