POLITICS

Bill C-23 Poll Finds Half Of Canadians Worry It Gives Too Much Power To U.S. Border Guards In Canada

03/30/2017 01:39 EDT | Updated 03/30/2017 03:43 EDT

Canadians are concerned about how much authority the Liberal government's preclearance bill gives U.S. border guards while in Canada, according to a new survey.

An Angus Reid Institute poll, released Thursday, found just more than half of respondents (52 per cent) are worried that Bill C-23 gives American agents "too much power" while on Canadian soil. Forty-eight per cent said they thought it struck the right balance.

Overall, 49 per cent of respondents said they supported the proposed legislation, which was introduced by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale last year. Thirty-six per cent opposed it and 15 per cent said they weren't sure.

Click here for the full results from the survey

(via Angus Reid Institute)

The bill expands preclearance between Canada and the U.S. at Canadian airports and crossings. Preclearance allows Canadians to pass U.S. customs before they cross the border.

Critics argue certain provisions in the bill are worrisome. Under the current system, a Canadian going through preclearance while in their own country could stop halfway through the process and go back, if they desired. Bill C-23 would change that. If U.S. agents suspected the traveller was violating any Canadian laws, they would have the power to question them over their decision and even detain them. The traveller would ultimately be handed over to Canadian authorities, however.

The Angus Reid Institute's poll found 55 per cent of respondents supported that provision in the bill, while 45 per cent opposed it. There was slightly more opposition to another element in the bill which allows U.S. agents to strip search travellers while on Canadian soil. Forty-eight per cent of respondents opposed that provision.

(via Angus Reid Institute)

The firm's survey found that the vast majority of respondents who went through preclearance supported it, saying it was "generally easy." More opposition arises, however, when it comes to the changes Bill C-23 would bring to the program.

Just 23 per cent of respondents said preclearance should be expanded under the bill's current framework. Thirty-two per cent said they wanted preclearance available at more airports and train stations, just not under the Liberals' proposed legislation.

The poll was conducted online among a randomized sample of 1,511 Canadian adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended his government's bill. Last month, he suggested it's better to be cleared for entry into the United States while in Canada, because travellers are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as opposed to American laws.

With files from The Canadian Press

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