Bill C-47 (Historical)
Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.
Peter Van Loan Conservative
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
February 14th, 2011 / 6:55 p.m.
Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to participate in the debate on the motion to prevent debate on the content and substance of Bill C-59. I find it rather odd that the Bloc has supported the government's attempt to stifle any attempt at debate on the substance of this bill.
No one in the House can accuse the Liberals of not supporting the idea of eliminating parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served for economic crimes. Two years ago, my colleague from Bourassa, our candidate in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and our member for Lac-Saint-Louis participated in a press conference with several of Earl Jones' victims to call on the government to quickly bring forward a bill to eliminate parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served, especially for criminals who commit major fraud and have multiple victims.
No one can accuse the Liberals of not supporting that idea. I think it is really dishonest of the government to make that kind of accusation when it knows very well what the Liberals' position is. This was pointed out by my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
Now I would like to talk about the debate and the fact that the Conservatives and the Bloc members want to limit the scope of the debate. Just seven months ago the members of the Bloc rose in the House to criticize the government for doing the exact same thing it is doing now with Bill C-59. The government moved a motion to block debate.
Last June, the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain rose in the House to criticize the government for moving a motion to block debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. The Bloc member for Hochelaga also rose to oppose a government motion to block debate on Bill C-9, the Jobs and Economic Growth Act, by imposing time allocation.
We are opposed to this time allocation motion because we believe that Bill C-59 addresses a very important issue. Furthermore, for two years now, the Liberals have been calling on the government to eliminate parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served for economic crimes like those committed by Earl Jones, Vincent Lacroix and others.
I think it is a shame that some would have people believe that the Liberals do not want to protect victims. That is simply not true. When the government introduced Bill C-21 on economic crimes and it was referred to committee, the Liberal justice critic proposed an amendment to the bill to eliminate eligibility for parole after one-sixth of the sentence in cases of economic crime. The Conservatives and the Bloc defeated the motion.
Every MP is entitled to his or her opinion on bills that we are called on to debate in the House. It is a fundamental aspect of the democratic process. The operative word here is “debate”, and the collusion between the Conservatives and the Bloc is preventing us from acting as responsible parliamentarians.
We would like to hear from experts. We want to know how this bill will truly address a gap in the law, how it will do justice to victims, how this bill will improve the chances of rehabilitation for those who once lost control of their lives.
Perhaps we should indeed eliminate parole after one-sixth of a sentence for offenders who have committed serious economic crimes and left a number of victims.
However, for non-violent criminal acts that are not fraud, we believe that evidence has shown that parole after one-sixth of a sentence has been very effective and that the rate of recidivism is much lower.
We will never know what the experts might have said since this closure motion eliminates any chance to consult experts. With this government so eager to control everything, it has become somewhat of a tradition to just pass a bill without any idea of the facts that might call it into question.
The Liberals are against this closure motion. It is not justified, and we regret that the Bloc has decided to join the Conservatives to limit the debate on this bill. As far as the substance of the bill is concerned, in the past and still today, no one could accuse the Liberals of not showing their support for eliminating parole after one-sixth of the sentence for economic crimes.
In order to illustrate the government's intellectual dishonesty, I would like to present a chronology of the Conservatives' failures in their so-called fight against crime.
I am referring here to the various bills that have died on the order paper for all sorts of reasons or that have remained in the House or at committee indefinitely.
Here they are. Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued; Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), died on the order paper before the House had a chance to vote on it; Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), also died on the order paper. It is certainly not the opposition that forced the government to prorogue Parliament.
Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, died on the order paper, and Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, on the faint hope clause, died on the order paper before being brought back this session. One committee meeting was held on Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, before it died on the order paper. Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), which is related to Bill C-59, the bill we are dealing with today, died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued. Bill C-58, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, died on the order paper. The prorogation of Parliament killed many bills.
Among the bills introduced by the Minister of Public Safety was Bill C-34, the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act, which also died on the order paper. The bill to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act died on the order paper. Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code, died on the order paper. Bill C-47, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations, died on the order paper. Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, died on the order paper. Bill C-60, An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America, died on the order paper.
