Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak once again on this topic, a topic that has certainly had quite a number of speakers and promises to have many more before we resolve the question.
The government introduced this legislation last June with the announcement that we would have to have it approved by December 31. If that were not to happen by the end of December 2010, the overflights of the United States would come to a halt which would certainly lead to chaos and trouble for the Canadian flying public and the aviation industry in this country. That was the story at that time.
We are now long past the supposed deadline, the flights are continuing unabated and there is no sign that the Americans will prevent our flights from overflying the United States. What we have seen is that an exemption has been offered for flights that originate in one city in Canada and end in another city in Canada that overfly part of American territory.
The fact that the Americans would allow this exemption is somehow an argument that the bill will now be more palatable to Canadians, but it in some ways cuts part of the heart out of the intention, because the flights that overfly the United States right now that start in, say, Toronto and fly to Winnipeg, in many instances they fly over very sensitive American military installations, landmarks, cities and populated areas. So if anyone wanted to do something bad, they could still do that by getting on a plane that was simply flying between two Canadian points and going over American airspace. Clearly there is something else at play here.
Another issue we have to look at is that there is a Canadian no-fly list. The member for Winnipeg Centre is on the Canadian no-fly list. A person who is on a no-fly list would not be on the plane in the first place. Whether a person is on an American no-fly list or a Canadian no-fly list, he or she will not be allowed to get on an airplane in the first place. I am not really certain what problem we are trying to solve with this particular legislation and what the absolute importance is of getting the bill passed in very short order.
Whenever we look at issues like this, we want to question how the legislation increases the safety of the flying public. Right now we have other issues that have been identified as being very serious.
I believe the American Airlines' Allied Pilots Association has identified the trusted shipper program, which consists of over 1,000 companies that have the clearance to send parcels and mail. These parcels and mail are simply routinely loaded onto the planes. Just below where passengers are sitting on the plane are great quantities of mail and parcels that have not been checked at all. I would like to know what the sensibilities are to have the screening process we have, all of the very expensive airport scanning systems we have in place, and we are doing all of these procedures to our passengers.
While all of this is happening, mail and parcels are being trucked onto the plane. That is where the real exposure is. Just recently there was a case where toner cartridges in Africa were the source of explosive devices attempting to be shipped through the mail that would have found their way onto planes within the systems. We have a lot of evidence out there. The American Airlines' Allied Pilots Association has a very big issue here. We could have potentially had a big explosion just recently with those toner cartridge packages that nearly made it onto planes.
Evidently, the problem is much closer to home because every day in this country we have packages and mail getting on these planes.
Let us look at whether or not the no-fly lists that we have in this country have in fact added to our safety. We have the member for Winnipeg Centre on a no-fly list. When he was still alive, Senator Ted Kennedy was denied boarding on American planes. We have had other examples of Congress representatives and senators finding themselves unable to board planes because they are on lists. Therefore, when we look at a system like this we wonder if we should be making an attempt to clean up some of the problems we have in the current system rather than trying to inadvertently create more. If we look at how we can correct the records, we have found that it is almost impossible. The member for Winnipeg Centre has tried to get off the list. He has been unable to do so.
One example is six-year old Alyssa Thomas from Ohio. It was reported that she was on her way to her first communion. She was stopped at the airport in the United States, I believe it was a Cleveland to Minneapolis flight. She was denied boarding because she was on the no-fly list. The problem was solved with a lot of paperwork and she was able to board the plane. However, when the family realized that this was an issue that might follow her for the rest of her life they sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in an attempt to get the issue cleared up on a long-term basis. The department would not confirm nor deny her presence on the no-fly list and stated there would be no further communication regarding the matter. Now, at six years old, she will go through her life being on the no-fly list without any possibility of ever getting off it.
These are the questions that the Liberals, the Bloc and the members of the opposition should be asking in the House. They made a big issue of the long form census a few months ago over privacy issues there. The Conservative base was quite upset that the state would be asking census information about how many bedrooms in the house and so on. Yet it somehow does not seem to have any problem whatsoever giving over PNR information that could be sent to other countries' security systems with no guarantees and no information as to how it will be used.
I have indicated in previous speeches that there are better ways of dealing with PNR issues that Canada actually supports. Through the Canada-U.S. agreement on PNR matters we have been praised for the high standards that we have promoted and upheld in PNR matters. In the agreement we have with Canada-E.U., there are limitations on the disposal of data, how much time the PNR information can be kept, and the individualization of the particulars of the data so that the information is rendered anonymously. That allows security services to build up their profiles, which is what they want, without attaching it to any one individual. That is the--