Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House this morning to talk about Bill C-47, a bill that deals with very specific aspects of the rules governing lawful access. As some of my colleagues have already mentioned, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-47 in principle, but we do have reservations and would like to see an amendment to guarantee the protection of people's privacy.
Bill C-47 seeks to enable the police to adapt their investigative techniques to contemporary technological realities, such as the widespread use of cellphones and the Internet. Facilitating police work, where it does not unduly interfere with fundamental rights, is an avenue the Bloc Québécois has always advocated for fighting crime. Our party feels that increasing the likelihood of getting caught is a much greater deterrent than increasing punishments, which often seem remote and abstract.
However, this bill raises a number of concerns about respect for privacy because the reasons for invading privacy are not necessarily defined. The Bloc Québécois supports this bill in principle because it is important to strengthen police powers to deal with the most complex forms of organized crime. Nonetheless, it will work in committee to ensure that invasions of privacy occur as rarely as possible, only when necessary, and always according to strict guidelines.
I hope that the Conservative Party will welcome the Bloc Québécois' amendments to Bill C-47 to protect individual privacy rights and ensure that this bill is implemented as quickly as possible. It is important, critical even, to take action against crimes committed using the Internet. I hope that the Conservative Party will not use this bill merely to spread political and partisan propaganda about how tough it is on crime. As we all know, the Bloc Québécois usually supports initiatives to curb criminal activity, as long as they are sensible, which we do not always find to be the case.
Somewhat similar to Bill C-46, Bill C-47 would allow police forces to adapt their investigative techniques to modern technologies. Of course I am talking about the increasingly widespread use of the Internet and cellphones. Indeed, Bill C-47 and Bill C-46 complement each other. We believe that they could have been combined into one bill. They both have many of the same objectives. They could have very easily been presented in another way. However, based on how they have been presented, we would of course like to debate them.
Basically, these bills seek to give the appropriate authorities additional tools that are adapted to modern technologies in order to prevent crimes before they are committed, by gathering information on the Internet and through other means of communication. This bill is crucial, considering the new types of organized crime that are carried out over the Internet.
For instance, in my riding recently—just two weeks ago—a man of Moroccan origin was arrested and convicted. He was found guilty of a series of terrorism-related charges.
This bill also aims to address cyber-terrorism, to control it and prevent such crimes from being committed.
In the case I mentioned, the evidence was based primarily on the contents of the defendant's computer, in Maskinongé, and on the violent content he created and transmitted over the Internet.
The purpose of Bill C-47 is to improve investigative techniques. It responds to concerns expressed by law enforcement agencies regarding the fact that new technologies, particularly Internet communications, often represent obstacles that are very difficult to overcome.
Thus, Bill C-47 seeks to facilitate police investigations by compelling telecommunications service providers to acquire technology that would allow them to intercept electronic data and, more importantly, allows police forces to access that data. We are talking about data that could indicate, for example, the origin, destination, date, time, duration, type and volume of a telecommunication.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of effective and smart ways to fight crime, but as we have said many times in this House, we do not always share the Conservative government's vision regarding certain bills, especially when it comes to incarceration measures. Incarceration and minimum sentences have been tried, most notably in the United States, with disastrous results. Yes, incarceration is valid for serious crimes, but it should not always be used automatically and especially not with the principle of minimum sentences.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, but that has not necessarily led to a reduction in crime. We have to be very careful about the sort of measures we introduce to fight crime. They must always be aimed at reducing the crime rate. I do not believe that we should be adopting the American model in this area. We still feel that the Conservative Party looks to the Americans for inspiration when it introduces bills that, often, do not reduce crime.
To come back to Bill C-47, no federal law currently requires or compels all telecommunications companies to use equipment that allows communications to be intercepted. The bill seeks to make up for the fact that there is no standard covering the interception capabilities of telecommunications companies.
As I said earlier, Bill C-47 seeks to clarify certain aspects of the lawful access regime. Currently, the police need a warrant in order to compel telecommunications companies to provide them with personal information about their clients. With this bill, certain designated people within law enforcement agencies could, without a warrant or court order, compel a company to provide them with basic information about one of their subscribers.
