Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act
An Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts
Vic Toews Conservative
Introduction and First Reading
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Opposition Motion — 2013 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada
Business of Supply
May 9th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON
Mr. Speaker, as always it is a great honour to rise in this House and represent the people of Timmins—James Bay. I will be sharing my time with the member for Welland.
We are here today to make the simple request that the government admit that it lost track of $3.1 billion and work with us by bringing forward the documents so we can find out what happened to the money. We have heard a number of fascinating euphemisms, such as the money is not lost, it just has not been found, and that the money is horizontal. Perhaps that means it is under someone's bed. We heard that it will materialize. Is the government just expecting it to appear at some given time? What that speaks to is the sheer level of defiant incompetence within the government.
I remember when the Conservatives replaced the Liberal Party in 2006 and made a promise to Canadians. At that time, Canadians were frustrated by the years of arrogance coming from the Liberal Party and the numerous scandals. The Conservative government at the time made a promise that it would come in and clean up Ottawa. It was a simple promise that it would bring a standard of ethics back to Ottawa.
That is not what has happened. What we have seen is a level of defiant immaturity on the most basic issues of public policy. It is like the government created this carnival circus of spite and mediocrity and has attacked all of the existing standards of transparent accountability essential to ensuring democratic foundations.
At the centre of a lot of these scandals, we see the present Treasury Board president who bragged about destroying Canada's long form census. At the committee hearings he said that if one person in the country objected, that would be enough to destroy this system that was a gold standard around the world for gathering information. Then the government came out with Bill C-30, which shows that it is more than willing to intrude on the privacy of Canadians. In fact, it thought it was perfectly fine to spy on Canadians. Again we see that its decision on the long form census shows a level of managerial incompetence that is staggering.
As well, the member took $50 million of border infrastructure money and blew it on the most outrageous and needless projects, such as building gazebos, investing money in a sunken boat, and putting a lighthouse in a forest in northern Ontario, while telling senior citizens living in poverty that he was sorry but the cupboard was bare and these are tough times. However, the member took money that was meant for border infrastructure security and blew it in his riding. We now find out there is $2.1 billion of secret contracts being shovelled out the back door, again happening under the Treasury Board watch. The government is not even meeting the basic guidelines. It is taking money without any sense of accountability.
Now $3.1 billion has gone missing and the Conservatives are saying not to worry because it was spent well, but cannot tell us where it was spent. That is not a standard for accountability.
Canadians watching the government wonder what is happening in this nation. People do not expect government to do everything. They expect the government to play a role at times when people need it, such as with respect to pensions, infrastructure and health care. The role of government is to maintain a good standard of public policy that is accountable, transparent and can meet international norms.
Canadians expect government to unify and bring people across this great country together. However, what we have seen in this carnival circus of spite and mediocrity is that sneering has replaced leadership and that the 140-character attack has replaced debate. We are seeing this sense of political mendacity being moved throughout every level of the government, including its committees and backbenches. I have not even mentioned the fact that it is spending millions of Canadian taxpayer dollars to keep tabs on its own backbenchers. The level of suspicion and wastefulness is staggering.
We also see attacks by the Conservatives on science and international institutions. Canada once had a reputation as a country that was the model of openness and decency. Under the current government, Canada is now becoming a stranger to the world, a place where the government responds with suspicion and distrust, and representatives of the United Nations are being ridiculed.
We see the Conservative backbench ridiculing members of the United Nations who are dealing with the fact that in the far North, in the riding of the Minister of Health, for example, people cannot afford food.
The government attacks. It attacks international institutions. It has shut down Rights and Democracy. It has shut down the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. It has attacked, relentlessly, the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, whose primary job is to provide documents to Parliament.
The Conservatives have turned this House of Commons into a place where the role of the MP to hold the government to account has been shut down through efforts to shut down debate time and time again. What we are left with is this culture of arrogance where the Conservatives believe they are entitled to their entitlement. They believe that their friends, like Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, can get away with things because they are Conservatives.
It is a level of arrogance that even outstrips something the Liberals had, and I think that is staggering. It is an insult to the Canadian people who were promised that the Conservatives would do government differently.
