House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-30.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Unfortunately, the hon. member's time has elapsed.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for York West.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity today to speak to our Liberal opposition day motion as we continue to try to foster debate in this House. Clearly it is not happening often enough that we can actually debate something without getting personal and taking shots at each other, and so on.

I would hope that we can continue for the next hour in a positive way, as we all raise issues that we are concerned about. Hopefully, we can get this off to committee and have some serious work done on it. It is not every day that we get a chance to stand in the House to defend, very importantly, a 400-year old, nearly universal legal concept.

After being hit with Bill C-30 and the outrage of Canadians in the last two weeks, it is important that we have this opportunity. What I am referring to, of course, is the notion called the “castle principle” in the law. Most are familiar with the saying that “A person's home is their castle”. That saying is based on this very idea, that people should be able to feel safe and secure within the privacy of their own homes. I think it is something that we clearly all want to feel.

The idea that governments have no right to violate arbitrarily the sanctity of the home was established in English law in the 17th century. This is not a new thing. In very basic terms, the castle principle came about to prevent tyrants and power-hungry security and government officials from violating basic personal freedoms for no valid or lawful reason.

Why does this particular government feel that this concept no longer applies? I certainly hope it does. I would imagine that when it comes time to do the work on the bill, the government will ensure that it protects them as well.

This ancient legal protection was eventually codified and strengthened in Canada's Charter of Rights and in various other legal statutes enacted over the years. In 1982, the Liberal government understood that privacy was a timeless and foundational right that needed and deserved attention and protection in our Constitution.

Despite assurances to the contrary, it would seem that the current government, either on purpose or by outright ineptitude, and I am not sure which it is, is prepared to ignore the history of these essential protections by laying Bill C-30 on the table in its present form.

At the risk of being labeled a pornography sympathizer, which is what happens when we object to anything to do with Bill C-30, I will say that I think Bill C-30 goes too far, is unnecessarily invasive and needless.

Giving the police and government the right to warrantless searches of private emails and web-browsing activity is conceptually the same as allowing police to view bank records, to monitor private mail and to snoop into the most private elements of a person's life for no particular reason. I cannot imagine that anyone in this House on any side would want that to happen.

Government keeps talking about backtracking and maybe that is not what was meant to happen. However, we have to deal with what Bill C-30 says.

Our motion, as I will refer to it later, tries to illustrate exactly the kind of Canada that we want to see continue and the kinds of rights and protections we want to see for ourselves, our families and the families of other Canadians.

I am a parent and a grandmother, but I believe that snooping around in anyone's email inbox will never help to prevent child pornography. I believe that diminishing or violating the basic rights of the Canadian public is inappropriate and an ineffective investigative tool. I believe that random incursions of people's privacy will not provide useful intelligence to the law enforcement community either.

“Show us the proof” is what we have been hearing all day on a variety of issues. The same goes for Bill C-30. That is exactly what we hope to hear at committee. We believe the government has taken the right step and will refer the bill to committee after first reading. Hopefully, some serious work will be done and a bill will come back that we all can support in this House.

If the police have a legitimate reason to snoop into my banking, email or web-browsing records, a judge would clearly allow for that lawful search to happen. This is the check and balance against the powers of the police and the government running over the rights of innocent citizens. I cannot understand why the police would be afraid to permit a judge to legally review a search request if it is in fact necessary and lawful.

Bill C-30 has many flaws that need to be corrected. Basic privacy must be protected. We are the gatekeepers in Parliament of that fundamental right. We cannot throw away 400 years of basic rights protection for arguable gain. If privacy rights can be shredded by the government, then what other rights can be taken from us next?

The Liberal motion today is seeking to ensure that the government and all future governments will understand that personal privacy is not a luxury, particularly in the Internet age. Our Liberal motion is in three parts. The first part reads:

--(a) the fundamental right of all Canadians to the freedoms of speech, communication and privacy, and that there must be a clear affirmation on the need for these rights to be respected in all forms of communication; (b) that the collection by government of personal information and data from Canadians relating to their online activities without limits, rules, and judicial oversight constitutes a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms' protections against unreasonable search and seizure; (c) that Canadians who have expressed deep concerns about Bill C-30 should not be described as being friends of child pornography or advocates of criminal activity--

Earlier today when my colleague from Random—Burin—St. George's was speaking to the Liberal motion and referencing Bill C-30, an individual from Calgary sent her an email saying, “Just wanted to let you know that I appreciated your intervention in Parliament today. Well said. This bill should be debated. As a network administrator and an IT specialist, I find this legislation ludicrous and costly”. That is what Canadians are saying. It is not something that is being invented by the Liberals.

