Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Rob Nicholson  Conservative

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 provide, in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in R. v. Tse, safeguards related to the authority to intercept private communications without prior judicial authorization under section 184.4 of that Act. Notably, the enactment

(a) requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4;

(b) provides that a person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified of the interception within a specified period;

(c) narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception; and

(d) limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

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.

Votes

March 20, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-55, the response to the Supreme Court decision in R. v. Tse act.

Bill C-55 is essential in maintaining the ability of police to protect Canadians from serious harm. It aims to ensure that the police retain their power to conduct wiretap without prior judicial authorization where it is needed immediately to prevent tragedy from occurring. The exceptional authority under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code allows police to proceed to intercept private communications without prior judicial authorization when an interception is urgently needed to respond to an imminent threat, such as kidnapping, a bomb or a hostage situation.

The Supreme Court of Canada held, in R. v. Tse, that the authority under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional. However, the court suspended its declaration of invalidity until April 13, 2013, in order to allow Parliament to address the constitutional deficiencies of section 184.4. The amendments in the bill would respond to this decision, make 184.4 constitutionally compliant and add some additional limitations and accountability safeguards to use as exceptional authority for situations of imminent harm.

The authority to intercept private communications, under section 184, must be carefully tailored to balance the competing interests of the protection of privacy and the need to act quickly to protect persons and property from serious harm. The amendments to section 184.4 of the Criminal Code proposed in Bill C-55 would ensure needed accountability and transparency, while maintaining essential capability for police to respond swiftly in a critical situation.

Bill C-55 was studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and has been returned to the House without amendment. I would like to signal that the government greatly appreciates the assistance the House has provided in moving this essential bill forward as quickly as possible, while giving its important proposals due consideration.

To assist in its deliberations, the committee received written submissions from the Canadian Bar Association's national criminal justice section and heard from witnesses representing the Criminal Lawyers' Association and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. I am happy to report that these witnesses expressed support for the main elements of Bill C-55 and made very positive comments on the value and importance of the bill.

I would like to take a few minutes to go over the major components of Bill C-55. As indicated by the bill's title, and as I previously mentioned, the amendments proposed in the bill are needed to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Tse. In the decision, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the authority under section 184.4 was unconstitutional, due to the lack of an accountability safeguard such as an after-the-fact notification. Bill C-55 would remedy this constitutional deficiency by adding requirements to the Criminal Code for after-the-fact notification to persons whose private communications have been intercepted under section 184.4. The notice would need to be provided within 90 days, unless an extension was granted by a judge.

In the decision of R. v. Tse, the Supreme Court also suggested that the government might wish to consider adding a reporting requirement, although it was not needed for constitutional compliance. The government is implementing this suggestion in Bill C-55, which proposes to amend the Criminal Code to require detailed annual reporting by the federal minister of public safety and the Attorneys General of the provinces on the use of section 184.4. This requirement essentially mirrors the existing reporting requirement under section 195 of the Criminal Code, which has always been considered an important mechanism to increase transparency in the use of wiretaps. Such annual reports are intended to form the basis for a public evaluation of police use of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.

Bill C-55 also proposes to limit the availability of the authority to wiretap under section 184.4 to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code in place of the broader reference to “any unlawful act”. This limitation was not seen as necessary by the Supreme Court, although it was favoured by the lower court in the Tse decision. The amendment was also commented on favourably by the witnesses who appeared before the committee to discuss the bill. The proposed change to the term “offence” makes for a narrower category of unlawful acts and is consistent with other wiretap authorities in part VI of the Criminal Code, which are also limited to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

The Supreme Court of Canada also indicated in its decision in R. v. Tse that the government might wish to consider whether the broader category of peace officer under section 2 of the Criminal Code was too broad and whether to restrict the use of section 184.4 to a narrower group of individuals, such as police officers. The Supreme Court observed that this might be beneficial from a constitutional perspective, although it did not rule on this issue. The government agrees with the Supreme Court's suggestion. Accordingly, Bill C-55 restricts the use of section 184.4 to police officers instead of peace officers. As the law presently stands, section 184.4 powers can be used by peace officers, which is a broader category of persons that includes officials such as mayors and reeves as well as fishery guardians and customs and excise officers.

I would like to take this opportunity to assure the House that the proposed definition of “police officer” already exists in the Criminal Code in the context of dealing with forfeiture of proceeds of crime. It also exists in other statutes. It has been judicially interpreted as only including those who are statutorily appointed to carry out duties of preservation and maintenance of the public peace.

Privately hired individuals, such as security guards in shopping malls or office buildings, do not fit within this definition, as they are not statutorily appointed. I should also mention that in looking at section 184.4 of the Criminal Code and the additional restrictions on its use proposed in this bill, it is important to remember that section 184.4 already provides a number of important limitations on its use. It can only be used where other powers are not available due to the urgency of the situation. The interception must be immediately necessary to prevent serious harm, and the communications that are to be intercepted must be those of the victim or the perpetrator. These restrictions, together with the amendments proposed in this bill, would ensure that the use of this exceptional authority is appropriately circumscribed.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has carefully reviewed the bill and supports it. The proposed safeguards and requirements in the bill not only meet but exceed the court's directives for constitutional compliance under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.

I encourage all members to support Bill C-55.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. I am glad that he understands the almost superhuman effort that we have all had to make to ram through this bill.

We all know that the Minister of Justice introduced this bill on February 11, despite the fact that it is a fairly important document given that it responds to a Supreme Court ruling.

We have had one question throughout the process and for a fairly long time now. The decision rendered by the court on April 13, 2012, in R. v. Tse gave the government one year to respond. Yet this question has not yet been answered. As we approach the final stage of consideration of this bill in the House, I believe it is important to better understand why the government waited so long and to see whether there is a lesson that can be learned here.

We have had to examine amendments to the part of the Criminal Code entitled “Invasion of Privacy” faster than a speeding bullet. I think that the government should learn something from this.

I am wondering whether the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice can say whether the government has learned anything from the process that just took place.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to thank the members of the opposition who are part of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for having worked with us to get this bill passed quickly. It is very important for the safety and lives of those we should be protecting.

We are being criticized for how long it took for this bill to be introduced. But the justice department wants to be sure that it diligently examines a law's constitutionality.

We know that in this case, the Supreme Court suspended the bill, saying that it had shortcomings but that it was neither completely useless nor completely unconstitutional.

We therefore made another attempt and took our time going over it with a fine-tooth comb in order to correct the flaws and to ensure that it meets all of the constitutional requirements. We know that intercepting a person's communications is still an extreme measure to take.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, since we have the decision of the Supreme court in R. v. Tse, one would think that we now would be very cautious in this place to ensure that we not do just barely enough to ensure charter compliance but that we take every single step recommended to us by experts to ensure charter compliance.

I ask the parliamentary secretary why we did not take the advice of the Canadian Bar Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Criminal Lawyers' Association to ensure that we have additional oversight measures, including having lists that show when a wiretap did not lead to arrest and ensuring that the policemen who make these decisions without warrant record their reasons for having reasonable, probable grounds for doing so.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, we all aspire to ensure that matters of constitutionality are safeguarded. However, in instances when there are emergent needs to protect the safety of the public, it is not always possible to take measures such as making very copious notes or taking steps that may slow down the process that ultimately leads to guarding our safety.

While we respect the member's amendments in regard to having a full and complete record as to why a wiretap was used versus having obtained judicial authorization, emergent circumstances dictate that it is not possible to always write copious notes as to why such emergency measures were taken.

It is a matter of balancing the security of the public and the charter rights of citizens, and we feel that the bill, as it stands, meets all those requirements.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his speech. He said that the justice department paid close attention to constitutionality. As we know, the government's initial reaction to the R. v. Tse case was to introduce Bill C-30.

Could my colleague explain why Bill C-30 was so bad? Why did the minister push the bill so far given that it went against the will of the people but particularly given that it went against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and what the Supreme Court was asking for?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-30 will not move forward. We listened to what the public was saying and we reconsidered. That does not mean that in the future we will not propose bills that give police the tools they need to protect the public. However, Bill C-30, as it was written, will not move forward.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the praise from my hon. colleague regarding our cooperation in meetings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

I would like to ask my colleague if his party will learn from this and if, in the future, the justice priority will pertain to respecting the charter and the Constitution, rather than the Conservative political agenda, as has often been the case.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about legislation that has an impact on the private rights of individuals, it is always easy to allude to a political platform. However, the exercise requires finding the balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of the government to protect those individuals.

I will not comment on the political platform. We believe that we always do what is necessary to find the balance between the rights of the public and the rights of the government.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my Conservative colleague some questions.

I would like to know why the minister waited so long between introducing Bills C-30 and C-55 if we are in such need of a bill like this in Canada.

I would also like to ask him if, like the NDP, he also disagreed with the minister when the minister made very disgraceful comments to the effect that anyone who opposed the original bill was siding with pedophiles.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find this bill very interesting, because it recognizes the emergency needs of police officers to get information to save lives. However, as the Supreme Court pointed out, there was a lack of accountability measures, which would, in the long term, affect the free and democratic rights of citizens.

In light of the Supreme Court decision on this, was that part of the reason the government killed the lawful access bill, in which there were very few provisions to protect accountability for average citizens, let alone potential criminals?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.

What process must a bill go through in order to obtain the constitutional approval of public servants? Some would say that this process is not as clear or as effective as it should be.

How did Bill C-30 manage to get through that process and make it to the House of Commons, where we immediately saw that it was unconstitutional? How did that bill make it to this House, only to be withdrawn by the Conservatives, who then introduced Bill C-55, which is before us here today?

What was the process and why was such a process needed, when it probably cost taxpayers money since this had to go before the Supreme Court?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, when the constitutionality of legislation is reviewed, a very rigorous process is always used. This procedure has been in place for many years. It has been used by our government as well as the previous Liberal government.

I also note that a number of decisions have been brought before the courts, which ultimately recognized the constitutionality of our legislation. Thus, a rigorous process is in place. I will not speak to Bill C-30, because, as I said, we are not moving forward on that.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, with his question, my colleague from Sherbrooke put his finger on the problem that resulted in the introduction of Bill C-55. It is very clear; it is obvious. The government can indeed say that Bill C-30 was withdrawn as a result of public pressure because that is true. I hope those who are watching us right now are happy realizing that it is possible to take action together when something is as absurd as Bill C-30. The problem was so obvious that it was extremely easy to raise a public reaction.

I cannot repeat it enough: section 184.4, which the government is trying to save following the decision in R. v. Tse, appears in a part entitled “Invasion of Privacy”. This is an exception provided for in the Criminal Code for extremely specific cases.

When the government, through the Minister of Public Safety, introduced Bill C-30, it launched an attack against anyone who would dare say anything against the bill. We were off to a very bad start. That behaviour triggered a popular movement such as we rarely see in matters concerning the federal government.

