House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was credit.

Topics

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, nothing in this bill has anything to do with what the parliamentary secretary just said. We will certainly have a lot of work to do in committee to show that.

This is, in fact, the first time we have had to deal with a device that has military capacities and international capabilities. It will be managed by a private owner, but the government wants to regulate it so that it does not contravene its international commitments, and also so that it is not at odds with what would be good for national defence and security.

Nevertheless, let us not forget that we have lavished praise on it as a commercial device. Therefore, we must see how the provinces will fare in these circumstances.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, in addressing the legislation, it is fascinating that we can even reflect on the level of technology at which we are looking, and everything else that can be comprehended and apprehended by the legislation. A few short years ago it would be beyond comprehension to think about legislation that would govern satellites in space taking pictures of our movements. We are seeing an amazing progression of technology unfolding right before our eyes.

It is not the owner of satellite systems who first got the idea that altitude would give a vantage point to somebody who wanted to survey the land. I am sure every time prehistoric man and woman got to a hilltop or climbed a tree to look around, there were reasons for that. They wanted to literally get the lie of the land. Maybe they were looking for movement of various herds of animals that would provide their food supply. They might have been looking for water. They might have on top of to see if any of their enemies were around.

The idea itself is as old as humankind, but the technology is so incredibly advanced. We have satellite systems that literally map out to the most minute detail of the earth's surface, of Canada's surface. We have satellite systems involved in hydrology. They can predict, with great ability, the various water masses that are both above and below ground. Satellites can spot a certain type of rust or blemish on a stock of wheat in a field. It is amazing that can be picked up from outer space. It is amazing that we can monitor the movements of people, machines and other things which could be either a threat or a benefit. Yet there are cautions that go with it, and quite rightly.

As we understand, in June of 2000 an agreement was forged between Canada and the United States related to the operation of remote satellite systems. The agreement predicated and prefaced the legislation that we are looking at today. There are some legitimate concerns governments have in the interests of and on behalf of their citizens, related to satellites and remote sensing systems.

First and foremost, the official opposition has always said and maintained that the primary role of government is the safety and security of its citizens. We think about defence, security and safety, and this should be a primary role in this legislation. We have made the case many times that we feel the government has fallen down in the area of providing necessary safety and security for its citizens, especially over the last few years as it relates to international terrorism.

We are encouraged on the one hand that the government has stated this is a primary purpose of the legislation. I will not question its sincerity of that. We recognize there is a legitimate role. For the legitimate concerns of safety and national defence, the government needs to know who is looking at our people, who is scanning the nation, what they are coming up with and what kind of capabilities are up there. From that point of view, we support, in general, the direction of the legislation.

There is very clear recognition that Canada is a world leader in the development of satellite sensing systems. We should be very proud of the technology it has developed commercially. We are out in front. That means, not just scientific advancement for issues related to Canada, but it means high-tech, long term employment opportunity for our citizens. It also brings to bear the necessity for proper education systems, especially post-secondary and post-graduate secondary, where these items can be taught and explored so the technology can continue to be develop.

We do not want the legislation to in any way hinder Canada's foremost role internationally in developing the commercial side of this area. I specifically refer to the CRTC, an organization which in the view of many Canadians has gone far beyond its boundaries in whatever legitimate purpose it may have. Some have argued, and I would argue this from time to time, that this has had a negative effect on commercial development in the broadcasting arena in Canada. We do not want to see the government taking its legitimate concerns related to safety and security of national defence and broaden that, particularly because of this government's insatiable desire to control every aspect of the lives of its citizens. We do not want that creeping into its legitimate role in terms of national defence. We will be watching that closely. Yes, there is a legitimate role, but we do not want an outer space CRTC type of organization cropping up by virtue of this legislation, which is going to stifle some tremendous commercial developments that have taken place because of the private sector. That is a caution.

I also do not see in the legislation a clear explanation of whether this is retroactive or whether it will cover systems already in space. There are incumbent costs to any system or any infrastructure that is built according to a certain regulatory regime, at one point in time. When another more advanced and perhaps more invasive regulatory regime is imposed on those systems, there is a well known principle in law that is generally followed. If a building is constructed according to certain building guidelines, it is not subject to the full weight of new guidelines upon new construction. We would hope that general principle of retroactivity would apply to systems already out there. We do not see that specifically addressed, and we will watch for it in the legislation.

One topic that is on the minds of Canadians, and we hear it discussed at length in this assembly, is the whole question of missile defence. Are we seeing a stealth approach to some hidden agenda item that the government may have related to missile defence? It was only a few months ago that government ministers were coming out strongly in favour of continental missile defence. The present Minister of National Defence, when he was minister of foreign affairs, boldly declared several months ago that the government was moving ahead with missile defence. He not only said moving ahead, but there was not going to be debate in Parliament on that. That acceptance of its own democratic deficit astounded many of us. As the official opposition we reacted to this and demanded that the government bring in a full discussion related to continental missile defence in the House so we would know all the facts.

