House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. The sad truth is that terrorism is still alive and well in the world and we cannot sit back, put our heads in the sand and deny that it exists. We have to step up to the plate.

The number one job of a government is to keep its citizens safe. We will do what we have to do and that is what we are doing.

Statements Regarding Voting Record of Member
Privilege
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief on this matter which arose after question period and an undertaking I gave the Speaker, pursuant to a question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Richmond, in which he claimed that in a recent interview with the Chinese Canadian media, I had mischaracterized his voting record regarding Bill C-50.

I had told media outlets that the member for Richmond was saying one thing to them about this bill, but voting a different way in the House. The member for Richmond rose today on a question of privilege to contest that fact. I undertook to review the voting records. I have done so, and although I do not think I need to table the Hansard transcripts of the debates of this place, the transcript of Hansard from Wednesday, April 9, 2008 with respect to the votes on the Budget Implementation Act demonstrates clearly that the member for Richmond did in fact vote against a motion in the name of the member for Trinity—Spadina which sought to split Bill C-50 and which, had it passed, would have effectively been a confidence measure and defeated the bill.

I am therefore pleased to present this as per my undertaking which underscores the veracity of my remarks and the fact that the member for Richmond did effectively vote to support the government on this matter.

Statements Regarding Voting Record of Member
Privilege
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on the same point because my colleague from Richmond is not here to comment.

I know that he would have liked to thank the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity for his perspicacity, but he probably would have asked that it be indicated that the vote would have been required at any rate. The NDP motion could not possibly split the bill. What my colleague would have said is he would have voted against the measure when it came at third reading.

Statements Regarding Voting Record of Member
Privilege
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I am not sure that either point is a point of order. With respect it appears as if the House just heard points of debate and not points of order.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-3, an act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions).

Today I will focus my remarks regarding Bill S-3 on these provisions and how they compare with the provisions found in the anti-terrorism legislation of other major democratic countries. I will do so in order to show that the provisions in this bill are either similar to or in some cases narrower than those of other countries.

Let us first turn to the proposed investigative hearing procedure. Other democratic countries have similar procedures.

The United States has a grand jury procedure. A federal grand jury can compel the cooperation of persons who may have information relevant to the matters it is investigating. It can subpoena any person to testify under oath. If the individual fails to appear or refuses to answer, or fails to produce evidence or documents in his or her possession, he or she may be held in contempt absent a valid claim of privilege. If a witness or the custodian of a document asserts a valid privilege, he or she may be provided with use and derivative use immunity and then be required to comply with the subpoena to testify or produce evidence.

Investigative hearing provisions roughly equivalent to those proposed in this bill are also found in Australia and South Africa. The United Kingdom goes even further.

In 2001, the U.K. amended its Terrorism Act 2000 to create a crime of withholding information relating to a terrorism act. Specifically, a person commits a crime who fails to disclose information to the police which he or she knows or believes might be of material assistance in preventing an act of terrorism or in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of someone for an offence involving the commission, preparation or instigation of a terrorist act. Punishment for this crime is up to five years' imprisonment.

Also, the U.K., through the Terrorism Act 2006, applied to terrorism investigations the disclosure notice procedure that was created by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. Under that legislation, an investigating authority such as the director of public prosecutions, can have a disclosure notice issued to a person. The notice could require the person to answer questions relevant to the investigation, provide information or produce documents.

Let me now turn to the recognizance with conditions provision. First, the arrest without warrant power found in this provision would be, as before, very limited in scope, for example, where pressing exigent circumstances make it impractical for a peace officer to go before a judge and have the judge compel a person to attend before him or her. Where the person is arrested without warrant, the peace officer would have to bring that person before a judge within 24 hours or, if not feasible, as soon as possible thereafter.

If the judge decided to adjourn the hearing and detain the person until then, the adjournment would be for no more than 48 hours. Thus, under the recognizance with conditions power, the maximum period of time for which a person could be detained until the hearing takes place would generally be for no more than 72 hours.

However, the United Kingdom has a much broader arrest without warrant and detention power. Under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the police may arrest without warrant a person whom he or she reasonably suspects is a terrorist. The maximum period of time that a person can be held in detention without charge under this power was extended from seven days in 2000 to 14 days in 2003 and was increased again to 28 days in 2006. In January 2008, the United Kingdom government introduced a new counterterrorism bill which, if passed, would extend this period of detention, in extraordinary cases, for up to 42 days.

