House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was americans.

Topics

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Trinity—Spadina raises a number of really important issues. Though I do not have a lot of time this afternoon to pursue some of them, I want to talk about the no-fly list. It is interesting when people like Senator Ted Kennedy and, indeed, the member for Winnipeg Centre in the House can be on the no-fly list with no recourse to get themselves off of it. What are we really doing here? We cannot even ask questions about this.

I want to remind members of a very important presentation that was made to the committee when it studied the bill. It was made by Nathalie Des Rosiers from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. With everyone's indulgence, I will read part of her presentation into the record because it is very important for members in the House to be reminded of what she said. She said:

Certainly to the extent that there is an expectation of privacy protected by the charter, this bill would not meet a section 1 challenge, because it has no limitations. It does not adequately protect the problems that may arise with the disclosure of information, and so on. So the first point is that there is a constitutional vulnerability that should be looked at before we go too much further.

She went on to say:

I would mention to the committee that in the United States, the no fly list is under constitutional review as we speak. It has been challenged because there are too many false positives arising.

The process has been described as Kafkaesque, in the way it does not allow people to know whether they're on it, how to get off it, and what evidence is on it. So that's the danger. The danger is that Canadian passengers, Canadians, will be put at risk of being stuck somewhere with no possibility of flying back. There's no guarantee that an innocent Canadian could not be mistakenly placed on the list. There's no guarantee that innocent Canadians mistakenly placed on the list will not be prevented from flying or from being detained in the U.S. or elsewhere without due process.

I want to ask the hon. member this. If that can happen to the late Senator Ted Kennedy and the member for Winnipeg Centre, what guarantees do Canadians have that they will not be similarly impacted?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me read several quotes. The first states, “the U.S. government [gives] unprecedented amounts of information about Canadians”. That is talking about the privacy of Canadians. the member goes on to say:

I do not think the Prime Minister is being straight with Canadians about this issue. The deal would impose U.S. Homeland Security standards on this side of the border. Why is the Prime Minister even contemplating the surrender of Canadian privacy rights to U.S. Homeland Security?

The member further asked what biometric information on Canadians would the Conservatives surrender to the Americans and when would the Prime Minister tell Canadians and Parliament the truth.

I have another quote from the hon. member, who stated:

The issue is how much private information the Canadian government will hand over to the Americans in the harmonization of entry and exit systems. It is a question to which an answer should be given. Will we keep control over who gets into Canada in terms of our immigration and refugee policy and will the Prime Minister bring this deal to Parliament before an agreement is signed?

The person who asked all these questions is the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Even though he has asked all those questions and he is opposed to the invasion of privacy, I do not understand why that party is supporting Bill C-42.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of questions for my colleague.

First, is she dismayed by the fact that there is hardly anyone from the opposition and government benches asking questions on such an important bill? This bill would take the rights of citizens away.

The second is I simply want to know if she is in agreement with this. Testimony was given in committee by Dominique Peschard, president of Ligue des droits et libertés. He talked about the case of Paul-Émile Dupret, a Belgian citizen, who is analyst for the European parliament. He conducted a campaign opposing the transfers of European travellers' personal information to American authorities. All of a sudden, he found himself on the no-fly list. This is an individual who clearly did not represent any type of threat to air security, yet he is on the no-fly list.

I wonder if the hon. member agrees with the following, which states:

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...to determine whether such and such a person should be prohibited from flying over the United States or even placed on another list.

Could my colleague comment on this? Also, is she dismayed that the Liberals, Bloc and Conservatives are barely speaking on this issue?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, not long ago, on February 7, in the House of Commons, another Liberal member of Parliament asked:

On the question of privacy, what additional personal information will Canadians be required to disclose and what are the guarantees against cases of abuse like Maher Arar?

Before surrendering Canadian borders, sovereignty and privacy, will the government bring full details of any proposed agreement before Parliament for debate and approval?

The member also talked about negotiations with the United States having a direct bearing on Canadian sovereignty and the privacy of Canadian citizens.

Well, this part of the deal is right before us in the House of Commons. The hon. member for Wascana, who made those comments, should really tell the other Liberal members to stand up against Bill C-42 and say no to it, because it would surrender the privacy and the rights of ordinary Canadians. That is not what Canadians want to see.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think we have to recognize that the information to be provided will be PNR information. Canada has a history and an involvement in its agreements with other countries dealing with PNR information. We actually are recognized as supporting and upholding a very high global standard for the use of PNR information, in particular, in the Canada-EU agreement relating to PNR matters. This issue was broached very well by Professor Mark Salter, from the University of Ottawa, at the committee. The agreement has been praised by Canadian and European data protection authorities because it has a number of very important features.

