House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was card.

Topics

Business of the House
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That notwithstanding Standing Order 87(2), the draw for private members' business which is scheduled to be held today at 1.15 p.m. be postponed until Thursday, February 27, 2003 at 1.15 p.m.

Business of the House
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker: The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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Government Orders

February 13th, 2003 / 12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this debate on the NDP motion is important. Even though the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration only referred to a take note debate before a decision is made, it seems to me that the proposed change calling for a compulsory national card is a fundamental change requiring serious consideration.

I must begin by quoting the Privacy Commissioner, who is appointed by the government and whose responsibility is to protect people's privacy. This quote is taken from his annual report dated January 29, 2003.

It is my duty, in this Annual Report, to present a solemn and urgent warning to every Member of Parliament and Senator, and indeed to every Canadian:

The fundamental human right of privacy in Canada is under assault as never before. Unless the Government of Canada is quickly dissuaded from its present course by Parliamentary action and public insistence, we are on a path that may well lead to the permanent loss not only of privacy rights that we take for granted but also of important elements of freedom as we now know it.

I continue with another quote from the Privacy Commissioner, Mr. Radwanski.

We face this risk because of the implications, both individual and cumulative, of a series of initiatives that the Government has mounted or is actively moving toward. These initiatives are set against the backdrop of September 11, and anti-terrorism is their purported rationale. But the aspects that present the greatest threat to privacy either have nothing at all to do with anti-terrorism, or they present no credible promise of effectively enhancing security.

The Government is, quite simply, using September 11 as an excuse for new collections and uses of personal information about all of us Canadians that cannot be justified by the requirements of anti-terrorism and that, indeed, have no place in a free and democratic society.

These are the comments made by the Privacy Commissioner, who reiterated what he had already said about many bills regarding which the need for such measures was never demonstrated.

The measures that he mentioned include the national ID card with various pieces of information, and possibly biometric identifiers.

As the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière pointed out, I have worked on the issue of privacy. This is a very interesting area that is not sufficiently talked about, particularly nowadays, given the oft-ignored power and capabilities of available tools and technology.

It seems to me that what Mr. Radwanski holds most important, what he says is a founding principle of Quebec and Canadian society, a principle that would be compromised by a mandatory ID card—that is what we are talking about, a mandatory national ID card—is the right to anonymity from the State. It is a fundamental privacy right.

Cards exist already. There are some in Quebec with photos. There was debate on whether there should or should not be a photo.

There are cards such as the health insurance card that I use when I go to the doctor so that I do not have to spend a dime. I have a card for when I am driving. Companies and banks sometimes ask us to identify ourselves. In that case, I have a choice from a number of cards. So far, no one has the right to ask for my social insurance number. I am free to give it if I want, but I can refuse.

That is the system we are living in right now. We are being asked to adopt a system where everyone would have a mandatory national ID card, a smart card—since the minister made a point of that—which could include a significant amount of data. He talked about fingerprints and biometric data.

A card is a major change in and of itself, but this type of card is a major breach of privacy. This would change the relationship between the citizen, society and the State.

No matter what information is put on such a card, the more important it is, the more worried we should be. Anyone could be asked to produce this type of card, anytime. We do not live under this type of regime. Before we talk about this type of card, let us talk about why we should live under this type of regime.

I cannot help but think that the minister, being the pragmatic person he is, is thinking about fulfilling demanding obligations coming from our neighbours. These obligations can only be imposed when we cross the border. There are other ways to meet these needs. There are ways other than forcing us in Quebec and in Canada to fundamentally change the way we interact with the world around us. Going for a walk in the evening with your dog and your boyfriend does not require carrying an identity card which you will be required to show if you meet someone, in uniform, or not.

This is a fundamental change, and I applaud the New Democratic Party for raising this issue today through this motion. As did my colleague, the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, I would like to remind members that in Quebec, Mr. Trudel opposed this idea for the reasons I have given. Aware of the need to address security issues, he said that security must not limit the exercise of citizenship.

Some would say that we have to hunt down terrorists. It has been proven on many occasions that those who want to get around security, including a card such as this, have all kinds of sophisticated technical means to allow them to do so. A card can be forged or stolen. We need only look at the almighty Canadian passport, which has often been forged. Now there are attempts to make that more difficult.

We must not change a fundamental principle like the one we are talking about, on the off chance that we might be able to make it harder for possible terrorists, whom we can find, track and discover by other means.