The U.K.'s Terrorism Act 2000 also contains other police powers not found in our Criminal Code, such as the power of a senior police officer to designate a cordoned area where considered “expedient for the purposes of a terrorist investigation”. This allows the police to, for example, order a person to leave the area or not enter the area, and failure to obey the order is an offence. The police may also be authorized to search premises in the area.

There is another power that allows a senior police officer to authorize a uniformed constable to stop and search a vehicle or pedestrian in an area set out in the authorization where the officer “considers it expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism”.

As well, in 2005, the U.K. put in place a system of control orders which may be imposed on a person, citizen or non-citizen alike, to prevent terrorist attacks. There are two kinds of control orders that may be imposed, those that do not derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights and those which do derogate from the convention. The latter would, arguably, apply in cases of house arrest.

Some of those non-derogating control orders that had imposed lengthy, daily curfew periods were successfully challenged in the lower courts and these decisions were appealed to the House of Lords.

In the fall of 2007, the House of Lords ruled that a number of control orders that had imposed an 18 hour curfew violated the right to liberty under the European Convention on Human Rights, rendering these orders null. However, it upheld control orders that imposed 12 or 14 hour curfews.

Australia has also enacted legislation that creates a system of control orders and preventive arrests of terrorist suspects. The Australian federal police may apply for an order for preventive detention for up to 48 hours of a terrorist suspect where there has been a terrorist act or where a terrorist act is imminent. Additionally, Australian states and territories have enacted legislation allowing preventive detention for up to 14 days.

To summarize, Bill S-3 proposes a maximum period of detention of generally 72 hours in relation to the recognizance with conditions power. In contrast, a suspected terrorist in the United Kingdom may currently be detained without charge for up to 28 days. In Australia, states and territories allow for preventive detention for up to 14 days.

It is obvious that in contrast to the United Kingdom and Australia, the power to detain persons in Canada to prevent terrorist activity is far more narrow in scope. The investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions were drafted with due regard for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They help to protect Canadians from the scourge of terrorism in a manner consistent with human rights. As the comparison with other democratic countries show, they have been crafted with restraint.

We must also not forget that these powers can serve to respond to our international obligations to prevent and suppress terrorism. In this regard, it should be noted that United Nations Security Council resolution 1373 states in part that state parties are to “take the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts”.

These provisions are necessary to prevent the commission of terrorist acts and therefore they respond to the international obligation set out in resolution 1373.

For these reasons, I will be supporting this bill and I urge all hon. members in the chamber to do likewise.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake for enlightening us on the law that is being debated here today. In particular I want to expand on what he mentioned a few moments ago with regard to the United Nations requiring its member nations to begin to enact the anti-terrorism laws and to begin to fight the global war on terror.

Some high school students were in to see me last weekend. With regard to human rights and what is occurring around the world vis-à-vis countries using children to do some very improper things, such as strapping ammunition or explosives to their bodies and sending them into places where people are shopping, et cetera, I reminded them of what a late great world leader said. She said that this war between us and our foes will end when the enemy begins to love their children more than they hate us.

However, we are discussing the Anti-terrorism Act today and in particular some of the issues surrounding it. I want to ask my friend, the member for Selkirk—Interlake, what are some of the safeguards in respect to investigative hearings that are currently in this law?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree 100% with what the member said about the need to protect our citizens in Canada, that we have some international obligations to carry this out. Definitely, Canadians right across the country expect the government and this Parliament to initiate these types of measures to ensure that terrorism can be disrupted.

When we know a terrorism undertaking may be happening, we need our police officers and our judges to have the tools they need to execute the necessary measures to disrupt the planning process. We need to be able to hold people, investigate what they are doing and, hopefully, charge them under the Criminal Code for their activities.

We need to remember there are a number of safeguards to protect the rights of these citizens we are so concerned about, especially when we talk about investigative hearings. We need to remember that this does not just involve the federal government. It also involves the provincial jurisdictions. The peace officers, of course, will be the ones carrying out the investigations, looking at the situation and then making their recommendations to the court but they will need to come forward with a pretty strong case.

