House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.

Topics

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I must give the hon. member for Mississauga South equal time to respond.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, Bill C-42 has to do with Canada complying with a request by the United States to have air carriers disclose basic information on people flying.

The member's premise, and I have heard him repeat this several times, is that if the U.S. is going to do that to us, then we should do that to the U.S. That is not part of the bill. It is not the kind of discussion we should be having. It could be something that could be asked of the government in question period. The Minister of Transport or whomever could be brought before committee and asked about it. Let us discuss the process of how we do these things, because this is not part of the bill, and I am not sure whether or not it is part of what we need.

We would define our needs, and if we had thought we needed to know that information for public safety reasons, then we would have made that request. The case has not been made, apparently. The need has not been expressed, apparently. Consequently I am not sure that the argument holds that if the U.S. has asked us to do it, then we had better get the same information back. I am not sure, but we do not even play in the sandbox like that.

Thus I disagree with the member's premise. The question is an interesting one and it should be asked in the proper forum.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, quite clearly, when the Minister of Public Safety appeared before our committee, he said that the government did not want this bill, that the government did not want to give this information to the U.S., that it had tried everything it could but did not accomplish its task of getting the U.S. to give up on this idea because, quite clearly, the security implications of it were minimal, if anything.

When my colleague says the government should have worked harder to find a way to get the U.S. to recognize the ridiculousness of this bill, that is what we are trying to do here. That is why we put forward a three-year drop dead clause.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, we would prefer not to have to do anything to protect public security or to deal with our neighbours to the south. However, the U.S. has asked for this. We cannot say that we are not going to do it. We cannot say this is not the way we want to go. The important thing is to look at the whole story.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, which is very important legislation.

We have finally heard other opinions in debate about the legislation, and I want to congratulate the members of the Liberal Party for joining the debate. It would be nice to hear from some Conservatives, but it has been interesting to hear the various points of view.

The last member who spoke, someone I have great respect for, said that we would have to go along with the bill because we had no choice when it came to negotiating on issues of security with the United States. On that very issue, I would take him on. I believe we have a choice and the government has a choice. The government has a choice about whether we should stand up for the privacy rights of Canadians. I believe the bill diminishes the privacy rights of Canadians.

The key part of the bill is to exempt airlines from the provisions of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act so they can provide personal information about passengers on Canadian airlines to American security agencies. I think this is a very serious concern to Canadians. Just how much of our personal information will get into the hands of U.S. security agencies and where does it go from there? Who else is it being shared with? There are all kinds of questions that we need to be ask.

Rather than saying it is not a privacy issue, though I think it is, it is also an issue of sovereignty. How do Canadians make decisions about their personal information and do we have to fold every time the United States seeks to increase the security of its borders, which impacts Canada? We see that time and time again.

I wish the Conservative government was as aggressive on this issue as it is on the issue of the census, which is a no-brainer. It will defend the right of Canadians not to tell census takers how many bedrooms or bathrooms they have in their homes, but when it comes to sharing our personal information with American security officials, it is open season. It is incredibly ironic we have this debate about the legislation and that we should just holus-bolus roll over and send the information south.

The government claims to be great defenders of the privacy of Canadians, that somehow it is too intrusive to ask people how many bathrooms or bedrooms they have, when most of us know how that information is used and how much the personal privacy of the people who provide the information is protected in our country. It is an incredible irony to me that the same government is responsible for both of those positions.

Should we be concerned about our information going south? Time and time again we see that information crops up in places where it is a real problem. This morning we heard the member for Winnipeg Centre say that he was on the no fly list, that he could not get on a plane in Canada easily. It has changed now because he misspells his name to alert the airlines and security officials that he is the member of Parliament from Winnipeg Centre, not the guy who should be on the no fly list. What kind of bogus approach is that?

A Canadian member of Parliament cannot get his name off of the no fly list. What chance does an average citizen have? That is just one of the problems with this kind of security apparatus that has been established. When a mistake is made, it cannot be corrected.

I have a friend who is in exactly the same position as the member for Winnipeg Centre. He has to make the same kind of run around the no fly list because it has created havoc with his ability to travel, totally unjustly. There is no way of correcting that in the system. There is no way of finding out why a person's name is on the no fly list.

People are justly concerned about their personal information and what happens when it gets into the hands of a security agency that they have no ability to access, to appeal to or to make changes.

