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 information.

Topics

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

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. member for St. John's East.

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 will take that in part as a comment from my colleague. However, yes, it does seem that when it suits them, the Liberals are on one of a question and then later on they are on another side.

I think members will find consistency and principle in our resolve on this issue, at the risk of being called daily, as we are by government members, as falling into the camp of supporting criminals and all of the nasty things that they say about us when we stand up for principle.

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

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Before resuming debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, Poverty; the hon. member for Avalon, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; the hon. member for Random—Burin—St. George's, Search and Rescue.

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

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, I agreed to speak to this motion here today for several reasons, one being to demonstrate the importance of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression and opinion is fundamental to the reality of our nations and our peoples today. This freedom is governed by certain fundamental rules that allow people to express themselves and to thrive in a civilized society. As an artist, when my freedom of expression and opinion is breached, I cannot help but fight back. The way Bill C-30 is now drafted, it is really hard to know just how badly these arbitrary, abusive rules could infringe on people's privacy and the privacy of artists.

Artists today often communicate over the Internet. They even create works collectively over the Internet. If a text is not to the liking of an inspector—that is the word used in Bill C-30—the authorities could seize that text or the computer belonging to an artist in the process of creating something, whether literary, musical or theatrical. I find it very worrisome that a government would give itself such powers.

I will to come back to the hon. member for Toronto Centre's motion because it includes a number of things that are extremely important to the lives of all Canadians. Given our charter, it seems imperative to me that the House recognize that all Canadians have the fundamental right to freedom of expression, freedom of communication, and privacy. However, the fact that we have come to a point where we must clearly state that these rights must be respected in all forms of communication is rather absurd for a so-called civilized country. I do not understand how Canada has come to this point in 2012. What happened to the nearly 150 years of history and evolution of Canadian society?

The expression of rules of human rights and freedoms dates back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, in which Canada participated. This first modern text was intended to be a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this declaration constantly in mind, would strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures—not outdated and regressive measures—to secure their recognition and observance.

I would like to list several of the principles that helped to shape a number of other texts, including the Quebec and Canadian charters. They are that:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion [on any topic]...

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest...

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference...

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

A number of these basic principles are included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it, “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.

Under section 2 of our charter, everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.

Those rules are essential for a society and the people in it to flourish.

However, over the past few weeks, Canadians have expressed deep concerns, in various ways and media, about Bill C-30. They are concerned about being accused of being friends of child pornography or advocates of criminal activity just because they do not share the same opinion as the government. It is an aberration. If I were to write my opinions in a document and send it to my colleagues, it could be intercepted and I could be found guilty of an offence because the government wants to use the Criminal Code to increase invasions of privacy.

Bill C-30 would require Internet service providers with the necessary means to allow national security and law enforcement organizations to use their authority to intercept communications.

Artists and many social activist groups communicate over the Internet. Is this a continuation of the paranoia we saw a few years ago at the G8 and G20?

Part VI of the Criminal Code, which includes sections 183 through 196, lists the rules that apply to invasion of privacy in cases of interception and spying. I am not an expert in this field, but the Criminal Code refers to the authorization to intercept a private communication by means of any device used to intercept this communication. Individuals can be found guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for five years.

We are in a bad way if we no longer trust the authorities in place. The individuals who form a nation and a people must feel safe in their country, particularly when it comes to freedom of expression and association. That is vital. As I was saying, the communications of public interest groups, social activist groups and communities with specific needs could be intercepted and their computers and equipment, which are very important to them, could be seized.

I will now come back to the arts, which I wanted to speak about. From Robert Johnson to Jimmy Hendrix, artists have sung about the right to freedom; from Moses to Martin Luther King, leaders of all nations have wanted to free their people and have advocated freedom of expression and, above all, freedom of choice and social justice. That is what we are discussing today in the House, which considers itself to be modern and democratic. On all the stages of this world, whether musical or political, leaders have strongly condemned the injustices afflicting the people. Our former leader was one of them. Like him, I will continue to speak out until our voices are heard by the decision-makers, who are ignoring the legitimate calls for rights and freedoms.

The Who sang, “Long live rock, I need it every day”. I need freedom of expression every day because it is my right, and I want to enjoy this right until the moment I die.

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

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I do not know if there is any relation, but as I listened to my esteemed colleague's passionate speech, I suddenly got the feeling that I was in the presence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the Enlightenment philosopher who could very well have said almost exactly the same thing.

My question is very simple: does the evolution of our modern means of communication justify this kind of violation of basic rights and freedoms? Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the first to declare his support for the declaration of the rights of man, which came along a few years later.

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

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Regardless of the evolution of telecommunication in our societies, invasions of privacy are a flagrant violation of human dignity. For a government that refuses to tolerate criticism, opposition, or different ways of thinking and acting to arbitrarily disregard human dignity is an absolutely unbelievable violation. It is an injustice that we will continue to strongly condemn.