To date, no meetings have been held to discuss Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code. Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), was given first reading 51 days after Parliament was prorogued, and the committee still has not met to discuss that bill.
Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), was fast-tracked at committee in just one meeting and still has not reached second reading. Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, was given first reading 64 days after Parliament was prorogued, and the government delayed it for 26 days at report stage because of the debate on the short title.
Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act, was given first reading 89 days after Parliament was prorogued, and we are still waiting for the next step. Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (interception of private communications and related warrants and orders), was given first reading after 94 days, and we are still waiting. First reading of An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act took place 243 days after Parliament was prorogued. Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials), was given first reading and nothing more.
Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children) only made it to first reading. Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act was introduced at first reading by the Minister of Public Safety 15 days after prorogation. Two committee meetings were held and nothing has happened since. As for Bill C-23B, An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, we are still waiting. After a few meetings on the subject, the minister was supposed to come back with amendments that he felt were necessary in order to make the bill more comprehensive and definitely more respectful. Bill C-39, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts was introduced for first reading 104 days after prorogation and we still have not met in committee to discuss it. Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act was introduced for first reading 232 days after prorogation and there it remains. Bill C-52, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations was also introduced for first reading 243 days after prorogation and we are waiting for the next step. The Senate introduced Bill S-7, An Act to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act for first reading 49 days after prorogation and we are still waiting for the next step. Bill S-10, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts was introduced for first reading in the Senate 60 days after prorogation. Bill S-13, An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America was introduced for first reading 237 days after prorogation.
I am pointing this out to prove that it is not the opposition parties that are slowing the process down. For all sorts of unknown reasons, the government introduces these bill and then goes no further with them.
To conclude, I would like to question the justification for Bill C-59 and the fact that the Conservatives and the Bloc felt this was urgent enough to warrant this closure motion, which is an affront to parliamentary dialogue.
Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act
June 14th, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.
Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC
We were in favour of Bill C-34 in principle and the witnesses we heard—I was also on the committee at the time—reinforced us in our position. We proposed some amendments that were adopted. By the way, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, with whom I worked on this file.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill on the sex offender registry. It is further proof that when we work on bills, we work on them one at a time in a constructive spirit, without engaging in the demagoguery and Conservative grandstanding to which we have become accustomed.
First, I would like to remind the House that the current Sex Offender Information Registration Act came into force on December 15, 2004.
Bill S-2 is intended to make the sex offender registry more effective and helpful to police forces in their preventive efforts as well as during investigations of sex crimes.
It aims, therefore, to register more people convicted of sex crimes and to include more information about them, especially their DNA.
Bill S-2 also imposes further obligations on the individuals listed in the registry if they move or expect to be absent from their homes for an extended period.
Some changes were made. Specifically, in addition to adding more offences that result in inclusion on the registry, clause 5 of the bill changes the procedure through which the courts order inclusion on it.
In the case of what are called direct sexual offences, the current system gives the crown attorney a choice of whether or not to ask for the person to be included on the registry after being convicted of the offence.
With the new registry in Bill S-2, this is no longer in the hands of the Crown. As soon as someone is convicted and sentenced for a sex crime, he or she must automatically comply and be included on the registry. I want to make it clear that this applies to sex crimes.
Furthermore, the new clause eliminates the exemption that applied when the offender established that the impact of his or her inclusion on the registry, including on personal privacy or liberty, would be grossly disproportionate to the protection of society.
In other words, when a direct sexual offence is committed, registration is automatic. Individuals convicted can no longer justify that their inclusion on the registry would be disproportionate to the penalties they would suffer in their private lives or regarding their liberty.
For other designated crimes, those known as serious crimes or conspiracy to commit a sex offence, thus more indirect crimes, at that point it is up to the Crown prosecutor to determine whether to ask the court to include the individual on the sex offender registry.
Clause 40 of Bill S-2 also makes an important change regarding how the registry can be used. Under current legislation, the registry can only be used when there are reasonable grounds to believe that a sex offence has been committed. Bill S-2 allows police to consult the registry for prevention purposes.
