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

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-42 and to review some of the concerns that we have raised time and time again.

I am afraid I do not share the optimism of the member for Random—Burin—St. George's in terms of the expectations she has for U.S. participation in making changes to this and in reviewing its procedures. There have been no discussions about these procedures, no safeguards have been put in place and no limitations whatsoever on the kind of information that the American government, its agencies or the foreign governments to which it will be passed on, would obtain from this process.

The legislation is very simple. It is an agreement to release information. It causes us very grave concerns. We have not seen the agreement itself but we have seen are other agreements. The European Union has an agreement on this. The United States and the European Union have agreed that all this information, called PNR, the passenger name record, that the travel agencies or airlines have will be passed on to the American homeland security.

The information that is collected can be retained for up to 40 years and it may be forwarded to the security services of a third party nation without the consent or notification to the other signatory, and that includes the individual who is the subject of this. People may know what information about them is being held by the United States and may not correct that information. In the case of the EU agreement with the United States, the Americans can amend that agreement unilaterally any time they wish by themselves without the consent of the other party.

That is a pretty devastating amount of invasion of privacy of Canadians who, in this case, are not even going to the United States. They may be travelling to Cuba, Mexico or on an international flight from one part of Canada to Europe or South America which happens to over-fly U.S. airspace.

This is rather disturbing. In fact, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, told the committee that Bill C-42 raises important sovereignty issues. She said that she was not questioning the American government's authority to implement its own program. International law is clear that a state's sovereignty extends to its own airspace.

However, the Privacy Commissioner said that the Canadian government had a duty to protect the privacy and civil rights of its citizens. That is not what is happening here at all. There are, in fact, very few or no limitations on the protection of privacy here.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, spoke to the committee as well. She said that the bill did not really meet the protection of privacy in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it had no limitations.

This is a mystery bill. There is no requirement in either Bill C-42 or in the regulations for the United States to safeguard and protect the information from other people. There is no safeguard that the TSA will not pass information on to other government agencies. In fact, it has been suggested that the information will be available to some 16 United States government agencies.

There is no safeguard that the U.S. will not pass the information on to third countries, and, in fact, it has the right to do that. As we know, this has been a particularly difficult issue for some Canadians given what happened to some Canadian citizens, such as Maher Arar who was tortured as a result of information being passed on by the Americans which they had obtained in part from Canada.

This whole no-fly list, as has been mentioned here, is part of the issue. One of the issues around the United States homeland security no-fly list is that it is under constitutional challenge in the United States.

The concerns the Americans have are similar to the concerns we have. In the United States, for example, Americans are not allowed to know whether they are on the no-fly list, how to get off the list or what evidence their presence on the list is based. This is a concern we are having here.

We need to understand how this process works. If a passenger will be overflying the United States, the airline must advise the American homeland security as to what information it has on its passenger record. The Americans will then do data mining of their own and they will issue a result to the travel agency. The instructions will be one of the following: issue a boarding pass, deny permission to travel or issue an enhanced screening requirement. This regulation will give the United States access to a whole subset of information on air passengers who are not even entering the United States.

This information can be shared with at least 16 United States agencies and foreign governments and the government of a foreign country, in this case the United States, has 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. That is not true for all overseas flights, obviously, but for the majority it is.

We have a serious concern about the bill, so much so that we are voting against it. I am surprised to hear similar concerns to ours being raised by members of the Liberal Party, including the previous speaker. Again and again the Liberals raise the same issues and say that they are concerned about them and yet they seem to be quite happy to support this legislation. I do not understand that.

There are a lot of concerns. People have mentioned the success in getting the exemption on the issue of overflight when airlines fly from one Canadian city to another. If an airline is flying from Vancouver to Toronto and is overflying the U.S., there is an exemption. I wonder why the Americans were so happy to grant that exemption in this arrangement. I suspect it has something to do with the perimeter security agreement. I suspect that Canada in the perimeter security agreement has already given up the right to information on who is flying on any plane in Canada. Even the information on someone flying from Toronto to Ottawa may already be available under the perimeter security agreement. Therefore, it may be that this exemption is merely just a sop to public opinion.

