House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak once again on this topic, a topic that has certainly had quite a number of speakers and promises to have many more before we resolve the question.

The government introduced this legislation last June with the announcement that we would have to have it approved by December 31. If that were not to happen by the end of December 2010, the overflights of the United States would come to a halt which would certainly lead to chaos and trouble for the Canadian flying public and the aviation industry in this country. That was the story at that time.

We are now long past the supposed deadline, the flights are continuing unabated and there is no sign that the Americans will prevent our flights from overflying the United States. What we have seen is that an exemption has been offered for flights that originate in one city in Canada and end in another city in Canada that overfly part of American territory.

The fact that the Americans would allow this exemption is somehow an argument that the bill will now be more palatable to Canadians, but it in some ways cuts part of the heart out of the intention, because the flights that overfly the United States right now that start in, say, Toronto and fly to Winnipeg, in many instances they fly over very sensitive American military installations, landmarks, cities and populated areas. So if anyone wanted to do something bad, they could still do that by getting on a plane that was simply flying between two Canadian points and going over American airspace. Clearly there is something else at play here.

Another issue we have to look at is that there is a Canadian no-fly list. The member for Winnipeg Centre is on the Canadian no-fly list. A person who is on a no-fly list would not be on the plane in the first place. Whether a person is on an American no-fly list or a Canadian no-fly list, he or she will not be allowed to get on an airplane in the first place. I am not really certain what problem we are trying to solve with this particular legislation and what the absolute importance is of getting the bill passed in very short order.

Whenever we look at issues like this, we want to question how the legislation increases the safety of the flying public. Right now we have other issues that have been identified as being very serious.

I believe the American Airlines' Allied Pilots Association has identified the trusted shipper program, which consists of over 1,000 companies that have the clearance to send parcels and mail. These parcels and mail are simply routinely loaded onto the planes. Just below where passengers are sitting on the plane are great quantities of mail and parcels that have not been checked at all. I would like to know what the sensibilities are to have the screening process we have, all of the very expensive airport scanning systems we have in place, and we are doing all of these procedures to our passengers.

While all of this is happening, mail and parcels are being trucked onto the plane. That is where the real exposure is. Just recently there was a case where toner cartridges in Africa were the source of explosive devices attempting to be shipped through the mail that would have found their way onto planes within the systems. We have a lot of evidence out there. The American Airlines' Allied Pilots Association has a very big issue here. We could have potentially had a big explosion just recently with those toner cartridge packages that nearly made it onto planes.

Evidently, the problem is much closer to home because every day in this country we have packages and mail getting on these planes.

Let us look at whether or not the no-fly lists that we have in this country have in fact added to our safety. We have the member for Winnipeg Centre on a no-fly list. When he was still alive, Senator Ted Kennedy was denied boarding on American planes. We have had other examples of Congress representatives and senators finding themselves unable to board planes because they are on lists. Therefore, when we look at a system like this we wonder if we should be making an attempt to clean up some of the problems we have in the current system rather than trying to inadvertently create more. If we look at how we can correct the records, we have found that it is almost impossible. The member for Winnipeg Centre has tried to get off the list. He has been unable to do so.

One example is six-year old Alyssa Thomas from Ohio. It was reported that she was on her way to her first communion. She was stopped at the airport in the United States, I believe it was a Cleveland to Minneapolis flight. She was denied boarding because she was on the no-fly list. The problem was solved with a lot of paperwork and she was able to board the plane. However, when the family realized that this was an issue that might follow her for the rest of her life they sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in an attempt to get the issue cleared up on a long-term basis. The department would not confirm nor deny her presence on the no-fly list and stated there would be no further communication regarding the matter. Now, at six years old, she will go through her life being on the no-fly list without any possibility of ever getting off it.

These are the questions that the Liberals, the Bloc and the members of the opposition should be asking in the House. They made a big issue of the long form census a few months ago over privacy issues there. The Conservative base was quite upset that the state would be asking census information about how many bedrooms in the house and so on. Yet it somehow does not seem to have any problem whatsoever giving over PNR information that could be sent to other countries' security systems with no guarantees and no information as to how it will be used.

