Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to speak to Bill C-46. We will probably study Bill C-47 either later today or tomorrow. Bills C-46 and C-47 are very closely related to each other and, for those watching us, have to do with cybercrime.
It appears that the Canadian government has finally entered the 21st century and wants to address the very serious problem of cybercrime. Before going into the details, I would like to give some background. There was a convention, if we can call it that, known as the convention on cybercrime. That convention was the subject of many meetings. In fact, there were 27 different versions of the convention on cybercrime before the final version was drafted and signed by many countries, including Canada, the United States, Japan, South Africa, and even the Council of Europe. All the countries that signed the convention undertook to introduce one or more bills to implement the convention on cybercrime. That is precisely what the government is doing here today.
We can examine the technical details of the bill in committee. Yes, the Bloc Québécois agrees that Bill C-46 should move forward and be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. This will also probably be true for Bill C-47.
Bill C-46 should allow police forces to adapt their investigative techniques to modern technologies like cellphones, iPods, the Internet, as well as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter that link today's online world. This bill will give police forces access to such technologies.
When a bill like this is introduced there is one thing the government and parliamentarians must not forget: the bill must not infringe on basic rights even though we are trying to properly equip our police forces to deal with crime. All of this is being done in response to what happened in 2001. Even though we know that work on cybercrime began in 1995, the events of September 2001 had a substantial impact. That is when governments realized they did not have the means to intercept certain communications. Before and after 1995, and even before and after 2001, surveillance was used. It was very easy to realize you were being followed. We are not talking about a James Bond movie here. We are not nearly as sophisticated as the show 24, where the characters are totally equipped to deal with crimes of this nature. We needed to find tools to help deal with cybercrime and make them available to our police forces.
Cybercrime is very subtle and very insidious. It is everywhere today. The members opposite, especially those from the Conservative Party, talk about the luring of children or what some people attempt to do with computers, namely slowly but surely approach children to have sexual encounters.
It is much more than that. I am not saying that the luring of children is not a serious crime, far from it. This is an extremely serious crime. There are also other crimes that are much more subtle, including identity theft and the planning of major crimes. Just look at the London subway bombings. They were planned right here in Canada. Somewhere near Toronto, attacks were being planned with global targets. Here in Canada, the police thanked an individual whose assistance was instrumental in foiling a crime about to unfold in Great Britain.
Cybercrime has become a global phenomenon. Today, we cannot simply say that cybercrime only occurs in Canada, Quebec, or Ottawa and the surrounding region. Cybercrime is a global phenomenon and it has to be addressed globally. That is the purpose of Bill C-46 and Bill C-47, which we will study in the coming days.
There is something worrying me. We will have to carefully study the intrusion into the personal life of an individual. I hesitate to say this because the line between the intrusion into the rights of an individual versus the protection of society is increasingly blurred. We will have to keep a very close eye on this as we study the bill. We must ensure that citizens do not run the risk of being more vulnerable to an intrusion into their private lives. I do not think that anyone in this House is against adapting legislation to the new realities in technology and crime.
I believe that it is abundantly clear that criminals, especially those working on the Web, are brilliant for the most part. Anyone who can use such tools as Facebook or Twitter and the whole Internet is intelligent enough to hatch a good plan for a crime.
We are very close to that reality when we see someone using their cell phone, sending coded messages and providing information over the Internet. We have to follow this up. I will give the example of the transfer of “illegal” funds to tax havens. I spoke about this when debating Bill C-42 and Bill C-52. Today, criminals who use computer technology are increasingly smart. Thus, police forces must be equipped to deal with them. That is the objective of Bill C-46.
Technologies do not just benefit criminals and are also available to police. The Bloc Québécois believes that it is important and rather urgent for police to be equipped to detect not just crimes that have been committed, not just those about to be committed, but those that are being planned. We have to be one step ahead of the criminal planning a crime and able to intervene before an offence is committed. That is the objective of Bill C-46.
However, we must avoid allowing the police to use their investigative tools to gain access to a very large amount of information—it goes that far—but we must also monitor some peoples' activities on the Internet to learn more about their private lives. It goes far beyond listening to telephone conversations. This bill goes much further than that.
