House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

The House resumed from February 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, be read the third time and passed.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to finally have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-42, which amends the Aeronautics Act to allow airlines to send personal information of passengers to foreign security services.

Let me begin by reminding members in this House that the right to privacy is a fundamental cornerstone of any western democracy. Equally important is the right of the people to know what their government is doing so that the government can be held accountable by a knowledgeable electorate.

Bill C-42 turns that accountability on its head. It suggests that the Government of Canada has the right to know what its people are doing at all times and that it even has the right to share that information with foreign governments, but it reserves for itself the right to be the most secretive government in Canadian history with its citizens continually being denied access to information. It is a government run amok, and frankly in this instance, it is dangerous.

The law before us today purports to hand over to foreign security agencies undisclosed information about Canadian passengers who may not even be landing on their soil. As my NDP colleague, the member for Welland, pointed out earlier in this debate, this is really a fundamental question about the rights of Canadians to privacy as opposed to the decision of a foreign government, be it the United States, Colombia or even Panama, that wishes to have the personal information of anyone in our country who chooses to travel by air. He said:

I find it quite astounding that somehow we think that giving this information up is okay and we can trot out security as being the justification for giving up our private information.

Honestly, where is it going to stop? Is it just our names, the hotel we are going to, the car we are renting and our destination? The government is trying to play Canadians for fools.

We all know that security agencies, including our security agencies, build profiles of those they deem of interest. We are also talking about the security agencies of other countries that do not share our laws and with whom we have had a serious concern about violating the rights of Canadian citizens. Even our own security agencies have behaved badly. We can try to remedy our own institutions, but how can we remedy those of other countries?

Dr. Mark Salter, an associate professor at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa, had this to say:

Governments want this information so that they can build profiles of not just risky passengers but safe passengers as well.

He went on to say:

What worries me about this particular legislation is that the data not only go to the destination country but may go to all states that the airline might fly over.

That, I feel, is the significant change this legislation brings and that worries me a great deal. He is right when he says:

I think it is dangerous to sacrifice our privacy and our freedoms for the dream of zero risk or perfect security.

This particular measure does not provide additional security for the aviation sector and it places an additional burden on Canadian citizens who are flying.

I noted earlier that this hypocritical secretive government is so eager to divulge its citizens' private information to other governments, yet it will not disclose these agreements to its own citizens.

Fortunately, we have some understanding of a similar information transfer agreement between the European Union and the United States. I want to share some of the contents of that agreement.

The information forwarded will be the passenger name record, which is the file a travel agent creates when a vacation is booked. The passenger name record could include credit card information, the person a citizen is travelling with, hotel details, and other booking information such as tours or rental cars. Astoundingly, that agreement also provides details on any serious medical condition of the passenger.

The information collected can be retained by the United States for up to 40 years. This information may be forwarded to the security service of a third nation without the consent or notification of the other signatory. The United States may unilaterally amend the agreement as long as it advises the EU of the change. No person may know what information is being held about him or her by the United States and may not correct that information even if there are errors.

I want to come back to this last point, because as I noted earlier, we have no control over agencies of other countries. Who in their right mind would agree to allow a foreign country to hold private information about a Canadian citizen? Who in their right mind would allow that country to hold wrong information about a Canadian citizen for up to 40 years? Who would accept that there is no recourse to correct this wrong information about a Canadian citizen? Well, none other than the Conservative government. That is who. The bill that is before us today would essentially allow data mining of Canadians' personal information by foreign security services.

Dominique Peschard, president of Ligue des droits et libertés, gave two examples of the consequences of ending up on the U.S. secure flight program. I quote:

My first example is that of Hernando Calvo Ospina, a Colombian journalist living in France. On April 18, 2009, Mr. Ospina was travelling to Nicaragua via Mexico for Le Monde diplomatique. Five hours before Air France's Paris-Mexico flight was scheduled to land, it was diverted to Fort-de-France, Martinique. The captain informed the passengers that the United States had not authorized the aircraft to fly over the country because one of the passengers constituted a threat to national security. Unknown to him, Mr. Ospina was on the United States' no-fly list. Mr. Ospina is a regular contributor to Le Monde diplomatique and has written a number of articles criticizing U.S. foreign policy and the CIA's role in Latin America. Mr. Ospina's prohibition has nothing to do with air security. The flight's co-pilot even went to see Mr. Ospina during the flight to verify that he was indeed the person targeted by the prohibition. In Mexico, Mr. Ospina was briefly questioned by Mexican authorities before taking another flight to Managua.

