HANSARD: Jenny spoke on on Bill C-20, An Act establishing the Public Complaints and Review Commission and amending certain Acts and statutory instruments

"We have just heard from my colleague, who spoke about the importance of this for indigenous people. The member for Winnipeg Centre highlighted the systemic racism that exists within the RCMP, the unbelievable measures and the extent to which they brought a heavy hand to addressing indigenous protests. It was shocking to see the images in British Columbia of what was being done at that time and how indigenous people were dealt with, all because they wanted to exercise their right to protect their land.

In “Behind the Thin Blue Line”, an APTN investigation, APTN provided this:

“You do one more thing and I’ll dose you, bitch,” a Mountie allegedly told independent media producer Kristy Grear, according to court files. “There was no name tag or badge number displayed on the officer’s uniform,” the documents claim. “However I did observe a so-called ‘thin-blue line’ patch on the officer’s uniform.” 

This is how the Mounties of the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), a secretive industry defence arm of the B.C. RCMP arrive to dismantle blockades: armed with guns and mace, name tags ripped off, faces hidden, thin blue line patches emblazoned on their chests. 

Police arrive with howling dogs, helicopters, drones, chainsaws, axes, an excavator, jackhammers, angle grinders and fancier gadgets like thermal imaging cameras. 

This is what is happening and it is shocking. It should be shocking to every single member of the House and to Canadians. How could it be that such measures are taken unchecked? However, that is the reality and that is why we need this bill."

House of Commons Debate
Public Complaints and Review Commission Act
Government Orders
November 22nd, 2022 / 12:25 p.m.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise once again to enter this debate about bringing in independent oversight for the CBSA and more enhanced oversight for the RCMP. This is the third time I have risen in the House to speak to this bill. In fact, back in 2019, when the government tabled it, lo and behold it was tabled literally on the eve of an election. Without any doubt, the bill died on the Order Paper because the election was called a couple of days after that.

Despite the Liberals promising that they would bring this in, once again, just before the 2021 election, the government tabled the same bill under a different number: Bill C-3. Then the Prime Minister saw fit to call an election that nobody wanted and the bill died yet again. Now here we are and it is the third time around. Maybe the third time is lucky and Bill C-20 will get through the system, and we will finally see independent oversight for the CBSA and enhanced measures for the RCMP. This is so important and so significant. Why? People's lives hinge upon it.

We have just heard from my colleague, who spoke about the importance of this for indigenous people. The member for Winnipeg Centre highlighted the systemic racism that exists within the RCMP, the unbelievable measures and the extent to which they brought a heavy hand to addressing indigenous protests. It was shocking to see the images in British Columbia of what was being done at that time and how indigenous people were dealt with, all because they wanted to exercise their right to protect their land.

In “Behind the Thin Blue Line”, an APTN investigation, APTN provided this:

“You do one more thing and I’ll dose you, bitch,” a Mountie allegedly told independent media producer Kristy Grear, according to court files. “There was no name tag or badge number displayed on the officer’s uniform,” the documents claim. “However I did observe a so-called ‘thin-blue line’ patch on the officer’s uniform.” 

This is how the Mounties of the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), a secretive industry defence arm of the B.C. RCMP arrive to dismantle blockades: armed with guns and mace, name tags ripped off, faces hidden, thin blue line patches emblazoned on their chests. 

Police arrive with howling dogs, helicopters, drones, chainsaws, axes, an excavator, jackhammers, angle grinders and fancier gadgets like thermal imaging cameras. 

This is what is happening and it is shocking. It should be shocking to every single member of the House and to Canadians. How could it be that such measures are taken unchecked? However, that is the reality and that is why we need this bill.

More to the point, we need amendments to this bill to ensure there is indigenous representation. I do not know how that is possible, since the government had two bills before this one and had so much time to get it right. Despite the government's claim and the Prime Minister's claim that they are committed to reconciliation, it is the third time around with the bill, and the government still did not have the wherewithal to get it right to ensure that indigenous people have representation on this critical question of oversight. Why is that? Is it just incompetence, or is it willful blindness to the systemic racism that exists in the system?

I want to take a moment to turn to the CBSA, as I am the NDP critic for immigration, refugees and citizenship. The CBSA has unchecked powers to deport people, detain people and arrest people. Refugees and people without status have zero power whatsoever. 

When refugees are subjected to abuse, what can they do? Can they file a complaint? I doubt they could file a complaint against the very people who are going after them. Even if they did, the process takes so long that they would be deported. They would be out of the country before they could even see the result of their complaint. It is a joke to say to the people, “Here is the process you could follow.” In reality, it does not materialize.

To boot, successive Canadian governments have allowed this practice to continue, that is, putting refugees in detention and in jails. The government is actively engaging with the provincial government on contracts so they can throw refugees in detention and put them in jail. This is happening in Canada, and it is a gross violation of people's human rights.