First, they will need to get the consent of the attorney general of either Canada or of the respective provinces to go ahead with the application. A judge will then need to look at the information that is presented, weigh it off against the rights of the individual, along with the information as presented, and then will need to exercise his or her authority as to whether an order will be provided for the investigative hearing. Therefore there is that safeguard.

It also is important to note that both federal and provincial crown attorneys general would be required to report annually on the use of any of these investigative hearings.

This is a five year process that we are undertaking here right now with the legislation, with the review after 2011, and these annual reports will help set the tone, I believe, on ensuring the process does work, that it does protect Canadians, and that it looks at the overall scope of how this whole process was applied through the investigative hearing.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions) or, as I prefer to call it, the investigative hearings and preventive arrest.

This bill is a follow-up to Bill C-36, which went through the House of Commons and through the Senate in time for the provisions of investigative hearing and preventive arrest to be continued because they were sunsetted and were about to end in February 2007.

At that time there were some discussions and agreement that perhaps some enhancements could be made. The Senate has considered some enhancements to what was Bill C-36. At least the bill was passed in time for these provisions not to lapse. Now we have before us an improved former Bill C-36 in the form of Bill S-3.

I will comment in a moment on the enhanced provisions, but I would like to set the stage for a moment. It is my own view, and I think largely the view of this side of the House and our caucus, that this bill is needed for a few reasons.

First, the threat of terrorism is still with us. The threat of terrorism has not subsided. We saw not too long ago in the newspapers and other media a case in the United Kingdom where a cell of alleged terrorists had been plotting to blow up aircraft that were destined for Canada and the United States. Admittedly, they will be facing those charges in court, but there have been terrorist events preceding that.

I think we need to be ever vigilant. In fact, in Canada we should be somewhat proud that we have had a regime in place that perhaps has been successful in thwarting any attempts to compromise our national security. Having said that, we need to be ever vigilant because the terrorists do not sit idly by. It is known that al-Qaeda has Canada on its list of targets. It is no secret that our troops are in Afghanistan and that causes some consternation among certain parties. I believe this anti-terrorism regime and these provisions are still needed because terrorism is still around us and still a threat.

I also believe these provisions are needed because I do not subscribe to the argument that because we have not had a terrorist event in Canada since the original Anti-Terrorism Act was enacted that we do not need these provisions any more. To me, it is sort of tantamount to saying that if one's house has not burned down one does not need fire insurance. I think that is folly for an argument and we need to have these provisions in place to ensure we do not have a fire in our home.

Third, I think the concerns of some, when these original provisions were enacted, that they would be used in a less than judicious way by the law enforcement agencies, has proven to be wrong. The fact is that they have never been used but that should not mean that we do not need them because we do. We need to have this tool in the toolkit of our law enforcement people in Canada so that if the day comes, and hopefully it will not, they can resort to it.

There is no greater responsibility of a government than to protect and safeguard its citizens. This always needs to be carefully balanced with the civil rights of its citizens. It is a very delicate balance. I do not think anyone would be as naive or as vain to think that we always have the balance right. It is never an easy task but we need e to deal with it and that is why this bill is before this Parliament. As parliamentarians, we need to wrestle with these issues and deal with them.

We have a group in Toronto that was rounded up a couple of years ago, the Toronto 15. There is some confusion I think among Canadians about how these people were charged and rounded up. The fact is that provisions of the Criminal Code were used to arrest these people.

One could argue that if we used the provisions of the Criminal Code there, why could we not always use provisions of the Criminal Code? It is a good point but it is not a compelling argument because in this particular case the police had informants. They had information and certain evidence.

At the end of the day, of course, these people are being tried and dealt with by the prosecutors, the courts and the police. Some of them have already been released. If they were completely innocent, it is unfortunate that they had to be incarcerated for a period of time. I am not sure if some of them got out on bail but it is always an unfortunate event if people are arrested and then not subsequently charged. However, in this particular case, the police had sufficient evidence and arrested them under the provisions of the Criminal Code.

This type of situation does not always exist. We know that terrorists communicate, sometimes in encoded ways, sometimes electronically, sometimes in various shapes and forms, and our investigative forces, law enforcement and other security forces in Canada, have ways of tracking this type of communication traffic. There will be a time, and perhaps there has been already one that we are not aware of, when the law enforcement agencies will pick up something that indicates that perhaps a terrorist event is about to be committed but they do not have sufficient evidence to lay a charge or to have these people arrested.