The reality of this legislation is that we are now entering into a world of mystery. I am not normally into conspiracy theories but we are entering into a world of mystery that the homeland security no-fly list, for example, has been called Kafkaesque in reference to a very famous author who wrote about a mystery world where one does not know what is going on, one does not know why one is being charged with something, one does not know why one is being held, one does not know why one is being treated in a certain way by authorities. That is the essence of the Kafkaesque world.

We are getting there with this kind of agreement because, if this legislation passes, information on us will be available to the American authorities, some 16 agencies and whatever government they want to give them to. They can make decisions on our future or our situation based on whatever they think of the information that happens to be there and we may have consequences.

I do not really have time to go into the story, but I was in Russia one time, and maybe one of my colleagues will ask me to tell a bit more, but one never knows what happens to this information. One never knows whether there are consequences or not. One never knows whether one is the subject of some kind of oppression because of information that has been made available. That is the essence, the difficulty and the problem I have with this legislation.

I believe my time is nearing an end and in my 10 minutes I would be happy to respond to any questions or comments that my colleagues on both sides of the House may have.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I was completely enthralled by the speech of the hon. member for St. John's East. Instead of asking a direct question, I would like him to elaborate a bit more on his thesis of why this bill is so bad for Canadians.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, that will give me a chance to tell the story of my visit to Russia in 1981.

I met an individual who that very day had been interviewed by the KGB because she had been seen in a place where foreigners would visit. I asked her what the consequences of being interviewed by the KGB were. Her answer was very interesting. She said, “One never knows”.

What we do know is that they wrote down the fact that there was a meeting, why there was an interview, everything that was said, and they put it in a file somewhere. That information could affect one's future when applying for a job, or trying to travel to a foreign country. This was 1981, before the wall came down.

Her answer stuck with me ever since, “One never knows”. One never knows what the consequences are of information that a secret agency might have on a person. That is why people like me and other Canadians value our privacy, freedom, and our own security. We consider it wrong that foreign government agencies have information that they have no need for without any protection, safeguard, or any ability to correct that information.

That's the essential reason why this legislation ought to be opposed. The agreements are not transparent, the information is not protected, and there are no safeguards as to what the information may be used for. These are the concerns we have and continue to have. This is why we oppose this bill.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government has bamboozled the Bloc and the Liberals into supporting this bill on the basis that it was needed for security and that the Americans demanded it by December 31 or the 100 flights a day from Canada would stop.

I always thought that the reason for the Canadian and the American no-fly lists was to keep the people who were a potential security risk off the planes. With all the security and screening processes we have at the airports, and the fact that we have a no-fly list, which is supposed to keep all the bad guys off, this would mean that we are giving information about the good guys. That is what we are doing here. We are providing information about the good guys.

The fact that this was so important that we were going to shut down Canadian aviation if we did not pass this bill has all proved to be nothing but an apparition. Today is March 1 and nobody is talking about shutting down flights.

It is time the Canadian government went back to the Americans to say, “If we are going to give you information on 100 flights a day, then we want reciprocity with information on your 2,000 flights a day that are flying over Canada”, and then see what they have to say about that.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I had hoped that we had passed the high-water mark of paranoia. Understandably, the Americans were concerned about what happened September 11, 2001, but that was not a result of problems that this agreement is designed to solve. The people who did this nasty business in the United States in 2001 at the World Trade Centre did not fly from other countries, they were inside America. They were not coming from foreign states to do this nor over-flying the country. I think an awful lot of work has been done since then to be more vigilant, there is no question about that.

I hope that we are at the high-water mark and that the invasion of privacy envisaged by both this agreement and by the perimeter agreement are not going to be implemented. We oppose them. We think they are going too far and we will vote accordingly when the time comes.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of our party, proud to speak against Bill C-42 and what it would mean to Canadians right across this country.

I may or may not be the only member of Parliament who worked 18.5 years in the airline industry, but I can assure members that if they think for a second, with regard to flights from Canada down south, to Mexico, the Caribbean, or elsewhere, that fly over American airspace or American waters, that those flights would have been cancelled if we did not give the United States credit card numbers, health records, or what hotels we were staying at, they are delusional.

Would tit for tat mean that we are going to stop all those flights from the U.S. to Europe that fly over Canadian airspace as of December 31? That would be utter nonsense. It would hurt both economies. It is something both countries do not want to do.