In addition, if this bill passes, there will be a correlation among offences that lead to inclusion on the sex offender registry and the sex offender's obligation to provide a sample of bodily fluids in order to add his or her DNA to the national DNA data bank.
Now I would like to talk a little about money. As my Liberal colleague and my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin mentioned, this will call for a lot more analyses, whether for investigations or for prevention.
In its last budget, the government announced $14 million over two years for DNA testing. In fact, in April 2009, in committee, we met with the directors of two major laboratories, one in Quebec and the other in Ontario. The third laboratory in Canada is the RCMP laboratory. Mr. Prime, from the Centre of Forensic Sciences, and Mr. Dufour, from the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale, told us in April 2009 not only that was there no agreement with the federal government, but that they also had to do a huge number of tests with very little money. Unfortunately, it might take over a year to get results.
On March 18, the minister met with us at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We asked him questions about this, but we did not get many answers. I have also spoken with a few officials, who have confirmed that there was still no agreement with Quebec and Ontario. They were not even able to tell us how much of the $7 million would be going to the laboratories in Quebec and Ontario.
If we look to previous funding, it was approximately $2 million per laboratory. We might imagine that there is really no increase. With this bill, whether or not it is intended, there is going to be a major problem if we do not invest more money in forensic laboratories. We are certainly going to see increases.
I will be told that this is nothing new. We see all the bills they are introducing. We see people being increasingly treated like criminals. They want to have longer sentences, but they are investing billions of dollars in just anything, be it for a G8 or for a G20. Obviously we will have to invest billions of dollars in correctional services and for public safety. When a decision is made to incarcerate people, they have to be sent somewhere. I hope it will not happen as it usually does, that they will invest in bricks and mortar, but nothing will be put into programs. In correctional services, at present, 2% or 2.5% of the total budget is allocated to programs.
I will continue on the subject of Bill S-2. The present legislation provides that the database may not be used where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a crime of a sexual nature has been committed. With Bill S-2, the database can be searched. But it will cost, and it will cost a lot.
The Bloc Québécois believes that police forces must be given tools that, on the one hand, effectively prevent and fight crime and, on the other, do not trample the fundamental rights of Quebec and Canadian citizens.
The proper protection of our children requires a number of tools. One of them, which is important and seems fundamental to me, is the Internet. Unfortunately, it is also the tool of choice for the child pornography industry. I will provide some statistics in support of my comments.
It is estimated that more than 65,000 people—I find this to be a conservative figure as I believe the number to be much higher—exchange child pornography, both photos and videos, on the Internet. In February 2009, the Ontario Provincial Police dismantled a child pornography ring involving 31 people in different Ontario communities.
Mr. Stewart, of the OPP child sexual exploitation section, stated: “Unfortunately, I believe there's thousands of children we're not getting to, and that's particularly difficult.”
In 2004, 480,000 child pornography sites were identified in the world, compared to 4,300 in 1996. In addition to movies, more than five million images of sexually abused children are circulating on the Internet. The pictures are becoming increasingly explicit and feature younger children and the use of violence. Many movies are shot live for the entertainment of pedophile clients and they show abominable sexual abuse of children under the age of seven.
In addition, it is estimated that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 organized child pornography rings, with a third operating in the United States and a portion in Russia. Are we immune to it? No, and I will cover that. We also have a large number of these types of sites. I am not talking about individual sites or images put on the Internet by a “family man” who abuses his child. I am not talking about amateurs, but about organized professionals.
According to research conducted by Cybertip.ca from 2002 to 2009, 57.4% of images on Internet sites containing child pornography depicted children under 8 years of age; 24.7% showed children aged 8 to 12; and 83% were of girls. More than 35% of the images analyzed showed serious sexual assaults. Children under 8 were most often depicted being abused through sexual assault (37.2%), and 68.5% of extreme sexual assaults occurred against children under 8. Canada is in the top three. That is amazing. According to Statistics Canada figures, we rank third in the world among countries that host child pornography sites. The United States ranks first with 49.2% and Russia, second with 20.4%. Who is in third place? We are, with 9%.
