House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is a very important issue. Even more important than the time limitation on the information is the very demand for the information with no limitations.

What I am finding profoundly hypocritical is that in one breath the government is saying it needs to open up the borders for trade and to moving goods across it more quickly and, at the same time, it is trying to restrict the movement of ordinary Canadians across those borders.

When I was the head of law and enforcement for the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, I had the privilege to work with officers who were trying to share intelligence and better track the illegal movement of hazardous goods across our borders and the trade in endangered species. I am sad to say that important intelligence work is being made a sidebar by this threat of terrorists. We seem to be overly preoccupied with it and are now imposing unreasonable rules on ordinary citizens.

We need to take a breath and stand back and take a closer look at the direction we are going in.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, as tourism critic for the New Democratic Party and, even more importantly, as a Canadian citizen concerned about Canadian privacy rights and Canadian sovereignty, I feel it is my duty today to speak about the serious implications that Bill C-42 would have for Canadian travellers taking international flights. It is disturbing but not surprising, unfortunately, that the Conservative government would even think about introducing such a bill.

It might be reasonable to assume that foreign governments would want carriers to provide the names and personal details of airline passengers arriving on their soil. That information is already given by airlines, including for stopovers and passengers in transit.

However, Bill C-42 would go much further. Bill C-42 would have airlines give over the personal information of all passengers to a foreign country, the U.S.A., in which they are not even landing. Just flying over the U.S.A. would be enough.

Let us explore some of the implications of the bill.

Apparently, passengers leaving Canada on a vacation to Cuba, for example, could have their name, birthdate and over 30 other pieces of personal information subject to screening by Homeland Security in the U.S., which would involve running that information through various U.S.A. government databases, including the infamous and notorious U.S. no-fly list. If one's name is not on one of these American lists, U.S. Homeland Security will tell the Canadian airline that one may be issued a boarding pass.

However, we have all heard the horror stories of people with a similar name to someone on that million-name list, or who have been put there by mistake, never to be taken off, especially if they have the same birthday as someone with the same name on that list.

If one is caught up in this mess, one might be questioned, delayed or barred from the flight or, effectively, banned from all flights leaving Canada, if they go over U.S. territory, from then on.

There are already examples of significant misuse.

The standing committee heard the story of Hernando Ospina, a journalist with Le Monde Diplomatique, whose Air France flight from Paris to Mexico was diverted to Martinique just because he wrote an article critical of U.S. foreign policy. And there is the story of Paul-Émile Dupret, a Belgian researcher with the European Parliament whose flight from Europe to the World Social Forum in Brazil was diverted, not because he was a security threat but because he campaigned against the transfer of European travellers' information to U.S. authorities.

Will I be on the no-fly list after this speech?

How can the government assure Canadians that this type of political misuse will not happen if Bill C-42 is passed?

Apparently, the U.S. told the government it needs everyone's personal information so it can check it with the various lists of people it does not want flying, so there will be fewer false matches and problems.

Apparently the U.S. told our government, “Let us clear your passengers for you”, which is what the U.S. seems to be saying, and our government is going along with it.

Is it laziness? Just let someone else take control of our security and give over control in the process. In losing control of our own air security, we would have no idea why particular passengers were barred from going on vacation to Cancun. We would simply have to accept that they would not get to fly internationally any more, because we have given a foreign government a veto over Canadians travelling abroad.

I know members of the government have been arguing that we have to give up some of our sovereignty if we want to have security, that the cost of our safety, just this time, is the freedom of movement of our citizens.

It reminds me of Benjamin Franklin's famous saying:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

That is ironic, because this bill will not improve the security of Canadians an ounce. It does not have our security interests in mind at all. If it did, there might be some clause for sharing of information instead of it all being one way. U.S. carriers could be giving us their passenger lists, too, so we could make decisions about our security. However, reciprocity is nowhere to be found in this piece of bad Canadian negotiation.

This is ridiculously one-sided. Only Canadian passenger information is being sent to the U.S.A. All it does is send our personal passenger information abroad for governments to do with as they may. They could keep that information forever or pass it along to other groups or governments or use it to prosecute Canadians for their own purposes.

We will not have any control over it. It is yet another significant erosion of Canadian autonomy by the Conservative government.

Why should members in the House, representing Canadians, support the legislation if it will not even improve the security of Canadians? We are not elected to represent the interests of foreign governments, at least not the members in my party and not this member from Thunder Bay—Superior North.

