Debates of Dec. 6th, 2001
House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.
- Canada's Performance 2001
- Government Response to Petitions
- Excise Act, 2001
- Committees of the House
- Aeronautics Act
- Criminal Code
- Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
- Violence Against Women
- Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute
- Violence Against Women
- Most Reverend Jean-Guy Hamelin
- Violence Against Women
- Violence Against Women
- Violence against Women
- Acts of Bravery
- Gary Merlin
- École polytechnique
- Auditor General's Report
- Auditor General's Report
- Employment Insurance
- Guaranteed Income Supplement
- Employment Insurance
- Copyright Act
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Auditor General's Report
- Older Workers
- Business Development Bank of Canada
- Violence Against Women
- Auditor General's Report
- Port Facilities
- Aboriginal Affairs
- International Trade
- Business of the House
- Criminal Code
- An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
- Business of the House
- An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
- Business of the House
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Parliament of Canada Act
The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.
December 6th, 2001 / 11:20 a.m.
Lucienne Robillard for the Minister of Transport
moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members
Some hon. members
(Motion agreed to)
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?
Some hon. members
Lucienne Robillard for the Minister of Transport
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport
The central purpose of this bill is to enable Canadian air carriers to work constructively with their international partners in conducting an effective fight against terrorism.
The bill obviously is in response not to all of the countries affected by this war, but specifically to the U.S. bill entitled the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. In this bill, we are asked to work with the U.S. commissioner of customs and provide all relevant information needed to bring this fight to an end.
As the Minister of Transport has said on several occasions, it is the prerogative of a sovereign country, like our neighbour to the south, to request vital information so we can together put an end to this extremely difficult task of fighting international terrorism.
Our American counterparts have yet to spell out the details they require, but it will not be long. They will soon define the most essential criteria that will allow them, and us too, to fight terrorism effectively.
The most important consideration is that this U.S. measure comes into force on January 18. There is therefore an absolutely inescapable time constraint. The government, through the Minister of Transport, must act quickly so our carriers can deliver the goods quickly and continue to assume their responsibilities, for the very important economic recovery aided by the air carriers.
Unlike many of our international colleagues in work on economic development, Canada has a Privacy Act, which currently prevents us from collaborating more openly to meet U.S. demands.
Obviously, we had to check closely—and I wish to pay tribute to my colleagues on the committee—with the privacy commissioner that Bill C-44 was consistent with his mandate to protect privacy. The commissioner, according to a study that was considered important, had to deal with restrictions. He initially suggested amendments to the bill.
I had the opportunity to move an amendment in which the commissioner stresses that, regarding information asked on a very short term by our U.S. colleagues and by other countries, in terms of privacy, we will obviously have to invoke, national security, public security and collective defence.
The role of the commissioner has been extremely important and the amendment we have moved allows these requirements to be met.
The committee obviously had a lot to do to rapidly meet these requirements. I wish to thank and congratulate my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Transport. They worked in an extremely efficient way. I had the opportunity to appreciate the quality of the input of all my colleagues on the committee. I can assure you that it is quite impressive to see the seriousness with which all my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Transport worked.
I am convinced that Bill C-44 will meet those important requirements and allow us to satisfy our international colleagues, while respecting the rights and privacy of citizens.
This was done in co-operation with the privacy commissioner but most of all with all my colleagues on the committee. Once again, I thank them. I want to pay tribute to them for the quality of the work they did on the Standing Committee on Transport.
Of course, I am pleased to start debate on the bill at third reading. I am convinced that we will be able to pass this bill before the House rises for recess, since the Americans have decided that, by January 16, we should be able to meet their minimum requirements regarding a thorough screening of travellers entering their territory. I believe this is a highly sovereign demand on the part of the U.S. government and we should be able to respond in a constructive way.
James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the presentation by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport. I rise to speak in favour of Bill C-44.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, on both sides of the 49th parallel, there has been a blur of legislative activity. In the United States, a mere 10 days after the horrendous attacks, Senator Ernest Hollings of South Carolina introduced Bill S-1447, the aviation and transportation security act.
In one bold act, congress sought to restore the confidence of the American flying public. Passengers, baggage, mail and cargo were to be screened. In flight crew were mandated new training to deal with air rage and terrorist crisis management. Air marshals appeared on U.S. flights. A complex passenger profiling system was enhanced and improved.
Despite an anthrax attack on Capitol Hill, which shut down congressional offices, consensus was quickly reached to prove that, while America led an impressive fight against terrorism abroad, the fight at home would be just as vigorous. The bill moved through both houses of congress faster than a rumour went through our parliamentary press gallery. President Bush signed the bill into law a mere eight weeks after its introduction.
In Canada the blur of activity was akin to the way tires spin in the first winter snowstorm: lots of noise, a little bit of smoke, but little action. The government was about as agile and as surefooted as a newborn calf. Unlike the calf, both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport are seasoned professional politicians with nearly 50 years of parliamentary experience between them. The lack of leadership would have been funny if it were not so dangerous.
The Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations was promptly mandated to look into aviation security. However the government quickly sent what it saw as more urgent matters in terms of legislation to the House. The Civil Aviation Tribunal needed to be extended to cover mariners and Air Canada's 15% share limit needed to be raised so that those who owned less than 10% of its shares could somehow be encouraged to buy more. Yet we do not know of a single current shareholder who owns the 10% limit who wants to buy more.
The Warsaw convention of 1929 also needed to be updated to deal with the realities of the third millennium. High priorities all, but top priorities for the air industry and Canadians they are not at all.
I must not omit the fact that the standing committee was paying some attention to the matter of aviation security. However, while witnesses from Air Canada, the pilots association and CUPE were advocating air marshals and other security measures, the government was desperately trying to be seen to be acting without in any way being sure what it wanted to achieve or how.
Then on the eve of the standing committee's scheduled November 26 and 27 trip to Washington, D.C., the rumour mill began to swirl with promises of action. On November 20, at about 5.25 in the evening, the government House leader sought unanimous consent to suspend the standing orders and introduce a government bill at 2 p.m. the next afternoon. The bill, an act to amend certain acts of Canada and to enact measures for implementing the biological and toxin weapon convention in order to enhance public safety, would be complex and a briefing would be offered.
Two months had passed since Senator Hollings introduced the aviation and transportation security act and there was now a flicker of hope that our government would finally react with some real legislation.
At 2 o`clock in the afternoon of November 21, the promised bill was nowhere in sight. Last minute problems delayed its introduction. In fact Bill C-42 was introduced the next day, on November 22, and contained some 19 parts dealing with everything from money laundering to the implementation of a 1977 treaty on biotoxins with a miniature section on aviation security thrown in for good measure and optics.
With the same deft touch that marked the bill's introduction, last Wednesday at 3.05 p.m., within a week of first reading of Bill C-42 in the House, the government House leader was again on his feet to state that unanimous consent had been obtained and required to delete section 4.83 in clause 5 from that bill and introduce a new bill, introducing that section immediately. Furthermore, the new bill would be ordered for consideration at second reading for last Friday, November 30, less than two sitting days later.
The House ran out of things to say not long after that and there were calls to adjourn early. On the one hand, the government agenda is light, but the need to add the contents of section 4.83 in clause 5 of the former Bill C-42 of the Aeronautics Act was urgent. Given the recent directionless “hurry up and wait” antics of the government, we have to wonder why one clause is worth so much haste.