First, it has a specific time period for the disposal of the data; there is none of this 40- or 50-year question. It limits the data's use, which is what I think we want to see here. In particular, it limits the individualization of that data so that the information is rendered anonymous. That is what we want. While rendered anonymous, it still allows the security services to build up the profiles they are trying to build up but without attaching them to any one individual.

Is that not what we are seeking to do here?

The question is, why are the Bloc and Liberal members and some of the Conservative backbenchers raising this as an issue and asking for a different approach to it?

This is a global standard for international treaties that we are part of, and what we appear to be doing is moving away from it by adopting a bill like this.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the government is far too interested in pleasing the Americans. There has been no effort to protect Canadians' interests in this bill. Canadians' concerns are not being listened to and their rights are being violated.

What I do not understand is that those words I just cited were actually by the member of Parliament for Willowdale, taken from her remarks during the debate on February 3. Yet even though the Liberal members of Parliament have talked of their concerns about the violation of people's privacy, they are supporting Bill C-42.

I think it is time we voted against this fundamentally flawed bill that is before us.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Sudbury, Credit Card Industry.

Resuming debate.

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up some of the comments made by the member for Trinity—Spadina in her speech.

We are seeing a spectacle here of Liberals supporting this bill without asking much in the way of questions. The Bloc is supporting this bill. Even the Conservative backbench is being very quiet and not asking questions that I would think some of their base supporters would want asked.

I recall listening to some of the criticisms made by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence a few months ago. One of his criticisms was that the bill was brought in on the last day of the June sitting. In fact, the member for Markham—Unionville said that he had only seen the bill two days before that. Without really having much time to examine the issues, he said he was okay with it and that he would be prepared to send it to committee.

Why is there a lack of interest in pursuing questions on this particular bill? We could be asking questions about many issues. I have asked the government privately about why it did not seek some sort of reciprocity.

The government has been negotiating free trade agreements in many sectors, and recently we met with a delegation from Trinidad, a country that is negotiating a free trade deal with Canada through the CARICOM organization. This deal has been in process for over a year. All of these issues are being dealt with in these negotiations, and have been since 2009. They are in their second round of negotiations. The issues are on the table and people are debating them and asking questions. There is no secrecy. In this case, on the other hand, it seems very much to be a rushed and secretive process.

I asked the government members why they would not ask for reciprocity. Given that 100 Canadian flights fly over the United States, as I am told, and 2,000 flights cross North America, why would our negotiators not simply say that if we are going to provide the information to the United States on the 100 flights, then we would want information on the 2,000 flights, and then see how the Americans would like that? Then we might watch the Americans retrenching and maybe backing off.

A government member told me that the U.S. would give us the information, but he asked what would we do with it when we get it. It would cost us, I believe he said, a half billion dollars for the computer system we would have to develop to process all of the information.

It sounds to me as though the Americans would have liked us to keep the information for them. However, we would have had to develop that computer system and the government does not want to do that. So the Conservative government says, “Well, let the Americans do it. They want the information, so they can pay for the computer system and we will give them the information, regardless of what in fact is going to happen to that information”. It is just an unbelievable approach.

I never heard of a government that does things like this. I would have thought the government would dig in its heels at the beginning, defend Canadians' interests and demand reciprocity. I would have thought they would demand that information regardless of what they would do with it, and then see what the Americans would do. I guarantee that the Americans would back off. Just to prove my point, that is exactly what the Americans did.

There was a big issue here, a discussion about what to do about flights that cross American airspace when going from one point in Canada to another point in Canada. Pretty well any flight out of Toronto to my home city of Winnipeg will cross American airspace.

If the Americans had wanted to be consistent, they would have demanded that this information be provided as well. What they did was to provide an exemption instead, which proves that they can be flexible if we dig in our heels and have some backbone in the negotiations. We were able to negotiate that if an airplane flies over American territory on the way from Toronto to Winnipeg or Toronto to Vancouver, or between any two Canadian points, it will be exempt from this list.

Now the question really is how much of this is about security? I say this because we can give all sorts of examples where if one flies from one Canadian city to another Canadian city but goes through American airspace, one can go over some very sensitive territory in doing so. Planes can fly over or be close to major American cities, major American landmarks and major American installations. Thus the argument that somehow there is difference between flights going across United States territory completely and not landing versus flights that are going between two points within Canada and crossing American territory, I believe, runs counter to the fact there is an exemption, which indicates this not as big an issue as we are being led to believe it is.