Now $3.1 billion is missing. That is incompetence. It is incompetent management when the President of the Treasury Board says that he does not know where the money is but that it is okay, and that we should trust them. That is not what should be done in accountable government. In any western nation that would be considered an abomination. The Conservatives have taken the Berlusconi model and just made it meaner. It is not an acceptable standard.
We are asking the Conservatives what happened to the money, and they cannot explain it but they tell us all the good stuff they are doing. Meanwhile, they continue with their cuts. They continue wasting money on their ads. They continue wasting money spying on their own members.
They continue wasting money going after civil rights activists, like Cindy Blackstock, spying on her, going to court to fight basic things that most Canadians would consider issues of decency and fairness. Those are words that do not belong in this government's lexicon. It makes me think of Andrew O'Hagan's recent article on Maggie Thatcher, where he said that her legacy was to make England a seedier and greedier place. The kind of attitude that we are seeing from the government, where it has taken the level of partisanship to the level of almost psychosis, is dividing Canadians to change the channel on the fact of basic incompetent mismanagement.
I would suggest that if we were to go into any Tim Hortons in any place in this country, and we asked people if it was okay that the government cannot find $3.1 billion and whether they trusted the government, I do not think we would find a single Canadian who would answer, “Yes.”
The contempt that the Conservatives have for Canadian taxpayers' dollars, with their friends like Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau and with their attitude of their secret contracts, refusing to say whether it is tendered, refusing to come forward and produce documents showing how money is spent, is an example of why the government has lost touch with the Canadian people.
What we are asking for in the motion is fairly straightforward. We want to know where the documents are. Is it a case like that of the President of the Treasury Board, who took $50 million from the border infrastructure and funnelled it through his constituency office, burying the paperwork, and got away with it? He buried the paperwork. He hid the paperwork. He said, “Sorry, there is no paperwork.” That was not true. There was paperwork. He did it on homemade forms.
Were the Conservatives filling out homemade forms? They can blame the former Liberals for being part of it, but they should have changed the system. If there was a problem when the Liberals were doing it, they could have changed it but they did not.
Now we see this level of mendacity and this level of incompetence being shown to the Canadian people in a level of arrogance that shows they do not believe they are accountable or need to explain what happened to $3.1 billion. It is simply not acceptable.
April 29th, 2013 / 4:55 p.m.
Robert Goguen Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
It's pretty obvious that in this day and age a lot of the illegal activity takes place on the Internet. You've talked about the web, etc. In the past this government tried to put in Bill C-30, which gave some important tools. That has been pulled back. There were some concerns.
Are there certain tools that would be useful to you in countering this type of illegal activity in the way of Internet surveillance, etc.?
That is something that can't be answered in the time that's left, but I'll throw it out for thought.
Combating Terrorism Act
April 23rd, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. This is a very important debate because the one thing we all share in the House is an abhorrence of the senseless and cruel violence we saw in Boston and elsewhere. We know where the Conservatives are coming from. Their agenda has always been clear.
The issue I have is that earlier I heard the Liberals compare Bill S-7 to Bill C-55. For the last two days, the Liberals have been saying that if the police ask for tools, we should give them the tools. One of the problems with that is there has to be judicial oversight. When we look at Bill C-30, which the Conservatives brought forward and was a widespread bill to allow all manner of intrusions into people's online private interests without warrant, based on the supposition or desire of a police authority, we see Canadians rejected it because it was an unnecessary tool, yet the government came back with Bill C-55, which narrowly defined wiretap provisions under judicial authority.
I would like to ask my hon. colleague why he thinks the Liberals think it is okay to have judicial authority and review on wiretaps but allow people and their relatives to be held without warrant without any kind of oversight provisions that we consider important.
April 23rd, 2013 / 9:30 a.m.
D/Chief Peter Sloly
I support everything Chief Hanson just said.
When we were all in horse and buggies and didn't have superhighways, when we built those highways we built a Highway Traffic Act that supported the laws. Now we have the information highway. We don't have a legislative framework for the massive amounts of traffic and the speed and volume around which people use that highway. We need that legislation.