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12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a couple of comments and finish with a question.

The member referred often to the privacy commissioner. I happened to be on the committee that reviewed his appointment when he became the privacy commissioner. I remember asking the privacy commissioner the following question, “Since you are a journalist and journalism is not often associated with privacy rights, when exactly did you become interested in the privacy rights of Canadians?” He was honest in his answer. He said, “When they offered me the job”. Therefore I do not think we should just suggest that this one person is a guru in the privacy industry.

I am aware that we have substantive problems with regard to identity fraud, health fraud and the processing of people through security checks, whether it be border crossing at the U.S. border or whether it be at airports going on non-domestic flights.

The cost of identity fraud is about $2.5 billion. The cost of health fraud is estimated at $3 billion to $4 billion and maybe more, because we just do not know. Social insurance numbers exist far beyond the population of Canada. We have these problems.

The conclusion I would reach is that we have tremendous risk areas of cost losses or maybe opportunities lost because we are not correcting these problems. This provides an opportunity to recoup substantial revenues.

The members premise was that there is no relationship between the need to protect privacy and the threat of terrorism. I would submit and ask the member to comment whether she would not agree that if we were to eliminate the volume of checking of people who had smart cards that it would in fact free up the resources to do more comprehensive and effective security screening for those who do not have a card?

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12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, some arguments that are easy to make before legislation is passed can turn out to be extremely difficult to maintain, once it is passed. I will not make an idle comparison with the gun registry; still, we do have to think about what we are doing.

I will answer my hon. colleague, with whom I enjoy discussing, by saying that his first question about Mr. Radwanski raises two in my mind. Why was he appointed by the government, if he was not reliable when it comes to protecting privacy? Second, I think that he is aware of just how much privacy is in jeopardy.

You know, for instance, that it has become common practice for Internet companies trying to get rid of hackers to hire hackers, because they know what to do.

He has not won me over with his arguments. I had the opportunity to work with him on Bill C -54. However, I have always appreciated hearing what he had to say.

As far as costs are concerned, let us say that certain people have an interest in saying that costs will indeed be substantially reduced. I would like someone to look seriously into that.

Nevertheless, it will still be necessary to assess any such reduction in costs against the fundamental change in our relationship to society. We must bear in mind that we will be moving from a system where there is no requirement to produce a card, if so requested, to one where we will be required to carry a card at all times.

I will need very strong assurances to convince me that it is worthwhile, as well as more reliable cost estimates than some we were given in the past.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member referenced the Quebec experience relative to health cards. I believe the solution in that particular case, on a contentious issue, was a model to the rest of the country. The Quebec government said, yes, we are going to do it because we see it as a value proposition, but we are going to make it voluntary. If Quebeckers want that service, then they accept the card. If they do not, they do not have to and they can still be served in another way.

Would the member's opinions on this card be different if it were a voluntary card as opposed to a mandatory card?

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12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I realize this is also being contemplated. However, I would suggest that my hon. colleagues give some thought to a voluntary card, which could become so desirable that people would want to get one. I feel that consideration should be given to a voluntary card, as a first step toward change, providing the same information as a mandatory card.

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12:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with our House leader, the distinguished member for St. John's West.

We do not see the need for an identity card. We have passports, birth certificates, social insurance numbers, and so on. It seems to be an overall effort by the Liberals to increase their control over every aspect of our lives.

Mr. Speaker, I know you do not have much time, but if you want to have some fun watch the jobs.gc.ca job site. I watch it because it is really interesting. Just in the last little while I have noticed that 12 departments are advertising for intelligence analysts. They are the national defence, CCRA, citizenship and immigration--the department we are talking about today--foreign affairs, environment, industry, justice, RCMP, CSIS, transport, Parks Canada and even the Privy Council.

I do not know why they are doing this or why they need intelligence officers in all these departments, but it is kind of like the identity card. They want to be able to identify us and know where we go. We would have to swipe this card every time we go through a customs office, toll booth or whatever the heck they come up with. It is just control. They are control freaks. They want to control everything we do. They want to keep a handle on us and there is absolutely no reason to do it.

We have passports. As long as passports were controlled and not abused, and if the Liberals would enforce the passports and not allow them to be stolen, forged, duplicated and all those things, our passports would be all we would really need to travel outside the country. Inside the country we have all kinds of other things.

