An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to create offences of identity theft, trafficking in identity information and unlawful possession or trafficking in certain government-issued identity documents, to clarify and expand certain offences related to identity theft and identity fraud, to exempt certain persons from liability for certain forgery offences, and to allow for an order that the offender make restitution to a victim of identity theft or identity fraud for the expenses associated with rehabilitating their identity.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to the third reading of Bill S-4, which would amend the Criminal Code to address the growing problem of identity theft. Bill S-4 has been reported back from the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights without amendment.

As the witnesses who testified before the committee agreed, this legislation is urgently needed. The new and constantly evolving technologies that dramatically improve our lives are being exploited by enterprising criminals.

Identity theft is growing, both in the number of incidents and in the amount of losses to consumers, retailers, service providers, financial institutions, and also governments.

However, as the witnesses and experts also made very clear, identity theft is not just about money. There is a great deal of fear among Canadians that their identities are being exploited and being abused by criminals. When identity information is used in the course of a fraud, a travel-related offence or another offence, the ramifications for the victim can be severe. Victims of identity theft suffer psychological harm and feelings of being violated. In extreme cases, Canadians can lose their life savings, and sometimes even their homes, or they can be left with a poor credit rating, based on the criminal acts of others.

Long after these victims spend their time and energy clearing their good names, there remain lingering feelings of vulnerability and loss of control over their lives and anxiety for years to come over whether the nightmare is even over. The fear of having their identities misused again at some unknown point in time in the future is a constant for these victims.

Police are increasingly seeing links between identity theft and organized crime, and even terrorism. Organized criminals use other people's identities to camouflage their own identities and to commit crimes to generate large profits. We are seeing identity information collected in one place and instantaneously shipped over the Internet to criminal gangs in other countries for manipulation. The criminals are getting ahead of us in their level of organization and sophistication.

RCMP witnesses who testified before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights explained that the key components of Bill S-4 are new offences that would close legislative gaps. Right now, criminals can collect, possess and traffic in identity information for criminal purposes, but they may not be guilty of any crime. While the ultimate criminal or fraudulent use of other people's identities is clearly criminal under a variety of offences, such as fraud or personation, Bill S-4 would directly target the early phases of identity theft operations which today may fall through the legal cracks. The new offences contained in Bill S-4 would allow the police to take action and lay charges even before a fraud is committed or a person is impersonated or someone unlawfully crosses the border with phony documents.

As the RCMP witnesses testified before committee, Bill S-4 would bring our laws one step closer to protecting not only individual Canadians but also the integrity of the Canadian economy.

Other aspects of Bill S-4 would clarify and complement existing offences in the Criminal Code. For instance, in addition to existing offences regarding the protection of the mail and Canada Post operations, new offences would be added to address redirecting mail and stealing mail from a mailbox, both of which are known techniques used by identity thieves to gather information.

As I already mentioned, new offences concerning the collection and possession of identity information are included in the bill, as is the new offence of trafficking in identity information. The offence of personation already prohibits the fraudulent use of another person's identity, and this would now be renamed “identity fraud”.

The idea here is for the criminal law to clearly reflect the full sequence of identity crime activities. Identity theft, the collecting and possessing of identity information, is followed by trafficking in identity information, which is then followed by identity fraud, the actual fraudulent use of the identity information.

Bill S-4 would also extend the restitution provisions in the Criminal Code to help victims recover some of the costs they must bear to obtain new documents and otherwise rehabilitate their identities if they are victimized. This measure would, hopefully, go some way toward remedying the damage done to Canadians who struggle to cope with having lost control of their identities.

Other vital aspects of Bill S-4 are the narrowly tailored exemptions relating to the manufacture and use of false documents for use by undercover police officers. One exemption permits people who make false documents to be shielded from liability if they do so in good faith and at the request of a police agency or government department. The other exemption permits peace officers to make and use false identity documents without criminal liability solely where they do so for the purpose of maintaining a covert identity.

In the House, in committee and in the Senate some concerns were raised about the exemptions because they do not contain an oversight or accountability mechanism. The government considers it entirely appropriate to grant these exemptions as the making and use of false documents for covert investigations as fundamental to effective law enforcement. The exemptions are very narrow. They do not permit anyone to commit fraud, identity theft, impersonation or any offence outside of a few narrow forgery offences.

Peace officers can use false documents only for the purpose of maintaining their covert identity. They will fall outside the scope of the exemption if they use the forged documents for any other purpose. The government considers these exemptions to be close parallels to the exemption provided to police for the carrying of a firearm. There is no oversight required for each occasion on which a police officer carries his or her weapon. The law simply makes it clear that officers may carry firearms whenever they are on the job.

Similarly, requiring oversight for each instance in which an undercover agent makes or uses a false identity document to support his or her covert identity would be administratively burdensome, if not impossible. More important, as there is no conceivable harm that can come to Canadians by these limited exemptions, oversight would serve no conceivable useful purpose. The government is confident that the exemptions in Bill S-4 are both necessary and appropriate.

It bears mentioning that in the Senate the legal and constitutional affairs committee amended this bill to put in a five year review of the legislation. The government is pleased that the legislation will be reviewed so that parliamentarians can consider how effective the law has been at helping to reduce and prevent identity fraud. That evaluation will give us an opportunity to appreciate whether any additional amendments or any other improvements should be made to better protect Canadians from identity crime.

Bill S-4 would not immediately bring an end to identity crime. No piece of legislation alone would be capable of doing that. Still, Bill S-4 is a giant step forward and would provide law enforcement in this country with some tools that are currently missing from its toolbox. Witnesses have been clear that Bill S-4 is urgently needed.

As technology advances, so too must criminal law and the Criminal Code. I, therefore, encourage all hon. members to pass this legislation without further delay.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, the issue of reverse onus is problematic. As the member will undoubtedly know, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that an accused charged with any Criminal Code offence is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty and that the crown bears the onus of establishing each and every element of the offence.

The short answer to his question is that there was no serious discussion about reversing the onus with respect to Bill S-4. However, the member should be happy to know from a reading of Bill S-4 that simple possession is an offence. There is no longer a requirement that the possession be for some further unlawful act or for the purpose of committing a fraud, impersonation or some other Criminal Code offence. Possession of someone else's identity is an offence in and of itself.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Edmonton—St. Albert for the speech he made a few moments ago.

I work with the member for Edmonton—St. Albert on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. He is very much interested in improving our Criminal Code and strengthening measures to protect the most vulnerable. The bill before us today, Bill S-4, deals with identity theft.

I do not intend to speak at length because the Liberal Party supports Bill S-4, which was in fact introduced in the previous Parliament. The bill was first introduced in the House of Commons, but this time around, the government introduced it in the Senate. We have discussed it in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and we believe these are reasonable and appropriate measures to address a problem that increasingly affects our seniors.

I had the opportunity to speak this morning with a man from my riding, Roger Dorion. He represents a group of francophone seniors. They are obviously very aware of the harm that identity theft can cause to a person. Those who traffic in stolen identities or try to steal identities or mail often choose seniors as their victims.