I said that my colleague from Sherbrooke had put his finger on the problem. For several hours now, we have been debating that deficiency, which was reported by a government employee, a Department of Justice lawyer concerned about the orders he was receiving from his superiors and his department. When a compatibility analysis of government or Senate legislation is needed, public servants are asked to cut corners.

This is an allegation. As a lawyer, I take note. Thus far, it is strictly an allegation, not a proven fact. However, it has to raise serious doubts. If we take our role as legislators seriously, this should immediately raise red flags.

Make no mistake about it: the problem with Bill C-30 was so obvious that the government decided to reverse course. We are not used to that with a government such as the Conservative government. The government is not very humble when it comes to admitting its mistakes. This is a major admission, and I believe a mea culpa is absolutely in order.

However, this situation raises the question that my colleague from Sherbrooke asked. Bill C-30 should never have passed the charter compatibility test. Is that clear enough? The government was bent on saying that that bill was the way to solve all surveillance-related problems, pedophilia-related problems and whatever other problems. It had cast a wide net.

It did not take a brilliant legal mind to realize that there were serious problems of invasion of privacy. It did not take a brilliant legal mind to realize that the government had to be stopped and told that Bill C-30 would not pass a court test. It did not even solve the problem raised in R. v. Tse. It was very broad. Thank goodness the government reversed course.

However, the question remains: how did this bill pass the compatibility test, which is mandatory? It is not the official opposition, the NDP, that says so, but rather the Department of Justice Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They provide that no legislation shall be introduced in the House where there are serious and reasonable doubts as to its constitutionality or compatibility with the charter. Bill C-30 is the most striking evidence that there is a problem somewhere in the Department of Justice in transmitting this analysis which has been conducted for the benefit of the Minister of Justice. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt.

I am not saying that his intention is to mislead the House. Telling us that this is the way things have been done since the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force is not a compelling reason to say everything is fine. It is not fine at all, and no one seems very concerned about it. They just coast along, hoping that cases will not wind up in court.

I moved a motion in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to strike a committee that would analyze the question and assess the kind of directives that could be given so that legislators in the House could determine whether their role was being properly fulfilled. The question was discussed for two days, and I have to say that a Conservative colleague considered siding with us because he agreed that this was important. It does not matter whether we are left-leaning or not, everything must be done properly and we must take the time to examine the bill, failing which we may cast doubt on all bills introduced in the House.

Every colleague who sits on a committee must question the minister on the kinds of studies that have been done to ensure compatibility with the charter and the Constitution of Canada. We have some doubts that this is being done properly. Even a Conservative nearly gave in. Probably two days elapsed before he was intercepted by the party's higher powers, who told him not to get involved. The official response was that it had been done like that since the time the Liberals were in power. To me, it is no excuse to say that we can do something wrong because someone else did it just as wrong. I believe there has to be a readjustment, and Bill C-30 was a good example of that.

Bill C-55 has been introduced. I want this to be clear in people's minds: Bill C-55 is much more limited than Bill C-30, and it caused a shake-up when it comes to wiretapping and invasion of privacy.

Why did the official opposition go along with the minister and the government, who had to pass Bill C-55 at the eleventh hour? The decision in R. v. Tse is like Damocles' sword. The Court gave the government until April 13, 2013, to make the changes required by the ruling in R. v. Tse. As a result of the decision, section 184.4 had to go.

Some people, like me, truly believe in human rights and the importance of privacy and rights that are protected by the charter. I also believe that we must have this kind of provision in a free and democratic society such as ours. At the time, section 184.4 stated:

A peace officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication where

(a) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;

Therefore, he must have reasonable grounds to believe that the urgency of the situation is such that it is impossible for this peace officer to obtain an authorization on the basis provided for in this section.

I will continue reading section 184.4:

(b) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that such an interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and

(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.

This section is very important in the context of police work. In addition, it is applied in exceptional circumstances. However, in R. v. Tse, the Supreme Court of Canada held that there were problems of accountability and that it was very likely, when applying section 184.4, that there was no reference to the fact that the person who has been the subject of a wiretap must be notified. A person could have been wiretapped without ever knowing it because they were never taken to court or charges were never laid against them.

That was the only way individuals would know they had been wiretapped and a communication intercepted.

The Supreme Court said:

In its present form, the provision fails to meet the minimum constitutional standards of section 8 of the Charter.

The Court was referring to minimum standards, minimum constitutional standards to bring section 184.4 into compliance with section 8 of the charter.

The Supreme Court went on to say:

An accountability mechanism is necessary to protect the important privacy interests at stake and a notice provision would adequately meet that need, although Parliament may choose an alternative measure for providing accountability.

The Supreme Court of Canada also considered whether section 184.4 was meant for not only police officers, but also what are known as peace officers.

Once again, I encourage people to read the definition of “peace officers”, which is several pages long. It includes municipal mayors, meter readers, and much more. Pretty much anyone who moves and has an official public service title falls under the definition of “peace officer”.

The Supreme Court reserved judgment on this because it was not the subject of the argument or evidence before the court.

I am glad that the Minister of Justice took this matter off the Minister of Public Safety's hands. That is one good thing because then he spent some time reading and trying to understand what the Supreme Court of Canada said on April 13, 2012, even though there was not much time left for that.

As an aside, when the parliamentary secretary said that they had done a thorough job of ensuring their bill was constitutional, I had to laugh because, up until February 11, the government's response was Bill C-30. That left very little time to come up with Bill C-55. Maybe that is why the government did not want to take any chances. For once, they figured that they could not be too careful, so they limited the definition of “police officer” and even removed the notion of “peace officer”. They also added accountability mechanisms with respect to the people whose communications are intercepted and to reporting to the House of Commons.

Is it perfect? No, as my Green Party colleague said. That is the conclusion we came to in committee. Much more could have been done. If I had been in charge of drafting this bill, I would probably have added a few things.

However, the House will have to answer this fundamental question. Would we rather get rid of section 184.4 and end up with no provision, or do we think that Bill C-55 answers the questions and carries out the orders of the Supreme Court of Canada?

To us, the answer was very clear. Some witnesses even came to tell us that they supported the bill. The Canadian Bar Association, the CLA, the groups that sent us briefs: they all agreed. Would they have added some additional provisions regarding the reports? The Supreme Court of Canada never said that Parliament should receive reports regarding the attorney general of Canada or the provinces. However, we looked into it and examined this issue. It is not easy, because it is difficult to move forward if there is no discussion.

This bill was rushed. Normally, if things were done properly, we would have taken the year that the Supreme Court gave us to consult and see what could have been done better, to see whether the provinces were with us and whether they had a problem with sending us the reports that they will have to provide. All of this was clear to us.

People in committee were clearly asked whether Bill C-55 in its current form was a suitable response to R. v. Tse.

The context in which the court only asked the person whose communications were intercepted to provide notice within a certain time, without specifying that time limit, fully meets the criteria established by the Supreme Court of Canada. Furthermore, time limits were specified and the concept of a peace officer dropped.

For once, things were properly anticipated. This does not mean that there will not be any challenges. On the other hand, the witnesses we heard said that these kinds of provisions are not applied often.

Yesterday, the Green Party member said that it would perhaps be necessary to withdraw the proposed amendment. I am relieved to hear this, because we were told the same thing in committee. A 24 hour time limit was suggested. It becomes difficult when you begin to examine these criteria. The danger is the tendency to treat situations that are not dealt with consistently in every part of the country the same.

Here in Gatineau, it is probably much easier to obtain the authorization of a judge than in a more remote part of Canada where a judge may not be present at all times.

Clearly the provision is only applicable if it is impossible to obtain authorization within a reasonable time period. The basic rule in terms of interception of communications will still be to obtain authorization and to have reasonable grounds for the wiretap. Furthermore, the person doing the wiretapping will have to explain why.

As a result of the amendments, there is now an obligation to inform the person under section 184.4. If a person, whether or not that person has been charged, feels that his or her privacy has been completely invaded, recourse is possible and the police agency in question will have to defend its decision.

However, even the experts tell us that this provision is not used frequently. The expert on the committee reported that there had not been any requirement of this kind for almost six years. Sometimes things need to be placed in perspective.

While I do not want to lecture anyone, I am going to do so anyway. I seriously believe that the government should be aware of just how dangerous a game this is. The provisions of section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act and section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which anticipate this exercise, are designed to prevent these situations as much as possible.

All lawyers know very well, as I do, that it is sometimes difficult to tell a client that their case is a sure thing. However, if our priorities include decency, prudence and the public good, then we would be reasonably satisfied that this law met the criteria and principles of the charter and the Constitution. We would not raise a point that had only a 5% chance of meeting our constitutional obligations and tell people, as I was told in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, that if they are not happy they can take legal action. It really bugs me when I hear things like that.

We are here to help the public and yet we tell them that if they are unhappy about our laws, they should take legal action and claim that there was an infringement of human rights. We already have some serious problems with access to justice. Not everybody is in a position to take legal action.

The government is grateful that we worked with it. However, we did not necessarily work with the government. We worked for Canadians, for the people and for the police forces that have to make use of section 184.4, an essential factor in the exercise of a police officer's duties in investigations. This section could not be allowed to simply disappear solely because the government stubbornly decided to introduce Bill C-30.

I am not at all unhappy that the government backtracked on that. We hope that things will work out better with Bill C-55. This will no doubt not be the last time we have to discuss these invasion of privacy provisions.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question. Much like everyone on this side of the House, I find it a bit too easy for the government to downplay Bill C-30, as though it were a foolish mistake. That excuse worked up until last week. I felt insulted to have been associated with criminals and pedophiles. The entire debate completely shifted. It was shameful, and those who witnessed it were horrified. We are not the ones who counted Mr. Flanagan as a friend. I am tempted to use some unparliamentary language here, but I will refrain.

We feel that crime must be stopped, and we feel that it must be stopped effectively, not any which way and not with a piecemeal approach, as the newspaper headlines state.

Could my colleague elaborate on that?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, those were probably the harshest and most hurtful comments I have heard in this House over the course of my relatively short political career. We do not always agree with the government, just like it will not always agree with us. However, there is a way to disagree respectfully. We are here to represent our own constituents.

Bill C-30 likely got away from them because the debate became personal and personal attacks were being made. The Minister of Public Safety personally attacked the people who opposed his bill, which was flawed. The Prime Minister realized this and relieved the minister of his responsibility for the bill. Then the government had to scramble to solve the problem.

It is not always easy. I think that if the government did things right the first time, it would not spend so much time and money trying to talk people into something that is ill-conceived. In the end it does the right thing, but the process takes so much sweat and hard work, starting on our side. We spoke out against these personal attacks on people who dared to ask questions about Bill C-30.