Then we have the drop-dead date of December 31. The member for Winnipeg Centre remembers that date. On December 31, the whole sky was going to fall if we did not get this thing passed. The government brought this bill in the last sitting day of June and said, “Here is the legislation and if we do not pass it by the end of the year, there are going to be no more flights over American territory.”

Well, I was just on one yesterday. It never seemed to end, by the way. It took me two days to get back from Trinidad. A five-hour flight ended up taking two days, but that is a story for another day.

The fact of the matter is that this agreement was supposed to be in place or the flights were going to stop. It is almost March 1. It is the last day of February, and the flights are flying just fine. As a matter of fact, we may be in an election in the next two weeks, and in a minority government the legislation may never see the light of day. Even if it gets through the House in a minority government, it still has to make it through the Senate. There could be an election before that happens.

So much for those flights not being able to go over the United States. Members need to start asking the question, what is this really all about? And why are there no questions coming from the Conservative backbenchers? Why are there no questions coming from the Liberals? Why are they so quiet?

Why are my friends in the Bloc so quiet? On two occasions when I have been here, the Bloc critic talked about how important this was and how this affected Air Transat. That was the Bloc's whole reason for supporting the bill. The entire issue about how the information could be misused and where it was going to end up and whether it could end up in North Korea, somehow that did not seem to faze them one bit, as long as Air Transat was happy.

The member indicated that Air Transat could not get its Airbus A-319s and 320s landed in Montreal because they were big planes that took such a wide berth in circling that they inadvertently circled over American territory. If we did not have the agreement, somehow they could not fly over American territory any more and poor Air Transat would be shut down. They would not be able to have any more flights from western Canada because, once again, they would have to fly around all the corners of the United States. They are right about that, and it would add to the costs and delays for the travellers.

However, the reality is that we have to deal with what is before us. The fact of the matter is that the deadlines have passed, the flights are still going and we have an exemption already. There are just too many questions about this whole issue to warrant quick passage of this kind of legislation.

Professor Mark Salter of the University of Ottawa talked about what I call best practices. In government, business, accounting, and IT issues, we try to pick best practices that have been agreed to by professionals worldwide. Canada already has a very high standard when it comes to the use of the PNR information, all the information the airline keeps in its data bank on a person. When people look at whatever they have booked with an airline, there will be a passenger record consisting numbers and letters. That is where the information about a person is located. The PNR information is what is being debated here. That information may end up in places the passenger may not want it to be.

We have a high global standard. We support that high global standard because we are signatories to the Canada-EU agreement relating to PNR matters. On the one hand we already agree and live with PNR issues that are acceptable to the European Union that best practices say is the way to go. This agreement is praised by Canadian and European data protection authorities for a number of reasons. What are those reasons? The member for Winnipeg Centre will be very pleased to hear this. There are time periods for the disposal of data. It is not 40 years and it is not seven days. There is a very specific period that puts a time limit on the disposal of data. It limits, in particular, the individualization of the data. That is what we are really concerned about.

The information is filtered. It is rendered anonymous. It allows the security services to build up a profile. That is what they want. If that is true and they claim they want to deal with profiles, they can build up profiles, but they do not need to attach them to individuals. That is what our biggest objection is to this type of activity. This agreement is a global standard for international treaties on PNR agreements.

The question is why would the government negotiators who are negotiating with the Americans not say to use that section. Why would the government's negotiators not say that there is wording and best practices in the PNR agreement with the European Union? Why not use that section? If it is considered a gold standard and everybody accepts it, why would we not make that argument? Why would we not say to the Americans that if they really believe they are not going to use the information for purposes we do not want it used for, why do they not simply live up to what is considered a gold standard? The wording could be cut and pasted. It is something that has been in agreements for years, something that even the Americans would probably agree to. They obviously did not want to do that or the government did not care to push that point.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

They're on their knees.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

That is beginning to be what this whole situation looks like.

If we were to look at security threats, we should be looking at the trusted shipper program, if anybody knows what that is. The American Pilots' Association is so concerned about it that the association has made the program its number one concern. While we are subjecting passengers to all sorts of screening procedures, taking away their toothpaste and doing all this stuff, there are a thousand-plus trusted shippers, most of which have not been vetted or checked out very well, shipping letters and parcels. All these parcels are on planes all across Canada and the United States and they are right under where the passengers sit. Sitting a few feet below the passengers are parcels and mail that were not checked at all.