Freedom of speech and privacy must permeate every level of government and national leadership must start right here with us. We must set the tone. We must never let the idea that only the guilty have reason to fear the erosion of basic rights to become the justification for that erosion.

The second part of the Liberal motion says that access to private information without limits, rules and judicial oversight is not appropriate. The government says that police need this to prevent crime and I cannot imagine why. I am left to wonder why the police and the government are so afraid of judicial oversight. The truth is that police have not been asking for this, but the government appears to be power hungry and stubborn and this time it has zeroed in on the privacy rights of Canadians.

These are important issues that we are debating. Our Liberal motion tries to set a tone for a very important bill that needs to be debated and discussed by all members in the House.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, how is it that the member opposite whose party enacted Bill C-68, a bill that criminalized law-abiding farmers and duck hunters and violated our constitutional rights no less than 11 times, can accuse the Conservative government of breaching the charter when the Liberals tabled a bill that was far more intrusive?

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, if it were intrusive it would not be there. Clearly people can take bills and laws that are passed to the courts if they have an issue with them. To suggest that we violate any laws or rules, the Liberal government when it was in power and the Liberal Party today continues to do nothing short of respecting the rule of law, respecting other parliamentarians and most of all, respecting all Canadians and their wishes, desires, rights and obligations.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the Liberal member's speech. I agree with almost everything she said, but I have to ask what is different about this bill from what the Liberals brought in in 2005. In 2002 when they had consultations on the bill on lawful access the feedback they received from the information and privacy commissioner was that the proposed measures went far beyond what was necessary to maintain existing capabilities and authorities in the face of modern communications technology.

Why is it that the Liberal Party brought forth measures like this in Bill C-74 in 2005, some would say even broader intrusions than are in the current bill, and yet the member and her party are attacking this legislation?

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, clearly, the issues of the Internet and the different kinds of technology that are being used today gave all of us as parliamentarians concern some years back. In consultations with the police and other law enforcement people, there was an attempt to put together a bill that would start us down the path to offer protection where it was needed without having to be intrusive.

We put initiatives forward when we were in government, and we had lots of debate on them. That we put something forward does not mean that it passed. At least we put it forward and started that debate among Canadians and other parliamentarians about the direction in which we needed to go to ensure that Internet users were protected, and most importantly that people were protected, to ensure we would find ways of protecting against child pornography and all of those things that we were trying to do. At least we put it out there and started the debate and started to move in a direction.

No one is saying here that we are completely opposed to Bill C-30. Improvements need to be made to the bill. We are hoping that we will work together to ensure that the objective is achieved, that police officers have the instruments they need, but most importantly that we have the instruments to protect all Canadians, including our children.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Madam Speaker, two years ago the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police was asked to give concrete evidence where investigations had been held back because law enforcement officials had not been able to get access under the current legislation. There was no response. A year later the association was asked again to provide information as to where its officials had been handcuffed in those types of investigations. Still nothing has been forthcoming. The association will have an opportunity to present that at committee.

We saw what took place with Bill C-10, where nine excellent, well-reasoned amendments proposed by the member for Mount Royal were dismissed by the government. Does my colleague from York West see any chance that the government might listen in terms of this legislation coming forward? Does she think it may take some--

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. member for York West has about 30 seconds to respond.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, hope is eternal for me. Given that there was such an outcry and the minister is sending the bill off to committee after first reading, which is the right way to go with a lot of this legislation, I would hope the government would actually be open-minded enough to say that we will work together so that we actually do what we are supposed to do here, which is to pass legislation that is good.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Compton—Stanstead, so I will have 10 minutes to make an address with some questions and comments afterward.

We on this side of the House support this motion, the recognition of the fundamental right of all Canadians to the freedom of speech, communications and privacy, and looking for a clear affirmation on the need for these rights to be respected for all forms of communication. It invokes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a very important part of our Constitution.