This bill has fortunately been thrown out. However, as my mother always said, many a true word is spoken in jest. I sometimes get the impression that this government's true colours shine through in every one of its bills.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very closely to my colleague's excellent discourse. We see here an attempt to deal with a Supreme Court decision that said yes, as is normal with Canadian law, it is possible for law enforcement officers to obtain data in order to save someone's life; however, there are the issues of accountability and oversight.

When we look at the government's previous Bill C-30, we see it completely disregarded the privacy rights not in the case of criminals but of ordinary citizens. It would have allowed undefined police services, whoever they might be, to gather all manner of private information without warrant oversight. The attempt to shut down debate by accusing anybody in Canada who was concerned about the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens of being supporters of child pornography is probably one of the most baseless slurs that has ever been uttered in the House of Commons.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague what she thinks would have happened had Bill C-30 gone to the Supreme Court, because it was such an outrageous abuse of the privacy rights and democratic rights of an enfranchised citizenry.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

It is my humble opinion, Mr. Speaker, that it would have been blatantly torn apart by the Supreme Court of Canada. We should carefully read R. v. Tse and what the court thinks about people's privacy under section 184.4.

This provision is a very important tool to combat serious crime and serious harm to individuals. Imagine what it would have to say about other situations.

I think this bill shows there is a problem with requiring the Minister of Justice to guarantee, for the benefit of the House, that bills introduced by the government or by the Senate are consistent with the charter and the Constitution. This raises doubts about whether this important work was done. I do not know who had their hands on Bill C-30, and I do not know if it was given to someone with no legal background, but there were some glaring problems with that bill.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question. She hit the nail on the head.

Does she think the trust between parliamentarians, legislators and the mechanism for approving the constitutionality of legislation is now somehow broken or reduced?

How does she see the relationship between parliamentarians, legislators and the fact that Bill C-30 was introduced in the House of Commons? Does she believe a bond of trust has been broken?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rose in the House yesterday to address the question of privilege raised by my colleague from Winnipeg Centre.

I cannot speak for everyone, but I think something is clear. We have recently heard a lot about Bill C-30 and other bills, including certain aspects of Bill C-10. Time will tell if I am right or not. Some legislation that is before the courts has already been overturned. This legislation did not all originate with the current government. I am laying it on thick. I am even laying it on the heads of our Liberal friends.

Even the member for Mount Royal said that, when he became Minister of Justice, he had some concerns about how this test was conducted.

Certainly, my trust level is at about 1%. Every time I read a bill now, I do not just read the content to find out if it will fulfill its purpose. Now, I am practically obliged to put on my hat as a lawyer specializing in constitutional law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, I must do the work that I did not think I had to do, because I had the minister's assurance. When a bill is introduced in the House, if it is not flagged as problematic, we assume it is okay. We can no longer make that assumption. Something has tarnished this assumption, and what we are going through with Bill C-30 proves it every day. This should worry all members of the House, in all parties.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief.

Could my colleague explain her motion to study this problem? The government often says that the system was in place even when the Liberals were in power. However, we know that there is a problem because now we are talking about laws have been ruled unconstitutional. Could my colleague talk about her motion on that subject?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will do so very quickly.

The motion that I moved was not a cause for concern for the government. It merely asked that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights conduct an in-depth study of the implementation of subsection 4.1(1) of the Department of Justice Act since it was passed. According to this subsection:

Subject to subsection (2), the Minister shall, in accordance with such regulations as may be prescribed by the Governor in Council, examine every regulation transmitted to the Clerk of the Privy Council for registration pursuant to the Statutory Instruments Act and every Bill introduced in or presented to the House of Commons by a minister of the Crown, in order to ascertain whether any of the provisions thereof are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Minister shall report any such inconsistency to the House of Commons at the first convenient opportunity.

That leads us to believe that, without this certificate, the law is presumed to comply with the charter. We have come to realize that the test may not be applied in a serious manner.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take this opportunity to speak on Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, alternatively cited as the response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Tse Act.

My colleague and our public safety critic, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, outlined why this bill is necessary in his original remarks in the House. I will not go back and quote those reasons, but he certainly outlined very extensively why the bill was necessary and why we are now supporting Bill C-55 to overcome the problems that were actually created by the government itself in bringing in Bill C-30 and by the remarks of the minister at the time, which the previous speaker talked about, which created such great controversy in the country.

I might mention as well that about two weeks ago the member for Winnipeg Centre spoke at length on the fact that government bills are not reviewed by legal counsel to see if they meet the test of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He raised raised a point of privilege, in fact. What he was talking about, and I agree with him, was this regime's lack of testing legislation against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We have a Senate made up a majority of senators appointed by this Prime Minister. More senators have been appointed by this Prime Minister than any prime minister in Canadian history. It has become as if the senators who are appointed are loyal to the Prime Minister, and they are not doing their work as a sober second thought. The Senate is almost a rubber stamp to the government.

The next safeguard, as the member for Winnipeg Centre said, is the courts in the country, not only the Supreme Court but other courts as well. Legislation passed in this place, which we as members assume has been tested by Department of Justice legal counsel and others to see if it meets the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in fact has not been. Then legislation is in fact tossed back, and that is in part why we are dealing with this particular bill today.

We know we have a problem with the way the government operates in introducing legislation without first having it tested by legislative counsel on how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to it, and I know, Mr. Speaker, that in your role as speaker you will be coming forward with a decision on what the member for Winnipeg Centre raised in his point of privilege on that matter.

I will get into the specifics of the bill in a moment. This bill, or rather the need for this bill, is symbolic of what is wrong with how this place is now functioning under the guidance of the current regime. I would call it the undermining of our democracy.

There are several areas that I have to mention. First, as noted, the government brings forward legislation that we know now has not been tested, as it is supposed to be tested, in terms of how it applies to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Therefore, without that application, it is definitely going to make more unnecessary work for the courts further down the line.

Second, in this place we see omnibus bills put forward with almost everything in them but the kitchen sink. As a result, parliamentarians are unable to take all the parts of a bill to the appropriate committee where members of Parliament who have taken on the responsibilities for specific issues—and I would not call them experts, but they are knowledgeable in those areas—can test that legislation. Instead, these omnibus bills coming forward cover so many areas that Parliament is not given the proper discourse, discussion and debate to find any problems, as we have seen is needed in this specific bill.

Third, another aspect we have seen all the time with this regime in the undermining of democracy is the use of closure. The government only allows a bit of debate and prevents the representatives of the people from doing the proper analysis and research and coming forward with amended legislation. It has introduced more closure motions to limit debate in its short term as a majority government than any government in Canadian history.

Our critic for justice has put forward all kinds of amendments for justice bills, but because they are coming from an opposition party, the government ignores them. It does not accept amendments mainly put forward by opposition parties, even when the amendments make improvements to the bill. That is a problem.

I see the parliamentary secretary for international trade shaking his head over there.

There is another undermining of democracy that does not necessarily show in the bill but that is clearly a problem around this place: at the committee level, when we move motions in committee, whatever they may be, the Conservative regime moves the committee in camera, in secret, so that Canadians cannot even see the simple debate on a motion as simple as asking the minister to come before a committee. What do the Conservatives have to hide? It is another aspect of the undermining of democracy.

The last point I want to make before I get to the specifics of the bill is with respect to the Senate. As I said a moment ago, the Senate has become a rubber stamp for the Prime Minister, because he has appointed most of the senators. I know that my senator is not even a resident of the province and region that he is supposed to be representing, which is a constitutional requirement. However, my key point with respect to the Senate is this: it is no longer the body of sober second thought; it is almost a rubber stamp to what the government does.

I make all those points on the undermining of democracy to point out that for bills such as Bill C-55, it is the undermining of democracy that allows a bill that does not meet the tests of the courts to be passed and become law in this country.

I will now go to the specifics of the bill. I would like to quote from a Library of Parliament report. As the House knows, the Library of Parliament does very good research. I want to quote from its report, because it is the best there is in terms of a summary.

Its report on the bill states:

On November 18, 2011, the SCC heard an appeal in the case of R. v. Tse concerning the constitutionality of the emergency wiretap provisions. In this case, police used s. 184.4 to carry out warrantless wiretaps when the daughter of an alleged kidnapping victim began receiving calls from her father stating he was being held for ransom. Approximately 24 hours later, the police received judicial authorization to carry out the wiretaps. The trial judge in the Supreme Court of British Columbia found that s. 184.4 contravened the Charter right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure.... The decision was appealed by the Crown directly to the SCC.

The Supreme Court then believed in its decision that section 184.4

...strikes a reasonable balance between an individual's right to freedom from unreasonable searches and society's interest in preventing serious harm, insofar as it allows warrantless interceptions to be used only in exigent circumstances. However, the Court found that in its present form, s. 184.4 violates s. 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. It was the lack of any accountability measures, particularly notice to persons whose communications have been intercepted, that proved fatal. The appeal was therefore dismissed, and the SCC suspended its declaration of invalidity for 12 months

—in other words, giving time for this place to deal with it appropriately—

to allow Parliament to make it constitutionally compliant by adding safeguards.

That is the background on what happened. The Government of Canada had previously passed legislation allowing those warrantless wiretaps, and the Supreme Court is basically saying that safeguards need to be put in place.

To summarize what the safeguards in the bill are and why we support it, the safeguards are basically these: the bill requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4. That is a good step.

The bill provides that a person who has been the object of such interception must be notified of the interception within a specified period, and I will get into that in a moment as well.

The bill narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception.

Finally, the bill limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

Therefore, Bill C-55 adds three major safeguards to section 184.4 of the Criminal Code. It first restricts the use. It narrows the offences for which the wiretapping can be used, and they are spelled out in sections in the bill. Second, it names specifically the category of the people who can use those measures. Basically it narrows the category of people who can use it to police officers only. Previously it was debatable as to which people with authority could introduce wiretaps. It might be fisheries guardians or others who do not have formal training in the law or on the seriousness of wiretapping measures. The third point is that wiretapping measures could only be used to prevent an offence as listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

One of the most important questions for our party, for Liberals, going into committee consideration of this bill was why the use of section 184.4 would be limited to the offences listed in section 183. It was done despite the Supreme Court of Canada's advice to the contrary.

The Supreme Court specifically said:

There may be situations that would justify interceptions under s.184.4 for unlawful acts not enumerated in s.183.

However, the minister, to his credit, and department officials testified that this change was necessary to bring section 184.4 more in line with the rest of part IV. The change was also supported by a witness from the Criminal Lawyers' Association, who said that the narrower any provision of the Criminal Code can be, the better.

The definition of “police officer”, which we had a concern about, was also discussed at committee at length. The term “police officer” is obviously preferable to “peace officer”, for reasons that I think are pretty clear. It is not as broad. It is narrow.

However, committee members sought assurances that the definition of “police officer” in Bill C-55 could not be construed to include private security guards or mall cops, as they are called, for example. The minister clarified that this term has been interpreted a number of times by the courts. Therefore, it is not security guards, mall cops or commissionaires; it is Sûreté du Québec, Ontario Provincial Police, RCMP, and provincial law enforcement agents.

