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Border agency watchdog will ‘fill gap’ for disgruntled travellers, Goodale says

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OTTAWA — Travellers, immigration detainees and others who feel mistreated by Canada’s border agency will be able to complain to an independent body under a new measure included in the federal budget.

Border officers can stop travellers for questioning, take blood and breath samples, and search, detain and arrest people without warrants. Some encounters at the border have left travellers frustrated and angry.

The border agency has also come under pressure to be more forthcoming about its role in immigration detentions following people’s deaths in its custody — 14 of them since 2000, according to a compilation of reports by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

The Liberal government is planning legislative changes to give the RCMP watchdog the additional responsibility of handling public complaints about the Canada Border Services Agency. The budget allocates $24 million over five years, starting in 2019-20, and $7 million a year after that, to expand the mandate of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Wednesday the government wants to move quickly on establishing the revamped agency to “fill a gap” in federal public-safety operations and bolster accountability.

“We’ll obviously provide it with a different name, there’ll be changes in structure, the new money is identified in the budget to move it forward,” Goodale said in an interview. “But the objective here is to have an appropriate review agency that can deal with complaints on one side dealing with the RCMP, and on the other side dealing with CBSA.”

The border agency’s thousands of employees manage the flow of about 100 million travellers — as well as many millions of commercial shipments — entering Canada annually. They collect, analyze and distribute information concerning people and goods at border points, air terminals and seaports.

The agency’s internal recourse directorate handles complaints from the public. Other bodies, including the courts, the federal privacy commissioner and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, examine various concerns about the agency’s work.

The Liberals have taken steps to keep a closer eye on the border agency’s national-security activities by creating a special committee of parliamentarians to review federal security services and proposing a super-watchdog of civilian experts to complement that work.

But the border agency is not overseen by a dedicated, independent review or complaints body, prompting civil libertarians, refugee lawyers and parliamentary committees to call for stronger arm’s-length monitoring.

The model adopted by the government — rolling the duties of the RCMP watchdog into the new body — essentially mirrors a proposal by former Privy Council chief Mel Cappe in a June 2017 report commissioned by Public Safety.

Goodale suggested the new agency would not only process complaints but be able to initiate public-interest reviews on its own, and that complainants would have the same avenues of appeal now open to those who pursue grievances against the RCMP.

“We think by actually using an institution that already exists and building on that platform and expanding it, we’ll be able to move faster and it will actually be more cost-effective than if we started from the ground up with something completely new,” Goodale said.

Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Goodale, said there will be more to say about legislation to create the new agency in “the near future,” adding the government is confident it can see the changes through in the limited time before a fall election.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

National

Federal Court approves settlement agreement for Indian Day Schools

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OTTAWA — The Federal Court has approved a settlement agreement for survivors of so-called Indian day schools.

Under the terms of the settlement, survivors will be able to apply for individual compensation for harms, including physical and sexual abuse, linked to attending one of the federally run institutions.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says the court’s decision marks recognition of the hard work undertaken by all sides toward finding a lasting and meaningful resolution for former students and their families.

A 90-day opt-out period and a 60-day appeal period will begin now that the settlement has been approved, meaning that any class member who does not agree with its terms can choose to remove themselves from the process.

Nearly 200,000 Indigenous children attended more than 700 Indian day schools beginning in the 1920s, often enduring trauma that in some cases included physical and sexual abuse.

The schools operated separately from the residential school system and were not included in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement approved in 2006.

 

 

The Canadian Press

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U.S. secretary of state to meet with Trudeau, Freeland ahead of G7 summit

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OTTAWA — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Canada later this week to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Their meeting comes in advance of the G7 summit of the world’s seven big economies, which gets underway later this week in Biarritz, France.

Freeland’s office says she will host the meetings Thursday in Ottawa, where discussions will focus on Canada-U.S. co-operation on various domestic and international issues, including key security and foreign policy matters.

The meeting is being billed as an opportunity to build on the outcomes of Trudeau’s June visit to Washington, D.C., where he met with U.S. President Donald Trump and discussed relations with China, as well as the continued arbitrary detention of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.

Trudeau spoke with Trump by telephone on Friday, where the Canadian detentions in China came up again, as did the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong and the shared support of the two leaders for the ratification of the new North American trade deal.

Trump and Trudeau also discussed challenges in the global economy, with an expectation they would further those discussions together in person at the G7 summit later this week.

 

 

The Canadian Press

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august, 2019

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