House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

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Question No. 79
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 79
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

When we broke before question period the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport had the floor, on questions and comments.

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary wish to finish his comments?

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12:05 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord
Québec

Liberal

André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, my comments were in response to my colleague from the New Democratic Party. Thank you, there is no need. I will allow debate to resume.

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12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre wish to respond to the comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport?

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12:05 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, just before question period the member made a statement. He did not actually get to a question, but I would be pleased to address his comments with respect to our concerns when it comes to Bills C-36 and C-42, both of which we consider to be draconian legislation. They do not ensure the balance between protecting people against the threat of terrorism and preserving our fundamental rights and liberties.

We have said before and we will continue to say that we reject any kind of legislation that takes us down the path that leads to Canadians feeling that they are under suspicion, that they are being watched and that the very idea of operating under privacy laws and according to basic human rights principles is not upheld.

Our concerns continue, although we are prepared to send Bill C-44 to committee for consideration. We understand the pressure the government is under as a result of the decree from the United States suggesting that it will not let our airplanes fly in American airspace if we do not produce the passenger lists. We appreciate the dilemma the government is in.

We will send the bill to committee and perhaps even support that provision, holding our noses. We know very well that behind it all is a very insidious attempt to invade people's privacy and to put people under suspicion by virtue of their commitment to speak out on certain issues, to engage in peaceful protest, to practise non-violent demonstrations in this country.

That is our position. That is the dilemma we are faced with today. Where does the government stop? When will it actually refrain from this kind of intrusive, insidious initiative that does not respect our fundamental rights and freedoms which we fought so long and hard for? Did we not learn from the reaction to Japanese Canadians in World War II? Have we not carried that shame long enough? Why do we continue to operate on the basis of treating people with suspicion and bringing that shame to our nation?

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12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was going to say, far be it from me to defend the government, but to equate Bill C-44 with the internment of Japanese in the second world war is more than hyperbole I think.

I have a question on one of the final comments made by the member from Winnipeg. She said that we were following the insidious steps of the United States in the draconian laws that it has in requiring passenger lists. My question is regarding the consistency of the position of the NDP and I am sure she will be glad to answer it.

When debate came up with regard to the World Trade Organization specifically as it has with regard to the meetings in Doha, the NDP said that big international organizations like the World Trade Organization impugn the sovereignty of individual nations to pass their own laws for their own economic, social and national interests.

The United States passed its own aviation security legislation precisely because it viewed accurately after September 11 that it was under attack from terrorists. The U.S. is trying to exercise its own sovereignty over its own national security. Here the NDP is saying that it is somehow an odious thing for the United States to ask foreign countries to respect the statutes that it has to respect its own national security.

How does the NDP hold a consistent view? On the one hand it says we should not have these international organizations because they impugn domestic sovereignty of states. On the other hand when the United States is trying to exercise sovereignty over its national security, the hon. member from the NDP says it is odious. How is that consistent?

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12:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, if the member had listened carefully to my remarks, he would know that he has not at all reflected anything I said in true form. I did not suggest that the measures in Bill C-44 could be equated with the internment of Japanese Canadians, nor did I say that it is the draconian steps of the United States legislation that has led us to this point.

What I did say was that in terms of Bill C-36 and Bill C-42, which are the two umbrella pieces of legislation by the government dealing with anti-terrorism, there are broad sweeping provisions that go beyond the question of ensuring security for Canadians and invade the privacy of people in this country.

I refer the member to the statement made by a United Church minister here in Ottawa who said, “I deplore terrorist acts whoever commits them, but I have deep concerns about Bill C-36 as a response. When we react from emotional fear, we are very likely to make choices which violate human rights. I cite the October crisis, the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II, the McCarthy era in the U.S.A. as examples of what can happen when nations overreact xenophobically to perceived threats”.

That is what I was attempting to suggest to the House. I would hope the member would not misinterpret my comments.

Finally, let me just use the words of one Canadian individual who has written all of us on the issues of Bill C-36 and Bill C-42. She put it so well and so poetically. She said, “If we believe in beauty and compassion and the possibility that good will overcome evil, then we are taking steps in the wrong direction. We are on the brink of selling out almost every important and essential component necessary to realizing our common goals of life, liberty, empowerment of the individual, celebration, joy and creativity”. I think that says it all.