It is nonsense for the Liberals and the Bloc to fall into this delusional state that if we do not give them all this information, it is going to hurt our airline industry. It is false; it is a great big lie. I would hope that the Liberals, the Bloc, and the Conservative Party of Canada would use their ten percenters or householders in their individual ridings to let Canadians, their constituents, know what they are about to do with the Bill C-42.

I was recently on vacation in a place where I met many Americans. I spoke with many Americans about this, over dinner and over a few drinks. They were surprised that the United States government is actually asking the Canadian government for this type of information. These folks were from Iowa, Kentucky, L.A., Florida, and New York.

Not one of them, whether they be admitted Republicans or Democrats, or have no interest in politics at all, wanted to know if I flew from Halifax to, say, Cuba or Jamaica. Not one of them wanted to know what hotel I was staying at. Not one of them wanted to know my health records. Not one of them wanted to know my credit card information. Not one of them wanted to know anything else. They could not care less. What they care about is people getting into their country who want to do bad things to them. That is what they care about. And we would agree with them.

Bill C-42 is the capitulation to our friends, the Americans. Friends should tell friends when they are doing something wrong. Instead of capitulating and agreeing, and fast-tracking Bill C-42, we should take a step back, go back to the negotiation table and tell the Americans they are wrong. We would be wrong in this country if we accepted the parameters of this particular negotiation.

Once Canadians find out, if this goes through the way that the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Bloc want it to go through, many Canadians may wake up the next day and find themselves on no-fly lists. They may find themselves on all kinds of lists somewhere that they know nothing about. They will show up at an airport and be told they cannot go somewhere because somebody, somewhere, in the United States, either through error or through deliberate action, may have put them on the list and made sure that they could not fly, for whatever reason, even if they have no intention of going anywhere near the United States.

I know that the United States these days, in some circles, is called the excited states. There is a reason for that. The U.S. is very nervous about a variety of things. But when a country is nervous or when it makes laws without really thinking about the clear decisions of what it is about to do, it is up to its closest friends to advise that country to sit down and tell it what it is doing is wrong.

There are ways of protecting the United States and Canada and, for that matter, the entire North American continent, without intruding into the private lives of Canadian citizens and, for that matter, American citizens as well. I worked in the airline industry for over 18.5 years and I can tell members that many of our customers came from the United States and points beyond. Without them, many of the airlines that we worked for back in those days probably could not have survived. The same applies to the United States.

Can members imagine all those winter vacationers from Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, for example, who go to Florida on a regular basis? If we did not succumb to this and we just told the Americans, “We're not going to do what you want us to do”, are they telling me that the State of Florida is going to accept the fact that thousands upon thousands of Canadians would no longer be able to visit the State of Florida during snowbird season? Is that what the Government of Canada is telling us? Of course not. The reality is, it is simply wrong.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will stop the member there. He will have five minutes left to conclude his remarks after question period. Right now we will move on to statements by members.

Canadian Wheat Board
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Wheat Board is staggering through another wretched season of grain marketing. It set the initial prices of durum so low that farmers laughed, although they wanted to cry. It played in the barley market until malt barley was being sold for feed. Spring wheat sits in farmers' bins while bills go unpaid. Its latest prediction is that western Canadian farmers will once again reduce their wheat acres next year.

What is the Canadian Wheat Board's response? Let us go boating. It now wants to take $70 million of farmers' money to purchase two Chinese freighters and launch a new shipping empire. If it cannot market grain, how can it handle boats? While it may fancy itself as a new Canada grain ship lines, it is more likely we will see a version of the Titanic running aground on Gilligan's Island.

The “Pirate of the Prairies” has already done enough damage. Farmers are tired of being pillaged.

The answer is not more CWB, but more freedom for western Canadian producers.

École Versant-Nord in Atholville
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, on February 22, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of students from the École Versant-Nord in Atholville to talk about my role here and the role of the government within our country. These encounters are always a great joy for me because they allow me to discuss issues that are of interest to youth and share my parliamentary experience.

These grade six students asked extremely relevant questions, and I have no doubt that these types of exchanges should happen more often in order to make our youth more interested in politics. These students are the leaders of tomorrow. That is why I feel it is crucial to take the time to meet with them and discuss our great country's governance structure.

