CBSA – ASFC: Post-9/11 Agency

Posted: February 7, 2015 by double d in Uncategorized

Falling under ‘public police’ the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) protects our borders and airports of Canada we will be examining the newly formed agency in respects to accountability. The agency was established in 2003 and undoubtedly created out of the post-9/11 haze.

According to experts the CBSA falls in the middle of ‘high’ and ‘low’ policing in Canada (graph 1); having broad authorizes, the CBSA enforces numerous Acts and Regulations to ensure national security is maintained. Some of the acts and regulations that the CBSA are responsible for exercising are: Canada Border Services Agency Act; Customs Act; Customs Tariff; and many more- anything from privacy to meat inspection acts.

Having a large amount of responsibility for such a new organization is daunting; however, the CBSA are equipped with a military-type structure and ranking systems to allow a smooth flow of power. With the director of the agency reporting “to the minister of Public Safety Canada (graph 2) and controls and manages all matters relating to the Agency.” (Government of Canada, 2011)

The CBSA has a lot of power thus we come back to our main objective to find- if any- accountability body that would accompany such large and powerful organization. We will begin by diving into the organization itself; the CBSA does have a ‘code of conduct’ that it adheres to. Under chapter 3 of the code ‘wrongdoing’ is explained (Government of Canada, 2012):

  • a) the contravention of an Act of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, or of any regulations made under any such Act;
  • b) the misuse of public funds or assets;
  • c) gross mismanagement in the federal public sector;
  • d) an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health and safety of Canadians or the environment;
  • e) a serious breach of a Code of Conduct; and
  • f) knowingly directing or counselling a person to commit a wrongdoing.

There are procedures in place to deal with the wrongdoing of an individual in the agency; nonetheless it is an internal body that handles the misconduct. Therefore the question that rises is how often does the public receive information of wrongdoing in the CBSA – is it only when the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner is informed? The CBSA ensures no eyebrows are raised as they provide basic statistics on the code of conduct that they adhere to. From “83 Written Reprimand[s] to 13 Terminations” (Government of Canada, 2014) in the year of 2013; however, the stats still do not answer our question of whether these disciplinary actions were taken as a result of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner being informed or not.

Where there is no transparency in an agency concern in the public rises; especially when the union representatives of the agency want more power for their public servants who already have peace/customs officer powers. (CBC News, 2015) Public concern over the powers and misuse which are associated with CBSA have caught the eyes of BC Civil Liberties Associations Executive Director Josh Paterson, who urges for “independent oversight of the operations of our border police” (British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, 2014) after the failure of the CBSA to disclose the recent death of Lucia Vega Jimenez. Changes in the past have been recommended from across the country – coroner’s inquests in Ontario – yet nothing had been done to this date.

The sheer magnitude of power that the CBSA holds is quite scary as we have learned that there is indeed no civilian oversight over the agency; who do we go to when we need to be heard, of a problem or potential problem that may rise with the organization? One question that is immediately raised by looking at the code of conduct of the CBSA is in chapter 3 under section d; it states:

  • d) an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health and safety of Canadians or the environment;

Why does it not include persons or human beings; it only mentions Canadians therefore a potential disconnect between the international community may be developed. Living in Canada and upholding the due-process model (innocent until proven guilty) we need some sort of civilian-police investigation oversight to ensure that model of due-process is practiced correctly and transparently.

 

 

Bibliography

British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. (2014, November 05). BCCLA reacts to revelations of CBSA deaths in custody. Retrieved January 26, 2014, from British Columbia Civil Liberties Association: https://bccla.org/news/2014/11/bccla-reacts-to-revelations-of-cbsa-deaths-in-custody/

CBC News. (2015, January 08). Border agents should be able to chase drivers who don’t stop, union says. Retrieved January 26, 2015, from cbc.ca: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/border-agents-should-be-able-to-chase-drivers-who-don-t-stop-union-says-1.2894252

Government of Canada. (2011, July 14). Who We Are. Retrieved January 24, 2015, from Canada Border Services Agency: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/agency-agence/who-qui-eng.html

Government of Canada. (2012, September 26). Code of Conduct. Retrieved January 24, 2015, from Canada Border Services Agency: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/agency-agence/reports-rapports/acc-resp/code-eng.html#a_3

Government of Canada. (2014, March 24). Code of Conduct Statistics – at a glance. Retrieved January 26, 2014, from Canada Border Services Agency: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/agency-agence/reports-rapports/acc-resp/codeconduct-normeethique-eng.html

 

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    Your post includes a discussion of the CBSA code of conduct. I would welcome additional comments on this. For example, you state that “ There are procedures in place to deal with the wrongdoing of an individual in the agency”. What kind of procedures? What are the consequences for a violation of the code of conduct?

    You note that “ The sheer magnitude of power that the CBSA holds is quite scary as we have learned that there is indeed no civilian oversight over the agency”. Why do you think that this is? Why would two successive federal governments (both Liberal and Conservative) decide not to implement any formal third-party review or oversight mechanism for the CBSA? We have seen innovations in municipal, provincial, and federal police accountability since the introduction of the CBSA – for example, the introduction of the IIO and the recent revisions to the RCMP Complaints Commission. These changes have taken place in response to public, political, and judicial pressures. Why might the CBSA – so far – be the exception? I would welcome your comments on this.

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