No Canadian sovereignty on Canadian soil

In case any of my Canadian readers were still under the illusion that Trump’s fascism wouldn’t bleed into our country, I present to you Bill C-23, a law which strips us of several immigration rights at border check points between Canada and the United States… even if the check point is on our side of the border.

U.S. border guards would get new powers to question, search and even detain Canadian citizens on Canadian soil under a bill proposed by the Liberal government.

Legal experts say Bill C-23, introduced by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, and likely to pass in the current sitting of Parliament, could also 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.

Michael Greene, an immigration lawyer in Calgary, says C-23 takes away an important right found in the existing law.

“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 Greene, who is national chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s citizenship and immigration section.

“And that’s the part we think could be really offensive and goes too far.”

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.

“At some point, it may change from a situation where you’re simply responding to a question, to a situation where you’re failing to respond to a direction of an officer. So the ambiguity is somewhat dangerous for the traveller.”

Yes, that’s right. American border agencies can detain you in your own country.

I have to say I’m somewhat blindsided by how obsequious our government seems to be. In what world would a country be okay with citizens being detained on their own soil by foreign powers?

My new Member of Parliament has already gone on record to criticize the law, but even if the Conservatives wake up and throw their weight in with the NDP, the Liberal supermajority can still make it pass.

I don’t think I had any intentions of visiting the United States as it is, but just the symbolism of “Americans can arrest Canadians on Canadian territory” strikes me as a stunning invasion of our so-called sovereignty.

Here’s hoping the Liberals come to their senses.



  1. applehead says

    Make Trudeau’s landlines run hot? As an outside observer, he at least appears to be open to dialogue with his citizens, so maybe a large enough showing can convince the Liberal government to stop selling out Canada.

  2. Ice Swimmer says

    To give foreign immigration officials any jurisdiction outside of their own countries is madness. They are already too free to abuse people as it is.

  3. says

    We haven’t tried to invade y’all for a while, ‘cuz it didn’t work so well last time. But the poutine and tar sands (not combined) are looking mighty tempting.

  4. Siobhan says

    I wish I could laugh, Marcus, but statist abuse was definitely not a commodity Canada needed to import from the USA. I’m gonna poke my friends and see if we can light up the MPs phones for sure.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    C’mon, we all know that Americans can bomb anybody anywhere for any reason.

    Y’all’re getting off light, because we like you.

    [You wouldn’t want to do anything to change that, now would you?]

  6. chrisdevries says

    It says the Americans already passed a reciprocal version of this bill, so I guess that means that Canadian customs and immigration officers can detain any American at the border for any reason, even at pre-clearance facilities on American soil. Oh wait! There AREN’T any such pre-clearance facilities in the USA. Americans arriving in Canada by land, sea or air are always, 100% on Canadian soil when they talk to Canada customs, and subject to our laws ALREADY (though they *may* have had the right to turn back, no questions asked, I don’t know how this worked in the past – somehow I doubt it). American customs and immigration has eight pre-clearance areas at airports (set to increase), where you are on Canadian soil technically, but IN America from an immigration control perspective. There are no such facilities in American airports for visitors to Canada (though I recently learned that Canada has the right to build them, should our government feel the need). I wonder if any of the other countries with similar US pre-clearance areas have passed this kind of law too. Off the top of my head, Ireland, The Bahamas, the UAE, and I think another couple little Caribbean countries have pre-clearance. It is these facilities that this law seems to be primarily concerned with, and frankly, I don’t understand why the Canadian government would agree to a reciprocal agreement of this nature that isn’t, practically, reciprocal at all, and seems to threaten only Canadian citizens with (the often draconian) US legal system. Bizarre. I will be writing my (Liberal) member of the House.