Another case I would like to discuss is that of Paul-Émile Dupret, a Belgian citizen who is an analyst for the European Parliament and who has conducted a campaign opposing the transfer of European travellers' personal information to American authorities. As his flight was on route to Mexico—his final destination was Sao Paulo, where he was travelling to attend the World Social Forum—the aircraft had to circumvent the United States because U.S. authorities were not authorizing Mr. Dupret to fly through American airspace.

These individuals clearly do not represent a threat to air security, and individuals like Mr. Ospina and Mr. Dupret could very well have been Canadian journalists or public servants travelling to Latin America.

It is an illusion to think that the information provided under the Secure Flight program will be protected, that it will be destroyed or that it could be corrected in the event of any error. On the contrary, that information will be added to the data bases of the U.S. intelligence agencies and will be compared with information held by all the agencies I've just mentioned to determine whether such and such a person should be prohibited from flying over the United States or even placed on another list.

Justice O'Connor's investigation of the Arar affair has shown to what extent the ill-considered sharing of information can have harmful effects. Four years after Judge O'Connor's report was tabled, we are still waiting for implementation of his recommendations for the introduction of a mechanism for monitoring security intelligence activities in Canada.

We know that Canada is being bullied by the U.S. and that unless this bill passes, the United States could close its airspace to Canadian aircraft.

I have stressed before, and so have my colleagues, that Canada and the United States have a long history of co-operation in politics, economics, defence, security and culture. We know that our closest neighbour and ally, the United States, cannot simply cut off its airspace to our flights and passengers. That simply is not realistic.

The government could do better for its citizens, but it is not. We on this side of the House are dumbfounded why the government, which bills itself as the great defender of our privacy, would so readily abandon our rights. The Conservative government's sponsorship of Bill C-42 is truly shameful.

I want to stress that this debate is not an ideological one. Its significance is due to the extent to which the federal government would go in relinquishing our rights without any disclosure to its citizens. This bill is truly reprehensible.

Members need not take my word for it. Here is what others have said about this legislation.

Roch Tassé, the national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, states:

After running a risk assessment for each passenger, Homeland Security in turn issues a “boarding pass result” back to the airline. The “result” instructs the airline to issue a boarding pass, deny permission to travel, or issue an enhanced screening requirement.

These regulations give the U.S. access to a whole subset of information on air passengers who are not entering the U.S. but merely overflying its airspace. Furthermore, this information can be shared among at least 16 U.S. agencies and with foreign governments. The program gives the government of a foreign country a de facto right to decide who gets to travel to and from Canada since the vast majority of Canadian flights to and from Europe, the Caribbean and South America overfly American airspace.

Maher Arar is on the U.S. no-fly list. Several other cases in which Canadians have been denied boarding by the U.S. even for domestic flights in Canada have also been reported. Those cases include several individuals who have been deemed by Canadian courts and commissions of inquiry not to pose a risk to the national security of Canada. They include Abdullah Almalki, Adil Charkaoui, and others.

If Bill C-42 is adopted, even the rulings of Canadian courts would not be able to be enforced.

Mr. Edward Hasbrouck of the Liberty Coalition, a U.S.-based civil liberties group stated:

You should be very clear that the enactment of Bill C-42 would grant to the U.S. government de facto veto power over the ability of virtually anyone to obtain sanctuary in Canada, since in most cases it's impossible to get to Canada to make a claim for political asylum or refugee status without overflying the U.S., and that power of the U.S. would be exercised at the worst possible point: while a refugee is still on the soil of and subject to the persecution of the regime they are trying to flee.

There are measures that could be taken to balance the needs for enhanced security with protection of our citizens' privacy. In 1998 the European Commission put forward six key principles which must be included. They are worth repeating.

First is the purpose limitation principle. Private personal information should be processed for a specific purpose and subsequently used for further communication only insofar as this is not incompatible with the purpose of the transfer.

Second is the information quality and proportionality principle. Information should be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date. Further, the information should be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which it is transferred or further processed.

Third is the transparency principle. Individuals should be provided with information as to the purpose of the processing and the identity of those in control of the information in the third country and other information insofar as this is necessary to ensure fairness.

Fourth is the security principle. Technical and organizational security measures should be taken by those in control of the information that are appropriate to the risks presented by the processing. Any person acting under the authority of those in control of the information, including a processor, must not process information, except on instructions from the controller.

Fifth is the right to access rectification and opposition principle. The subject of the information should have the right to obtain a copy of all the information relating to him or her that is processed and a right to rectification of the information which is inaccurate. Furthermore, in some situations, the person should be able to object to the processing of the data relating to him or her.

