Improving Access to Investigative Tools for Serious Crimes Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (interception of private communications and related warrants and orders)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Rob Nicholson  Conservative

Status

Second reading (House), as of Oct. 29, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code, primarily in respect of authorizations to intercept private communications and warrants and orders. Among other things, it

(a) provides that if an authorization is given under certain provisions of Part VI, the judge may at the same time issue a warrant or make an order that relates to the investigation in respect of which the authorization is given;

(b) provides that the rules respecting confidentiality that apply in respect of an authorization to intercept private communications also apply in respect of a request for a related warrant or order;

(c) requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to report on the interceptions of private communications made without authorizations;

(d) provides that a person who has been the object of an interception made without an authorization must be notified of the interception within a specified period;

(e) permits a peace officer or a public officer, in certain circumstances, to install and make use of a number recorder without a warrant; and

(f) extends to one year the maximum period of validity of a warrant for a tracking device and a number recorder if the warrant is issued in respect of a terrorism offence or an offence relating to a criminal organization.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse Act
Government Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to address Bill C-55. It is important right from the beginning to mention why we are debating the bill today. On April 13, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada sent a very strong message to the House of Commons, in particular to the Prime Minister, that section 184.4 needed to be amended. It made a sunset by saying that the Government of Canada would have one year to pass the necessary legislation to validate the Criminal Code.

What is section 184.4? It talks about a police officer's ability to intercept a private conversation in some fashion without having to get a warrant. That is what this is all about. The government has been aware of it for a number of years. The Supreme Court of Canada having made its decision on April 13, 2012, and having put a time limit on it has now forced the government to act on it.

I will talk about the lack of the timely fashion in which the government has made the decision to bring in the bill. However, prior to doing that, I would like to reflect on what I believe is very important to all Canadians.

All Canadians believe in private rights and want to ensure their rights are protected. At times we might get a little spooked. We see cameras popping up all over the place, whether it is photo radar cameras, speed cameras, cameras at high density intersections, or even nowadays on sidewalks or public buildings and public areas where people gather. Every so often I hear from constituents who want to talk about private rights. It is important for us to recognize that as individuals we do have private rights that need to be protected at all times.

I was a very strong advocate for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for many years. This year we celebrated 30 years of having the charter, which has stood the test of time. A vast majority, 90%-plus of Canadians, have grown to respect and believe in the charter as something that protects them.

I remember when my girlfriend, now my wife, and I watched the signing ceremony between Pierre Trudeau and the Queen in 1982. It was a special moment and it was something my girlfriend appreciated. It was important to me and I believe it was important to her. It is because we recognized how important it was that individuals had rights. That is why Bill C-55 is very important legislation.

I have had the opportunity to speak about it at second reading. Unfortunately, I was unable to be at committee, but I did to get to speak very briefly yesterday because we were limited to 10 minutes to the amendments brought forward. However, it is important legislation that needs to be addressed.

If we look at it from a historical point of view, whether it was Pierre Elliott Trudeau, or Jean Chrétien or one of Canada's best Attorneys General, the member for Mount Royal, it speaks so well on individual rights and the need to protect them. Quite often when individuals of that calibre stand and talk about individual rights, we need to listen because it is a very important aspect of being Canadian.

We turn on the news and we watch throughout the world where individual rights are virtually walked all over. There is a general lack of respect for individual rights throughout the world. I believe Canada has a leadership role in demonstrating to the world that we value the Charter of Rights.

A number of years ago I had the privilege and the opportunity to travel to Israel. When I met with one of the politicians there, he made reference to Canada's Charter of Rights and how he thought it was an important thing that Canada did in 1982. What we are doing here has an impact that goes beyond our own borders. That is why there is an onus and a responsibility for us to be very careful in behaving and acting on important legislation in a more timely manner.

Before going into some of the details of the bill, I will talk about why we have the bill. I made mention of the Supreme Court of Canada and also that the government knew about it well before that. The Supreme Court of Canada has in essence said to the government that it really has messed up. It did not have to go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Conservatives had an opportunity to deal with the issue previously. Many parliamentarians here today will recall Bill C-50. I was not here at that time. That bill was an attempt to deal with what the Supreme Court of Canada was forced to deal with, but because the Conservatives prorogued the session, in essence killing all legislation before the House, that attempt was defeated.

That was not the first or second time. The most recent time would have been Bill C-30 from last year. That bill came with a great deal of fanfare. A lot of allegations were made and the overwhelming reaction was quite significant, to the degree that we saw the Government of Canada push the hold button, and that bill has never seen the light of day.

The bill was introduced almost a year ago, and it would have dealt with this issue, at least in part. It also would have dealt with other things, which raised the ire of hundreds of thousands of Canadians and opposition parties, definitely the Liberal Party of Canada. However, we saw the Conservatives failing to address what was a very important issue, and I will comment on that issue very shortly. Instead of doing the right thing, which would have been recognizing that Bill C-30 was going nowhere back in June, the Conservatives could have introduced this bill last fall, in September or October, and reviewed some of the other legislation that we were talking about then.

There were opportunities for the government members to deal with this legislation. It is not like there is overwhelming opposition to Bill C-55. In fact, the members of the Liberal Party have been very clear that we support the passage of the bill. We have done nothing to slow down its passage. We recognize that the bill has to be passed through Parliament by April 12 or 13 of this year. We have committed to working to do that.

However, we also believe the legislation needs to go through due diligence and through the process in a timely fashion.

What does that mean? It means the government and, in particular, the government House leader. This is another wake-up call for him. He needs to get his legislative agenda in order. He needs to perhaps meet with the Prime Minister and some of his other ministers and get a sense in what kind of legislation is coming down the pike into the House of Commons. If he did his homework, then at the very least the legislation we have today could have been, and should have been, introduced back in October last year, give or take a month. Had the Conservatives done that, there would not be this sense of urgency we have today to pass the legislation.

That decision, many of my caucus colleagues would say, was intentional. The government continued to hold back on introducing this legislation. I cannot blame them for thinking that. All we have to do is take a look at all the legislation that has been brought forward and the record number of time allocations on a wide variety of legislation. Remember those huge budget bills containing dozens of pieces of legislation amended through the backdoor of a budget. We can understand why members of the Liberal Party are a little skeptical in how the government chooses to bring in legislation.

The timing is a very important issue.

We have Bill C-55 today. It is expected the bill will pass. As I say, it does have the support of the Liberal Party and we will assist the government allowing the bill, ultimately, to pass.

However, we ask the government to take responsibility when it brings forward legislation, to take into consideration that the House of Commons has a very important role to play. When it brings a bill in for second reading, members of Parliament of all political stripes are should be afforded the opportunity to provide their contributions, whatever they might be. Even if it is a sense of repetition speaker after speaker, it has to provide for that and then allow for it to go to committee in a timely fashion where we can bring in different stakeholders.