That is a terrible situation. If governments are concerned about security, why are they not looking at that? Why are they not taking immediate steps to screen those parcels and mail to make the whole situation more secure, instead of chasing around doing something like this?

Let us look at the no-fly list, and there is a big joke if we ever saw one. Senator Ted Kennedy was put on a no-fly list.

I was in Washington after 9/11. The Americans were digitizing the mail. They treat the mail that goes to government offices, senators and members of Congress. No mail goes directly to them any more. The mail is secured in a post office maybe 100 miles outside of Washington. The mail is digitized. The mail is radiated and it turns a shade of yellow, similar to the colour of the jacket of the member for Hamilton Mountain. I have seen this mail. The Americans have a reason for doing it. They do not want people sending bad things to their elected officials.

That is something that works. There were some fits and starts with the program and it took a couple of years, but I guess they finally got the program working.

I believe we should be doing things that work, that solve a problem, not to have a no-fly list which included Senator Kennedy and other U.S. senators. A couple of years ago, some U.S. senators told me that they have been stopped at the airport and denied boarding. This is the kind of system we have. The member for Winnipeg Centre is on a no-fly list and cannot get off the list. He sent a letter but cannot find out how he got on the list.

We are dealing with it on this bill. The Liberal Party and the Bloc are going to have to answer to all of this when their constituents come calling to say that they are on the list and they want to find out about the list. Good luck finding out about the list.

Six-year-old Alyssa Thomas was going, I believe it was to her First Communion. I believe she is from Ohio. Her parents are physicians. She was trying to get on an airplane to go to her First Communion. She is six years old and she is on a no-fly list and she cannot get off the list. They sorted out the problem for her on that particular day with a lot of paperwork. Her father decided to follow up on this because the girl is six years old and her parents do not want this issue following her around for the rest of her days. Her parents sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking what was going to happen. Guess what? They received a follow-up from the Department of Homeland Security addressed to the little six-year-old girl, which would neither confirm nor deny her presence on the no-fly list.

This is how people are being treated.

If we want to check our credit scores, we can contact Equifax. I recommend that people do that. There are at least two credit agencies in this country, Equifax and another one. They will give people their credit information and people can dispute some credit information. Perhaps a Visa bill was not paid one month or it was paid a few days late. It could have a negative impact. People have the ability to find out what information is on file and if there is misinformation, there is a process whereby people can correct the information. What is wrong with that?

If we can do it for credit information, which is considered very important, why can we not do it for something as important as a no-fly list which can stop people from even being allowed on an airplane? Why can we not have the ability to question the information on the list and dispute it in case it is wrong?

The member for Winnipeg Centre does not have that option. The six-year-old girl does not have that option. That is ridiculous. Why are the Bloc members and the Liberals sitting back and allowing that to happen? The backbenchers of the Conservative Party have nothing to say about the issue either.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona for raising on my behalf some of the frustrations I and others have with the reasoning that went into Bill C-42, such as this no-fly list that I was unfortunate enough to find myself on, and am still on.

My colleague would be interested to know that after years of trying, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, through ministers of foreign affairs, we finally found out who we might appeal to in the United States to get my name off of that list. They told me to send them my birth certificate, passport, marriage licence and all other pertinent information and wait six weeks to three months while they held all my personal information. They are in Washington, D.C. They would then make a determination whether or not there was anything they could do for me. I do not think that is any kind of avenue for recourse.

We are starting from a consensus in Parliament that a Canadian's right to privacy is one of the cornerstones of our western democracy, one of the very things that defines us as Canadians. That constitutional right is so paramount the Conservatives are obsessed with the belief that the long form census is an intrusion into Canadians' right to privacy in asking how many people are living in a household. In fact, there are legitimate social reasons to know that information in order to plan for social programs based on populations in regions of the country.

If the right to privacy is so paramount that the Conservatives actually cancelled the long form census, how can they not respect the right to privacy of Canadians who are travelling abroad without having their personal information bandied all over the countryside and internationally?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it really is a mystery to me as to why the Conservatives are so quiet on the issue. I know their supporters were very vocal on the whole issue of the long form census, yet with an issue such as this they are particularly quiet. I know there are concerns over there and concerns within the party too. I gather they decided to simply ignore the obvious. The bigger surprise to me is why the Liberals and the Bloc are not raising concerns on this issue.