Gutting the privacy rights of Canadians for no improvement in our safety is a foolish bargain. It is no wonder the Canadian Civil Liberties Association called the bill:

—a complete abdication to a 'foreign government' of Canada's duty to protect the privacy of Canadians, and a cessation of existing Canadian legal safeguards. This abdication and cessation of privacy protection is unacceptable and dangerous.

This was what it said at the transport committee in November 2010.

The legislation rolls back, and it rolls over, Canada's privacy laws in order to get airlines to pass along the names and personal information of air travellers to a foreign government. It gives a foreign government the ability to tell our air carriers who can and cannot fly on flights that do not land in its country.

We in my party are very supportive of thoughtful efforts that genuinely increase safety and security for Canadians, but the bill does neither. Bill C-42 is an egregious invasion of the personal privacy of Canadian air passengers and an abdication of Canadian sovereignty by the government.

Our very own chief justice said, in 2009, that,

One of the most destructive effects of terrorism is its ability to provoke responses that undermine the fundamental democratic values upon which democratic nations are built.

This faulty legislation undermines both the sovereignty of Canada and the privacy rights of Canadians. There is no evidence that it will even increase security. I invite all members of the House to keep the interests of our constituents and all Canadians in mind and vote against Bill C-42.

Business of the House
Government Orders

February 2nd, 2011 / 4:25 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and I think you would find agreement for the following. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, during the debate tonight pursuant to Standing Order 52, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. chief government whip have the unanimous consent of the House for this motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is not simply Canadian citizens who will be impacted by this, but it could also be Canadian foreign policy and it could be those people who seek refuge in Canada.

Mr. Edward Hasbrouck of the Liberty Coalition, a U.S.-based civil liberties group, who gave testimony in our committee, said:

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.

If we have a situation where, such as in many of the countries in South America or Central America, people head to the airport to escape a tyrannical regime or unfair treatment in that country, they could be turned down by the U.S. government regardless of what the Canadian government wanted in this instance.

Once again, not only is this an abrogation of the personal rights Canadians, but is it not quite clearly an abrogation of our right as an independent country to set our own foreign policy?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly have to agree with the hon. member for Western Arctic. He has done a lot of work on this file. He knows it well and I trust his judgment and opinion.

However, adding my own subjective observation of our Prime Minister's behaviour over the last five years, whether it is protecting Canadian rights in any area, it is clear that his loyalties lie more with the wishes of our neighbour to the south than they do with Canadian autonomy, Canadian privacy and even the right to our own natural resources.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have looked at what the bill entails and I have looked at what is happening with other bills, namely the potential agreement of border security. This is just another nail in the coffin of Canadian sovereignty and Canadian independence.

In my long lifetime, we have seen an erosion of what I call our independence and our ability to act and think for ourselves as a nation. There used to be a time when the leaders of all parties stood up for the rights of Canadians. We can think back to John Diefenbaker, Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, Tommy Douglas. Those people understood the concept that we were a sovereign nation.

During those times, our farmers were protected. The lumber industry was thriving. We had well-paying jobs in manufacturing, protected by various agreements with other countries.

Then we saw progressively, in the 1980s under the Mulroney regime, a deterioration of this. We saw the tremendous pressure that the corporate elite had been exercising finally bear fruition when we saw the free trade agreement which resulted in NAFTA.

We see absurd situations today in which, for example, we have fruit growers in my area who have a hard time making a living because of all the produce being dumped from the United States. We see absurd situations in which Canadian governments have been sued by foreign corporations because they have decided to be a little stringent on environmental laws.

Then we have seen the buy American policy over the last couple of years, with the Americans tightening up trying to protect their municipal governments and their industry. Our reaction is to allow them more access to our contracts. For the first time in history, we have seen what we call the subnational governments subjected to trade agreements. We are seeing this with the proposed Canada-European trade agreement, the fact that municipalities will be in danger. In other words, municipal contracts will have to come under the scrutiny of big multinational corporations from Europe and we will lose our autonomy.

Many of us spent time speaking out against the Security and Prosperity Partnership, the SPP, and we thought it was put to an end. Now we are seeing a border agreement. The Prime Minister will be going to talk to the President of the United States on Friday to fine tune it.

Our Canada is not what it used to be and this bill, as I said earlier in my speech, is just another nail in the coffin of our sovereignty.