We want some reflection from government members and ultimately from the minister on the legislation. What bearing, if any, does the legislation have on missile defence? Will it be seen as a proactive legislative lever? Will it be seen as something that would be restrictive? We want the government to come clean on what appears to be a hidden agenda on its part on this issue.

There is the matter of the individual privacy of citizens. I am somewhat uncomfortable with the parliamentary secretary's response to a good question put to him by my colleague. From his comments, it seems there will be a hands-off approach when it comes to the dissemination of information that is gathered about individual citizens. We want a little more comfort than that. As we move toward the committee stage, we want to know that dissemination of information will be something the bill not only contemplates, but takes a look in terms of the rights of citizens.

I was talking recently with a representative from an allied source about intelligence services. The individual shared with me the incredible capability of these satellites. I am not talking sub-stratospheric; I am talking outer space. They can literally read a licence number on a car. If they can read a licence number, they can probably read a newspaper headline. Who knows what else they can do? There has to be some cautionary note in the legislation regarding the dissemination of information on private citizens. We will look to some further discussion on that, and hopefully some guidance and some insights from the government.

Then there is the element of costs. Research I have done to this point suggests a cost of $1.3 million. Eight to nine government individuals across a number of departments will be involved in monitoring the legislation. I am sure other systems will be in place for some of the broader application. The only reason I am a bit nervous of that is in 2001 the then justice minister told us that a different type of registry, a gun registry, would not be just revenue neutral, but the fees would cover the cost of the whole program. The federal government itself admits that the cost of that program has run over $1 billion. I think it says $1,000,055,000. The Auditor General has suggested it is more than that because the compliance costs of that program were in the hundreds of millions. It is really upward in the area of $2 billion, and still running rampant.

When I hear the regulatory costs of the legislation will be $1.3 million, I cannot share the same exuberance for some kind of assessment. It seems like a low amount, quite honestly. I am delighted if that is all it is, but we will also ask the government to be very clear on that and what the possible escalators will be to those costs. This seems to be a fairly minimal amount to regulate something as sophisticated as satellite systems in space.

Those are our observations. In general we support the principle of the legislation. I hope we will be able to continue to do this, and our ability to do that will depend on the degree to which these questions are answered.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. critic for the Conservative Party for his comments with respect to second reading of this bill. He has raised a number of important issues, which I am sure we will have an opportunity to debate in committee, and ask officials to provide a comfort level to all members of Parliament.

The first issue which he raised of concern over was ballistic missile defence. I know there are some who have likened this initiative to BMD. This satellite is a remote sensing satellite. It is not a satellite that observes trajectories above the earth on whether missiles are moving in one direction or another. I want to dispel the myth that has somehow permeated certain individuals who believe it is. I want to give assurance to the House that it has nothing to do with that issue.

On the subject of BMD, I too, like the hon. member, am looking forward to a very healthy debate on this issue. I would also offer, as I have done to his representative on the committee, an opportunity for a briefing, which the Conservative Party has not taken up at this point. We would certainly like to offer an opportunity to discuss this matter more fully.

On the issue of privacy, there is no question of privacy. This legislation gives regulatory effect to those who should be licensed. The hon. member has perhaps spoken to this issue more frequently than any member in the House of Commons. On the subject of terrorism, we do not want clients who might use the information for heinous, distasteful, questionable and harmful ends. I think the hon. member would agree with that. It will not affect the privacy of Canadians, but we need to have a modicum of understanding of why the information is being used through commercial means.

Finally, on the subject of costing, the hon. member can be assured that we will give a costing. We all want to ensure that it is consistent with the modalities that the private sector expects, while taking into consideration the public's interest.

I realize there is not really a question there, but it may provide the member an opportunity to further comment on other areas that he thinks will be helpful to ensure that the bill passes.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the reasoned response from my colleague. First, I have a comment and then I will ask a question.

We have availed ourselves of briefing opportunities with staff of the departments involved in this. They have been very good about giving us information for which we have asked. I wanted to clarify that. The member has offered some official briefing sessions also, and that is much appreciated. It appears as though the government is being forthright on this.

Has the member heard any discussion about data that might be shared from these systems with our Norad involvement? We are talking about being able to survey an entire continent. Is he aware of any discussion that would have beneficial implications or applications related to our Norad responsibilities?