My only suggestion is that when you write the next version of it, whatever you call it, you bring in privacy commissioner people who understand the privacy legislation at the earliest point and have a discussion. It relates to some degree to what Chief Hanson is doing in Calgary, and what we're doing here in Toronto, and what Dale McFee did in Prince Albert.
The number one barrier to the success of hub service delivery models—coordinated service delivery, wraparound service delivery, whatever you want to call it—is not the willingness of police and public sector partners and not-for-profits to partner with each other and look at these cases from a prevention standpoint. It's the legislative inability to share information across those silos. Information sharing and the lack of a legal framework around which we can share information about individuals or families or communities that are displaying risk factors stop us from properly analyzing and assessing the risk and deploying the right combination of service interventions to prevent that risk from becoming a real problem.
Information sharing broadly, not just in the concept of Bill C-30, is an area that government and police leaders and community leaders need to put their minds to.
The ultimate solution for Dale McFee was that he didn't need to create new legislation, but he brought in the privacy commissioners and legal people who had expertise, and they realized existing legislation provided them enough latitude to conduct operations at a higher level. They were just ignorant of the law.
April 23rd, 2013 / 9:30 a.m.
Chief of Police, Calgary Police Service
Thank you for that question.
First, lawful access has to be addressed by this country. It has to be addressed by Parliament. We're so far behind the other countries. This is about safety. This isn't about the police wanting to troll, to go fishing in somebody's e-mails. I get it that in Bill C-30, clause 16 was written abysmally. I get it. That was bad. Clause 16 is what killed Bill C-30.
The reality is that if we don't create legislation that recognizes how technology has evolved and allows the police just to do their job.... Trust me. We have way more important things to do than to find out who's sending salacious messages to their girlfriend or wife. We don't care. But what we do need is the ability to get, for instance, ISP information without a warrant so that we can save people's lives.
This is a true story. Somebody died in Calgary because they had an asthma attack. They used their cell phone to call 911, and they couldn't get out. Now, if it's a land line, you get what's called ANI-ALI, the automatic number indicator and automatic location indicator, but because it was a cell phone we didn't have that information. So that person died because they couldn't give their location, even though they were at home. We couldn't get subscriber information for that cell phone in time to get medical help to that person who died. That's just stupid in a technologically proficient country such as Canada.
We get suicide threats where people say they're going to kill themselves. The efforts we have to go through to try to find out where that came from.... This is about saving lives and doing the right thing. Bill C-30 is gone. It's off the table. It's dead. There has to be a new, lawful access piece of legislation that gets clause 16 out of there and is rewritten in a different way, that gets us the authorities we need, the power we need, to go and save lives, whether it's about cyberbullying or anything else. There are certain steps we need to have before we can go to the next step with search warrants and other things, such as production orders.
April 23rd, 2013 / 9:30 a.m.
Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you both for being here. Those were two very good, useful pieces of testimony.
Chief Hanson, I want to start with you. This goes to what we have just been talking about: cyber and social media. Obviously it's used to the disadvantage of law and order. We had something called Bill C-30, which isn't there anymore, that was trying to address using social media to the advantage of prevention, and so on.
Without putting you too much on the spot—I'm not sure if you're familiar with Bill C-30, but I'm sure you are—do you see that as having potentially very useful, positive measures? What do we bump up against with respect to charter challenges, from your viewpoint, or to the judiciary providing a challenge to the use of that?
Combating Terrorism Act
April 22nd, 2013 / 5:55 p.m.
Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour, as always, to rise in the House and represent the great people of Timmins—James Bay, who put their trust in me to address issues in the House.
Today on the Hill outside Parliament, I was reminded why I love this country so much. I think of Parliament Hill, that great public space where people go to demonstrate, play drums, play Frisbee and, yes, smoke pot to draw attention on 4/20. This is a public space and in that great public space today, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people gathered in support of the people of Boston. It shows that, fundamentally, we are a world community and care for each other in those moments. I watched the crowd go off to the sounds of Sweet Caroline, one of the great songs I used to sing at weddings, but that is another story.
