House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spam.

Topics

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am almost as surprised to be speaking as you are to call upon me.

This morning, we are considering Bill C-27. It is widely known how absolutely dramatic and traumatic the whole issue of spam is and the interception of messages and the relationship that has to the electronic medium that we are so dependent on today. This is a dramatic example in this legislation in its analysis of the extent to which span can create absolute chaos in the lives of individuals, businesses and governments.

Most recently, there was an example of how one of these electronic wizards, who is totally capable of developing the programs, used that knowledge to intercept military messages between aircraft. The extent to which that could have created absolute chaos was, in fact, so dangerous. It was illustrated in the press. We have had to take the kind of action that would have been able to intercept those messages, neutralize them and protect our public.

The issue of creating spam and what it will do to our capacity in a civil society to use this technology in a positive way is threatened by people who have the capacity to understand and implement evil designs on individuals, businesses and governments. It is, therefore, in the overall interest of civil society that we act on this.

It has been estimated that, to this date, many billions of dollars have been taken and applied to those who have suffered the effects of their electronic Internet capacity being undermined. They have tried to implement reactive responses by calling upon service agencies to protect their own email addresses and so on, but billions of dollars have spent on that. Naturally, people find themselves looking at government and wanting to know what government at all levels will do to protect them.

The government has responded in a positive way. In fact, it has built on the recommendations that were made by a Liberal task force in 2004. I think it would be helpful for those who are watching to know about the recommendations with respect to that task force, which held many consultations.

The recommendations were: to prohibit the sending of spam without the prior consent of recipients; to prohibit the use of false or misleading statements that disguise the origins or true intent of the email; to prohibit the installation of unauthorized programs; and, to prohibit the unauthorized collection of personal information or email addresses. Bill C-27 takes a great step forward in terms of dealing with those recommendations that were made back in 2004.

Those who are watching would also wish to be informed as to the regime that is being put in place to follow up with respect to charges that have been levelled against people who are involved in this kind of scamming process.

The bill introduces fines for the violation of these acts up to a maximum of $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses. It would establish rules for warrants for information during an investigation and injunctions on spam activity while under investigation. The bill also would establish the private right of action, allowing individuals and businesses the ability to seek damages from the perpetrators of spam.

While the legislation takes these steps, it also behooves us to look at what additional steps could possibly be taken.

It is important to note that the whole strategy with respect to fighting spam requires more than just a legislative regime. The willingness to enforce the law is absolutely paramount. In this regard, the task force recommended in 2004 some additional steps that it felt the government should consider and perhaps could be considered when the bill is at committee.

The task force indicated that dedicated resources and strong support should be provided to agencies to administer and enforce the anti-spam legislation. It behooves the government to reflect on whether those resources have been dedicated. The task force further recommended co-ordinated anti-spam actions with other nations. While a huge amount of spam comes from the United States, this is a battle that requires international response. The task force also recommended that international service providers and other network operators establish best business practices. The final recommendation was to establish a spam database to better monitor the sources of spam.

It is important that we understand the regime that is the foundation of support with respect to the strategic response that is embedded in the bill.

The bill would give authority to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to share information and evidence with international counterparts in order to pursue violators outside of Canada.

The minister indicated in his announcement the government's commitment to establishing Industry Canada as the national co-ordinating body in order to expand awareness and education of the whole nature of spam, what the government was doing in terms of the responding regime and to share that information with Canadians, with network operators and small businesses, and to co-ordinate the work with the private sector, and to conduct research and intelligence gathering.

Hopefully this information will be upfront so that people who have been victimized by those who are using spam to undermine their electronic systems will have a hotline to interface with immediately and the steps in the bill will kick in and they will know that the responding regime is at their service.

To that extent, the bill intends to create a spam reporting centre that would receive reports and related threats allowing it to collect evidence and gather intelligence to assist the three enforcement agencies, the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

In committee, I hope this particular part of the regime that would be put in place by the bill, will be put right up front and that the electronic and communications interface with that reporting centre is made public, the number immediately has an acknowledged and up front series of steps that will be taken on behalf of consumers so they can rest assured that the evidential and the responding follow-up is immediate and predictable. The bill attempts to do that but there is a great deal of doubt out in the wider public whether we really have a handle on this particular problem.

The bill, in terms of its content, the history leading up to the response and the substance, meets the needs and expectations of our public. The public can also be assured that there will be an additional response, particularly as it is coordinated on an international basis.

