Trudeau's border bill is a sellout of our sovereignty

Under Obama, it might have merited a pass. Not under Trump.

On November 8, 2016, everything changed. Donald Trump was elected president of the United States and many of our worst fears have already come to pass.

What many Canadians don’t know is that our government is about to hand significant powers over to the Trump administration that will allow American border security officers to arrest Canadians on Canadian soil.

We should all be scared. Since taking office in January, Trump has advanced racist policies, attacked the free press, undermined the judiciary, maligned reasonable voices and courted controversy at every turn.

In the name of diplomacy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has remained silent; he says it is not his duty to lecture another country. He pointed out that Trump’s beef is not with Canada.

Except … the shockwaves of Trump’s disastrous policies are now having a direct impact on Canada.

Canadians have been turned away at the border because they were going to the Women’s Day March, or because they’re gay, or have Middle Eastern roots.

Refugees are now fleeing the States and crossing the Canadian border at unprecedented rates. These desperate refugees are risking life and literally losing limbs to illegally cross into Canada so they can claim sanctuary.

Perhaps some of us feel our government’s silence is something we just have to live with in the face of U.S. power. This is definitely a debate we need to have. But I don’t believe any of us would knowingly support legislation that would cede power to U.S. officials on Canadian soil.

Last June, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States. The bill’s title may sound innocuous, and perhaps when Barack Obama was president we might have felt safer in handing over a piece of our sovereignty.

Things are different now.

Bill C-23 has been characterized by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale as an opportunity to make travel faster for Canadians and bolster trade with the United States.

But if you take a closer look at the powers the new legislation gives U.S. border officials — the same officials who have detained and questioned Muslims, gays and women — it’s pretty scary.

The newly empowered U.S. border guards will, under C-23, be allowed to detain, question, seize property, frisk, strip-search and arrest Canadian citizens on Canadian soil.

C-23 not only gives new powers to U.S. border guards — it takes away our own rights as Canadians.

Currently, any Canadian who wants to exit a preclearance area can just walk away; it’s still Canadian territory, after all. If C-23 is passed, it will not be so easy.

Under C-23, once you’re detained by a U.S. border guard, there is no escape; they decide when you can leave. And even if a Canadian traveller has an uneasy feeling and wants to leave the preclearance area prior to being detained, the new law would require that person to justify the decision to leave. In short, C-23 gives Trump’s guards all the power they need to hold anyone they want.

Moreover, it threatens the right of permanent residents of Canada to be able to return home from abroad. And even if guards are found to be abusing this policy, the bill gives them protection from prosecution.

Not only are we ceding our sovereignty on Canadian soil, we could end up stranding vulnerable Canadian residents in Trump’s America with little recourse to protect ourselves.

Handing President Trump the power to lock up Canadians is something we might have expected from the Harper government. I don’t think any of us expected it from Prime Minister Trudeau. Bill C-23 has not yet passed — but it will, if we don’t start pushing back.

 

Emilie Taman