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 offenders.

Topics

Animal Welfare
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to present a petition to the Government of Canada to support the universal declaration on animal welfare. There is scientific consensus and public acknowledgement that animals feel pain and can suffer.

All efforts should be made to prevent animal cruelty to reduce animal suffering. Over one billion people around the world rely on animals for their livelihood or companionship. Animals are often significantly affected by natural disasters yet seldom considered in relief efforts, despite the recognized importance of animals.

The petitioners are from Alberta, Yukon and British Columbia.

Employment Insurance
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition is a call for equal employment insurance benefits for adoptive parents. Adoption is an important and essential act in a compassionate, caring and just society.

Under the current EI program, adoptive parents are given 35 weeks of paid leave followed by a further 15 weeks of unpaid leave. Under the law, the biological mother is given both the first 35 weeks and a further 15 weeks as paid leave.

In Canada, adoptions are often expensive, lengthy and stressful to the parents. Studies have shown that an additional 15 weeks of paid leave would help parents to better support their adoptive children and handle many of the specific issues they must face.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to support Bill C-413, which would amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Canada Labour Code to ensure that an adoptive parent would be entitled to the same number of weeks of paid leave as the biological mother of a newborn child.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

October 29th, 2009 / 10:15 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-47, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House this morning to talk about Bill C-47, a bill that deals with very specific aspects of the rules governing lawful access. As some of my colleagues have already mentioned, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-47 in principle, but we do have reservations and would like to see an amendment to guarantee the protection of people's privacy.

Bill C-47 seeks to enable the police to adapt their investigative techniques to contemporary 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.

However, this bill raises a number of concerns about respect for privacy because the reasons for invading privacy are not necessarily defined. The Bloc Québécois supports this bill in principle because it is important to strengthen police powers to deal with the most complex forms of organized crime. Nonetheless, it will work in committee to ensure that invasions of privacy occur as rarely as possible, only when necessary, and always according to strict guidelines.

I hope that the Conservative Party will welcome the Bloc Québécois' amendments to Bill C-47 to protect individual privacy rights and ensure that this bill is implemented as quickly as possible. It is important, critical even, to take action against crimes committed using the Internet. I hope that the Conservative Party will not use this bill merely to spread political and partisan propaganda about how tough it is on crime. As we all know, the Bloc Québécois usually supports initiatives to curb criminal activity, as long as they are sensible, which we do not always find to be the case.

Somewhat similar to Bill C-46, Bill C-47 would allow police forces to adapt their investigative techniques to modern technologies. Of course I am talking about the increasingly widespread use of the Internet and cellphones. Indeed, Bill C-47 and Bill C-46 complement each other. We believe that they could have been combined into one bill. They both have many of the same objectives. They could have very easily been presented in another way. However, based on how they have been presented, we would of course like to debate them.

Basically, these bills seek to give the appropriate authorities additional tools that are adapted to modern technologies in order to prevent crimes before they are committed, by gathering information on the Internet and through other means of communication. This bill is crucial, considering the new types of organized crime that are carried out over the Internet.

For instance, in my riding recently—just two weeks ago—a man of Moroccan origin was arrested and convicted. He was found guilty of a series of terrorism-related charges.

This bill also aims to address cyber-terrorism, to control it and prevent such crimes from being committed.

In the case I mentioned, the evidence was based primarily on the contents of the defendant's computer, in Maskinongé, and on the violent content he created and transmitted over the Internet.

The purpose of Bill C-47 is to improve investigative techniques. It responds to concerns expressed by law enforcement agencies regarding the fact that new technologies, particularly Internet communications, often represent obstacles that are very difficult to overcome.

Thus, Bill C-47 seeks to facilitate police investigations by compelling telecommunications service providers to acquire technology that would allow them to intercept electronic data and, more importantly, allows police forces to access that data. We are talking about data that could indicate, for example, the origin, destination, date, time, duration, type and volume of a telecommunication.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of effective and smart ways to fight crime, but as we have said many times in this House, we do not always share the Conservative government's vision regarding certain bills, especially when it comes to incarceration measures. Incarceration and minimum sentences have been tried, most notably in the United States, with disastrous results. Yes, incarceration is valid for serious crimes, but it should not always be used automatically and especially not with the principle of minimum sentences.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, but that has not necessarily led to a reduction in crime. We have to be very careful about the sort of measures we introduce to fight crime. They must always be aimed at reducing the crime rate. I do not believe that we should be adopting the American model in this area. We still feel that the Conservative Party looks to the Americans for inspiration when it introduces bills that, often, do not reduce crime.

