House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have not.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow my colleague's line of questioning. Is the member aware that Canada's Privacy Commissioner has sent a six page letter? On page two she says, “I have concluded that elements of the proposed legislation raise significant privacy concerns”. She goes on to say that she has consulted with a number of authorities, including Justice Canada, Public Safety Canada, provincial privacy commissioners, the telecommunications industry, manufacturers, service providers and associations, law enforcement, the RCMP, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, civil society groups, academic specialists, and other experts in different fields and they certainly do have many concerns of this type.

Has the member received a copy of the letter from the Privacy Commissioner and does he agree with it?

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again I go back to the fact that we need to find that balance between human rights and security. What I would recommend to the hon. member is that we send this bill to committee. That would be an opportunity to get this issue in front of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security where we could hear from these witnesses. I believe the bill does find that balance and will give those in law enforcement the tools they need to help protect us while at the same time not trampling on human rights and still ensuring privacy where it should be.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-47 with a bit of trepidation because my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway did such an excellent job in his analysis of the bill on Tuesday. My colleague from Elmwood—Transcona said that he will probably use that in his political leaflet. I give him permission to do that, because he did an excellent job.

I have watched and listened to the speeches from the various parties. The need for this bill is very clear in terms of providing some tools for our police officers, in particular, and our prosecutors and our judiciary to bring them into the 21st century to combat a number of different areas of direct cybercrime. It would assist them in a number of areas by giving them the ability to get at other information and evidence which they cannot access now because of the gaps in the Criminal Code, our evidence act and other pieces of legislation.

All parties agree that this legislation is necessary. Being completely honest, I think that all parties would also say that it is way overdue. I have been our party's justice critic for going on five years. This has been discussed throughout that entire period of time. We have seen some other drafts of this legislation. There has been a lot of discussion in the public arena. In fact, that discussion probably started back in the late 1990s.

We identified a number of the problem areas in the Criminal Code, the evidence act and other legislation that were, in effect, acting as barriers to effective policing of a number of crime areas, including organized crime. The more sophisticated organized crime groups are way ahead of our police forces and criminal justice system in their use of new technology. We are very much playing catch-up. That has been identified for at least a decade. Unfortunately, neither the current government administration nor the prior one moved rapidly on it.

There is strong support for the bill, with one glaring exception. As I said earlier in my comment and question to my colleague from the Conservatives, Anne McLellan, who was the minister at one point and introduced the first bill regarding these types of amendments, as a typical Liberal, flip-flopped on this. Ultimately, she came out on the side that the state would not invade people's privacy and privacy rights without judicial oversight. The state would not intervene without judicial oversight. I think she ultimately took that position after initially being on the other side. In fact, she introduced a bill that was very similar in this regard to the bill that is now Bill C-47.

Before any bill was introduced in the House, the then minister of public safety and national security took the position publicly that there would be no state intervention in those privacy areas. We are talking here about basic information contained in computers, in current technology and in other technology that we think may be coming. The minister took the position that we would not intervene in that as we have not in any other area of law, technology or private property. Historically, we have just not done that without judicial oversight. We can argue whether that is appropriate, but I believe that argument is long behind us.

We can go back hundreds of years and the intervention of the state in people's private lives has generally been seen as a negative without judicial oversight. We need that independence and knowledge our judiciary brings to the issues of the day, to the issues of civil liberties, human rights, et cetera, to balance that against the need for the state to intervene in certain cases. That decision needs to be made by the judiciary, not by an individual police officer, the argument being that the judiciary is in a much more independent and qualified position to make that decision of where that balance occurs.

That is the situation we are in at the present time. That is the society we have built. That is the criminal law and criminal evidence structure we have built and which has generally worked well. Nobody argues with the needs in our society which this bill reflects, but we do argue with the government because we believe that in this bill, it has clearly crossed the line.

I want to draw to the House's attention the specific section regarding what a designated person can demand from service providers. It is quite lengthy:

Every telecommunications service provider shall provide a person designated under subsection (3), on his or her written request, with any information in the service provider’s possession or control respecting the name, address, telephone number and electronic mail address of any subscriber to any of the service provider’s telecommunications services and the Internet protocol address, mobile identification number, electronic serial number, local service provider identifier, international mobile equipment identity number, international mobile subscriber identity number and subscriber identity module card number that are associated with the subscriber’s service and equipment.