There is a saying that everything makes sense. In other words, if we examine a situation long enough, hard enough and carefully enough in the fullness of time, everything will make sense. For this reason we need to look at the clauses in Bill C-42 which deal with the type of information an airline or other transport authority may provide to authorities.
Essentially there are three clauses. First, section 5, clause 4.82 would allow the Minister of Transport to require any air carrier to provide the minister with information that is in the air carrier's control concerning the persons on board or expected to be on board an aircraft for any flight where the minister believed there is a threat to that flight and therefore the public.
Second, section 5, clause 4.83 would allow a Canadian airline operating an international flight to a foreign state to provide a competent authority of that state any information that is in its control relating to persons on board or expected to be on board the aircraft and that is required by the laws of the foreign state.
Third, section 69 adds a new section 88.1 to the Immigration Act. The new section reads:
A transportation company bringing persons to Canada shall, in accordance with the regulations, provide prescribed information, including documentation and reports.
The summary, which accompanied Bill C-42, described the first two clauses as requiring air carriers or persons who operated aviation reservation systems to provide information to the minister concerning specified flights or persons. The same summary stated that the purpose of the third clause was to require transportation companies bringing persons to Canada to provide prescribed information which would enhance the department's ability to perform border checks and execute arrest warrants. In fact, clauses 4.82 and 4.83 of section 5 had a different purpose than section 69, so perhaps it is not a complete surprise that they address different types of information. It may, however, come as a surprise to some member in the House that airlines maintain two different types of files on their passengers.
The first is called the passenger name record, or PNR. This is the file that the airline creates when it reserves a flight for a passenger. It contains information such as the passenger's name, address, phone number and form of payment. It also contains the information on the reservation itself, such as boarding city, destination, connections, flight numbers, dates, stops and seat assignment. Based on this information the manifest is prepared for each flight showing who is sitting where. Routinely, at present, this is the type of information that is handed over to the authorities whenever there is an airline accident.
The second type of information is the APIS, or advanced passenger information system data. It includes only five data fields: passenger name; date of birth; citizenship, nationality, document issuing country; gender; and passport number or document number. Other than the passenger's name, this information is not normally collected by the airlines. In fact, unless passports are machine readable, much of this information has to be entered manually. For this reason, airlines only collect it when they have to provide it to immigration authorities. Currently the United States requires this type of information for U.S. bound Asian passengers transiting through Vancouver under the Canada-U.S. memorandum of understanding which allows such passengers to go to U.S. customs without first passing through Canadian customs.
It is my understanding that clauses 4.82 and 4.83 of section 5 of Bill C-42 would have required the airlines to give the PNR information to the Minister of Transport and that section 69 would have required them to give APIS information to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
Let us contrast this with the U.S. legislation. There, the new aviation and transportation security act mandates the administrator of the federal aviation administration to require air carriers to expand the application of the current computer assisted passenger prescreening system, CAPPS, to all passengers, regardless of baggage. In addition, passengers selected under this system are subject to additional security measures, including checks of carry on baggage and person before boarding. In effect both the PNR and APIS information are sent electronically to the U.S. customs service super computer in Newington, Maryland. There the CAPPS system which they have developed enables the passenger profiling that keeps America's skies safe. The United States is actively fighting its war on terrorism. It is walking the talk, unlike what we see from this government.
Thus it is instructional to read section 115 of America's aviation and transportation security act. It reads:
Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, each air carrier and foreign air carrier operating a passenger flight in foreign air transportation to the United States shall provide to the commissioner of customs by electronic transmission a passenger and crew manifest containing the information specified in paragraph (2). Carriers may use the advanced passenger information system...
(2) INFORMATION-A passenger and crew manifest for a flight required under paragraph (1) shall contain the following information:
(A) The full name of each passenger and crew member.
(B) The date of birth and citizenship of each passenger and crew member.
(C) The sex of each passenger and crew member.
(D) The passport number and country of issuance of each passenger and crew member if required for travel.
(E) The United States visa number or resident alien card number of each passenger and crew member, as applicable.
(F) Such other information as the Under Secretary, in consultation with the Commissioner of Customs, determines is reasonably necessary to ensure aviation safety.
(3) PASSENGER NAME RECORDS-The carriers shall make passenger name record information available to the customs service upon request.
I would like, now, to consider the text that Bill C-44, which we are debating today, would add to the Aeronautics Act:
Despite section 5 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, to the extent that section relates to obligations set out in Schedule 1 to that Act relating to the disclosure of information, an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada or of a Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada may, in accordance with the regulations, provide to a competent authority in a foreign state any information that is in its control relating to persons on board or expected to be on board the aircraft and that is required by the laws of the foreign state.
If we boil it down to its essentials, it reads that an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada, or of a Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside of Canada, may provide to a competent authority any information that is required by the laws of that foreign state relating to persons on board.
For example, the words “operator of an aircraft departing from Canada” in Bill C-44 would allow Air Canada to give the U.S. customs service the information that section 115, which I read, of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act mandates with respect to passengers on its transborder routes.
Similarly, the words “Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada” would permit Air Canada to give the same information with respect to its flights from Australia and New Zealand to Honolulu en route to Canada.
Members will remember that I said that everything in the end makes sense. Just as I was trying to figure why, after several aborted attempts by the government to improve aviation security in Canada, Bill C-44 was being rushed through with such haste, I had a look at section 115 of the U.S. aviation and transportation security act. There are two concepts that are very important.
First, it applies to both U.S. and foreign carriers flying to the United States from other countries. Therefore, it applies to Air Canada and charter flights operated by WestJet, Air Transat and Sky Service.
Second, section 115 comes into force not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the act, which was signed by President Bush on November 19. That means that it will come into force on January 18, 2002, while the House is still not back in session from its Christmas break. Therefore, as I understand it, if Canadian carriers are to comply with U.S. legislation, the House has to add the text of clause 4.83 to the Aeronautics Act before we rise mid next week.
The reason we are discussing this clause in the legislation today is not because of any desire, as was said by the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Transport, by the government to make our skies safer or to show leadership through decisive action, but because the United States acted and Canada's airlines told the government that if they could not lead, at least they should try to follow the U.S. and do so quickly.
Canadians can thank the United States congress for the bill. To the extent that it keeps our skies safer, no credit should go to the government but to the air industry for leaning on the government to follow the United States.
In the meantime, about the broader question of airport and airline security, Canadians are still left waiting and wondering when a hint of leadership may tumble out of the government and onto some legislation. It has been 14 weeks since the terrorist attacks and no serious legislative action has yet been taken by the government.
It sure makes one wonder. We have: an airport security system that has been clearly documented to be inadequate in terms of security; new security regimes being put in place in countless other countries; public demand for new security systems; air carrier demands for new management of airport security; pilot and fright crew demands for a new security regime, not to mention terrorist attacks; a massive drop in consumer confidence in flying; and a war. If this environment is not enough to inspire action from the government on air security, one has to wonder if it will ever get up off its backside and show some real leadership.
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
I would like to help Quebecers and Canadians who are listening understand how it is that Bill C-42 ended up being introduced in the House on November 22, 2001. This bill is 98 pages in length. The bill is considered to be a measure of extreme urgency. This is the second anti-terrorist bill, the first one being Bill C-36.