I would like to think that under Bill C-55, in a normal process, there might have been a higher level of interest from the different stakeholders from coast to coast to coast with respect to what type of legislation they wanted to see. That would have been very productive.

There was an attempt. It could be very discouraging to move amendments inside the House since there has been a Conservative majority, a different type of Conservative Reform Party going back to the old Reform roots, possibly. However, there has been a different attitude. Even I have detected that. It can be a challenge to move amendments inside the House. I have seen amendments stonewalled. I remember when the member for Mount Royal attempted to move amendments in committee and, ultimately, at third reading and the government turned them down. It took the Senate in order to pass it.

If Bill C-55 were provided the opportunity that it should have been in allowing for not only that fulsome debate within the chamber but equally an opportunity to have stakeholders from across Canada contribute to the debate, I believe we would have had more of a contribution at that point in time.

It is important to allow for that. We are talking about are private communications that can be interrupted or listened to by the police without any warrant. That is very serious. I think many Canadians could have made presentations if it was felt that we had the time to listen thoroughly to our stakeholders or even affording opposition parties or individual members to consult on the legislation in advance.

From committee, we come now to third reading. The bill has been here for a couple of days. We in the Liberal Party want to see the bill pass. I suspect that the New Democrats will support us. However, the timing is a huge concern.

The bill requires appropriate ministers in Canada to report whenever they have an intercept. That means that a minister of justice in a province, such as Manitoba, Ontario, or wherever it might be in Canada, would be notified when an interception occurred in their jurisdiction. Those provincial entities would then be obligated to report to the House of Commons, through the Minister of Public Safety, and ideally, to have it tabled it in some form in the House. It is a very important measure.

We would like to think that the frequency of any police agency having to use clause 184.4 without a warrant would be very low. There is nothing wrong with trying to find and accumulate information that allows us to make valued opinions regarding its usage. We should be reviewing that, because we are talking about individual rights.

Where a person's rights have been overlooked because it is believed that it is in the public interest, that individual has the right to know that a wiretap was done without a warrant. We are not saying that we should give a person a call to say that the telephone is going to be tapped. Once it has been done, there is an obligation to let that individual know that it has taken place. From what I understand, that is being done within this legislation.

The bill would provide more accountability and oversight. It would narrow the number of individuals or offices that could actually use clause 184.4. Today, one could be a mayor of a municipality and have the authority to listen to a private conversation without a warrant. The legislation is saying that this is too wide. We need to narrow the number of individuals who can do that. Bill C-55 narrows it down to police officers.

It also limits the types of interceptions. It should be used very rarely. For example, in a situation where someone's life is at risk or a child has been kidnapped, we need to ensure that police officers have the ability to save that life or ensure that a child is not molested. Bill C-55 moves in that direction.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse Act
Government Orders

March 19th, 2013 / noon
See context

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise today. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi. I know the member well because I serve on two committees with him.

I am very pleased to speak again in the House on the NDP's views on this piece of legislation, Bill C-55. It would amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court ruling referenced several times here this morning in previous speeches.

The point that has to be reiterated is that this is all coming about with a very few days remaining to meet the deadline that was provided to the House by the Supreme Court. It stayed a decision for a year to give the government the opportunity to bring forward an improvement to legislation that is much needed. We have supported this legislation throughout the process, although we found the process daunting because of the delay that took place in getting it here. We supported the government because it is an important tool for our police services in this country.

However, on the counter side of that, it is very important for the official opposition to look cautiously at any legislation that authorizes people to look into people's lives in the manner that this would. This enactment seeks to amend Canada's Criminal Code, and the Supreme Court ruling talked about the need for safeguards for Canadians, because this allows for authorized, and I want to stress the word “authorized”, interception of private communications, done prior to judicial authorization as foreseen in section 184.4 of the act.

It is worth noting that the enactment states that it:

requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4;

and

provides that a person who has been the object of such interception must be notified...within a specified period;...

The assumption is that those persons have not been found to be taking part in any criminal activity, and thus they have every right to be informed; and if they were involved with criminal activity and are part of an ongoing investigation, there could be an extension.

It narrowed the class of individuals who could actually make such interceptions, and those limited interceptions to particular offences are listed.

I was speaking a few moments ago about the fact that we are within three weeks of a deadline supplied to us by the Supreme Court. There was the benefit of a year from the Supreme Court to act on this, and the government has not done so until the very last minute. I have to question what the delay is. Why did it take close to a year for the government to respond to this? This was not a great difficulty, from the standpoint that the Supreme Court identified the areas in which the government had to make changes.

I would go so far as to say that when any government or any party in government looks to put forward legislation, a significant part of the process is debate in this place. Another significant part is the opportunity for all parties to come together, which we did in the instance of Bill C-55 at committee, to look at it, to hear witness testimony, to do those things necessary to offer any piece of legislation the due diligence necessary to make it as good as we possibly could. That is the concern over the timeframe, the concern over the fact that we had a couple of days to try to do things that could have well extended beyond, had we brought in more witnesses. It is troubling because that impedes the due diligence we have to administer on behalf of those people who sent us to this place.

I tend to repeat myself in my remarks, because that troubled me to the degree that I felt it was worth repeating.

There have been other times in this place that the opportunity to debate and to consider various bills has been impeded. I would ask how many times the Conservative government has moved time allocation on bills. It is not the delay just in this particular bill, but in other bills. We must be closing in on 30 times that it has occurred in this Parliament. It has to be close to that by now. I hear other members agreeing.

We have seen budget bills and other legislation affecting services, which Canadians rely on, shut down or extremely limited by the Conservatives, at what appears to be almost every opportunity. It stifles the opportunity for us to make those bills better. It stifles the opportunity we have as members to point out what they have done well and what they have done not up to the standards Canadians expect. We get to do that in this public forum. That has been curtailed too many times.

Once again, that is part of my concern with this bill, Bill C-55, and how it got to committee after such a delay. It has the potential of impacting ordinary Canadians in a very negative way if the protections of which the Supreme Court has spoken to us were not put into place.

Bill C-55 is simply an updated version of wiretapping provisions the Supreme Court previously deemed unconstitutional. That is quite a statement when we think about it. Fortunately again for the House, the Supreme Court set the parameters of what it saw as the need to protect Canadians' rights.

I have to say that Canadians have good reason to be concerned about privacy legislation that comes out of the government. To date the government has not had what I see as a good record in that area. It is not encouraging at all.

There is an obligation on the official opposition to work for the public good in upholding the rule of law, our Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was in February 2012 that the Conservative government tabled Bill C-30. Members will recall that gave authorities the power to access personal information in a way to which the Supreme Court responded.