It is very important that the resources be put into fighting what has been estimated as a $27 billion annual expenditure in information technology, including increased expenditures in Internet bandwidth, storage costs, anti-spam software and user support. Just that figure alone indicates that $27 billion is being invested by consumers to try and protect themselves, and that they are doing it at a time when the legislative framework has left them wanting.

What we are now doing, through this legislation, is taking that investment and backing it up with a legislative framework that is both prescriptive and proactive. It is saying that we understand the problem and we understand the nature of the intelligence intercept and how it is undermining consumers' ability to use their email addresses with confidence and without being invaded by people who want to access private information.

The government more recently introduced legislation that attempts to protect private individuals from abuse with respect to their credit card information and their day-to-day transactions through the mail. We have been reminded of this time and time again, in particular with respect to seniors who have been vulnerable to those who have victimized them because they have laid access to that private information, even to the extent, as members will recall, where information on mortgages and home ownership was used for transactions to place, resulting in people actually losing their home. Both the province and federal government have had to respond to that with new legislation, which sets a similar regime in place to protect our public.

Again I use that as an example that there just seems to be no limit to the extent that some in our society will victimize others and they will use a variety of tools to do it, not the least of which is using spam to access private information to mislead and abuse, to undermine enforcement agencies and to victimize the vulnerable. This legislation takes a major step forward in terms of dealing with that.

This was an initiative that was predicated on the basis of need. It was recognized several years ago in 2004 by the opposition, then the government, and this legislation builds upon that. There are still some gaps but those will be addressed in committee. However, our public can rest assured that the whole issue of spam and its evil intent will be dealt with by a regime that has follow-up and follow-through.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is fair to say that we have a bit of reluctance over here to believe that the Conservatives will actually enforce this bill, no matter how good we make it through the committee process. However, it seems to me that our saving grace in this bill, in terms of enforcement, is the private right of action, the fact that if the government is slow on doing the enforcement, the public has a right to go to the courts to try and get action that way.

I know there are certain provinces, such as Quebec and Manitoba, for example, that have class action legislation. I think Ontario might as well. Could the member confirm that the class action provisions would be applicable in this situation, or would the person have to deal primarily on an individual, case by case basis? Could there be a class action lawsuit under this legislation?

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the whole nature of an individual action, in fact even how an individual action could spark what has been characterized as a class action, is one for the lawyers in the committee to ascertain. I am a school teacher from Scarborough and not a lawyer, but I can certainly understand the premise upon which the member has asked that question.

I am joined by two of my colleagues, both of whom are lawyers, and they have taken note of that particular question. It would be my hope that in committee what provincial legislation is doing with respect to the right of a private individual to enact an action and the resources that would be provided to do that perhaps within the scope of this bill or provincial legislation will be pursued.

As I said, it is very important that people have a one-stop-shopping interface when they have been victimized, one number, so that there is a follow up. This is a very serious and complex area of technology. People know how to use it, but they do not know the overall design to the extent that they can protect themselves.

The premise the member is suggesting should be noted and followed up by the committee, but I am not capable at this point to give any further elaboration of the question than that.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his very clear enunciation of the evil empire of spam. We are all familiar with it. Do we understand the full nature of what we are taking on in terms of the ability to enforce the requirement of the CRTC to investigate many of these potential complaints? The enforcement around infractions with very large penalties suggests that this may be very litigious. Perhaps the hon. member could comment on this.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am always impressed in a thankful way for the characterizations that the member is able to draw. It certainly exceeds my word crafting. The evil empire of spam is very descriptive in terms of emphasizing how much of a threat this is to day-to-day life and working people, people who, as I say, understand how to use the technology, but do not know how to protect themselves in terms of invasions of their privacy and so on.

What the member is suggesting in terms of fines as a reactive regime is quite true. They are very heavy. The maximum of $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses with respect to violations of the act against individuals is one step, but as in any other part of our criminal justice system, that alone does not constitute the proactive response that people would be expecting.

When this goes to committee, the kinds of concerns the member has raised once again should be looked at, such as resources to help people, particularly to avoid litigation or to help them in litigation, but to immediately redress the harm that has been done by the invasion of their privacy through spam. I use the example of credit card violations and knowledge that has undermined seniors with respect to actually losing their homes.

People have a genuine and realistic right to have government protect them from those kinds of things. Whether this bill would completely satisfy that is something that has to be followed up in committee. That is what the public expects us to do. There will be people on the committee who have applied themselves to understanding the law, the nature of the law, and how to act on behalf of people, as well as people who understand the technology.