The bill basically sets out three new criminal offences to deal with identity theft. As my colleague from Edmonton—St. Albert noted, there are additional and new provisions around being in possession of stolen identity documents, not only having to use those documents for a further criminal purpose, but simply being in possession, for example, of redirected or stolen mail or a key to open a mailbox that is not one's own. At the root of identity theft, we often find tampering with mail. The consequences can be devastating.

The new offences are all subject to a five year maximum sentence. We think that is an appropriate balance to send a message to those sometimes involved in organized crime who think that identity theft represents an economic gain for them at devastating consequences to the victims of these crimes.

On behalf of the Liberal Party, I am giving the House of Commons today an opportunity to dispose of this bill as quickly as possible. We do not intend to start a long debate. We already discussed this bill in the previous Parliament.

I have spoken to our House leader about this and it is our hope that perhaps while other parties are speaking on Bill S-4, we might find a mechanism, by unanimous consent, to pass this bill this morning at report stage and third reading. It is a bill that has been around for a long time and we think there are other important criminal justice measures on the order paper today that we are anxious to debate and to move forward expeditiously.

From our perspective, any measures that can be taken by the government or other parties to ensure that this bill passes this morning or later today, including the third reading stage, the Liberal Party will be very co-operative.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, the member for Shefford misunderstood. At no point did I propose that we dispose of a bill before the House to prevent those watching on TV from understanding. However, the member for Shefford will agree that there are no new measures in this bill that were not debated during the last Parliament, as part of a bill that was nearly identical to the one before us today.

We have had discussions in the House of Commons standing committee. Debates were held in the Senate over this bill. So, I disagree with the member for Shefford that we must avoid proceeding quickly with Bill S-4. I simply suggested to the other members that we could quickly pass the final form of this bill in order to move on to other bills. Viewers at home have had plenty of time to understand this bill, and many documents were brought before the parliamentary committees, either during this Parliament or the previous one. This is not a new measure. I think that this bill should be passed, and I think we should do so as quickly as reasonably possible in this House.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to indicate to the House my support for Bill S-4, as I think all members of the House have indicated today and previously. I do not recall very much dissent, although some caution is urged in relation to one or two sections of the bill.

The bill has been a long time coming. I guess it is pretty clear on the record that we are at third reading stage. Somebody offered earlier today to expedite its passage but it would be pretty tough to expedite it much faster than the speed at which it is already going. I do not know whether I am the last speaker but at some point today the debate will end, the House will adopt the bill and it will be over. I congratulate all those who wanted to expedite it because they will get their wish.

As members have said, the concept behind the bill has been in the drafting stage for about 10 years. There were complexities that did delay it in the early years. There was a bit of a moving target with respect to personal information. This is an area of evolving legislative activity. I think it was the intention of the original drafters that we get a good definition of what “personal identity information” is, and the bill has a pretty good definition, which I will get to later in my remarks.

I recall going through the bill very carefully at the justice committee one or two Parliaments ago. The bill, however, was always pre-empted by a parliamentary dissolution. It was not that nobody wanted to see it pass. It was always a problem of Parliament ending in a dissolution before the bill was fully passed.

However, there is a section that has created an offence involving the possession of a Canada Post mailbox key. This type of key is the one postal workers use when they distribute and pick up mail on the street. All Canadians are familiar with those big post boxes and those big keys that the postal workers use. I think the original intention was to create an offence for anyone who was in possession, without authority, of one of those keys.

Now, that makes sense. Why did it take us 100 years to get to this point? I am not sure. Maybe it is because the post office always did a pretty good job of keeping control of its keys. However, it has become a problem, which is the basis for this proposed offence. I think this has been expanded to include possession of any key that would open a post box receptacle, which means my post box key and the keys of everyone here. There are probably millions of post box keys across the country.

I think somebody has thought this out, but it is not an offence just to be in possession of somebody else's post box key. There needs to be an intent to use it fraudulently or to commit an offence described in the section. However, had I had such an opportunity at committee, I would have scrutinized very carefully the implications of creating a new offence that made it an offence simply to be in possession, with a fraudulent intention, of something that is so common. I could say that if we are going to make it an offence to possess someone's little mailbox key, then why do we not make it an offence to possess somebody's house key? The house has much more value than a post box. Here we may have unwittingly treaded into a territory that we have not thought through.

However, in any event, it is in the bill and I will not object to it but my gut tells me that down the road, at some point in time, there will be a case and a fact scenario that will raise potential issues with respect to somebody's possession of a simple mailbox key. I am not talking about the big post office key. I am just talking about an ordinary residence or apartment building mailbox key. We all have them.

I am very pleased to see that in the bill we grappled with and nailed by definition the concept of credit card and debit card in a way that would allow police and authorities to clearly identify an offence when it happens. Up to now, a credit card was just a piece of plastic with some information printed on it but we all regard credit cards as something more than that. It is our access to credit, cash or whatever. Up to when we started amending the Criminal Code, that little piece of plastic was just a piece of plastic. The bill, essentially, completes the initiative to place an intrinsic legal value on the information contained on the credit card. Credit and debit cards have magnetic strips with personal information, credit information, digital information and now they also have chips, with who knows how much information, but all intended to better secure the credit realm, if I can put it that way.

Also, the bill gets into the issue of identifying and defining the personal identification number, the PIN, that is a necessary partner to some types of credit or debit access, either person-to-person or machine-person-to-machine. That would be helpful for the police as they carry out investigations. For example, if there is a reason to arrest somebody who is suspected of being involved in a fraud or a crime and that person was in possession of what appeared to be PINs, up to now, those numbers would just be numbers and it is actually not an offence to be in possession of a bunch of numbers. However, if they could be identified as personal identification numbers to be used in association with credit and debit transactions, it is a new offence, and that is a good thing.

Up to now, when there was theft from the mail, the police, authorities and prosecutors always had difficulty trying to figure out who was the owner of the mail when it was stolen. Certainly when it is in the possession of the post office, there were offences dealing with theft from the mail from the post office, but what if the post office had not taken possession of it yet or what if the post office had already delivered it to a residence? After it has been delivered by the post office to a box sitting outside a front door somewhere, is that theft from the mail or is it theft from somebody in the house? What if the name on the letter does not match the name of the owner of the house? These were always problems.

I suppose I could ask why it has taken us 100 years to figure this one out, but the answer is that in the good old days, in the early 1900s, maybe there was not so much theft from the mail. Maybe it was not a big problem. However, the police and prosecutors have identified it now as a weakness in public security. We have managed to clarify that so mail that is sitting delivered to a house, a residence or in a box, not only is the key somewhat protected but so is the mail and that will allow better police enforcement.

I want to raise a concern, as my friend from Windsor—Tecumseh did earlier, about the exemption of public officers from prosecution when they use a forgery technique in their work for public safety.

The exemption is somewhat circumscribed. The alleged offence, and only an alleged offence because it says they are exempt, must be committed for the sole purpose of establishing or maintaining a covert identity for use in the course of the public officer’s duties or employment. As my friend pointed out earlier, the term “public officer” is quite a broad definition. One wonders why this particular exemption could not have been folded into section 25 or subsection 25(1) of the Criminal Code where there are statutory exemptions from prosecution for police or public officers in the course of their duties.