We also have people who produce child pornography in Canada. A police officer told me he had even seen images of assaults on newborns. We have to wonder.
I mention this because Bill S-2, which is a rehash of a previous bill, is not the only bill that targets this sort of crime. There are also Bills C-46 and C-47, which still have not been reintroduced here in the House.
Since 1999, police forces across Canada have been calling for a law that would respect human rights, of course, but would force Internet service providers to reveal the IP addresses of their pedophile clients and to have the technology to keep that information.
On April 22, during his testimony before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Mr. Sullivan, who was then the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime and who had been appointed by this government, answered my question. I asked him what he thought about the fact that these bills still had not been reintroduced. He answered, “...if I were the Prime Minister today the Internet bill would be my absolute priority; it would be number one in the justice reform areas.”
Mr. Sullivan perfectly described the problem resulting from the fact that this legislation is not on the books. I will read what he said. It is horrible.
Right now, depending on where you are in the country and what ISP company you're working with.... Some ISPs will actually cooperate with law enforcement, and some won't.
We've heard about cases from law enforcement. They have an IP address. They actually are able to trace the guy to where he lives, and they go, because he's trading in child pornography.
They actually found and arrested the person. He had with him his 11-month-old son, who he was sexually abusing. Now, law enforcement had no information that this was taking place. They had no idea that this child was in that situation. Had they not tracked him down, that child today, four years later, would still be undergoing sexual abuse. The longer we delay these initiatives to give law enforcement the tools, the more kids are going to be abused. I think that makes everybody angry.
I find that disappointing, especially since we know how many years it can take to develop a bill. It is high time that this be passed.
The former victims' ombudsman lamented the fact that in 2007 the former public safety minister and member for Okanagan—Coquihalla did not want to follow up on repeated requests from the police to adapt investigative tools to the current Internet reality. However, in fall of 2009, the Conservative government finally introduced Bills C-46 and C-47 to respond to this Internet loophole. And what did the Prime Minister do? He prorogued the House and these bills died on the order paper. How convenient. It was put off until fall and then they prorogued a few months later, as if by chance. And they did not reintroduce them.
The Conservatives say that pedophiles are a priority and that this is a serious issue. As usual, they are serving up the same old announcements, about victims and children. They are grandstanding for everyone, trying to score political points. They are not really fighting crime. Have they reintroduced the bills? No. Why? That is the million-dollar question given that this government says that it wants to protect children and fight against crime and criminals.
Here is the question we must ask ourselves: what interests are preventing this government, which claims to be a champion when it comes to cracking down on pedophiles, from bringing back the old bills C-46 and C-47 so that we can study them in committee and improve them? Police forces have been waiting for 10 years now, and this government, despite advice from the former victims' ombudsman, has still not dealt with an issue that the ombudsman and I both believe could save children's lives. Ask any police officer; they will all say the same thing.
There is something else that just does not make sense. In my riding, and probably in other ridings in Quebec and Canada, the government is letting pedophiles live in halfway houses and community correctional centres near elementary schools and daycares. That makes no sense. I have asked three different public safety ministers about this. Three public safety ministers later, nothing has happened. That is absurd. Can a government that makes a huge show of introducing big, important bills not send a simple directive to community correctional centres through Correctional Service Canada? These centres are not even private; they belong to the CSC. The government cannot even send out a simple directive to ensure that there will no longer be pedophiles near elementary schools.
The government is waiting for another scandal to break out. Then they will react, just as they did with Olson and Karla Homolka. They will react by saying that the matter is very serious and that they want to introduce a bill.
That is shameful. According to the former ombudsman, every month that goes by, children could have been saved, as I said before.
As we speak, children are being attacked on the Internet, and pedophiles are living near schools. I would like to know when the government will take real action to properly protect our children.
April 27th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
April 27th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
In Canada, of course, as you know, the efforts in that regard took the form of Bill C-46 and Bill C-47, which died on the order paper. That would not allow interception of communications without a warrant. What that would allow is for an Internet service provider to give the law enforcement authorities or national security authorities the customer name and address behind an IP address. That is the effort that the Canadian government has made to have some widening of—
April 27th, 2010 / 11:55 a.m.
Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Yes. For instance, the first step in our analysis of former Bills C-46 and C-47 was to sit down with them and ask them to justify the powers conferred to them under the bills. So numerous meetings were held, experts who were no longer necessarily at the agencies—so who had a certain perspective—performed an analysis and people in academia were consulted.
We formed our own opinion, we did our own analysis of the bill, and we wrote to the chair of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. And we sent a copy of that letter to the chair of your committee. In the letter, we raised some real questions about the two bills.
April 27th, 2010 / 11:50 a.m.
Chantal Bernier Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
What we did was set up four task forces to really focus our efforts on the four priorities, which, as the commissioner said, were chosen for their relevance and because they represent the biggest risks to privacy today.
The national security task force worked hard and made significant strides in a number of areas, in terms of expanding our knowledge and understanding of the issues, and forging stronger ties with national security and law enforcement agencies to ensure we really understood everything involved. Internally, we also carried out more in-depth analyses. We focused on analyses addressing all aspects of national security, including the FINTRAC audit. You will recall that the audit was published recently. Our analysis of former Bills C-46 and C-47 is another example.
We organized workshops to discuss the issues surrounding genetic technologies. It is an area where a lot is still unknown. We did so of our own accord and in cooperation with Genome Canada. In terms of information technology, there again, we strengthened our capacity by engaging experts and keeping a very close eye on all technological developments.
Lastly, in terms of identity integrity, most of our focus was on public education and youth outreach, in order to ensure that Canadians are able to protect themselves against identity theft.
April 20th, 2010 / 5 p.m.
Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Sullivan, your Every Image, Every Child report is key. Right now, children are being sexually assaulted, and at a younger and younger age. The violence they suffer is increasingly brutal, and the images are being shown on the Internet. The report says that 750,000 pedophiles are online at any given time, and that 37% are family members and 36% are acquaintances. So they are people who can be caught easily. They are not in Thailand or other countries where they cannot be located.
Correct me if I am wrong. In the 1990s, almost 5,000 images were said to be on the Internet, and today there are millions of images and videos. Currently, police officers have to make a request to obtain an IP address. IP addresses are essential. Let's talk about Bills C-46 and C-47. Bill C-46 sought to require Internet service providers to have the technology to keep information, and Bill C-47 made it possible to obtain IP addresses. Both bills died on the order paper, Mr. Sullivan.
As we speak, children are being assaulted. Police have been waiting for 10 years, and nothing has happened. Are you angry? I am, because these two bills did not come back up. Do you think that is normal?
April 20th, 2010 / 4 p.m.
Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC
I read your report entitled Every Child, Every Image, and I have to tell you that it really struck me. I have done a lot of work in the area of child abuse. I have long been criticizing the fact that IP addresses are not automatically available to the police. They should be. Bills C-46 and C-47, which we supported, should have been referred to the committee for study, but they died because Parliament was prorogued, and they did not come up again. Law enforcement has been waiting on them for 10 years.
What do you make of this government's willingness to implement these bills in order to give police access to IP addresses?
April 15th, 2010 / 9:05 a.m.
John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON
A good outcome; that's right. That's one thing the member for Ottawa--Vanier and I can firmly agree on.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, I would like to thank you for your invitation to discuss the Air Canada Public Participation Act. Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to congratulate you for your excellent work on the official languages file.
While I am here to talk about Air Canada, I understand that your committee also considered official language obligations at airports last fall, so I would like to take a minute to clarify the federal government's role in those.
All national airport authorities have official languages obligations by virtue of the Airport Transfer Act and the Official Languages Act. The President of the Treasury Board is responsible for the Official Languages Act, while the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer of the Treasury Board Secretariat is responsible for defining, monitoring, and enforcing language obligations. Later this month, I understand, the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer will be issuing clarifications with respect to the official languages obligations of airport authorities. I look forward to seeing that work.