Sixth is the restriction on onward transfers principle. Transfers of the personal information to further countries should be permitted only where the second country is also subject to the same rules as the country originally receiving the information.

Bill C-42 does not include any of these protections. Under this bill, it would be open season on the private information of Canadians. This bill is an affront to our rights as Canadian citizens.

In conclusion, I want to end with another quote from Dr. Mark Salter. He states:

Canadians' data should not be hostage to the most paranoid regime that an air company chooses to fly over. The proposed change to these data protection regulations to include overflight states dramatically increases the vulnerability of Canadians' data while offering no means of redress or appeal.

We can assume that citizens know when they travel to a particular country that they are consenting. They know they go through a visa process and a border process, so they know their data is being evaluated. However, Canadians would have no way of knowing which of the countries they flew over would get their data, what would happen to their data, or how to appeal the use of that data. I think this is a dangerous change that poses clear costs but offers no benefit.

Clearly, this is a bill that should not be passed by this House. It embodies all that is wrong with overzealous governments that are prepared to sacrifice their citizens' privacy in the name of unspecified threats.

To my Conservative colleagues, I would say this. Just this past summer, the government did away with the long form census. The justification given was that it was an intolerable invasion of Canadians' privacy. It was deemed an intolerable invasion of privacy to ask how many people are living in one's home.

The fact that census information is vital to making evidence-based decisions so that we can design programs that are appropriate and adequate to meet the needs and demands of the population did not matter.

We were simply asked to accept that no end could justify the means of such an onerous invasion of privacy. Yet here we are less than a year later and the government members are suffering from a case of collective amnesia. Privacy no longer matters.

They now just want all of us to accept that somehow it is okay for the government of the United States to know not only that someone is flying on a particular day but also to know the person's credit card information, with whom the person is travelling, the hotel he or she will be staying at, other booking information such as tours or rental cars, and the person's personal health information, one of the things that nobody has the right to know except that person and his or her doctor.

I cannot square that circle and Canadians cannot square that circle, either. However, what is absolutely clear is that they deserve better from their government. By voting against Bill C-42, we are sending the government back to the drawing board.

As I said at the outset, the right to privacy is a fundamental cornerstone of our democratic society and we will not condone or support the data mining of Canadians' personal information by foreign security services.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I know we have heard about the British man who cannot get back to his country, et cetera. However, I have been getting calls from Canadians. A lawyer called me saying he had a client who was concerned about travelling to Mexico, because he would have to go through Toronto with his family to get a flight to Mexico. His concern was that he might be held in Toronto while his family would be able to go on their already paid vacation, because there might be something on the Canadian Police Information Centre's computer, or CPIC.

I have been a lawyer for 30 years and I cannot tell members all of the information that CPIC has. Even people who get pardons for offences could be on CPIC. People who have been charged with offences and had the charges withdrawn or who were acquitted could be on CPIC. There is a lot of prejudicial information.

Things that we might not take very seriously in this country, such as a conviction for simple possession of marijuana 25 or 30 years ago when someone was a teenager or in his or her early twenties, might be taken very seriously by the American authorities, because they would think of it as a conviction under a narcotics control act. We do not know how seriously these things will be taken by other countries, particularly the United States. It may have a totally different attitude toward that.

What concerns me is that Canadians will have their freedom of movement and their own personal information available or subject not only to the Americans but also to anybody else they choose to give it, without our knowledge or consent. This is fundamentally wrong.

The member mentioned that ordinary Canadians should be concerned about it. I believe that is the case. Would you comment on that, because I think many ordinary Canadians would have very good reason not to want this bill passed.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am sure the hon. member knows that I cannot comment, but perhaps the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain will.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to. I very much welcome the question from the member for St. John's East. I know he has been following this issue closely, along with the rest of our caucus.

He is right. This raises a fundamental issue not just about Canadians' right to privacy but should also be of concern to everyone the world over, as these are fundamental changes in how two countries collaborate with respect to the exchange of information.

The really frustrating thing from where I sit is knowing that the Europeans, who also have an agreement with the United States, were actually able to negotiate improvements to their agreement with the U.S. The Conservative government is not even trying. It is rolling over and saying, here is the bill that the U.S. wants us to pass and let us just do it.

I know the Americans are our friends and allies, but that does not mean it is not the responsibility of the Conservative government to protect our interests as Canadians, and it is refusing to do that. That is why I would encourage all members of the House to vote against Bill C-42 and send the government back to the drawing board and stand up for the people who have sent us here to represent them. We should to stand up for their privacy and vote against Bill C-42.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, as members know, there were headlines in the media today about hackers from China who were attempting to access the House of Commons' computers. Of course, that is a matter of some real concern, because it would expose confidential information.

