U.S. border guards would get new powers to question, search and even detain Canadian citizens on Canadian soil under bill Bill C-23 proposed by the Liberal government and likely to pass in the current sitting of Parliament, and could erode the standing of Canadian permanent residents by threatening their automatic right to enter Canada.
The bill would enshrine in law a reciprocal agreement for customs and immigration pre-clearance signed by the governments of Stephen Harper and Barack Obama in 2015. Both houses of Congress passed the U.S. version of the bill in December.
“A Canadian going to the U.S. through a pre-clearance area [on Canadian soil] can say: ‘I don’t like the way [an interview is] going and I’ve chosen not to visit your country.’ And they can just turn around and walk out.
“Under the new proposed bill, they wouldn’t be able to walk out. They can be held and forced to answer questions, first to identify themselves, which is not so offensive, but secondly, to explain the reasons for leaving, and to explain their reasons for wanting to withdraw,” said Michael Greene, who is a former national chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s citizenship and immigration section.
Howard Greenberg, a Toronto immigration lawyer who has chaired the immigration law committees at the Canadian Bar Association and the International Bar Association, says the law raises the prospect of a Canadian being arrested simply for deciding he or she has had enough with a certain line of questioning.