The most common case one thinks of is the work of an undercover police officer who assumes a false identity for the purpose of a covert undercover investigation. Citizens accept that. However, under section 25 of the Criminal Code when a public officer commits an act that would otherwise be a criminal offence, there must be a record of it and a justification for it in writing. The exemption claimed by the officer and agreed to by the police force that he or she is a part of is recorded in the House. A report is introduced in the House every year that describes each and every instance of exemption of a police officer from prosecution when an act is committed that would otherwise be a criminal offence.

One wonders why we would not require this type of exemption in this bill, clause 368.2, to be included in similar reports. Some people will say that there is just too much police and public officer covert activity going on and that instead of having a small volume filed in the House of Commons, the report would be 12 or 24 inches thick. That is possible, which is why I wanted to put it on the record and join my friend who spoke earlier on this as raising a possible concern.

The public should be much more satisfied that the bill has managed to bring in protection for a whole lot of personal identity techniques and information, which I will read for the record. The identity information protected includes: a fingerprint, voice print, retina image, iris image, DNA profile, name, address, date of birth, written signature, electronic signature, digital signature, user name, credit card number, debit card number, financial institution account number, passport number, social insurance number, health insurance number, driver’s licence number or a password.

I wanted to get those on the record because so many people routinely use all of those things. I wanted the record to show that this legislative amendment captured all of those things and gave people at least some protection under the Criminal Code. It does not mean that there will not be thefts of identity. It just means that the code identifies these things as protected items and, if they are stolen, used or misused, the prosecution will be easier and more focused.

Will it deter the bad guys? We do not know. The bad guys will always be out there looking for a chance to steal and plunder, although we hope there are fewer and fewer of them out there, but at least this amendment attempts to capture all of the things we have become used to as personal identity items.

The bill has a sentencing component. I am very pleased it does not engage in this mindless political posturing of throwing the book at those convicted with mandatory minimums. The bill quite properly proposes sentencing ranges for those convicted of these offences. Sometimes it is up to five years, or it is up to 10 years, or it is by indictment or it is by summary conviction, but the sentencing ranges look appropriate.

As we have always done in our Canadian justice system, and in most justice systems in the modern world, the decision making on sentencing is left to informed judges. I wanted to make this point because a number of the criminal law amendment bills we are looking at in this Parliament, and in the previous Parliament, all seem to have as their objective the rewriting of the sentencing regimes. In some naive way the proposers of the bill think that by tweaking the sentencing, we are going to get a safer country. I do not understand this.

I have had a close-up look at the Canadian justice system. I have been privileged to be in the House for many years. I was on the justice committee for 15 years. I had the privilege of seeing the criminal justice system up close, and it was not always pretty. I saw it working reasonably well. It is not like there were never any mistakes.

I cannot accept that by throwing a mandatory minimum sentence into a particular offence, we are suddenly going to have a reduction in the number of offences. The criminals out there, the would-be criminals, the maybe criminals do not know what the sentence is for any particular crime. In fact, I challenge anybody here today, any member of the House, to get up and tell us what the sentence would be for a particular offence, even under this bill. One could not know. The reason is we have provided for sentencing ranges. When people are convicted, they do not know what the sentence will be until the judge finally decides.

If we do not know what the sentence is, how could those would-be criminals out on the streets know what the sentencing would be? In their mind, as I have always seen it, it is binary in reaction to the criminal justice system. Either they are going to get their deterrences, or they are going to get caught or they are not. It is not about what the sentence is. They do not get out their little calculators and calculate what the sentence is before they hop into the car. Their whole view of this is whether they are going to caught. If they think they are going to get caught, they are not going to do it that night. If they think they are not going to get caught, they might.

I do not understand the mentality that urges upon the House that if we suddenly put in a whole bunch of mandatory minimum sentences, all those bad guys will know what the sentence is and they will stop their criminal activity and we will be safer. I just had to get in that sentencing issue.

I am pleased to have had a chance to talk about the bill. It looks like we are going to have ourselves an identity theft bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 11:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to take the floor for this interesting debate on Bill S-4. First of all, certain things need to be said. One is that the Criminal Code has always trailed a little behind the social problems that people have experienced, are experiencing and will continue to experience. Having been a criminal lawyer for 30 years, I have seen some changes. Identity theft is the best example. If someone in this House or elsewhere is listening to us and is not aware of the fact, right now you can be prosecuted for a criminal offence if you steal someone’s telex or telegram. As far as I know, the telex and telegram have been long gone from Canada. But they are still in the Criminal Code. There are some pretty anachronistic things in the Criminal Code, which definitely needs to be amended to bring it into step with 21st-century needs, and identity theft is one of them.

For those listening to us, we should explain a little about what constitutes identity theft at present. Today, on October 20, 2009, identity theft means deliberately assuming someone’s identity—not too complicated, so far—or the identity of another person—this is where it gets complicated—generally for the purpose of committing fraud. At the moment, that is what has to be demonstrated. For example, many sections of the Criminal Code refer to forgery and uttering forged documents. The stealing of cheques does not constitute a criminal offence. If I take them and do nothing with them, I am not committing a criminal offence. It becomes criminal only if I use them. Of course, it is a criminal offence to steal someone’s cheques, but if the cheques are not used the offence is less serious. So at present, in the Criminal Code, we have what is called forgery and uttering forged documents, for example, taking a cheque and endorsing it. This used to be a regular occurrence on the first and fifteenth of every month. It was quite flagrant. A person would go to all the mailboxes, collect the cheques, endorse them and cash them. This is what was called forgery and uttering forged documents.

Today this is no longer the case. Why not? Because we have direct deposit. We do business with the federal government, the Quebec government or the government of some other province, and what does the government do? It deposits the money it owes us directly into our bank accounts. Employment insurance is a very good example. The employment insurance benefits to which a person is entitled are deposited directly into their account. And yet, here too there was and still is a theft problem. It is a very serious problem, and I will return to it in a few moments, with some figures. This is a problem that now exists. Someone lines up behind us in the credit union, the Royal Bank, the National Bank or any other bank. He watches us enter our PIN, because everyone now enters a PIN, a personal identification number. So what does this person do? He watches us enter our number and he remembers it, because today people remember numbers. In that way, with a duplicate of your card—procured illegally, of course—he can empty our bank account. That is the identity theft problem.

But that is only a small part of it. People can steal credit cards from the mail, when mail is redirected, for example. They take the mail and then there is false pretence or intrusion into data banks. How often have we seen this in recent months? They use a scanning device to collect the information on credit cards.

What does that mean? Some people were becoming experts. We have to be careful when we hand over our credit cards in a business and an imprint is taken. When it is printed, an imprint of the credit card is taken. Some places, there are three copies. We get the original copy back, the one on top, but there are two other copies underneath. We have to watch those other two copies. An honest merchant will tear up the second part and use the third copy for deposit. Thieves get the imprint from the second part with the help of accomplices in the business. Some people had become so expert that they were able to get the imprint. What do they do once they have the imprint and they know the name of the card owner shopping at the business? They watch the person and note down their personal identification number, their PIN. When they have the PIN, they empty the bank account.