It used to be when we would talk about borders, especially with the Americans, that we would go across in a friendly manner. There were friendly border guards. We would go back and forth. Sometimes we would have to provide ID and sometimes we would not. It worked and our countries were relatively safe.

Now we see a tightening up. I am hearing cases in my riding of people subjected to unnecessary abuse by American border guards. Whereas before they used to go across for business or pleasure, now there is racial stereotyping, verbal abuse and interrogation. At the same time, the Americans want us to co-operate and have a free border.

Many companies cannot ship in a timely manner to the United States. Supposedly, an agreement would stop this. However, at the same time, the Americans do not seem to have a will to work with us.

I would like to submit that this whole fiasco of the F-35 purchase, this tremendous pressure on us, is almost like blackmail, that if we buy these airplanes, they will give us freer access to their borders. That is how it is appearing. We are being told we have to buy into this airplane that is not suited for our Arctic patrol, has one engine, cannot land on short runways, and is not even proven.

Let us move on now to this bill.

As we know, our Aeronautics Act currently exempts the operators of aircraft from restrictions on 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 that state.

Accordingly, passenger information for any Canadian flight that will land in a foreign state can be disclosed to a foreign government without restriction by the air carrier. The important part of that is “that will land in a foreign state”.

Bill C-42 amends this section to expand its application. As we are currently discussing, 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. I find that ridiculous. For example, if I, or someone here in the House, went to Mexico, Latin America or Cuba, our names would be subject to American security measures. That makes no sense. How is that logical if the flight will not be landing in the United States? Why should we have to give Canadians' personal and secret information to the Americans?

As we have already learned during this debate tonight, this does not apply to flights arriving in Canada that fly over the United States. There is something wrong there. If a flight from Vancouver to Toronto flies over the United States, that is okay, there is no problem. We do not have to provide the United States with the information.

However, according to this bill, if the flight goes to Cuba, that will be the rule. I find it shocking, and wrong, to force us to provide personal information on Canadians to a foreign government.

None of this really seems to make any sense.

Some people have been quoting witnesses who appeared at committee. I would like to thank my colleague from Western Arctic, who is responsible for transport, for providing information. Although I was not at committee, the national coordinator, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, who said:

After running a risk assessment for each passenger using data mining technology, 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.

My colleague from Thunder Bay said something in a humorous manner, but we have to understand that there are implications here. What if someone from homeland security does not like what we are saying here today? What homeland security does not like what my colleague said, or it does not like the fact that I am criticizing the U.S. government? What is to stop it from putting my name or anybody's name on that list? How can we get off that list? The next time I board an airplane for Mexico will I be banned from going?

The bill does not make any sense. There is no reciprocity. We should all give our heads a shake before we support a measure like this.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise as transport critic for the Bloc Québécois to speak about Bill C-42. To begin with, I would like to mention that, in order to facilitate the passage of this bill, the Bloc Québécois will support the subamendment introduced by the Liberals even though our party had already proposed an amendment in committee.

As the hon. member just said, I too found that it was difficult to examine this bill in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities because there are two opposing philosophies or approaches. We heard from human rights and freedoms advocacy groups and from the Privacy Commissioner, Ms. Stoddart. Ms. Stoddart had serious reservations about this bill with regard to respect for civil liberties and privacy.

Previously, a similar provision referred to any aircraft making a stop at the end of a flight or making a stopover en route to another country. Now, Bill C-42 stipulates that certain personal information must be provided about the passengers on board any aircraft passing through U.S. air space. We do not see this as being a problem, if the Americans can guarantee that the information will be destroyed after a certain number of days and that it will be not be shared with other organizations that are indirectly involved.

But civil rights groups told us that up to 16 organizations could receive the information transferred to the Americans. That is why the Bloc Québécois called for reciprocity. If that is what the Americans want, then any American flight that is flying over Canadian territory should also provide a list of its passengers. Unfortunately, that suggestion was rejected by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. As democrats, the members of the Bloc Québécois accept that decision. But it would have made sense. It could apply to a number of American flights originating in Europe, headed for New York, Washington or Dallas, that fly over the Queen Charlotte Islands, Greenland or Iceland. We had concerns; we heard them. That was our first concern.

The second had to do with the Americans' exclusive right to impose this measure. The typical American approach is based on a fear that the events of September 11, 2001, would happen again. That is an editorial comment. I am not sure that terrorists would follow the same pattern. The planes that hit the towers were American. The terrorist pilots who committed this terrible act were trained at flight schools in Miami, in the United States. Thousands of people died.

