Question Period: Canada Post

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Alexandra Bridge across the Ottawa River, Ottawa

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Senator Gold, the budget bill proposes to amend section 41 of the Canada Post Corporation Act. The amendment aims to ensure the constitutionality of inspections of Canada Post parcels by Canada Post inspectors. This is an amendment that will likely fix the problem raised by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador last year in the Gorman decision.

However, the amendment does not authorize inspectors to open letters that are being delivered by Canada Post even if they have grounds to suspect the presence of dangerous products such as fentanyl. As I said before, traffickers of fentanyl use Canada Post letters as their preferred means of delivery.

Will the government consider amending Division 30 of the budget bill to allow for the inspection of letters by Canada Post inspectors who have reasonable grounds to suspect the presence of fentanyl?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, senator, for your question and for your engagement on this important issue. As you correctly pointed out, the amendment to which you refer was a direct response to a very specific issue, and, indeed, the amendment already reflects Canada Post’s usual practice of only inspecting parcels if there’s reason to suspect prohibited material may be inside. In that regard, the amendment does not change the day-to-day practices, though it does respond to the issue of constitutionality.

That said, in the opinion of the government, a broader reform of how mail is handled and inspected requires careful study and likely more changes than simply one provision in the Budget Implementation Act.

In that regard, I would be very happy to facilitate a meeting between you and the minister to discuss this matter further. I’m just not aware at this juncture and at this stage in the legislative process as to whether your suggestion is one that can be entertained. But it certainly merits discussion. I’d be happy to facilitate that.

Senator Dalphond: Senator Gold, in 2017, Parliament passed Bill C-37, allowing Customs officers to open mail due to the problem of fentanyl imports from outside of Canada.

Don’t you think the time has come for Canada Post inspectors to have the same power in connection with domestic letters?

Senator Gold: In my capacity as Government Representative, I can underline the logic of your proposition. I suggest that this is something I would need to discuss further. I would invite you to be part of those discussions.

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