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

Sealing Industry
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, it has been more than two months since Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan informed the WTO that they would no longer import seal pelts, a ban they backdated to August. The loss of Canada's biggest market for seal products is a huge problem for Newfoundland and Labrador communities and the government has done nothing to show its supposed support for a humane and sustainable seal harvest.

Why has the government failed to end the Russian ban of Canadian seal products? Why has it failed the communities that rely on the sealing industry?

Sealing Industry
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Abbotsford
B.C.

Conservative

Ed Fast Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, unlike the NDP, our government remains committed to defending Canada's sealing industry.

The customs union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia has proposed trade sanctions on seal products. On my instructions, Canadian officials are actively engaging with their international counterparts to convey our concerns over these proposed restrictions. The Atlantic and northern seal hunts in Canada are humane, sustainable and well-regulated activities that provide an important source of food and income for families of coastal and Inuit communities.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

February 28th, 2012 / 3 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, as of January 2012, more than 420,000 criminal records still had not been updated. Worse yet, criminal offences that should be in the criminal record repository have apparently never been entered. This situation is unacceptable when we consider that a pedophile could be working at a daycare because his record has not been checked.

Instead of putting on a show with ineffective legislation that costs the taxpayers a pile of money, will the Minister of Public Safety finally take action, having already been informed of this situation?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, our government supports law-abiding Canadians who selflessly give their time to coach and volunteer with vulnerable groups such as children. We encourage the RCMP to work with its policing partners to ensure that criminal record checks are done as efficiently and effectively as possible. Our government has taken steps toward making the process more efficient. Through our leadership, we have reduced the wait times from 17 weeks to 4 weeks.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Patrick Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation from British Columbia; the Hon. David Ramsay, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Minister of Transportation for the Northwest Territories; and the Hon. Currie Dixon, Minister of Economic Development and Minister of Environment for Yukon.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Alleged Interference of Minister's Ability to Discharge Responsibilities
Privilege
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to the question of privilege that the Minister of Public Safety raised in the House yesterday.

I will begin by saying that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons presented a well-researched, cogent argument in support of that. I do not think there is anything I can take issue with in regard to that presentation. However, I do have some concerns about the points that were made by the minister himself.

With regard to the material that did come from the parliamentary secretary, it was quite clear that in each case, when one is looking at the question of privilege, the facts of the case must decide whether in fact privilege has been breached. I believe that is again true in this case.

With regard to the points that the Minister of Public Safety made, he basically had three arguments supporting his position that his privilege had been breached. I will just do a quick summary.

First was that parliamentary resources had been used to attack his position with regard to some incidents in his personal life and with regard to Bill C-30 that was the issue of contention, but it was more that parliamentary resources had been used in that regard that his argument was made.

Second, he argued that the threats that were coming at him, and there can be no dispute over that part of it, that is very clearly a breach of his privilege and the privilege of any member of this House faced with those types of threats, that he either withdraw the bill or additional information would be released, is a clear breach of his privilege and one that would cause us to very strongly agree that his privilege had been breached on the facts of this case.

His third point was on the opposition to Bill C-30, that the people who were opposed to it were clogging up his office. That is the part that most disturbed me. The position that we would be taking as a party is that that is not a valid argument in support of an argument for breach of privilege.

In that regard, Mr. Speaker, I would draw to your attention a ruling by your predecessor, Mr. Milliken, on June 8, 2005. There was a similar type of situation where the member was claiming that his office was being intentionally clogged, that his email and phones were being intentionally clogged on an issue of some import to whoever was doing the work.

The key point for Speaker Milliken was, I believe, the same as in this case. It is not the question of whether in fact that is occurring, although that is a factual matter that should be determined, the important point is whether it is the intent of the people who are trying to contact the minister or the member of Parliament to clog up his office and make it inoperable and impossible for other constituents to have access to the member of Parliament.

The test is: What is the intent of the calls coming in, the emails coming in and the faxes coming in? Intent is the key component.

With regard to this situation, it is quite clear that Bill C-30 is very contentious. We as an official opposition party have been adamantly opposed to it. The third party in the House is adamantly opposed to it. Lots and lots of Canadians are adamantly opposed to it. One of the ways of expressing that opposition is to attempt to contact the minister's office and tell him that this is a bad bill and give reasons for opposing it.

If you make a ruling, Mr. Speaker, that says that if the effect of what one is doing in trying to contact the member of Parliament, in this case the minister, is to clog up his office, it will significantly impact the ability of individual Canadians to express their democratic voice in opposition to legislation.

