The right to know how CBSA makes decisions

  • August 30, 2021

Decisions made by Canadian Border Security Agency officers have a profound and long-lasting impact on the lives of those affected by them. To ensure fairness and accountability, the Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association writes in a letter to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the CBSA needs to make public all policies and directives that guide its officers.

It proposes, as a starting point, “that CBSA share a compendium listing and attach all current policies and directives with the CBA Section for distribution to our members.” The Agency should also follow the example of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and introduce a system of sharing and regularly updating its policies and procedures.

The CBSA guidance currently available to the public is inadequate, says the Section. What’s needed are for up-to-date publications and forms, customs notices, memoranda, guides and broches as well as operation manuals to be made public and offer insight into how CBSA makes decisions.

“Most of this information is out of date and incomplete,” the letter reads. “For instance, the Enforcement Manual available online was last updated in 2012, and many sections including ENF 13, 14 and 16 are missing entirely. The most current guides and brochures were last updated in 2018.”

In addition to updated guidance, the Section would like the training CBSA officers receive to deal with changing circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic be made public.

A lack of transparency “undermines procedural fairness as applicants do not know the case they need to meet. This has a disproportionate impact on self-represented individuals, who are not familiar with CBSA decision-making, and do not have the resources to retain counsel to assist them,” the Section adds.

Lack of transparency is also a barrier to accountability. “The CBA has long called for independent oversight of CBSA to enhance accountability. Increased transparency with the public about the policies that guide CBSA’s decision-making will also promote accountability” as well as improve the public’s trust in the agency.