Whether the CRTC has the resources to respond will be a question that has to be answered by the government. The resources have to be provided. The reactive nature of the legislation alone will not be successful if the CRTC and the rest of regime does not have the capacity to respond on behalf of the public and consumers.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a further concern about the cost and confusion that this legislation may cause to small businesses in the country.

I do not know how much consulting the government has done on this issue. I am assuming that it has gone through more than one Parliament and that there has been a reasonable amount of consultation, but I am just not sure how many small businesses will know. Even when the government does consult with a large group like that, it is going to miss a lot of people.

I am worried that some people may be caught up through not having bad intent but may be violating the act because they do not really understand all the rules.

One of the members mentioned yesterday that if a business sold a hard drive one year and then responded three years later would that be evidence of an ongoing business relationship or would that be considered spam and be actionable by the person who received the spam email against the business.

These are very important issues that have to be worked out. I do not think we want to make this really onerous on small business. We all know what we want to accomplish, but sometimes we can ensnare groups that we really do not want to and cost the economy a lot of money in the process.

I wonder if the member could deal with that particular issue.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are two aspects to the question. There is the cost to small businesses to protect themselves with respect to the invasion of their systems that would undermine their ability to carry on business.

Then there is the issue with respect to small businesses which are engaged in the transfer of information on a very wide basis and whether they understand the act to the extent where they may in an honest and upfront way be engaged in an illegal activity. That is something that the bill I do not think has encompassed or has articulated.

Both aspects would be better pursued through committee. It would be my feeling that small businesses, in having access to the regime that is being put in place by the bill and the resources that are being put in place, would feel satisfied that it is not an added cost. However, the far more difficult, technical and complex nature of whether businesses, in particular small businesses, would be engaged in activity that is not fully understood and would put them in harm's way, in a manner that they had not intended to circumvent the law, that is something that has to be pursued further at committee.

I do understand both aspects of that, having come through a small family business relationship, but not reliant on technology to the extent that we are today. I understand the concerns that the member has raised for small businesses and I appreciate them, as I am sure the House does.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House today and speak to Bill C-27, a bill that looks at providing new prohibitions and enforcement measures as well as changes to existing laws regarding spam.

As one of the youngest members in the House, this is a bill that I feel very strongly about. That is why I stand here very proudly and state our position as the New Democratic Party, asking for the support of the House to make sure that this bill goes to committee in order to be discussed, in order to have the proper consultation it deserves, and in order for there to be time to look at such complex legislation.

The reason why I connect it with my generation is because I am part of a generation that has truly grown up dependent on technology. Not only are we dependent on it for our professional lives, but also our personal lives. It is the tool that brings our generation together.

As we sit and spend an inordinate amount of hours on the Internet, we are frequently faced by the nuisance that is spam, phishing, Trojan horses, and whatever other forms of Internet nuisance there might be. I would also like to point out how problematic it is.

On a more humourous note, I know my colleague yesterday recited some examples of spamware and how ridiculous they are. Whether it is the solicitation of funds from another part of the world, usually unfortunately taking advantage of people's sympathies and empathies toward areas of the world that have undergone crises, or it is ridiculous notes pertaining to people's personal lives and the assumption that we know who is talking to us and who wants to meet us, and all of these kinds of things. But, in fact, once again it is taking advantage of people's dependence on the Internet to connect in terms of their personal life as opposed to getting out and actually meeting people in the real world.

Beyond the humourous, however, we get to some of the really serious problems that emerge from spam and the kind of pollution that enters our in-boxes, our Facebook sites or our BlackBerries on a daily basis. There is the nuisance in terms of time and efficiency that it takes away from us as we go through our emails and spend valuable time erasing ridiculous messages that we receive.

There are the nuisances that businesses go through in terms of erasing spam emails that they receive or else defending perhaps themselves. This is also pertinent to individuals when it is believed they are the ones who have sent the spam messages when in fact it is someone else causing havoc.

Then there is the even more serious element which is the criminal element and the theft that occurs as a result of spam messages. Identity theft is something that we in Canada are very concerned about. I recall quite a bit of media attention when there was what seemed to be a surge in identity theft.

Also, the theft of financial information is connected to identity theft. It is found that many times such spammers, as they are called, or people who take advantage of others on the Internet, usually take advantage of people who are not familiar with technology, whether it is the elderly or people who are less savvy when it comes to Internet technology. That is highly problematic for so many reasons.