That is a lot of information that has to be turned over on a simple demand. There are no provisions in the bill for any refusal for that information to be turned over. The subscriber has absolutely no rights but to turn that information over.

There is a secondary problem where, because of the amount of information that could be asked for, as we see from that list, if it is one particular provider that is being targeted, it could bankrupt the person because of the amount of time it would take to provide that information. It is open to that kind of abuse.

It is not open to that kind of abuse if the police force is required to appear in front of a judge and explain why this information is needed, what the nature is of the investigation, the need for that information to assist in that investigation, and we could go down the list. That approach by the police force is no different from any number of other areas where the police now have to go before a judge. There is nothing special about the need for this information.

It is clear that the information in a lot of cases will be needed, but it is also clear that it is the kind of information we get now but is always subject to first getting a warrant. Whether it is getting a warrant to wiretap a conventional land line, whether it is a warrant to install listening devices in a private residence or a commercial establishment, all of those are subject to judicial warrant and judicial oversight. That should be the same here.

It is so fundamental that I do not understand why we are doing this. It is one of the reasons I have raised the point repeatedly as to why we are doing this. Why is the government doing this? I have never had a satisfactory answer.

My colleague from Vancouver Kingsway was very clear in his address to the House on Tuesday. He has canvassed a number of the experts in this area. What came out of the work he did in that regard was that the experts, academics and people who work in the field, investigators, et cetera, have not been able to identify one case in which police have been able to come forward and say that they need to be able to do this.

We will hear the argument from some police agencies or forces that they need this because of timing. That is not a credible argument. It is the same kind of argument we can hear being made with regard to setting up wiretaps, planting listening devices, or getting a search warrant to search residences and commercial establishments.

We have provisions within our law such that if a crime is about to be committed or the police have reasonable probable grounds to believe that a crime is about to be committed, they can do that on their own. We have exemptions within the code that allow them to do that, and those exemptions would apply to these circumstances. I repeat that they have not been able to come up with one instance in which they needed access to that information on demand, where they could not have taken the time to get the warrant.

This may be a point I have to make. I do not want to assume ignorance on the part of government, but I do not have any other explanation as to why it would move in this regard. Our judges who grant these warrants are available in every community in this country on a 24-hour basis. It is a matter of a phone call. Judges in regions are designated for periods of time as having this responsibility, and they make themselves available. I have been involved in cases in which I know the police went to the judge's home and got the warrant, because there was a timing issue. So the judges are available. The need for the protection of privacy is there. It is guaranteed in that regard, and it does not, in any significant way and maybe not at all, hinder the role the police have to play in doing timely investigations.

Neither the timeliness argument nor the argument of the need to prevent a crime from happening stands up to any type of vigorous analysis. There is just no evidence that is the case. Gathering this information, described in section 16 of Bill C-47, which I just read out, is really no different from gathering it in the other areas, for which we regularly attend before judges or judicial authorities to get the warrants before we proceed.

If I had heard any valid explanation from the government, we would not be opposing Bill C-47, and that would be true of my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway. He is responsible for this legislation, because it is going to Public Safety, not Justice. However, both of us would have been in a position to say yes, there is no question this bill is absolutely needed and has been needed for the better part of a decade in this country.

I should say in that regard, we are not only behind the criminal element in this country and organized crime in particular, we are well behind a number of other countries that have moved much more prudently in this regard and have legislation similar to this on their books and have had it for the better part of a decade. We are that far behind other countries as well.

We would have been quite happy, in fact enthusiastic, to support the bill, get it through committee as quickly as we could and back to the House and on to the other chamber for quick passage, but we cannot do that when this fundamental right is being abrogated in the legislation.

If we had heard any kind of decent explanation from the government, we would not have taken that position, but we had no choice. This is so fundamental.

Again, we can go back into English law and into English common law during the hundreds and hundreds of years over which we have evolved these principles of the proper role for the state to play and the proper role within the state for the judiciary and police forces to play. This is undermining that in quite a significant fashion without any justification whatsoever.

We will be opposing the bill on second reading. I expect it is going to go to committee. In any event, hopefully at the committee one of two things will happen. We will convince the government that it has to put judicial oversight back into these sections so that it is covered or--I will say quite frankly that my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway and I are open-minded on this--if we can hear justification, valid argument as to why we should support this, we will in fact change our position for third reading.