Thanks to the Bloc Quebecois' actions, particularly questions to the government on the relevance of Bill C-42, it became clear that the only true measure in Bill C-42 that needs to be dealt with in a hurry is the one which became Bill C-44, a bill that is one page long. Bill C-44, which we are discussing today, is essentially a measure to align Canadian legislation with that of the U.S.
I will come back to this, because since September 11, all this government has done is harmonize our policy and procedures with the U.S., because it has no initiative, nor has it ever had any.
All this government does, is go along with what is done elsewhere. Obviously, one can understand that when events as tragic as those that occurred in the United States happen, it is our duty, as neighbours, to adopt security measures.
We would hope and wish that all of these security measures would respect the rights and freedoms of Quebecers and Canadians, rights that are so important to our democratic society which, we hope, preserves our personal rights and freedoms at all times.
If ever we were to violate these rights, we would quite simply be conceding to terrorists. Once again, they would win if we were to make any significant changes that would result in a violation of our rights and freedoms. That is what the Liberal government has been doing since this crisis.
In the end, the week of November 22 was a difficult week for the Liberal government. First, there was Bill C-36. For two weeks now, since November 22 when the bill was introduced in the House and debate was stifled, the Liberal government has gagged debate on this bill, the first antiterrorist bill for which more than 80 witnesses were heard.
In the end, the government passed the bill, in spite of the recommendations and in spite of the 66 very relevant amendments moved by the Bloc Quebecois. In particular, we were asking a sunset clause to be included in this anti-terrorist bill, which was obviously aimed at limiting the rights of Quebecers and Canadians.
We all felt, like the majority of the witnesses who appeared before the committee, that this bill had to cease to be in force after three years. We see what is happening elsewhere, in other societies and in other countries. We should already plan an end to this bill, which would compel us to review it in its entirety. In the meantime, again, the Bloc Quebecois moved an amendment requiring an annual review of the bill to ensure that rights and freedoms are respected.
Of course, the Liberal government rejected all these amendments. It would much rather keep on violating rights and freedoms as much as possible and appropriating all the power it can.
We always wonder why a government that should be working in the best interests of its population acts in such a way. I keep telling our listeners that we have to be careful because a government always want to control things.
In Bill C-36, the government made sure it had control over pretty well everything, including the rights and freedoms of the people in this country, especially Quebec, which concerns me. It is difficult when the ministers, who have made statements in the House on Bills C-36, C-42 and C-44, tell us we will be able to exercise our rights in committee, we will be able to make amendments there and they will listen to us there. But this is not the case. This is the harsh reality for our viewers.
The government does not listen to us. It listens to itself. It does not even listen to the recommendations of its own members. There are members of the Liberal Party who were opposed. Some did not vote for Bill C-36.
Today in the papers, a Liberal member was very critical of Bill C-42. So, obviously, we are not the only ones defending the rights and freedoms of people in Quebec and Canada.
Few people in the Liberal Party, only one member in fact, since the advent of the important Bills C-36 and C-42, have opposed the direction taken by the Liberal government. It is all to his credit, but it reflects very badly on all the others who blithely follow the recommendations of officials and, more importantly, the directives of ministers. That is what is hard to accept.
This is what the citizens of Quebec and Canada must understand. They are lucky, in the end, there are still opposition parties in the House that can ask the right questions and, more importantly, hold the real debates, which do not take place in the House. The real debates are in the media, through the media, which have stepped in because that is the way it works here in the House.
We are not heard. Our amendment proposals are not heard. Once again, the media hear the recommendations and especially the real substantive debates contributed by the opposition parties.
A very important substantive debate, initiated by the Bloc, among others, in fact by my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm, was the one on Bill C-36. The debate is not over yet. Daily resolutions arrive in our offices in protest over Bill C-36. The people of Quebec and Canada call on us daily to oppose Bill C-36, but it was passed in the House.
Even if we wanted to help them, we can no longer do so. There was a gag order. The Liberal government, unilaterally, put an end to discussions on Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act. Yet, the day after, there was no debate in the House for two hours because there was nothing to debate. This is the harsh reality. We have to live with that every day.
Earlier we had a substantive discussion the hon. member for Champlain initiated on the sad situation of some 278,000 seniors who are deprived of the guaranteed income supplement simply because they are not unaware that they are entitled to it. A House committee, which includes Liberal members, has unanimously put this terrible situation before the House.
Today the hon. member for Champlain wanted to debate the issue. Of course, the government has once again forced, by a vote, an end to the debate. Therefore, we were unable to learn the positions of the members of the Liberal Party, the Canadian Alliance or other opposition parties on this terrible issue where 230,000 seniors, men and women, have been for many years deprived of money they are entitled to. That is the harsh reality members of parliament have to deal with.
We try to initiate debates in the House. Today the government forced us to vote on having the House proceed to the orders of the day. Of course, once again, the harsh reality is that debates will be delayed. Meanwhile, just before the holiday season, there are seniors, men and women, who will not get such big sums, which would ensure them to enjoy a nice holiday season. The Liberal government chose not to hold a debate on this substantive report, which pointed to the existence of this tragic situation.
Again, I thank the Bloc Quebecois member for Champlain, who raised that issue. He held a press conference to highlight this sad situation, where 230,000 Canadians, men and women, including 64,000 Quebecers, who are entitled to income supplement, are not getting that money.
This is over $3.2 billion that the government kept unjustifiably and that belongs to them. The government cannot tell us today that it is unable to reach them. When it wants them to go voting, when it is doing the census, it goes knocking on their doors and gets them.
However, when the time comes to help them and give them what is owed to them—this is not money that they owe the government; it is money that the government owes them—what the Liberal government does is hide the money, through all kinds of forms that are so complicated that, eventually, people are unable to submit them or, in the case of some seniors, they cannot even read them.
These past two weeks have been very difficult for the Liberal government, which is not listening at all to the people, which is not listening at all to the thoughtful and smart recommendations that may come from opposition parties, and even from its own ranks.
Bill C-42 was introduced in the House on November 22. We had a difficult debate on this bill. Right from the start, the Bloc Quebecois was able to clearly read the intentions of the government, especially concerning major powers that it is now giving to ministers, and them alone. These are powers delegated to ministers, including the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Agriculture and other ministers in this House, powers to take interim orders without being subject to parliamentary procedure.
In this regard, when regulations are prepared, there is a very important procedure requiring that regulations be submitted to the Privy Council so that it can ensure that they are in accordance with the charter of rights and freedoms. Ministers have been given the power to take interim orders. This obviously goes against the whole parliamentary procedure.
Quebecers and Canadians who are listening should be aware that, were it not for the Bloc Quebecois and other opposition parties, Bill C-42 would have been passed before the holiday season. The government was determined to ram Bill C-42 through the House. Finally, when direct questions were put to the leader of the government by the Bloc Quebecois and others as to what could not have been done on September 11 that could now be done under the bill, no answer was forthcoming.
The only answer we got about Bill C-44 was “The Americans have their requirements. They want to check the information on passengers. If we want Canadian airlines to do business in the United States, they will have to provide the information required by the American government”.