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the member what he feels about the sanction mechanisms that we find in clauses 23 to 45. These sanction mechanisms seems quite generous since the penalties are not very serious. For example, maximum fines are $250,000, while maximum imprisonment is 18 months.

Moreover, these clauses provide for a defence of due diligence, which makes it possible to avoid a certain number of offences. Consequently, in terms of sanctions, this approach is based more on warnings than on penalization.

In fact, currently, private companies and the government are very close partners. Since the government is more or less the main client of these private companies, is there not some danger in terms of the protection of both privacy and the entire bill?

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, indeed, this is a very important question. Unfortunately, I do not have all the answers to the questions and I myself have many questions to ask the government.

It would be important in the future that we work together with other members to analyze our questions, in order to determine whether we share certain views as representatives of our constituents. It would be good to think about such a presentation.

At this stage in the debate, I would prefer to determine the government's position so we can then discuss it in this House. It would be important that we understand the intent of this bill. Then we could discuss the good questions that were just raised in this regard.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to respond to the request of the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla relating to Norad. I can tell the hon. member that there is no formal relationship between RADARSAT-1 and RADARSAT-2 with respect to Norad because that really deals with air defence issues, air missiles and so on, which is linked to the first point I made on BMD.

However there could be, and have been in the past, relationships with NATO which deals with our partnership with other nations in terms of defence as well as clients who will work from time to time, as our satellite is used, for NATO initiatives. I just wanted to give the hon. member an assurance that it is not for Norad but in fact for NATO if anything.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased this afternoon to have an opportunity to participate in the second reading of Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems. The short title, which also seems like a mouthful, is the remote sensing space systems act.

Although there may be some different perspectives in different corners of the House on exactly what we are dealing with here and what the potential is for good or for the opposite of good, there probably is agreement among all members that it is truly astounding, and it probably makes sense to acknowledge this, that we have such legislation to deal with such a matter.

I am not the only one in the House who can say this but I am old enough to realize that if someone had tried to talk about this, even in my university days, I would not have known what on earth they were talking about. In fact, the very existence of the kinds of satellites that are now hurtling around in the atmosphere would just simply not have been understood or even imagined. There is something a bit daunting and a bit sobering about the responsibility that falls to 308 members of Parliament to now get their heads around legislation to regulate remote sensing space systems. I want to read directly from the summary of the bill. It states:

--to ensure that their operation is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations nor inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations.

We are grappling with a very sobering responsibility.

I want to say at the outset that it would be the intention of my colleagues, the New Democratic Party caucus, to vote for the bill to go to committee. However it is equally our intention to comb through every single dotted i and crossed t of the bill and utilize the best expertise available, the broadest input possible from Canadians, to ensure we fully understand in precisely what way the bill can and will be used to serve those, on the surface of it, very laudable aims and objectives.

One of the reasons I think every member of the House needs to take this responsibility seriously is that we have seen over the last couple of years, in the name of “security”, truly terrifying things to which the government's legislation has now committed us and in which we are embroiled, to our national shame, and to the detriment of what anybody could remotely think of security in the real sense of the word.

I do not actually know who said this but I think it expresses very strongly the apprehensions, concerns and fears that a great many Canadians have, with good reason these days, to remind ourselves that a nation that seeks security through abandoning human rights is bound to end up achieving neither.

What we have watched happen over the last several years in the name of security clearly turned a deaf ear to the prophetic warning of Barbara Lee, the Afro-American congresswoman. In the aftermath of 9/11, when the American president divided the world into us and them and said, “You are either with Osama bin Laden or you are with George Bush”, as if there were no other choices to be made, the world instantly became a less safe place and highly polarized. The advice of Barbara Lee was that in our attempt to defeat terrorism we should not become the evil we deplore. This advice needs to be taken seriously by each and every one of us every single day and every waking moment.

Having said that, being an optimist and always taking my responsibility seriously, we have to ensure the legislation is a positive instrument of public policy and not something draconian or even unintentionally something vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, distortion and so on. I think an important starting point is to understand absolutely, not only the legitimacy of the legislation but why we need such legislation. Sometimes we stand in our place and say that we feel that even the purpose of the legislation that is being pursued is not a legitimate one and we would not vote for it to even go to second reading.

Legislation is a source of pride and we should remind ourselves that Canada is a world leader in remote sensing satellite technology. We do not introduce legislation for the sole and express purpose of ensuring that Canada remains a world leader, but that it can be an important byproduct and in turn can spell future opportunities and challenges for Canada as a whole, for Canadian scientists to contribute toward peaceful and positive purposes for which this technology is earmarked or directed.

However let us also be mindful that there is the potential for such legislation, primarily because of its vagueness, to go off the rails. Many Canadians, and I would include New Democrat members of Parliament among those Canadians, are deeply worried over the potential for this legislation becoming the cloak or the cover for something very different from its intended purposes.