To come back to Bill C-47, no federal law currently requires or compels all telecommunications companies to use equipment that allows communications to be intercepted. The bill seeks to make up for the fact that there is no standard covering the interception capabilities of telecommunications companies.

As I said earlier, Bill C-47 seeks to clarify certain aspects of the lawful access regime. Currently, the police need a warrant in order to compel telecommunications companies to provide them with personal information about their clients. With this bill, certain designated people within law enforcement agencies could, without a warrant or court order, compel a company to provide them with basic information about one of their subscribers.

Obviously, protection measures governing this request for information have been provided in the legislation. Only a very limited type of information is covered by this new system. The bill clearly indicates that the information could be obtained without a warrant. Only designated persons could request information under this bill.

The police can obtain this information without a warrant, but the bill nonetheless puts in place certain extrajudicial protection measures such as the creation of records to trace every request for information.

It is also important to add that although the legislation will apply to businesses that operate a telecommunications facility in Canada, private networks, services for the sale or purchase of goods, and certain specified institutions are exempt from the legislation. I am talking here about registered charities, hospitals and retirement homes. All the exceptions are in the bill.

What concerns me about Bill C-46 is the privacy and freedom of people who use the Internet or other forms of communication.

This bill must not lead to an intrusion into people's private lives or the exchanges between individuals. Honest people have to be able to surf the Internet in a safe and private manner. They must be able to have conversations and conduct financial transactions safely. Honest people must not be taken hostage by criminals in this society, and hence, we need to protect privacy. We have to approach this bill carefully.

In a democratic society, the government's actions have to be transparent and citizens need to know that their privacy is protected. Children need to be protected from pedophile rings and all the other sex offenders on the Internet. We have to protect our economic assets so that we can conduct our transactions and deal with the financial aspects of organized crime. We have to protect our societies from cyber-terrorism, as I mentioned in my speech. This is a situation that people in my riding experienced not so long ago.

Organizations that defend human rights, in this case the right to privacy and confidentiality of communications, have raised a number of points that must be examined when we study this bill in committee. They are definitely important witnesses and should be invited to appear before the committee. The work must be done and it will naturally take time.

The bill introduced today has many complex provisions. Moreover, the impact of certain provisions on other laws is also very difficult to gauge.

We want to take the time to study the bill thoroughly, but we must also act quickly, examine all aspects and especially hear from police organizations and human rights organizations as they have also undertaken the arduous task of studying this bill.

These people must be heard in committee. You can rest assured that the Bloc Québécois will recommend many witnesses.

They must be given, as must we, the time to reflect and to ensure that this legislation strikes a true balance between the need of police to investigate—which is important because we are all familiar with today's growing cybercrime and they have to be able to do their job—and protecting privacy rights. We cannot choose between the two. this bill must clearly respect both issues.

I would also like to touch on the aspect of prevention in an effective strategy to fight cybercrime. This strategy must, of necessity, be based on a multi-pronged approach, whether implemented by the public or the private sector.

It is important to give the public, and especially younger people, the tools and the means to protect themselves against this new type of cybercrime which, unfortunately, is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Therefore, we have to encourage individuals and business people to adopt safe computer practices. At present, Internet users are often careless. Many people start up their computers and store important information in them without giving any thought to the potential, unfortunate consequences.

We need to change how people think, and in order to do so, we need make them more aware. We need to educate and inform the public, and give them the tools they need to protect themselves against cybercrime. This is important. We must invest money into educating the public.

In order to continue our fight against cybercrime and to defend the right to digital privacy, our primary goal, as I mentioned, must be to protect individuals, organizations and governments while taking fundamental democratic principles into account. Obviously, the tools to fight computer crime could potentially violate human rights and compromise the confidentiality of personal information. Securing information requires surveillance, controls and filters. Safeguards must be put in place to avoid allowing people to abuse their power or to dominate, and to avoid Big Brother type situations. We must ensure that fundamental rights are respected—I cannot stress that enough in this speech. In particular, we must ensure that the digital privacy and the confidential personal information of people who use these telecommunications networks are protected.