It raised very serious concerns across the country, as I recall, about personal privacy and fundamental rights. That was due to the manner in which it was constructed and the powers it was seeking to give out. I will add that it was kind of a compilation of previous bills that have been before this House, Bill C-50, Bill C-51 and Bill C-52 from a previous parliamentary session. The Conservatives were attempting to build on the original legislation from 1999 to provide public safety authorities with extensive surveillance powers over digital information. As I said a moment ago, there was a significant backlash from the people of Canada in regard to this.

Now we have the government with these much-needed changes, I will commend the government. It reached across to us in the committee. We did work better on that bill than we did on some others in the past. If we did not meet the deadline or the provisions required by the Supreme Court, then these emergency powers would be thrown out.

I began my remarks talking about the need for police officials of our country to apply these. In this particular case, these provisions are intended to happen at the worst possible time, when somebody is under physical threat of injury or harm. It was important for us to go a little deeper into it.

I am looking for what really needs to be summarized here, and that is the fact that our role is to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadians are balanced with the police officials' needs to investigate, particularly in a time where someone is under the threat of physical harm. I have to say that, working together, I believe we accomplished that. Thus, we will be supporting this bill.

March 4th, 2013 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Karen Audcent

The draft of Bill C-55comes from Bill C-30. Previously, it was Bill C-50 and at the outset, it was Bill C-31. The only change that we made to the content of Bill C-30 in order to incorporate it into Bill C-55 was to include the restriction for police officers. The Supreme Court had indicated that it would be a good idea to do so, and the government wanted to reflect that.

March 4th, 2013 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Karen Audcent Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

We've previously included responses to the reactions in Bill C-31. Then there was Bill C-50. But those responses pertained to lower court rulings. Then came Bill C-30. The Supreme Court rendered its decision on April 13, 2012. So we've been working on responses to the Supreme Court decisions since then.

Prior to that, we were basing our study on the rulings of lower courts, because the British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec courts indicated that we had to examine this section of the Criminal Code because it raised constitutional concerns.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse Act
Government Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for that great round of applause as I start my speech.

I am very pleased to rise today to stand up and talk about our points relating Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision.

I know that we are coming to this with 19 days to go before it is supposed to be taken care of. As New Democrats, we recognize the importance of this and will be supporting it at second reading. We are in favour of sending this legislation to committee for review.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to provide, in response to the Supreme Court's decision, safeguards related to authorization to intercept private communications without prior judicial authorization under section 184.4 of the act.

Notably, the enactment states that it:

(a) requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4;

(b) provides that a person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified of the interception within a specified period;

(c) narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception; and

(d) limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

I was talking earlier about how this really has come down to 19 days. I believe my colleague from Winnipeg North asked this question repeatedly today. The Conservatives have had a year to act on this. Why now, in the eleventh hour, are we having to deal with this so quickly? If they are truly looking at what can make great legislation, it is the debate and involvement of all members of Parliament from all sides.

However, once again, we see the Conservatives bringing forward legislation at the eleventh hour so that we all have to come together very quickly to try to pass something that we, of course, want to give due diligence and a good once over. Unfortunately, we have seen from the Conservatives time and time again the lack of opportunity for debate.

How many times is it now that the Conservatives have used time allocation to shut down debate when it comes to important bills? I believe that we are up into the 20s if not the 30s. We have seen budget bills and other legislation affecting the services Canadians rely on shut down at every opportunity. It is unfortunate that we once again have to come to an eleventh hour conversation to ensure that we can get legislation to committee.

This new legislation is simply an updated version of the wiretapping provisions the Supreme Court deemed to be unconstitutional. The court has established new parameters for the protection of privacy, and we expect this legislation to be in compliance with those standards.

Canadians have a good reason to be concerned about the Conservatives' privacy legislation. Their record in this area is not very encouraging. We need to continue working for the public to uphold the rule of law, the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If we go back, not too long ago, we had the inception of Bill C-30. Back in February of 2012, the Conservative government tabled Bill C-30, which would give authorities the power to access the personal information of Canadians without a warrant. That bill raised serious concerns about personal privacy and fundamental rights and freedoms. Bill C-30 was a compilation of three bills that made up lawful access in the last parliamentary session: Bill C-50, Bill C-51 and Bill C-52. The Conservatives were then building on legislation first spearheaded to propose providing public safety authorities with surveillance powers over digital information in 1999. This led to a huge uproar from people from coast to coast to coast who were concerned about this legislation and how it would enable law enforcement to access a citizen's personal information without a warrant.

Right now, we have seen the Conservatives quickly change their tune in this new bill they have brought forward. With the government trying desperately to comply with the Supreme Court ruling within the prescribed time frame, which is April 13, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the authorization of the emergency power to intercept without authorization by the court in situations of imminent harm could be justified under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Supreme Court held that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code, interception in exceptional circumstances, enacted in 1993, was unconstitutional because it did not include any accountability measures. The court gave Parliament until April 13, 2013, to amend the provision and make it constitutional.

The Conservatives have proposed amendments that appear to be a direct response to that decision in that they add safeguards to constitute notification and reporting under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code. The legislation would require giving a person 90 days' notice, subject to an extension granted by a judge after his or her private communications had been intercepted in situations of imminent harm.

These amendments would limit the authority of the police to use this provision. All peace officers can avail themselves of it at present and would restrict its use to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code. The proposed amendments appear to be a direct response to the court's instruction.

If we are to look at those in a little more detail, 184.4 outlines:

A peace officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication where

(a) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds—

Reasonable grounds is very important.

—that the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;

(b) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that such an interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and

(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.

If we look at R. v. Tse, this appeal concerned the constitutionality of the emergency wiretap provision in section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.

In this case, the police used section 184.4 to carry out unauthorized, warrantless interceptions of private communications when the daughter of an alleged kidnapping victim began receiving calls from her father, stating that he was being held for ransom. Approximately 24 hours later, the police obtained a judicial authorization for continued interceptions pursuant to Standing Order 186 of the code.

The trial judge found that section 184.4 contravened the right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure under section 8 of the charter and that it was not a reasonable limit under section 1. The Crown appealed the declaration of unconstitutionality directly to this court. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.

Section 184.4 permits a peace officer to intercept certain private communications without prior judicial authorization if the officer believes, on reasonable grounds, that the interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm, provided judicial authorization could not be obtained with reasonable diligence.

In principle, Parliament may craft such a narrow emergency wiretap authority for exigent circumstances. The more difficult question is whether the particular power enacted in section 184.4 strikes a reasonable balance between an individual's right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures and society's interest in preventing serious harm. To the extent that the power to intercept private communications without judicial authorization would be available only in circumstances to prevent serious harm, this section strikes an appropriate balance. However, section 184.4 violates section 8 of the charter, as it does not provide a mechanism for oversight and, more particularly, notice to persons whose private communications have been intercepted. This breach cannot be saved under section 1 of the charter.