I have indicated in previous speeches that there are better ways of dealing with PNR issues that Canada actually supports. Through the Canada-U.S. agreement on PNR matters we have been praised for the high standards that we have promoted and upheld in PNR matters. In the agreement we have with Canada-E.U., there are limitations on the disposal of data, how much time the PNR information can be kept, and the individualization of the particulars of the data so that the information is rendered anonymously. That allows security services to build up their profiles, which is what they want, without attaching it to any one individual. That is the--

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

March 1st, 2011 / 1:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has taken an active interest in airline passengers since he arrived in the House of Commons. All airline passengers in Canada want to thank him for that.

He was getting to an important point at the end of his speech when he talked about the accumulation of data about airline passengers by foreign security agencies, particularly by American security agencies. Some critics of this legislation have said that it would aid and abet data mining by American security agencies at the expense of the privacy of Canadians. He talked about the building of profiles that these security agencies would do with the information they would collect from airlines.

Could he expand on that point and let us know what he really thinks of the criticism that the bill would aid and abet data mining by American security agencies?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is correct. That is exactly what it is. The interesting thing about it is if both the American and Canadian no-fly lists are accurate and up-to-date, then any people on those lists would not and should not be on planes in the first place. The people we are concerned about will not be on the plane so their PNR information will not be transferred to any foreign government or, in this case, the American government. We will be giving all of the data on people who are not on the no-fly list and are on the plane in the first place.

When I asked about reciprocity, the government indicated to me that the Americans were prepared for us to keep our own data. We have negotiated one exemption already for point to point flights over U.S. territory between two cities in Canada. Therefore, why would we not negotiate reciprocity? One hundred flights a day fly over the United States and two thousand American flights fly over Canada. Why did the government not say to the Americans that if it gave them our information, then they would have to give Canada their information? The government says that it will cost too much to develop a computer system to deal with all that information. The government just rolled over and signed on to the deal the way the Americans wanted it.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, could the member comment on the kind of data that would be required? Would this be useless data or would this be data that could be used by any one of the 16 American agencies that might have access to the information?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the information is not something that one would want to have sent to security agencies unless it is done on the basis that it would be rendered anonymous.

That is how we deal with PNR information under an agreement, for example, between Canada and the EU. When our negotiators negotiated with the Americans, why did they not say that Canada had already signed on with the EU and supported the practice of proper PNR information handling? Why did the government not suggest that the clause in the agreement with the EU be used?

The PNR information under the Canada-EU data protection system allows for time periods for the data to be kept. The data has to be disposed after a certain number of days. There are limits on the individualization of the data so the data is rendered anonymous. The security services build up the profiles they are looking for, but the information is not attached to any one individual.

This is the global standard for international treaties on PNR agreements. Canada signed on to this agreement with the EU. Countries right around the world have signed on to this. Why would we give up a gold standard that we have supported for many years on the use of PNRs? When it came to the Americans and security, the government disregarded all of that.

Canada is going to send whatever information is in the PNR, and that information can vary. There is different information on each PNR. The member for St. John's East asked what was in the PNR. It depends on what the travel agent typed in when the booking was made. Each person is different. People have different medical problems that might be indicated in there, or they might have different meal preferences. All sorts of different information could be in the PNR that would be dealt with here.

This is not the way to deal with the issue. The government should take the legislation back to the drawing board.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the important matter of Bill C-42, concerning the personal information of Canadians on flights over the U.S.

Although we will support the legislation, I will speak to the history of the bill, how we got to that point and why we can now support the bill.

First, it should be noted the way in which the government went about introducing the bill. As is the practice of the government, which we have become all too familiar with, it either tables legislation that it has no plans on following through with or it introduces legislation that it is not serious in following through with in such a way that it limits serious debate.