We accept the interpretation by the minister. We think, therefore, that the bill should be allowed to pass, because the minister, in his interpretation, is quite narrowly focused on what a police officer is. They are the only ones, in our understanding, who would have the ability to authorize the use of this power.

In the time I have left, it may be important, I think, to go back and review one of the key points, which is why the Supreme Court of Canada made the decision it did and to look at the safeguards put in place as a result of the Supreme Court decision.

Clearly, the Supreme Court, in its original ruling, basically said that there was a serious lack of accountability in the use of the warrantless wiretaps. It recommended that notice be given to the subject of an interception and that the notice be provided after the fact. That is kind of standard procedure. It happens in other areas with wiretaps.

Bill C-55, therefore, would require that either the Minister of Public Safety or the relevant provincial Attorney General provide notice of the interception, in writing, within 90 days of the day the interception occurred.

Extensions could be granted, but those would certainly be, in the case of ongoing interceptions, if it related to organized crime or to terrorism.

The other important point, and I will close on this point, is that reports from ministers at the provincial level or at the Attorney General level within the province, or from the Minister of Public Safety, ultimately—whoever is responsible—on the number of interceptions made under section 184.4, the number of notifications given and a general description of the methods of interception used for each of those interceptions must be tabled in the House and in others if it is their jurisdiction, outlining what those are.

For all those reasons outlined above, we, as a party, will be supporting Bill C-55, which we believe overcomes the concern of the Supreme Court of Canada as it relates to warrantless wiretaps.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is very interesting about the Supreme Court decision is that it says that the rule of law still applies in this country, even when dealing with criminal matters, despite the Conservative government's attitude sometimes. The Conservatives seem to believe that if they throw the word “criminal” out there, they can suspend all manner of civil liberties and due process.

In the act on the issue of warrantless wiretaps, the reasonable choice is that if police officers believe that a life is at stake or that a crime is being committed, they can obtain that data. However, they are accountable. Later on there has to be a written record of how it was used so that we know that this was not some personal vendetta or wild goose hunt.

Bill C-55 is very narrow in its definition. I think the Conservatives were forced to be narrow in their definition, because the Supreme Court held them to account. Compare that to Bill C-30, with which the government was looking to obtain all manner of information on Canadians on the Internet. The Conservatives would have allowed the minister, under section 34, to designate persons as inspectors who could go to a telecom operation, but they did not describe what those inspectors were. They could be police officers. They could be political staffers for all we knew. They were writing into the bill a wide variety of opportunities to throw as wide a net as possible to go after ordinary Canadian citizens.

The Supreme Court says that even in the case of dealing with criminal activity, the rule of law has to be in place. Whether on this bill or on deporting landed immigrants with crimes of six months without any due process, what does it say about a government that is that uninterested in the basic rule of law that has made Canada the democracy it is?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would answer quite simply and expand on it a little.

I think what the member said is absolutely correct. If we break down to the simpliest terms some of the things happening on the law and order agenda of the Conservative government, I have to ask if it is really justice the Conservatives believe in or revenge.

Looking at the mandatory minimum sentences the Conservatives are introducing, the laws have some implications. We hear about double- and triple-bunking in prisons now.

The way the Conservatives have handled some of these legal bills, there will be more court time taken up, because if a deal cannot be worked out between the defence and the prosecution, the defence will fight it all the way. As a result, some people will get off who should not, and some will have longer terms than they should have. It takes more court time. There is more cost to the system. Actually, at the end of the day, there is probably less justice. That is why I make the point that I think the Conservative government is more interested in revenge than in justice itself.

On the specifics of the question, thank goodness for the Supreme Court. In my earlier remarks I outlined why, with some of the laws the government has passed, the courts are turning back to Parliament legislation that was improperly passed. That, again, is how the Conservative regime operates in a dictatorial fashion.

The member is right in terms of accountability. There are two points in the bill that come as a result of the Supreme Court decision and the changes in the bill. One is that notice of a wiretap has to be provided within 90 days of the day the interception occurred. Second, ministers and Attorneys General have to report to Parliament or to the various houses on the methods of interception used and the numbers used. That is a safeguard after the fact. It brings some accountability to warrantless wiretaps.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:25 a.m.
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NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Malpeque, who serves with me on the Standing Committee on International Trade. He is always very careful about following the rules and procedure.

I have witnessed the same thing that he has, and I have seen the cavalier way that the Conservatives have of cutting corners and always proceeding in camera so that people do not know what is happening in committee. I do not think that that is right.

We are now being forced to ram through a bill at the last minute when the work should have been done months ago, perhaps because of the Conservatives' partisanship and stubborn attitude. They have waited until the last minute and now they are trying to pass another botched bill.

What does my colleague think?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. In fairness, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of laws that have been passed by this place that will be turned back for this or future parliaments to look at. The way the government rams these laws through is sure to create problems down the road, and we will likely see that in future years.

In this particular case, the court has ruled on a flaw in the law. This is just one example, but I believe that there will be many more.

I outlined in my remarks earlier that the government's agenda and the way this regime operates is to limit debate, limit discussion and limit analysis. That is being done in several ways. It is being done through, first, not testing legislation against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as we said earlier. That should have been done. We assumed that it was.

The point of privilege of the member for Winnipeg Centre should tell us more when the Speaker rules. That is a grave concern, because we, as members of Parliament, believed that the Department of Justice did that as a natural course of practice, and it obviously has not been happening.

Omnibus bills, which are bills that are all over the map, covering many subjects, probably never get to the committee with the expertise on them. Therefore, they are not debated or discussed properly.

The use of closure in the House is another measure that rams bills through without proper debate and discussion and a look at the safeguards.

As my colleague indicated a moment ago, even in committees we cannot even debate a simple motion on whether the minister should come before our committee in public. Conservative members drive the committee into what is called in camera, which is in secret. What is secret about having a minister before a committee?

This is the way the Conservatives operate, and it is prone to problems down the road. We will be responsible for the passage of bad legislation because of the way this regime operates.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today in support of Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code. I will be splitting my time with the member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

Finally, we have a helpful, useful intervention by the government, a crime bill we can support, not one laced with poison pills. That owes to the circumstances under which the bill comes before the House. It is really the force of circumstances in the form of a Supreme Court imposed deadline operating here, serving in a sense to take the matter out of the government's control.

It is the Supreme Court that has forced this amendment by way of its ruling in R. v. Tse, a case that dates back to April 2012. The case involved the issue of unauthorized wiretapping and, in response to the constitutional challenges raised, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that such a practice could be considered constitutional if the matter were authorized properly by way of legislation. Therefore, the Supreme Court gave the government some time to figure this out, a year in fact, and Bill C-55 is the response. It represents the government's effort to ensure such unauthorized interceptions of private communications be done constitutionally, and it succeeds.

This bill would amend the Criminal Code to provide required clarity, oversight and accountability to the rules with respect to wiretapping in circumstances alleged to be too urgent for prior judicial authorization. Oversight and accountability do not come easily to the government, so it is encouraging to see the bill in Parliament. In fact, it is something just short of a miracle perhaps in light of the progenitor to this bill, Bill C-30.

The history of Bill C-55 is interesting and worthy of comment. Indeed, it explains why the bill is before us at the 11th hour, and indeed the last minute thereof, to boot.

The Supreme Court decision that we are discussing today was rendered a year ago, and yet here we are rushing this through before the April 13 deadline, which is looming. I will not be too critical of that because the timing of the bill is very much linked to the content of it and, frankly, what would make it succeed and be worthy of our support. It is the urgency of the circumstances that seem to have rendered the bill uncharacteristically brief and straightforward. It is in a twisted and counterintuitive way that we perhaps owe the Minister of Public Safety some thanks for his tendency to a debating style that is reductionist in the extreme and that very often ends up posing distorted binary options. It is usually some framing of the issue that places sympathy for victims in opposition to a respect for civil liberties and constitutional freedoms. The case in point today was the minister's claim that people were either with the government or with the child pornographers.

That was the framing for the now dead Bill C-30, the so-called “lawful access bill”. I call it the case in point because Bill C-30 was really the government's first crack at responding to the Supreme Court's invitation to put in place a legislative framework that would render constitutional the unauthorized interception of private communications. However, it was both and alarming and cynical overreach that attempted to exploit all of our disgust and abhorrence for terrible crimes against children in an effort to bully Canadians into giving up their right to privacy in online communications.

It was dubbed the “protecting children from Internet predators act”. That bill would have allowed law enforcement agencies to access Canadians' personal information without a warrant at virtually any time for virtually any reason. It would have given the minister and the government unprecedented powers to access information and to force telecom, Internet, telephone and wireless providers to allow the government to spy on customers. Bill C-30 would have effectively criminalized all Canadians.

That is the legislation the Minister of Public Safety brought to Parliament a little over a year ago when he thought he had a bit of time to play games with the legislation. That is what the Conservative government thought was reasonable: unlimited and unaccountable access to private communication. Luckily, Canadians, Canadian privacy commissioners and civil society organizations were watching, and they did not like what was being proposed. Also lucky was the minister exceeded even himself with offensive hyperbole and sabotaged his own bill in the process. Yes, it is for that and that alone in a strange way that we owe the minister some thanks.

The lesson of Bill C-30, of course, is not lost on anyone. It is that with time to play and left to its own devices, the government will gladly snatch from Canadians their right to privacy. Therefore, we can be sure that Canadians are watching and guarding that right very closely, as are we. Thankfully, this bill is a far cry from Bill C-30. It stands in contrast and, in fact, is short, simple, direct and straightforward.

The task to be accomplished by way of the bill is to amend the Criminal Code to comply with the Supreme Court's 2012 order to change section 184.4 of the code to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or to lose it. Section 184.4, as it is currently written, allows peace officers to intercept private communications in emergency situations where the officer or officers have reasonable grounds to believe the situation is one of imminent harm to life or property. The urgency of such situations necessitates actions before the proper judicial authorization can be obtained. There are times when this is an appropriate action that can prevent crime and protect Canadians and for this reason section 184.4 exists.

Where it has fallen short up to now is in the area of accountability, largely. Two things have been missing: first, a system of oversight to inform Canadians of when and how this legislation is used; and, second, a requirement to notify individuals whose communications have been intercepted within a period of time defined within the bill. The court found in the R. v. Tse decision that this gap in the legislation constituted a violation of the charter.