However, we have had that opportunity, as far as I can see, from the government. We have not received that justification or any valid arguments to support it with regard to the judicial oversight issue. We are going to stay open-minded. Perhaps other witnesses will come forward who are more astute in their arguments in this regard, and we remain open-minded to see if there are reasons for it within the conditions that our police forces are facing now. I have to say I am skeptical, but I remain open-minded on it.

Having said that, I will conclude. The bill absolutely needs to get through. It needs only this one significant change. If we can get that, then hopefully we can get it through fairly quickly.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his reasoned and reasonable arguments, as usual, regarding the bill.

I would like to ask him if he could provide us with some examples of the type of abuses that could possibly occur under the bill as it is currently written and how he sees a way around them and how he would improve it to make certain these abuses could not happen.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me answer the second question first.

The amendments to this bill are really quite simple. We simply bring into line the responsibility that the demand for this information would have to be presented to a judicial authority. How that is done varies across the country. In some cases it is brought before a justice of the peace but it is usually a judge of the provincial superior courts in the respective provinces and territories. There are three basic points that a crown attorney or sometimes the police themselves place before a judge: the subject of the investigation; the stage it is at and what they have done up to that point, identifying the individuals or even a corporation against which they want the warrant; and the specific information they need, as described on an affidavit explaining why they need that information to deal with the investigation.

It is fairly straightforward. We have been doing these warrants for probably 100 years or more in Canada, which have evolved over time to be more sophisticated. There are standard forms that have to be filled out. All we need to do is plug this section into the same format.

In terms of the potential for abuse, I do not want this to sound as though we have police forces in this country that are running amok. I in fact believe just the opposite. I think our judiciary is one of the best in the world, and I think we can make the same argument for our police forces, whether we are talking about the RCMP, some of our major provincial police forces, or those forces at the municipal level.

Our police forces are quite sophisticated by international standards, generally well trained and generally knowledgeable of the law and the requirements of their role. However, like the judiciary and like politicians in this chamber, they are human. From time to time they make judgment errors. The judiciary is in a much better position to provide that protection than are individual police officers who can have--I do not want to call it a conflict of interest because that would be unfair to them--a real desire to catch criminals. At times they can be overenthusiastic, and that then leaves it wide open for these kinds of demands to be made in circumstances that cannot be justified and would not be permitted by a judge.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think that was a well-answered question.

However, I do want to go a little further here, because the Privacy Commissioner of Canada did write a six-page letter dealing with both Bill C-47 and Bill C-46. She had even more wide-ranging concerns about the bill. Having done a lot of consulting with eminent people and organizations regarding the bill, she has come up with many suggestions as to things that should be changed here. Perhaps they can be changed at committee.

One of them involves the five-year review. While there is a five-year review for this bill, there is not one for Bill C-46. As we know, they are intertwined.

Also, I would like to ask the member what sort of form he thinks the review should take, and how we would mandate that to make certain it did not fall through the cracks. Perhaps a sunset clause should be looked at for this particular bill given that technology changes quite radically over even a year let alone a five-year period.

I would ask the member what he thinks of some of the Privacy Commissioner's observations about how this bill is deficient and how it needs to be improved.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I again thank my colleague for the question. I had heard him ask a similar one to our friends from the Bloc, and I was hoping he would do that.

On the five-year review versus the sunset clause, I guess the difficulty I have is that on both sides there are problems. I do not know how many bills have been passed in this House in the last 15 years or so, because for about that long it has been relatively common for this House to provide mandatory reviews.

I know from my work on the justice committee and before that on the natural resources and environment committees, as well as the public safety and national security committees--I have spent a lot of time on all of those committees--that a lot of the bills that have gone through those committees and through this House have had mandatory reviews of a variety of natures in terms of their timing.

According to the way the process is supposed to work, those reviews are done in a timely fashion, and in fact are done before the mandated time is over. That is the way it is supposed to work. We could go back and look at the debate that went on around the time we first provided those reviews. The understanding was that a review would be done by the standing committee that was responsible for that area, and in fact it would do the review before the time was up.

When the time limit was up, the standing committee would be able to present to the House recommendations as to whether the bill was okay or the law was okay as it was or if it needed amendments, and if it needed amendments they would recommend the type.

The reality is that rarely happens. I once had a reporter come to me, and this was two or three years ago, and say she had been doing an analysis of a number of bills, crime bills or justice bills, and had found a huge number of them for which the review had never been done. I believe the same was true in the environment field, that the reviews were never done.