Air Transat is still flying through U.S. airspace. Everybody was supposed to stop flying. The world was going to come to an end on December 31. Well it did not. There was not going to be an exemption when flying from one point in Canada to another. We were not going to get an exemption, but guess what? We got an exemption.

The government has to develop a bit of a backbone. It has to go back and try to negotiate a better deal. The Conservatives may actually surprise themselves and do better if they actually tried. We should not sit back passively and allow them to get away with this when we really do not know what the long-term liability of this legislation is going to be.

We pointed out some of our concerns and some bad practices in the past, but we do not know what the total ramifications are going to be. The members seem to be content to let things develop.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member ran out of time, but I do want him to have the opportunity to comment further about what we have been seeing in this debate today.

There is a big disconnect between what the Liberals in particular were saying a few weeks ago and their complete lack of enthusiasm for debating this issue today. I will read a few things into the record.

On February 3, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence said:

I was immediately outraged both by the process and the substance of the legislation.

Again on February 3, the member for Willowdale said:

We find ourselves in a rather difficult position because although we have significant concerns about the privacy of Canadian travellers, the government, through its failure to do anything to protect those interests, has allowed us to get to the point where we have, in effect, become hostage to demands from the United States.

Then the member for Wascana said:

If we have a common entry and common exit system, does it not follow that Canada no longer has sovereign Canadian control over immigration and refugees? Canadians need to know what is at risk.

He said in another question:

What is the Prime Minister prepared to bargain away? For example, with respect to the admissibility of visitors, immigrants and refugees, will Canada apply its own standards...?

These are all questions that are being raised by Liberal members in this House, yet today not a single one of them is getting up to debate these very serious issues. When will they stand up and fight for the protection of privacy of Canadian citizens?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have to agree with the member. I thought that this issue would have gotten them quite excited. Under normal circumstances, I would have expected the Liberals to be very active on a debate like this and the Bloc to be similarly inclined. Why they do not see or have the concerns that we have on this is a fairly big surprise.

We have the experts' opinions about how the agreement could be improved, so we are not saying not to have an agreement here, but we are saying to have one that fulfills the best practices using the PNR agreement clauses in some other agreements. That would be a big improvement: asking for reciprocity, asking for further exemptions, asking for further clarification. The government says it cannot afford the computer system or else it would keep the data itself. The Americans are saying that we can keep the data ourselves; we must just provide the computer system.

Why are we not looking at something like that?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak at third reading on Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act.

I did speak on this bill earlier, at second reading, and I think also at report stage. I certainly share some of the very serious reservations that my colleagues in the New Democratic Party have about this bill. I am very pleased that a number of us are getting up to speak on this bill. I would certainly echo the comments of the member for Hamilton Mountain and the member for Elmwood—Transcona that it is very disappointing that although we have heard other members of the House express concerns about the bill, apparently they are making a decision not to participate in the debate.

The reason we debate legislation is to have a thorough airing of what legislation is about and what its impacts and consequences will be. A bill is sent to committee, where it is examined very thoroughly and witnesses are called.

I do find that in this current political environment, a pattern that has been emerging is this idea that everything has to be rushed through. Everything gets a once-over, a quick once-over, and then off it goes. We get through it quickly at committee and call in a few witnesses. It seems to me that long gone are the days when parliamentarians examined legislation very carefully and tried to think about what the impacts of legislation might be immediately and in the longer term.

It strikes me that this is one of those bills that we have to look at not only in terms of the immediate impact on Canadians but also in terms of the longer-term effects. That is why I am very proud that members of the NDP have debated this bill very seriously. We have treated it very seriously in committee; here we are at third reading, final reading, and we are not prepared to say that we will just let it go and that it has had the kind of examination it needs, because we still have a lot of questions about this bill.

Even at third reading, it is not too late. I appeal to some of the Liberal members that it is not too late to reflect on this bill and to make a decision that it should not be allowed to pass third reading and then, of course, go to the Senate, where it will just be rubber-stamped and go through now that a Conservative majority has been appointed in the unelected Senate.

As a result, we take our work even more seriously, because we know that any examination that needs to be done has to be done in this place, has to be done in committee and has to be done by people who are following the bill, by calling in witnesses and hearing the expertise and experience that exist on this file.

Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act does have a history. I remember when we debated it just before the holiday recess in December. We were told that this bill had to be passed by the House, that there was a deadline, that the U.S. government was insistent that this bill be passed and it had to be done by such-and-such a date. I do not remember exactly what that date was, but all of a sudden—