I have a firearms registration card and a driver's licence with my picture on it. I have a birth certificate and a passport. Why do I need another card and what is it for? I do not see the point in it at all. It is just another control issue for the Liberals so that they can find out where everybody is going, what they are doing, what they are spending, and who knows with whom they would share that information. Who knows what country they will share that information with. We will never know because they will never tell us.

The information commissioner raises all kinds of concerns about it as far as the privacy goes. He lays out all kinds of opportunities for the data and the privacy of our personal lives to be abused. He projects that it would be used to monitor our activities. Why does the government want to monitor our activities? It does not need to monitor our activities. But again, it wants to have another document, another control by the government, and another opportunity to have a document that is forged, abused and misused, and not looked after at all. Talk about big brother. This is like having a whole family of big brothers overseeing everything we do. It is just unnecessary.

Just because we do not think it is necessary does not mean we should not have it. On the other hand, it is like Jack Nicholson would say, “You can't handle it”. The Liberals could not handle this thing. They have completely botched up the firearms registration that stands still. They cannot move around and do anything on their own. But we are talking about identity cards for 30 million people who move around, do things and if they cannot control a registry system for some stationary firearms, how are they ever going to control identity cards for people? They have completely botched that exercise.

I had a man in my riding who registered one gun. He got five different certificates. Imagine if I were to send in my identity application, I would probably receive five different identities. Would that happen? It is the same people who brought us the firearms registration.

I have a doctor in Springhill who registered five guns and he got three registrations. I suppose a person with a family of five, three out of five is not bad. The whole point is that the Liberals cannot handle it. They could not look after it if they had to, even if we all agreed to let them invent an identity card. They could not possibly do it and they have proven it.

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member enjoys having a little fun with us, but in fairness the member said that he had a passport, a birth certificate, a SIN card, a driver's licence and a health card, so why would he want another card. It shows that he just does not get it. The fact is he would not need another card. All other cards would be replaced by one card. That would reduce his wallet by about half the width it is now.

The member from Winnipeg raised the issue of mandatory versus voluntary. On the practical side, if we have a problem with social insurance numbers, in that there are more out there than there should be, or health care fraud or identity fraud, all costing us a lot of money, why not look to the example of the Nexus system they use at the Sarnia-Windsor border? People who work on one side versus the other can go through a process, get clearance and can quickly get to where they have to go. It frees up the line and allows the people who do security checks more opportunity to do a better job with people who do not frequently travel.

The member rhetorically asked the question of why they would want to know when we were moving around. There has been tremendous evidence regarding those who have committed terrorist crimes around the world. Their patterns of travel by air and the number of times they visited were clear signs that this was a high risk scenario.

I pose those to the member from the standpoint of practicality. There is tremendous potential for cost savings and for security. If voluntary, it is not a privacy issue anymore. It really is an efficiency and smart thing to do.

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12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member says that I do not get it. I do not want to get it and I do not want it. Let me make that clear.

It is interesting that the member stands and questions me on this stuff. A minute ago he questioned the previous speaker on the validity of the privacy commissioner. He said that the privacy commissioner knew nothing about privacy. His party hired him. Why did the government hire him if he was the wrong person for the job? He just said that.

He also repeated what I said about having a passport, a birth certificate and a driver's licence. He said that he did not get it, that this card would replace everything. Is this card going to replace my passport? I do not think so. Are we going to go from country to country with an ID card when everyone else has a passport? Canadians will have a plastic card? I do not think so. I do not think he knows what he is talking about.

The other thing is he just confirmed that the Liberals want to control the information about where we move around. He just said that it is important that they know where people go. Again it is big brother. They want to know where we are, what we are doing and where we are going, and I do not want them to know.

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12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, one important thing to remember in this debate is that the United States does not have that card and its does not want it. Evidence of that is in the homeland security package. Security in the U.S. is a big deal as we well know. The Americans are preoccupied with homeland security. In the bill that created the department, it states, “Nothing in this act should be construed to authorize the development of a national identification system or card”. The Americans are against it. Why should we have one? There is no logical reason.

The other point is there are 100 countries in the world that have it but it has made no appreciable difference in the level of security in those countries. It is not working.

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12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, the answer is simple. We should not have the ID card. We do not need the ID card. We have a passport that is well respected and honoured around the world. That is all we need for our international travel.

Again it is just an effort by the Liberals to control everything we do. The member across the way has said that it is important that they know where everybody is and what they are doing all the time.

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12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for sharing his time with me.