Naturally, we asked questions to the government House leader. Among other things, we asked him why the urgent provisions would not be included in a separate bill, since we have to meet the requirements of the American legislation by January 18. That is why we have Bill C-44 before us today, and I obviously have comments to make on this bill.
But I have more to say about Bill C-42. When this legislation was introduced in the House, we were opposed to these interim orders which, without any input from the House, give discretionary powers to ministers and even allow the Minister of National Defence to create military security zones without the authorization, which has normally always been required, of the provincial governors in council. Thus, it is an exceptional power that is given only to the Minister of National Defence.
For the benefit of our listeners, let me quote from an article published in today's La Presse , that sums up well the position of one Liberal member. Manon Cornellier, from the La Presse bureau in Ottawa, wrote:
If Bill C-42 on public security is not amended, the Liberal member for Mount Royal told Le Devoir that he will have to vote against it. He thus becomes the first government member to show publicly his disagreement with this legislation.
The problem with this legislation is that it upsets the balance between the executive, parliamentary and judiciary arms. More powers are given to the executive.
Of course, the article refers to the Liberal member for Mount Royal, an internationally known lawyer and law teacher at McGill University. The article goes on to say:
A first study of Bill C-42 prompted the member to worry about the provisions that will allow the creation of military security zones and those that will give some ministers the power to issue interim orders without first obtaining the agreement of the cabinet or parliament.
The Liberal member for Mount Royal is adopting the position that was defended from the very first moment here in this House by the Bloc Quebecois. If the Bloc had not been here in the House to defend the interests of Quebecers, today we would be having to live with Bill C-42, a danger for the rights and freedoms of Quebecers. It is dangerous to give ministers the possibility of making interim orders that do not comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or to give the Minister of National Defence the power of imposing his army anywhere in Quebec without being invited to by the Government of Quebec. This is the harsh reality of a government which has made such a decision in the name of a noble cause.
The battle against terrorism throughout the world is a noble cause, and not one single person in Quebec or in Canada is unaffected by it. All of us have been touched by the tragic events that struck our American neighbours on September 11. There is, however, not one single person who is prepared to have all his or her rights taken away because of those events, particularly when the leader of the government, the Prime Minister, is asked “What could you not do on September 11 that you could do now once a bill like Bill C-42 is enacted?” No answer is forthcoming, purely and simply because the government could take action under existing legislation.
The Prime Minister and ministers such as the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Transport tell us: “The powers contained in Bill C-42 are all ones we have already”. That is false. These are not existing powers, they are new powers the government wants to acquire. Proof of this lies in the statement made by the Liberal member for Mount Royal, quoted in today's La Presse and available for all Quebecers to read.
In this House, it must be understood that the people of Quebec and of Canada are nobody's fools, and they may well be better informed than the ministers and members of the Liberal government.
Opposition members, including Bloc Quebecois members, were very quick in finding out the problems with Bill C-42 and explaining them to the public. The debates did not take place in this House, but outside, in the media. We had to use the media. This is the harsh reality.
Why? Because the government used closure with Bill C-36. The government gagged the opposition to prevent it from getting to the bottom of things and helping Quebecers and Canadians fully understand the scope of Bill C-36. We were gagged. This is why the debates took place outside the House, so much so that every day we still talk to Quebecers and Canadians who ask us to do something to prevent Bill C-36 from coming into effect. But it is too late. The debate was not concluded here in the House. This is why it is still raging in the media. Every day, we read the comments of people who are opposed to Bill C-36. But it is too late. The bill was passed by the government, rushed through by the Liberal majority in the House. This is the reality and this is what Quebecers must understand.
Luckily for Quebecers, we will not have to live with Bill C-42 before the Christmas holiday.
There is no doubt that the government will use closure again if it runs out of time, as was the case this week. We discussed Bill C-42. I am the Bloc Quebecois critic for transport issues. I was contacted. We were told that there was not enough on the legislative agenda and that Bill C-42 would be brought back. It was not even on the agenda that day.
The government brought back this very important bill, which is challenged even by Liberal members, and said “There is not enough on the legislative agenda; therefore, we are bringing back Bill C-42”. We discussed the issue and the debates are underway. I had the opportunity to make a speech on Bill C-42 which is not yet completed. I have 29 minutes left. But what will happen if the government again runs out of things to do before the Christmas holiday? It will again bring back a bill that is extremely controversial and regarding which the Liberal majority still has a lot of work to do. Ministers must try to understand the bill and explain it to their colleagues. The harsh reality is that we will again debate Bill C-42.
I just hope for Quebecers that this is not the Christmas gift the federal government is planning for them. If Bill C-42 were passed before the holidays, that would be quite a lump of coal for them to get in their Christmas stocking. That is what the government is trying to do; it wants to pull a fast one on us by ramming Bill C-42 through the House.
This brings me to Bill C-44 now before us. Again, Bill C-44 was put together in a rush by drawing from Bill C-42 because the Americans want information on passengers on flights to the U.S. or passing through U.S. airspace. It is very understandable that we should discuss the American requirements.
How can the Canadian government distort these requirements? Everything seemed perfectly clear, but I read section 115 of the American legislation passed last November 19. It says:
- Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act,each air carrier and foreign air carrier operating a passenger flight in foreign air transportation to the United States shall provide to the Commissioner of Customs by electronic transmission a passenger and crew manifest containing the information specified in paragraph (2).
(a ) The full name of each passenger and crew member
(b) The date of birth and citizenship of each passenger and crew member
(c) The sex of each passenger and crew member.
(d) The passport number and country of issuance of each passenger and crew member if required for travel.
(e) The United States visa number or resident alien card number of each passenger and crew member, as applicable.
(f ) Such other information as the Under Secretary,in consultation with the Commissioner of Customs, determines is reasonably necessary to ensure aviation safety.
These are the requirements of the American legislation.
Reading Bill C-44, we see that it contains what the Canadian government is asking for. Section 115 of the American legislation gives an explanation of the requirements, that is what information the Americans require.
There is no mention in Bill C-44 of the list of requirements. It states as follows:
4.83 (1) Despite section 5 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act—
We have legislation to protect the personal information we are obliged to provide and, obviously, we have to deviate from that act:
—to the extent that that section relates to obligations set out in Schedule 1 to that Act...an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada or of a Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada may...provide to a competent authority...any information—
The information is not specified. It is stated that the governor in council may make regulations respecting the type or classes of information that may be provided.
Thus, instead of having a clear and simple bill indicating what information is to be required, it is stated that this will be given in subsequent regulations.
The Bloc Quebecois' first question for the government House leader in connection with Bill C-44 is: Could you provide us with the bill's companion regulations, so that we can have a better idea of Bill C-44? Why is the required information not listed? You plan to put it in regulations? Well then, give us the regulations.
We were promised the regulations for last Friday. The House leader had mentioned an outline and came to tell me that they thought regulations would be better. Then he changed his mind and came back to tell me that we were back to an outline only. We did not receive the regulations on Friday. We received them on Monday, toward the end of the afternoon, so late that we were not able to examine them until the next morning in committee. It was the same for the government members.
We had documents that were given us prior to the committee meeting, but we had not had the time to go through them all individually. There was a pile of material. Even the members of the Liberal majority on the committee had questions. I sincerely believed that we had not received the regulations and they did not even know that they had.
Finally, at some point, an official came to tell the parliamentary secretary that the regulations were included as an attachment to the material.