National legislation regarding the protection of personal information has been around for a long time. We also know that security is the result of a compromise.

I see that I have only two minutes remaining. We must ensure that cyberspace does not become a virtual smorgasbord for cybercriminals, or a dangerous place, or a place with an excessive police presence, or a place controlled by an ultra-powerful entity. We must bring democratic values and the human aspect back into the debate on new technologies. We must find ways to become informed Internet users and not vulnerable and dependent consumers.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the House for allowing me to speak. I want to say that we will support this bill with some reservations. We will examine it in committee.

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

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows there is a provision in Bill C-47 for a five year review, whereas there is no provision for a five year review in Bill C-46, which is a very similar and connected bill.

What form does the member think this five year review should take or if in fact the government should be looking at a sunset clause, given that technology changes radically even over a year, let alone a five year period. Perhaps a sunset clause would be more appropriate.

I would ask the member to comment on those particular areas.

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

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have not delved into that issue. However, I think that if we bring in legislation like this, we will have to reassess the measures used in police investigations and determine whether they have infringed on individual privacy rights. Have the new powers helped fight cybercrime? Have law enforcement agencies actually reduced the number of pedophile and cyberbullying rings now targeting young people? Are the measures doing enough to facilitate police investigation while respecting the rights of individuals?

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

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a follow up question for the member.

The Privacy Commissioner suggested that there be a review of the regulations flowing from both of the bills. She suggested that given the important administrative procedural and technical details involved, Parliament should conduct a full committee review and hear from all interested stakeholders on both the legislation and the regulations, and that the review take place before either bill comes into force.

Does the member have any comments about that, including her observation about yearly statistics? She would like to see an annual reporting to the public on the statistics of the use, the results and effectiveness of these new powers. It seems to me that was very good advice on her part, so I would ask the member for his comments.

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

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, elsewhere in the world, these tools have certainly not curbed crime, online or otherwise, but they have ensured that law enforcement agencies are better equipped to track down offenders.

That should be our goal going forward with this bill, but we must also ensure that we are adequately protecting citizens' privacy while giving the police as many tools as possible so they can take action and crack down on cybercrime.

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

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning in this House to speak to Bill C-47.

This is a bill that addresses an issue that is very important to the people in my riding of Leeds—Grenville and to the many policing agencies that operate inside of my riding. On their behalf, I am pleased to offer my support for this very much-needed legislation which will give enforcement agencies the tools they need to fight modern day sophisticated criminals and terrorists who can be operating anywhere in the world while at the same time reaching into areas like mine.

Let me first offer a little background on my riding. Leeds—Grenville is a very expansive riding that stretches from the outskirts of Kingston in the west to just past the south of Highway 416 in the east near Cardinal. Kingston and area, I would like to point out, as I have in the past, is home to a number of federal prisons and provincial jails.

My riding stretches north along Highway 15 from Kingston to Smiths Falls, and east again to North Grenville along the Rideau. North Grenville lies just 20 minutes outside of our capital city, Ottawa. I have two major highways in the riding, Highway 401 and Highway 416.

The riding includes two border crossings, something that is very important as we have the southern boundary of our riding running along the Canada-U.S. border. We are within minutes of a third at Kingston, and a half hour away from us, up in Cornwall, where there is another border crossing

We also have several small airports in our area and more nearby. As I said, the southern boundary of my riding runs along the Canada-U.S. border, with the United States right on our doorstep. In some cases, it is very easy to move across the narrow area that reaches from one country to another. Of course, one cannot do this legally but it has happened in the past.

The Thousand Islands area of the St. Lawrence River is really one of the busiest recreational waterways in the world, and one of the many complicated border crossing areas with tour boats that go around our area. There are many pleasure craft, commercial boats and others that are crossing from shore to shore and from island to island at all times of the year.

With this broad picture in mind, we can imagine that the law enforcement agencies that are engaged in protecting the good citizens of the riding do have many challenges. Border guards, RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police and local police departments along with prison guards and private security personnel are all actively engaged in and around the riding.