The member for Mississauga South is such a salesman that it is too bad he cannot participate again in the debate. We have all seen the great Mastercard commercial on television. This is what he reminds us of, everything else costs so much, but this one is priceless. According to the member we will not need a health care card, or a driver's licence, or a dental card, or any regular credit cards, or Woolco card. All we will need is this one card that will get us anywhere in the world and we will have no more problems.

The member then goes on to say that they want to ensure they know where we go. It is the old 1970s big brother show. This is information that the government would have would undoubtedly be shared with CSIS, the FBI, the CIA and the KGB. This is a great card, a tremendous card to protect our privacy.

The funny thing about this, and believe me it is funny, is the whole thing is becoming a charade. The debate today is like a comedy show. It is not because this is not a serious issue. Protecting our identity and our privacy is extremely important and having proper and secure access is important.

Why is it so funny? There are a number of things. First, let me mention a couple of comments that have been made and arguments used by members opposite. They have said that getting into the United States is not as easy as it once was.

Recently I have been in the United States quite often, as have other members, and I have not even had to show my passport. If entry does tighten up a bit, undoubtedly Canadians will be required to show a passport which everyone has or can easily get, if they are going to travel. If I will not be travelling, then why do I need a passport?

If 90% or 50% of Canadians are not travelling, then why do they need secure documentation at a cost to the Canadian public?

We talked about credit card fraud. Maybe more onus should be put on the credit card companies to ensure that their cards are more foolproof. If they are subject to losses because they have to pay, rather than the person who holds the card, they will quickly find a way of coming up with a card that protects their money.

Let us go back to the gun registration. I think that is perhaps why this debate is so ludicrous and why it has become a comedy hour. Everyone across the country, not only here in the House, is looking at the fact that the Liberals are proposing to introduce a card. Now everybody has to be registered, not only those who have guns, and will have a specific card.

That card will do everything. It will register Canadians for their health plan, for driving, for shopping, for banking, for travel and for their security according to the Liberals. When the gun registration was brought in, how many criminals, the ones the government set out to get, really registered their guns? Were all criminals registering their guns? Of course, the answer is no. The gun registry did not do what it was supposed to do.

Also look at our passports. Why are we having trouble with passports? Mainly because of the incompetency of the governing department. It is mismanagement. We have people walking out with arm loads of blank passports. The department cannot account for them. This is why an ID card is so ludicrous, particularly in relation to gun control.

Perhaps somewhere in the ratio 1 in 15 people own a gun and probably have registered it. There is no problem at all. A few Canadians who own guns will register them at a cost to the taxpayer of $2 million.

The whole thing is in a mess and it has cost over $1 billion to date. We will see a bill rammed through this House on Monday to give government another $15 million which, the experts say, will develop new software to correct the mistakes. The Liberals think the complexities are so great that they cannot do it, but they will waste $15 million just to see. Then of course that just straightens out the computerized part of it, we think.

Then they will have to go on from there at perhaps $100 million or $120 million, again these are estimates, a year for X number of years. That is to register guns. If we have to multiply that by 15, build in the complexities of what this card is supposed to cover and leave it in the hands of the same incompetents, imagine what this will cost the Canadian taxpayer?

We have a lot of people across the country registering long guns because they feel they have to obey the law and for no other reason. It is not because they agree with gun control. Hand guns and other guns that would be used in crime should be registered and controlled. I have no problem with that. Why register long guns which most people have always used for hunting and whatever? It is an idiotic idea.

Instead of dealing with the types of guns criminals use so the rest of us will be protected, the Liberals have done the reverse. They have made criminals out of law-abiding citizens if they do not register their guns, but have been unable to deal with the criminal element whatsoever. If that happens with this small, one in 15 example of registration and control, imagine if everybody in the country had to be registered. It is just idiotic.

I have a couple of points. Experts say that a massive central database of information will be needed to run such a scheme and the task of keeping this accurate and up to date will be enormous. If it is that complicated compared to a simple gun registry, what will we be talking about in the House this time next year?

That is why here in the House and across the country the opinion is that this is so idiotic. The United States has said “No way, José would we look at such a card because of the complexities”. However it can be done in Canada because we already have done it with the gun registry. Look where that got us. Now we will register everybody.

People from coast to coast are laughing and not because they think the idea of having some security is not serious. It is because the government has the nerve, after what happened in relation to the gun registry, to bring in another bill to register everybody in Canada in a much more complex environment than the gun registration.

Perhaps that is enough to put on the record. Undoubtedly a decision will be made on this quickly, as it should be.