We see it in other ways. It is not exactly a parallel to the situation we are debating today, but it is another instance of what happens when a security agency outside of Canada gets hold of our personal information. Recently, a woman from Toronto was denied access into the United States because a U.S. customs and border protection officer at Pearson airport denied her entry for medical reasons because he had access to her medical report. He knew that she had attempted suicide in 2006. Apparently he knew this because police records were available to him that showed the police had attended at her house because she had attempted to do violence to self.

Why does this American agency have information about a non-criminal activity from the metro Toronto police? Why would it have what is essentially health information about this Canadian woman who is trying to travel to the United States? Why would the Americans deny her entry on the basis of that information?

She had to go through a whole rigmarole. She had to have a medical examination by a state department physician that cost her an additional $250. Then that report had to be screened before she was eventually allowed into the United States.

This is just another example of what happens to our personal information. In my opinion, from what I have read in the media and heard from her lawyer, this information should never have been made available to a foreign security agency. It has no relevance to her interest in travelling to the United States. There is no security issue with her travelling to the United States. Yet it was raised in that circumstance with her at the airport while she was trying to travel to the there.

No one can seem to allay my fear that this is the kind of thing that will become more common. More information will be shipped south about Canadians wanting to travel to the United States and even when they are not trying to travel there. It is very worrisome.

Another example is this. Most of us who travel at least have had pause to consider the placement of the full body scanners in Canadian airports. We have seen these expensive machines cropping up at all of our security checkpoints in airports. There are real privacy concerns about the kind of imaging they produce, the full body scan. Recently a new generation of these machines have been unveiled that gives an even finer, more exact naked image of the person being screened. I think people have legitimate concerns about that.

Today there is a report that the machines are being modified so not all images would be viewed by the person doing the screening, only those where there is an identified problem. One wonders why that feature was not built into the system from the get-go rather than weeks or months down the road when people raised concerns about it. It speaks to the enthusiasm for new security measures that are not tested appropriately and not thought through.

Again, why do we have these kinds of expensive scanners in airports? I have not seen the evidence that says the old scanning system was somehow flawed or that there had been incidents of major concerns, especially in Canada, that would cause us to need this new technology. Every time I see one of those I wish it was a scanner in a hospital rather than at the airport. If we could sink that money into scanners for medical purposes, I think Canadians would be extremely enthusiastic.

Somehow, because the United States started putting them at security checkpoints in its airports, we had to do it in Canada. I do not think we did it for our own reasons. I think we did it because the Americans wanted it. Once again, they said “hop” and we hopped and put them in here at the expense, aggravation and diminution of the privacy of Canadians. The perception of the Americans of their security needs demanded it. I do not think that is acceptable. It is not acceptable from a privacy standard or a sovereignty standard.

This goes back to the misapprehension that somehow the 9/11 attackers came from Canada. We know they did not. However, Canada accepted 30,000 people who were trying to fly into the United States without question. We landed them here, welcomed and took care of them when the United States would not let them into its country.

That says something about the difference between how we approach a security problem and how the Americans approach a security problem. I want us to remember that when we approach any kind of legislation that deals with the security demands of the United States and the sovereignty and privacy concerns of Canadians.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, let me congratulate the member for bringing the discussion to where we really should be on this bill.

The bill has raised a broader question about our relationship with other countries, particularly with the United States. The member has raised a number of questions such as whether we should we monitor those development or invest and follow as much as we do.

Those are the questions that should be asked. Maybe we should urge the transport committee and the public safety committee to take these into account. Maybe we need to ask the government more specifically about the reasons and the rationale for taking a decision.

Those are the fundamentals that really underlie this issue. It is not so much that we disagree with someone's right to sovereignty over airspace. We are concerned about the privacy, but if we are talking about name, birthdate and gender, that is not an invasion of privacy about which Canadians will get terribly excited, but it is at the thin edge of the wedge.

Those are the kinds of things the member has brought up. I want to thank him for that. Does he have any further suggestions on how we address this important issue?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I hope when the Prime Minister is meeting with President Obama tomorrow, when they are discussing perimeter security arrangements for North America, which is a legitimate topic for discussion, that he calls the American President on some of the excesses of what the Americans are doing.

I understand the Americans feel threatened. I understand they have been attacked. However, maybe somebody needs to put those questions and who better than their closest neighbour? Who better than someone they share all kinds of common interests with? Those are the kinds of questions that a friend can put to them most clearly.