However, we must find a balance between the fundamental rights to privacy and safety. That is what this is all about. Is the right to privacy more important that the right to safety? That line is easily crossed by police officers or unscrupulous individuals.
We must remember that some police offers were convicted of having used the computer system of the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec to monitor a spouse's new friend and watch over the movements of that individual. Those police officers were convicted because they had taken private information.
We must be very careful, and this will probably be the most important debate over the next few months. The Ligue des droits et libertés has raised some concerns. We must be careful, we must be prudent, we must be aware, and we must realize that there could be some slip-ups. When it comes to truly addressing security concerns, is protecting the rights of individuals less important than protecting society? That is a debate that will have to be held when the time comes to examine the bill in committee.
It is clear, and I would like to share a little about what the Ligue des droits et libertés has said. According to the Ligue, the bill constitutes an unprecedented invasion of privacy. It has brought up the following points. The government is presenting its bills as a way to make the necessary changes to traditional investigative powers for electronic surveillance to adapt to new communication technologies. But there is no comparison between the information transmitted through a telephone conversation and information that circulates freely.
Moreover, unlike telephone conversations, which leave no trace unless they are recorded, modern communications leave a trail in computer memories that can be detected long after the fact. That is a very important point, and I hope that nobody in this Parliament or in Canada or Quebec believes that once an email has been sent, it is over and done with. Unfortunately for them, I have bad news, because when people send an email using their computer or even their BlackBerry, there is always a trail. Their hard drives retain information about every email ever sent, and that information can be retrieved. That is where we find ourselves in a grey area.
But the Ligue des droits et libertés adds that everything we do in our everyday lives could come under police investigation. They will have access to lists of the websites we visit, emails we send and receive, credit card purchases, purchases of all kinds—clothing, books, winter gear—our outings, our movements abroad and in Canada, gas purchases, on-line and ATM banking transactions and medical information. Naturally, the list might get even longer.
We have to be prudent. I do not necessarily share all of the concerns expressed by the Ligue des droits et libertés, but they are urging us to be prudent. As parliamentarians, we have to use our judgment. We have to tell police forces—the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec, the Ontario Provincial Police and other police services in large municipalities—that there are lines that must not be crossed once Bill C-46 is passed.
I firmly believe that one thing is for sure: police forces must have the tools they need to deal with crime in the 21st century. Yes, armed robberies and bank heists are still happening, although less frequently according to the latest statistics. We still hear about corner store hold-ups and all kinds of other assaults. But there is now a new kind of crime called cybercrime. We have been looking for ways to fight it since 1995. We have to make sure we have the tools to do that.
I listened closely to what the Ligue des droits et libertés said, and I feel that we have to be careful. The Ligue says that the bill provides little or no protection against unreasonable seizures without a warrant. The authorities will be able to obtain subscriber data even though the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act recognizes that this information is private. This is provided for in Bill C-47, but the authorities could still obtain this information. Without a warrant and on the basis of a suspicion, an officer will be able to ask a service provider to keep the contents of all your communications. It is like asking the post office to photocopy all your mail in case something should happen. I feel that people may go a bit too far sometimes, but this serves as a reminder that we must be cautious. I do not necessarily share the views of the Ligue des droits et libertés, but as politicians, we have to listen to both sides of the story.
The Ligue des droits et libertés also says that with a warrant obtained on the basis of a mere suspicion, an agent will easily be able to compel the service provider to turn over all its lists and so on. I believe that this is a bit dangerous, and we will have to address it when this bill is studied in committee. The Ligue added that with a warrant, which can be obtained on the basis of reasonable grounds to believe—less stringent conditions than for wiretapping—the content of your communications could be intercepted.
Certainly, what the Ligue des droits et libertés is saying is important. It is calling on parliamentarians to be careful when we print and pass legislation, but especially when we apply it. Once the law is passed, it may be too late to amend it. I will say one thing right now: police forces must be equipped to deal with cybercrime and 21st century crime. It is clear that crime prevention is one promising solution. The police will need to be able to prevent such crimes, and that takes equipment.
Obviously, the authorities have to try to uncover a plot before it is carried out. Once a crime has been committed, it is a little late to intervene, even if the criminals are brought to justice. In closing, if the authorities can thwart the crime before it is committed, I believe that this bill is a step in the right direction.