They do not just empty the bank account. The problem is that with the PIN they can get a lot of things. That is why people are told not to give out their social insurance number. Someone who steals your identification cards today, for example your social insurance card, your health insurance card, your driver’s licence, or even your passport, can steal your identity. Those items are worth a fortune.

What does that mean? We do not realize it until someone tells us there are two people with the same name walking around with the same identification. Each one should have different identification. It is like fingerprints: they are supposed to be different. Someone who steals another person’s identification can do a lot of things. They can steal, borrow and defraud.

My former colleague from Hochelaga who is no longer here, Mr. Ménard, drew the government’s attention to this by presenting some revealing figures. It is becoming big business. In 2004, the costs associated with identity theft exceeded $50 billion a year. I repeat: the costs associated with identity theft every year exceeded $50 billion.

In Canada alone, the Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus estimated that in 2002, consumers, banks, credit card companies, stores and other businesses lost $2.5 billion because of identity theft.

In 2006 it got even bigger. PhoneBusters, created in 1993, is an anti-fraud call centre. Generally, we receive the centre’s telephone number with our credit cards. It is often written on the back of the card, but it is best not to just leave it there, because if your card is stolen, that information is not very useful. Put it somewhere else. It is a telephone number to use to report that a credit card has been stolen or that someone is trying to use it. In Ontario and several other places in Canada, PhoneBusters received 7,800 calls reporting identity theft in 2006 alone.

It had therefore become urgent that attention be given to this problem, which causes billions of dollars of losses every year, not just in Canada, not just in Quebec, but everywhere in the world.

When we look at the legislation, we note that the United States started attacking this problem in 1988. In the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights we had an opportunity to hear from a variety of experts on identity theft. It was extremely interesting, and we learned a lot. In terms of insurance, for example, incredible frauds have been committed. We have to find a way to deal with such fraud. How? One way to deal with it is Bill S-4, which concerns identity theft and will amend a number of sections of the Criminal Code. I do not want to list all the sections, but I consider clause 10 very important. The subheading will now be "Identity Theft and Identity Fraud", and it will have an impact on sections 400, 402, 402.1 and so on. The nomenclature will be entirely different.

And what does it involve? I will try to provide a quick list. The new section explains identity theft. It is simply the theft by an individual of a person's name, address, date of birth and written signature, electronic signature or digital signature. I will translate that into plain language for those watching. A written signature is not complicated—that is when we sign. Increasingly—and this is why the bill makes up for dozens of years of lost time—many people authorize an electronic signature. All MPs in this House have what is called an electronic signature, but how many businesses have also established the principle of the electronic signature? If someone steals it, that will be illegal. Obviously, there are social insurance numbers, health card numbers, drivers' license numbers, credit card numbers and debit card numbers as well. For those watching, it is not simply the theft of the plastic card that is dangerous, it is the transmission of the number. How many times do we make calls, visit eBay or do business with someone in a store? We simply give our credit card number over the phone. Is there anyone in this House who has not ordered chicken from St-Hubert barbecue or Checkers or pizza? What do we do? We give our credit card number over the phone. That is becoming very dangerous. We must make sure when the delivery comes that the correct number appears on all the documents we are asked to sign.

The new section 402.1 also includes our passport number, user code, password, fingerprints or voice print, retinal image, iris image and DNA profile. I think this is a good thing the government has done. We are moving forward. We are moving forward in time and are anticipating what is coming.

In 2007, my colleague Réal Ménard from the riding of Hochelaga called for this, and the government responded that it was not necessarily urgent. Today it realizes that it is extremely urgent and that considerable losses have occurred and are still occurring.

There is going to be a new section. Obviously, mere possession of someone's name and address is not illegal, but the definition of identity information in clause 402.1 will apply to a new offence. The bill creates a new hybrid offence that involves the transmission, making available, distribution, selling or offering for sale, or possession of another person’s identity information.

Basically, having someone else's name, address and phone number is okay because we all have that kind of information on our contact lists, no matter which political party we belong to.

But if a person has someone else's social insurance number, personal identification number or credit card number, the prosecutor will assume that he or she obtained these documents illegally and must prove that the accused trafficked in identity information about another person knowing that it would be used to commit a crime based on fraud, deceit and lies.

I believe that the House should vote in favour of this bill. This clause will ensure that any person who takes an individual's information without authorization, illegitimately and illegally, faces the legal consequences.

For the benefit of the House, my colleagues and the people watching us, once wallet and identity theft occurs—say someone steals a woman's purse—it costs the victim around $500 to recover her identity. Getting a new passport, new identification cards, new driver's licence and so on will cost the victim about $500.

But there are worse consequences. It is no secret that some companies investigate individuals. Take Equifax, for example. What does this company do for people? It establishes their credibility, their financial power.

When a business conducts a credit check, it generally contacts a company like Equifax or Crédit Nord-Ouest, which collects, stores and keeps information. Now, when a person's identity is stolen, the incredible effort it takes to notify these companies is completely disproportionate to the crime that has been committed. When someone's belongings are stolen and their identity is used to commit fraud and theft, that honest person will unfortunately have to go through a very long and difficult process to have the poor credit rating removed from his or her file at the credit company.

This extremely important bill is very timely as we enter the 21st century. Identity theft is an insidious crime that destroys a person's identity. Often, people who are victims of identity theft have a very hard time proving that they are not thieves or fraudsters, because someone has used their identity, even though they had no right to do so. That is illegal, and it was high time the government took action.

The question was asked earlier, and I am going to answer it. Companies even testified that they wanted minimum sentences. We objected strongly, and we are going to continue to object strongly to minimum sentences. Why? Because we are going to start by implementing this bill.

I hope that this House will vote quickly in favour of this bill and that it can be implemented very quickly. Once it has been analyzed, then perhaps some thought can be given to revising the potential sentences. But we should let the courts do their job and ensure that anyone who commits such an offence receives a fair and appropriate punishment.

Mr. Speaker, I know that you gave me a signal a few moments ago, so I will just say in closing that we feel it is important that this bill has finally reached this House. We hope it will be passed quickly so that we can implement it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue this debate concerning Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct), and to follow the brilliant speech by my colleague from Repentigny.

My question about my colleague’s age was not without a point. He is 22, and I am 52. So there are 30 years separating us. I am going to tell my story. I also want to say that the Bloc Québécois is a party with a good balance between the generations. Obviously, that is to the advantage of the Quebeckers who elect us. There is a good ratio between men and women, one that we need to improve. We must always work to increase women’s participation in our political parties. And there is a good balance among the different age groups in the representatives of the Bloc Québécois.

Why did I stress that question? In his reply, my colleague from Repentigny told us about his experience with a cloned debit card. At a very young age, I also had my identity stolen, as I discovered several years later. The mistake made by the people who wanted to steal my identity was that at the time they did it I was a full-time student. I did not have the necessary income. Obviously, they found themselves facing the harsh reality of someone who was not a person of means.