In this case, it is clear that the bill is so contentious that it is almost impossible to envision that that many calls, those many emails and faxes were coming in with the intent of clogging his office. The intent behind those was that Canadians were expressing their democratic right to oppose the bill. Canadians were telling the minister that they were opposed to the bill and they were giving their reasons.

It is quite clear that relying on that ruling from Mr. Milliken, the Speaker of the day, would not be a basis on which to make a finding of breach of privilege in this case. The facts speak to that quite clearly.

I want to repeat that we have no problem with the finding of breach of privilege because of the second point that the minister made with regard to the threats. That is not tolerable behaviour in our society, in this Parliament and in Canada as a whole. It is just not the way Parliament and our democracy function. Ministers and members of Parliament cannot be threatened in that way, so there is no question that there is a breach of privilege on that point.

On the third point, with regard to clogging his office, that clearly is not a basis for a finding of breach of privilege. I would invite you, Mr. Speaker, to make it specific that that is not a basis on which you could make a finding of breach of privilege, as did Mr. Milliken in that particular case of June 5, 2008.

The minister's first point is more problematic. He is arguing that the use of parliamentary resources to, as he put it, attack him surreptitiously, is more problematic. It is a grey area. The anonymity is the part that bothers me. If this had been done by one of my staff who had simply sent the minister a message using the resources that we have here on the Hill saying “At a personal level, I'm opposed to the bill”, there is no question that is permissible because the individual is just doing his or her job.

The grey area is the anonymity in the way this one was done. That one, Mr. Speaker, I will throw back into your lap and not make a suggestion. However, I do not think it is clear as to whether, because parliamentary resources are being used to communicate to a member of Parliament or to a minister, that automatically means a breach of privilege. I do not think that follows. It is the anonymity part of it that would be of concern.

Alleged Interference of Minister's Ability to Discharge Responsibilities
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to take the opportunity to say that we in the Liberal Party would also like to have the opportunity to comment on the question of privilege either tomorrow or on Thursday.

Alleged Interference of Minister's Ability to Discharge Responsibilities
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I only wish to add a comment to the comments made by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

I also deplore the use of private information as a tool of intimidation against any member of the House. That is a valid point of privilege.

I appreciate the clarity with which my friend from Windsor—Tecumseh identified the reason that I felt discomfort yesterday as the hon. minister put forward a claim of privilege in relation to his office being swamped with calls. One hopes in a vibrant democracy that our offices are always swamped with calls, that our mailboxes are full, that petitions are sent and that Canadians rise up and speak clearly when they find that something we have done as their member of Parliament offends them. We must never think that it is a matter of privilege to stop the public from exercising its right to free speech.

Alleged Interference of Minister's Ability to Discharge Responsibilities
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank hon. members for their further contributions to the question currently before the Speaker.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga.

I will begin by thanking the hon. member for Toronto Centre for his motion. I will limit my response to the hon. member's contention that the collection by government of personal information without limits, rules and judicial oversight constitutes a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That implies that Bill C-30 would provide the state with an unlimited authority to intrude on the privacy and civil liberties of Canadians. This is profoundly misleading. Bill C-30 was carefully crafted to ensure a continuing respect for privacy and civil liberties are maintained and/or strengthened. Bill C-30 has as its primary objective providing the police and national security agencies with the investigative powers they need to combat 21st century crime.

The data preservation scheme proposed in Bill C-30, for instance, is an important investigative tool that would permit the police to order or demand the temporary preservation of computer data. It would not allow for the disclosure of this information without a warrant. Computer data is highly volatile. Telecommunication service providers, for example, routinely delete computer data as a matter of routine business practice. That is why it is imperative that the police have the power to ensure that computer data that might contain important evidence of a crime does not get deleted by a third party before the police have enough time to obtain it by using a judicially authorized warrant or production order.

Limited timelines are provided for the preservation of this information. After 21 days, the preservation demand, which would be made by the police and is intended to cover the time it takes to get the preservation order, would expire. The order, which would require judicial authorization, would then expire after 90 days. I do not know of anyone in the House who has had the opportunity to apply for a warrant in front of a justice. It takes a great deal of time and is not something where one knocks on the door and the justice simply issues it. Once that order expires, the bill would require that all data retained for the purposes of the investigation and not otherwise kept pursuant to regular business practices be destroyed. This objective is achieved in a manner that is respectful of privacy.

I will now elaborate with reference to the proposed transmission data recorder warrant and production order. The Criminal Code currently contains what is called a dialled number recorder warrant, as well as a production order for the same information. These tools allow investigators to collect and produce phone numbers, for instance the number of a phone used by a suspect in an investigation. The transmission data recorder warrant and production order would update the dialled number recorder warrant and production order in recognition of the fact that day-to-day communications are no longer restricted to the telephone. Rather, people now communicate using a variety of different technologies, such as email and text messaging. Technology has even advanced to the point where the lines between technologies have been blurred so that phone calls can be made over the Internet and cellphones can be used to search the World Wide Web.