The report from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch has exposed Canada's inhumane practice of jailing thousands of people fleeing persecution, and often in maximum security provincial jails. Let me be very clear: Refugees and migrants are not criminals. Canada is one of the few countries in the global north without a legal limit on detention. In other words, people could be put in there indefinitely. We know there are devastating long-term impacts on those who are incarcerated in immigration detention. Such gross violations of human rights must end now.

The NDP fully supports this bill. We have wanted to see it since the Harper administration. It is the third time the bill has been introduced in the House, and maybe we will finally have independent oversight. Maybe we will finally see the federal government take action and, equally importantly, end the practice of detaining and jailing refugees and migrants. The government has promised this.

It is enough talk. Let us see the action. The government has a responsibility to undertake this work because people's lives hinge on it. CBSA is so aggressive right now in trying to go after people that it even goes to people's schools to arrest them, or tries to get private information from the school system to make arrests. That is what is happening right now, and it has to be stopped. There has to be accountability. We have to address systemic racism. Enough is enough.

Alistair MacGregor Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the bill, there is a section that allows for the minister or provincial counterparts to do a review of specified activities to ensure that the RCMP is acting in accordance with its act and that the CBSA is doing the same.

I am of the opinion that parliamentarians should be granted this power as well. Sometimes our committees are made aware of information, and I am just wondering what thoughts she has on that. Rather than confining this power just to the executive branch, should there also be more of a role for the legislative branch, which is meant as an important check and balance on executive power?

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his excellent work with respect to this. He is absolutely correct to say that this measure should be extended to parliamentarians so that there is accountability. We often come across situations or instances that we learn of, and there should be a pathway for parliamentarians to raise these concerns, file a complaint and have the matter investigated. There has to be open, transparent accountability in this process.

Kristina Michaud Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. She cited many examples of past complaints to the Canada Border Services Agency. I know that there have been complaints about sexual harassment and even about sexual assault. These are serious complaints.

As my colleague said, when an agency investigates itself, there is little chance of a result or a reply to the complainants.

I wonder whether she believes that the creation of this independent commission will ensure that this does not happen again, as we hope, but also that people who file complaints for important reasons, such as sexual assault, will get to see the process lead to corrective action.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, horrific situations have occurred where people have been subjected to violence and abuse. In fact, at least 16 deaths have occurred in CBSA custody since 2000. These are serious situations that have taken place. 

With the bill before us, at the very minimum at least there is independent oversight. With independent oversight, the organization is not investigating itself. We need to ensure transparency and accountability.

To this point, we need to ensure that systemic racism is addressed. We also need to ensure that there is representation for the indigenous people, racialized people and Black people involved in this process as well. 

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, for a long time it has been manifestly obvious that there is systemic racism in our police forces: the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency. We know that up until now, there has been no oversight body to deal with Canadian border services. I think that with the debate so far, in the very little amount of time we have had Bill C-20before us, it is also manifestly clear that this act should be amended to ensure an indigenous role in the oversight process. The commission will deal with both agencies.

I would like my hon. colleague's comments on this. What are the best ways, in her opinion, to engage indigenous participation in the commission when investigating complaints?

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course, indigenous oversight, which includes indigenous investigators and decision-makers, and the appointment of Black and racialized Canadians should be in this process. The bill, if passed through the House, will be referred to committee, where I think it will be very important to hear from witnesses with respect to that to see how that process should unfold.

The government should have done this work, by the way, before now. It is so disappointing to me that once again it did not do its job and it neglected to ensure that this was properly addressed.

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HANSARD: Foreign Interference and Alleged Reputational Harm to Members of Parliament

Outside this chamber, just yesterday, there were individuals shouting, questioning and jeering about who the traitors may be. Members of Parliament had to walk past these individuals on the members' way to the House to do their work. I believe we must find a way to disclose which MPs are knowingly, intentionally, wittingly or semi-wittingly engaging with foreign states or their proxies to undermine Canada's democratic processes and institutions. I believe this can be done in a way that does not compromise national security.

If there are no consequences for MPs who knowingly help foreign governments act against Canadian interests, we will continue to be an easy target. This will further erode the trust and faith Canadians have in our democratic processes. If allowed to continue, it will further impugn the integrity of the House. Revealing any member of Parliament, former or present, who is a willing participant in foreign interference activities would have the effect of deterring this kind of behaviour. Moreover, it would send a clear message to those foreign states that this cannot continue and that they will not be able to continue to use parliamentarians in this way. This will further reassure the public of the integrity of the House.

I strongly believe that the House should refer the matter to the procedure and House affairs committee. A possible way to deal with the issue would be for committee members to undergo the necessary security screening to examine the unredacted report and look into the allegations about parliamentarians who were “‘witting or semi-witting’ participants in the efforts of foreign states to interfere in our politics.” We could allow the named parliamentarians to be informed and to come before the committee as witnesses; we could then explore options on how to disclose the named parliamentarians without compromising national security or police investigations of the matter.

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