I thought of Fenway Park in Boston, where Neil Diamond showed up and sang Sweet Caroline, showing that Boston has great spirit and that senseless violence will not deter us from being a civil society. Whether it is the horrific killings in Boston or the crazy gun nuts in Newtown or Colorado, a fundamental principle of our society is that we are not going to let them win by growing in fear and undermining the basic principles on which our society has been based. That principle is based on the right of citizens to be protected from terrorists, but also from arbitrary arrest and detainment. That is the principle for which the House of Commons stands.
It is unfortunate that, as we saw the great outpouring of goodwill on the Hill, we see this debate being brought forward again in the House. I refer to The Globe and Mail editorial that stated:
The two-day debate in Parliament on the Harper government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation smacks of political opportunism, and it is regrettable that it will take place. The debate politicizes the Boston Marathon bombings....
It goes on to say:
More worrying is the fact that there are aspects of the proposed bill that raise questions about balancing civil liberties with the need to protect citizens. A wise course of action would be to postpone the bill’s final reading so that any emotional fallout from the Boston bombings doesn’t colour an important debate about public safety in Canada.
It is incumbent upon us when we see this political opportunism in the face of such tragedy that we do not just bend with the wind when the Conservatives say to bend. Our colleagues in the Liberal Party bent long ago on this issue. We need to raise the fundamental issues that are facing Canadians. We are talking about legislation that takes away basic fundamental rights: that people can be detained without trials and be made to go before special investigative judges without the right to remain silent. Those are fundamental principles.
If Parliament is going to undermine those basic rights on which democratic freedoms are based, there have to be some damn good reasons for it to take place. These original measures were brought forward by the Liberal government in the post-9/11 era. In the horror after 9/11, many people said that our traditional freedoms were outdated, that in the 21st century, torture, rendition and detention without trial were what we needed to do to protect society.
We saw many abuses of citizens' rights in the public realm under this sense of fear and panic, and the Liberal government at the time went along with that George Bush analysis and brought in the provisions that are being brought back. However, even at that time they were so unpalatable to the Canadian public that it had to guarantee there would be a sunset clause, that they would only be in effect for a period of time. Within that period of time, those provisions were never found to be necessary; not once. Yet the Liberals still want to break the promise they made to Canadians when they said they would sunset these clauses because they were such a threat to basic democratic and legal rights.
Now the Liberals are saying, “Let us do it; let us forget that sunset clause; let us forget the debate that happened in 2007 when the House of Commons said that those kinds of provisions would take away from people the fundamental rights of legal protection”. The House of Commons rejected that in 2007 and the Liberals voted with New Democrats. Now they are going back to where they wanted to be.
This is the party that always wraps itself in it. It was them; they represented the charter. However, these are fundamental charter issues.
They used the word "terrorism". It is certainly a very loaded word and a very dangerous issue we are facing. However, the issue with this bill is that, as parliamentarians, we have to make sure due diligence is done so that innocent people will not be drawn up into this net.
It was really telling that we brought forward a number of amendments to try to fix the bill and to work with the government to fix the bill, yet the Liberal members brought zero amendments. They just went along to rubber-stamp it. One of the motions we tried to bring forward was the issue of recognizance with conditions, where a person could be held by preventive arrest based on the word of a peace officer. That person could be held without a warrant and without charges. A person who knew somebody who may be a threat could also be held.
We tried to clarify the language so that we were really clear about what was intended, so that it was terror suspects and not just average citizens who were out there protesting in the streets or would get caught up in a sweep. The government refused that amendment, because it said it wanted a broad sweep. That is something that my hon. colleagues in the Liberal Party are supporting. They are saying that would pass a charter challenge. I certainly do not think so.
What preventive arrest and recognizance with conditions really mean is that we have to look at where it has been done. In the post-9/11 era, Maher Arar was arrested without any real evidence, went through rendition and was tortured. That was done under the nose of the then Liberal government, which thought that was the price we had to pay for freedom. We found out later that Maher Arar was completely innocent.
The Liberals are saying this does not mean that, if individuals serve a meal in a restaurant to a supposed terrorist, they will be arrested without a warrant. That is a ridiculous example. A more telling example would be to look at England during the 1970s and the horrific bombing campaigns that hit London and Birmingham. The Parliament at that time felt it had to get rid of the basic principles of habeas corpus and detention and trial. They arrested numerous innocent people, including Annie Maguire, whose story I have already mentioned today. She was just a housewife.