We then examined the list of regulations and the list of information required. Once again, there was a list, which had been mentioned by the government. But that was not what the parliamentary secretary wanted to talk to us about in committee.
He did not want to talk to us about the regulations. He had an amendment to put forward. Obviously, this is what goes on in committee; we put forward amendments. The amendment was put forward by the government and all the parliamentary secretary had to tell us was “We will get started while we are waiting. There is an amendment on the way and I should have it”.
Finally, we received it during our proceedings, because it was not yet ready. According to an intelligent explanation given by the parliamentary secretary, this amendment came from the privacy commissioner, who had been consulted about Bill C-44 and who had suggested this amendment, which I will read in a minute. Finally, we received the amendment and the privacy commissioner appeared before the committee.
The privacy commissioner had not had the list of information contained in the regulations or in the draft regulations. The commissioner had discussed Bill C-44 without the list of information to be supplied. This bill will allow airline companies to release information about Quebecers and Canadians, and Canada's privacy commissioner had not seen the list of information that would be supplied.
When I asked him if it was important that he have the list, he answered that he had received it 30 minutes before appearing before the committee. I then asked him whether he had it when the bill was being discussed, and he said no. It was not important. It did not matter, when introducing an amendment, to know what information had to be provided to the Americans.
Things have been going badly for the Liberal government for two weeks now, and it kept on going badly for the Standing Committee on Transport. The privacy commissioner was appearing before the committee and, 30 minutes prior to the start of the meeting, the minister did not know what information the Americans were requiring, and what information on Quebec and Canadian citizens we were to provide. This was not important to him. He had even proposed an amendment without knowing what information would be contained in future regulations that the governor in council might pass in the future. Talk about confusing.
When we questioned the privacy commissioner, we asked him “Are you not concerned about the list of information, which you only saw 30 minutes prior to testifying?” He replied, “No, it does not concern us”.
One of the information items, item no. 23 reads as follows:
Airlines could provide passengers' telephone numbers to the Americans.
I have great difficulty in understanding how the privacy commissioner is not concerned that we would be providing the Americans with the telephone numbers of citizens of Quebec and Canada. He himself admitted that such measures could be discussed.
It is important to understand that no regulations have been adopted yet, but once all regulations are, they will come into force immediately. They will not come back to the committee for review until several days later—even up to one year later—at which time the committee will be able to examine the regulations and propose amendments.
I have here the amendment proposed by the privacy commissioner. It is a relevant amendment, and it reads as follows:
No information provided to a competent authority of a foreign state may be collected from that foreign state by the government of Canada or an institution thereof, as defined in section 3 of the Privacy Act, unless the information is collected for the purposes of protecting national security, public safety or defence.
His concern about the information provided to the Americans was that Canada could not request it, except for certain purposes. He had quite a problem with that. The commissioner feared that the Government of Canada might try to obtain the information through the back door.
There was clearly a problem, but not knowing what information was to be provided was not a problem. It was not important. As for the 29 types of information requested by the Americans, besides the phone number, and the fact that so much information could be provided to the Americans about our lives, about what we do and so on, about how the ticket was paid for, whether in cash or on a credit card—the credit card number could even be requested—that was not important for the commissioner. What mattered, however, was that the information provided to American authorities not come back to Canada through the back door.
The nature of the information that we give is not important, as long as it does not come back to Canada. I have a big problem with that. I asked the privacy commissioner “Why did you not present an amendment containing all that is included in the American legislation?” It is the list that I read a few moments ago, the list of information the Americans included in their legislation. They put everything they wanted: the full name of each passenger, the full name of each crew member, their date of birth, and so forth. His answer was “That would not have gone through. If I had proposed that amendment, it would not have been passed”. They would not have included anything contained in the American legislation. He was probably right. That is the reality. They did not want to include what was already in the American legislation. Why?
We asked the House what information was to be provided. The government would not tell us and then agreed to table draft regulations that would include the list. We got the draft regulations two days later than we were supposed to. Its aim was to get them to us so late we would not have time to analyze them. It tabled an amendment in committee so our legal service could not analyze it. That is the reality. That is the way things work in this House.
The privacy commissioner, whose job it is to protect our interests, said “I have not tabled an amendment that would include the list, because I knew it would not be passed, that the government would reject it”.
When I asked him further questions to find out what he was afraid of, he said he was afraid he would no longer be listened to. I had to ask him “Are you afraid of losing your job?” He said he was not. He was not, because he had a seven year mandate. This means there will be someone else after that. I think he is afraid he will not be reappointed. That is the truth of it. That is the way it works. Quebecers and Canadians have to understand that.
The government controls the House of Commons, the Senate, the supreme court and the privacy commissioner. Such is life. This is the way it works. Then the government tables bills and asks us for amendments in committee. The government asks us to table amendments. “You will see”, it says, “we will look at them”. The Bloc Quebecois tabled 66 amendments to the anti-terrorism legislation. As many again were tabled by the other opposition parties. The government did nothing with them. The one accepted, in the case of the Bloc Quebecois, was the one that added the word “cemetery” to the list of heinous crimes. They agreed to add the word “cemetery”. I am very grateful. This is the reality.
Quebecers must understand that this government controls everything, from start to finish. I realize the Prime Minister says “I have no problem. If you have a problem with this bill, challenge it in court”. I will not say what I think, I could be accused of all sorts of things. I have a good idea what will happen. I have no doubt that, when the Prime Minister says there is no problem, he knows that in advance. He controls everything in this country. It is no problem, that is the way it works.
I have a message for those who are listening to us: keep sending us e-mails and letters telling us that you do not want Bill C-36 to be implemented by the government, even though it has already passed it. Bill C-36 is now in effect. You can be sure that the government will not amend it. The government will wait until a colossal blunder occurs before acting on the recommendations made by the 80 witnesses who appeared before the committee, and by opposition parties. These recommendations were perfectly acceptable and included a sunset clause, a clause providing for an annual review like the one included in similar legislation throughout the world.
The harsh reality is that the current Liberal government has decided to control everything, including the House of Commons, the other place, the supreme court, the office of the privacy commissioner and all the institutions in this country that should protect our interests.
I cannot get over the fact that, as regards Bill C-44, the privacy commissioner, who proposed an amendment that was accepted by the government, did not want to propose another one whereby the information to be provided to the Americans would have been listed. He did not make that suggestion because, as he said, the government would not have accepted it.
The Americans are smart enough to include such a provision in their legislation, but not us. We must trust the government in making regulations that will be adopted, as provided under the bill, by the governor in council. And these regulations will specify the types or classes of information.
We are given the list of the 29 types of information to be included in the regulations, but we do not have any say in the process. That information will be included in the regulations, which will then be submitted to the committee in a few months.
Meanwhile, the rights and freedoms of Canadians will have been infringed on by a government that does not have any backbone and that wants increasingly more power to control everyone.
The government surely figured that with $30 million, given the number of federal public servants, it could divide them and control them all. This is what the Liberal government is doing.
On that note, I hope that all members will have a nice Christmas holiday and that Liberal Party members will take this opportunity to do some soul searching and make good resolutions for the year 2002, because they are ending 2001 on a very bad note.
Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act. As has been mentioned earlier by my colleagues from other parties, the bill was the result of significant co-operation by opposition parties in the House.