Fifteen years ago, when I applied for a credit report—Equifax or TransUnion do it free of charge—I wanted to know how my credit was and how those firms regarded me. When I received the results, I realized that a name that was not mine appeared on my credit record. I took the necessary steps to ask those firms why there was a name that was not mine. They told me a credit application had been made in that person’s name—which was not my name—and that the person had my social insurance number, my birth date and all the information needed. They had had to add that person’s name to my credit record for my whole life. Why? Because one application was made. At the time, given that the application was excessive, since I had no income, I had not even been informed or contacted. That may be because I had left to study outside Canada. That was probably why. I had not even been aware of it, but 30 or 35 years ago some people had got hold of my personal information, probably from my university applications. That is what we figured out at the time. Those people had got hold of my registration form and, for one reason or another, had thought I was wealthy. There are not just young people at universities. The average age of people at university is between 35 and 40 years, depending on the university. Someone had tried to commit this fraud against me.

Identity theft is not new. We must understand that. Young people too must understand that. I put this question to my colleague from Repentigny. The sites where we give our credit card numbers are not secure just because they are on the Internet. Once the information is there, thieves can get information on us. Inevitably, the result is terrible. We are faced with debt that is not ours. Credit cards are stolen. My colleague was lucky, because he says his bank very quickly realized what had happened and that he was reimbursed for the money taken from his account. Others are less lucky. It is a tough situation.

That is why a measure like Bill S-4 is important. The Bloc supports this bill. Today we are taking the time required to explain why to our viewers. Bills are often passed very quickly. People learn about them through a paragraph in the media. Not all bills make the headlines in the media. Bill S-4 is very important because it aims to fight identity theft, the collection and unauthorized use of personal information usually for criminal purposes.

It is important we take the time to understand identity theft. It is the act of deliberately taking the identity of another person, generally with the aim of committing fraud, such as accessing the funds of the person or committing an offence or an anonymous crime. Nearly all of these definitions refer to the illegal use of the personal information of another individual.

This personal information is obtained in various ways from direct but not necessarily illegal means, such as from rummaging in the garbage, to highly perfected phishing techniques. Experts provided definitions of other ways to obtain personal information such as theft of identity cards or credit cards, redirecting mail, pretexting—claiming to be authorized to gather information, hacking into computer data bases, using skimming devices to gather information off credit cards or debit cards. Stealing PIN numbers consists in looking over a person's shoulder as they enter their PIN or other information at an automated teller machine.

Obviously, the importance of this must be understood. I know that all of the banks are running campaigns to stop people from giving out their PINs. They must be discouraged from doing so. There are people who do not use a banking machine as easily as others. Young people are more capable. I personally at 52 have been using them for six or seven years, but there are people who have a harder time dealing with these electronic money dispensing boxes.

Some people take longer, and when you take longer others have the chance to have a look. So care must be taken. We must make sure that the people behind us are far enough away. There should be no hesitation in asking them to move back in order to enter the PIN number. Some people, if they go too quickly, may make a mistake and have to start over. This does not help those waiting. So we can say we will take the time we need to enter our information and ask people to step back. If we go too quickly, we have to start over and this does not make things easier for the next person.

Often in the lineups at ATMs, the problem is that people are in a hurry and people behind us in the line try to pressure us. We should then take the time to say, “I am going too fast, you are pressuring me. I will probably make a mistake and it certainly will not go any faster then”. If the person still insists, it may well mean that he is trying to steal our PIN. There are people who are experts in stealing PINs, people who pressure us to try to influence us and maybe move closer to us. That is how they get our PINs.

There are other ways as well, such as the inadequate disposal of documents. Machines can be bought, such as paper shredders. It is important to do this. The first machines cut paper into strips, but experts could re-assemble it. Now there are new versions that do the shredding differently so that it is impossible to reconstitute the document. It is important, therefore, when we have documents at home not to just throw them in the garbage because people can search it and find our information. We should make sure to shred all documents with personal information very carefully, even if they are going straight into the garbage.

There is also the loss or theft of personal computers. These computers are very valuable and should not be left in cars. We should be very conscientious about this because our computers are an easy way to steal our identity.

Someone mentioned redirecting mail. If we get mail about a credit card or are expecting information about one—we have applied for one, or it is being renewed, or we have lost ours and requested another—we should be very aware of the expected arrival date. If we are renewing a credit card or have applied for a new one because ours has been changed or does not work any more, we should be very careful. We are given a date by which to expect the new one. As soon as that date goes by, we should call to ensure that the card was sent. If it was, we should ask for a new one because people can get their hands on mail through devious means and try to gather the information on a credit card or even get the credit card itself.

More and more credit card companies are sending their cards by registered mail. We have to sign to get them. However, not all companies do this. We have to be cautious and always make sure that credit cards and documents with personal information have the proper address and that we take possession of them to ensure that someone else does not get them.

As for illegitimate access to databases, the experts in that are known as hackers. As soon as we notice an unusual problem with our computer, we must be cautious. Detecting hacking is not easy, but there are many kinds of software to do that on the market. We must make sure that our computers are equipped with the latest versions of hacking prevention software because hacking is a way to get personal data.

Bill S-4 would create three new specific offences that would all be subject to five year maximum sentences. Adopting legislation is one way to deter that kind of crime. Another way consists in creating new offences with prison sentences.

Those three new offences are the following. The first one is obtaining and possessing identity information with the intent to use the information deceptively, dishonestly or fraudulently in the commission of a crime. Therefore, the person who obtains or possesses the identity information of another person with the intent to commit a crime exposes himself or herself to the five year maximum sentence.

The second offence is trafficking in identity information. Some persons do not intend to use the information they have stolen but are willing to sell it to another person. We see in the media stories of people, businesses or fraudulent systems that steal the content of databases. The individual who sells that information would also automatically risk a prison sentence.

The third offence is unlawfully possessing or trafficking in government-issued identity documents. Earlier I spoke about the credit cards we may receive in the mail, for which we must check that the promised time frames for receipt are respected. If they are not, calls have to be made. Information that governments send us also has to be included. We do not always know when the government is sending us correspondence. When it sends us a cheque, we are pleased, and usually we appreciate it. When it is a bill or a notice of assessment, we don’t want to know, and what is more, we do not know when it is sending us one. These documents could come into people’s possession. Our social insurance number is often recorded on these documents. Obviously this is very important information for stealing identity. Thus, if certain citizens, with unlawful or illicit purposes, attempt to take possession of or traffic in government-issued identity documents, there would be another maximum term of imprisonment of five years.

And other amendments are being made to the Criminal Code. There is the new offence of redirecting a person’s mail or causing it to be redirected. As I was saying earlier, one method of identity theft is to take possession of credit cards or documents containing our information that are issued by various levels of government.

The redirecting of mail by a person will constitute a new offence, as will possession of a counterfeit Canada Post mail key. We know that mailboxes do not have unbreakable locks. First, they are supplied by the government and are not the latest in anti-theft locks. Thieves have techniques of inserting different gadgets or forging keys. If someone had a key that was not for his own mailbox, that would be a counterfeit.

Additional forgery offences are created, such as trafficking in and possession of forged documents for the purpose of using them. People may look for and find information on our identity, but then they will need to produce documents. If they apply for loans, they have to fill out forms. Using our name, they could falsify income or make false statements on forms. They could apply for a loan using our numbers and our name but change our address to their own. It might also be a case of forged credit cards: new credit cards could be issued with the numbers they obtained. This would then be a criminal offence.