The constitutional guarantee under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is very broad. One of the rights specified in the fundamental freedoms, in addition to the freedom of conscience and religion, is the freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

We have in this day and age a media of communication which is a two-way street. There is that of the Internet, emails and electronic communication. We already have, for example, mail service through Canada Post. These are private communications that Canadians are able to make with one another.

When the state desires to interfere with that privacy and to carry out a search or surveillance of these communications, under our law there is a requirement that there be judicial oversight to provide a warrant in most cases, unless someone is caught in the act. No one can enter a person's house, for example, without a warrant, unless under hot pursuit of someone who has just committed a crime. There are protections for fundamental freedoms and legal rights, including the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure. These are the kinds of fundamental rights that we have in our society.

People value their privacy. That is very clear. We have had the government go so far as to suggest that Statistics Canada was invading people's privacy by asking them how many bathrooms they had in their house. As a result the government brought in changes to the statistics forms that had been in use for many years by an agency that is sworn to secrecy and uses the information for statistical purposes only. Therefore, privacy is extremely important.

In the face of these fundamental rights, we have a piece of legislation that challenges those fundamental rights and freedoms by giving powers to the state that it does not have now.

The privacy commissioners and experts are already worried about this legislation, that Canadians' personal information could be obtained without a warrant, violating the rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens. It does target what the Conservatives like to call law-abiding citizens, which is the vast majority of Canadians.

New Democrats believe that we can go aggressively after criminals and punish them to the full extent of the law without making false comparisons. We have heard in this House, to the shame of the government and to the shame of the Minister of Public Safety, false comparisons made to child pornographers and treating law-abiding citizens like criminals.

It is interesting that the most recent public opinion research on the bill which was released on February 24 indicates that 64% of Canadians reject the notion of requiring Internet service providers to give the subscriber data that would be required in the legislation to authorities without a warrant. That is not surprising to me. What is interesting for members opposite is that the highest level of rejection for Bill C-30 is in Alberta. Sixty-six per cent of Albertans are opposed to the provisions contained in Bill C-30 that impose these intrusions on people's privacy.

I find it interesting, not necessarily surprising, that when I look opposite and see what the breakdown in the House is of representation from Alberta there is 1 New Democrat and 26 Conservatives. Twenty-six members on that side of the House represent a province where 66% of the people reject the notion that the government ought to intrude in people's privacy in the way that Bill C-30 provides. That speaks volumes to how out of touch with the people the government is on Bill C-30. People value their privacy and their communication and they do not want the government snooping around without a warrant. That is the issue here.

I do not think it can be said that 66% of Albertans are in league with child pornographers but that is what the Minister of Public Safety has suggested to members on this side of the House. We are either with the government or we are with the child pornographers. We stand with the government or we stand with the child pornographers.

People made a mockery of that, even Margaret Wente who is not normally opposed to some kinds of Conservative legislation. She said that she was with the child pornographers. That is how she handled it, but obviously it was an ironic and sarcastic statement. I guess 66% of Albertans are with the child pornographers if the Minister of Public Safety is to be believed. I do not think that is the case. I think that is a case of law-abiding citizens of Canada, the majority of citizens of Canada, being concerned about their fundamental rights as guaranteed to them by the charter.

This is a worthwhile motion to have considered in the House as we are doing right now. We have legislation before the House that has not passed second reading and, as we have said, the government needs to scrap this legislation and go back to the drawing board and do the kind of consultations required.

As I said last week, the bill will go to committee which is where we will all have a chance to amend it. I do not have a lot of confidence given the hothouse nature of committees. We have seen how politicized they are. We saw happened to Bill C-10. It went to committee for consideration and, after hearing from dozens of witnesses, the time came for clause by clause study and what happened? We had all the witnesses to consider, all the suggestions that they made, and we sit down and have a two hour meeting. There are five parts to the bill, including nine previous pieces of legislation. We spent two hours discussing part one. Six or seven amendments were proposed and they were rejected by the government. When we went back the next day, we were faced with a motion from the government side saying that we would deal with all the rest of the bill today and that if it were not dealt with by 11:59 p.m. tonight it would be deemed to have been put and passed and sent back to the House of Commons.