The administrative assistant working for Xerox Corporation on the 48th floor of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center, who was busy typing up a report, did not deserve to get hit by a plane. What happened was unspeakable, indescribable.

In other words, the Americans seem to think that if terrorists want to strike, they will use exactly the same pattern.

What is more, Americans are driven by fear. Nevertheless, a sovereign nation can impose any rules it wants to on its land. That is why we in the Bloc Québécois are sovereignists and we want a sovereign Quebec.

That was our second concern. We met with people from Air Transat, the largest charter airline in Canada and the pride of Quebec. Air Transat received help from the QFL Solidarity Fund to start up. I am not sure, but I think that is the case. Air Transat has its head office in Quebec. It provides thousands of jobs in Quebec. It is currently ranked first in the charter travel industry. We should talk about holiday travel, as opposed to business travel. Its current charters go south, but it also has flights to Europe, mostly during summer and fall. Air Transat is number one, and the people at Air Transat told us in committee that if we did not agree to comply with this American requirement to provide lists, Air Transat would be doomed to bankruptcy.

Allow me to explain. I want to address the members from central Canada. Air Transat would no longer be able to offer direct flights from Edmonton to Cancun or from Calgary to Mexico, to the islands, to Jamaica. These provinces are in central Canada. If we refuse to provide the list, we cannot use American airspace. A plane leaving Edmonton would have to go to Vancouver, a lateral flight, in order to take the Pacific route to then go south. This would run up incredible costs and increase the duration of the flight. I imagine that it currently takes three and a half or four hours to get from Calgary to Cancun. The other route would take eight hours. Air Transat could no longer continue to operate.

Air Transat flights that leave from Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver can use the air corridors. However, there is another problem that was explained to me and that made sense. Air Transat has some large carriers like Airbus A330s, Airbus A310s and Airbus A320s. These planes land in Montreal. I see my colleague, the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber, who must hear planes landing at Dorval in his riding. Some of his constituents are even bothered by the noise at times. That is another issue being examined by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I do not know whether you are aware, Mr. Speaker, but an Airbus A330 needs more than 50 metres to land. It cannot stay in Canadian territory. If you have ever flown in that aircraft, you know that when it arrives from Europe or the south, it must fly over the American border in order to land, depending on the wind and whether it is on the north-south runway. The border is just a few kilometres from Montreal—50, 60 or 70 kilometres, I do not remember exactly. So, in order to turn to land, it must cross over into American airspace.

This also applies to Air Transat flights in the eastern market. In Vancouver, they have precisely the same problem because they have large carriers, which need a little more room to land and take off than a Cessna, for example. Can we all agree on that, Mr. Speaker? I know you are listening, for you keep nodding your head, which shows that you are paying attention.

In closing, the Bloc Québécois approved this bill in committee and will vote in favour of the amendment to the amendment proposed by the Liberal member.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy working with my colleague from the Bloc on the transport committee.

I understand the ramifications to the airline industry and how that plays out and I also appreciate that negotiations have taken place . According to evidence given at committee, within the homeland security policy there is room for a full exemption for all of these flights if the Canadian government matches up to the security requirements for the passengers at the same level as they are provided in the United States. Government members said it would cost billions of dollars to raise our security level such that we could achieve the full exemption.

Does my hon. colleague think that our security clearances on passengers flying out of Canada on international flights are lax or not of a certain standard? If they are not, does he buy the Conservatives' argument that this would cost an extraordinary amount of money in order to make it happen in a good fashion?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the NDP member for his question.

In any case, this is not the first time that the Conservatives have talked through their hats in committee or in the House.

They are talking about billions of dollars without any costing. That is what was said. I do not want to attack the credibility of the member who said it. Perhaps, deep down, he believes it, but he did not provide us with any proof. It is easy to say that something will cost billions of dollars. Fortunately, he did not say that it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

We should look up the word “exaggerate” in the dictionary. It is tempting to believe a little white lie. We can be inclined to believe that it is true. But billions of dollars?

I agree with the hon. member. The Conservatives were talking through their hats. That being said, we have a decision to make and we cannot simply ignore the economic impact of that decision. I would not want to be responsible for the closure of Air Transat. On the contrary. I am in favour of Air Transat and I am in favour of further developing Air Transat and creating more jobs in Quebec.