I had the good fortune and honour to serve on the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We investigated, exhaustively, the anti-terrorism legislation in Canada when it was up for review after five years. I will never forget the testimony of a gentleman who came from the United Kingdom. I forget his exact title but he was responsible for overseeing the anti-terrorism provisions in the United Kingdom.

The analogy he used was that if the police pick up information that a bank is about to be robbed, what they can do in a case like that, and they often do, is stake out that particular site. If the crime is perpetrated, then the police are there, they arrest the criminals and that is it. However, we cannot do this with a terrorist attack.

People move, and we see it all the time in various shapes and forms, different guises, perhaps with munitions strapped to them and it is often impossible to stake out. We could stake it out but then the terrorist event could happen and innocent people could lose their lives. Therefore, it is not really susceptible to that same type of action by law enforcement agencies.

I want to talk briefly about what the Senate has done to improve these provisions of preventive arrests and investigative hearings.

First, the Senate amendment calls on law enforcement to convince a judge that all reasonable attempts for the collection of information about potential or prior terrorist activity has been done before an investigative hearing is ordered.

An investigative hearing would be when the police bring together a group of people to seek out information about a possible terrorist activity. In my own judgment, I am more interested in the proactive view of how these provisions would be applied. I am not that interested in how they could be applied retroactively because I think the whole idea of the anti-terrorism legislation is to prevent a terrorist event, not go back in time, but, nonetheless, I know there are others in this House who feel differently about it. However, we need to at least have the provisions that would look forward to any proposed or possible terrorist event in the future.

What these amendments do is say that law enforcement must have to convince a judge that all other reasonable efforts have been made to deal with this, without having an investigative hearing. At an investigative hearing people are rounded up and asked to come before a judge and there are questions, and it is somewhat of an infringement on civil rights.

Nonetheless, a judge is involved within 24 hours. In other words, a hearing has to be conducted in a very swift fashion, and the same applies to preventative arrests. In fact, the people under the provisions of our law have to be released within 24 hours, and as others in this House have pointed out, these provisions are actually less onerous than those in countries like United States, United Kingdom and Australia. These amendments in the Senate call for that.

Also, another important change is that the bill now has narrower wording stipulating the grounds on which an individual may be detained. It is useful and responsible for legislators to be precise and to not leave it open to misuse. This bill and the amendments that are placed in it allow for that.

There are other provisions that call for the review of this legislation, in fact, making it mandatory to review these provisions. Rather than as an elective, Parliament is required to review these provisions at the appropriate time and interval.

These enhancements improve these measures. We never like to infringe on the civil liberties of our citizens, but at the same time we have to have measures in place that adequately safeguard our citizens. We are blessed in this country that, although I know some would argue the other way, our law enforcement people act responsibly and we have to have continuous oversight.

The RCMP has been under the public microscope lately and I am sure it has some improvements to make. This is not a police state, and we want to make sure it never even comes close to that, but our law enforcement people generally will use these tools only when they have to.

I recall at the subcommittee we had a panel. We looked at the provisions of the former Bill C-36, and this was particularly in the context of the security certificates. Even though security certificates are outside the scope of the anti-terrorism legislation, the subcommittee was tasked with looking at the provisions of the security certificates.

There was an official who came from the Department of Public Safety and National Security with a brief and a dossier on an individual who was an alleged Iranian assassin and who was being detained under a security certificate. Of course, some of the material in the dossier had to be whited out to protect allies who had provided various information and sources of information, on the grounds that it would compromise our national security. The dossier was nonetheless a very thick dossier and the official took the subcommittee through this file, indicating why this person was being detained under a security certificate.

On that same panel, there was a representative from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. I remember turning to him at that point in time and asking whether, after hearing the profile of this particular gentleman who is being detained under a security certificate, would he like to have this person as a next door neighbour. It was kind of a risky question, but I thought it was a reasonable question to ask. In response, he said that he would not. If anyone heard this dossier, they would say that no reasonable person would want this person as a next door neighbour.

He was opposed to these kinds of provisions. I asked what the problem was and he replied that it was the process. We agreed that the process needed improvement and that is why, with respect to security certificates, that was enhanced.