That is the kind of thing that goes on in committees in the House. That did not happen because we had what is called a filibuster and started talking about how wrong that process was. Eventually, two days were devoted to discussing it, not very much. However, not one amendment proposed by the opposition was deemed worthy of consideration by the government. That is what happens in committee.

We say that Bill C-30 should be scrapped. The government should go back to the drawing board, listen to Canadians and listen to the privacy commissioners. They are there, by the way. They are public officials with the duty and obligation to act on behalf of Canadians to look at this legislation, not with a partisan eye but with an eye to the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians and a principle that says that we should only go so far as we need to go in order to protect the public safety of the people of Canada.

We support the rights of police and law enforcement officials to get warrants to do that. They can get a warrant to look at somebody's mail but they cannot look at somebody's mail without a warrant. They cannot get the kind of information they are asking for people without a warrant. This legislation would provide for warrantless searches, which are not necessary for the protection of the public, whether it be children or adults.

We support the motion today and we want to see it passed. We would hope that the government pays attention to Canadians and pays attention to the fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians when redrafting the legislation and putting together something that it thinks will be acceptable to Canadians.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, the member indicated that we on this side of the House are out of touch.

I would ask the hon. member if all of the police chiefs that have responded to Bill C-30 are out of touch. Is the Vancouver deputy police chief, Warren Lemcke, out of touch when he said, “We can't monitor your e-mails. We can't monitor your phone calls. We can't monitor your surfing unless a judge allows us to do that”. He goes on to say, “I can tell you there are organized crime groups that shop around for certain TSPs because they know they can hide better”.

Jocelyn Ouellette, the New Brunswick chief of police said, “I can assure you that this department supports any tool put at our disposal to fight the heinous crime of child exploitation”.

I want to remind members and the viewers that is about protecting children.

Doe the member think those police chiefs are out of touch as well?

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I find it ironic that the member opposite and the government members in general are quite happy to quote the chiefs of police when it suits them. They did not listen to them on Bill C-19 when they talked about what a valuable tool for law enforcement the gun registry was in terms of investigating crime, finding criminals and prosecuting crime. They did not listen to them then but they are quite happy to quote them now.

The police chiefs are entitled to their opinion but they do not make the laws. However, if police officers say s that any tool that is put at their disposal they will take it, I understand that.

However, it is our job to ensure that whatever tools are created for police enforcement meet the test of fundamental justice, fairness and the fundamental rights of Canadians, whether they be privacy rights or the right to be guarded against unlawful search and seizure. That is what I believe.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I wonder if the member could comment on the committee structure.

We are happy that the government is seeing the wisdom in terms of bringing the bill to committee prior to second reading. That will allow for potential amendments. However, we are a little skeptical as to what degree it will bring in or accept proposed amendments whether from the New Democrats or Liberals.

One of the big concerns we have is in regard to in camera sessions. If the government is committed to having any sort of in camera session or portion thereof, it would prevent the public from being able to understand what it is that the government is saying because it would not have allowed the public to participate in the debate.

Given the member's comments, I wonder if he shares any concerns in regard to the threat or the potential of going in camera during the committee process.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, it is very hard to predict the government in terms of how it operates, as I am sure the hon. member knows. However, I am not sure that even the government would want to have the spectacle of dealing with legislation like this in camera and having those discussions take place in camera.

I do not know if the member was present for the question and comment by his colleague for Cape Breton—Canso who did not seem to have much faith in the committee process on the bill. That is why we are saying that the bill should be scrapped, that the government should go back to the drawing board, have public consultations with Canadians and then come up with something that is acceptable to Canadians. The hothouse of a committee does not seem to work with the current government.

Opposition Motion--Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, opposition day motions are declarative and make a clear position. What I hear from the Liberals is, “Well, yes, we thought it was all right to get rid of the right to privacy when we were in government but we were just getting ideas because we were worried about child pornography.” It sounds like the same message that the Conservatives are saying. However, now the Liberals bring in a motion saying that they are opposed to it, but then they want to work with the bill.

I would ask my hon. colleague why he thinks it is the New Democratic Party that continually has to put backbone into the spineless jelly who cannot seem to make up their mind on whether--