Now let us focus on Air Canada. As you know, when Air Canada was a crown corporation it was subject to the Official Languages Act. While the Official Languages Act itself is very broad in scope, two provisions are of particular interest when speaking about official language obligations of Air Canada: one, the duty to provide service to the public in both official languages; two, the rights of employees to work in their official language of choice.
When Air Canada was privatized in 1988, official language obligations were maintained on the company through the Air Canada Public Participation Act.
To this day, it is the only carrier in Canada subject to the Official Languages Act. However, all carriers must provide safety and security information in both Official Languages. In 2000, Air Canada acquired Canadian Airlines International, which had a largely unilingual anglophone workforce. At that time the Air Canada Public Participation Act was amended to ensure that Air Canada subsidiaries providing air services to the public did so in both official languages. The effect of this amendment was to require Air Canada to ensure that its subsidiary, Jazz, met legislated requirements to serve the public in a bilingual way.
Then, in 2003, Air Canada filed for bankruptcy protection. After significant restructuring, the carrier successfully exited from bankruptcy protection on September 30, 2004, with a new corporate structure that reflected a strategy focused on maximizing the value of the individual components of the company.
Coming out of restructuring and to this day, the Air Canada Public Participation Act continues to apply to Air Canada, including full official language obligations. Similarly, any future Air Canada subsidiaries will continue to be bound by the official languages obligation under the Air Canada Public Participation Act as currently constituted. However, as a result of the organizational restructuring, official languages obligations no longer apply with respect to operations that have been moved out from under Air Canada. For example, the Air Canada Public Participation Act does not apply to ACE Aviation Holdings Inc., which had been the parent company of Air Canada since its restructuring.
On June 15, 2006, your committee tabled a report regarding the application of the Official Languages Act to Air Canada and ACE Aviation Holdings Inc. The report called upon the government to reintroduce legislation that would be similar in scope and effect to Bill C-47 which died on the order paper the year before.
Late in 2006, our government introduced amendments to the Air Canada Public Participation Act through Bill C-29. The bill was designed to maintain full official languages obligations for former internal divisions of Air Canada that had been spun off and were controlled by ACE Aviation Holdings Inc.; to extend obligations to provide bilingual services to the public, to Jazz, and any future affiliates of Air Canada that provided air services, as long as they were controlled by ACE Aviation Holdings Inc.; and to ensure that ACE Aviation Holdings Inc. provided communications to the public in both official languages.
Bill C-29 died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued in September 2007. It was reintroduced as Bill C-36, with no further amendments. Bill C-36 died on the order paper on September 7, 2008, as a result of the 2008 election.
Although many years have passed since Air Canada was a crown corporation and much has happened in the interim, official language obligations at Air Canada are still viewed by many Canadians and by our government as important. Our government is committed to upholding the Official Languages Act and protecting and promoting both official languages.
As articulated in the Speech from the Throne, Canada's two official languages are an integral part of our history and our government will continue to strengthen Canada's francophone identity.
We also should consider that the best way to maintain and advance official language rights in aviation is to ensure a healthy and viable industry. The airline industry is and has been facing significant economic challenges, such as the long-term impacts of September 11, 2001, high fuel costs, as well as the effects of communicable diseases such as the H1N1 virus.
However, amid these practical challenges, Air Canada has clearly demonstrated significant efforts to uphold its official language obligations, as indicated by various committee testimonies. The Commissioner of Official Languages tells me that in the lead-up to the Olympic Games they did a lot. This demonstrates that when they make a concentrated effort they can do better. The number of complaints received by the commissioner also indicates that they need to do better.
At a 2009 meeting of this committee, Ms. Louise McEvoy, General Manager of Official Languages and Diversity at Air Canada, reiterated the airline's commitment to improving bilingual capacity throughout the human resources cycle, including recruitment, hiring and training.
In preparation for the Vancouver Olympic Games, Air Canada held mandatory sessions for Vancouver employees not qualified in French, and planned similar sessions for employees in other cities. The goal of these sessions was to ensure that the official languages rights of all Air Canada consumers were respected, including in instances where employees were not officially qualified to do so.