When we look at all of those details, what do we truly want as New Democrats? What should we all want as parliamentarians? To start off, we are in favour of the legislation as presented being sent to committee for review. It is essential that we play our role as members of Parliament. It is essential for us to investigate measures that include oversight and accountability, which is also the court's opinion, and we expect nothing less. We will work for the public to uphold the rule of law, the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Members do not have to take my or the NDP's word for it, as there are many others out there who validate it. Michael Geist in OpenMedia said:

—Bill C-30 may be dead, but lawful access surely is not. On the same day the government put the bill out its misery, it introduced Bill C-55 on warrantless wiretapping. Although the bill is ostensibly a response to last year's R v. Tse decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, much of the bill is lifted directly from Bill C-30.

As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-30, an act to enact the investigating and preventing criminal electronic communications act and to amend the Criminal Code and other acts, which was also referred to as the protecting children from Internet predators act, did many things. There was a lot to be said from coast to coast to coast about many of things presented in that bill.

At the time, we supported making changes to ensure that the police would have powers to address the emerging threats posed by cybercrime, and we supported efforts to bring policing into the digital age. However, a number of that legislation's provisions unnecessarily eroded the privacy rights of ordinary citizens. We believed that we could aggressively go after criminals at the time of Bill C-30 and punish them to the full extent of the law without making false comparisons to child pornographers and treating law-abiding Canadians like criminals.

To reiterate, Mr. Geist has mentioned some of his concerns with Bill C-30 that are emerging again with Bill C-55. If people like Mr. Geist are thinking this, then of course we need to get Bill C-55 to committee to review all of the things that were previously in Bill C-30 and that may now be in Bill C-55 and that Canadians from coast to coast to coast may be upset with.

To mention others' views on Bill C-55, Chris Parsons from the blog “Technology, Thoughts, and Trinkets” states:

—the Canadian government struggled to explain the legislation—and the need for all of its elements—to the public. In the face of public dispute over the legislation’s need the government sent the legislation to Committee before Second Reading. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police strongly supported the government, as did individual police chiefs from around the country. This extended to calls for examples of where the legislation would have helped to resolve criminal cases; to date, though, few substantive examples were found.

That sums it up right there.

Political pressure recently, in our opinion, led to the failure of Bill C-30. However, some of its measures have been reiterated in other federal legislative proposals. Civil libertarians have succeeded in their fight against lawful access, but it is important to note that some aspects of Bill C-30 were transferred outside the parliamentary process a few months ago, but the failure of Bill C-30 does not mean the non-parliamentary processes will be stopped as well.

Parliament is generally informed of the use of wiretapping so it can be aware of the frequency and the circumstances of its use. However, when 184.4 is invoked, there is no disclosure obligation. There is no need to let anyone know. The court stated that a requirement to keep records of the use of wiretapping, under 184.4, would also increase accountability, but would not be necessary if there was an obligation to provide prior notice.

In summary, we will support the bill at this time. We are in favour of the legislation getting to committee for review. However, it makes us want to ask some questions. It makes us wonder what precautions the government has taken to ensure the legislation is truly in compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling. We truly need more than 19 days to understand if this will be in compliance. Yes, we want to act quickly on this, but not at the eleventh hour.

Can the government explain how the Department of Justice's assessment of the legislation's compliance with the charter and the Constitution was carried out? Why has the government waited so long to address a relatively simple matter relating to freedom and public safety? We are pleased that the government listened to the public on Bill C-30 , and Bill C-55 seems to be a step in the right direction. However, why did the government dig its heels in for so long rather than admit it was wrong and work with the opposition to resolve the problem? As members of Parliament, we are here to work together to resolve problems. What measures from Bill C-30 has the government brought back and are now outside the scope of the House of Commons?

Those are some of the things we truly need to have addressed, now in this debate, the debate that we will carry on and the debate that we will have when the bill gets to the committee stage. Many of those questions will need to be answered. We hope we can get the answers from the government for those questions when we get to committee. Unfortunately, what we have seen time and time again is that is not the case. I can talk about committees that I have sat on where we have brought forward legitimate amendments, ideas and propositions and every one of them has been denied. The Conservatives do not accept amendments, they will not listen to reason and for some reason, they just do not get that we are all trying to do this together. We are in this together to try to make laws and legislation better from coast to coast to coast for Canadians.

At the end of the day, I hope this time—and we are always hoping that a glass is half full—that when it gets to committee, if we have amendments, if we recognize that something was missed in trying to deal in such a quick fashion on the Supreme Court's ruling, that we can work together to resolve it and get this done quickly.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

March 10th, 2011 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, with respect to your ruling yesterday, we are working right now as we speak to comply on that issue and we will be responding in short order.

We will continue debate today on the Bloc opposition motion that began this morning.

Tomorrow, we will call for third reading of Bill C-55, the new veterans charter bill. I appreciate that there has been support for the passage of that bill. It is important for Canada's veterans and I am pleased that we have been able to come together on that.

Following Bill C-55, if time permits, we would debate Bill C-54, protecting children from sexual predators; Bill S-7, the justice for victims of terrorism; Bill C-8, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement; Bill C-12, the democratic representation bill, which is an important bill for my premier in Ontario and particularly for the people in both Alberta and British Columbia; Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement; Bill C-57, improving trade within Canada; Bill C-43, RCMP modernization; Bill C-52, investigating and preventing criminal electronic communications; and Bill C-50, improving access to investigative tools for serious crime.

With respect to the business for next week, I will be, among other places, working hard in my constituency for the people of Ottawa West--Nepean.

March 10th, 2011 / 9:20 a.m.
See context

Immigration Program Manager, Kiev, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Thomas Richter

Kiev has seen a decrease in the number of provincially sponsored immigrants, for the very simple reason that the recruitment in the last couple of years has dried up, given the world economic recession. Now, with the economy picking up, we expect Saskatchewan and Alberta to start larger recruiting, which will bring first temporary workers to Canada, and then subsequent to that we will expect to see the immigration applications from this movement.

In skilled workers, Bill C-50 has resulted in a very low intake of applications that are successful, primarily for reasons of English and transferability of skills.

We've seen an 86% refusal rate for cases under ministerial instructions. Previously, any occupation was acceptable; now we have a limited number, which narrows the focus. Then within that field, if you don't have a very good degree of English, you're simply not going to make it on points.

At the same time, Quebec Immigration has done fairly strong recruitment, and the target for Quebec Immigration is a fairly high component of our economic target.

So the numbers are shifting within the economic field.

In family class, we are processing all parental cases that come in. There are no cases backlogged. In fact, last year I ensured that all family class cases were put into process, which is why our inventory of cases is actually decreasing. The number of active cases, as mentioned before, is only 776, and this is decreasing by the day as visas are being issued. The primary reasons for that are economic.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

March 3rd, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, before I respond to the member's question, I would like to, on behalf of the government, add my voice to the voices of the member for Toronto Centre and the member for Winnipeg Centre who spoke about the passing of a distinguished member of the parliamentary press gallery, Jim Travers of The Toronto Star. He was a long-time member of the parliamentary press gallery and a former editor of the Ottawa Citizen. Jim would have been just 63 years old next month. His passing in the hospital was completely shocking and unexpected.