If we set aside that issue, we have a government that is willing to hand over to the United States, Panama or any country that basically asks for it, confidential information that should be protected. This is the appalling aspect of the Conservatives' bill. Although it has made loud noises about hackers endeavouring to access the House of Commons' computers, it is actually offering the United States government, the Panamanian government or any government that wants it, personal credit card and personal health care information and everything else that is on the passenger name record.

I want to ask the member for Hamilton Mountain how she thinks the Conservatives could possibly justify this hypocrisy.

She mentioned the census, and we are concerned about hackers getting into the House of Commons' computers. However, we basically have a Conservative government that is willing to hand over, wholesale, Canadians' confidential information to any foreign government that requests it. It is absolutely absurd.

How can the Conservatives justify this?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot justify the Conservatives' approach to confidentiality and access to information. We have just spent an entire week in the House on, and the Speaker had been asked to adjudicate, an issue with respect to access to information that my colleague, the member for Ottawa Centre, raised in the House just yesterday.

We have been spending a tonne of time here as parliamentarians having to fight the government for access to information that we should have had as a matter of right for our being able to do our job.

There is now before the Speaker the question of whether we, as members, have a right to access information about the cost of the government's crime bills. We received a piece of paper yesterday, but, unfortunately, that paper contained hardly any information, and paper alone is not good enough.

We have asked for and not yet received appropriate projections of the costs of corporate tax cuts.

Members will remember only too well the seminal ruling given by the Speaker on the issue of members' access to the documents pertaining to Afghan detainees. Of course, there is another issue as well regarding who said what, when and where about the funding cuts to KAIROS, another matter for the Speaker to adjudicate.

We are taking up an unbelievable amount of time in this House appealing to the Speaker over and over again so that we can get access to the information we require to do our jobs on behalf of Canadians, instead of debating the issues that Canadians care about, such as jobs, pensions and health care.

Yet here we are discussing Bill C-42 by a government that will not share information with us or Canadian citizens and yet is eager to hand that information over to foreign countries. As my colleague pointed out, it is not just any information but information that includes travel plans, car leases and, most importantly, and potentially, the medical records of the people who are travelling. Medical records should never be shared with anyone beyond the patient and his or her doctor, yet the government is opening the books to foreign governments.

There is a huge inconsistency in the way the government deals with the protection of information. It is trying to close its books to us but opening them to foreign governments. I think that point alone is reason enough for every member in the House to vote against Bill C-42.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank and congratulate my colleague from Hamilton Mountain. I think she set out the reality of Bill C-42 in a succinct and very clear way.

It terrifies me, and I know it terrifies my constituents, because I began to hear from them when news of this bill first emerged about a year ago. They absolutely recognized the danger of allowing other foreign capitals to have the information that we have always regarded as key to our security in this country.

The member talked about the long form census and she made reference to the secrecy of the government.

It is interesting, but we have just been exposed to one ludicrous crime bill after another. The government seems desperate to make criminals of Canadians. In the course of doing so, it keeps talking about victims. However, with Bill C-42, it seems to me that it is victimizing the citizens of this country, exposing them to whatever might possibly happen to them from the release of sensitive information to the likes of Mexico and Panama.

We know what happens in Mexico and the violence and insecurity that travellers experience there. We know from this new trade deal the government has signed with the government of Panama that we will be exposed to the lack of support and security that Panama provides its own citizens.

So how on earth are we going to expect that government to support the citizens of Canada and protect them?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises absolutely essential points in this debate.

It really is about the onus on our government to protect our citizens, Canadian citizens, from the potentially corrupt practices of other governments. The government is actually condoning the potential victimization of Canadian citizens. It is completely appalling. We should all be resolutely against this bill.

We have laid out the reasons. There is no protection for the private information of Canadian citizens. There is no guarantee that it will not end up in the wrong hands. Therefore, there is no guarantee and no control over how that information would be used against Canadian citizens.

At a minimum, Canadians have the right to expect that their government will stand up for them in any international obligations. We are not simply a doormat for its friends south of the border. Yes, we have friendly relationships and important trading relationships with them, but that does not mean it is not the responsibility of our government to protect our citizens. In proceeding with Bill C-42, clearly the government is abdicating that very important responsibility.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
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10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to describe the aspects of the bill that I feel are very important. I want to thank the Library of Parliament, and we probably do not thank it enough, for the good work that it does and the expertise that it holds. This summary was put together by Alysia Davies, and I thank her for the great job that she has done. In general, I want to thank the Library of Parliament for the research work that it does.