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12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is quite apparent from what my colleagues have said that confusion occurs when a government uses the omnibus bill process to move legislation through the House. It is quite apparent from the comments my colleagues have made that in some of these bills there may be an aspect of things that should and can be supported. Because there is support for some of the amendments, the government also tries to put through other legislative amendments that are not acceptable and are very difficult for Canadians to support. We saw that in Bill C-36 and we see it again in Bill C-42.

The reason for the comments from my colleagues on Bill C-42 is because that is the origin of this section that has now found itself in Bill C-44. This section was originally in Bill C-42 as a measure to advance airline security and to respect the legislation that the United States government passed through its congress.

Quite frankly, it is a fairly good piece of legislation in itself in the one aspect it deals with. I think we will likely find that there is almost unanimous support for this piece of legislation.

If this was the intent by the government or if this is what was necessary in the first place, why did it dump it into an omnibus bill that brings a whole lot of other issues to the table at the same time? This bill should have been introduced by itself without being put in the omnibus bill. That omnibus bill probably should not have seen the light of day. Various sections should be brought to the House that deal specifically with the issues pertaining to defence, the health department or to transport provisions under the Aeronautics Act .

This part of the bill respects the law that the United States has put in place as a result, I would suggest, of the demand by its citizens to respond in some strong measure to answer the concern of safety and feeling secure and confident in using the airlines after September 11. Americans perhaps have more pressure than we do in Canada because they were the victims.

Yes, Canada had individuals who were killed in the towers. Yes, Canada helped the United States in responding to September 11. After visiting Washington and talking to people who lived there and worked in buildings near the Pentagon, we will probably never appreciate the damage that it did to the psyches or souls of Americans or the impact it had on their vulnerability.

Because of that, the American government had to respond in a way so that the American people could feel their government was in control and would prevent this from happening again. In response to that, the American government, the congress, the senate and the administration came up with a very concise and precise bill outlining what safety measures they were going to be taking.

One of them was the requirement for all international flights coming into the United States to provide to competent authorities passenger manifests prior to landing in the United States. That is a legitimate request. As a country, it has the right to ask for that.

Therefore, Bill C-44 was introduced by the government to respond in kind to the American legislation. This legislation will be enacted on January 18, 2002. Because of that, Bill C-44 must also come into effect prior to January 18, 2002 to be in compliance with section 117 of the U.S. aviation and transportation security act.

That is the reason the government removed this section from Bill C-42. Again, if this was timely and an important part of that legislation, then why did it not enter a separate piece of legislation in the House prior to putting Bill C-42 on the table?

The question arises as to what this manifest will contain. Why would a person be concerned about this information being made available? We heard from my colleague from the NDP of how people are concerned about the invasion of their privacy and of information they feel no one has any right to know.

We should make it clear that we are talking about the full name of passengers and crew; the date of birth; the sex; the passport number and country of issuance for each passenger, and crew if necessary; and the U.S. visa number or resident alien card number for each passenger, or crew if applicable. This information must be transmitted by the air carrier to U.S. customs in advance of the aircraft landing.

I do not know that this is really all that invasive. For the most part, this information is pretty widely known and is quite obvious in many cases. However the legislation, other than allowing the manifest to be transmitted before the landing of the aircraft, also permits the disclosure of information to other countries that the cabinet may designate by regulation.

Right now we know the Americans require this in legislation, but we are not aware, or at least I am not aware, of any other countries that might be contemplating similar legislation. I would like to have some idea, and I think Canadians would like to have some idea, of just how widely spread this kind of sharing of information will be.

Another amendment in Bill C-42 relates to changes in the Immigration Act that Canada will require air carriers bringing passengers to Canada to provide similar information by prescribed regulation to Canadian authorities. Obviously what we are doing in Bill C-44 is allowing Canada to send the manifests to the United States and other countries, when we ourselves, in Bill C-42, will be asking for the same kind of manifests to be sent to Canada from carriers bringing people into Canada. It is a quid pro quo and certainly something that is necessary after September 11.