Not only Annie Maguire but seven members of her family were put in jail for 15 years based on no evidence, because they were thought to somehow be associated with people who were terrorists. The people they were associated with, their cousins, were innocent. We saw that a great miscarriage of justice was done with the Guildford bombings. People's lives were ruined, but it was considered okay at the time because they were all a threat. The crime then, of course, was that they were Irish in England.
However, civil society is based on the rule of law. It is based on ensuring that those situations do not happen.
I want to just talk about the term "terrorist". I was called a terrorist. I was denounced by the government of Mike Harris as an eco-terrorist because I was standing up against a massive garbage dump that many of the frontbenchers supported. As a citizen, when I was speaking up and protesting, I was being called an eco-terrorist. We see that the government uses that word all the time. If a person does not like a pipeline, he or she is an eco-terrorist.
What about all the young aboriginal activists who are on the streets? What about the people at the G20, who came from all over and got off the buses to participate in their demonstrations at the G20, which is their fundamental right? Under this law, a peace officer could believe that these people are possibly thinking of terrorist activity, and they could be held in detention for 24 hours without charges. Then, the peace officers could decide whether to let them go.
We saw what happened at G20 and that is exactly what they were doing. They were detaining people. They were kettling people. Of course, they missed all the bad guys who were running up and down Queen Street with black masks on. I do not know how they missed them, but they managed to run from Queen and Spadina all the way up Yonge Street, and a lot of innocent people were detained.
We have to be careful and we have to define exactly what we mean.
If police officers or people in authority are allowed to decide that they do not like a person and they think he or she poses a threat, then that person could be detained without a trial. In this bill, a person could be held for 12 months without a conviction.
The government says it needs this. However, in the years that these provisions were in effect, they were never used once. Under article 495 in the code, already, an order can be brought to have people appear before a judge, and a judge already has the ability to detain them, without releasing them on bail if he or she feels they are a threat. Those powers already exist.
We are talking about new powers that are much more arbitrary, that are much more subjective, that allow for people to be picked up and held without charges. That is a fundamental threat.
I would like to quote Paul Copeland, a lawyer with the Law Union of Ontario, who said in his opinion the provisions we were examining in committee would unnecessarily change our legal landscape in Canada. He said we must not adopt them. In his opinion they are not necessary. Other provisions of the code provide various mechanisms for dealing with such individuals.
It is unfortunate that within the opposition, the Liberals did not think to even challenge, not even clarify. There are some other amendments that are very much needed but that the government refused. For example, Bill S-7 is a law of general application. It cuts right across. The Young Offenders Act does not supercede Bill S-7. That is very concerning.
What happens to people who are under 18? Can they be detained? Can they be held? That happened in the case of Annie Maguire in Ireland. To say it would not happen is absurd. It has happened. Canada has legal obligations under the international Convention on the Rights of the Child to protect children.
The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children proposed amendments to the bill to ensure that the implementation for children under 18 would consider the convention on the rights of children, including detention as a last resort. The government did not accept those amendments, and neither did the Liberal Party. That is serious.
What we are told here, and I have been here for a number of years, is that we are soft on this. What I find the government is soft on is the basic principle of the rule of law. If someone says “Hey, let us get rid of the rule of law; it will be more effective”. Certainly it would be more effective. Totalitarian states are always very effective in a certain thing because they do not have the rule of law.
We are different because we have the rule of law. I will point to Bill C-30 in this last Parliament, where the government came in with massive provisions to allow it undefined legal authorities to demand personal information on Internet users and cell phone users without warrants. The government thought that was perfectly okay. It needed this, and if we did not support it, then it said we were soft on child pornography.
What an ugly statement, considering the fact that the one who came forward, who was very soft on child pornography, was the architect of the whole Conservative revolution, Tom Flanagan. Tom Flanagan was soft on child pornography.
However, average Canadians who wanted to protect their privacy rights were attacked by the government. The other provisions within Bill C-30 at that time were forcing telecoms to put in spyware so that they could track people whenever they wanted.