Bill C-55 would close this gap, perhaps not perfectly but through the use of four mechanisms. First, the bill would require that the Minister of Public Safety and provincial Attorneys General to make public a report on the use of section 184.4 to intercept private communications on an annual basis. Second, the bill would require that persons whose communications had been intercepted must be notified of the interception within a given period of time. Third, the bill would narrow the definition of who could conduct this surveillance and would change it from “peace officers” to “police officers”. Finally, the bill would specify the list of offences for which section 184.4 could be invoked to those offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

These four will result in an improvement to the section of the code that serves to both limit the use of warrantless wiretapping to certain individuals, circumstances and offences and to increase the accountability in cases where it is invoked. The Supreme Court of Canada has spoken on the issue and Bill C-55 is Parliament's answer and, in the our view, the right one. Enhanced accountability and transparency is something the NDP will always support.

We know from experience where a lack of oversight and accountability takes us. We get massive omnibus bills, tax bills and omnibus crime bills passed at the last minute, with no time for parliamentarians to vet legislation, as our constituents rightly expect us to do. We get bills like Bill C-30, which outraged the public, and the minister managed to shame himself in that process.

Bill C-55 would revive at least a bit of what the government had run over and left for dead, which is accountability, by requiring the Minister of Public Safety to report annually to Parliament on the use of section 184.4 and the frequency of warrantless wiretaps in emergency situations. It would also require provincial Attorneys General to make this information public as well.

This is the kind of legislation we need, not the kind that gives cabinet ministers or other officials unprecedented powers but one that upholds Canadian law and increases accountability of police to the public. This why my colleagues and I in the NDP will support the bill.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:40 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Beaches—East York's presentation was, as always, thorough and helpful.

I am taking us back to the day that Bill C-30 was tabled in the House. It has become convenient to have revisionist history that the Minister of Public Safety was somehow off message when he attacked all of us in the opposition as either standing with child pornographers or with him. It is worth remembering that at first reading no one could find a copy of Bill C-30 in the opposition lobby that did not call it a bill for warrantless access. The use of the term “a bill for the protection of children from Internet predators act” was such a last-minute change that it was not even possible to find a single copy, other than the one that had been tabled for first reading.

My theory on those facts is that it was a PMO-approved bit of spin-doctoring and the mistake the Minister of Public Safety made was delivering the line with too much zeal.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's hypothesis on this. She may very well be correct. I do not want to be interpreted today as suggesting that the minister was off message. It is a message that is too frequently given. As I said in my speech, it is this juxtaposition of sympathy for the victims and civil liberties and constitutional freedoms, but somehow we cannot be for both.

In this case, the binary option was expressed with the government or with the child pornographers. It was perhaps a little overzealous. It has been described as being hurtful and offensive. It is certainly all that, but it is also extremely juvenile and it brings shame upon the minister himself and, frankly, upon this institution to have that level of debate and discourse in the House.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague's excellent discourse on this issue. I have a number of questions that I will try to get to in the limited time I have.

I am concerned because what we saw with Bill C-30 was an attempt to use the spectre of crime, the very debate of the accusation of an ordinary citizen supporting child pornography because we dared question the wisdom of the minister.

Bill C-30 would have used the cover of crime to allow all manner of attacks against basic privacy rights, including the fact that the minister could designate persons, and it was not clear who those persons were, to go in and demand warrantless access to information from telecom service providers on undisclosed persons. Who knows, it could be a political staffer who would be able to go in to telecoms to demand ISP information. That was under clause 35 of Bill C-30.

We still have a bill in the House, Bill C-12, which is supposed to be protecting personal privacy data, but we see that is creating all manner of loopholes. Bill C-12 would allow telecommunications companies to disclose personal information to government institutions, and it is unclear exactly who in the government, without the knowledge and consent of individuals for the purpose of "policing services". This is under clause 6(6) of the proposed Bill C-12. The language is in there again to undermine the rights of ordinary citizens to know that there will be due process and oversight.

Why does my hon. colleague think the government is so fixated on undermining the basic legal private rights of Canadian citizens?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for his struggle on behalf of Canadians and their interest in their privacy rights, in particular with respect to the bills he mentioned, Bill C-12 and Bill C-30.

I cannot speculate on why the government has such callous and obvious disregard for the privacy rights of Canadians. I cannot account for the zealotry of the minister himself and, perhaps as my colleague suggested, the PMO, nor the disregard for the charter, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the other legislation that, frankly, obligates the government to bring forward legislation to the House only after it has been vetted for conformity with the charter.

There is obviously a trend here. I reflect on past speeches I have given and all of these issues ultimately go to accountability. Bill C-42 had the opportunity to provide the House with oversight of the RCMP, and the Conservatives ignored that. They go to Senate omnibus bills and so on and so forth.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, we know this government has very little respect for privacy. We have seen this in the speeches made by my colleagues here, and in the bills this government has introduced. We also see that it has little respect for the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to Canadians. From time to time, it introduces bills that are at odds with the Constitution.

I am very happy that this time, it decided to comply with the provisions of the charter and amend the Criminal Code so that section 184.4 protects individuals’ privacy, as guaranteed by the charter.

We know that section 184.4 applies to the interception of private communications, and the Supreme Court recently ruled on this subject. Bill C-55 adds measures that would require persons whose private communications have been intercepted to be so informed at least 90 days after the interception, and reports to be produced annually.

These measures are essential. The fact is that when you take away the need to obtain a warrant in order to intercept private communications in extreme situations where a life is in danger, it is important that there be oversight, with a system in place so that we know what happened and why someone found it so important to intercept those private communications without a warrant.

The NDP understands how important it is for the police to have the tools to respond appropriately in dangerous situations, but at the same time, we cannot neglect the rights entrenched in the charter. Even in cases involving criminals, even in extreme cases, we have to respect the law as it stands. We have to respect the principles of Canadian law, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution. It is essential.

While I am happy that this government is finally respecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in adopting these measures, I should emphasize that this government, given the espionage agenda we saw with Bill C-30 and with Bill C-12, amended this bill to make it consistent with the charter only after being compelled to do so by a Supreme Court justice. So this was not something it decided to do on its own; it was an obligation flowing from the Supreme Court decision. If this government truly had the interests of Canadians at heart, it would have done this itself, instead of waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter.

It should also be noted that this bill was introduced as the government was announcing the death of Bill C-30, which enabled designated persons, who were none too clearly defined, to gain access to personal information without a warrant and without judicial oversight.

Once again, this government tried to go after personal information, and to treat all law-abiding Canadians as criminals, with no warrant or judicial oversight. If this government wanted to, it would have said that it is important, when looking for information without a warrant, to have a reporting mechanism or something of the kind, so that people are accountable, that personal information is sought only in extreme cases, and that law-abiding people are not treated as criminals, in contrast to what Bill C-30 proposed.

While Bill C-55, following the Supreme Court decision, ensures respect for section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when private communications are intercepted, Bill C-30 introduced measures that were inconsistent with the right we are guaranteed under section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be protected against unreasonable search or seizure.

There were two bills. The first was withdrawn, and I am very happy about that. Canadians are also very happy that the government decided not to continue with Bill C-30. The second bill says that Bill C-30 was inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I hope the government will realize to what extent its own bill, its espionage agenda—I am going to call it that because this is not the first time we have seen attempts of this kind—seriously affected the protections Canadians are guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The people of Canada were opposed to the measures contained in Bill C-30. The government accused its opponents of siding with pedophiles. I was myself accused of being a friend to pedophiles because I opposed that bill, like millions of Canadians right across the country. It has nothing to do with being friends to pedophiles, and everything to do with believing in the protection of Charter rights and in the content of our Constitution. It is absolutely essential to protect the provision set out in section 8 of the charter. We cannot go against it, and the Supreme Court judgment demonstrates that.

If Bill C-30 had been passed, it would have empowered designated persons, again not specified, and selected by the minister, to require Internet service providers to supply names, IP addresses and email addresses without a warrant and without judicial oversight. The Supreme Court decision demonstrates the necessity at all costs of protecting the privacy of Canadians, and shows that the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the charter are not negotiable, contrary to what this government thinks. I trust it has learned its lesson.

I mentioned this already, and I would like to say it again. It seems that a little more reflection is needed on this. The government introduced Bill C-12, which still has not been debated, but which also contains measures regarding surveillance without a warrant. Instead of explicitly saying that it would allow the collection of personal information without a warrant, this bill expands the definition of people who have access to that information and who can consult Internet service providers, based on a vague, sketchy definition. The Privacy Commissioner even raised some concerns about that clause, which was included in the bill.

The mandate for online spying that the government has given itself is not finished. I hope the government has learned its lesson and that, in light of the Supreme Court decision regarding the proposal in Bill C-55, it will drop any attempts to spy on Canadians online, when they are obeying the law.

I want to emphasize that the government cannot cast such a wide net and treat all Canadians like criminals when they are online. Of course, there are criminals and people who disobey the law, and it is important that police officers have the tools they need to intervene. That said, the government cannot contravene the charter. It must respect all rights and liberties guaranteed in the charter.

Once again, I really hope the government has learned its lesson and that it will scrap its plan to spy on people online.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on that. The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville is hoping that the government has learned its lesson. I would like her to take that a bit further.

Is that hope realistic? Is the government making amends because Easter is just weeks away? The government is not truly making amends. It is not being sincere; this is just a matter of circumstance.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises an excellent point. This ruling was made last summer, if I remember correctly. The government waited nearly a year before introducing this bill. Section 184.4 has been in the Criminal Code for years, but the government did not do anything until the Supreme Court said that the section violates the charter. The government is not doing this by choice; it has an obligation.

I hope that in the future, it will take this ruling into consideration and will understand that it cannot violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These rights and freedoms are guaranteed for all Canadians, no matter what the circumstances. That must be respected.

I hope that it has learned its lesson. I do not know if it has really learned anything because it was forced to introduce this bill, but I am optimistic.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her speech.

I would like to ask her a broader question about the fact that police authorities can access Canadians' personal, private communications.

Why is it so important that this does not violate the Constitution? Why is it so important that we properly examine this power before we move forward? What are the consequences of giving the authorities these powers? Why is it so important to provide a proper framework for them so that Canadians' rights are not violated?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, these are important measures, and it is vital that police officers have the tools and measures they need to take action in situations where they could save a life. At the same time, when the need to obtain a warrant is removed, it is truly important to have a system of accountability in place to ensure that those powers are not abused.

Bill C-55 also requires that within 90 days, people be informed that their messages or private communications have been intercepted.

Personally, I would not like my messages to be intercepted without my knowledge. I think this is a serious problem. We need these measures to ensure that section 184.4 is consistent with what is in the charter.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / noon
See context

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her response.

I would like to know her thoughts on the comments made by the Minister of Public Safety, who lumped together everyone who was against his bill. Finally, he is realizing today that he, himself, was perhaps in the same boat, because the Conservatives decided to reject that bill.

Can she give her thoughts on the minister's comments? Does she think he realized the import of his actions later and that he is now in exactly the same position as the opposition, in other words, against the bill?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / noon
See context

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, this proves that the government's strategy is simply to divide people. In this example, it is basically like saying, “You are either with us or you are with pedophiles.”

