News from ICLMG

Preclearance Agreement Trumps Protection of Travelers from Canada to US

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Amendments to protect rights of travelers to the US and ensure accountability of preclearance officers rejected at Committee: “Our hands are tied.”

Ottawa, June 15, 2017 — Civil liberties groups are expressing shock that Canadian MPs say they are unable to strengthen protections when traveling to the US because of an agreement signed between the countries’ governments.

“Regardless of a document signed between two countries, if you believe that the rights of Canadians are being weakened, you must do something about it,” says Tim McSorley, national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG).

The reaction follows the final review of Bill C-23, the Preclearance Act, 2016, by the House of Commons Public Safety Committee on Wednesday night.

Civil liberties and human rights advocates have raised multiple concerns about C-23, warning it will grant too much power to US officers operating in Canada, with absolutely no mechanism for accountability unless their actions cause death, bodily harm or damage to property. The Preclearance Act, 2016, will allow US officers to strip search a traveler, even if a Canadian agent declines to do so; allow US officers to carry firearms; and remove the ability of travelers to withdraw from preclearance areas without further interrogation.

While various motions were moved at the committee to address the most severe problems that civil liberties and human rights experts have highlighted, they were systematically voted down. Often, the justification given by the majority was that C-23 must adhere to the provisions of the Agreement On Land, Rail, Marine, And Air Transport Preclearance, finalized without public scrutiny by the Canadian and US governments in early 2015.

At one point, a Liberal member of the committee stated that their “hands are tied” because of the deal negotiated by the Harper and Obama era governments.

“It’s disappointing that an agreement that did not receive any real public scrutiny or debate is now being approved without genuine opportunities for elected representatives to ensure our rights are protected when traveling,” says Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).

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The government published its report on the National Security Consultation: Our reaction

nat sec consultation govt reportLate last year, tens of thousands of Canadians, including many of you and our members, participated in the Ministry of Public Safety’s consultation on national security. We put in a lot of hard work drafting ICLMG’s submission, working with members to submit their own, and encouraging the public to also speak up to ensure that the government put civil liberties and human rights first.

We’re still waiting for the government’s action on these issues, including the fate of Bill C-51. On Friday May 19, however, the government finally released their third-party analysis of the consultation, and the results point to strong public support for our positions.

The report clearly states that on all questions, Canadians put the protection of our rights first. Read the report.

The best news: the vast majority want to see the main components – if not all – of C-51 repealed. That sends a huge message to the government about what their next steps should be. Beyond that, many of our concerns on oversight and review, the no fly list, attacks on free expression and political organizing, surveillance and information sharing, and even security certificates, feature prominently in the report.

Thank you, and congratulations, to everyone who put in hard work and participated in the consultation to make sure the government heard our voices on this issue.

HIGHLIGHTS

Surveillance/privacy

  • The scaling back of government surveillance and the protection of privacy rights received the most feedback – and have received the most coverage in media reports – with an overwhelming number of respondents to the consultation saying that they want to see greater protection of privacy and telling the government not to bring in any greater surveillance powers for agencies like CSIS.

Accountability, review & oversight

  • Accountability was a central issue in all sections of the consultations, with 81% of respondents wanting independent review mechanisms for agencies dealing with national security that currently don’t have review bodies (CBSA, CRA)
  • 77% believe there is a need for an independent, expert review body beyond the Committee of Parliamentarians being established by C-22, a main demand of the ICLMG since the Arar Inquiry.

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Civil liberties groups call for urgent changes to preclearance rules

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Committee studying Bill C-23 should ask for more protections for Canadians travelling to the United States

Ottawa — A trio of national civil liberties groups is calling on a parliamentary committee to implement changes to the Preclearance Act, 2016, known as C-23, to ensure Canadians are not at risk of human rights violations.

The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), and the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association (CMLA), submitted joint recommendations to the committee today.

“We are concerned that the current act, as it stands, opens up huge risks for Canadians who travel between Canada and the United States,” says Tim McSorley, national coordinator at the ICLMG.

“It is imperative that the federal government maintains full sovereignty over its borders, and that accountability measures are in place for any US preclearance officers (USPCOs) operating on Canadian soil. That is compromised when, for example, USPCOs are given authorization to conduct strip searches in Canada,” says Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM’s Executive Director.

“Another concern is that Canadian preclearance areas will not be uniformly deemed Canadian soil, barring travelers from many benefits and entitlements under Canada’s immigration laws,” says Pantea Jafari, board member of the CMLA.

The Preclearance Act, 2016 is currently being reviewed by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU). All three civil liberty organizations have submitted full briefs outlining deep reservations over multiple aspects of Bill C-23 and recommending substantial changes to the bill.

“The fundamental flaw we see in Bill C-23 is a lack of accountability for US preclearance officers in Canada,” reads the latest briefing note.

“The result is that, while Bill C-23 guarantees Canadians that a ‘preclearance officer must exercise their powers and perform their duties and functions under this Act in accordance with Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act’, there is little to no way for a Canadian or Canadian courts to take action should a preclearance officer violate those laws.”

“This lack of accountability is alarming when coupled with the expansive investigative and search rights afforded to USPCOs under Bill C-23,” says McSorley.

Read the latest joint recommendations: http://bit.ly/2raLsRr

Read the joint ICLMG/NCCM Submission: http://bit.ly/2sbI209

Read CMLA’s Submission here: http://bit.ly/2s4xMqZ

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