Jim was a top national journalist and a columnist who never was afraid to make his views known on the printed page and on the airwaves as a frequent guest on panel shows and talk radio. He was a passionate Canadian. He loved this country and he was incredibly committed to his craft. Canada has certainly lost a legend.

On behalf of all of us in this place, I offer our sincere condolences to Jim's wife Joan, his sons Patrick and Ben, and to the rest of his family and friends, and his colleagues especially from The Toronto Star who, I know, are deeply saddened by this loss, and, indeed, all of his colleagues in the parliamentary press gallery at this very difficult time. The thoughts and prayers of all Canadians are with Jim's family and many friends.

In terms of parliamentary business for the coming week, today we will continue debate on the NDP opposition motion. I thank my NDP counterpart, the member for Vancouver East, after our difference of opinion. We have worked to make Parliament work and we have come to an agreement that has been satisfactory to both sides. I also thank my opposition colleagues from Ottawa South and Joliette for their assistance and agreement in this matter.

Tomorrow, we will resume and hope to complete debate on Bill C-55, the enhanced new veterans charter that our colleague, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, has introduced. Following Bill C-55, we will move to call Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons).

Next week, we will continue with the business on Friday and, in addition, we will call Bill C-20, the action plan for the National Capital Commission; Bill C-54, the child sexual offences; Bill C-8, the Canada–Jordan free trade agreement; Bill C-12, the democratic representation; Bill C-46, the Canada–Panama free trade agreement; Bill C-57, improving trade within Canada, brought forward by the Minister for Small Business; and Bill C-50, improving access to investigative tools for serious crimes, which is an important bill sponsored by our colleague, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

My friend from Ottawa South and the member for Vancouver East mentioned a solicitation for financial funds on parliamentary letterhead.

Mr. Speaker, as the chair of the Board of Internal Economy, I think it would be wise for you to place this issue before the Board of Internal Economy. There have been several complaints about opposition members soliciting campaign funds on government websites and perhaps the board could discuss that at the same time.

With respect to Bill S-10 and Bill C-49, we continue to make our case to Canadians and are working hard to convince the Liberal Party of the wrong decision it has made on these important piece of legislation. We will call for further debate in due course.

March 1st, 2011 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice

Thank you.

I'm pleased to be here with my colleague, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Status of Women. In addition, I'm pleased to be here with Lisa Hitch, who is a senior counsel with the Department of Justice.

I'm here today to provide information about the recent concrete action taken by the Government of Canada to address the disturbingly high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women. As you know, in last year's Speech from the Throne we recognized this pressing priority.

I was pleased that an additional $10 million was set aside in budget 2010 to address this important issue. On October 29 of last year, my colleague announced a number of concrete actions to support governments, aboriginal groups, law enforcement, and other stakeholders in tackling this issue.

Research conducted by the Native Women's Association of Canada during their five years of funding by the Government of Canada has highlighted the complex and interrelated set of factors that contribute to the high rates of violence facing aboriginal women and girls in Canada today.

The Government of Canada has already taken a number of steps to address some of these underlying factors, from the new federal framework for aboriginal economic development, the commitments as part of Canada's economic action plan to aboriginal skills training and employment, and budget 2010's investment in aboriginal health programs, to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's family violence prevention program and CMHC's shelter enhancement programs on reserves, and many others.

But because this issue is important, involving an all too real tragedy for the women involved, for their families, for their children, and for their communities, the government wanted to consider how best to use the additional $10 million to achieve concrete action.

The concrete steps announced on October 29 of last year include: a new RCMP national police support centre for missing persons that will provide front-line police officers with more comprehensive information on missing persons across jurisdictions; amendments to the Criminal Code in Bill C-50, currently before the House, to improve the efficiency of investigations into serious crimes, including those that involve missing and murdered aboriginal women; support to the development of school- and community-based pilot projects to help provide alternatives to high-risk behaviour for young aboriginal women to reduce their vulnerability to violence; support for the provinces to develop or adapt culturally sensitive victim services for aboriginal people and for families of missing and murdered aboriginal women, and for the response of aboriginal community groups to the unique issues faced by the families at the community level.

They also include: support for the development of community safety plans to improve the safety of aboriginal women within their communities; support for the development of awareness materials on the importance of breaking intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse that threaten aboriginal communities across Canada; and developing a national compendium of promising practices in the areas of law enforcement, victim services, aboriginal community development, and violence reduction to help aboriginal communities and groups improve the safety of aboriginal women across the country.

I am pleased that there has been significant interest in the Department of Justice funds. As was indicated by my colleague, there are approximately 20 projects under way.

Madam Chair, the question of missing and murdered aboriginal women is of great importance not only to the government, but I'm sure to each and every member here. The government is moving forward to respond.

Again, I thank the committee for this opportunity to appear today.

February 17th, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

I'm asking on Bill C-4, Bill C-5, Bill C-16, Bill C-17, Bill C-21, Bill C-22, Bill C-23B, Bill C-30, Bill C-35, Bill C-37, Bill C-38, Bill C-39, Bill C-43, Bill C-48, Bill C-49, Bill C-50, Bill C-51, Bill C-52, Bill C-53C-54, Bill C-59, Bill SS-6, Bill S-7, Bill S-10.

What are the costs? What are the head counts? What are the implications? Why won't you give them to Parliament?

February 15th, 2011 / 9:10 a.m.
See context

David Manicom Immigration Program Manager (New Delhi), Area Director (South Asia), Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the committee for inviting me to speak.

My name is David Manicom, and I am Program Manager of the New Delhi visa office, and Area Director for South Asia. I would like to provide a short overview emphasizing topics which I understand are of most interest to the committee.

New Delhi is Canada's largest visa office, with over 150 staff. We are responsible for delivery of the immigration program in India, Nepal and Bhutan. A satellite office in Chandigarh processes temporary residence applications, primarily from the states of Punjab and Haryana. We operate a network of visa application centres in nine major Indian cities and in Nepal, to facilitate the handling of temporary resident applications. Over 90% of applicants choose to use these centres. On an average business day, we render decisions on over 500 applications —more than one per minute.

While I understand temporary resident programs are not of most direct interest to the committee at this time, I do want to spend a moment on this topic, as it is important to understand the overall operation in Delhi, and how resources are managed.

As has been the case for China, India has barely been affected by the world economic crisis, and its economic growth has continued at a rapid pace. Thus, our visitor, study permit and work permit programs have grown very rapidly in the past decade, roughly tripling in size. This pattern continued in 2010 with an increase of about 20% over 2009 volumes. New Delhi assessed over 93,000 temporary resident applications last year, and will receive over 1,000 passports on peak days.