I say that not meaning to accuse any individual member of Parliament of having such intent because he or she votes for the legislation. We will vote for the legislation to go to committee but, because of what can happen in the carrying out of the government's agenda on a parallel track, we could find that the advancing of the missile defence agenda creeps in and overtakes the intended purpose of the legislation that is now before us.

Let me go back to the face value of what this act is about. It would establish a licensing regime for remote sensing space systems and provide for restrictions of the distribution of data gathered by means of them. I want to add my voice to the concerns we have heard about the privacy of Canadians and the potential use of their data. The bill states that there will be appropriate restrictions and I think we need to hear more about that.

I listened to the parliamentary secretary's response to a question that we raised concerning the application of the Privacy Act, but I am still worried. I hope he will take the opportunity to elaborate further on that . It sounds as if we may have some real homework to do in terms of plugging some serious holes to ensure this proposed act will not lead to the invasion of privacy without proper protections.

I believe I understood the parliamentary secretary to say, and I will happily withdraw my words if I have misunderstood him, or the sense of the response was, that yes we are sensitive to privacy concerns, but that we had to remember that this was now a privatized operation, that it was in the commercial domain and that there was only so much we could do about it.

The first obvious response to that is that if the privacy concerns of Canadians cannot be absolutely assured and protected, then what in the name of heavens would we be doing agreeing to a commercialized privately operated operation for RADARSAT without that being an absolute condition. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could provide some further assurance on that issue.

The summary of the bill goes on to state:

--the enactment gives special powers to the Government of Canada concerning priority access to remote sensing services and the interruption of such services.

The devil can be in the details.

Whether or not the kinds of powers that the bill assigns to government and the responsibilities of government in handling RADARSAT-2 are what they need to be will provide the answer as to whether it can be assured that there are protections that the legislation will in fact be used for its intended purpose. We do not want it to be exploited and to find that this is actually dragging us through a back door into a possible future participation in ballistic missile defence.

Canadians in greater and greater numbers are making it clear they want absolutely nothing to do with participation in Bush's missile defence initiative. It is becoming more clear that Canadians are saying no to Canadian participation in missile defence, but are saying yes to our federal government and Parliament providing leadership. Canadians want us to persuade Bush to say no to the militarization of space, the weaponization of space that is inherently built in to the missile defence trajectory that the U.S. government is now launched on.

For anyone who doubts that, the biggest mouthpieces for the Bush administration's policy are the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. Those organizations have been on the front lines, in much the same way that the Fraser Institute and the C.D. Howe Institute have deliberately driven the evolution of the reform-alliance, and now no longer progressive conservative party. The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute have had a major influence over foreign policy choices in general and the military agenda in particular of the Bush administration. They have been trumpeting missile defence.

Yesterday a spokesperson for the Heritage Foundation appeared before the foreign affairs committee. His testimony will be in the committee Hansard and it is important that people familiarize themselves with it. He said that from the perspective of the Heritage Foundation the issue of weaponization of space and the concerns about the possible militarization of space are ill-founded because, according to him, both are already true. We already have the militarization of space. As we speak, the weaponization of space is beginning to happen. It is not some distant concern.

The previous Liberal cabinet minister who was defeated, David Pratt, used to say, “I do not know why the NDP, why progressives in this country, why people who feel we should be investing in peace and not escalation of war, keep raising militarization of space as if it is a real concern”. For one thing, $200 billion has already been spent in missile defence evolution. Every year we can look at the U.S. budgets and we can see the allocation of resources, $10 billion this year alone, to further develop the weaponization of space.

David Pratt would say that nothing is going to happen on that front until at least the year 2010. What kind of timeline is that? What kind of vision is that? What kind of horizon of planning for the future protection of the human race is that?

I do not want to go too far afield in this but we need to face reality. The government either does not know where it is going on this matter, in which case it is high time it did, or it knows exactly where it wants to go on this and it is walking a tightrope that has a lot more to do with its own immediate electoral fortunes than it has to do with the kind of broad concern about what kind of leadership Canada is going to provide to the world to make sure we do not get on course to the weaponization of space.

Witness after witness appeared before the foreign affairs committee. It is hoped that there are Liberal members of Parliament who read the committee Hansard because hardly any of them are ever there to hear what is being said in regard to these matters. I find that deeply disturbing because I know there are a lot of Liberals who are very concerned at any possibility that they would be attached to a government that would plunge us into Bush's missile defence. However, there does not seem to be much of a presence in terms of expressing concern or of eliciting information and so on.