I have conducted some reviews in both those areas, justice and the environment, but I would have to say those were the exception. We were doing fewer than 50% of the reviews that had been legislated and mandated. There is no reproof, no penalty to this House for not doing the reviews, so we continue on this way.

The obvious alternative is, then, to put in a sunset clause. The difficulty I have with a sunset clause in this area is that I know how badly these tools we are providing in both Bill C-46 and Bill C-47 are needed.

I recognize that technology will develop and will probably overcome some of the provisions we have made here, and we will need to pass further laws down the road so that we can again be up to date with the criminal element in the use of technology.

I am really fearful that if we put in a sunset clause and the government of day does not pay attention, this will collapse and it will not be available to our police forces. I think that is too much of a risk. I know it is tempting to do so, because that would impose greater pressure on the government of the day to make sure it got done.

We saw it happen with the government. We had this situation with the anti-terrorism legislation. There were several clauses in there, the use of which I have to say I opposed, and in fact they collapsed because the government did not move quickly enough to deal with them.

This experience shows us that we cannot depend on them even in a sunset clause situation to respond appropriately with regard to time.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-47, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations, or the Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act. This bill was introduced on June 18, 2009. It deals with very specific aspects of the rules governing lawful access. Lawful access is an investigative technique used by law enforcement agencies and national security agencies that involves intercepting communications and seizing information where authorized by law.

Rules relating to lawful access are set out in a number of federal statutes, in particular the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the National Defence Act. This bill therefore complements the current lawful access regime. In fact, it addresses the same two issues as the former Bill C-71: technical interception capabilities of telecommunications service providers and requests for subscriber information.

Other aspects of the lawful access regime are addressed in Bill C-46, which was introduced on the same day as Bill C-47.

Bill C-47 addresses a concern expressed by law enforcement agencies, which contend that new technologies, particularly Internet communications, often present obstacles to lawful communications interception. The bill compels telecommunications service providers to have the capability to intercept communications made using their networks, regardless of the transmission technology used. It also provides law enforcement agencies with access, under an accelerated administrative process without a warrant or court order, to basic information about telecommunications service subscribers. At the same time, the bill provides for certain protection measures in clauses 16 to 23.

The Bloc Québécois will support this bill in principle, because it is designed to enable the police to adapt their investigative techniques to modern technological realities, such as the widespread use of cellphones and the Internet. Facilitating police work, where it does not unduly interfere with fundamental rights, is an avenue the Bloc Québécois has always advocated for fighting crime. Our party feels that increasing the likelihood of getting caught is a much greater deterrent than increasing punishments, which often seem remote and abstract.

This campaign that the Conservative Party has been running for the past three years is merely an attempt to show the public that it is tough on crime. It is always amusing to see the Conservative members acting like sheep, repeating over and over again that they are tough on crime, when the Bloc Québécois was the first party in this House to really tackle organized crime groups. The House will recall the whole debate raised by the Bloc Québécois to bring in real legislation to fight organized crime. This has produced solid results in Quebec with the operations conducted by the Government of Quebec and the Sûreté du Québec against organized crime groups.

Of course all this legislation is needed. Just trying to manipulate public opinion, as the Conservatives are doing, is not enough. We must really achieve our objectives. That is what the Bloc Québécois has always set out to do. One way of doing so is by helping police forces when they ask us to make certain changes, and this bill is the result of one such request.

The same was true for the fight against organized crime groups. The Bloc Québécois proposed reversing the burden of proof. Before that amendment to the Criminal Code, it was up to the Crown to prove that the money used or the goods acquired by criminal groups really were the proceeds of criminal activity, which was more difficult. Now, the burden of proof is reversed, so when an individual is part of a criminal organization and is charged, all of the goods acquired are automatically assumed to have been acquired through criminal activity.

Accused persons now have to prove that they acquired certain goods through legal means. This has helped break up major organized crime networks. That is how to go about things. We have to try to get to the heart of the problem.

The Bloc Québécois has always been critical of the Conservative Party for wanting to stir up the public's imagination when a crime has been committed and the media blow it out of proportion. The Conservative Party members immediately try to show that the judges are not doing their jobs and that we need minimum sentences. In reality, the judges are doing their jobs. Every case is unique.