The program is highly seasonal. Intake in spring is more than triple that in January. We cross-train officers and inject resources from the immigrant units in order to remain current on all temporary resident business lines at all times. Doing so reduces the non-value added work generated by delays, and over time preserves the maximum amount of resources for immigrant processing. It does mean, however, that our unit, which processes skilled workers and investors, will have 13 or so officers in the winter, but only six in the summer.

Delhi does high-volume processing in a high-potential value-added but high-risk environment, where fraud is endemic. To deal with that situation, we have developed several innovative programs where we work closely with stakeholders to manage risk and facilitate low-risk travellers.

For example, our business express program, in cooperation with about 55 large and reliable firms doing regular business in Canada, provides simplified documentation, 24- to 48-hour processing, and an approval rate of over 98%. We think that's important to help Canada meet its objective of dramatically increasing trade with India as India evolves into an economic global power. By streaming these applications separately, we also realize internal efficiencies, conserving our resources for in-depth review of higher-risk cases.

Our student partners program, inaugurated in New Delhi in 2009, and now with 40 participating community colleges, has succeeded in significantly improving approval rates, quadrupling application volumes and permits issued, while managing risk through stricter documentation and feedback information on actual attendance by the schools.

In each of our temporary resident business lines, processing times are falling and are faster than the global norm. For example, 88% of all visitor visa applications are finalized within one week, and over a third of them within two days.

With regard to permanent residents, India has been Canada's second-largest source of permanent residents in recent years. New Delhi issued over 25,000 permanent resident visas last year. New Delhi has by far Canada's largest family class program and also, unfortunately, the largest inventory of economic category applications.

New Delhi issues about 20% of the global family class visas each year. In our priority category, spouses and dependent children, we finalize 80% of cases within six months and the median is four months.

In the parents and grandparents category, output is managed globally. We process sufficient cases each year to meet the objective assigned to the office. Current processing time at the office is 30 months. This does not include sponsorship time at CPC Mississauga.

The primary challenge in the sponsored spouses program is determining whether or not marriages are genuine. Marriages of convenience are common. However, the large majority of marriages are genuine, with about 85% being approved. The majority of cases do not require interviews. However, we provide extensive training to our officers on local law and custom, and if questions about marriages of convenience arise, officers do lengthy interviews to attempt to ensure there is a genuine relationship. We schedule interviews shortly after receiving the applications so that even cases requiring an interview are not significantly delayed.

With regard to sponsored parents and grandparents, the primary difficulty relates to the misrepresentation of dependent children. Many families in our caseload provide fraudulent documentation showing children are still full-time students, or add unrelated children to their files. As applicants are generally elderly, these cases are also frequently delayed by complex medical conditions.

New Delhi has the largest inventory of skilled worker cases submitted prior to the ministerial instructions. Significant progress was made in 2008-09 in reducing the pre-2008 inventory from over 140,000 persons to about 99,000 today, a decrease of over 30%. The processing time for these cases continues to lengthen, and was at 82 months in 2010. For all but a few months of that time, the cases are not in active process, but consume resources through managing correspondence. Owing to the number of new cases submitted under ministerial instructions, we processed few old inventory cases in 2010.

Indian nationals are the highest-volume applicants under the current ministerial instructions. At the present time, we are devoting all available resources to the quick processing of new cases received pursuant to Bill C-50. In 2010 we finalized 80% of all these cases within 10 months. Given the volume of intake under the first set of ministerial instructions, we will not be able to further reduce the inventory of older cases this year.

New Delhi issued over 11,900 skilled worker visas in 2010, an increase from about 8,300 in 2009.

I would also like to note that New Delhi is quickly becoming one of the major source countries for provincial nominee programs. This program was quite small in India until recently, but tripled in size between 2008 and 2010.

Finally, I understand that the committee has a particular interest in the federal investor program. This program was very small in New Delhi in the past, with few applications prior to 2007. Intake has increased significantly in the past two years. Given our very large skilled worker inventory, and the largest global family class program, we are not able yet to give a high priority to this new caseload. In 2010 we processed 80% of cases within 28 months, somewhat faster than the global average. We approved only about half of the cases in 2010.

We believe this recent increase is primarily due to the priority afforded to the investor applicants over other business immigration categories. The applicants are mainly small farmers with landholdings of 10 acres or so. This profile of individual previously applied in the self-employed category, but as our processing in that category is much slower, they are shifting into the investor category. Due to the rising cost of land on the margins of major Indian cities, these small farmers, mainly in the Punjab, can now meet minimum net worth requirements, and normally have at least five farmhands to meet the minimum employee requirements.

The percentage of investor program applicants who are major business persons of high net worth is very small.

This is a quick tour d'horizon of just some of our programs. We are working hard to advance Canada's interests in India. I would be happy to answer any questions the committee might have.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

February 15th, 2011 / 9 a.m.
See context

Sidney Frank Immigration Program Manager (Beijing), Area Director (North Asia), Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank the committee for inviting me to speak.

My name is Sidney Frank, and I'm the immigration program manager in Beijing and area director for north Asia.

I'd like to provide a short overview of the program in Beijing, emphasizing topics that I believe are of most interest to the committee.

One of the largest visa offices in Canada's overseas network, Beijing has close to 100 staff. As a regional program centre, Beijing oversees satellite offices in Shanghai, which handles temporary resident applications from four Chinese provinces, and in Guangzhou, which handles the migration integrity program in southern China.

Hong Kong is responsible for family class applications from southern China, and has jointly handled all economic category applications from China in conjunction with Beijing since the mid-1990s.

I'm certain you're all aware that in spite of the current worldwide economic downturn, China continues to demonstrate near double-digit growth. With a growing middle class, increasing numbers of Chinese are able to travel, study, and do business abroad. In 2010, 151,647 temporary resident visas were issued to Chinese nationals to visit Canada. Over half of those visas were issued in Beijing.

Canada was granted Approved Destination Status, or ADS, during the Prime Minister's visit in December 2009, and the first ADS groups travelled to Canada in August 2010. Last year, 6,540 tourists travelled to China as part of ADS groups and a similar number travelled to Canada on their own. We anticipate that the number of tourists destined for Canada will increase more rapidly this coming summer. We have been working with Chinese travel agencies recommended by the Canadian Tourism Commission to handle these tourist groups.

A significant portion of the Chinese population has not benefited from economic growth. Consequently, strong push factors for migration remain, and fraud and misrepresentation are widespread. Canada continues to be an attractive destination for illegal Chinese migrants and for economic criminals who target our temporary and permanent resident programs to gain entry to Canada.