In this situation, the Minister of Public Safety openly insulted anyone who opposed the bill for privacy reasons. It was clear that the minister did not want to listen to Canadians. It took him a year to withdraw his comments. In the end, he did not even apologize to Canadians.

Such comments really demonstrate how little confidence this government has in Canadians and how it would rather divide people instead of listening to them, even though they might be right.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / noon
See context

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise today. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi. I know the member well because I serve on two committees with him.

I am very pleased to speak again in the House on the NDP's views on this piece of legislation, Bill C-55. It would amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court ruling referenced several times here this morning in previous speeches.

The point that has to be reiterated is that this is all coming about with a very few days remaining to meet the deadline that was provided to the House by the Supreme Court. It stayed a decision for a year to give the government the opportunity to bring forward an improvement to legislation that is much needed. We have supported this legislation throughout the process, although we found the process daunting because of the delay that took place in getting it here. We supported the government because it is an important tool for our police services in this country.

However, on the counter side of that, it is very important for the official opposition to look cautiously at any legislation that authorizes people to look into people's lives in the manner that this would. This enactment seeks to amend Canada's Criminal Code, and the Supreme Court ruling talked about the need for safeguards for Canadians, because this allows for authorized, and I want to stress the word “authorized”, interception of private communications, done prior to judicial authorization as foreseen in section 184.4 of the act.

It is worth noting that the enactment states that it:

requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4;

and

provides that a person who has been the object of such interception must be notified...within a specified period;...

The assumption is that those persons have not been found to be taking part in any criminal activity, and thus they have every right to be informed; and if they were involved with criminal activity and are part of an ongoing investigation, there could be an extension.

It narrowed the class of individuals who could actually make such interceptions, and those limited interceptions to particular offences are listed.

I was speaking a few moments ago about the fact that we are within three weeks of a deadline supplied to us by the Supreme Court. There was the benefit of a year from the Supreme Court to act on this, and the government has not done so until the very last minute. I have to question what the delay is. Why did it take close to a year for the government to respond to this? This was not a great difficulty, from the standpoint that the Supreme Court identified the areas in which the government had to make changes.

I would go so far as to say that when any government or any party in government looks to put forward legislation, a significant part of the process is debate in this place. Another significant part is the opportunity for all parties to come together, which we did in the instance of Bill C-55 at committee, to look at it, to hear witness testimony, to do those things necessary to offer any piece of legislation the due diligence necessary to make it as good as we possibly could. That is the concern over the timeframe, the concern over the fact that we had a couple of days to try to do things that could have well extended beyond, had we brought in more witnesses. It is troubling because that impedes the due diligence we have to administer on behalf of those people who sent us to this place.

I tend to repeat myself in my remarks, because that troubled me to the degree that I felt it was worth repeating.

There have been other times in this place that the opportunity to debate and to consider various bills has been impeded. I would ask how many times the Conservative government has moved time allocation on bills. It is not the delay just in this particular bill, but in other bills. We must be closing in on 30 times that it has occurred in this Parliament. It has to be close to that by now. I hear other members agreeing.

We have seen budget bills and other legislation affecting services, which Canadians rely on, shut down or extremely limited by the Conservatives, at what appears to be almost every opportunity. It stifles the opportunity for us to make those bills better. It stifles the opportunity we have as members to point out what they have done well and what they have done not up to the standards Canadians expect. We get to do that in this public forum. That has been curtailed too many times.

Once again, that is part of my concern with this bill, Bill C-55, and how it got to committee after such a delay. It has the potential of impacting ordinary Canadians in a very negative way if the protections of which the Supreme Court has spoken to us were not put into place.

Bill C-55 is simply an updated version of wiretapping provisions the Supreme Court previously deemed unconstitutional. That is quite a statement when we think about it. Fortunately again for the House, the Supreme Court set the parameters of what it saw as the need to protect Canadians' rights.

I have to say that Canadians have good reason to be concerned about privacy legislation that comes out of the government. To date the government has not had what I see as a good record in that area. It is not encouraging at all.

There is an obligation on the official opposition to work for the public good in upholding the rule of law, our Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was in February 2012 that the Conservative government tabled Bill C-30. Members will recall that gave authorities the power to access personal information in a way to which the Supreme Court responded.

It raised very serious concerns across the country, as I recall, about personal privacy and fundamental rights. That was due to the manner in which it was constructed and the powers it was seeking to give out. I will add that it was kind of a compilation of previous bills that have been before this House, Bill C-50, Bill C-51 and Bill C-52 from a previous parliamentary session. The Conservatives were attempting to build on the original legislation from 1999 to provide public safety authorities with extensive surveillance powers over digital information. As I said a moment ago, there was a significant backlash from the people of Canada in regard to this.

Now we have the government with these much-needed changes, I will commend the government. It reached across to us in the committee. We did work better on that bill than we did on some others in the past. If we did not meet the deadline or the provisions required by the Supreme Court, then these emergency powers would be thrown out.

I began my remarks talking about the need for police officials of our country to apply these. In this particular case, these provisions are intended to happen at the worst possible time, when somebody is under physical threat of injury or harm. It was important for us to go a little deeper into it.

I am looking for what really needs to be summarized here, and that is the fact that our role is to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadians are balanced with the police officials' needs to investigate, particularly in a time where someone is under the threat of physical harm. I have to say that, working together, I believe we accomplished that. Thus, we will be supporting this bill.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek for his very good overview of this bill, Bill C-55, particularly the context in which this bill came forward.

I guess the comment and the question I have is that it is really shocking to me that the original bill, Bill C-30, which was brought forward in the House, finally had to be withdrawn because of the massive opposition, both in the House from us, the NDP, and also out in the broader community. People across the country rallied against that bill. It was commonly known as “spying on the Internet”. It was a bill that was way over the top and, of course, we all recall the remarks from the Minister of Public Safety at that time.

To me, the bill that is before us today serves as a very good example of why an opposition, and Parliament itself, is so important. If we had not been here, that original bill would have been rammed through by the government. It did everything it could to try to put pressure to put the bill forward. However, because of the massive public reaction, the government had to finally stand down.

I wonder if the member would comment on that. To me, it serves as an example of what the role of this Parliament, and the opposition, is all about.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the member that in this place, the duty of the official opposition is to call into question those times when a government, particularly one with a majority, is starting to proceed with a kind of cavalier attitude that it has the right to proceed in certain areas. Part of what we did, as the official opposition, was raise concerns and draw Canadians' attention to the issues. Once they came to understand the potential for the negative impact upon their lives, there was certainly the push-back to which she alluded.

However, there is a positive side to this, too. When the government was forced to bring the legislation back in a new form, the opportunity to work together on it made that a better piece of legislation, more compliant with the Supreme Court's view of the legislation.

The sad part is that in this place we have the opportunity of doing that on a number of different bills, but in this particular government's case, it tends to just turn its back on the offer to try to make legislation better, better for Canadians, and that is who we are here to serve.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have yet to ask the blunt direct question, and maybe it is unfair that I pick the member out of his whole caucus, but he has spoken of how it is important to make the bill as good as it could be. Although I am also going to vote for this bill and did at report stage, I am very sad that members of the official opposition caucus who usually support my efforts for civil liberties did not support my amendments yesterday. They were all derived from the recommendations of the Canadian Bar Association, the BC Civil Liberties Association and the Criminal Lawyers' Association. They would have made the bill better. They would have made it more charter compliant.

I wonder if he can fill me in on why, in this instance, the official opposition decided to go along with the Conservatives on the bill.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague, whom I have the pleasure of working with on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

My colleague, our party's official justice critic, raised all of our concerns related to how this government acts when it comes to bills, which quite often violate the charter. In this case, my colleague had moved a motion specifically in order to avoid situations like Bill C-30.

I wonder if my colleague could talk about the advantages of having a system in place and how important it is that MPs understand this system, in order to ensure that all bills comply with the charter.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that anybody putting a bill forward in a responsible manner, one that has this potential for an impact upon Canadians, first should ensure it is charter compliant and ensure that the bill would stand up to a review by the Supreme Court. The member put forward a motion to that effect, that we put a process in place, and I would recommend that the government give it serious consideration.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-55.

First of all, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Gatineau and official opposition justice critic, as well as all of my colleagues, in particular the members for Brossard—La Prairie and Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, who have been working diligently to bring these matters forward.

I want to start by saying that we support this bill because we have the public good at heart. Respect for privacy, accountability, proper oversight, the rule of law and respect for the Constitution and the charter are extremely important to us.

The member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek noted that the government has moved time allocation close to 30 times. Time allocation is not used in committee, but causes that we espouse are systematically rejected along with many amendments that we bring forward. A climate of co-operation does not usually prevail.

Things were different this time as far as co-operation goes. However, the government had a knife to its throat, so to speak, because of the looming April 13 deadline. In R. v. Tse, the Supreme Court directed the government to provide safeguards related to the authority to intercept communications. The Court declared that interceptions made under section 184.4 without a prior court authorization were unconstitutional.

The bill requires the Minister of Public Safety and the attorney general of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4. It furthers provides that any person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified of the interception within a specified period. It narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception and limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

I would remind the House that this new Bill C-55 is simply an updated version of wiretapping provisions that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional. New privacy safeguards have been put in place. We believe the bill meets the standards in this area.

The Conservatives have a less-than-stellar record when it comes to privacy. That is why we took steps to ensure that this bill respected as much as possible the rule of law, the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This bill comes on the heels of the Conservatives’ abject failure with Bill C-30. This piece of legislation failed to meet the charter test because it was not properly crafted.

The Conservative government is making a desperate attempt to comply by the April 13, 2013 deadline with the Supreme Court decision in R. v. Tse.

Section 184.4 of the Criminal Code provides for safeguards, notifications and reports. Firstly it would require that a person whose private communications have been intercepted in situations of imminent harm be notified within 90 days. Secondly, it would require that annual reports be produced on the use of wiretapping under section 184.4. These amendments would limit the authority of police officers to use these provisions and would limit interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

The problem is that the current section 184.4 violates section 8 of the charter. Not enough thought went into it. It does not contain accountability measures to ensure proper oversight of police officers as they exercise the authority conferred upon them.

The court therefore called for some accountability measures which were introduced in Bill C-55. Among other things, this is the reason why we support this legislation.

I would now like to turn my attention to the prior notification requirement. The bill also requires that persons who are the object of interceptions be notified. Section 195 also makes it a requirement to report to Parliament, including producing reports on the use of interceptions under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.

For all of these reasons, we will be voting in favour of the bill because it attempts to strike a balance between personal freedoms and public safety considerations. However, the question is why it took the government so long to act. Bill C-55 is a step in the right direction, but why is the government not working together with the opposition at all times to resolve problems and improve proposed legislation?

