Evidence of meeting #33 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was carroll.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11 a.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Chad Mariage

Honourable members, I note that there is quorum. Further to the report passed yesterday in the House on the changes to the make-up of House committees, the position of chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics is now vacant.

It is now incumbent upon me as clerk of the committee, pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), to proceed immediately to the election of a chair.

I want to remind members of the committee that the same standing order provides that the chair of this committee be a member of the official opposition.

I'm now ready to receive motions to that effect.

Mr. Angus.

11 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

It is my great honour to nominate Monsieur Pierre-Luc Dusseault as chair.

11 a.m.

The Clerk

Mr. Angus moves that Monsieur Dusseault be elected chair of the committee.

Are there any other motions?

Seeing none, is it the pleasure of the committee to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to)

I declare the motion carried and Monsieur Dusseault duly elected chair of the committee. I invite him to take the chair.

11 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. I would like to thank Mr. Carroll for being here this morning.

As agreed, breaks will be given to the witness upon request at the discretion of the chair. I think 10-minute breaks would be appropriate, at appropriate times, but no more than three or four during the meeting.

Before we continue, for the benefit of our meeting and for the guidance of the committee as a whole, I would like to read a brief excerpt from the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice. The committee members will note that Mr. Carroll is accompanied by his counsel, Paul Champ. This is permitted, based on page 1067-1068 of the French version of O'Brien-Bosc. I'll read from the English version.

Witnesses giving testimony may be assisted by counsel, but they must first seek the committee's permission. Counsel, when permitted, is restricted to an advisory role and may neither ask questions nor reply on the witness's behalf. Counsel is not noted in the Minutes of Proceedings as a witness, but rather as a participant or a person attending as an individual. There are no specific rules governing the nature of questions which may be put to the witnesses appearing before committees, beyond the general requirement of relevance to the issue before the committee. Witnesses must answer all questions which the committee puts to them. A witness may object to a question asked by an individual committee member. However, if the committee agrees that the question be put to the witness, he or she is obliged to reply. On the other hand, members have been urged to display the “appropriate courtesy and fairness” when questioning witnesses. The actions of a witness who refuses to answer questions may be reported to the House.

Having said that, I now invite Mr. Carroll to make his opening statement. He has a maximum of 10 minutes.

Mr. Andrews, do you wish to raise a point of order?

11 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

I'd like to congratulate you on your election as chair. I think we should also recognize Ms. Jean Crowder, the former chair of the committee, for the work she has done. It might be appropriate for the committee to send her a letter thanking her for the work she has done on the committee.

I just thought I'd put that out there before we start.

Congratulations, Mr. Chair.

11 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Thank you.

I now give the floor to Mr. Carroll.

11:05 a.m.

Adam Carroll As an Individual

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and I congratulate you on being elected chair of this committee.

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, committee.

On March 6, 2012 the Speaker ruled the Vikileaks matter closed and found no further reason to investigate. Nevertheless, despite the Speaker's ruling and the procedures of the House, some members of this committee have persisted that I appear.

Indeed, Mr. Chair, your predecessor rightly ruled against the Conservative motion initiating this inquest, but these members showed you and your predecessor the same degree of deference they accorded the Speaker, usurping his and your authority with their own. In doing so they demonstrate disregard for this committee's mandate and the many responsibilities clearly set out in Standing Order 108(3)(h), none of which include the use of House of Commons resources.

Furthermore, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, page 1048, is prescriptive when it comes to the authorities of committees. It states: [Committees] have no independent existence and are not permitted to take action unless they have been authorized/empowered to do so by the House.

The Speaker ruled, the chair ruled, the House of Commons Procedure and Practice ruled. So let me remind everybody that under normal circumstances we would not be here today.

However, I agreed to voluntarily appear for two simple reasons. First is my respect for Parliament, and second is to bring this matter to a close.

I will provide a brief summary about what I did and what motivated me to act. I will then be prepared to answer questions related to the supposed reason for this meeting, my use of House of Commons resources. However, I want to be very clear about a few things. I am Vikileaks30. I, and I alone, am the author of that Vikileaks posting site. I was never ordered nor asked to do it. I never discussed my actions with any member of Parliament, including the interim leader of the Liberal Party. I acted on my own. All information posted was already on the public record, obtained from accessible sources.

Now allow me to recall some of the chronology for the purposes of context. On February 13, 2012 Minister Vic Toews, in addressing his online spy bill, infamously challenged all Canadians to “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.” Like most Canadians I was deeply offended by the minister's aggressive and needlessly polarizing language.

The following day, February 14, 2012, Mr. Toews introduced Bill C-30, but not before changing, seemingly at the last second, the title of the bill to the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.

I'm not alone in believing that Bill C-30 is a sweeping piece of legislation that will allow the Canadian government to routinely invade the privacy of Canadians by monitoring their activity on the Internet. For many Canadians like me, personal privacy is a fundamental civic and human right. It goes to the very core of our personal dignity and identity.

I was raised in a culture that cherishes freedoms and rights, a people who have, in living memory, learned the hard way what is at risk if we do not stand up for our rights and our freedoms.

Given the haste with which bills are passed under the current government, and given its refusal to consider amendments to its bills, it seemed that this bill was all but passed. I felt compelled to urgently bring public attention to the threat Bill C-30 would pose to our rights and our privacy.

I took an approach that, put simply, argued that if the minister felt strongly that he should know everything about us, perhaps we should know a little more about the man who wants unrestricted access to our information. To make the point further, everything I posted was from publicly available documents. If publicly available information could in its retelling be uncomfortable, imagine what could be done with one's private information.