In the case of white collar criminals, what the Bloc introduced in this House was simple. We asked the House to unanimously pass a bill that would prevent white collar criminals from getting parole after serving one-sixth of their sentence. Two white collar criminals, Vincent Lacroix and Earl Jones, were getting ready to plead guilty. They were both planning to plead guilty so that they could be released on parole after serving one-sixth of their sentences. The Conservatives want to be the only ones who are truly tough on crime. Like good little sheep, they have chosen that for their slogan.

In all of this, there are two criminals experts do not agree on. Vincent Lacroix pleaded guilty. Experts say that even if the Conservatives introduce their bill and it is passed by this House, those people, given that they have already pleaded guilty, would be eligible for parole after one-sixth of their sentences. The Conservatives just want to score political points. That is the Conservative way of doing things, an approach inspired by the Republicans in the United States.

In Quebec, people are not fooled. We have been through this and we want to address the real problem. That is what the Bloc Québécois has always defended in the House. The Bloc feels that it is important to study Bill C-47, which the police have called for. The Bloc is in favour of passing this bill.

Earlier, I heard my NDP colleagues say that they will be opposing this bill and that is probably because it is not in keeping with their political ideology. Personally, I believe that this bill should be studied in committee in order to make improvements. That is the objective. That is the advantage we have when considering bills. We can send them to committee and call witnesses. Police representatives will tell us what they need. In this way, those opposed to certain aspects of this bill can be heard. The Bloc Québécois realizes that the bill raises a number of concerns about privacy issues and the justifications for breaches of privacy.

This bill will make it possible to obtain information from cellphones and Internet networks. In short, the police want cellphone or Internet service providers to capture messages and deliver them to the police when needed for investigations. That directly affects privacy. The Bloc Québécois is aware of this. We want to strengthen police powers so they can deal with organized criminals and their complex networks. At the same time, we must prevent serious intrusions into the private lives of citizens. One way to do this is to vote for Bill C-47 at this stage and send it to committee. We will then be able to call various witnesses to shed light on the issues. That is simple logic.

I am a notary by training. In Quebec, notaries deal primarily with real estate law and personal law in connection with wills and the lives of individuals. But the law is often a matter of simple logic. All too often, for partisan purposes, attempts are made to force the logic. That is not a good thing in the long term.

The Americans have filled their prisons with criminals. They have invented new sentences. In a statement made a few months ago, President Obama said there were 25,000 too many prisoners in the prisons and the country had no money to supervise them. Inevitably, those are the facts. The Conservatives have been introducing bills dealing with the justice system virtually every other day lately, for purely partisan purposes. Those are the facts. They are trying to box their Liberal opponents in. They say the Liberals are soft on crime and they are tough on crime.

That is a lot of work to manipulate public opinion, because that is all they want to do. The Conservatives are experts at that. To justify their tough on crime reputation, they have to create new crimes. They have to be able to constantly attack the justice system, to keep saying it is not enough. Inevitably, the result is the one the Americans have achieved. Crime has not declined, because they have simply created new crimes. The number of criminals is going up.

That means more criminals at large or behind bars. It means more criminals at large because the ones who are non-violent inevitably have to be released. When they are sent to prison, there is not enough staff to be able to give them adequate support, to try to prepare them for reintegration into society. But when they return to society, they are returning from spending time in the crime industry. They went to prison and met criminals, who recruited them. They get out of prison and commit more crimes.

That is the circle the Republicans created in the United States. It is easy to understand. There are no analyses to prove that the tougher you are on crime, the fewer criminals there are. The opposite is true: the tougher you are on crime, the more criminals there are getting out because we are simply not able to provide support for them. We would have to invest too much to try to staff the prisons adequately, to be able to provide psychological and other support for all these criminals. Inevitably, that is the result we achieve. The criminals are left to their own devices when they get out of these crime factories, the prisons. They commit more crimes. Every country that has adopted policies like that has more criminals at large and more crimes are committed. Those are the facts.

It is paying off politically for the Conservatives in the short term. They are determined to win their election. But we can see that it has the opposite effect. The tougher they are on crime, the more they try to manipulate public opinion, the fewer people want to give them a majority. Once again, after the next election campaign, we will probably have another minority government.

The bills that have been introduced this week all related to the justice system. There was nothing introduced in this House that dealt with any subject other than the justice system. The Conservatives have seen that the next political opening for an election will probably be in the spring. They want to try to score points with their base, with voters who are very disappointed with how they are managing the economy.