I want to say one other thing before I deal with a few of the specific concerns about the bill. Those who think it is paranoid to be concerned that this legislation might morph into something that was never intended should think about the anti-terrorism measures that were brought in with Bill C-36. They should think about, in the name of security, the kind of security certificates that are being issued today that absolutely trash human rights, trample civil rights, suspend the rule of law, suspend assumption of innocence, suspend any meaningful legal process. People's lives are being destroyed and are being held in abeyance but they face no charges and have no way to get out of that legal nightmare. Let us be careful that we do not pass legislation that gives powers that we cannot actually deal with in the regulations.

Coming back to the issue of ownership and use, let us be clear that this commercially owned satellite, RADARSAT-2, is billed by its manufacturer, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, as incorporating state of the art technology featuring the most advanced commercially available radar imagery in the world. I think that is true. We need to applaud that.

We need to be sure that that incredible capability is used for constructive, peaceful purposes. This means we need to take up the challenge to become world leaders even more so in verification matters as they relate to the development of weapons and armaments. Let us make sure that we do not redirect that kind of technology into areas that go against Canadian values and against the promises given.

Let us also be clear that Canadian taxpayers have funded approximately 75% of the development of this satellite. This is another reason that we have to have a major say around the assurances about how it is used and that the regulatory mechanism for doing it has to be used stringently.

It is important to note that RADARSAT International has sold imagery from RADARSAT-1 to the U.S. military in the past. Some of this information may have been used by the United States in its war in Iraq, a war in which Canada did not want to participate and a war in which we have no assurance we were not in fact complicit by having sold information to the U.S. military that aided and abetted the war in Iraq.

We need ironclad assurances about any possible future use of this legislation. It is very worrisome that the government saw the obvious link that one can make to the use of RADARSAT-2 as part of the U.S. ballistic missile defence system. The very first words out of departmental officials were to assure us that there is no connection between RADARSAT-2 and missile defence.

We need to make sure that those are not just empty assurances. We need to make sure that the provisions in the regulations and the actual content of the legislation is such that there is an ironclad guarantee that that is not what ends up happening to be the real use, if not even at this point the intended use, of RADARSAT-2 in the legislation that is now before us.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Halifax for staying on topic and speaking so readily to the issue of the bill at hand.

I share her concerns with respect to privacy. For the record I want to make sure it is perfectly clear that the remote sensing satellites expected to be licensed under the proposed act are unlikely to possess sufficient performance capabilities to generate privacy concerns.

Should any future technology provide law enforcement agencies with imagery capabilities against which a reasonable expectation of privacy would exist, prior judicial authorization should be required.

I also want to assure the hon. member that our government is firmly committed to protecting the rights of persons afforded under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms against any unreasonable searches. It is important that the hon. member understand from a privacy perspective that we too of course would be vigilant. However, this does not have the technology to do what is perceived to be a concern as it relates to privacy.

I assure the hon. member that I know the distinction given my intervention on the FLIR decision, which was to accord with the Supreme Court of Canada to reverse the position on the forward looking infrared camera. I know and understand the distinction between what was said at the Superior Court of Ontario which was wrong, which turned out to be upended by the Supreme Court of Canada nine to nothing. I will take that kind of affirmation for my efforts any day.

I want to point out to the hon. member, as I said to other colleagues earlier, that the BMD satellites observe missiles in flight or on trajectories above the earth. Remote sensing satellites do not.

We can have the debate on BMD any time. The hon. member will know that I had a very thriving debate with her leader on Sunday. When given the facts, Canadians will arrive at the need to balance our sovereignty needs with the issues of security on BMD. They will make that decision through parliamentarians.

We will not be moved by those who believe that somehow this is the escalation of the arms race. Canada believes very strongly in the notion of prevention and protection as well. If missiles are going to fly above our territory, we want to know what is going on. We want to be at the table. We want to ensure that those missiles and the debris, whether it be chemical or warheads, does not fall on Canadians.

Every Canadian knows that North Korea attempted to do this. The mission failed. It wound up halfway over the Pacific Ocean. These are hard facts. Several nations, such as Iran, have refused to become part of the non-proliferation treaty. We saw what happened in New York in 2001. We know that it has cost Canadians $10 million to protect our security at the borders from that kind of attack.

I look forward to the hon. member's participation on this very important issue at committee. We will have an opportunity, as we are now, to deal with issues along the lines of proliferation and arms treaties and arms control. The foreign affairs committee is looking into that. I hope the points that we have made about privacy are ones which will meet with the hon. member's satisfaction.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I think it is fair enough in debate to take a bit of a jab about whether I stayed entirely on topic in my comments about the bill, but let me jab back to say that I am not taking the parliamentary secretary's comments too seriously because I actually believe he knows that these comments are absolutely relevant to the debate we are having about this bill and that there is absolutely and unquestionably the potential for this.