What makes it even more disconcerting for members in the House is Canada's inaction when it comes to spam, when it comes to Internet pollution, and when we see so many people being taken advantage of. I particularly want to bring out the extent to which not only Canadians are being taken advantage of but also people all around the world as a result of spam activity that originates here in Canada. I found out that Canada ranked fifth worldwide as the source of web-based email spam, trailing only Iran, Nigeria, Kenya and Israel.

A research study from Cloudmark, a leading provider of anti-spam software, recently presented data on the origins of spam emanating from web-based email providers, such as Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo, at an international anti-spam conference in Germany. It found out that we are fifth in terms of truly polluting the web world and taking advantage of people, not only in our own country but around the world. We need to be ashamed of that. We take pride in being advanced in the technological age and in our efficiencies with respect to our technology. There is a serious problem in that we have gone so far ahead in our technology that our legislation is lagging behind. We have a lot of people who are taking advantage of that gap and who are acting in very malicious ways and criminal ways as well.

There have been many examples of people who have taken advantage of Facebook sites. I know that is a site on which many politicians in the House spend a great deal of time, networking with their constituents. I am not sure if they have spent enough time to see some of the spam messages pasted on people's Facebook walls in a very public manner, with which I am sure none of us would want to be associated. However, we never know when spammers are going to take advantage of the work we do and our reputation and create havoc on our Facebook sites.

These are the kinds of things that could hit very close to home in the work that we do as political representatives.

I go back to the piece about Canada being negligent when it comes to being proactive in preventing such intense span activity originating from our country. I see the reference to Canada being a lawless spam haven. Two hundred billion spam messages come out of Canada every day. How could we fathom such extensive numbers, knowing very well that this has been an ongoing discussion in our House? I understand the Liberals brought up the first legislation regarding spam in 2003. We are now in 2009. That is six years.

We know there is far more use of the Internet, both in our country and around the world. Where has the federal government been in terms of implementing legislation that would both protect us and certainly clear our name as allowing this kind of activity to take place in our country while turning a blind eye?

I want to go back to talk a bit about some of the important prohibitions that Bill C-27 provides.

The primary prohibition, known as the basic anti-spam provision, notes:

No person shall send or cause or permit to be sent to an electronic address a commercial electronic message unless

(a) the person to whom the message is sent has consented to receiving it, whether the consent is express or implied; and

(b) the message complies with subsection (2).

There are number of provisions as part of subsection (2). It enforces, for example, the importance of three key requirements, form, consent and jurisdiction.

The law establishes form requirements for those who send commercial electronic messages, for example, and identifies the people sending the message. It provides contact information of the centre and also has an unsubscribe mechanism, which is so important as many of us receive numerous emails from the same source and find it difficult to know how to stop from receiving them any more.

The second prohibition that is part of Bill C-27 is referred to as the anti-phishing provision and involves the alteration of the transmission data on electronic messages. It is designed to deal with phishing, where the electronic message appears to go to one place but goes somewhere else. It states:

No person shall, in the course of a commercial activity, alter or cause to be altered the transmission data in an electronic message so that the message is delivered to a destination other than or in addition to that specified by the sender, unless the alteration is made with the express consent of the sender or in accordance with a court order.

The third prohibition is referred to as the anti-spyware and botnet provision. It is designed to deal with the increasingly common method of delivering spam that infects a user's computer and uses the Internet connection to send millions of spam messages.

The provision states:

No person shall, in the course of a commercial activity, install or cause to be installed a computer program on any other person’s computer system or, having so installed or caused to be installed a computer program, cause an electronic message to be sent from that computer system, unless the person has obtained the express consent of the owner or an authorized user of a computer system or is acting in accordance with a court order.

For this to apply, there must be a Canadian connection to the activity. As we have just heard, there is no shortage of Canadian connections to activity, given that we rank number five on the world charts when it comes to infecting other people's Internet connections with spam.

The intent of Bill C-27 is a very good one. For many years we have been talking about the importance of being proactive in this legislation to protect Canadian citizens, consumers and businesses and to prevent the rest of the world from having to deal with the garbage, in many ways, that emanates from our country.

I know my colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay, an advocate for efficient and fair use of Internet technologies, has spoken many times on the importance of this issue. I would also like to recognize the work of my colleague from Windsor West, the critic on this file, who has worked very hard at committee to ensure that this is a constant priority.

