Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/18)
Immigration

Independent watchdog a must for CBSA accountability

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) needs a truly independent watchdog to ensure transparency and accountability, Toronto immigration lawyer Robin Seligman tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The Canadian Press reports that the federal government has been advised to set up an external body that would be tasked with handling public complaints about the agency.   

Seligman, principal of Seligman Professional Corporation, says the proposals are long overdue and she hopes to see them put into action in the near future.

“The CBSA is an unregulated police force and they need proper controls and oversight. Only an independent watchdog can provide that,” she says.

The report commissioned by the federal government, which was obtained by CP under access to information laws, suggests the creation of the Canada Law Enforcement Review Commission (CLERC) to provide oversight for both the CBSA and the RCMP.

Author Mel Cappe, a former Privy Council chief, says the new organization would have four or five commissioners and have the authority to compel documents and witnesses.

As well as initiating systemic reviews and taking direction from the minister of public safety to look into issues, the commission envisioned by Cappe would also be able to dismiss meritless complaints and share information with other review bodies.    

However, any recommendations issued by the proposed body would be non-binding on the CBSA, with its leadership handed ultimate responsibility over whether and how to adopt them.

Officers of the CBSA, which is responsible for the collection of information about people and goods at the entry points to Canada, are able to search, detain and arrest travellers, both citizens and non-citizens, without a warrant.

Seligman has previously expressed concerns about the CBSA’s detention policies but says she remains concerned that the CLERC would not be strong enough.

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