The offence of personation is now designated by the term identity fraud. When referring to the offence of personation, the term identity fraud is used. Furthermore, the meaning of “personating a person” is clarified.

In my case, as I was saying, someone applied for credit a number of years ago. The name of that person is still on my credit history. So, if someone falsely claims to be someone else, that person could be criminally charged. I am currently trying to remove the person's name from my file, but it is impossible. No other applications have been made in the past 25 years. If my social insurance number and my date of birth ever appear on an application it will automatically be denied by the credit companies because that other name is on my file. I have not been able to press criminal charges, but under this bill I would be able to. The offence occurred 25 years ago when it was not illegal. From now on, people who go through a similar experience will be able to press criminal charges.

The offence of possessing instruments for copying credit card data is being added because making credit cards requires a plan and the necessary equipment for copying credit cards. Every person in possession of materials or equipment for copying credit cards could be charged with the criminal offence of identity theft.

The bill also adds a new power that would enable the court to order the offender, as part of the penalty, to make restitution to the victim of identity theft or identity fraud for the expenses associated with rehabilitating their identity, including expenses to replace cards and documents and to correct their credit history. That is important. What is required of a victim of identity theft? Earlier my colleague from Repentigny said that the bank alerted him. He did not suffer any monetary losses, but the fact remains that often people who lose their identity have to replace their cards and file new applications. This takes a lot of time. Often, the time this can take and the money it can cost to file all these applications is rather significant and can cause problems. This could be added up and the criminals could be made to pay.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 1:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Laval for her excellent presentation on identity theft. This is an extremely serious problem that has existed for a long time. It seems as though identity theft is now rampant, not only in Quebec, Canada and North America, but all over the world.

My colleague used an analogy that may sound like a joke, namely the identity theft by the Conservatives who steal the government's identity when they present cheques.

I wonder if she could elaborate on this type of identity theft. Would it be covered by Bill S-4, and could it be deemed to be a criminal issue?

CINAROral Questions

October 20th, 2009 / 2:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a second falsehood, because I was here this morning to say that the Bloc supported Bill S-4.

Yesterday, the federalist parties refused to allow the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to begin an investigation into the CINAR affair. But in recent weeks, a number of new facts have surfaced. Former RCMP officers spoke out about interference in their investigation. A court confirmed the allegations made by Claude Robinson about front men. CINAR itself admitted committing fraud against Telefilm Canada.

By refusing to reopen the CINAR case, does the government realize that, just like the Liberals and the NDP, it has no credibility when it claims to be going after white-collar crimes?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 3:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this afternoon to address Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct).

Like my colleagues reminded the House this morning, Bill S-4 on identity theft must not be confused with the attempt made by the Conservatives to steal the government's identity by issuing cheques with the Conservative Party's logo and colour. It is not quite the same thing, although there may be some similarity. We will look at the definitions later on and perhaps we will find that the Conservative members have indeed committed criminal offences.

As my colleague for Laval pointed out, if it turns out that it is indeed a criminal offence, government members might want to include a minimal sentence. But let us be serious, I want to talk about identity theft.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's contribution to the debate quite carefully, especially the part regarding the Privacy Commissioner's comment regarding small claims court and civil remedies being more appropriate than amendments to the Criminal Code.

I know the Privacy Commissioner and I spoke to her about the bill. I am a member of the justice committee. I would like the member to acknowledge that on May 28 Ms. Stoddart came out in favour of Bill S-4. In fact, she said, “We are pleased to see that the government is taking action on the growing problem of identity theft”.

I would like an acknowledgement that the chief commissioner of privacy for Canada is in favour of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I never said that the privacy commissioner was against Bill S-4. I am trying to find what the commissioner said, which was essentially that it is not enough. What she said was “That's why I think we should look at civil sanctions that are very easy to prove and easy for citizens—”. That is what she said.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes that Bill S-4 is necessary. We will vote in favour of this bill because it fills some major gaps. It is also important to note that the privacy commissioner said it is not enough. It is crucial to plug the holes and identify offences in the Criminal Code in order to stop certain practices, such as copying credit cards in corner stores. That must be done.

Many other things could be done much more easily and understandably using civil procedures, which would involve the provincial governments and Quebec.

Ending Conditional Sentences for Property and Other Serious Crimes ActGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have already given my opinion on this subject. I think that they are dragging this out because they think it is a politically smart thing to do, that it will win them votes, and that they will win more votes by taking an extremist stand than by being reasonable and trying to get people to understand.

It is odd that, in this case, we have not been told what the provincial attorneys general think, because all offenders who are sent to prison under this legislation will be sent to provincial prisons. In fact, conditional sentences apply only to sentences shorter than two years.

I think this is all for the purpose of an election. For example, why did it take them so long to introduce Bill S-4? It was already being considered by the previous Liberal government. But it is now 2009, and they have been in power since 2006. If they had asked us, we would have told them we supported it. And we did support it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct).

The bill would amend the Criminal Code to create offences of identity theft, trafficking in identity information and unlawful possession or trafficking in certain government-issued identity documents, to clarify and expand certain offences related to identity theft and identity fraud, to exempt certain persons from liability for certain forgery offences, and to allow for an order that the offender make restitution to a victim of identity theft or identity fraud for the expenses associated with rehabilitating their identity.

Like Bill C-26, which we discussed the other day, the auto theft legislation, this bill is only one part of a multi-pronged approach to attack the problem of identity theft. In both cases, the auto theft legislation and the identity theft legislation, we must begin our battle with strong changes to the Criminal Code, which itself was written in 1892 and is in dire need of a rewrite. Judging by the number of lawyers in this chamber, we are shortchanging the public if we do not embark on that rewrite sooner rather than later.

The legislation will go a long way to help the police investigate and take action regarding credit card fraud. All too often I have heard constituents complain that they feel abandoned by the police after their credit card has been stolen and has been used in a fraudulent manner. When they go to the police station they are told to take a number and wait until it is their turn. When their turn comes they are told that there were 30 similar cases that day, and without tough legislation, it is better to deal with it as a civil matter.

By bringing in tough new Criminal Code legislation, we take away that argument that we should deal with it as a civil matter because we are not going to get anywhere with it anyway in the absence of the legislation. Therefore, I think this is a very positive move to deal with that important area.

This happened in a case where the complainant did his own investigation of suspicious transactions, once he found out that the credit card was being misused, and in effect identified the guilty party. He basically turned the entire documented, solved case over to the RCMP, hoping to be thanked for all the hard work and a job well done. However, in fact, the person was told to go home, that the credit card company would just simply absorb the loss and that he would not be out any money.

That certainly did not make him very happy about this whole process, not to mention all the trauma involved in actually having the credit card stolen in the first place and a lot of transactions being put on the credit card, and all the phone calls, and so on, that it takes to resolve this issue.

That type of action merely encourages criminals to do it again and tell their friends, “Don't worry. You can't get caught, and if you do get caught, nothing will happen to you”. This is not a good signal to be sending to the public. We need this tough legislation to allow the police to take action.

If we had had it, the police probably would not have had 30 new cases that morning, because the criminals would know that something was going to happen to them in the first place and they might have thought twice about stealing the credit card.