It is with this background that I am pleased to add my voice to those who support the provisions in Bill C-47. It has been stated before that Canada's current intercept laws are many decades out of date. Technology-savvy criminals can go about their business, often reaching across borders and around the world, without being detected, apprehended or even prosecuted. This poses a very real threat to Canadians.

I am pleased, and I know the residents of Leeds—Grenville are very pleased, that our government intends to put a stop to this. Bill C-47 will take away the advantages that criminals currently have under our laws. They will no longer be able to exploit new communications technologies to remain undetected.

This bill will give those who protect us the ability to intercept unlawful activity. Police and national security officials will be able to shut down so-called safe havens and bring criminals to account for their acts.

In our lifetime we have seen a revolution in communication technology and we can only guess at its pace in the future. From typewriters and dial telephones hooked up with wires, we have reached a point where ordinary citizens use satellites and complex devices to communicate.

Legislation that was written to combat crime on the typewriter and dial telephone days just does not measure up any more. This new bill would help bring our crime-fighting capabilities up to at least today's communication standards. We would be able to protect our modern society with modern methods.

As we move forward with modern, up to date legislation, we are also telling those who would harm others that we will not allow them to work smarter than us. The bill would remove the communications shields that gang members, child predators, identity thieves and terrorists can currently hide behind.

The bill approaches the complex problem of communication in a number of ways. First, it would require communication providers to install interception capability. Second, it would permit enforcement agencies under certain circumstances to acquire intercepted communications.

I am aware that some people are concerned that individual privacy rights could be violated. It is important to understand that since 1995 the government has engaged in consultation on this issue. Written into the bill are extensive oversight regulations and a recording regime to ensure the new law is not abused.

I want to speak a bit about the intercept component.

The interception of communications really is essential for investigation and prosecuting of serious crime and combatting terrorism. Back in the 39th Parliament, I happened to chair a committee that reviewed the Anti-terrorism Act. We spent a great deal of time talking about terrorists and would-be terrorists who were preparing to commit terrorism acts in Canada and around the world and the impact that had on our citizens, especially after the horrible acts of September 11, 2001, and the further bombings in Madrid and London. We even saw the arrest of would-be terrorists here in Canada just a few short years ago.

These tools could be used by our law enforcement to help combat such things. They could also be used in investigations into child sexual abuse, organized crime, drug trafficking and, as I said, terrorism.

The technical assistance for law enforcement in the 21st century act, Bill C-47, would not provide law enforcement or CSIS with any new interception powers, nor would it change or expand existing interception authorities in any way. Rather, it addresses the challenges posed by modern technologies that did not exist when the legal framework for interception was designed nearly 40 years ago.

Police forces and CSIS will continue to require warrants for interception. This legislation would simply ensure that when warrants are issued, a technical solution is available so that police forces and CSIS can actually intercept the communications that they do want to get at.

Canada currently has no legal requirement for companies to build interception capability into telecommunication networks and, as a result, we now have some situations where judicial authorization is granted where a warrant is issued but cannot be effective because the service providers network is not intercept capable.

Criminals and terrorists are aware of interception safe havens and exploit them to continue their criminal activities undetected.

As new telecommunication services and products are being rolled out, basically on a daily basis, police forces and CSIS continue to fall behind increasing sophisticated criminal and terrorist groups. There are far too many instances where police forces and CSIS cannot execute judicially authorized interception to protect Canadians' safety simply because of a lack of intercept capability on telecommunication networks. A technical solution would now be available for police forces and CSIS to execute judicially authorized warrants.

The proposal would require companies to pay for intercept capability and certain new equipment and software, while the government would provide reasonable compensation when retrofits to existing networks are needed. This is a shared response to a problem that directly affects the safety of Canadians.

We are looking to get intercept capability with the bill, which would go a long way toward supporting our law enforcement agencies. As I said, that is very important in a riding like mine. It is a very diverse riding with many different components, from the border crossings to our prisons located just outside of the riding.