It would enable the government to remove a section of Bill C-42 and bring it forth as an urgent piece of legislation to address the concerns of the United States regarding access to information with respect to passenger lists on flights within Canada.
As I indicated, there was great co-operation on behalf of the opposition parties in allowing this to take place. We all recognize in the House that there is urgency in a number of areas to address the problems that have come forth as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11. There has been great co-operation in trying to address those concerns.
Bill C-44 would give airlines the right to release information to the government of the United States in regard to passenger lists. I will read a descriptive note we got in committee regarding section 4.83 which would be included in the Aeronautics Act:
It relieves air carriers from certain requirements of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and allows them to provide passenger information to foreign authorities, where foreign law requires such information.
Subsection 4.83(2) authorizes the making of regulations generally for the purposes of carrying out section 4.83, including regulations respecting the type of information that may be provided to the foreign authority, as well as the foreign authorities to which the information may be provided.
At committee we are given a rationale. For Canadians and others listening to this, here is the rationale:
This section is necessary to allow air carriers to pass on passenger information to foreign authorities, but only in circumstances where foreign law requires such information as a pre-condition to landing in that country.
At first blush this does not seem to be a big issue. Canadians have recognized as have people throughout the world that times have changed. We are willing to accept that there may be some infringements on our privacy rights and civil liberties. Canadians recognize this and we in the House have recognized it. We have been open to it.
The concern is that the government is not as forthright about the type of information it would include. My colleague from the Bloc stressed this point and it is important to stress it. The legislation does not specify what the information would be.
As we met in committee and wanted to know what type of information would be requested we were given only the intent of the regulations. We were told the intent of the information the government would include. The reason we could only get the intent of the regulations was that the government does not know what will be requested. That is a scary point.
The Government of Canada is putting in place legislation but will not include in it the specific information that is required because it does not yet know. It has said that. The Americans have not told the government exactly what they need.
As a citizen of Canada, a sovereign nation, I have a real problem with agreeing to put in whatever information on the basis of the request of another country.
I recognize the need to address the problem of terrorism and to identify terrorists. However I have a real problem with a government that would leave a blanket opening in a bill to put in whatever regulations it likes and decide whatever information can be released without allowing it to be debated in the House of Commons so that members who represent all Canadians can have a say.
There was concern at committee. Concerns were raised and not only by opposition members. There was concern from a few Liberal members on the committee. There was concern about the type of information the government would then release.
The reason that concern is there is that there is not a lot of faith in the government. There is not a lot of faith on the part of opposition members or Canadians that the government will act respectfully on behalf of Canadian citizens first and not buckle down to what the Americans say. Quite frankly, I am not against Americans and the U.S. The bottom line is that my priority and what we are here for is to represent Canadians first. That is not happening. It is not happening in a number of areas, but specifically the government is not putting the respect and the privacy of Canadians first. As my colleague from the Bloc has mentioned as well, the U.S. legislation specifies exactly what information will be required. This does not happen here.
At committee we did attempt to at least have this intensive schedule of the type of information that would be requested. We tried to have it put within the legislation but were unable to have it passed at committee.
My party thinks the way the government is intending to deal with this, although we do not really know for sure yet, is to have schedules. Schedule I would be the type of information that the foreign states will receive on absolutely all passengers. They would receive some information on everyone. Should they then request information on specific passengers there would be schedule II, which would be the type of information that will be asked for on those passengers. The bottom line is that they could request the schedule II information on every single passenger. There is nothing to restrict that from happening. Schedule III, in section 1, lists the countries that the government has agreed to give this information to. Again, it is only in schedule, in regulation, and is not part of the legislation, so the government at its whim can change it. The government can add on one, two, three or fifty countries and release the information within their schedules, and we do not know what they will be yet. The government could release that information to those countries.
I have a concern about this. I will give members an idea of what the schedule I information is. Quite frankly, the privacy commissioner did not have a big issue with schedule I. The privacy commissioner thought, under specific reasons, schedule II was not a problem either. However even the privacy commissioner felt it would be much better if these schedules were incorporated into the legislation.
There is one thing that we are very clear about after listening to the privacy commissioner. He is in place to respect Canadians and to act on their behalf. It says a lot when we must have a separate commissioner to act on behalf of the privacy of Canadians because we cannot trust the government to do it. This is a crucial point.
Schedule I is the information that would be given to a foreign state on all passengers:
The surname, first name and initial or initials, if any, of each passenger or crew member.
The date of birth of each passenger or crew member.
The citizenship or nationality, or failing either of these, the country that issued travel documents for the flight, of each passenger or crew member.
The gender of each passenger or crew member.
The passport number or, if the person does not have a passport, the number on the travel document that identifies the person, of each passenger or crew member.
At first blush, it is basic information. I think a lot of us who travel tend to think that information pretty much is available to a lot of people anyway because we book through our travel agent, through other charter companies, through the airlines and we know we are all tied to reservation systems. I think there are a lot of us out there who do not really believe that any information on the computer is private anyway because we know a lot of people seem to be able to access that information. At first blush it is not a big issue.
Where it gets a little touchy is in schedule II. Schedule II mentions things such as:
A notation that the passenger's ticket for a flight is a one-way ticket.
A notation that a passenger's ticket for the flight is a ticket that is valid for one year and that is issued in travel between specified points with no dates or flight numbers--
It goes on. There are actually 29 notations as to the type of information, but again, this could change. There could be numerous other bits of information that the government at its whim could add to the regulations at any given point.
Schedule II continues:
The phone numbers of the passenger and, if applicable, the phone number of the travel agency that made the travel arrangements.
The passenger name record number.
The address of the passenger and, if applicable, of the travel agency that made the travel arrangements.
A notation that the ticket was paid for by a person other than the passenger.
Also there is one that was of considerable concern to a number of members:
- The manner in which the ticket was paid for.
Again there was a concern. It would be fine here if it just requested to know whether it is by cheque, cash or credit card, but there was a concern that the credit card numbers might be included in the information. One of the concerns the airlines have raised is the amount of the costs that would be incurred if they had to input a whole lot more information or if the information requested had to be disseminated from the information they already have. In other words, areas would have to be blanked out so there would be increased costs to the airlines.
A number of us recognized that at this time there is a need for increased security and without question the safety and security of passengers in the air and on the ground has to be the priority, but we do not want to put the airlines in any greater financial difficulty than they are already. There was concern that the credit card information the airlines have would end up flowing if they just hand over whatever information they have.
As well, there was concern that when the information is handed over to those receiving the information, whatever government departments it might be, they might then pass on information, whether to different bits of industry or possibly back to the country from which it came. I was pleased that the amendment the privacy commissioner suggested to the committee and to the government was agreed to unanimously by the committee. It was put forth at report stage and accepted.
The amendment put forth by the privacy commissioner states:
That Bill C-44, in Clause 1, be amended by replacing line 19 on page 1 with the following:
(2) No information provided under subsection (1) to a competent authority in a foreign state may be collected from that foreign state by a government institution, within the meaning of section 3 of the Privacy Act, unless it is collected for the purpose of protecting national security or public safety or for the purpose of defence, and any such information collected by the government institution may be used or disclosed by it only for one or more of those purposes.