I'm told that Air Canada has mounted publicity campaigns to attract additional bilingual candidates across the country and has noted in comments to the committee that attracting some individuals in certain regions has been difficult. I understand that some of you provided suggestions to improve that recruitment strategy, and I hope the suggestions will yield improved results.
Air Canada's testimony speaks to its dedication to upholding its official languages obligations under the Official Languages Act. Furthermore, following a recent discussion with the Commissioner of Official Languages, it is important to note the efforts made by Air Canada during the Olympic Games and that the efforts and investments made by this carrier paid off.
I would also like to note that my discussions with the Commissioner of Official Languages touched on the subject of strengthening Air Canada's compliance with its linguistic obligations. I was pleased to learn that his team will conduct a detailed audit regarding Air Canada and its obligations to provide bilingual service to the public. In meetings with employees and unions, this study will carefully examine the hiring practices, the designation of bilingual positions and the linguistic training of the Air Canada personnel in order to determine the underlying reasons for the complaints pertaining to official languages. I not only commend the efforts of the commissioner but I am also eager to review the conclusions of his study.
I am mindful that continuing to trace official language obligations to parts of an organization that are increasingly independent creates practical challenges. ACE Aviation Holdings and Air Canada, as private companies, can and likely will continue to modify their organizational structures for both corporate and economic reasons.
For example, Air Canada Cargo, which was spun off after the 2003-04 restructuring, has since been repatriated within Air Canada and is once again covered by the Air Canada Public Participation Act and the Official Languages Act.
I have also discussed with Commissioner Fraser the issue of Air Canada contractors such as Jazz and have noted the concerns of the member for Acadie--Bathurst who provided a personal example from one of his trips aboard Jazz.
In this context, I would like to note that I have also asked the commissioner to obtain more information on the nature of complaints that have been received regarding Jazz. Given that Jazz is a private company contracted by Air Canada, Air Canada, therefore, under article 25 of the Official Languages Act, has an obligation to ensure the services provided to the public on its behalf are in both official languages.
Because Jazz is not a federal institution under the Official Languages Act and has not been a subsidiary of Air Canada since 2008, the official languages commissioner has informed me that he cannot intervene directly with Jazz, but can only intervene with Air Canada, who is responsible for the official languages obligations.
I have asked my officials and my office staff to obtain more information from Air Canada to know how it maintains its obligations under the Official Languages Act with contractors such as Jazz and how it will work to enhance this practice in the future.
I am proud of the accomplishments of our Conservative government in the official language file. Our concrete actions, such as our funding for official languages, clearly demonstrate our commitment to preserve bilingualism in Canada.
I admit that the Air Canada file is a complex one, however, it is nevertheless important that we stay the course and keep working with the key stakeholders, such as the Commissioner of Official Languages, the carrier, my cabinet colleagues, such as the Minister for Official Languages, and you, members of the committee, to find solutions to the challenges that I have just mentioned.
It is important that Air Canada continue to meet its obligations under the Air Canada Public Participation Act and the Official Languages Act. I welcome the advice and thoughts of this committee and welcome the opportunity to have a dialogue.
Thank you. Merci.
March 25th, 2010 / 5:55 p.m.
Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all the witnesses for your attendance today and for the jobs you perform in keeping Canadians safe.
I just really have one line of questioning, and that is with respect to two pieces of legislation that were before the House and are likely to be reintroduced in some form. They appear in your paper, Superintendent Shadgett, and that's the old Bill C-46, the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act, and Bill C-47, the Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act. They were good bills, in my view, but they were not without their problems as they made their way through the House and one of them into committee. They are going to be reintroduced, and what I am concerned about is whether they contain everything that law enforcement needs.
I ask that question with somewhat of a futuristic perspective in mind. I know technological advances in the BlackBerry are happening every day, and it's hard to keep up with the e-criminal and his or her ability to encrypt messages. Getting a warrant and then trying to decrypt them in time, often you are falling behind. Before we put these pieces of legislation back in the House, do they need to be improved? Is there something missing?