Recently, the Government of Canada signaled that it’s looking for ways to improve transparency and increase public confidence in the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale stated that the government is currently examining how to best provide the CBSA with appropriate review mechanisms, particularly after numerous civil rights groups have called for the creation of an independent watchdog to oversee the border agency.
In Akwesasne, community members are required to cross through the CBSA port in Cornwall, Ont., sometimes several times a day while traveling from one part of the community to another to travel to work, attend school, attend health related appointments, visit family, or otherwise meet our social, cultural, economic, and recreation needs.
Given the numerous encounters with various CBSA personnel, some community members have experienced unsatisfactory occurrences regarding the lengthy wait times, misconduct of border service officers, and unreasonable searches. Complaints of this nature against CBSA have so far only been able to be submitted directly to CBSA. The MCA wholeheartedly supports the establishment of an independent oversight mechanism for CBSA, one that will ensure compliance with laws and policies related to border crossing and protect people’s rights.
On May 26, 2016, Grand Chief Abram Benedict wrote to Minister Goodale expressing the Mohawk Council’s support for the establishment of an independent oversight mechanism for the CBSA. While the importance of ensuring that the border is secure for national security as well as for the safety of all citizens is appreciated, the CBSA is expected to treat people with respect in an open and transparent manner. Law enforcement officials should be held to the highest standard of review and scrutiny in their interaction with the public.