The government waited until the last sitting day before the summer recess to introduce this bill, a move to avoid parliamentary scrutiny over these measures by leaving little time for debate.

As it stands right now, the Aeronautics Act already allows for the disclosure of personal information by airlines to foreign states if the flight lands within the foreign state. The act also provides a legislative authority to create the no-fly list intended to identify potential terrorists in airline passenger lists and block them from boarding domestic or international flights.

The no-fly list, however, has proven seriously problematic. Further, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has expressed concerns with the measures enabled under the Aeronautics Act.

The Privacy Commissioner has testified before committee that the Canadian government should ask the United States to quickly destroy the information it will be collecting on airline passengers flying over the U.S. because there is nothing to prevent that information from being shared on a wide scale basis both in the U.S. and abroad.

The Privacy Commissioner has also noted that there is nothing in the new secure flight policy that precludes the Department of Homeland Security from sharing passenger names, birthdates and genders, passport information and travel itineraries with immigration and law enforcement authorities at home and abroad.

This assessment of the policy contradicts the assertions of the public safety minister, who told the transport committee that the information collected on Canadian passengers was intended to be used solely to protect aviation security.

No wonder there are some serious concerns when we have conflicting views from the minister and the Privacy Commissioner.

By further changing the act to force Canadian airlines to disclose personal information of Canadian passengers who are simply flying over the United States, Bill C-42 would further endanger the privacy rights of Canadians.

Maintaining public security, however, is important and a balance must be achieved. Liberal Party members expressed this concern when the bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Liberal members have 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 the U.S. in legislation, as the original version of the bill allowed the Canadian government to add other countries by order-in-council; and, third, airlines and travel agents will be required by Canadian law to inform passengers of this impending data transfer before their ticket is purchased.

This may only be a one paragraph bill that would make a minor change to the wording of one section of the Aeronautics Act, however, these changes would be significant in practice. The bill could effectively be used as legal justification for airlines and travel agents to supply foreign governments with personal information about passengers when a plane they are on flies through a country's airspace. Currently, the act allows for this transmission of information only when a Canadian plane lands in that country.

Let me take a moment to go over the history of these provisions in the Aeronautics Act.

At question is subsection 4.83 (1). This allows for the cabinet to make regulations regarding the transmission of certain information to foreign governments. Subsection 4.83 essentially creates legislative exemption to the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

The supporting regulations remain the critical component of this piece of the framework.

Schedule 1 of the regulations lists the category of information that may be automatically provided to an authorized foreign government. This includes basic information such as name, gender and passport number.

Schedule 2 of the regulations provides what detailed information may be provided to a foreign government. These details include the passenger's address, phone number, class of ticket, for example, business or economy, method of payment for the ticket and whether the passenger in question actually paid for the ticket.

The final schedule in these regulations, Schedule 3, lists the governments and agencies that are authorized to request or receive any of the information listed in either of the first two schedules. There is only one country and agency on the list: the United States and its commissioner of customs.

The regulations in question were introduced in 2001 during the 37th Parliament. Bill C-44 amended the Aeronautics Act to allow the transmission of this information to foreign governments. This was in response to new U.S. requirements for any plane landing inside that country.

Subsequent U.S. legislation requires other countries to provide the U.S. government with details of any passenger in a plane flying over the U.S., not landing, but actually flying over the U.S.

The Liberal Party has very strong concerns about the erosion of Canadian sovereignty expressed in the bill. We also have very real concerns about the privacy of Canadians and about the ability of the government to conduct foreign affairs in a way that benefits Canadians.

The balance between national security and personal freedom is a crucial balance for any government. I, as well as my Liberal colleagues in the official opposition, am very concerned that Bill C-42 goes too far. Hence, the need for our amendments.

For starters, the bill was not designed to protect the national security of Canadians. It was designed to transmit information to other countries for flights outside Canadian airspace. Once this information is in the hands of a foreign government, we cannot control what they do with it.