We have reached a deficit of nearly $50 billion. Looking at the quality of the hon. members and government ministers opposite, I do not think that this figure will come down. There are no experts there to counter this astronomical shortfall. History shows that every time the Conservatives have been in power, they have run a deficit. That is the reality and it will not change. They managed to turn an annual surplus of about $15 billion into a $50 billion deficit. They try to tell us it was because of the international economic crisis. They are the ones, though, who decided to reduce the GST, which deprived us of $14 billion. That was a choice. They chose to take a surplus and turn it into a deficit. I do not see how they will be able to return to a surplus position. Under their regime, it is impossible. We will need a change of government to do that.

In the meantime, we will have to be very vigilant. Bill C-47 is a good example.

The police forces are asking us to take action. They want to employ new investigative techniques and use electronic surveillance to monitor cellphone conversations and discussions on the Internet.

I think this is a reasonable thing for the police to do, provided there is a framework to protect privacy. Quebeckers and all citizens are entitled to think that their government will respect their private lives. A balance has to be found.

I am sure that in this matter Quebeckers can have confidence in the members of the Bloc Québécois, who have always stood up in the House to find a balance. I often say that the Bloc Québécois and Quebeckers are the conscience of America because we have seen all kinds of abuses and Quebec society has managed through its history to counter abuses.

One fine example is the investment that Quebec and Quebeckers made in their hydroelectric system, without any help from the federal government. I like to remind people of this because colleagues from all parties in the House forget all too often that Quebec’s hydroelectric system was paid for entirely with the money of Quebeckers. There was no assistance from the federal government, which never gave a red cent. Nothing. Zero.

We have learned recently that an agreement is being discussed and will probably be signed today between the Government of Quebec and the Government of New Brunswick giving Hydro-Québec control over the New Brunswick hydroelectric grid. Once again, there is not one cent of federal money involved. It all came from Quebeckers, who have been real visionaries in this regard.

As a well-balanced society, Quebeckers did not want, even 25 years ago, to focus on polluting energies like oil, coal or nuclear power. That is the reality. It was a choice that Quebeckers made because their social conscience was more advanced than that of the rest of America. Quebeckers decided to invest. We have to give them that. Insofar as fighting poverty is concerned, Quebec is probably the best society and nation in the Americas for distributing wealth between rich and poor. That is a societal choice.

In North America, Quebeckers would be the ones most prepared to fight climate change. They would have been prepared to sign the Kyoto protocol and to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 6%, using 1992 as the reference year.

Quebec was prepared to do that. It could now be negotiating directly with the states of the European Union and participating in an international carbon exchange. Its companies could now be selling credits for huge amounts of money. But Quebec is once again trapped by the Canadian solution. Perhaps one day there will be a carbon exchange in Canada, but once again, Quebec will not be able to sell at reasonable prices because the European Union is a much larger society than Canada.

I had the chance to meet the mayor of Rivière-du-Loup last fall. He told us that if Quebec and Canada had participated in an international carbon exchange, he could have sold his emission credits because he was able to cut $1 million worth of emissions. As a result, the city of Rivière-du-Loup lost $1 million.

Once again, the Bloc Québécois believes we should be balanced, as Quebec always is, when it comes to Bill C-47. I repeat that we must allow police forces to adapt their investigative techniques. The police must have the ability to force cellphone and Internet providers to allow them to listen to conversations or read Internet communications, while still respecting privacy.

As I explained earlier, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-47. But obviously, what we want and will demand is to hear from witnesses both from police forces and from people who are worried about the invasion of their privacy. That will happen in committee.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly encouraging to hear that the Bloc is going to be supporting Bill C-47. It is also encouraging to hear that, because of that, it must be getting serious on cutting down on crime. It is a move forward.

Is the member opposite aware of the international practices for accessing basic subscriber information, such as is proposed in Bill C-47? For example, in many countries including the United States, Australia, England, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Norway, police can access subscriber information without a warrant.

I would ask my colleague to comment on why Canada should not have practices similar to these other countries. Why should Canada be any different than they are? Why should our police forces not have the same options available to them that other countries do?

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, this gives me the opportunity to point out once again that the Bloc Québécois was the first party to propose reversing the burden of proof for criminal organizations regarding goods acquired through the proceeds of crime. So, yes, we have plenty of experience in the fight against crime.

Of course, it is important that we have the opportunity in committee to analyze and study the points raised by my hon. colleague. That will give us a chance to hear some explanations and allow the department to give some examples of what is happening in the world. It will also allow groups, especially the Privacy Commissioner and privacy advocates, to come and give their point of view. We need to be able to strike a balance in that regard. We will see the results in Bill C-47 in the end.