In spite of high levels of fraud, 84% of temporary resident applicants were approved in 2010. For business visitors the acceptance rate was 89%. Refusals are extremely rare for business persons who work for state-owned enterprises, a significant proportion of our business visitors. The service we provide is comparable to or better than Australia, the United States, or the United Kingdom, with 66% of our private business visitors processed the day after receipt in our office. Visa application centres in four major cities in China make the application process more convenient for private visitors, tourists, business travellers, students, or temporary workers.

In 2010 Beijing issued 17,195 study permits, making China the largest source of foreign students for Canada. The student program continues to grow at a rapid pace, with a 17% increase in applications in 2010 compared to the previous year, and more than double the number received in 2005. The student program is expected to continue to grow through the recent expansion to China of the student partners program, the SPP, between CIC and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges.

With the introduction of optional up-front medicals that allow a student to undertake the medical examinations prior to the submission of an application, processing times have dropped significantly. Approximately 67% of the applicants now take advantage of this new procedure. Of these cases, 80% are processed within 13 days, compared to eight weeks in 2008 prior to the procedure's introduction.

High levels of fraud and misrepresentation in the student program mean that considerable resources must be devoted to the assessment of these applications. Students comprise 33% of our refusals for fraud. Nevertheless, we have managed to maintain a relatively high acceptance rate of 75% to 80% for students over the past few years without a negative impact on program integrity.

China has been the number one source of immigrants to Canada for more than a decade. As I have explained, Beijing shares the processing of permanent resident applications submitted by Chinese nationals with our mission in Hong Kong. In 2010, Beijing issued 9,391 visas, about 59% of the total issued by Hong Kong.

At the end of 2010, Beijing had an inventory of 9,034 permanent resident cases, declining from 12,646 cases in 2008, a drop of over 7,000 persons. This can be attributed to the transfer of 1,500 Bill C-50 skilled worker cases, which were not eligible under ministerial instructions, to the Centralized Intake Office in Sydney for finalization, and to the fact that there were more cases finalized than applications received.

The number of skilled worker applications received in Beijing and Hong Kong declined dramatically after IRPA came into effect. The higher language requirements imposed by IRPA and the increasing ability of the Chinese economy to provide well-paid employment to highly skilled workers contributed to this decline. With the implementation of Bill C-50, skilled worker intake has declined further.

We are aware that consultants are promoting the investor programs in China as an alternative to the more restrictive ministerial instructions of the Bill C-50 skilled worker category. Current real estate values in first- and second-tier cities in China make it relatively easy for many of China's middle class to meet the new minimum net worth requirement of the investor category.

Unlike Hong Kong, which has seen huge increases in investor applications prior to the introduction of the new regulations regarding the investor category, the business intake in Beijing declined by 26% in 2009 compared to the previous year, with 355 cases received. In 2010, intake increased by 9% with 386 applications received. Among business categories, Beijing gives priority to investors. Between 2004 and 2009, processing times for 80% of federal and Quebec investors went from 47 to 30 months.

A significant portion of our business caseload is comprised of wealthy applicants claiming to have made very large sums of money during a period in China's economic development when this would have been an exceedingly rare accomplishment. Even rarer is the verifiable paper trail that would establish their wealth was legally obtained. It has proven very difficult under these circumstances to differentiate between legitimate businessmen and those who obtained their wealth illegally.

Beijing's family class unit handles a large volume of sponsored spouses and dependent children. With a high risk of marriages of convenience, approximately 33% of applicants are interviewed. Nevertheless, 80% of cases are completed within four months from when the sponsorship is received at the case processing centre in Mississauga.

During our low season for temporary residents, we shift resources to permanent resident processing, enabling us to process spousal applications as quickly as one month from their receipt in our office. Approximately 85% of applications assessed in 2010 were accepted. Targets for sponsored parents and grandparents are managed globally. Current processing time for this category in Beijing is 37 months for 80% of cases.

For many years, Beijing has been a centre of innovation, using information technology to reduce the clerical work required to process applications. I am pleased to advise you that these innovations have been incorporated into our new global case management system, whose implementation abroad began at the end of June 2010. GCMS is scheduled to be implemented in Beijing at the end of this month.

I wish to assure you that the team in China is committed to the expeditious processing of all types of cases while protecting Canada from those persons who should be denied entry.

I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Thank you.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2011 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

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.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2011 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the comments of the member in this chamber, and I am a bit surprised, because he is actually engaging in substantive debate around the bill to which the time allocation motion applies. However, what is really before us in the House today is the time allocation motion itself and the government cutting off the amount of time for debate on the bill.

We should not be debating the merits of the bill itself at all, yet I just heard the member say that all kinds of crime bills have been stalled at committee.

Let me give the House a number of the bills that have now passed through the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights: C-4, C-5, C-16, C-17, C-21, C-22, C-23A, C-23B, C-39, C-48, C-50, C-51, C-52, S-2, S-6, S-7, S-9 and S-10. Can the member really suggest that the crime agenda of the government is being stalled?

Some of us would argue they are the only bills we have been dealing with in the House. I wish the member would return to what we are really debating here tonight, and that is the time allocation motion, not the substance of the government's crime agenda.

Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege

February 11th, 2011 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am saddened today to feel the obligation to rise to address comments with regard to the question of privilege raised by the member for Kings—Hants on February 7.

It is like the movie Groundhog Day. Anyone is familiar with that movie knows it was very successful. American actor Bill Murray relives the day over and over again until he learns his lesson.

It appears the government is reliving the same thing and forcing all other members of the House of Commons and Canadians to relive the same days we experienced back in 2009-10 with regard to a request from the special committee on Afghanistan for the production of documents from the government. The government resisted that. It took a question of privilege to be raised in the House. It took comments from many members of the House. It took considerable reflection and study on your part, Mr. Speaker, before you made a ruling that there was a prima facie case of privilege in that regard.

Yet, again, we are faced with the exact same situation today.

If I look at the timeline, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance tabled its 10th report on Monday, February 7. The member for Kings—Hants, pursuant to that report, raised the question of privilege of which we are now all aware.

I want to concur with the arguments raised by my colleague for Kings—Hants, as well as those raised by my colleagues from Mississauga South and Windsor—Tecumseh on the issue.

However, I wish to note a number of points. I also wish to address, in particular, the issues of cabinet confidence and the requests with regard to all the justice bills. It is important to do so, particularly with the time of events and the government's response to date to the committee's requests for the production of documents. We have not yet heard the government's response in the House with regard to the question of privilege.

On November 17, 2010, the Standing Committee on Finance passed a motion, ordering the Government of Canada to provide the committee with five-year projections of total corporate profits before taxes and effective corporate tax rates from the 2010-11 fiscal year until the 2014-15 fiscal year, inclusive. The November 17 motion also ordered the government to provide the committee with certain financial information pertaining to justice bills, which I will enumerate.