It is crucial to note that up until that amendment came in there was no safeguard as to what would happen with the information. It is definitely an improvement to the bill.
I also note that there is no reciprocal agreement between the United States and Canada or, for that matter, between any other foreign state and Canada so that foreign states would have to give that information to our security services within Canada.
The reason we had to make these changes within our legislation and allow the airlines to give that information is that we do have a Privacy Act that represents the rights of Canadians. There is no such act in the U.S. That information can already be given if the airlines decide to do it, but the bottom line is that they do not have to. Our government has not ensured that there will be a reciprocal agreement because it was not there saying it would stand up for the rights of Canadians. It was in there jumping when the U.S. said “Give this to us right now or you're not flying into our country”. That is what it was about.
Quite frankly, the privacy commissioner commented on that as well. He commented on how it was unjust. I will not use his exact words, because there were some who were not happy with his words. I did not have a problem with them. He thought it was somewhat unjust that the U.S. would demand the information right now and not give Canadians and the Parliament of Canada a reasonable period of time in which to have input and debate. Normally we would get a bill, take it to committee and witnesses would be able to come to committee. Citizens of Canada who had objections would be able to possibly appear before committee, but because the U.S. wanted the information immediately or it would disallow or restrict flights into the U.S., no opportunity was given to have the legislation to go through the normal process within the Parliament of Canada.
That is not just unjust but is really a show of disrespect and disregard, I believe, for the relationship that Canada has with the U.S. We have not been a confrontational northern neighbour. We have been a willing, caring, approachable neighbour. Canada has worked well with countries throughout the world, not just with the U.S. It is not acceptable that at the whim of the Americans, at the snap of their fingers, the government jumps to the tune of the U.S. government. We are here to represent Canadians. We are not here to jump.
The minister responsible for the issues relating to softwood lumber is in the House. Frankly, the softwood lumber issue has been quite an annoyance for me simply because I am greatly concerned that this government is going to buckle under and sell out our forestry workers in B.C. and throughout Canada. I am concerned that the government will sell out workers in general who have fought to maintain raw logs within Canada for value added jobs within the country. I am concerned that U.S. officials are going to snap their fingers and demand that raw logs head down to the U.S. so its sawmills and plants can operate and to heck with Canadian workers.
Quite frankly, I see this government buckling under and I think that is what we are going to see over the holidays. Merry Christmas, forestry workers in Canada, and from the Government of Canada, no jobs, as we send the present of raw logs down to the U.S. Merry Christmas. It has been disappointing to see this from our government.
I also want to comment on Bill C-42, the public safety act, from which this legislation was taken so it could be rushed through to address the concerns of the Americans. We expected a lot more decisive action on the part of the government with respect to that bill. Bill C-42 gives a lot of power to a lot of ministers but there is not a whole lot of oversight to ensure they act responsibly. Again, the government does not have the respect of Canadians for its actions. It is becoming very clear that Canadians do not expect the government to act on their behalf.
That became quite clear last week when Bill C-36 was before us. I wish to say again that I believe opposition parties in the House have been very willing to co-operate with the government to try to move legislation forward to address the issues that came up as a result of September 11. What we saw last week was a show of absolute disregard for the voices of Canadians, with closure implemented on Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism legislation, which is one of the most crucial pieces of legislation to come before the House and one of the most crucial pieces of legislation infringing on the civil liberties of Canadians. The government invoked closure. Was there any need for it? Was there a big rush for it? Was somebody running off to a Christmas party so that legislation concerning the civil liberties of Canadians had to be rushed through? Was there some other absolutely urgent piece of legislation that we had to get before the House? Did we have to make sure all of this was done before the Christmas break? Was that more important than listening to the comments parliamentarians were hearing from citizens in their ridings?
We are still hearing comments about this. I would wager that the greatest number of comments coming through on everybody's e-mail were telling us to get rid of Bill C-36 because it does not have to be like this. We do not have to go to the great length of infringing on the civil liberties of Canadians in order to address terrorist concerns and we can fight terrorism without all the infringements within Bill C-36.
What is crucially important is to recognize that this government invoked closure and then had no business to deal with. Talk about a slap in the face for the rights of Canadians. The government did not want to hear any more debate on Bill C-36 because it wanted this legislation and would not listen to anybody else. That is what it appears to be and it is not acceptable.
At some point I expect that Canadians will let the government know what they think about it, whether it be before the next election or at the time of the next election. I do not think we will see the arrogant kind of approach to the views of Canadians and parliamentarians that we have been seeing over the last while.
I hope the government recognizes that Canadians are not happy with that, will take it to heart and will not continue with this type of approach in the House.
Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I, unlike some of my colleagues, will refrain from wandering from the bill at hand, which is Bill C-44.
As has been mentioned, members are curious as to why the bill, which was introduced last week, is now before the House at third reading. The reason for rushing the bill through the House, as was mentioned, is to comply with American legislation, the aviation and transportation security act.
Unlike some of my colleagues, I do not accuse the American government of overreacting or forcing Canadians to deal with it. I understand why the Americans put through very detailed legislation on how they would protect themselves. It is very understandable and I will probably refer to it later in my comments.
The bill responds to the American legislation. The American legislation requires that any air carrier flying to the United States must transmit its passenger manifest to the United States customs service in advance of the aircraft landing.The reason that the Americans are asking for this is obvious. It should not take much imagination, remembering the visuals of the aircraft flying into the two towers in New York City, for anybody to understand why the Americans felt it necessary to ask for this co-operation.
I assume that Canadians will also understand why Canada has responded in kind. Yes, the government tried to bring this particular response to the American legislation in through Bill C-42. We can get into a long debate, as others have done, on what is wrong with Bill C-42. However, I think the Canadian government was right in removing this. The Americans, unlike their Canadian counterparts, do not hesitate to be firm in legislation and to put timeframes on it. I think the U.S. government was responsible in putting a timeframe on when it expected this response from foreign carriers to submit passenger manifests.
It gives our Canadian carriers, which are the ones that have asked for the government to allow this, the legal right to provide the manifest. That is what the legislation would do. It would not mandate how it is to be done or what is to be done. It would give the Canadian carriers the legal right to release this information and not be in violation of our privacy legislation.
This is enabling legislation from our Canadian government to allow the airlines to comply with the American government regulations and legislation.
For Canadians travelling to the United States, it should not be a surprise that this is happening. They should not be upset with the information that the Americans are requesting. I would suggest that 94% of all Canadians flying to U.S. destinations already give this information through preclearance at customs in the seven major Canadian airports. When they give this information to U.S. customs prior to boarding the aircraft, they are giving the same information that is being asked for in schedule 1 that the regulations will provide for.
The U.S. customs already will have that information and they will have it in a more timely fashion than the airline transmitting the passenger manifest to them. That is already happening. It will not have much effect on Canadian travellers.
What has happened, as is happening here, is that it is the perception of a government providing greater security which seems to be important. Americans and Canadians need to feel that their governments are reacting in a manner that will provide greater protection and greater security for them. Although this was already happening in Canada, with 94% of our passengers already providing this information, it is important to remind passengers that the governments are looking out for their interests.
I think the American legislation asks for all foreign air carriers. Canada has already been meeting these requirements because of our close relationship with the United States. We have a different relationship with our friends south of the border than other countries do. This legislation really applies to all other foreign carriers. As I mentioned, it will not make much difference for Canadians.