On June 17, 2010 the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities introduced Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act. Its short title is strengthening aviation security act. The bill would amend the Aeronautics Act to create an exception for the application of another statute, the Personal Information, Protection and Electronic Documents Act, or as we know it around here PIPEDA.

The bill would amend the Aeronautics Act and PIPEDA is the main federal legislation governing privacy rights and obligations of the private sector. To date, its application in the aviation context is mainly concerned with the handling of personal information of passengers flying on Canadian aircraft.

Organizations are generally prevented from collecting, using or disclosing the personal information of customers to third parties without the customer's consent except in certain specified situations involving law enforcement, national security, defence, international affairs, compliance with a warrant or subpoena, as well as other situations that would rarely apply in the air travel context such as debt collection.

Currently the Aeronautics Act exempts the operators of aircraft from PIPEDA's restrictions on disclosing personal information without consent when the laws of a foreign state require disclosure of information about anyone onboard a flight that is landing in that state. People in my riding have had issues with this over the years, especially the town of Gander. Gander is the home of the Gander International Airport and it has been and continues to be an important route for many people over the years. It is part of the great circle route and as a result a lot of planes fly into Gander for refuelling and the like. Gander airport has been a famous refueling stop for many years and continues to be. With that in mind, we certainly appreciate the security. We know a lot about international law when it comes to privacy.

Passenger information for any Canadian flight that will land in a foreign state, whether or not the flight originates in Canada, can be disclosed to a foreign government without restriction by the air carrier, provided the disclosure meets the existing requirements in the Aeronautics Act. It is required by the laws under the foreign state. Such disclosure would not require the consent of the passengers or the triggering of the normal exceptions in the PIPEDA legislation.

What brings us to this third reading stage of the bill is the amendment. Bill C-42 would amend the section to expand its application. It would now apply not only with respect to foreign states in which the flight is landing but also to any foreign states that the flight would travel over. Accordingly, whether or not the foreign state that a flight lands and requires the disclosure of any personal information under this bill, an air carrier would be able to provide disclosure without consent or other restrictions to which it would normally be subject under PIPEDA if the laws of the foreign state and the flight path require it.

In addition to this, the bill is an in-depth piece of legislation which would have a great effect on the passenger protect program. The Aeronautics Act is the authority for a federal government program called the PPP, or the passenger protection program. It is informally known in the common vernacular today as the no-fly list under which Transport Canada provides aircraft operators with a list of names of potential passengers that must be checked before issuing a boarding pass. It is called the specified persons list.

There has been much discussion about this program. It is intended to identify potential terrorists on airline passenger lists and block them from boarding domestic or international flights. It is similar to a parallel program run in the United States for the same purpose. There has been some heated discussion about this particular no-fly list and some people have found themselves on this list for reasons such as similarity of name and so on. There may be some past association that no longer has any bearing on their behaviour today. Unfortunately, they do find themselves on the no-fly list and therefore we have a lot of complaints.

Many members of Parliament would agree that they have received several calls regarding the no-fly list and how some people have managed to end up on that list, for example, by just having the same name as someone who is under suspicion, we will say.

The program was the focus of some controversy in the early days and Transport Canada, assisted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, added names to the list without the knowledge or consent of the potential passengers. There has been considerable concern that names will end up on the list mistakenly, resulting in an innocent passenger being banned from air travel. For example, there were media reports that two young boys, a 15-year-old junior champion athlete and a 10-year-old, both named Alistair Butt, were initially stopped from taking domestic Air Canada flights in 2007 because this name appeared on the list.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada joined with all of her provincial and territorial counterparts in the year 2007 to issue a resolution expressing concerns about the PPP or the no-fly list and recommended that it be referred to the parliamentary committee for study.

The resolution also recommended, among other things, that more detailed and specific legislation authority for the program be developed under the Aeronautics Act, and an independent oversight body be established for the program, which brings us to this debate now.

Several parliamentary committees have received briefings about the program since then, most notably, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and the Standing Committee Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

In 2009, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada conducted an audit for the program, PPP, passenger protection program, and under Transport Canada it is regulated, as I mentioned. In most respects the program was compliant with the applicable statutes and policies, although there were some points that needed attention. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada intends to follow up with another audit of the program this year, 2011.