Here in this House, I would like to thank teachers Jody Esligar and Debby Duguay, as well as their 32 students, for inviting me to their class. I hope the experience was as rewarding for them as it was for me.

I am pleased to represent you as the member for Madawaska—Restigouche.

Wulftec
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, certain companies contribute to the economic prosperity of a region and make it proud. One such company is Wulftec, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in December 2010. Over the years, Wulftec has become a true pillar of development in Ayer's Cliff. With its innovative processes, Wulftec stands out as a global leader in the manufacture of stretch wrappers, strapping machinery and conveyors.

Wulftec's 175 employees can attest to the respect they receive from their employer, for Wulftec's personnel retention rate is 96%. Few companies in the industrial sector can boast such a rate.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I am very honoured and proud to sincerely congratulate Wulftec in Ayer's Cliff.

Conservative Party of Canada
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thought I had heard it all from the Conservative Party of Canada when last November 11, the party's fundraising arm called veterans in this country to ask for money.

I thought that was the lowest of the low until just recently, when a constituent of mine called me and said that a member of the Conservative Party had called him looking for money, because “We are the only party that stands up for the Jewish people of Canada and Israel”. I thought I had heard it all from a political party that uses religion and wedge politics, but this is the lowest of the low.

It is bad enough to call veterans on Remembrance Day looking for money for a political party, but using wedge religious politics, in this case with the Jewish people of Canada, to raise funds for a party is despicable and low.

The Conservative Party of Canada and the Prime Minister of Canada should apologize to all people in Canada--

Conservative Party of Canada
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Delta--Richmond East.

Earthquake Preparedness
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to extend the sympathies of my constituents to the people of Christchurch.

The destruction in New Zealand is a reminder of the tragic loss of life that can result from earthquakes.

On February 15, an earthquake shook Richmond and Delta. It was very mild compared with the one that hit Christchurch, but it is a reminder that we must ensure that our infrastructure is capable of withstanding a strong quake.

Last week at a meeting of the Ladner Business Association, Brian Hart and Mike Owen, local businessmen with significant knowledge of the lower Fraser River, pointed out that Ladner and Richmond, like Christchurch, are built on an alluvial plane and located on a fault zone.

Furthermore, they are below sea level and protected by dikes. That means for our two communities, merely having specially strengthened buildings and bridges is not enough. Our dikes must be maintained at a level to withstand a serious quake.

We must be prepared. Being prepared means we must all work together. There is no reward for complacency.

Canadian Peres Center for Peace Foundation
Statements By Members

March 1st, 2011 / 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Peres Center for Peace Foundation offers a glimmer of hope for those who yearn for lasting peace in the Middle East. Arming for security and preparing for war are still important, even though unconventional and high-tech weaponry make every country vulnerable and, as current events illustrate, popular awakenings can make even the mighty tremble.

Happily, there are those who also recognize the power of science, technology, information and education as borderless agents of change. Led by a veteran of war and statecraft, the Canadian Peres Center for Peace Foundation offers those who want to build for the future, and those who want to construct an architecture to house human and civil society values based on compassion and service to others, the mechanisms to reach out to the marginalized and the vulnerable.

The center's comprehensive strategy of “medicine in the service of peace” provides Palestinian children with the same high quality sustainable health services enjoyed by Israeli children, addressing some 1,500 cases each year.

Mazel tov. They need our help to succeed.

Syncrude
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, Syncrude Canada supports the aboriginal people of northern Alberta in many ways through its aboriginal relations program. Those of self-declared first nations, Métis or Inuit descent make up 8.6% of Syncrude's workforce. Syncrude is proud to be one of the largest employers of aboriginal people in Canada.

Syncrude invested over $1.3 million in aboriginal community projects in 2009, and the total business of Syncrude with First Nations and Métis owned companies since 1992 is over $1.4 billion.

Syncrude funds numerous scholarships and programs for research and development. It has received a variety of awards, including the Environmental Stewardship Award from Alberta Venture magazine, gold level certification for progressive aboriginal relations from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Businesses, the Alberta Human Rights Commission's Diversity Leadership Award of Distinction, and the Alberta Emerald Foundation's award for research and innovation.

I commend the great Canadian company Syncrude for its advancement of our aboriginal people and for the great work it does for Canada in northern Alberta.