We need to understand that citizens of this country want their government to have a balanced set of measures that would keep their families and themselves safe and secure in their neighbourhoods, and would have the optimal balance between those requirements while protecting the civil liberties of Canadians, which is equally important. Balance is something that we must continue to strive for in the House.

Bill S-3 provides a very good balance between those two competing elements and I certainly will be supporting it.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When we return to the study of Bill S-3, there will be four minutes left for debate for the hon. member for Etobicoke North and 10 minutes of questions and comments.

Airline Passenger Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

April 17th, 2008 / 5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

moved:

That the House call upon the government to bring forward an airline passenger bill of rights similar in scope and effect to legal instruments being either proposed or enacted by jurisdictions within Europe and the United States for the purpose of protecting passenger interests in a consistent and rules-based way and to provide a means of ensuring adequate compensation being offered by the airline industry to airline passengers who experience inconveniences such as flight interruptions, delays, cancellations, issues with checked baggage and other inconveniences incurred while travelling on commercial passenger airline services originating from anywhere in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that Parliament must take immediate and decisive action on a matter that is of vital importance to Canadians, creating a guaranteed protection for the rights of airline passengers.

Air travel is not an elitist privilege or at least it should not have to be. Air travel is the way that millions of Canadians, living and working in every part of this country, reunite with their families and stay connected to each other. It is how many Canadians from coast to coast to coast choose to explore the beauty and expanse of this great country, and it is vital for a country as large as ours that we remain truly linked together.

Air travel is an important part of that. The actual experience, however, is not always a positive one.

How many Canadians have felt the sheer frustration of sitting in an airport waiting area, straining to listen to hear the crackle of an inaudible overhead PA system wondering if this might be the long awaited boarding call for their flight, one that has already been delayed for five hours, and one for which absolutely no explanation has been offered by the airline as to the original cause of the delay?

How many Canadians have felt the anxiety of having a connecting flight cancelled while in mid-journey, a situation completely beyond their control and one that will inevitably force them to incur unanticipated, unbudgeted for, additional costs, such as hotel bills, taxis and meals? This is money they may not necessarily have.

How many Canadians have arrived at the assigned gate for their flight, boarding passes in hand, only to be told to go back to the desk because the airline decided several weeks ago to oversell the same flight to ensure that it would take off full?

How many Canadians have been forced to remain on board an aircraft, held captive with no place to go, no choices available for them to make themselves, and delayed for hours with no end in sight?

How many Canadians have arrived at their destination only to find that their bags have not and then to discover that there is no one available at the airport to explain what they should do next?

Instead, they are told to get in touch with a call centre located in India where the person on the other end of the phone tells them how they can make a claim in 30 days if their bags are not found by then. Obviously, it is impossible they are told to say from India whether their bags are still in Winnipeg or in Toronto.

How many times do Canadians, who are grieving loved ones and who are awaiting the remains to be returned back home in time for the funeral services, have to find out that the body was bumped in Montreal for either better paying cargo or because clerical errors at the airline? We are not sure which?

The answer is that these situations occur far more often than any of us may actually think. These are the stories of real passengers and real problems, and these problems in the airlines are getting worse.

Let me be clear at the outset. Canadians should rest completely assured that when it comes to flight safety, Canada has one of the most effective regulatory regimes in the world. Canada is a global leader in ensuring mandatory flight safety. We are always looking for better ways to make improvements on that impressive record.

The problems, however, that I refer to are not ones of flight safety but of that woefully inadequate consumer protection for passengers of commercial airlines. Let me put it this way. These issues do not occur while the planes are in the sky. They are ones more typically that occur when the planes are still on the ground.

A well run competitive airline should not consider reasonable customer service as an option to be exercised occasionally and then only for the highest paying passengers.

In Canada airline passengers are left completely vulnerable to the recent industry turbulence that has been created by a complete lack of any regulated consumer protection. In Canada there are precious few rules protecting passengers, but there is a lot of legal language that limits the liability of the airlines themselves.

This inadequacy of voluntary compensation strategies and yes, commercial greed and abuse directed toward paying customers is the issue at hand. Once we pass through security or on the aircraft, the airlines duty of care and the responsibility inherent in that relationship are no longer a matter for the marketplace to direct.

It is a matter for the regulator to oversee. In any other circumstance this lack of consumer protection would never be tolerated, especially when we consider that the airline industry is guarded by the oversight responsibility of the federal government.