We do not need to have a suspicious mind or suffer from paranoia to be concerned about the possibility that the stated purpose of the bill, the capability we have to become, more and more, players with regard to satellite operations and then whatever else happens from there, is real. It is the question we face.

I heard the parliamentary secretary. Now of course he has me worried, because I heard him do a bit of a rah-rah about how we really have to be concerned about what North Korea might do and we have to be very concerned about what we know Iran is already up to.

It is very clear, with all due respect, that when members of the House invoke those kinds of issues, a lot of people brace themselves to hear what follows, because that is the Bush line on all of this, which is that we therefore need to be part of missile defence because, boy, that is the only way we can defend ourselves.

Let me say this about yesterday afternoon just before the foreign affairs committee meeting. It is a shame that some members of the committee were not even there to hear the testimony, but I ask members to please go to the committee Hansard. Retired Ambassador Jonathan Dean, who has a distinguished record in the military and a distinguished record in diplomacy around non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and around peace negotiations, pleaded with us as Canadians concerned about doing the right thing.

He pleaded with us to recognize that yes, there are real threats and concerns that North Korea poses and that Iran poses, but the wrong response to that, exactly the opposite response to what is needed, would be to sign on to missile defence, because not only is missile defence distracting and diverting enormous resources into building up this escalation of its own U.S. weaponry, but it is also distracting from the real things that need to be done.

Really, it was one of the most helpful things in his testimony when he pointed out how shocking it is that people are neglecting to do what needs to be done to actually deal effectively and a lot more cheaply with the developments in North Korea and Iran. That is exactly the point. It is not because those are wrong-headed concerns. It is because the response is not a solution; they are the wrong solutions.

Again let me say that when this legislation comes before committee it is going to be very important for us to look at every single word and what it means, and to look at every single provision in terms of whether the protections against potential abuse are what they need to be.

I want to say further that since what this kind of debate leads to is either an argument for “yes, we need to be in the game”, which gets us straight onto that conveyor belt to missile defence and the weaponization of space, as Lloyd Axworthy, a former foreign affairs minister in this Liberal government, described it, or we take seriously what are the real, effective alternatives that need to be pursued. We need to do our homework on those things.

One of the things that has been very encouraging in the testimony before the foreign affairs committee, and frankly by the witnesses who appeared at the parliamentary network against nuclear weapons as well, is that there are practical, concrete, specific things that we need to be doing. It should be a sobering reminder.

The parliamentary secretary has taken the opportunity to say that these satellites are out there so let us not put our heads in the sand and let us talk about what kind of satellite we have and what kind of environment it is.

Two things have been raised before the committee again and again. One is that there is already a problem with debris out there, which is threatening satellites.

Second, and I will finish with this, it should be sobering for us to realize that we are talking about 800 satellites, of which RADARSAT-2 would be one, and 100 of those 800 satellites are American satellites dedicated exclusively for military purposes.

Let us be clear about the environment in which we now are talking about advancing RADARSAT-2 and let us ensure that the regulatory mechanisms around it are going to truly advance and protect not only Canadians' interests but the global citizens of the world, because that is who is affected by what goes on out there in space with satellites and whatever other horrible things may follow.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-25.

However, before I begin my remarks, I simply have to address some of the completely fallacious, false and untrue comments made by the NDP member. She is completely wrong to suggest even for a moment to the Canadian public that Bill C-25 has anything to do with ballistic missile defence, the weaponization of space or star wars. Those are three completely distinct issues and completely distinct situations. For her information, and she should know this, BMD is not star wars. BMD is not the weaponization of space. This bill has nothing whatsoever to do with either of those things.

I also have a question to ask the member. We have threats in this world and the milk of human kindness does not flow through the veins of some people. The people we are talking about are individuals who have the capability of launching ballistic missiles in this world. We wish it were not so, but that is the case, as my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has mentioned. We have a responsibility and a duty above all others to engage in the protection of the Canadian people. That is a responsibility we will not shirk.

On this particular bill it is a pleasure for me to speak on behalf of the Minister of National Defence in regard to enacting this legislation that refers to remote sensing space systems in Canada. I am sure that my hon. colleagues would agree that we have been very successful in taking advantage of opportunities presented by space technologies. From Canadarm's role in the construction of the international space station to our astronauts' participation in several space shuttle missions, Canada is widely recognized as a leader in this area.

An important part of our space activities, of course, has been observing the earth using remote sensing satellites, like RADARSAT-1, which we have operated for nearly a decade, and RADARSAT-2, which will be operational in late 2005 or 2006.

