Evidence of meeting #28 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was security.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

March 15th, 2012 / 12:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First of all, thank you for the very useful information.

I have a question specifically for Ms. O'Brien about breaches of privilege, as was the case here.

I read in your excellent document that in a case in which—and this has happened in the past—it is recognized that there was a breach of privilege, but there's no way of identifying the source, nothing more can be done. A breach of privilege is recognized, and that's all.

In this case, it is quite clear that there was a breach of privilege, given that the minister received threats specifically related to his work. In fact, he was being asked to withdraw the bill. That being said, I think that Anonymous, as was said earlier, is something intangible. We can't even say it is an organization, because anyone can claim to be Anonymous and put that label on their actions. It is not an organized group taking concerted actions or something like that.

In this case, are we not in a situation where, because we won't be able to find the source, it will be impossible to take action?

12:10 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

Mr. Chair, I think Ms. Latendresse is entirely correct. I can't see how you could identify a person or persons responsible for the threats against the minister.

As you say so well, because it is not even an organized group, anyone can use the name Anonymous, which is even encouraged by the people marketing it. In my opinion, there isn't much we can do about that.

However, I am dedicated to the institution of Parliament. Based on this morning's discussion, everyone seems to believe, as I was saying earlier to Mr. Garneau, that a line was crossed by Anonymous. Threats were used, which is unacceptable.

One of the things I learned this morning is that the group apparently sponsors certain malicious websites. If you oppose a bill, you are given instructions to express your opposition. In fact, they don't really help you send an email to the minister to express your disagreement; instead, they have you send something else that, suddenly, triggers a malicious process. Some people who are opposed to a bill, who may be of good faith and who would like to voice their opposition, may unfortunately find themselves on such sites.

I will say again that there needs to be education. It would be important for a report by the committee to indicate to citizens that we want them to be engaged and to participate in the political debate, but that they mustn't be fooled by things they may not understand. You have to be careful. Signing petitions and sending emails is fine. However, it is not always that simple.

I would like to clarify the following point. Mr. Bard said that 70% of emails are not sent to parliamentarians. It is important to specify what an email campaign is; they are done in certain ridings or regions and are perfectly legitimate. I'm talking about emails that have an address: that is acceptable. However, when an address is not identifiable, we have a case that is part of the 70%. I wouldn't want people to think that many emails on a given subject will not arrive because someone decided to clean up.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

In fact, all members receive a lot of these emails, which are legitimate.

12:15 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

Absolutely.

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Thank you.

Mr. Zimmer.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you for coming today. I appreciate your being here.

For the public's benefit, I think there are really two issues here: cyber-bullying, as I call it, and security.

I'll talk specifically about the cyber-bullying. I think there's a perception in the public that to some extent we politicians are unaccessible. I certainly have a Twitter account. I have a Facebook account. I think there is a perception, especially with Anonymous—and I haven't had a dialogue with Anonymous before—that it appears that things are escalating. I guess I would challenge the public and say: “Dialogue with us. We're approachable. Start off with a dialogue, as opposed to jumping to that higher level immediately.” I just would challenge them to do that.

I have a question about security, though. We're Canadians and we have good security systems as well, but do we consult with other entities—the CIA, the FBI, and Scotland Yard—to see what they're doing? Do we have that interaction?

12:15 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

I'll turn it over to the CIO in a moment, but first of all let me say that I couldn't agree with you more. The idea of entering into a conversation and a dialogue with our political representatives, whether it be for or against a particular measure, is one that I think is entirely laudable.

Mr. Hawn I think said it very well about the people who engage in this kind of threatening situation, like Anonymous: it's a cowardly thing to do.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Right.

12:15 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

It has nothing to do with real political engagement.

With regard to the cyber-bullying and the question of security, I mentioned earlier that CSE, the Communications Security Establishment, is basically the authority here in Canada that is set up to look specifically at cyberthreats. They obviously have a network internationally with the Americans and with the United Kingdom.

We are, through our contact specifically with CSE, privy to the kinds of best practices that are being developed, and really all around the world, because I think every parliament is wrestling with this business of accessibility and openness versus the kind of bad situation that's faced with groups like Anonymous.

Perhaps, Louis, you have something to add.

12:15 p.m.

Chief Information Officer, House of Commons

Louis Bard

As indicated in what Madame O'Brien is saying, there is no doubt that CSE is the prime vehicle we are working with, because of their role. CSE has been very good in helping us in the choice of technologies, how to do monitoring, and all of that, and also they give us a heads-up on things that are happening. There's the RCMP, and also other vehicles within the federal government, such as ITSB and all of the shared services and all of those elements, that are good.

At the same time, my main focus is more on the tools, on the means and things like that, and we deal with all kinds of industries around the world to understand what's going on. Also, we have been visiting other parliaments and other institutions. As well, I went with Mr. Vickers to visit some security organizations in the States to also understand what they are doing. We're doing everything we can. Every piece of information and literature that we can put our hands on is part of what we do every day.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Thanks.

I have one last question from a colleague. We're curious to know if it is possible for a particular hacker to put something onto a computer. Is that possible? It could be a false piece of information or a false document or something like that. I guess it would be similar to a virus. Is it possible to do that?

12:15 p.m.

Chief Information Officer, House of Commons

Louis Bard

There is no doubt that through attachments and through all kinds of things everything is possible. We have identified some very complex infection structures. As an example, they will connect to your PC and will try to make other connections, or import other material, or copy what is on your desktop. We've seen all kinds of shapes and forms of this and that. In every instance, we've been the first ones detecting this on Parliament Hill and have been able to inform our peers.

What I'm trying to be careful about is not to become a fishing expedition for other partners; that is not my job here. But yes, there are all kinds of possibilities. I can guarantee you that we are doing very extensive monitoring. When we see anomalies, we are very, very quick to call the members of Parliament. In each instance, I would say that members have been 99.9% very cooperative. Members, ministers' offices, whips' offices, caucuses, and caucus research--everybody is very, very cooperative.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Thank you.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Do I have more time?