Indeed, none of the information posted was secret or private. In fact, most of it had already been published in various media. Divorce details, for example, had been reported dozens of times. This was especially the case in 2008 when the minister was rumoured to be soliciting support for a judicial appointment.

The same day the bill was introduced, February 14, 2012, I assembled publicly available affidavits, a list of notable quotes, election overspending court documents, and proactive disclosure data. From my home I set up a Twitter account called Vikileaks with the address @vikileaks30, a direct reference to Bill C-30. I transcribed portions of the affidavits and other documents. From this list of brief quotes I made five postings that evening. The record of these postings will show that these were done in the evening, after work hours.

On February 15, 2012, I quickly and easily cut and pasted a few dozen more postings from my list. I concede that these were done at work. That evening, at home, I created a spreadsheet detailing expenses as well as details from Mr. Toews' election overspending conviction. Again, this was all publicly available information.

On February 16, 2012, I made approximately two dozen postings on Vikileaks.

It was also on that day that I received an email, which I later learned was from the Ottawa Citizen, fishing for my IP address. The next day, February 17, 2012, the Ottawa Citizen published its story on the IP addresses. It was clear that a witch hunt had begun.

Innocent people were needlessly and unfairly accused, including the NDP and a specific employee of the House of Commons. To avoid further harm to them and others, I shut down the account, but not before I made it clear that the wrong people were being targeted.

It was also on that day that the Speaker's office initiated an investigation, although no laws had been broken nor was there any evidence that any policies had been breached. In fact, there are plenty of examples of House of Commons IP addresses being used to edit Wikipedia pages, both to vandalize and to whitewash them. There are also numerous examples of House of Commons resources being used to attack the actions of other members of Parliament, but to my knowledge, the Speaker's office has never investigated those activities.

The irony is not lost on me that the Speaker of the House used his powers to trace my personal IP address and my personal online activity. This is precisely what the online spying bill will do to everybody.

Before I conclude, I want to thank my family, my friends, my lawyer Paul Champ, and the many Canadians who have reached out to me with their support. It has been a very difficult time for me personally, for reasons known and unknown. However, I want to point out again that all of the information I posted was from publicly available documents. Everything I did was perfectly legal. I take full responsibility for my actions.

Ultimately, I hope my experience prompts further awareness of the threats to our personal privacy and the critical importance of defending our freedoms and rights. Bill C-30 is not gone. The reaction of Canadians has forced this government to delay their plans, but the bill is still sitting on the table and will most likely be back. And when that day comes, I urge Canadians to stand up to this government and fight for our collective right to privacy.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Thank you, Mr. Carroll.

We will now start the seven-minute question-and-answer round with Mr. Angus.

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

At the outset, I want to congratulate you on your appointment. I think you're going to be an excellent chair of our committee. Now that you're not on this side, I'm actually going to have to do a lot more work because you did so much work for us when you were a committee member, but I want to congratulate you on your appointment.

I'd like to thank you for coming, Mr. Carroll.

I'll say at the outset that there are many governments in this world that use the power of the majority to attack their political enemies. It's not normally the Westminster tradition, except under this government, and we've seen this committee misused many times. I don't believe it's appropriate that you are here, but this is the power of this government—the use of its majority and abuse of parliamentary procedure—so we will deal with the fact that the Speaker ruled this issue closed, and our committee chair ruled this issue closed, and yet we are going back before it.

From the New Democratic point of view, we are just interested in getting some facts on the record so we can put this unsavoury issue to bed.

Was the IP address that was tracked a home address, or a work address, or a BlackBerry address?

11:15 a.m.

As an Individual

Adam Carroll

Thank you, Chair, for the question.

The IP address that was tracked by the Ottawa Citizen was a House of Commons desktop computer address.

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay. So you used your desktop computer for that.

Now, were you working in the interim leader's office? What was your position in the Liberal Party before your resignation?

11:15 a.m.

As an Individual

Adam Carroll

My position with the interim leader's office was caucus resources manager.

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay.

I didn't ever look at Vikileaks, but there was a huge online media backlash against Bill C-30 and, in particular, the actions of Minister Toews and the rather flagrant disregard he seemed to show for average Canadians with his accusation that anybody who believed in privacy rights was somehow a child pornographer. I think that struck a lot of Canadians and gave rise to justifiable anger by Canadians to push back, and we saw a huge online response.

What was it that separated Vikileaks30 from the massive online Twitter response that we saw? What was it that you were setting out to accomplish?

11:15 a.m.

As an Individual

Adam Carroll

I think, going back and looking at that period, the Vikileaks postings occurred prior to the full Internet backlash, predating maybe by 24 or 48 hours the “Tell Vic Everything” hashtag and some of the other activities that ultimately became big news.

At the time, as I mentioned in my opening statement, it was simply to bring public attention to the dangers of the bill.

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay. I see.

So it predated “Tell Vic Everything”, but there was a huge online backlash against this bill from the get-go, from the moment the Conservative government changed the name of the bill at the last minute to try to divert Canadians' attention from the fact that this was about spying on average Canadians. At the eleventh hour, they attempted to turn this into a bill that was suddenly protecting children from child pornographers. That whole response....

Now, you said that everything in Vikileaks was true. So you were providing the unsavoury details of Minister Toews' divorce. That was part of it. You mentioned his conviction for election fraud in the province of Manitoba. Where did you get these documents?