Bill C-42, which we are debating at third reading, deals with what happens to the personal information of passengers once the air carriers have obtained it, either from Transport Canada's specified persons list or from another source. It therefore affects the application of PIPEDA, the statute which regulates the air carriers, as private sector organizations rather than the Privacy Act, the statute which regulates the federal public sector.

Bill C-42 contains two clauses. The first clause provides its abbreviated title, the Strengthening Aviation Security Act, and the second clause amends the Aeronautics Act, the crux of the bill, to exempt the operators of aircraft from the restrictions in PIPEDA on disclosing personal information without consent when the laws of a foreign state require disclosure of information about anyone on board a flight over that particular state.

Specifically, passenger information for any Canadian flight that will fly over a foreign state, whether or not the flight originates in Canada, could be disclosed by the air carrier to that state's government without restriction, providing the disclosure meets the existing requirements in the Aeronautics Act as required by the laws of the foreign state. Such disclosure would not require either the consent of the passengers or the triggering of the normal exceptions that we pointed out which are in PIPEDA.

I understand many of the concerns that are being brought forward here today, concerns of the NDP, and certainly the concerns of the average individual. Individuals and our society in general require protection and want to feel secure. They depend on us here as MPs to enact the laws that provide security of the people. We also hold the bar rather high when the government puts forward legislation like this, which is why amendments were made at committee.

At a transport committee hearing on air safety on May 11, 2010, Assistant Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier stated that the U.S. will retain this information for as long as 7 days to 99 years. She also added:

--our understanding is that information collected can be disclosed and used for purposes other than aviation security, such as law enforcement and immigration purposes.

The government waited until the last sitting day before the summer recess which we feel was a transparent move to avoid parliamentary scrutiny over these measures. The amendment to the bill at the transport committee was to introduce oversight measures, such as periodic parliamentary review and a requirement that airlines and travel agents inform Canadians of this information transfer before their ticket is purchased.

The opposition is very concerned about the changes being proposed in Bill C-42 which we brought up in second reading of this debate. The Aeronautics Act already allows for the disclosure of personal information by airlines to foreign states and if the flight is landing within the foreign state itself. The act also provides a legislative authority to create the no-fly list, with the PPP, intended to identify potential terrorists in airline passenger lists and block them from boarding domestic or international flights.

As we know, since the early part of the last decade, since 9/11, this has been an incredibly large issue in the United States, particularly for reasons that are obvious, but it has also become a very important issue here as to the security of our people. Since that time we find ourselves now looking at the situation in a different light. Many of our laws have been changed since then to provide for the security of peoples. We have seen many incidents that have taken place internationally, whether it be the London bombings, the Middle East, or other major destinations across Europe and North America that have been threatened. In some situations, attempts to create mass acts of terrorism have been thwarted.

Many of the measures that we have taken as a government, internal security matters as well as foreign security matters, have been implemented and some certainly have been quite successful in thwarting the attempts of people who wish to do terrorist acts around the world. Again, not just in North America but around major destinations all over the world, including key ports in Asia as well as Europe.

The no-fly list, however, is not infallible. Further, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has expressed concerns with the measures enabled in the Aeronautics Act, by further changing the act, forcing Canadian airlines to disclose personal information of Canadian passengers who are simply flying over a foreign state.

Bill C-42 further endangers the privacy rights of Canadians which we acknowledge and worked through at committee. Maintaining public security however is important and a balance must be achieved.

The opposition members expressed this concern when the bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Liberal members amended the bill in three specific ways.

First, the House of Commons will be required to conduct a review of these measures two years from the date they come into force and every five years thereafter. Second, this data transfer will be limited to us in legislation. The original version of the bill allowed the Canadian government to add other countries by order in council. Third, airlines and travel agents will be required by Canadian law to inform passengers of this impending data transfer before their ticket is purchased.

It is important to note that the Canadian government did secure an exemption for Canadian flights where the origin and destination are both in Canada but the plane would enter U.S. air space.

Bill C-42 amends the Aeronautics Act to exempt the operators of aircraft from the restrictions in PIPEDA on disclosing personal information without consent when the laws of a foreign state require disclosure of information about anyone on board a flight over that particular state.

Currently the Aeronautics Act exempts the operators of aircraft from PIPEDA's restrictions of disclosing personal information without consent when the laws of a foreign state require disclosure of information about anyone on board a flight that is landing in the states. That is why, when we looked earlier at the situation, we decided to make the amendments through the committees and now we find ourselves here at third reading.

Accordingly, passenger information for any Canadian flight landing in a foreign state, whether or not the flight originates in Canada, can be disclosed to a foreign government without restriction by the air carrier, provided the disclosure meets the existing requirements in the Aeronautics Act and is required by the laws of the foreign state. Such disclosure would not require the consent of the passengers or trigger the normal exceptions in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, part of the Aeronautics Act.