It is clear that an investigative tool restricted to the collection of phone numbers is not only out of date but severely limits its usefulness. As a result, the new warrant and production order would now allow for the collection and production of data to traditional telephone numbers, but also found in the Internet world.

Like the existing warrant, the transmission data recorder warrant would be obtained when there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the data being sought would assist in the investigation of a crime. Like the existing warrant, the data that could be collected using the warrant would be limited to routing data and telephone numbers. The content of the communications themselves would never be provided under this warrant. To ensure that this power is never used to gain access to the substance of communications, this is written into the definition of transmission data in Bill C-30.

If I were to conclude my remarks at this point, I might leave the impression that Bill C-30 is more or less privacy neutral, that it just maintains the existing safeguards and replicates those safeguards for new investigative powers. However, such an approach without more would fail to take stock of the profound effect that technological advances over the past few decades have had on privacy.

Judicial oversight would ensure an investigation strikes the right balance between individual privacy and the public good. Warrants would be tailored to ensure that the standards guiding that oversight fit with the type of technique at issue. Since tracking people clearly has more privacy implications than tracking cars or other things, the bill would make the standard for getting a warrant to track people higher than that for tracking cars or other objects.

Amendments in the bill would make it necessary for police to prove to judges that they have reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed and that the evidence would assist in the investigation before they are granted the warrant to track people.

Much of Bill C-30 is premised on the idea that each investigative technique the police have at their disposal should have a corresponding investigative power. That is why if data needed to be preserved for the purposes of investigation, Bill C-30 would create a specific way for the police to accomplish that. If the police then needed to obtain that preserved data, they could get a judicially authorized warrant or production order.

The bill in fact follows very closely on three previous bills that have been tabled in the House by Liberal members of the House in 2005, 2007 and 2009.

Our government has proposed legislation to ensure Canada's laws adequately protect Canadians' privacy online. We expect Parliament to conduct a thorough review of our proposed legislation to ensure we strike the right balance between protecting Canadians from crime while respecting Canadians' privacy rights.

Mr. Speaker, I hope my remarks have clarified some misconceptions regarding Bill C-30. I do hope, however, that Parliament will take the time to thoroughly study the bill to ensure that it achieves its purpose to better protect Canadians while also ensuring their right to privacy is protected.

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

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. I am afraid that he is missing some of the key points, just as the security minister yesterday misunderstood, or perhaps did not fully understand, the implications.

I had asked yesterday about clause 34, which would allow the minister himself to designate so-called inspectors. There is no description as to what would be an inspector, but it would be an inspector he decides upon. He would give the inspector the ability to go into any private telecom cellphone business and demand documents, to look at hard drives, and to go through files to gather evidence, all without a warrant.

Perhaps the Conservative Party thinks it is okay for people appointed by a minister to go into private businesses and snoop, to be seen in so-called compliance of the minister's wishes. We in the New Democrats think that is an extraordinary overreach to give that power to a minister.

In subclause 34(4) it actually states that these so-called inspectors named by a security minister could bring with them anyone they felt would help them in doing their job. Does the member not think that that is a complete overreach? Why is it that he could allow such an abuse of private business?

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

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the member opposite understands what he is talking about. Subclause 33(1) says the minister may designate persons or classes of persons as inspectors for the purposes of the administration and enforcement of the proposed act. That is this act.

The member gets way past what he is talking about. What we are talking about is the collection of information by lawful authorities that is done under a warrant, under judicial order. It is a whole different thing. There are lots of inspectors out there who inspect a variety of things. This would be an inspector for the purposes of administration and enforcement of the proposed act only. If he were to go on through it he would see that it is for verifying compliance with the act.

I spoke to the owner of an Internet providing agency that does a great deal of business in Southwestern Ontario. He told me that he read the bill. He said that it would put into place all kinds of safeguards that do not exist. I would think that if the member were really interested in this bill and the privacy of Canadians, he would support the bill.

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

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government has recognized that there are flaws in the proposed legislation it has brought forward. It has said that it will bring it to committee prior to second reading. In a sense, it is good that we are having this debate today. Otherwise we would not have had a debate on Bill C-30 before it went to committee.

The government has a nasty tendency to go in camera in committee. This stops the public from being able to participate or listen to what is being talked about. I wonder if the member can provide information to the House or assurances that the government will not have in camera sittings during the discussions of this important bill when it goes to committee. Can he provide Canadians that assurance?