The next area is to properly resource the police. In Manitoba's case, the parallel I draw is the gang suppression unit and the auto theft suppression unit of the police force. It is basically setting up a special unit in the police department that is resourced and tasked to deal with the problem at hand, to target the highest risk-level of offender. In the case of the auto theft group, I believe level 4 is the highest group. We are not talking about a lot of people. We are talking about perhaps 50 people in the high-risk groups.

We have to dedicate a special unit to go after identity theft.

As with the auto thieves, we are looking at a very small group of people. I would submit that is the situation with identity theft. When I go to one of the seniors' homes in my riding where there are 500 people, it would be safe to bet that not one of them would contemplate committing identity theft, stealing or misusing a credit card, or anything of the sort.

If we eliminate those people and other large groups, we come down to very small numbers. My submission would also be that those small numbers would be the repeat offenders who are doing it essentially as a profession, as a job. We have to aggressively target these offenders.

As I indicated in the case of the debit card and the bank card skimmers, often gangs with overseas connections may be operating here because it is easy. They have little chance of being caught, and certainly they are not treated very badly when they are caught.

There was a ring uncovered in the last couple of years, I believe from eastern Europe. The members of the group came to Canada for the sole purpose of going to various banks and credit unions across the country and putting credit card and debit card skimming equipment on ATMs. Over a three- or four-hour period they collected several hundred pieces of people's information. Using that information, they then proceeded to clean out people's bank accounts and make new copies of credit cards for further use.

In addition, clearly more consumer alerts are required. Part of the answer is getting consumers up to speed in this whole area.

I have had many tea parties in seniors' homes in my constituency of Elmwood—Transcona over the years where I have invited a member of the police force to talk about this very problem. The constable always has the same message: “Don't carry a big purse when you go out. Leave your ID at home. You're only going to Safeway. You're only going across the street. Why do you insist upon carrying a big purse with all your identification and enough contents to go on a trip somewhere when you are going to be back in a half hour?”

In some ways, we are all easy targets for thieves.

Fortunately we are seeing an explosion in the use of shredders. People are shredding more of their documents, and we can all agree with that. They are not throwing their bills out in the garbage like they used to; they are shredding them, which is a good sign.

However, I also juxtapose that to other people, maybe the same people who are happily shredding their documents, who attend the boat shows, the garden shows and the home shows at the convention centre in Winnipeg. I see them there on the weekends happily giving out their personal information when they are filling out applications for different free draws that exhibitors have. They do not consider that this information could be used improperly.

There are a number of other things we are told we should not be doing. Certainly mailbox fraud is a big area, and it is dealt with in the bill. Nowadays a lot of people have their mailboxes locked. That is a very good thing , because people do steal other people's mail and use that information for bad things.

On the last day of debate on this bill, a number of people mentioned we should reduce the number of mailed statements to our houses, that maybe we do not need monthly statements from our financial services people, that perhaps we could get by with quarterly statements.

They also suggest that sensitive information should be kept in a locked box. All too often we see people leaving information out. I guess the government has had some very bad experiences itself over the last couple of years with some members of Parliament leaving information in places when it should have been returned to its rightful place and locked up. We should be more organized in all of that.

Having said that, I may be one of the worst offenders, so I really do not want to go too far there.

It is also recommended that we do not let our credit cards out of sight at restaurants and gas stations. The reality is that we do this every day. Are we supposed to tell a waiter at the restaurant, “Sorry, I have to follow you to the machine to make sure you do not clone or skim my card”?

Another point was not to give credit card information over the phone unless one actually knows the person.

What is the answer? Clearly there is a bigger solution we have to deal with, and that is the whole area of technology and the inception of smart card programs.

I have followed this issue for a number of years. I recall back in 1990 or 1991, the Ontario NDP government at the time, led by somebody in this House I cannot mention, embarked on the first smart card idea. By the way, it was an idea that was way ahead of its time. Only France had embarked on a rudimentary smart card program at the time.

The Ontario government at that time set up pilot projects in Fort Frances and Windsor. It was trying to track the number of Americans who were coming across the border, getting OHIP cards, Ontario health cards, and then coming for free operations and health care.

At the end of the day, the project determined that Ontario had issued more OHIP cards than it had residents in the province. Beyond that, though, the government decided not to proceed further with the smart cards. I am not sure why it did not proceed; perhaps there was a change in government.

The NDP government was succeeded by the Harris government, which announced a new smart card program to run parallel to the program that was being introduced by the big banks at the time. I met with representatives in Toronto, and they gave me a tour through their nice new building. They had a very impressive program.

The government was going to start issuing smart cards at around $10 apiece. There was to be a health card on there and I think a driver's licence. Members should understand that these cards have the potential to have about five different things on them. Smart cards can have a driver's licence, a health card, a fishing licence, and a number of things. The government's plan was to roll out the program at a cost of $8 to $10 a card. Over time the price of the cards dropped, as we know.

While all of this was going on, the banks were going to roll out their system. They actually put off rolling it out for a few years, all the while knowing that people were being victimized. It was cheaper for the banks to pay the losses from the thefts and the misuse of the cards than it was to bring in the smart card technology. They were directly responsible for letting people go through all sorts of anguish for an extra five or six years because they did not want to put out the extra dollars. It was cheaper to lose the hundred million dollars, or whatever it was, per year in the thefts. We could have done something a long time ago in terms of smart cards because the technology was there, but it was going to be a little more expensive at the time.

In fact the banks are just rolling out their cards at the moment. Some members may have them, but if they do not, they certainly will be getting them within the next few months or the next year. I believe they had a plan where they were rolling out in certain areas a year or two ago, but the mass rolling out is just beginning.

These cards are a huge improvement over the old striped cards. The old cards are essentially obsolete and should be phased out as quickly as possible, because they are the easy ones to skim and counterfeit. Hopefully this will drastically reduce the credit card and debit card fraud and give consumers a breather, until these criminals can figure how out to compromise those cards. We may be ahead of the curve for a little while.

I am hoping we are going to have a huge overnight reduction in credit card and debit card fraud, similar to Manitoba's experience with its auto theft program. These cards, as I have indicated, are the answer in the same way that the immobilizers on cars were the answer in stopping auto theft.

Once again, the NDP are supporting actions that actually work. We do not want to head off on crime legislation like the Conservatives do, bringing in a bunch of things that have been proven not to work in other jurisdictions. We want to promote and initiate good ideas that actually have a history of working somewhere else.

We have a multi-pronged approach. We have tough criminal legislation. We have, for example, the auto theft suppression unit of the police, which is working well in Winnipeg and it could be working well nationally. We have the constant monitoring of suspects. We have to do that here as well. There is the whole idea of the mandatory immobilizers in the cars, and the GPS ankle bracelets.

To my friend from B.C., because I know he is upset about this bait car idea that I am not highly supportive of, I want to extend an olive branch. Since we are all trying to get along here in the House, I want to tell him that if he brings that bait car to Winnipeg in February and he can get it to actually work, I will be very happy to support his idea that we should try that as well. I do not think we want to exclude good ideas. Some ideas work better in some parts of the country than others.