I think the Americans may have gone too far on some of these things. Maybe we are the right people to ask them that question, to point that out to them and to try to find a different way through that. Those are things that we could be doing as Canadians.

Maybe that is something we bring, rather than what appears to be the case of always conceding to the demand of the Americans for the new technology, the new restrictions and the new requirements for more information to be shared. Is it the right way to go? We need to ask those questions and put that kind of pressure on our friends. Friends are for that. When we are in difficulty or are not seeing the situation clearly, friends raise those kinds of issues.

I hope that is what the Prime Minister is taking to the meeting with the President.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to acknowledge the work the member for B.C. has done over the years in this place and thank him for that work. I wish him all the best in future endeavours. We will certainly miss him.

One thing the member touched on was how we would approach these issues. We hear concerns raised by some of the other opposition parties, but when it comes to voting for or against this proposition, only one party will vote against the bill because we have concerns.

Does my colleague see the value in raising concerns on the one hand, but at the end of the day just voting for the bill and watching it pass through the House with no amendments even proposed by other opposition parties? What does he think about that?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his tribute to the nearly departed.

It is really important that we pay attention to these issues and raise them in this place. There is often this feeling that somehow the Americans always have the power to enforce their interests. I do not believe that is the case.

Canadians have a power to bring to negotiations with the United States, that we do not always have to compromise in its interest. We can stand up for our own interests in these discussions. We have had governments that have been too willing to compromise our interests for too long. I see other parties in this place continuing that trend.

Clearly we want to have a good relationship with the United States. It is our closest neighbour. However, we could take a different course in our negotiations with the Americans.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, our party's concern with Bill C-42 is not news to other members. I should correct the record. I mentioned a moment ago that other parties had not put forward amendments. They have. I would consider them minor. A review of a process that is flawed should be addressed at the beginning, not after three years.

I want to go back to a debate we had in the House on Bill C-31. It addressed concerns around the electoral process in our country. I remember well the debates around the bill at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs The bill looked at how we could streamline the electoral process in this country. Our party was the only one to push against the provision for the government to allow birthdates of Canadians to be put on the voters' list. It had never been utilized before. It was fascinating to watch. People I thought were libertarians, people who believed in the protection of Canadians' privacy, simply caved on the issue of whether or not birthdates should be on the electoral list. It was the two other opposition parties at committee who welcomed this change.

Their colleagues were not aware that we would have birthdates on the electoral list. Thankfully, the Privacy Commissioner intervened, at my request, which was not initially allowed at committee. The committee thought we had heard enough from Ms. Stoddart, however, she had not been able to intervene on this new provision for electoral lists. She provided her opinion that this was a sellout of privacy of Canadians, that they should not have their birthdate on the electoral list.

It was astonishing to see the two other opposition parties allow this to go through. The provision was killed but not because of opposition from the government or the other two opposition parties. Our party fought against it. Why? It is a very basic principle that the privacy of Canadians is paramount. There are times when there is a need for authorities to have information on Canadians, but imagine having one's birthdate and address on a list for all to see.

At the time, we called it a theft kit for identification fraud brought about by the Government of Canada. That is really what it was. For those who want to steal an identity, whether it be for false credit cards or whatever, all that is needed is a birthdate and an address.

We fought against it. Thankfully, we were able to get a clear opinion from the Privacy Commissioner. That made a huge difference, to the point where that provision was eventually dropped. We relied on her office and her opinion to do that. The government fought against having her evidence brought forward at committee. Members sitting on that committee know of what I speak.

Here we are again looking at a bill that would compromise Canadians' privacy. I am astonished that instead of getting this right to ensure that Canadians' privacy will not be compromised, we are going ahead full bore.

The government has recycled countless bills through prorogation, elections, et cetera, simply so it can reintroduce them and claim it is moving ahead, usually on crime legislation. It is all politics, all the time. A bill as important as this gets very little debate, very little attention from the government and not a lot from my friends down the way in the opposition. In one case an opposition party thinks the bill is great and would push it through as quickly as possible.

Someone has to stand up for privacy in this country and in this Parliament. If we do not do that, we have to go to our constituents when the bill is passed and tell them we looked at this in Parliament and we are sorry their names were compromised and ended up on a no-fly list. We were told it would not happen on flights from Windsor to Vancouver.