Since tabling my motion in the House, my office has been inundated with faxes, emails, telephone calls and letters from ordinary Canadians, airline passengers and consumers, who paid good money for a ticket thinking it was a contract to travel from one destination to the other.

Reaction to their experiences range from genuine empathy to sheer horror at the extent to which greed and neglect has been shown to them by certain airlines. They all have an interesting story to tell. All were paying customers.

None, however, can illustrate any better why a Canadian passenger bill of rights is so badly needed here in Canada than Cubana Airlines flights 170 and 172, which flew on March 8, six short weeks ago.

Having left Havana en route back to Montreal, two plane loads with hundreds of Canadian passengers on board had to be diverted to Ottawa when Montreal closed down due to weather. When they arrived, there was no bus waiting for them to continue on to their final destination. Nor was there a lounge where they could relax, get a cup of coffee and wait it all out. Instead, after five hours in flight, over 300 Canadian passengers were held on a runway for 12 hours, with the cabin doors closed and no way for them to escape. The plane did not connect to a gate.

After about eight hours of this, food and water began to run out. Then toilets completely filled and began to overflow. Still neither the company, nor the captain, nor the Ottawa airport authority took effective action to ensure that the flight hooked up to a gate and the passengers were unloaded. Fingers are still pointing as to whose fault this all was. Personally, I do not particularly care. It should never have been allowed to happen, period, not in Canada.

It was not until one of the passengers had the good sense to dial 911 on his cellphone, demanding to be put through to an RCMP duty officer, that something finally happened. The clear distress and desperation in the passenger's voice caused police to intervene and the plane finally docked so passengers could leave.

I can only imagine what law was used by the RCMP against those who caused all of this. I can only imagine because there are no rules in Canada against such clear cut consumer abuses when it comes to the Canadian airline industry.

I can only assume that the sole tool police had available to them that night to assist those passengers was the powers of the Criminal Code. Without any laws or regulations to protect these passengers, I can only presume that the police must have advised all involved that if those passengers were not allowed to get off those planes of their own free will, immediately, police would be forced to seize the planes and lay charges related to involuntary confinement under the Criminal Code.

The Criminal Code seems like a rather blunt instrument to ensure basic consumer rights are protected in Canada. Plainly put, that is why we need a airline passenger bill of rights, legislation similar to what is already in force throughout all of Europe.

On February 17, 2005, European parliamentarians brought in a passenger bill of rights, requiring all European airlines, as well as foreign-based airlines flying out of European airports, to provide reasonable care and compensation to passengers in the event of delays, cancellations, denied boarding, delayed or lost baggage, along with legal requirements to publicly report the reasons for flight delays and to ensure that customers were made aware of the full extent of their rights.

Three years after coming into force, no one in Europe today is saying “let's get rid of it”. The legislation is applied fully regardless of what the actual cause of the original delay to begin with, whether it was a storm, company negligence, or mechanical issues.

Jacques Barrot, the European Commission's vice-president responsible for transportation, noted that when he announced the European airline passenger bill of rights back in 2005, “Competitiveness and competition in the air sector must go hand in hand with guaranteed passengers' rights”.

Here is a special point of interest to the debate. Even non-EU airlines that fly from European airports are required to comply with the European airline passenger bill of rights.

In other words, when Air Canada or any other Canadian airline leaves an EU airport to fly back home to Canada, its passengers are given statutory rights to service and compensation through the EU's bill of rights. However, when that same Air Canada flight arrives back home and goes on to a new destination, these rules no longer apply. It is an interesting point.

People might be interested to know as well that the United States has already enacted airline passenger rights legislation. They may have heard about the state of New York's laws that created significant legal obligations on air carriers choosing to fly in and out of that state. The rules that New York created were clear and meaningful and provided for significant fines against any breach by an airline. It was struck down, however, but only because responsibility for aviation regulation is a federal jurisdiction, not a state prerogative. This regulatory void, however, is quickly being filled by the legislature with appropriate jurisdiction, the U.S. Congress.

H.R. 1303, the airline passenger bill of rights act of 2007, which is currently before the House of Representatives, and S. 678, the airline passenger bill of rights act of 2007, which is currently before the U.S. Senate, are both moving forward. These bills deal specifically with airline passengers' rights in the case of flight delays.