Satellite images serve Canada in many ways. For example, this is an invaluable tool for emergency preparedness and disaster response. These satellites are used to facilitate the safe navigation of our coastal waters by ensuring that we have an accurate measurement of sea ice and the tracking of icebergs.

The Department of National Defence and our Canadian Forces use this satellite imagery to protect our sovereignty and our security day in and day out.

These satellites will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in understanding what is happening to our remote and coastal regions and consequently will be an active participant in securing our security and sovereignty.

For example, DND and the armed forces are, in cooperation with other government departments, currently engaged in an initiative called Polar Epsilon. Under this initiative, Canada's RADARSAT-2 satellite and other sensors will provide all-weather day and night surveillance of Canada's Arctic and ocean approaches.

The emphasis will be on generating information in remote areas where we really do not have any other capability of watching these areas. Increasingly, satellites are a critical part of our defence capabilities, and because effective surveillance of our territories and its approaches are of vital importance, it is important that we pass this bill forthwith. I am certain the defence planners are looking at the essential capabilities, particularly when it comes to our ongoing defence review, which should be coming in front of the committee in short order. Of course, with opportunity comes responsibility. The same capabilities that are becoming so useful to so many could also threaten our own security and defence interests.

If I may, I would also like to take a few moments to speak of the importance of this bill to the ability of our Canadian Forces to respond in a factual and effective fashion to our security needs.

The bill provides a means for our government to help ensure that those who might harm our interests cannot use images taken from our own satellites against us. I would remind my hon. colleagues that it is possible today for anyone with a credit card and Internet access to buy satellite images of striking clarity. I do not think I need to elaborate on what could happen if our adversaries got hold of critical information, particularly as it relates to our defence operations.

This is why the Government of Canada, following the example of our most trusted allies, took on the responsibility of issuing licences for exporting remote sensing satellites and regulating the distribution of satellite images.

Of course, the government has no intention of interfering in the enforcement of these responsibilities, nor is it seeking to limit commercial gains from satellites.

A number of government departments and agencies have worked diligently to respect the rights of Canadians and to strike a balance between Canada's defence, security and foreign policy interests and the maintenance of an important sector of Canada's industries. Let me give an example of how this would work in real terms.

The Department of National Defence would support the Minister of Foreign Affairs in licensing remote sensing satellites by providing advice on the potential impact of the satellite images on our security. DND would also provide threat assessments as the Minister of Foreign Affairs reviews agreements between the operators of remote sensing satellites and those who operate receiving stations on the ground or who want to sell images they produce.

Last, should it become clear that images from our satellites pose a threat to Canada, the Canadian Forces or our allies, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the national defence department could temporarily prevent a satellite from taking pictures of a specific area at a particular resolution. This is called shutter control and it can be invoked, but only under specific conditions to prevent the disclosure of information that could harm our interests or those of our allies.

I would stress that it is only the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs who can actually invoke this clause. I would also point out that the United States has this very same clause in its legislation and has never used it.

A second objective of our bill is to help ensure that the government has access to satellite imagery in emergency situations. In such cases, the legislation would give government requests for satellite images priority over other requests. The Canadian Forces, for example, might need a quick assessment and view, and they would get this information.

It is clear that the bill will help the government protect Canada's most fundamental interests, including sovereignty and security. It is clear that the government has done its homework in ensuring that the bill is a balanced one.

I will end by reminding my colleagues that Canada is far from alone in working to ensure that satellites are not used for the wrong purposes. Our friends in the United States have had similar legislation in place for over a decade. In 2000 Canada and the U.S. agreed that both countries would establish controls on remote sensing satellites, facilitating cooperation in Canada's RADARSAT-2 program. Several other countries are coming to similar conclusions about the unfettered distribution of satellite imagery.

I hope that this bill receives quick passage in the House and Parliament. To those who believe for a moment that this bill has anything to do with ballistic missile defence or with the so-called star wars program or the weaponization of space, it has nothing to do with either of those situations. I would emphasize for clarity that ballistic missile defence, the so-called star wars and the weaponization of space are entirely different situations.

The government has made it very clear that Canada is firmly against the weaponization of space. It is something that the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have made abundantly clear time and time again. I want to assure the members of the public who are watching that this is a position we will not stray from.

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1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased with the presentation by our colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. At last we are getting a military angle on the bill we have before us. He raised a number of interesting points about which I might like to hear more from him.

We have no objection to the fact that, from a military point of view, there could be surveillance of locations that are hard to monitor at the present time, and that this could be done by satellite. However, when he tells us that only the Minister of National Defence or the Minister of Foreign Affairs can decide where the national interests of Canada lie, this is starting to put a restriction on who can decide what is important for Canada and what is not.

