BCCLA Reacts: Canada Border Services Agency officers investigated for hundreds of misconduct complaints

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For Immediate Release

Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories – The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is horrified at the revelations of gross misconduct by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers uncovered through an access to information request by CBC news.

Media reports reveal that CBSA conducted over five hundred investigations of its officers between Jan 1, 2018 and early 2020. Allegations and investigations into CBSA officer misconduct included improper search, sexual harassment, bribery, theft, excessive use of force, abuse of authority, collecting women’s personal phone numbers, and more. Though many details from the access to information documents are redacted, those that have emerged paint a horrifying picture of officers gloating and boasting about harassment, abuse of authority, and sexual violence.

According to Meghan McDermott, Senior Staff Counsel at the BC Civil Liberties Association, “These complaints reveal what happens when we give unchecked power to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers, who have wider powers than police agencies. Every major police agency in Canada has some form of independent oversight, yet, despite its immense powers, there is no independent civilian oversight body to investigate CBSA officer misconduct or review CBSA policies. We urgently need robust CBSA accountability and external oversight, and more needs to be done to tackle the marginalization of migrants and refugees created by our immigration enforcement policies.”

For the past several years, BCCLA has been advocating and campaigning for independent civilian oversight of CBSA. CBSA officers have vast powers of arrest, detention, search and seizure, and questioning of travellers, migrants, and refugees. CBSA has even wider powers than police agencies and their enforcement of Canadian customs and immigration laws has a disproportionate impact on vulnerable migrants and refugees.

In February 2020, Parliament tabled Bill C-3: An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act. Bill C-3 proposes the establishment of an independent and civilian review and complaints function overseeing CBSA. The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC), which currently oversees the RCMP, would take on additional responsibilities of oversight over CBSA and be renamed the Public Complaints and Review Commission.

Media Contacts:

Meghan McDermott, Senior Staff Counsel at the BC Civil Liberties Association: [email protected]; 778-679-8906

Harsha Walia, Executive Director at the BC Civil Liberties Association: 778-885-0040