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In June 2009, amendments were made to the Customs Act in support of the Government of Canada's strategy to strengthen security and facilitate trade. The primary purpose of the changes was to give the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) greater scope and flexibility in its management of risk. The key amendments allow the CBSA to fully implement the Advance Commercial Information program (known as eManifest) and to put in place changes at customs controlled areas. Both initiatives have been previously approved and funded by the Government.
The CBSA provides integrated border services that support national security priorities and facilitate the free flow of people and goods, including food, plants and animals, across the border.
One of the key pieces of legislation that governs the CBSA's mandate is the Customs Act. Although first enacted in 1867, it has been revised and amended over the years to give the Government greater flexibility to respond to changing technology and business practices.
The June 2009 amendments to the Customs Act will provide the required legislative foundation for eManifest, the third phase of the Advance Commercial Information program. eManifest will change the commercial import process to reflect the CBSA's integrated risk management approach and to keep pace with the changing global environment.
As a result of eManifest, all commercial trade chain members will be required to electronically submit trade information in advance of their shipment's arrival in Canada. Getting the right information at the right time on who and what is coming into Canada will enhance the CBSA's capacity to identify threats before they reach the Canadian border. In addition, eManifest will enhance the import process by rewarding those who comply with predictable and expedited processing while reducing delays and congestion at the border.
Previously, in 2001, various amendments were made to the Customs Act in response to the CBSA's desire for new tools to interdict crime resulting from internal conspiracies at Canada's ports of entry.
The 2001 amendments allowed for the creation of customs controlled areas. These designated areas are close to or associated with the border where domestic travellers or workers may come into contact with international travellers and/or goods that have not yet cleared customs. At that time, border services officers were only provided with the authority to stop, question and search individuals at exit points.
With the June 2009 amendments to the Customs Act, border services officers will have the authority and flexibility to examine goods and to question and search people anywhere within a customs controlled area. This will enhance the Agency's ability to combat internal conspiracies at ports of entry and interdict contraband and other illegal items before they reach Canadian communities. Officers will be able to focus on areas of risk and persons of interest and this results in greater security for Canadians.
Some technical and housekeeping items were also part of the June 2009 changes:
See also: News release – New law combats airport smuggling and security risks, says Van Loan (2009-06-23)