In terms of identity theft, once again we have the tough criminal legislation in Bill S-4. We are reasonably happy with this bill. I think there are a couple of changes we would like to see, particularly for lawyers. It was pointed out yesterday that the whole area of mortgage fraud and so on is not covered by this bill. Lawyers across Canada have to be vigilant about that, because they are being presented with false identification from people attempting to get mortgage funds.

Once again, the police identity theft suppression unit has to be set up. We need more consumer alerts, which I have indicated, and the education programs, which we delved into. There is always room for more ideas. I do not think we should in any way exclude anybody with a good idea. Better smart card technology is the key here, because we have to keep ahead of the curve.

One of the members mentioned yesterday that we are dealing with almost $2 billion of losses. In fact identity theft has become so common that insurance companies have been selling identity theft coverage as an extension to house insurance policies for some four or five years now. Insurance companies would not do that if there was not a big market and a considerable demand for these programs. These programs are costly to set up. They need to have negotiations for re-insurance for the whole program.

Clearly this is a program that people are buying, because insurance companies are selling it. It pays to restore people to where they were before the loss. There is a considerable expense involved in trying to get credit cards and ID restored. Has anyone tried to get a driver's licence or a birth certificate replaced? It is a lot of work.

A lot of the identity theft is aided and abetted by the Internet. Criminals trade in stolen information. None of this existed 20 years ago. As one member mentioned yesterday with his Commodore 64, we did not have Internet access in those days and we did not have to worry about these things. The Internet and computers today mean we have a whole new exposure that we did not have before.

The criminals are passing on the information about where to buy these skimming machines and devices on how to clone credit cards. All this information is readily available to up-and-coming criminals who want to expand their lines of work.

Yesterday, the member for Winnipeg Centre asked about requiring the credit card companies to pass on to customers the results of their investigations. I agree totally. It is not included in the bill, but it is an important issue.

If people steal the identities of other people and use their credit cards, the credit care company will not give them any information about where they are at unless they investigate it. They are left to wonder who did it. It can be as traumatic as having one's home broken into and not knowing who did it.

I will proceed with the rest of my speech during the question and answer period.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2009 / 3:05 p.m.
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Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

;

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join today's second reading debate on Bill S-4, which would amend the Criminal Code to address the serious and ever growing problem of identity theft.

Although introduced in the Senate, the bill's proposed reforms are familiar to hon. members as its predecessor, Bill C-27, which was virtually the same, was introduced in this chamber in the previous Parliament and had received all party support at second reading.

I hope Bill S-4 can similarly receive all party support now and be quickly passed into law. Canadians urgently need the protection it would provide against identity theft, a problem that the Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus has estimated cost Canadian consumers, banks, credit card and other businesses more than $2 billion each year and a problem that has enormous personal and psychological impacts on its victims. I should add that oftentimes the victims of identity theft are the most vulnerable Canadians.

Identity crime encompasses the collection, possession, trafficking and use of identity information belonging to another in committing crimes such as personation, fraud or misuse of debit card or credit card data.

For example, it occurs when somebody pretends to be an account holder in a transaction and uses the true account holder's identity to access his or her credit or actual funds. It also occurs when someone acquires and uses the identity of another to carry out otherwise ordinary transactions, such as to rent an apartment or to buy a cellphone, which are then used as part of a broader criminal scheme. In these instances, if the crime is eventually detected, the trail leads back to the identity of the unfortunate innocent person whose identity was stolen. We know that organized crime and terrorism routinely engage in identity crimes to carry out their criminal operations. I doubt that any one of us, within our constituency, cannot name someone who has been the victim of identity theft.

Bill S-4 proposes to create three new offences that will target the preliminary stages of identity crime and will enable police to lay charges, for example, before the crimes of fraud or impersonation are committed.

The first new offence would be called identity theft and would apply to attaining and possessing identity information with the intent to use the information deceptively, dishonestly or fraudulently in the commission of a crime.

The second new offence is trafficking in identity information, an offence that targets those who transfer or sell information to another person with knowledge of or recklessness toward the possible criminal use of the information. This offence targets the middlemen, and that is those who traffic the stolen identity information from one person to another, but who may not otherwise be involved in the fraud or other crimes in which the information is destined to be used. The trafficking of such stolen identity information is often part of organized crime's identity fraud activities.

The third new offence is for unlawfully possessing or trafficking in crucial government-issued identity documents that pertain to other people.

Each of these new offences would carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and would complement existing Criminal Code offences such as fraud, impersonation and forgery that already prohibit the most harmful consequences of identity abuse.

Bill S-4 proposes other new offences that will complement other existing Criminal Code mail and forgery offences. It will create the new offences of fraudulently redirecting or causing redirection of a person's mail, possessing a counterfeit Canada Post mail key and possessing instruments, often referred to as skimming devices, that are used to extract and copy debit and credit card information.

Bill S-4 would also facilitate law enforcement's investigative activities by adding new offences and certain existing offences to the list of offences for which a wiretap order may be obtained.

Importantly the bill would enable sentencing courts to order an offender to pay restitution to a victim of identity theft or fraud where the victim had incurred expenses related to rehabilitating the reputation and credit history.

Bill S-4 also proposes two exemptions to address potential negative impacts on the undercover work of law enforcement. I want to spend a moment on this aspect of the bill, as this issue attracted significant interest in the Senate. It is important that these are clearly understood for what they are and are not.

The exemptions in clauses 7 and 9 have been carefully crafted to permit the police to obtain and use identity documents in a fictitious name to support undercover activities. Concealing the true identities of undercover police officers is a problem akin to a uniformed officer carrying a sidearm. The law exempts police officers from offences that would otherwise by committed by carrying their guns, for example. The proposed exemptions will do the same thing for undercover officers with respect to identity documents.

Some will argue that these exemptions are unnecessary and inappropriate, since it is already a scheme in the Criminal Code that operates as justification for offences committed by the police during a criminal investigation. While it is true that sections 25.1 to 25.4 of the Criminal Code could be used to justify the use of false identity documents by the police, that approach would require each officer to weigh the proportionality of using the documents each and every time he or she relied upon them.

While this is an appropriate test where the police are engaging in conduct that amounts to an offence that has not been specifically authorized by Parliament, it is the government's view that it would be inappropriate to require the police to rely on this scheme for a discreet, pre-defined activity that is clearly in the public interest. It is essential to keep in mind that the proposed exemptions do not give the police the authority to commit identity theft or other fraudulent activities. Any other offences that an officer may be required to commit in the course of a criminal investigation would have to be justified under the scheme contained in the appropriate sections of the Criminal Code.

Lastly, the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee, which undertook a thorough study of the bill, amended it to provide for a five-year parliamentary review. This would provide us with a welcomed opportunity to assess the impact of the reforms in combatting identity theft.

Bill S-4 would provide much needed new tools for Canadian law enforcement and much needed protection for all Canadians against identity theft. I urge all hon. members to consider the most vulnerable in their constituencies when they consider the bill. As we all know, many members of our communities have been the victims of identity theft and the psychological impact of having one's identity stolen or misused can be quite profound.

I urge all hon. members to support the bill and support its swift passage.