It is not good enough. We have to be thorough. We have to be careful when we are talking about issues of privacy. This is very different from the Canada Elections Act. The elections act was an abuse of privacy. Ms. Stoddart talked about it in her testimony and we debated that in the House and at committee. This is about another government having access. It is one thing to have Parliament acquiesce and provide that information to Elections Canada that ends up being in the hands of anyone who has access to those lists, but it is another thing to provide that information to another government. With all due respect, it matters not which government. This is a question about our sovereignty. This is a question about who gets to decide the privacy of Canadians.

As mentioned by my colleague from the north, we are putting into law provisions that would allow, in this case, the United States, access to information that normally would not be given to it when a flight is just going from A to B within our own country. It is astonishing that we would go through the process so quickly with a government that makes no bones about the politics of keeping bills going for Parliament after Parliament. When it comes to an issue as important as the sovereignty of Canadians, it wants to get it through as quickly as possible.

We need to understand what is at stake here. We are not talking about being “soft” on terrorism. That should be thrown out immediately. If we are going to talk about provisions around security, let us look at where investments are being made. Let us look at border security. Let us look at shared information with regard to law enforcement. We have been very critical of the lack of investment in that area. Let us look at cargo inspection. If we really want to get at the issue of security, then we should put our investments in the right place. This is the veneer of security, at a cost. The cost is the vulnerability of Canadians' privacy.

In the first part of Bill C-42 the government did not do its usual play on language and nomenclature. I usually do not read the exact text because it sometimes is not as engaging as one might want to have in debate, but this is important. Proposed subsection 4.83(1) states:

Despite section 5 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, to the extent that that section relates to obligations set out in Schedule 1 to that Act relating to the disclosure of information, and despite subsection 7(3) of that Act, an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada that is due to land in a foreign state or fly over a foreign state and land outside Canada or of a Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada that is due to land in or fly over a foreign state may, in accordance with the regulations, provide to a competent authority--

Those are the other guys.

--in that foreign state any information that is in the operator’s control....

Let me be clear about the first part. It means that we have to amend our privacy rights for the bill to go through and it compromises Canadians. That is wrong.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, the member for Ottawa Centre has always been strong on issues of personal privacy, personal information and assuring Canadians that their personal information is protected. He raised extremely valid points about the impact of what, up until now, has been a fairly obscure bill, but a bill that Canadians are increasingly concerned about.

We know the Conservatives are pushing ahead and Conservative MPs do not have the ability or the right to disagree in any way with their government. They just rubber-stamp anything that the current government brings forward.

Why are the Liberals supporting this appallingly bad, intrusive legislation? Liberal members have criticized the legislation, but they are voting for it. I would like the member to explain that incredible contradiction. Why is the Liberal Party rubber-stamping bad Conservative legislation yet again?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish I had a sanguine answer for that, but I do not.

I am very concerned about the fact that members have been very clear about this being wrong in terms of the privacy provisions and that we need to do something about it and if they had been in government, they would have done a better job somehow.

The fact is we are in this place debating this legislation. If we do not think it is good enough, a three-year review is not the answer. It is a matter of saying our personal information is at stake and we should vote against the bill. There is no in between, there is no middle ground on this bill. It is unfortunate members feel they have to vote for this bill and yet make arguments against the content of the bill.

I say to my colleague who asked the question it is a matter of members having to look in the mirror and ask whom they are standing for, who are they representing and can they in good conscience vote for a bill that compromises Canadians' privacy. The answer is clear. They should not compromise privacy and should vote against the bill. There is time to do that.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the member to consider for a moment that there could have been some common ground in these negotiations. It would have been a much tougher approach by the Canadian government to say to the Americans that 100 flights a day from Canada fly in United States airspace but there are 2,000 flights a day from the U.S. flying in Canadian airspace, that Canada will provide that information but the U.S. will have to provide Canada with the same information. Immediately American airlines and consumers would have become very agitated and would have started calling their representatives in Congress and there would have been a pullback on this issue.

The government told me the other day that Canada could not afford the computer system to process all of this information and the Americans have the half a billion dollars to dedicate to that.

The other issue is that in terms of the agreement itself, Canada has an agreement on PNR use with the European Union. It deals with the PNR totally differently. Unlike this agreement where we are going to give the Americans the information and they can keep it for 40 years, the PNR agreement with the EU requires a very limited time period for the disposal of the data. It makes sure that the information is rendered anonymously so it is not tied to an individual. There is—

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Ottawa Centre.

I must give the hon. member time to respond.