Only specific pieces of information will be required by the U.S. government, such as, name, birthdate, gender, flight and passport information, as available. The U.S. government insists this information will only be used for no-fly list matching. The U.S. has the right to control its own airspace and that is enshrined in international law. If we were not to pass this bill, Canadian airlines would be barred from U.S. airspace, which would cripple their ability to operate.

This is the situation in which we find ourselves.

As I mentioned earlier, security over the past 10 to 15 years has changed dramatically. At the beginning of the decade we found ourselves in a situation where security was the utmost when it came to acts of mass terrorism. We found ourselves creating and enacting legislation that changed our behaviour and way of thinking in many ways.

This was not isolated only to the United States, which was the recipient of the damage of 9/11 in a most inhumane manner. In this country we realized how linked we are to the United States in trade, air travel, borders, which is still a contentious issue, and at the same time maintaining our sovereignty and of course respecting the privacy rights of all individuals. We found ourselves in a situation where we had to balance our right to privacy with our right to be secure.

This debate has given us the chance to flesh out that balance to achieve between security and the right to privacy. Since coming out of committee, we have struck a balance that we certainly believe is the right way to go. I commend all members of this House voting for or against this piece of legislation for having a mature debate about how to achieve that balance and be responsible for securing our citizens in this country and North America in general.

At the same time, we have to be respectful and uphold the rights of our citizens in this country. To do that we have made amendments that we feel are responsible. We brought our concerns to the table at second reading and to committee. I want to commend the committee on the work it has done and on the amendments it has accepted.

We now find ourselves at third reading of this bill. I think it goes a long way in protecting our security. It is good for our economy and is respectful of the rights of our citizens to their privacy.

As I mentioned earlier, a community in my riding has played a very important role over the last 50 years or so when it comes to aviation and international travel. The town of Gander, home to the Gander International Airport, was the main refuelling stop for major flights between Europe and North America. Back in the day, in the 1950s, 1960s, and even into the 1980s, air security was not debated as much and was certainly not top of mind for citizens of this country. However, it certainly is today. The world is changing. Gander has changed accordingly. The airport security regime has changed accordingly. Today we are now responding to threats we did not face many years ago, back when Gander International Airport was in its heyday with major international flights coming in from Europe to North America.

In closing, I have appreciated the opportunity to speak to Bill C-42.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to hear a speech by the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, the homeland of my ancestors and my wonderful grandfather.

He made cogent and thoughtful arguments, but I have to add some things, to which I would appreciate a response from the hon. member. He speaks of the need to balance interests, to ensure that Canadians are secure against terrorists, and the need to balance rights. I would ask him why he did not initially say the bill before the House should at least include the minimum conditions that the Europeans sought and obtained from the United States of America in order to protect the interests and security of the citizens of Europe.

Why did the Liberals not propose amendments on reciprocity? Surely that is what would secure us. This bill is not going to secure Canadians. It may, in the minds of American lawmakers and security officers, provide greater security to them because many still believe the terrorists all came from Canada, but I fail to see how any of these measures are ensuring the security of Canadians.

I have heard some of the speeches in the House, including the one by the hon. member. Despite the fact that he provided very cogent arguments and interesting information on the background of the no-fly list and so forth, it is important for the House to remember we are not talking about mere friendly principles. We are talking about our basic constitutional rights, which include the constitutional right to the security of the person, the right not to be deprived except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice or due process, and the right to notification. The government is now attempting to deal with that, but my question would be whether it is enough to simply notify, or is that going to be in fine print at the bottom of the ticket.

The charter provides the right to be heard, for Canadians to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure and not to be arbitrarily detained and imprisoned. These are not minor friendly principles; they are overriding constitutional charter rights. We cannot talk about a balance to ensure that Americans feel secure against potential terrorists coming from Canada and flying over their airspace, against our constitutionally entrenched rights.

I can assure everyone that if we called for the same kinds of impingements on the freedoms of Americans, there would be a great hue and cry. Where is the reciprocity in what the member is proposing, to make sure this act does not throw the scales out of balance and impinge on our constitutional rights in the interests of the fear of Americans?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question is a good one. It is a good one in the sense that we have struggled with this for quite some time. I am not going to dismiss her concerns, let us put it that way; this is something I think she puts a good argument towards.

On the balance we have achieved, obviously each of us has a different version on where that balance lies. Nonetheless, her arguments about reciprocity certainly are good ones.