I would also like to see a connection made with NORAD. One of their arguments as to why we should be in favour of the missile defence shield is that they have contacts with NORAD that they do not want to lose.

Is he telling us that the information collected by the U.S. satellites now at NORAD is not being shared with Canada? Or, the opposite side of that coin, can he tell us whether the information that is going to be gathered militarily will be passed on to our American friends?

I do not have the agreement with me, but according to my notes, on June 16, 2000 there was a reference to an agreement with the United States on the type of bill that ought to be presented to us now.

So I would like to hear his explanation of the relationship between Canada, NORAD and the United States, and on the importance of these satellites in passing on that information in terms of the bill we have before us today. Has he received any information from NORAD in connection with the concerns he raised about remote regions?

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, let me talk about the responsibility of the Minister of National Defence. The member somehow suggested that there was a problem with the Minister of National Defence or the Minister of Foreign Affairs making decisions in the interests of the security of Canada when operations were taking place abroad. He also suggested that the divulgence of sensing information that might show sensitive security operations taking place should somehow be allowed in the general public.

Both ministers have a responsibility to our troops that are abroad to ensure that their security is not compromised. If that information was allowed in the general public, then obviously our enemies could use that information against our own troops. Are we going to compromise that? Absolutely not. We make no apologies for ensuring that our troops are going to be safe and the responsibility of the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, indeed our government, is going to be just that.

Both those ministers, who are privy to top secret information by virtue of their positions, are going to make decisions based on that information. They have a role and a responsibility to ensure that information that could somehow be used against our troops does not get out in the public and is not used against them.

They have the responsibility and the duty, and the right, quite frankly, to turn off that information if that information can be taken and put into a public venue that can be used against our people, or our allies for that matter. We will not allow that to happen.

With respect to NORAD, we have been with the United States in NORAD for a very long time. That relationship is a good one. It has worked to our mutual benefit. I want to emphasize to the member, and he knows this, that if a government has one responsibility above all others, it is the duty and the responsibility to protect its civilians. All other responsibilities fall below that.

We are a part of NORAD because it is integral to our ability to protect our civilians, our country and our people. We will continue to be a part of that and we will continue to work with the United States in the defence of our continent, and in the defence of our mutual citizens.

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1:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I will try not to be too distracted by the howls of protest and the gush of assurances that this has absolutely nothing to do with missile defence. It was pretty predictable that we would hear that from the member. In fact, I feel a bit unnerved by this kind of “thou dost protest too much”.

Forgive us if we are not fully assured by those words. In our view, there is not enough in the legislation itself that makes that absolutely clear. We are going to be looking at it very closely from that point of view. The Liberal record of broken promises is so long that if we typed out those promises and held them end to end, the tickertape of unkept promises would probably be enough to stretch all the way from here right up to where RADARSAT-1 is now orbiting overhead, so pardon us for not being completely reassured.

I want to specifically speak to the vagueness of the language in Bill C-25 in its current form. Under the application section of Bill C-25, the bill gives the minister permission to “modify” application of the act, that is, to exempt individuals and organizations from any provision of the act if:

(a) the exemption is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations nor inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations--

The parliamentary secretary has been absolutely verbose in saying that this has nothing to do with missile defence, nor would it ever. However, in the act it says that the minister has permission to modify application of the act if he deems it. What if the Minister of National Defence deems it, in Canada's interests, necessary to sign on to ballistic missile defence and then we find that this act can be modified accordingly?

We have as well a provision for another thing the minister has permission to modify. It is that adequate provision will be made for the protection of the environment, public health, and the safety of persons and property. In other words, the minister has the ability to modify the act to deal with those issues, but where is the definition that would give assurances as to how that is defined? How do we define whether those provisions are adequate? Are there clear regulations that can actually measure what that means? Do our international obligations under Kyoto apply to the provisions in Bill C-25? They are supposed to protect our environment, but could be changed arbitrarily if the minister deems this to be in our interests, and so on.

The parliamentary secretary will know that, in developing RADARSAT-2, the Canadian Space Agency contributed almost $100,000 toward the $150,000 CSA contract awarded to Lockheed Martin Canada for the development of applications in preparation for RADARSAT-2, specifically the earth observation satellite.

He will know that it is Lockheed Martin Canada which will in fact evaluate the capabilities technology for target detection and recognition surveillance. I do not have to tell the minister that Lockheed Martin is very closely associated with the U.S. defence sector and has had huge contracts with the sector.

If the minister decides to modify the provisions of the act, why would he not understand that there would be concerns, with Lockheed Martin so totally and so closely tied to the U.S. defence industry, about the possibility we would end up becoming a handmaiden to U.S. defence policy?

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1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence has less than 30 seconds.