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

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleague for his passionate speech on freedom of expression and the rights and freedoms that Canadians enjoy.

For the pure pleasure of hearing him expand on this topic, I would like him to comment on what the right to freedom of expression we enjoy in Canada means to him.

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

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her wonderful question. Freedom of expression is the right of an individual, a group, a nation, a population, to build their culture and society and to hope for a better world. This means dialogue and communication between individuals, the right to proclaim one's existence loud and clear. I exist, I exist, and I am entitled to my opinions. I was born on this planet and I have the right to express myself loud and clear. I have the right to my political, personal and religious beliefs. I have the right to my sexual orientation. I have the right to live and thrive in Canada and Quebec, my beloved Quebec, and my beloved region, the Eastern Townships.

This is a fundamental right that must be protected. Bill C-30, as it is currently drafted, will not achieve this. I hope my colleagues across the floor will accept some very reasonable amendments.

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

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my NDP colleague for his impassioned speech defending the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which will soon celebrate its 30th anniversary—30 years since a Liberal government presented this historic guarantee to the people of Canada. I thank my colleague for his support for this important event.

Could the member please describe the amendments that the NDP is preparing to put forward that will help to defend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in which he so passionately believes?

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

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, my answer will be brief, since now is not the time to give any details about the amendments we plan to propose regarding Bill C-30. However, I know our critics have a long list of them, which we will share in due course.

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

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this opposition day debate on the motion concerning privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

We are talking today about Bill C-30 which of course we all know has been before the House. We heard the unfortunate statements of the Minister of Public Safety when he was asked by a member from this party about the bill, when he was challenged about it two weeks ago. He suggested that in fact we are either with them and the bill, or else we are with the child pornographers. That was a very unfortunate start, and a very unwise and unfortunate thing to say.

This is a significant piece of legislation. It is important to get the right balance, but it also important to have the right balance in this discussion and not bring such inflammatory language and outrageous statements to us, suggesting that people who are opposed to the bill, law-abiding Internet users and law-abiding computer owners, are in fact somehow on the side of child pornographers. It is outrageous. To suggest that those people who are concerned about maintaining the right of privacy are somehow in cahoots with people who are doing horrible things is unfounded, unjust and unwise. This debate really did get off on the wrong foot.

There has been a great deal of opposition to this bill. There was a great reaction to the comments from the Minister of Public Safety. In fact, we know that even a few of the Conservative backbenchers were expressing their concern that this bill was going too far. They obviously must have heard from an awful lot of people, as I did and as most members in the House did, who were upset at what the government appeared to be trying to do.

This was certainly perceived by many Canadians as intrusion into the private lives of Canadians without judicial oversight. That is the key point here, what kind of oversight there is going to be. I think that most of us, if not all of us, can understand why this legislation has to be updated. The world has changed in the past year, technologically, and it has certainly changed a lot in the past six years and in the past decade or two.

I noted the comments of Police Chief Frank Beazley of Halifax. He indicated that there is a need for police to have the ability to look at these things. I take his concerns seriously. I share his concern about the ability to prevent crime from happening. I think it is fair to say that, rather than suggesting that someone who opposes this bill or has questions about it is on the side of child pornography. I do not believe there is a member in this House who is on that side. I believe that all of us strongly want to condemn and combat child pornography. Let us have this discussion in a serious sombre way.

We need to have a discussion about what the bill should and should not do, and how it should go forward. We believe it is currently flawed. My leader said earlier today that we on this side would never say that we do not believe there are grounds, times and ways in which the police and other investigating officers have a right to access information which is held by a service provider. He went on to say that the key issue is whether the House is prepared to say to Canadians that it can happen, but it cannot happen without prior judicial authorization. It is really a very specific issue.

Of course it is a complicated bill. There is much more to it that we could talk about. It should be examined, and that is fine. In fact that is how a government should approach things. It should bring forward a bill, which gets to committee if the House decides to send it to committee, and it should be examined there. Members should take a strong interest. Members from all sides, even from the government side, should look at it very critically.

That is the responsibility we have as members of Parliament. I want to refer to what the Minister of Public Safety said today. He has taken a much more moderate tone, thankfully. He said that he believes in the principles of due process, and has respect for privacy and presumption of innocence. Those are fundamental principles. He said that he believes that in his view Bill C-30 adheres to those principles but that we need to update our laws, while striking the right balance.

There is much of that with which we can agree. He says that he wants the balance between combatting crime and protecting privacy. We agree with that. Our sense is that too often the Conservative government's idea of balance is what we may consider a little too far to the right. It is not exactly a balance, in our mind, with what the Conservatives started with here and certainly with the way the minister reacted to being challenged on this.