My colleagues in the Liberal Party said nothing about it, because those were actually provisions that were brought forward under the Liberals.
At that time we saw a huge backlash, publicly. It was very impressive. Canadians care about their privacy rights. Canadians are not soft on child pornography. Canadians are not soft on terrorism. However, they were not going to sit back and allow the government to undermine basic rights, including the issue that if individuals are going to wiretap, they need warrants.
Recently we have seen the government come back with Bill C-55, which is on wiretap provisions. The government recognized the need to have warrants.
None of this precludes the issue that already within the court system of this country, if officers believe a life is danger, they can act. They can act without a warrant. That is a reasonable provision. If something is an emergency, if a child's life is at stake, they can act and they can then explain to the judge.
However, we are talking about something different. We are talking about someone who feels that a bunch of young activists from Montreal who come to Toronto for the G20 and get off the bus could be up to no good, and it is perfectly okay to grab them and put them in detention for 24 hours and then decide to maybe let them go. Maybe the demonstration will be over by then.
CSIS has been keeping tabs on young, aboriginal activists. Will they be drawn up in this because CSIS wants a broad sweep? Those were their terms: they wanted a broad sweep.
I tell people back home to really reflect on what the House is being asked to push through. The provisions of law have served us for hundreds of years. They are not arbitrary. We did not just come up with them. They exist because we have seen the abuse of civil rights. We have seen the abuse of individual rights, and we need the clear rule of law.
Even in the case of terrorism, we in the New Democratic Party say that we need the tools. If the government wants tools to go after cyber-terrorists, it should bring in a bill that goes after cyber-terrorists, but it should not bring in a bill that allows it to grab any information on anybody it wants at any time just because. Just because is not good enough.
I find it unfortunate that in the wake of the Boston bombing, that incoherent, horrific act, the government has been widely seen to be trying to force this through. It is wrapping itself in the grief of Boston to push through a bill, with its friends in the Liberal Party, that is undermining the basic rights of Canadians without having ever proven just cause.
In the years these provisions existed under the Liberals, before the Liberals agreed to a sunset clause, they were never used. We see that within the Criminal Code we have numerous provisions to give police the powers they need to go after the bad guys.
We as parliamentarians do not need to be frightened, told by the Conservatives that we all have to jump when they say jump, otherwise we are soft. We are not soft, and we are not soft-headed, unlike our colleagues over in the third party. We stand for the rule of law in this country, and if the government tries to fundamentally alter the political landscape of this country, it needs to prove it.
Second, it needs to stop politicizing it so that when amendments are brought before the committee to ensure, for example, that children are not drawn up in this wide sweep, the Conservatives will say that it is reasonable and that they will protect children.
We asked for amendments to clarify what are terrorists so that a guy in a uniform is not just picking some kid out of a crowd because he looks like he is about to do something. That is not the rule of law. That is what exists in totalitarian countries, and it is the difference between us and them.
Paul Calarco, of the national criminal justice section of the Canadian Bar Association, put it very clearly at committee. He said:
There is no question that the prevention of terrorist action is vital to preserving our society. This requires effective legislation, but also legislation that respects the traditions of our democracy.
Unfortunately, the bill fails to meet either goal.
The issue is the investigative hearings. Someone could be brought before a special judge, and the right to remain silent, which is a fundamental principle, would be taken away without any justification, without a necessary explanation as to why the individual was being stripped of these rights. It would just be on the subjective word of a legal authority.
As well, there is recognizance with conditions and preventative arrest, not just of the people who are suspected but of people who may know them, people who may be their relatives. A peace agent could arrest an individual without a warrant if he or she believed it was necessary and could hold the person for 24 hours. People could then be held for up to a year.
It is incumbent upon us, in the aftermath of this horrific and senseless act in Boston, to say that in civil society, we will not give in to knee-jerk reactions. We will not give in to fear. We will stand with the victims, but we will ensure that they are not used to undermine the very basis of what makes us a civil and progressive and democratic society.
Business of the House
April 18th, 2013 / 3:05 p.m.
Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise to ask the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons the usual Thursday question about what is on the agenda for the rest of this week and for next week.
