Reforming the CBSA: Federal Report Calls for Watchdog Commission


A federal report produced for Public Safety Canada says the government should establish an independent body to handle public complaints about the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).  The proposed Canada Law Enforcement Review Commission would have the power to initiate reviews, compel documents and witnesses, and issue non-binding recommendations to the CBSA.

The CBSA has been facing intense public scrutiny since 2016, after a series of deaths of detainees in immigration custody. The majority of detainees are individuals without criminal infractions who are awaiting deportation and are considered to be in ‘administrative detention.’ People who appear before the CBSA have no right to counsel. Individuals have been held indefinitely, including minors and young children; a report in February 2017 found that dozens of children who were Canadian citizens were incorrectly held in immigration detention centres.  Civil society organizations have called for an end to immigration detention entirely.

In response, the Liberal government pledged $168 million in funds towards the CBSA’s National Immigration Detention Framework to reform immigration detention centres across Canada, and the Public Safety Canada report was commissioned as part of this initiative. Parliament has already moved to amend the CBSA Act, though the amendment only provides for the CBSA to receive and consider complaints from the public.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.