The bill does contain a number of exemptions. Telecommunications service providers who act as intermediaries, meaning those that transmit communications on behalf of other telecommunications service providers without modifying the communications or authenticating the users, would not be subject to the obligations regarding interception capability when they upgrade their systems or to the obligations in respect of subscriber information. However, they may be made subject to those that are made by order of the minister.

Apart from the obligations to provide information to law enforcement agencies regarding their telecommunications facilities and services, the bill would not apply to telecommunications service providers whose principal operation is a post-secondary education institution, a library, a community centre, a restaurant, a hotel or an apartment building.

There are some temporary exemptions, such as when the minister may, by order made on the application of a telecommunications service provider, suspend, for up to three years, in whole or in part, any obligation relating to interception capability when the systems are upgraded. The minister may, of course, include any conditions that he or she considers appropriate.

We must provide law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to keep our communities safe. High tech criminals will be met by high tech police. What the people of Canada are looking for us to ensure is that law enforcement agencies have those tools.

It is a great day for victims and their families who have been, for a very long time, calling for these legislative changes so that those who work tirelessly every day to ensure that when there is a threat to safety, they can intervene quickly. The proposed legislation strikes an appropriate balance between the investigative powers used to protect public safety and the necessity to safeguard privacy and the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Bill C-47 would ensure that law enforcement can keep up with these new telecommunications techniques. As I said before, the legislation would provide no new powers to intercept communications. There must continue to be warrants for these intercepts.

Under the bill, accessing subscriber information, such as an IP address, would not require a warrant. The problem is that while some service providers give subscriber information to law enforcement upon request, others fail to provide it in a timely fashion or decline to provide it voluntarily and insist on a warrant. However, in many situations, obtaining a warrant for this basic information is neither practical nor possible. The proposed legislation would help to ensure there are no more dead-end investigations.

I encourage all members of the House to support the legislation and get it off to committee for review so it can come back to the House and we can move it forward. I was happy to speak on this bill as I know it is very important to the people of my riding of Leeds—Grenville. I encourage all members to get behind it.

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

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the work of the previous speaker in his chairmanship of the public safety and national security committee. I will not overly extoll his virtues because I do not want it show up in a political leaflet sometime in the future, but all parties worked very well in that committee, and part of that was because of his good chairmanship.

However, during that period of time, and I am sure he was paying close attention to this because of his responsibilities in the area of public safety and national security, the current Minister of International Trade, the then minister in that period of time for public safety and national security, who would have been responsible for this bill had he remained in that position, came out very publicly, as had, to a lesser degree, the former minister in the Liberal government, when this type of legislation was being debated and discussed in more general terms rather than a specific bill.

However, in the course of that debate in the country and in, I will say, the high tech community in this country, there was great concern expressed about privacy rights and about the role the state should play in getting access to private communication and private data. I think there was a general consensus in the country, and in those communities that were particularly interested in this area, that that should never be done without a warrant.

The then minister for public safety and national security, the now Minister of International Trade, came out and very clearly and unequivocally made the statement, and repeated it on more than one occasion, that his government would never allow access to that type of data without a judicial warrant, without judicial oversight. I think the actual terminology he used was, “without judicial oversight”.

I am now asking my colleague why the government would, in this bill, allow for the state to demand this information, compel this information, without judicial oversight.

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, too, congratulate the member for Windsor—Tecumseh for his work on the public safety committee and on the committee that reviewed the Anti-terrorism Act.

As he knows, we wrestled with the whole issue of human rights and security. There is a fine balance that we need to find. I believe the bill finds that balance and still would require a warrant to get at those telecommunications companies, but it would allow access to some IP addresses. I believe the bill finds that balance, which is so important to Canadians.

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

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his kind comments. I promise not to use them in any political leaflet and I expect the same back from him.

However, he did not answer the question and perhaps I will put it this way. Has the member spoken with the current Minister of International Trade and asked him why he took that position back then and why his government has reversed positions on this issue now?

He obviously felt at that time, although I suppose the other possibility is that he did not know what he was talking about, so I do not want to attribute that to him, but I think he did, and recognized that, in terms of that balance between state interference and public safety, we were clearly better to stay on the side of judicial oversight in terms of protecting privacy rights and still allowing for the use of this legislation but only with judicial oversight.

Has the member spoken with that particular minister and asked him why he took the position at that time?