This week's calendar has once again shown the utter lack of a plan from the government. Of the five days the House was sitting, four have been assigned as opposition days.
Yesterday, the one day the Conservatives actually chose to debate government legislation, they demonstrated once again their total lack of respect and fundamental disregard for Parliament and democracy by shutting down debate after only a few hours.
This was, in fact, the 31st time, in this Parliament alone, the government used the guillotine of shutting down debate, setting the all-time record for any government in Canadian history, in only two years.
The pace the Conservatives are on right now is that once every seven days, the government moves a motion to shut down debate on some bill or another.
Perhaps we will have a chance to discuss the new bill announced earlier this week. This bill has to do with the NDP motion presented on a previous opposition day calling on the government to amend the Canada Elections Act to prohibit tactics like the ones used in Guelph in 2011 aimed at suppressing votes.
As soon as the Conservatives announced that this new electoral reform act was coming, they had to immediately announce that they had to scrap that same plan, as they discovered so many flaws in their own legislation.
This may be reminiscent for Canadians, because they had to change fundamental mistakes in their own immigration bill, Bill C-31. They never even got to Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill. It never saw the light of day. The Conservatives had to wait until its omnibus crime bill got to the Senate before they could fix the fundamental flaws, because they so rushed it through this place with closure.
The government is totally out of ideas and out of gas. I beg the hon. House leader across the way to give us something, anything, that shows us that the Conservatives are doing something for hard-working families and Canadians in our economy.
The Criminal Code
March 19th, 2013 / 4:55 p.m.
François Choquette Drummond, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, which has been introduced in response to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Tse.
This bill is now at third reading and the NDP will support it. The bill finally corrects a number of previous errors. In response to the Supreme Court's decision in R. v. Tse, it amends the Criminal Code to provide for safeguards related to the authority to intercept private communications without prior judicial authorization under section 184.4 of the Code. The bill makes three provisions in particular.
First, 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. Second, it provides that a person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified of the interception within a specified period. Third, it narrows the class of individuals who may make such an interception and, lastly, limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.
We are genuinely pleased that the Conservative government has finally introduced Bill C-55. I say "finally" because the government has dragged its feet on this matter.
This bill refers to the obligation set by the Supreme Court, which revealed a deficiency. There was an imbalance between the right to privacy under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the right to security. There was thus an intrusion of privacy. That is why this bill now strikes a balance between the right to privacy and the right to security.
We now have accountability. Now no one may engage in wiretapping at will, without being accountable. A person who has been wiretapped must be notified within 90 days. Why is this aspect important? Now if an individual who has been wiretapped believes that his or her right to privacy under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been violated, that individual may institute legal proceedings against the individuals in question and seek redress. That will help limit overzealous peace officers.
In addition, the number of individuals who may conduct wiretap will now be limited, a fact that also helps strike a balance.
However, the bill is also a response to a total failure by the Conservative government after it introduced its infamous Bill C-30. That bill constituted a direct attack on people's right to privacy and certainly violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was also drafted by the Conservatives in a wholly improvised manner.
It is very important that the NDP remind the Conservatives how crucially important and even essential it is for them to scrutinize all new bills they table in the House of Commons in future. Those bills will have to be well analyzed and checked, and reviewed by lawyers to be sure that they comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution of Canada.
As a result, the Supreme Court will not be required to hear lengthy and costly cases that waste the precious time of all Canadians. That is essential, and I want to recall that point so that the Conservatives learn a good lesson from it.
It is very important to go through all the stages in a democratic process properly. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have a bad habit of wanting to do everything at lightning speed without due regard to the democratic process.
I need only recall its bad budget implementation legislation, Bills C-38 and C-45, omnibus bills of 400 pages each that prevent us from doing our democratic job and from getting to the bottom of things, just as the notorious Bill C-30 did.
In that case, the bill does not make it through the process to committee stage and is neither examined nor evaluated. If there are any deficiencies or aspects that do not comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or are unconstitutional, we wind up with a botched job and have to turn to the Supreme Court to assert our rights.
That is why the judgment in R. v. Tse is important. I hope it will finally teach the Conservative government a lesson so that it acts in a systematic and democratic manner in future in order to ensure compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution of Canada.