I would like to reiterate that the Americans have reacted this way in a very strong show to their citizens that their government is in control and their government is acting in a very responsible way. Canadians have to realize that this is not new for us and that it will have very little effect, if any, for most Canadian travellers to the United States.

Eighty to ninety per cent of all airline passengers travelling to the United States go through one of seven major airports in Canada where U.S. immigration and customs services conduct pre-clearance before boarding. This pre-clearance basically gives the Americans all the information that they are requiring through legislation now. For most Canadians flying to the United States, this will not be any different than what happens now.

One thing we did hear when we were in Washington was that it had the same problem as we had in Canada where intelligence agencies did not share information with each other. Although this information will be flowing to the United States and to Canada, neither of us have a competent system to deal with that information and ensuring that all agencies, which may have an interest in certain people and threats posed by individuals, have the information in a timely manner. Something we and the Americans have to address is how to use this information, not only in an appropriate manner but in a manner that will make a real difference in the fight against terrorism.

Over a month ago, the coalition proposed a plan on public protection and border management. We put before Canadians and before the government a concept of how intelligence information could be shared, not only with our own agencies but with agencies in the United States as well. We feel this is a very practical approach, an approach that manages intelligence in an effective way, in a way that is useful and meaningful in attacking terrorism and terrorists themselves. We feel our proposal would go a long way to providing a practical application for what the Americans are asking and potentially, through Bill C-42, for what Canadians are asking.

The bottom line with Bill C-44 is that American legislation requires this change for all international flights landing in the United States. A failure to allow Canadian carriers to forward passenger manifests would prevent them from flying into the United States.

I would suggest that Canadians might perceive this legislation as a response to the American demand that Canada put it into practise. The embarrassing thing with this legislation is that it would appear that the Canadian government is once again responding to something coming from the Americans rather than the Canadian government taking a leadership role and putting in place a process that would address this issue. The Canadian government should have shown leadership. It should have shown initiative. It should have stepped out in front of the pack instead of trailing along behind the pack.

I would suggest that the concept put on the table a month ago by the coalition should be given serious consideration. Information collected on airline manifests could be used in a meaningful way and put into a system where it would be dealt with in real time. This would ensure that those individuals, who threaten the security of not only the United States, but of all the free world, could be dealt with in an efficient and expedient manner.

The government will find support for this legislation. We see the need to have this legislation in place. However it is a very small step in the road that has to be travelled to make sure that intelligence information is shared by all necessary agencies and dealt with in an expedient manner to address the issue of terrorist threats.

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12:25 p.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the member has laid out a vision of how security and safety procedures could be enhanced. She knows from her trip to Washington that even the legislation passed by the U.S. on November 19 was rushed. It was a hodgepodge and piecemeal response to the need to have legislation in place by the American Thanksgiving.

The member has been talking about the idea of having over the long term a database with co-operative sharing. This is what we have been supporting. However she then said that the government was not showing leadership by bringing forward this one piece of legislation. She cannot have it both ways.

Would the member like to comment on whether or not she feels that the strategy of any government should take into account longer term security requirements rather than rushing forward irresponsibly with legislation that would not be effective or achievable in the long term?

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12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly feel the government should be always looking at long term planning and at the implementation of plans. If the member had heard my comments, he would realize that I had indicated that Bill C-44 arises out of a very hastily put together Bill C-42 omnibus bill which, I would suggest, should probably not have seen the light of day because it would appear to have been too quickly put together without great consideration for what the ramifications might be.

I would also suggest, in response to his question, that not only did the United States react just to show the citizens that it was out there doing something but this government has done the same thing and could be accused of putting legislation on the table that has not been well thought out, its ramifications have not been well considered and it has done so just to appease Canadians that it is actually doing something.

What I suggested was that Bill C-44 probably should have been addressed long ago, a month or six weeks ago, when the Americans made it quite clear what direction they going. Why is it that this government always has to wait for the Americans to move first rather than being bold and taking steps in front of the Americans in doing what should be done for the good of all Canadians and all North Americans?

My concern is that the government does not show initiative nor a great deal of foresight or planning. It seems to be always running behind and knee-jerk reacting to things that other countries and other people do.

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12:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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12:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?