In that sense, this has been an ongoing discussion. What is holding us up? Given that this is such complex legislation, we need to have a proper consultation with stakeholders. We recognize that in 2004 there was some consultation that took place under the Liberals. We also know what happened shortly after that. We have been in a series of minority governments, clearly unable to properly deal with such important legislation.

However, we believe there is enough good faith in the House to recognize that this is a priority and that we can no longer pay lip service to it or leave it on the shelf to be discussed at another time.

Going back to committee is the best way to go about this. For example, there was concern raised yesterday in the House about some provisions that were included in the bill, which came directly from the do-not-call list bill.

On the do-not-call list, many colleagues and Canadians throughout the country have pointed out how problematic it has been. People have, in good will and good faith, signed their names to a list, expecting that they will no longer be harassed by telemarketers and different companies. However, what we did not know was spammers and others on the net were purchasing these lists or finding them and doing quite the opposite, targeting people even more vehemently, the exact people who had specifically requested not to be called.

We see that some of the do-not-call list provisions are in this bill, which we would like to be part of a broader debate. There was some confusion yesterday from members across with respect to whether these kinds of provisions would be part of the final reading of Bill C-27. That immediately raises a red flag and indicates the importance of bringing this bill back to committee so we can ensure that each part of it is pertinent, that it reflects lessons we have learned from the past in terms of efficiency and fairness and that the final product will actually make a difference to Canadians.

We also like to point out the importance, as my fellow colleague from Elmwood—Transcona did, of consulting properly with small businesses. In many cases, small businesses depend a great deal on email communications through the work they do in advertising and contacts with their clients and consumers. We need to ensure that this bill does not penalize them in the kinds of emails they send out and that there are provisions to protect them. We need to understand the work they do.

If a small business does send out an email sometime after a purchase has been made or an agreement has been reached, will that be recognized as spam? Based on numerous emails consumers may receive from a business, will they view that as spam and file a complaint against that business, putting that business in a very difficult situation for actions that are quite legitimate?

We also like to point out that political parties send copious amounts of emails. We use Facebook. We use the tools available to us. Will we be on the short end of facing some difficult situations if people complain about the emails we send out? What kind of balance can we find in that area?

Canadians recognize that by no means are our parties immune to scandals. We see so many in the news and, even more recently, attached to numerous prior political incarnations in the House. We want to ensure that communications, which are so important for democracy, from our political parties are recognized as such. That is why it is so important to bring this bill back to committee so we can have these kinds of discussions.

The next point I would like to make is on enforcement. We find some of the measures around enforcement problematic. We all know it is fine and well to come up with a great bill that looks at punitive measures to render people accountable. However, if we do not have the proper enforcement, what are we doing here? The bill designates the CRTC to engage in such kinds of enforcement activities.

I think we all recognize that the CRTC does very hard work, but in many cases it is stretched thin in taking responsibility for the files and departments it already has under its administration, let alone bringing in such an important and extensive responsibility and adding it to its load. It is not that it would not be the best to deal with this. However, we need to look at proper provision of resources in finances, technology and human resources to ensure the CRTC can truly do the work it has been mandated to do.

I also recognize that the Privacy Commissioner is part of this. Does she have enough resources to undertake this kind of work?

When we talk about such important points as identity theft, the theft of financial information and ensuring that Canadian citizens and businesses can use the Internet safely, these are some pretty serious points. We need to ensure that the people who will be responsible for ensuring the rules and the legislation are followed have the abilities to do so. It is incumbent upon us and the government to ensure that this is the case.

Finally, I want to bring attention to the importance of protecting consumers. This bill is fundamentally about protecting Canadians and Canadian consumers. As New Democrats, we want to believe that. This is a very positive intent. This kind of legislation needs to take place, but we want to ensure that the consultation takes place as it should, that it is implemented properly and that it is enforced properly as well.

For that reason, we look with distress at the fact that our motion on credit cards and protecting consumers in that respect has not been heeded by the government. Numerous measures that we have proposed for employment insurance changes have not been heeded by the government.

Motions have been passed by all three opposition parties, might I add, that look out for the benefit of consumers.

I know that hon. members on the other side of the House represent many consumers, and I hope they will listen to us and bring this bill back to committee to ensure it makes a difference for us as Canadian consumers.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Churchill for her cogent comments on an extremely serious piece of legislation for the protection of consumers.

I have noted that despite the fact that the government is supposed to be paying serious attention, it is not actually going to be an offence in the bill. It is designated as a mere technical violation, which raises a lot of issues about whether this is being treated seriously.