Of course we find ourselves in a situation where it is not a black and white issue in many cases; there is a lot in here to sift through. We want to do this for the security, not just of Americans but also North Americans, including us, and I think this piece of legislation does go forward in doing that.

As I mentioned earlier, we find ourselves in a situation where the amendments we put forward are key to this, in three specific ways. First, the House of Commons would be required to conduct a review of these measures two years from the date they come into force, and every five years thereafter. Second, the data transfer would be limited to the United States in legislation; the original version of the bill allowed the Canadian government to add other countries by order in council. And, third, airlines and travel agents would be required by Canadian law to inform passengers of this impending data transfer before the ticket is purchased.

Again, it is important to know that the Canadian government did secure an exemption for Canadian flights where the origin and destination are both in Canada and the plane would enter into U.S. air space.

Things are different on the reciprocity issue when it comes to Europe, but again, in achieving this balance with Bill C-42, we feel it is right to go forward. The review would examine that as well, which is a very important aspect of it.

While there is no doubt that the American government wants to keep its citizens secure, we do also, but with rights of privacy too. Would the Americans be equally as upset if it were the other way around? I am sure they probably would be. In this case, I am sure they would also respect that our air space is very close to theirs and that an attack on them would certainly be an attack on us.

We must consider that we have the responsibility to keep our citizens secure.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on a particular part of this legislation, in fact, on the absurdity of putting this legislation forward in the first place. As the member would know, the bill is being proposed by a government that very recently told Canadians they had to do away with the long-form census because it was far too intrusive: “We could not possibly ask Canadians how many bedrooms were in their homes.” How intrusive, how appalling that the Canadian government should know that about citizens.

Everyone in the country, except members of the Conservative Party, seem to appreciate how important census information is for social planning, for effective planning of all kinds of programs that affect average Canadian families. Yet, while the Conservatives have a problem collecting that information, they have absolutely no difficulty sharing the personal information of Canadian citizens, with not only the U.S. government, but frankly with governments all over the world, potentially including governments like Panama and Colombia.

If Canadians realized with whom their information was going to be shared, I am not sure they would not be protesting, right now, outside of this building. The reality is that the kind of information being shared is not just point of departure and point of arrival for any particular air flight, it includes things like credit card information. More troublesome than that, it includes personal medical information, which we would now be sharing at the drop of a dime, as soon as this legislation becomes law.

The Canadian government has done nothing to protect the personal information of Canadian citizens from being spread around. It is almost like the government wants to hit “reply all” and send it to any agency, any government, that might want this information. It is doing nothing to protect that information.

I find it passing strange that is being introduced by the government that is so unwilling to share its own information, government information, to which we, as members of Parliament, have a right. We saw that in the House this week. We could not get access to the costing of the government's justice bills. We could not get access to the projections of the cost of corporate tax cuts.

We could not even get a straight answer about what happened in committee on whether a certain minister inserted the word “not” into the submission on funding for KAIROS. That is an institution that we on this side of the House certainly fully support. We thought KAIROS should get funding from this government. The government is obfuscating what happened around that funding initiative, although I have to say the obfuscation is not particularly effective, since every Canadian seems to know about it. It has become an item in every single news outlet and media outlet all over the country.

The government is trying to protect itself from having to give out information about what it is doing, but it has no problem with widely disseminating information about its citizens.

I wonder if the member is at all troubled by that.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that certainly the irony is not lost on me regarding Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, in comparison with the long form census controversy. The lack of intrusion on the long form census and the so-called intrusion in this bill, I guess the ideology does not rub together. Nonetheless, I appreciate the member's comments.

I do appreciate the fact that in this particular case obviously there is more information which, under different circumstances, people would not want to sacrifice to any airline or any particular individual regarding their privacy. We find ourselves in a new age, a new era. Therefore, I think that the balance which needs to be achieved is close to being achieved here.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the main priority of Quebec Conservatives is the economy in all regions of Quebec and our country.

It is clear that my constituents do not want an election. They do not understand why the Bloc leader and his members of Parliament are stubbornly making unreasonable demands for the upcoming budget, with the sole purpose of triggering a useless election.

The Conservative government is listening to Quebeckers in the regions. With our help and targeted investments, Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière have gotten concrete results across the riding. We have repaired our roads and bridges and have built viaducts as well as sports, community and multi-functional infrastructure.

Since 2006, a number of our government initiatives, such as Canada's economic action plan, have helped keep Quebec vibrant and strong, a reflection of today's Quebec.

I believe that the leadership of the people of Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière will bring hope for future generations.