I will go into slightly greater detail on the subject of Bill C-55. This bill requires that an individual whose private communications have been intercepted in situations of imminent harm be notified of the situation within 90 days, subject to any extension of that period granted by a judge. The bill would also require annual reports to be prepared.
The preparation of annual reports on interceptions of telephone surveillance is truly important in determining whether abusive wiretap has taken place and in being able to monitor such wiretaps. The requirement to prepare an annual report will help keep an eye on all that. The reports will also enable other authorities, such as the Office of the Auditor General, to monitor what is being done in that regard to ensure that the act and the spirit of the act are complied with, that there are no abuses of justice and that the privacy of Canadian citizens is respected. Annual reports must be prepared on the manner in which information intercepted under section 184.4 is used.
These amendments would also limit the authorization that police officers are granted to use this provision. As I mentioned, all peace officers currently have access to it. Its use would thus be limited to the offences set out in section 183 of the Criminal Code.
It is very important that there be accountability for this wiretapping. We know that there may be threats or moments when a security breach can suddenly call for warrantless wiretaps. At that point, however, there must be accountability because there must be no serious abuses or violations of citizens' privacy.
On that point, I consider it important to note again that the NDP believes it has a duty to ensure compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that public safety is not undermined.
To sum up, it is important to remember that this new bill is no more than an update of wiretapping provisions that the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional. The court also set new parameters for the protection of privacy.
We believe that the bill meets the standards, and that Canadians have good reasons for apprehension about the Conservatives’ bill with respect to privacy. As I said, their track record in this area is not very impressive. Fortunately, this bill brings balance to the earlier imbalance. We must continue to be vigilant, however.
The NDP will continue to be vigilant with respect to the Conservatives’ bills. In the past, we have seen abuses. We saw abuse in the infamous Bill C-30. We have also seen the familiar dichotomy that the Conservatives love to present, whereby everything is either black or white, but there is no grey, so that is completely false. Bills must be referred to committee for study.
I am happy that my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou has returned to hear my comments, because he quite rightly mentioned just now the importance of committee work, and how essential committee work is to a sound democracy. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. Like my hon. colleague from Beauport—Limoilou, I know how very important this little-known work is. We meet with experts, and we propose amendments and additions to bills to ensure that they are as close to perfect as possible, that they respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution, and that they will be worthwhile and improve the well-being of Canadians in our wonderful country.
In closing, we find Bill C-55 well constructed. We appreciate it, because it finally brings balance between privacy and the need for security. That does not mean that we support all of the Conservatives’ bills. On the contrary, they have introduced abusive and infamous bills in the past. Bill C-30 was a horror—need I say again— because it was an absolute threat to people’s privacy. It was a purely conservative bill in the ideological sense of the term. It was an ideological vision.
I know that members who sit on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights criticized Bill C-30 repeatedly. I further believe that my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou was a member of the committee at the time. No, not quite. However, I know that other colleagues, for example my colleague from Gatineau, worked very hard to criticize the infamous Bill C-30, which was a genuine threat to privacy.
Bill C-30 regrettably demonstrated that the Conservatives can often say outrageous things. Truly outrageous things were said in the House when Bill C-30 was introduced. There were incredible dichotomous comments such as “either you are in favour of security and safety or you are on the side of the pedophiles”. It was a horrible speech with no room for grey areas or other comments. After all that, they backed down on Bill C-30 and introduced a bill that made sense—Bill C-55. I do not often congratulate the Conservatives. They should make the most of it today.
The Criminal Code
March 19th, 2013 / 4:50 p.m.
Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. Obviously I agree with what she says. In the case of Bill C-30, there was a lack of vision, a lack of consultation and a lack of transparency. Fortunately, this piece of legislation was scrapped.
As far as Bill C-55 goes, it took the Supreme Court ruling on the unconstitutionality of the bill for the government to once again set about doing its homework.
Unquestionably, the invasion of privacy is a critically important consideration. Since this bill respects the rule of law and strikes a balance between privacy concerns and investigations that can be carried out, I think it is a step in the right direction and that is what is important.