As all members in the House know, I am the justice critic for the official opposition. Therefore, all the information, all the documents requested through the motion of the finance committee have direct pertinence to the committee on justice and human rights. Those justice bills were Bill C-4, the youth criminal justice bill, Bill C-5, Bill C-16, Bill C-17, Bill C-21, Bill C-22, Bill C-23A, Bill C-23B, Bill C-39, Bill C-48, Bill C-50, Bill C-51, Bill C-52, Bill S-2, Bill S-6, Bill S-7, Bill S-9 and Bill S-10.

The motion specifically requested:

—detailed cost accounting, analysis and projections, including assumptions, for each of the bills and Acts, conducted in accordance with the Treasury Board Guide to Costing.

Members are now aware, by the issue of privilege raised by the member for Kings—Hants, that the motion established a deadline of seven calendar days, which ended on November 24, 2010.

On November 24, Finance Canada replied to the committee, and I will read the department's response in its entirety because it is quite important, particularly to any Canadian and any member sitting in the House who takes his or her work as an elected official representing Canadians, a sacred duty in fact, to know the response. It said:

Projections of corporate profits before taxes and effective corporate income tax rates are a Cabinet confidence. As such, we are not in a position to provide these series to the Committee.

The department claimed it was not in a position to provide these documents to the committee because, according to the government, these documents were a cabinet confidence. That is the heart of the matter. Do the documents requested constitute a cabinet confidence and, if so, are they excluded from the rule of the House of Commons, the power and authority of Parliament, to require documents to be provided?

As the House knows, because it has been mentioned by others in the House who have commented on the issue of privilege raised by the member for Kings—Hants, the government has yet to speak to this issue. I understand that one of the parliamentary secretaries has said the government is taking note of all of members' comments in the House, relating to the issue of privilege, and will respond in due course.

On December 1, 2010, one full week after the deadline of November 24, 2010, the committee received a reply from Justice Canada regarding projected costs of the justice bills. I will read the response by Justice Canada in its entirety. It said:

The issue of whether there are any costs associated with the implementation of any of the Government's Justice bills is a matter of Cabinet confidence and, as such, the Government is not in a position to provide such information or documents.

That is interesting because in justice committee, of which I am a member, when we have repeatedly asked the minister for the cost analysis of a government bill before the committee, the minister has never stated that he could not give us that information because it is a matter of confidence. I would challenge members to check the transcripts of justice committee. What I did hear was he did not have the information with him or some befuddled answer that did not answer the question.

On December 7, 2010, after the government had refused to provide the information ordered by finance committee by the established deadline, the member for Kings—Hants provided the committee with written notice of a motion by which, if passed, the committee would draw the attention of the House to what appeared to be a breach of its privileges. That has been done. The committee adopted the motion and the member for Kings—Hants rose in the House to speak to the issue.

On December 10, the committee received an additional response from the Department of Finance Canada in answer to its motion ordering the production of documents relating to the projections regarding corporate taxes before profits.

In response, the department stated:

To the best of its knowledge, the Department of Finance has determined that [the] "series" or projections of corporate profits before taxes or the effective corporate income tax rates have never been previously disclosed. These projections are from a comprehensive economic and fiscal projection that constitutes a Cabinet confidence.

To reiterate, according to the second or additional response of the Department of Finance to the finance committee, the Department of Finance, acting on behalf of the government, claimed that these projections have never been previously disclosed and constitute a cabinet confidence.

As pointed out in this chamber before, but which bears repetition, I would suggest to any Canadian to Google the phrase, “Corporate tax profits before taxes”, and restrict their search to the domain of the Department of Finance Canada. That Canadian would get exactly two results: the HTML and PDF versions of “The Economic and Fiscal Update“ from November 2005. In that update, we find precisely the information that the Department of Justice, in its December 10 additional response to the finance committee, claimed had never previously been disclosed because it constituted a cabinet confidence. In fact, it was disclosed in the November 2005 economic and fiscal update that was issued by the previous government comprised of the Liberal Party of Canada's elected members of Parliament.

Therefore, the assertion on the part of the government, through its Department of Finance, justifying its refusal to obey, respect and act on the order of the finance committee to produce the documents is an outright fabrication.

The government department could have said that in the past the information had been released, but that the policy had been changed with a new interpretation of what constituted a cabinet confidence and, as a result, would not be releasing those documents to the finance committee. However, that was not the reason given by the department, by the government, for refusing to release that information. The reason given to the committee for not providing that information, that it is a cabinet confidence, is pure nonsense.

What is the state of legislation regarding cabinet confidence?

As mentioned, one can look to the Access to Information Act and the law of evidence act, and one will find that the government does not have a leg to stand on, and in fact does not have two legs to stand on.

Any reasonable Canadian reading the pertinent sections of the Access to Information Act and the law of evidence act would see that the two responses given by the Department of Finance and the response given by the Department of Justice are nonsense.

As I said, we know that in 2005 the previous government recognized that projections of corporate tax profits before taxes were not covered by cabinet confidence. Such projections are not considered a cabinet confidence when, as is the case with Finance Canada's revenue model, these projections are used by the department in a manner not exclusively related to cabinet operations.

What has changed between 2005 and 2010-11? On what grounds is the government now claiming that these projections constitute a cabinet confidence when there was no such assertion in the past and governments in the past have in fact provided and disclosed that information?

The costs of the justice bills are also important because the Department of Justice, as well, replied to the finance committee by claiming cabinet confidence as a justification for not releasing that information to the finance committee.

We know that due diligence would have required that cabinet consider the cost implications of each justice bill before making a decision to proceed with each bill. We know that under normal practices, an analysis of the cost implications of each justice bill would have been included with the memorandum to cabinet prepared for each justice bill.

Why do we know this? We know it because the Liberal Party of Canada has formed government in the past. We know that when we came power the government that preceded us, the one formed by the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, had done that as well. So these are normal practices. These are practices of a prudent, diligent and competent government.

No diligent, prudent and competent government would consider an issue, whether amendments, or a justice bill bringing in new legislation to the Criminal Code or amending existing sections of the Criminal Code, because that constitutes government policy, would do so without informing itself of the cost of those changes.

That is what previous governments have done, because those previous governments, whatever their faults, have followed prudent, diligent and competent practices with regard to taking decisions on issues brought before cabinet.

As I said, we know that under normal practices, an analysis of the cost implications of each justice bill would have been included with the memorandum to cabinet prepared for each justice bill.

Now let us look at the legislation that deals with what is, or is not, cabinet confidence and whether or not something that falls into cabinet confidence can be accessible.

If one looks at section 69 of the Access to Information Act, it tells us that such analysis and background information is not, and I repeat, not, a cabinet confidence, if the cabinet decision to which the analysis relates has been made public.

A cost analysis of the implications of a justice bill should have been included, and I believe was included, in the memorandum to cabinet, as it is on each and every justice bill.