Therefore, why not get it right? The Conservatives should have had it right before bringing in the bill. The minister ought to have known what was in the bill. We saw that when he was questioned about it and he did not know about a particular provision in the bill and then discovered it was. That is not an indication of a minister who has done his homework, has prepared himself and has carefully gone over the bill that he is responsible for bringing to the House. It seems to me it is important that the Conservatives stop playing political games.

Let us examine the motion moved in the House today. It asks the House to recognize the fundamental right of all Canadians to freedom of speech. That is very important. It also calls for recognition of freedom of communication, which we are enjoying right now. This has changed a great deal in our lifetime. There were no cellphones or computers 30 or 40 years ago, and we could not exchange emails as we do today. The means of communication have completely changed. This must be reflected in the law and, at the same time, we must protect Canadians' rights.

The motion also asks that the House recognize “that there must be a clear affirmation on the need for these rights to be respected in all forms of communication”. It also suggests “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”.

My question is as follows: how can we ensure that Canadians are protected and that there is oversight of government and police activities, while providing police with the tools they need?

I hope the government will seek a good balance and be open to the comments and arguments made in committee. I remember when our party formed the government. We often had great debates within our party. During committee meetings, Liberal MPs were free to express themselves and, from time to time, they were against the government's position. In a committee considering a bill, it is very important that the members consider their responsibilities toward the public. When we are sworn in as MPs, it is to serve our constituents, but also our country. We have a responsibility to seek the best bills and to make amendments that are going to improve them. Those are challenging and serious responsibilities and we have to take them seriously.

Today's motion also states 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”. That seems obvious to me. I am glad the minister has stopped making such characterizations and, in future, I would like there to no longer be such unfair and abusive responses.

The motion also states “that the Charter is the guarantor of the basic rights and freedoms of all Canadians”.

I hope that the government will support this motion. I find it hard to see any reason why it would not. There are some things we can all agree on, and I hope this is one of them. We shall see.

As I was saying, I am anxious to hear the speech by the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, who will follow me after the period for questions and comments. I hope all hon. members of the House will support this motion. I see no reason why they would not.

When Bill C-30 is reviewed in committee, I hope there will be a good debate and that there will be openness to amendments.

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

4:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, when I ask my hon. colleague from Halifax West about the legislation, I add parenthetically that the hon. member and I were classmates at Dalhousie Law School in the same years and I want to ask him a legal question.

I look at the legislation and I do not see, as the Conservative members have pointed out, anything that lets police read our emails. I do see an unwarranted invasion of our privacy. How does hon. member feel about the fact that without warrant and without any suspicion of any crime, significant information would be turned over to law enforcement authorities?

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

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. classmate. I do not know how often that is said in the House. We often say hon. colleague, hon. friend but not often hon. classmate, so it is nice to be talking about the law with a young classmate from a few years ago.

The idea that without warrant investigators could have access to personal information that, as most Canadians feel, ought to be private is very disturbing and disconcerting. That is the question. What can we find as a balance to ensure police officers have the tools they need so they can quickly get the authorization they need to do the investigation and stop people who are engaging in child pornography from distributing it or taking part in any way in that kind of activity? We have to do that, while at the same time protect Canadians who are law-abiding computer users going about their activities online in a legitimate way, but who ought to be able to do that privately, without someone watching what they are doing. Therefore, it is very disturbing and that is the question with which the committee has to grapple.

The attitude of trying to figure this out is how a government ought to bring this kind of bill to the House, not saying it knows what it is doing and that it is not listening to anybody else and that if it is challenged, it will attack. It is by taking a much more open approach and being open to criticism and to changes.

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

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, it is interesting because the Liberal Party brought a similar bill forward previously. I am reading from the Quorum and it talks about the Daily Gleaner. There is a report that says that in December 2010 New Brunswick RCMP began to investigate a case of sharing child pornography and that the suspect had up to 170 Internet addresses. The police went to the provider who refused that information and about 15 days later the police got the warrant. In the meantime, that user quit using that address so the police could not get any information.

I wonder how quickly police could track down these child predators without having an opportunity to go in and get some basic information prior to getting a warrant.

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

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, in relation to the bill brought forward by the Liberal government back in 2005, as I said earlier, the practice of that government and our party was that there was great debate in committee and openness to that debate. Sometimes a bill would go to committee and come back and be changed after that or have big changes in committee because of the debate that went on.

My hon. colleague has raised a valid question and that is the kind of thing with which the committee has to grapple. We know that 95% of police requests for information from Internet service providers are granted. This is really about the other 5% and how we deal with those. I will not suggest for a minute that I want to see that 5% of the people involved in child pornography get away with it, that is not the idea at all. However, there must be some mechanisms in place so there can be approval given quickly, an examination of this sort of question, and that there is also oversight.

One thing that worries me is this idea that every Internet service provider is going need to have the wherewithal, the software or something, to be able to watch what is going on. The worry is that once this is the case, when is it going to be abused and how can we—