Two types of information are included in the legislation that is responding to the American legislation. The first is a group of basic information that most countries seek from individuals who come to their country: full name, date of birth, gender; citizenship and passport number of the individual. Canada requires that of anyone entering our country. The air carriers will now be able to manifest that information, as required, of all passengers and crew members for each flight that travels to the United States.
The second type of information that concerns some individuals a little more, which my colleagues from the NDP and the Bloc raised, is the information that gives more detail about the actual flight that a passenger is taking. It is called the passenger name record. This is a file on the information that is gathered by the airline on the individual passenger: how the flight was booked, the name of the travel agency used, whether the ticket was paid for in cash or by credit card, the type of payment, all that kind of information, even those things that we voluntarily give an airline, such as our meal preference, our seat preference and those sorts of thing. There is some concern that more information is being given than is necessary and certainly a more personal type of information.
What has to be understood and understood very clearly is that this information about an individual passenger will only be given by the airlines when it is specifically requested by the competent authorities in the foreign country, and at this time it is only the United States. This information will not be for the whole crew or the whole list of passengers but about individual passengers. One might wonder why or how that comes about. It may come about if someone is concerned or has reason to be concerned about an individual passenger who has appeared on a list. The information would then be requested to clear up some uncertainties or to provide more information.
One thing we did hear when the committee studied airline security was that one of the greatest problems we have, not only in our country but in the United States as well, is the sharing of information and intelligence, and that had this sharing of information and intelligence occurred we may not have had the incidents of September 11. The most important factor is that intelligence is shared not only from agency to agency but between the countries that might be involved. This is a sharing of information and intelligence that may prevent a reoccurrence of the tragic events of September 11.
People have pointed out the privacy concern. Some individuals, especially the privacy commissioner, find that the American legislation would be, in his words, repugnant. His concern is that the information being provided to the American authorities will not be protected under the American privacy legislation. I am not sure the information of foreigners or aliens in Canada is protected by the Canadian privacy legislation.
Yes, there may be a concern there, but one has to understand that if a Canadian is flying into the United States that government has the right, just as Canada has the right, to ask whatever questions it may want to ask to confirm that an individual has the legal right to come into the country and that the individual does not pose any threat to national security. Canada has that right and so does the United States. If a person is not willing to comply with the request, then the choice is not to travel to the United States.
I repeat, the Americans will only ask for more detailed information if the name, the alias or the passport number has been red-flagged. It is not that they will be asking for detailed information on every individual who flies to the United States. Millions and millions of people fly into the United States every year. The Americans do not have the resources, time or interest to check every single person to that extent, but what they will want is to have access to the information when they have concerns about an individual. It is their right, as it is Canada's right, to do so, which will be addressed in Bill C-42.
We also have to look at the amendment that the privacy commissioner requested be put in, that any information collected by the U.S. authorities through this process cannot be then given to the Canadian government through the back door. We really have to wonder if Canadians will sleep any better tonight knowing that the Canadian government cannot get this information from the American government unless it pertains to national security, public safety or defence.
If the Canadian government wanted to get the name, address, telephone number and passport number of a Canadian citizen, I think it would be far easier to pick up the phone and call the passport division of foreign affairs then to try and get hold of someone in the American administration to get the information. Let us be real here. If the Canadian government wants my name and passport number, it knows where to find them.
As far as Canadian authorities getting more personal information about any of us, about any person they might be concerned about, they already have that authority. If they are conducting a legal investigation, the investigative body has the legal authority to get whatever information it wants about us. It does not need to go through any back door to get that information.
The amendment would only ensure that Canadian agencies, which could not get the information before under Canadian law, would still not be able to get the information. The Canadian agencies that had the right under Canadian law to get that information would still be able to get that information. In other words, the amendment really does not do anything. It may sound good but it really would not make a difference. The legislation itself will not really make a whole lot of difference to a Canadian who is travelling to the United States.
As I said earlier, 94% of Canadians travelling to the United States now give this information when they are pre-cleared at the seven major airports flying into the United States.
What we need to be concerned about is that the government has not shown any real initiatives. Yes, it can be accused of reacting to the perceived demands of the Americans. It can be accused of seemingly only reacting when pressures are put on it by outside sources.
Over the past eight years the government has shown very little initiative or creative thinking on how we can better our country and better the security for our country.
If the Americans and Canadians truly want an improved system of communication to prevent terrorist activity, they should review the binational border management agency which the coalition proposed on November 1.
Until the Liberal government develops some real foresight, some innovation and an ability to think a little further than the next election, we are going to have to deal with piecemeal legislation that is reactive and not proactive.
For ordinary Canadians, the bill would have very little impact. It is not going to make a whole lot of difference in their lives when they travel to the United States. While the coalition might criticize and wonder about the effectiveness of the legislation, we do not see anything in the legislation that is negative or that would have an adverse effect on Canadians, so we will be supporting it.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, toward the end of my colleague's comments she mentioned a whole issue that goes well beyond the bill we are debating. It is very relevant to the discussion that needs to happen between the United States of America and Canada, and even Mexico if we were to expand that discussion, about perimeter security and the exchange of information, with which the bill deals specifically. It goes beyond the exchange of information.
We need to make sure that the continent, as it were, is as secure as possible. Hopefully at some point the three countries, but perhaps as an initial step bilaterally the two countries, Canada and the United States, must clearly understand what the policies of each other are and that they are in sync.
My colleague who just spoke and I, as well as a number of opposition members from many of the parties, dating all the way back to when the House reconvened following the terrible tragedy of September 11, basically pleaded with the government to open doors and the lines of communication with the Americans to ensure that we did not end up with a situation where Canada was effectively outside of what was potentially being called fortress America.
Instead, we worked very closely with the Americans and reassured them that our policies on immigration, refugees, security and all those types of issues, are comforting enough to them that they could allow the access and free flow of goods and services back and forth across the largest undefended border in the world.
My colleague mentioned her thoughts. She has worked hard. She has had a number of meetings with different agencies and individuals. Could she enlighten the House and the viewing public as to what she has done and what reception this plan of hers to create this binational agency is receiving, particularly from the Americans? Also, is it being looked upon favourably by the government?
Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a proposal on the table by the coalition. There are three parts to it.
The part of the proposal my colleague has referred to is the binational agency. In essence it would hold a database of all the names of individuals who are travelling, coming into our country as well as leaving it. It would include Canada and the United States and potentially Mexico.
The database would hold names of individuals who are of a concern to the various agencies that would participate, for example, the intelligence communities, the police, customs and immigration. It would also contain the names of people who have voluntarily gone through a preclearance program. Individuals who had been precleared would be expedited when they came to the border. Individuals who are a concern to any of the nations' agencies would be red flagged and put into a secondary inspection process.
The interesting thing about the proposal is that it also includes freight, the movement of goods. It would expedite not only the movement of persons but the movement of goods, which is beneficial to the enormous trade that occurs between Canada and the United States.
We are very enthusiastic about it. There has been a lot of support indicated for the concept both in Canada and in the United States. We look forward to the government realizing what a good idea it is and bringing it into its system. We hope the government shows some foresight and some willingness to recognize good ideas and innovative approaches. We hope it will show some leadership rather than always following what other countries do.