Where justice is concerned, our priority is ensuring respect for the rule of law, for Canada’s Constitution and for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not for any political agenda.

Michael Spratt from the Criminal Lawyers' Association testified in committee in March 2011. He supported this bill. He felt that it was fair and constitutional and did an admirable job of incorporating the Supreme Court of Canada's comments from R. v. Tse. Mr. Spratt confirmed that the recurring theme is the balance between the protection of the public and the protection of privacy.

The Canadian Bar Association submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights also indicated that, overall, the CBA is in favour of the amendments the bill proposes to comply with the ruling in R. v. Tse.

A representative of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Raji Mangat, also said that this is a sensible and necessary privacy bill. She is pleased that Bill C-55 limits the application of warrantless wiretapping to circumstances in which the goal is to prevent the commission of an offence.

The notice requirement provides transparency and serves as an essential check on this extraordinary power to intercept communications without judicial authorization. This bill also includes reporting requirements in order to increase oversight in the use of warrantless wiretapping by police.

For all of these reasons, we agree with the committee witnesses that this remedies the problem. The government missed the mark with Bill C-30, but has made the necessary changes.

I am wondering about something and I will end on that note. Why does the government not work with our committee to improve other bills? The government should not just work with the opposition only when the Supreme Court puts a knife to its throat. The government must work with the opposition in the months and years to come. This would be a win-win situation for Canadians, as well as in terms of the rule of law and respect for the Canadian Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech.

Since he is a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I would like to ask him a question about how the government has proceeded with other bills, including Bill C-30, for example.

How has the government proceeded and what could be done to improve this aspect? The opposition has proposed concrete solutions. I wonder if my colleague could talk about what this government could do better.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I like the correction. The government could do so much better. It could not do any worse than what it is currently doing.

Instead of systematically rejecting any amendments or proposals made by key witnesses, the government should work with the opposition to improve these famous bills, like it did, as though with a knife to its throat, for Bill C-55.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague, and what struck me was the fact that within Parliament it is the role of parliamentarians of all parties to work toward the development of good legislation and legislation that will stand a test in the courts.

Unfortunately, the government has time and time again ignored input from the other parties and also tried to defy the courts. With Bill C-30, the Conservatives were completely slapped back because it was such an intrusive, invasive attack on the basic civil liberties of law-abiding Canadians. We see with Bill C-55 that the Conservatives have gone for a much narrower range in terms of legislation that would actually pass the charter test.

Does my hon. colleague not think that the Conservatives would have been wiser, and may be wiser in future, if they actually learned the lesson that at the end of the day they are not supreme in this land, that it is still the Supreme Court, that they still have to work with other organizations and other parties to ensure that legislation would be to the benefit of all and not just for their attack ads?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, not only in the House of Commons but also in committee, the government would do well to work with the opposition in order to improve legislation. My hon. colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek said that about 30 time allocation motions have been imposed. This really undermines democracy. Committee meetings are being held in camera, and witnesses and amendments are being systematically rejected. This will not serve to improve bills.

I hope the members opposite will listen to the truth.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi for his speech.

I would like to ask him a very simple question. I know that he has a legal background and training, and I believe he is still a member of the Barreau du Québec. I would like to know why it is important that laws presented to Parliament comply with the charter and that they first pass the test of the justice department's officials.

Why is it important for parliamentarians to be assured that the legislation they debate respects the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in view of the fact that Bill C-30 was introduced in the House and that Bill C-55 is the response to an unconstitutional provision of an existing law, namely section 184.4 of the Criminal Code?

Why is it important for our laws to respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? That is my question for my colleague.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sherbrooke for his excellent question.

I would say that it is a basic function of the law to ensure that a bill respects the charter and the Constitution. My colleague from Gatineau spoke about access to justice. Not everyone can go all the way to the Supreme Court. It is also a question of time and money.

Whenever possible, we must ensure that the laws passed by Parliament are adequate and meet the constitutionality test. In our society we have the rule of law and it is important to respect that.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

I am surprised, even flabbergasted, to be rising today in the House to support an intelligent piece of legislation from this government. I never thought that this day would come in my lifetime.

To date, everything that I have seen from this government has been so shoddy and botched that I certainly did not expect such a bill to ever see the light of day. Perhaps pressure from the Supreme Court has forced the Conservatives to introduce this legislation.

In supporting this bill, however, we want to prove that we are not blind partisans. Even after being insulted on virtually a daily basis for the better part of a year and being associated with wrongdoers, pedophiles, terrorists and all manner of criminals, we have understood one thing, because we think things through and use our good judgment: this is an extremely important issue. Indeed, an entire part of the legislation needs to be reviewed and circumscribed so that rights are upheld. It would be a disaster if nothing were done.

The Conservatives can count themselves lucky that we are not blind partisans. At any rate, they would pass the bill regardless. They do what they want. The fact is, however, that what needs to be in the bill is there. The use of section 184.4 is limited.

I get the sense that all the Conservatives came here with a misguided view of power. They thought that they could do whatever they wanted because they had a majority. The Supreme Court has just reminded them that laws must be obeyed and that there is a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that is replete with requirements. I hope that the Conservatives will learn from this experience and that they will think things through a bit better in the future.

In a democracy, parliamentarians must be given the opportunity to express themselves, and their opinions must be taken into account, as must those of witnesses who appear in committee. That is democracy in action. By going about things in a partisan and obtuse manner and by acting as they see fit, rejecting everything that they themselves have not put forward, the Conservatives are doing a disservice to society.

Each and every time that—

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are debating third reading of Bill C-55. I have been listening quite intently to the member and to the opposition members speaking before him, and their comments have not been relevant to the issue at hand.

I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, that O'Brien and Bosc, chapter 13, page 626, states:

Debate on third reading is intended to permit the House to review the legislative measure in its final form and is therefore strictly limited to the contents of the bill.

I would also like to remind you, Mr. Speaker, that also in chapter 13, “Rules of Order and Decorum”, on page 623 under “The Rule of Relevance”, it says in a ruling made back in 1882, J.G. Bourinot, then Clerk of the House, felt the need to add this comment to his overview of parliamentary practice. It states:

A just regard to the privileges and dignity of Parliament demands that its time should not be wasted in idle and fruitless discussion; and consequently every member, who addresses the house, should endeavour to confine himself as closely as possible to the question under consideration.

Only once have I heard the member from across the way mention the amendment to section 184.4, which we are debating and for which the government has brought forward a bill in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling. I ask that he get down to the discussion at hand rather than editorialize.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are voting, at the last minute, on a bill that addresses a problem that should have been resolved months ago. I was attempting to put things in context.

I must say that I am proud, today, to support the bill. A lot of work has gone into it, and it will have a positive impact on Canadians. I simply wanted to stress the fact that it is not the result of happenstance. The reason we are here today, and the reason that the Conservatives have done their job, is because of all of our criticism over many months regarding the previous bill, which was botched and did not stand up to scrutiny.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague. I would also like to correct what my colleague opposite said. My colleague has always talked about the process the bill had to go through to get here, about the reason why we have reached third reading of that bill and about the fact that the government took so long. I very much respect your decision, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question for my colleague. Before Bill C-55 got here, the government spent a great deal of time drafting Bill C-30 and demonizing all those who opposed that bill.

The Conservatives subsequently admitted their mistake, reversed course and drafted Bill C-55 at the last minute. That bill is nevertheless a step in the right direction, since it is consistent with what the Supreme Court requested. I would like my colleague to comment on the process the government used to table Bill C-30.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was quite a simple matter. It was not a very complex bill. The problem could have been solved quickly if it had been properly studied in committee. The proof of that is that the bill emerged very quickly and efficiently from the process. I do not see why they were unable to act six or eight months ago. Demagoguery means something.

As Voltaire would say, those who can make you believe stupidities can make you commit atrocities. That is their principle.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, that must be a translation problem, because I would point out that I never called anyone stupid. I was speaking instead about people who tried to make us believe stupidities. It is possible for someone very intelligent to try to convince us of something that is not. That is very different.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle: I believe there was a translation problem.

However, the people in this House also need to be aware that a Conservative government minister is accusing the official opposition of siding with pedophiles. I am not sure that is parliamentary language either.

I would also like to hear my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle talk about the Conservative government's wish to invade people's lives through Bill C-30, which was fortunately scrapped because it ran entirely counter to Canadian and Quebec values and to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Conservatives are doing the same thing with Bill C-377, under which they would compel labour organizations to provide information concerning them.

What does my colleague have to say about the Conservative government's desire to invade people's privacy?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, clearly Bill C-30 was a nightmare for people. People were wondering who the bill could have targeted. In truth, just about anyone could have been targeted, from political opponents to environmentalists.

When someone acquires a weapon, usually they have a potential victim or target in mind. When such a destructive weapon is acquired, there is good reason to be worried about who the potential target might be.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues for their moral support. I hope that my comments on Bill C-55 will stay on point. I would also have liked to hear my Conservative colleagues speak out about this important bill that their government has brought forward. Their silence today is deafening, aside from a few points of order that can be construed as attempts at badgering.

Fundamentally, the debate on Bill C-55 takes us back to the history of Bill C-30. Finally we have a Conservative government that has backed down and admitted the error of its ways, a government that has been forced to go back to the drawing board. This is not the first time the Conservative government has been taken to task, but it should happen more often. Unfortunately, we have a government that delights in improvising most of the time. It is guided by its ideology and completely blinded by certain libertarian or conservative principles, so much so that its actions are not guided by the facts, by science or by reality, but rather by personal views, as the justice minister pointed out.

Members may recall that Quebec’s justice minister had asked the federal justice minister some questions about a bill on minimum sentences for young offenders and in that instance, personal views had specifically come into play. In my opinion, Bill C-30 was also based on personal whims. It is a shame, really, because the privacy of our country’s citizens was threatened by the Conservative government, which adopted a very hostile attitude toward all those who dared call its bill into question.

Members may recall that the Conservative minister accused the opposition parties of siding with pedophiles simply because they criticized and opposed Bill C-30. Highly ideological stances like this adversely affect debate in Parliament as well as in our democracy.

It is important that I mention the employment insurance reform, which should have been based on impact studies illustrating the impact of the reform on a number of regions, on workers, and their families. It came to our attention that no impact studies were conducted. All’s well that ends well, however, when it comes to Bill C-30 because the bill was scrapped. This proves that when there is public outcry, and when people mobilize, the government can be forced to backtrack, even the Conservative government.

Let me come back to Bill C-55. It is fortunate that we still have courts in this country. It is fortunate that we have a Supreme Court of Canada to tell us which provisions need to be amended, because the Conservatives do not respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I said this in my previous remarks. I also know full well that the private member's bill, Bill C-377, which is a direct attack on unions and workers’ associations, also appears likely to end up in court.