At the same time, there are also two other bills before Congress that include the same provisions as the two bills I just mentioned, but are part of a much broader package of amendments to certain other acts that create even greater airline passenger rights for U.S. customers. Those bills are H.R. 2881, the FAA reauthorization act of 2007, which has already been passed by the House of Representatives, and S. 1300, the aviation investment and modernization act of 2007, which is currently before the Senate.

Bill H.R. 2881, namely, sections 401, 406 and 418 to 423, may be of particular interest to members as the legal requirements established for both U.S. and Canadian carriers flying within the U.S. clearly protect consumer rights. My question then is: Are we prepared to have a two tier international aviation system, with Canada being on the bottom rung?

It is almost a certainty that the U.S. will be imposing these regulations, similar to what is already in place in the European Union. This creates an important consideration for the Canadian airline industry and its oversight of it. Failure to at least match consumer protection standards of our international competitors will leave the Canadian industry with a serious competitive disadvantage.

If one has an option to travel on a British Airways flight, for example, or on Air Canada on a return trip to the U.K., which airline would one fly on? The airline in which the European parliament will be guaranteeing a person's consumer rights or one where the Canadian Parliament is guaranteeing a person nothing?

The international context of an emerging best practices model in the aviation industry is moving rapidly toward providing superior state enforced customer service minimums and this is not something that Canada should ignore or avoid. The time for the Canadian airline passenger bills of rights is now.

I implore the House to dig into this issue further. I would enjoy the opportunity to work with each and every member to draft legislation and bring it forward.

Given that my time is up, if anyone wishes to continue this exchange or look for more indepth information or analysis, I invite people to visit my website at www.gerrybyrne.ca, where they will find significant research and background information on this issue and an opportunity to provide feedback.

Airline Passenger Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member and I share a concern that consumer protection be robust in Canada, especially for those who use the airlines to travel. He made specific reference to a model that I think he would like us to follow, the model used by the European Union, which has a bill of rights for airline passengers.

Given the fact he has quoted that as a model, could he elucidate for us a little further the advantages that model would have over Canada's current system? Perhaps he could also comment on Bill C-11, which was passed in the last Parliament and which seriously enhances consumer protection for airline passengers in Canada?

Airline Passenger Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, the international governance model for air carriers is covered under both the Warsaw and Montreal conventions. There are rules in place related to international carriage. What the European Union has decided is that there needs to be further enhancement to that. As we know, both the Montreal and Warsaw conventions do not apply uniformly because not all states have signed on.

One of the issues that I think is really relevant is there are a number of discount carriers that exist in the European Union. Some of them offer flights for one pound or one Euro per flight. The European Union has decided, regardless of the price of the ticket, to put in place specific mechanisms, specific fees or fines that are payable back to the consumer should there be a breach of a contract related to the passenger bill of rights. That is a very important point because in Canada there are no consumer airline passenger orientated rights that go with them.

Each airline in our country, under the Canadian aviation regulations, is required to submit and publish tariff schedules, but those tariff schedules do not guarantee or require specific remedies or prescriptions should a customer issue service arise. It simply says that the airline must indicate what it would do in a particular circumstance. The Canadian airline, when it publishes its tariffs, could simply say that it will do nothing, and that complies with the Canadian aviation regulations. There is a void on this issue.

While there are some basic protections, we obviously need to do more. Ask the passengers on Cubana Airlines if those are the facts.

Airline Passenger Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the end of January, I brought forth a call for the government to bring forward legislation. We have not yet seen that, but this motion at least creates a process, a potential element to deal with the situation.

One of the points the member made, which I think is important, is that the European Union as well as the United States are looking at different models as well. Would he expand again on the importance of Canada being left out if we do not do the same?

Airline Passenger Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, we live in a global marketplace and we live under the examples and the benefits of best practices models.

I will repeat again the clearly logical example that if a Canadian airline fails to operate under a set of norms or a consistent set of rules, rules which are being applied in other jurisdictions by other competitors, and if those rules do not raise the standards for customer service and expectation, then Canada is really left at a competitive disadvantage. The Canadian airline industry will be held to a competitive disadvantage. Customers will make their choices.

Again, if there is an airline operating with state-guaranteed protections for a customer's interests in one instance and another airline is operating without such guarantees, where will the international customer gravitate its business to? Obviously to the airline operating under a better customer service quality standards. That is a good best practices model.