Obviously, protection measures governing this request for information have been provided in the legislation. Only a very limited type of information is covered by this new system. The bill clearly indicates that the information could be obtained without a warrant. Only designated persons could request information under this bill.
The police can obtain this information without a warrant, but the bill nonetheless puts in place certain extrajudicial protection measures such as the creation of records to trace every request for information.
It is also important to add that although the legislation will apply to businesses that operate a telecommunications facility in Canada, private networks, services for the sale or purchase of goods, and certain specified institutions are exempt from the legislation. I am talking here about registered charities, hospitals and retirement homes. All the exceptions are in the bill.
What concerns me about Bill C-46 is the privacy and freedom of people who use the Internet or other forms of communication.
This bill must not lead to an intrusion into people's private lives or the exchanges between individuals. Honest people have to be able to surf the Internet in a safe and private manner. They must be able to have conversations and conduct financial transactions safely. Honest people must not be taken hostage by criminals in this society, and hence, we need to protect privacy. We have to approach this bill carefully.
In a democratic society, the government's actions have to be transparent and citizens need to know that their privacy is protected. Children need to be protected from pedophile rings and all the other sex offenders on the Internet. We have to protect our economic assets so that we can conduct our transactions and deal with the financial aspects of organized crime. We have to protect our societies from cyber-terrorism, as I mentioned in my speech. This is a situation that people in my riding experienced not so long ago.
Organizations that defend human rights, in this case the right to privacy and confidentiality of communications, have raised a number of points that must be examined when we study this bill in committee. They are definitely important witnesses and should be invited to appear before the committee. The work must be done and it will naturally take time.
The bill introduced today has many complex provisions. Moreover, the impact of certain provisions on other laws is also very difficult to gauge.
We want to take the time to study the bill thoroughly, but we must also act quickly, examine all aspects and especially hear from police organizations and human rights organizations as they have also undertaken the arduous task of studying this bill.
These people must be heard in committee. You can rest assured that the Bloc Québécois will recommend many witnesses.
They must be given, as must we, the time to reflect and to ensure that this legislation strikes a true balance between the need of police to investigate—which is important because we are all familiar with today's growing cybercrime and they have to be able to do their job—and protecting privacy rights. We cannot choose between the two. this bill must clearly respect both issues.
I would also like to touch on the aspect of prevention in an effective strategy to fight cybercrime. This strategy must, of necessity, be based on a multi-pronged approach, whether implemented by the public or the private sector.
It is important to give the public, and especially younger people, the tools and the means to protect themselves against this new type of cybercrime which, unfortunately, is becoming increasingly prevalent.
Therefore, we have to encourage individuals and business people to adopt safe computer practices. At present, Internet users are often careless. Many people start up their computers and store important information in them without giving any thought to the potential, unfortunate consequences.
We need to change how people think, and in order to do so, we need make them more aware. We need to educate and inform the public, and give them the tools they need to protect themselves against cybercrime. This is important. We must invest money into educating the public.
In order to continue our fight against cybercrime and to defend the right to digital privacy, our primary goal, as I mentioned, must be to protect individuals, organizations and governments while taking fundamental democratic principles into account. Obviously, the tools to fight computer crime could potentially violate human rights and compromise the confidentiality of personal information. Securing information requires surveillance, controls and filters. Safeguards must be put in place to avoid allowing people to abuse their power or to dominate, and to avoid Big Brother type situations. We must ensure that fundamental rights are respected—I cannot stress that enough in this speech. In particular, we must ensure that the digital privacy and the confidential personal information of people who use these telecommunications networks are protected.
National legislation regarding the protection of personal information has been around for a long time. We also know that security is the result of a compromise.
I see that I have only two minutes remaining. We must ensure that cyberspace does not become a virtual smorgasbord for cybercriminals, or a dangerous place, or a place with an excessive police presence, or a place controlled by an ultra-powerful entity. We must bring democratic values and the human aspect back into the debate on new technologies. We must find ways to become informed Internet users and not vulnerable and dependent consumers.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the House for allowing me to speak. I want to say that we will support this bill with some reservations. We will examine it in committee.