That is how the process goes. We must be able to hear witnesses and find the best solution. Perhaps we will end up with what the hon. member is proposing. However, once again, the Conservative way is to impose regulations and avoid all debate. It is important to listen to people in society, both those who are in favour and those who have concerns, in order to be able to make an informed decision later. After listening to all those interested in this matter, we will be able to tell them our decision. The Bloc Québécois plans to wait until the committee stage is complete before making a decision.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for a well researched and well thought-out presentation as usual. He takes a very well thought-out approach to all of his speeches, in fact.

The Privacy Commissioner has written a six-page letter detailing a number of concerns that she has. One of the questions that I have deals with the whole issue of the five year review. As the member knows, there is a five year review process in this particular bill, while not in Bill C-46, which is basically a companion bill.

I would like to ask him how he sees the five year review being developed. Second, I would like to know what his thoughts are on perhaps having a sunset clause to this bill. Given that technology can change a lot over a year, let alone a five year period, a sunset clause might be the answer here.

When the time comes, the government would have to take another look at the whole bill as opposed to doing the five year review, which could possibly just be forgotten by the government in power at the time.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has raised an interesting question that merits thorough study in committee.

In theory, we will have to assess the direct impact on the status of investigations that are under way at the end of the review period or whenever the review period is called for, whether that is five years from now or some other time. We will have to see.

That is the kind of great work we can do in committee. We can talk about it with representatives of law enforcement agencies and Justice Canada, who will help us figure out how to conduct a review without jeopardizing investigations already under way. If we can find a solution, this might be a useful and intelligent way to approach things, given technological change, as my colleague said. That would be good, but we must not jeopardize the investigations going on in five years' time just because we have to conduct an automatic review.

Earlier, I gave an example of what the Bloc Québécois proposed in the House. When we recommended abolishing parole after serving one-sixth of a sentence, we knew that two white collar criminals—Vincent Lacroix and Earl Jones—were about to plead guilty just so they would not be subject to a new law that would prevent them from being eligible for parole after serving one-sixth of their sentences. I would not want the House to pass a bill like that, and then five years from now, if there is a review, jeopardize investigations under way or give people an excuse to delay or speed up legal investigations just so they can benefit from some kind of leniency. We have to be careful about that. But if we can find a way around that problem, I think that a review would be appropriate as long as we have buy-in from the police community and other stakeholders when it comes to rights and freedoms.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague to elaborate on the Conservatives' methodology when it comes to these bills.

We are realizing more and more that this is all for show. However, this show is very flawed because it disregards the rules and procedures of the House of Commons. The Conservatives have taken to presenting bills to the media but not answering any questions on those bills because they have not yet been introduced in the House. In the meantime, the Conservatives manage to get their message out. It is a way of manipulating House of Commons procedure and it is also a way of manipulating public opinion with the help of the media. The media end up asking questions and not getting answers. It is as simple as that.

I would like the hon. member to say a few words about that.

Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his question.

It was so bad that the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services had to apologize after the excellent Bloc Québécois House leader raised a point of order. They had to apologize for what they had done and the way they had used the media. But it shows what they were trying to accomplish, and that is what is so telling. They did not invent this tactic; they just copied what the Republicans were doing in the United States. They tried to manipulate public opinion, manipulate people who do not keep up with current events, and in their desire to score political points, they went too far.

In the end, this will come back to haunt them. Naturally, the public is very disappointed about what is happening. There have been many crimes committed by fraud artists and white collar criminals. The government is trying to manipulate the voters, without thinking about the consequences.

A balanced approach is what is needed. That is why we always say that the Bloc has a balanced position. The government should not just put all criminals or as many as possible in prison to show that it is tough on crime. It has to be able to ensure that these people, who will get out of prison one day because Canada abolished the death penalty, will be reintegrated into society and can become good citizens again. Otherwise, the situation here will be the same as in the United States: offenders will go to crime school in prison and come out worse than they were to begin with. Imagine what that would be like.

Once again, it is a good thing the Bloc Québécois is still the conscience of this House. That is why the Bloc Québécois House leader appealed to the Chair, who listened to him, and the two ministers apologized. The Conservatives need to realize that manipulating public opinion just to score political points is not good in the long run, especially for the social climate.