In May of last year, assistant privacy commissioner, Chantal Bernier, spoke to the transport committee. She said that the U.S. government, the only government currently authorized to receive this data, could keep the personal information of Canadians anywhere from seven days to 99 years. She also stated that the U.S. could use that information for any purpose, even those not related to air-land security, such as law enforcement.

When the United States passed the patriot act in the aftermath of September 11, it caused concern to many nations around the world. The patriot act allows the U.S. government unfettered access to and control of information about citizens from all over the world. It is no small matter to put private information of citizens into the hands of the U.S. government, where it will be subject to the wider net of the patriot act.

We must be concerned about any law that allows information about Canadians not accused of any crime to be put in the U.S. intelligence machine. We could be creating a situation where the government helps to provide a foreign government information that is used to prosecute Canadians without any formal judicial process.

It should be clarified that these are not information-gathering agreements. Rather the legislation would create a one-way flow of information out of Canada and into the hands of foreign governments.

In passing the legislation, we are creating a legal framework that will require diligent monitoring. It is important that we exercise our right to ensure that Canadians are protected. Hopefully, we can do that with the amendments that we put forward, which are now a part of this. As well, we must ensure that we stay on top of this and monitor very closely what is done over the course of the time.

We must understand that in creating this legislation we are opening the door for other countries to ask the same things. We are saying publicly that we are willing to provide personal and private information about our citizens to other countries. This is a troubling development that we must be willing to abandon if it proves to be more sinister than good.

Just because a Liberal amendment has been adopted to limit this information sharing with the U.S., it does not prevent other countries from now wanting to negotiate similar information transfers. Therefore, we need to be very vigilant in terms of what the government will do once this bill has been passed and can move forward with it.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I share the same concern about how to protect the overall security of our country and recognize some of the challenges faced in bringing forward this kind of legislation.

Would the hon. member expand a bit more on the amendments that she was referring to that the Liberal Party put forward to ensure we have a better balance in this bill?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, when we put forward these amendments, the idea was to work with the government and the other parties in the House of Commons to ensure that Parliament works.

First, we talk about the need to conduct a review of the measures two years from now and every five years thereafter so that two years from now we will be able to see if these amendments are as effective as they can be; second, with regard to the data transfer to the U.S., the original version of the bill would have allowed the Canadian government to add other countries by order in council; and, third, airline and travel agents would be instructed to ensure that passengers travelling are well aware that their information will be shared with the U.S. It is very important, first and foremost, that passengers have a good appreciation and understanding of what the result would be of Bill C-42.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am interested in the amendment that deals with the review. She talked about the two-year review and then the subsequent five-year review. Reviewing legislation is good. We have seen that happen in a number of cases, although sometimes when the time comes to do the review it does not get done.

How will this review happen? This is a process where information would be given to the Americans. What exactly will we be reviewing in two years? Will we be reviewing how much information we sent the Americans? We certainly will not be able to review what they did with the information.

Surely the member does not expect the Americans to send us a report card, although maybe she does. After two years, we will ask the Americans to please send us a report on how they dealt with the information we sent them. Clearly, we will want to know what happened to the information that we sent them. We will not get any information from the Americans about that no matter how many times we ask.

All a review would tell us, in my opinion, is what we already know or should know, which is how much information we are sending to the U.S. but not what the final result is of having provided the information. That is what I am having some trouble getting my head around in this case, but maybe the member could give me some further information on that amendment and the others.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, clearly there will be an onus on the U.S. government to work with the Canadian government. Canada will acknowledge that it is prepared to share the information with it but recognizing as well that Canadians have some concerns. Yes, we expect that the government will be able to do a review of the information that has been shared, how that information has been handled and the impact of sharing that information on Canadians.

We expect to be able to do that in the first two years. If it is not working, if we find there has been an abuse of that sharing of information and if the U.S. has not lived up to its end of the bargain, then obviously that is an issue that we will have to deal with. However, at the end of the first two years we will know whether we need to make further adjustments to a bill like Bill C-42.