I would like to ask the hon. member whether she shares my concerns with the limitations on the right to intervene. Because the bill specifically limits the right to intervene in any proceedings to only the three commissions, by nature of statutory interpretation that could be argued to exclude all other parties, including all other people who may be impacted. This goes to the earlier question about class actions. In my jurisdiction class actions are extremely narrowly defined. I think that should be looked at by the committee.

I note the commissioner may disclose information but is not required to, either on any violations they have identified or on any actions taken. There is also no certainty provided by the government. It has not tabled its enforcement strategy with its bill. Does it fully intend to charge and try all violators, or is it planning to issue mere warnings? If it does take these actions, are they going to be made public, for example, in a public registry?

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10:50 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that the legal background of the member for Edmonton—Strathcona would assist in identifying some of the gaps in this legislation, gaps that sorely need to be recognized.

I particularly note the point she brought up in terms of the severity of punishment in this case, recognizing that in many cases they are criminal actions requiring appropriate action. The piece on enforcement is something I outlined, as well as many others. There is really no point in talking about how we are going to move forward on this if there is no proper strategy or resources in terms of enforcement.

I recognize that the government has received a great deal of flak on this file and it has proposed to view it as a priority. We have not seen it in the most recent throne speeches. For that reason, the NDP is insisting that it ought to be recognized as a priority and brought back to committee to have important questions and gaps addressed.

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10:50 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I noted yesterday that the member for Pickering—Scarborough East from the Liberal Party made a very thoughtful presentation on the whole subject. He pointed out that he had brought forward a private member's bill as far back as 2003, which indicates he was interested in the subject at that point in time, but he was unable to get the Liberal government of the day to do anything about it. For many years now I have heard him comment on high gas prices and other consumer issues. I know he is a real ball of fire and that he is very active in Parliament, in caucus and so on.

If we could not get this done under the Liberal government, and we certainly have not been able to get it done under the Conservative government, what is holding this process up?

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
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10:50 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona, for this important point, which comes down to some fundamental political questions.

With the increased use of the Internet in our society by Canadians, this is a really big issue. There has been a lot of noise around moving ahead on this by both the Conservative government and the previous Liberal government, and in fact nothing has been done.

We are seeing the attempted hurrying of a bill that is absolutely complex and that requires proper consultation, examination and debate in committee, where people can focus on it in much more depth. We could go from there in order to ensure we are actually making a difference for Canadian Internet users and businesses.

As I noted, it would clear Canada's name in being ranked fifth in the world for spam pollution originating from our country, a reputation we could all do without. We could truly clear our name.

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10:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I was struck by the comments my colleague made that Canada is in fifth place in spam production. I was also struck by the other countries that are engaged in it as well. It suggests that there is probably spam legislation out there that has forced spam producers into different areas.

The electronic media is a global medium with the ability to move spam origination from one place to another. Therefore, I am curious about this legislation in terms of whether the legislation will target the person or agency who benefits from sending the spam rather than perhaps the originator of the spam message. If spam is being sent from Nigeria, it could well be coming from Canadian companies or Canadian concerns and simply bypassing the legislation.

Perhaps the member could talk a little more about those details and assure Canadians that this is actually going to work for us.

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10:55 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal of interest from the New Democrats in the House to make sure this issue is dealt with properly. I would like to thank them and those from our party who have worked on looking more closely at this legislation for the interest they have shown. They are truly speaking up for people who live in their communities and their ridings.

As my colleague pointed out, the truly shameful position we hold on the world stage in terms of spam begs some serious action, but it also begs some questions we need to be asking about how we are going to deal with spam activity.

As the member pointed out, spam activity from one country might actually be originating in our own country or from another country. These are the kinds of scenarios we need to be looking at in our discussions in committee. We need to be asking experts in this field. We need to be asking people who are victimized as a result of this kind of work.

We can also look at some of the examples in the United States. Our neighbours to the south are clearly implementing far more progressive legislation in a number of areas.

I hear guffawing every time we talk about the Obama administration. However, we should really take note of some of the things the Americans are doing. Certainly in terms of anti-spam legislation, they are going after individuals. They are able through their enforcement mechanisms to find the individual who is more than likely part of an agency and is in fact responsible for this activity.

Let us not reinvent the wheel here. There are people who are doing some pretty progressive things, and they are following up with the appropriate enforcement.

Why do we not stand up, clear our name and take some proactive action from our side as well?