PSAC-CIU recommends the government strengthen its proposed legislation to introduce civilian oversight for both the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) by broadening is scope to address systemic discrimination and abuse of authority by managers.
Mark Weber, National President of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), raised concerns about Bill C-20’s ability to bring about real, systemic change within CBSA unless it includes guarantees maintaining collective agreement rights and provides ways for CBSA employees to report abuse and overreach by management.
Bill C-20 would create a Public Complaints and Review Commission serving as a civilian oversight body for both the RCMP and CBSA.
“We agree that it is paramount for our government and its agencies to develop the tools and recourses necessary to address issues linked to overreach, systemic discrimination, and abuse of authority ” said Weber. "The Bill seems to be missing the mark when it comes to addressing systemic issues already present within the Agency which is infamous amongst its employees for letting gross abuse by management run unchecked.”
The bill also lacks clear language on time limits for complaints and investigations, and around established collective agreement rights such as union representation during administrative investigations.
Under the current wording of the bill, CBSA officers and other personnel would not be able to report instances of unfair or abusive disciplinary measures to the Commission. This is especially concerning, as management within the Agency is known to brush aside complaints from employees, choosing instead to use the extensive discipline process already in place to punish workers.
PSAC-CIU's testimony also flagged to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security that perennial issues exist such as prioritizing technology over personnel, arbitrarily cancelling anti-racism training and staffing holding facilities with poorly trained, contracted out, private security guards. Stronger provisions in the legislation would help address entrenched cultural issues within CBSA management.
Recognizing CBSA law enforcement officers as public safety personnel across all federal legislation
Bill C-20 is also an opportunity for the federal government to recognize CBSA law enforcement officers deserve the same treatment and benefits as other public safety personnel in Canada.
During the last round of FB collective bargaining, PSAC successfully negotiated an agreement with Treasury Board to push for equitable pensions for FB members. Treasury Board committed to resubmitting the FB group’s proposal for legislative amendments that would provide enhanced early retirement benefits (also referred to as 25 and out) under the public service pension plan. Now, the government must introduce legislative changes that would make early retirement a reality for FB members.
“Our law enforcement members are an integral part of this country’s public safety framework. The proposed creation of this new civilian oversight body implies that the federal government agrees” said Weber. “Yet PSAC-CIU law enforcement members are still not recognized as public safety personnel under major public service legislation such as the Public Service Superannuation Act and the Income Tax Act.” The government cannot pick and choose; for Bill C-20 to be coherent, it must be accompanied by legislative changes confirming the status of CBSA law enforcement officers as public safety personnel across federal legislation.