It is good that the courts are reviewing these Conservative bills as they are probably unconstitutional, invade privacy and violate the right to organize. It is fortunate that we still have courts in our society that force the government to amend legislation that is unconstitutional so that it complies with section 8 of the charter, for example, which is the case currently with Bill C-55.

We need to remember that the reason the bill is before us today is because a judge determined at trial that section 184.4—which is the section that is being amended—violated the right, guaranteed under section 8 of the charter, to be protected against frisking, searches, abusive seizure, and that it is not a reasonable limit under the first section.

Today, the situation is being addressed and our legislation is being amended to ensure that it is consistent with our values and principles as a society, which not only seeks to ensure the safety of its citizens, but also to protect their privacy.

In this debate, it is important to remember what section 184.4 of the Criminal Code is about. It reads:

A peace officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication where

(a) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;

(b) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that such an interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and

(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.

It is important to know exactly what we are talking about but, for members of the NDP and most people of good faith, oversight and accountability mechanisms are also important. That is why the official opposition finds the provisions of section 195 and Bill C-55 acceptable; they give police officers less arbitrary power in certain situations.

In terms of public safety needs, we are aware that police officers must have these tools and access to them. However, such interception should not then be forgotten about. There must be follow up. That is why we are pleased to have these oversight mechanisms. We understand the concerns of those who were upset about the Conservative government's Bill C-30. This bill was a real attack on privacy given the authority it gave police to intrude on people's private lives.

We also must find a balance between the protection of privacy and the police forces' ability to do their work and maintain public safety. This balance has to exist even when the police are wiretapping and intercepting communications in order to protect the physical integrity of our constituents and prevent people from committing wrongdoings that could endanger the lives and safety of Quebeckers and Canadians.

It is all a balancing act. For once, we must admit that the bill before us is reasonable and balanced. I do want to reiterate that it was the court that twisted the government's arm and forced it to make changes. There is a deadline. Today we are debating this bill because we no longer have the choice. The court said that we had to resolve this issue by the beginning of April. We are lucky to even have this.

I would like to quote some testimony from committee. It demonstrates how the New Democratic Party feels. On March 6, 2013, Raji Mangat, the counsel for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said the following at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights:

...the BCCLA [her organization] is pleased to see that Bill C-55 will limit the use of section 184.4 to police officers. This is in our view a sensible and necessary amendment that supports the rationale behind the provision, to provide a means by which law enforcement can prevent serious and imminent harm on an urgent basis.

On that note, the BCCLA is also pleased that Bill C-55 limits the application of warrantless wiretapping to circumstances in which the goal is to prevent the commission of an offence. The addition of a notice requirement to individuals who have been subjected to warrrantless wiretapping brings section 184.4 in line with other provisions in the Criminal Code. The notice requirement provides transparency and serves as an essential check on this extraordinary power to intercept communications without judicial authorization.

The reporting requirement in Bill C-55 is also a welcome amendment, as it will enhance police accountability. Together, the notice and reporting requirements bolster accountability and oversight in the use of warrantless wiretapping, and the BCCLA [her organization] supports amendments to gather more data.

If I may, I would like to digress and speak about safety, particularly the safety of people in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie when it comes to the railways and pedestrian crosswalks. It is important to have measures that encourage active transportation so that people can safely cross the railways we have in Montreal. I support all the groups and elected officials who are lobbying for this. It is important for improving the quality of life of the people of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the last couple of years as we have been debating Bill C-30, it has been very clear that Canadians right across the country had very serious concerns about the intent and the reflex of the government with respect to protecting Canadians' privacy while pursuing criminals in the most expedient way possible.

Essentially it has taken the Supreme Court to put the government's back up against the wall in order to table this legislation. I am wondering if my hon. colleague would like to comment on the general reflex of the government around privacy issues.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comment and his question.

In fact, he is absolutely right. The government says it wants a minimal state, to intervene as little as possible and let people do what they want. However, what it is doing is drafting bills that run completely counter to Conservative discourse and values. The government wants to be persnickety and impose more red tape and bureaucracy.

We saw this with Bill C-377, which also intrudes into the private lives of individuals. We saw it with Bill C-30, which gave the police forces a completely unlimited mandate so that they can go and see what people are doing, so that they can go into their computers and intrude into their private lives.

We know that there needs to be a balance between security and protection of private life. That is why the NDP supports the bill. However, the government is systematically going back on its promises and is even going against its own values and principles. Canadians are starting to realize this.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my New Democrat colleague for his speech and in particular for his last intervention, in which he spoke about how Canadians wanted more public safety, whether in terms of safer pedestrian railway crossings or preventing criminals from killing them and their loved ones.

People are also very concerned about their personal freedom. Historically, there have been abuses in connection with a variety of conflicts and events around the world, including during the aftermath of 9/11, which was highly problematic.

Perhaps the member could reassure Canadians on whether a balance has been achieved between personal freedom and public safety in this bill?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for his excellent question.

We feel so strongly about principles like those contained in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that it is important to reiterate our belief in these values. It is unfortunate that it took a court order before our government was willing to ensure compliance with section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Being willing to ensure that these principles and values are respected and never circumvented should have been a no-brainer. Unfortunately, there are already many examples of the Conservative government failing to understand their importance.

I would also like to thank the member for his comment about our belief in safety for people in general. I would like to comment again on the issue of pedestrian railway crossings. People sometimes have to make holes in the wire mesh to get through. This is certainly unsafe. There is a risk that they could be hit and they could also be fined if they are caught.

Montreal has been sliced in two. There is no flow. At a time when there is an emphasis on enabling people to walk or ride bicycles, the government has been totally inactive on pedestrian crossings in Montreal. The NDP will work together with everyone to ensure that something is done.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to address Bill C-55. It is important right from the beginning to mention why we are debating the bill today. On April 13, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada sent a very strong message to the House of Commons, in particular to the Prime Minister, that section 184.4 needed to be amended. It made a sunset by saying that the Government of Canada would have one year to pass the necessary legislation to validate the Criminal Code.

What is section 184.4? It talks about a police officer's ability to intercept a private conversation in some fashion without having to get a warrant. That is what this is all about. The government has been aware of it for a number of years. The Supreme Court of Canada having made its decision on April 13, 2012, and having put a time limit on it has now forced the government to act on it.

I will talk about the lack of the timely fashion in which the government has made the decision to bring in the bill. However, prior to doing that, I would like to reflect on what I believe is very important to all Canadians.

All Canadians believe in private rights and want to ensure their rights are protected. At times we might get a little spooked. We see cameras popping up all over the place, whether it is photo radar cameras, speed cameras, cameras at high density intersections, or even nowadays on sidewalks or public buildings and public areas where people gather. Every so often I hear from constituents who want to talk about private rights. It is important for us to recognize that as individuals we do have private rights that need to be protected at all times.

I was a very strong advocate for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for many years. This year we celebrated 30 years of having the charter, which has stood the test of time. A vast majority, 90%-plus of Canadians, have grown to respect and believe in the charter as something that protects them.

I remember when my girlfriend, now my wife, and I watched the signing ceremony between Pierre Trudeau and the Queen in 1982. It was a special moment and it was something my girlfriend appreciated. It was important to me and I believe it was important to her. It is because we recognized how important it was that individuals had rights. That is why Bill C-55 is very important legislation.

I have had the opportunity to speak about it at second reading. Unfortunately, I was unable to be at committee, but I did to get to speak very briefly yesterday because we were limited to 10 minutes to the amendments brought forward. However, it is important legislation that needs to be addressed.

If we look at it from a historical point of view, whether it was Pierre Elliott Trudeau, or Jean Chrétien or one of Canada's best Attorneys General, the member for Mount Royal, it speaks so well on individual rights and the need to protect them. Quite often when individuals of that calibre stand and talk about individual rights, we need to listen because it is a very important aspect of being Canadian.

We turn on the news and we watch throughout the world where individual rights are virtually walked all over. There is a general lack of respect for individual rights throughout the world. I believe Canada has a leadership role in demonstrating to the world that we value the Charter of Rights.

A number of years ago I had the privilege and the opportunity to travel to Israel. When I met with one of the politicians there, he made reference to Canada's Charter of Rights and how he thought it was an important thing that Canada did in 1982. What we are doing here has an impact that goes beyond our own borders. That is why there is an onus and a responsibility for us to be very careful in behaving and acting on important legislation in a more timely manner.

Before going into some of the details of the bill, I will talk about why we have the bill. I made mention of the Supreme Court of Canada and also that the government knew about it well before that. The Supreme Court of Canada has in essence said to the government that it really has messed up. It did not have to go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Conservatives had an opportunity to deal with the issue previously. Many parliamentarians here today will recall Bill C-50. I was not here at that time. That bill was an attempt to deal with what the Supreme Court of Canada was forced to deal with, but because the Conservatives prorogued the session, in essence killing all legislation before the House, that attempt was defeated.

That was not the first or second time. The most recent time would have been Bill C-30 from last year. That bill came with a great deal of fanfare. A lot of allegations were made and the overwhelming reaction was quite significant, to the degree that we saw the Government of Canada push the hold button, and that bill has never seen the light of day.

The bill was introduced almost a year ago, and it would have dealt with this issue, at least in part. It also would have dealt with other things, which raised the ire of hundreds of thousands of Canadians and opposition parties, definitely the Liberal Party of Canada. However, we saw the Conservatives failing to address what was a very important issue, and I will comment on that issue very shortly. Instead of doing the right thing, which would have been recognizing that Bill C-30 was going nowhere back in June, the Conservatives could have introduced this bill last fall, in September or October, and reviewed some of the other legislation that we were talking about then.

There were opportunities for the government members to deal with this legislation. It is not like there is overwhelming opposition to Bill C-55. In fact, the members of the Liberal Party have been very clear that we support the passage of the bill. We have done nothing to slow down its passage. We recognize that the bill has to be passed through Parliament by April 12 or 13 of this year. We have committed to working to do that.

However, we also believe the legislation needs to go through due diligence and through the process in a timely fashion.

What does that mean? It means the government and, in particular, the government House leader. This is another wake-up call for him. He needs to get his legislative agenda in order. He needs to perhaps meet with the Prime Minister and some of his other ministers and get a sense in what kind of legislation is coming down the pike into the House of Commons. If he did his homework, then at the very least the legislation we have today could have been, and should have been, introduced back in October last year, give or take a month. Had the Conservatives done that, there would not be this sense of urgency we have today to pass the legislation.

That decision, many of my caucus colleagues would say, was intentional. The government continued to hold back on introducing this legislation. I cannot blame them for thinking that. All we have to do is take a look at all the legislation that has been brought forward and the record number of time allocations on a wide variety of legislation. Remember those huge budget bills containing dozens of pieces of legislation amended through the backdoor of a budget. We can understand why members of the Liberal Party are a little skeptical in how the government chooses to bring in legislation.

The timing is a very important issue.

We have Bill C-55 today. It is expected the bill will pass. As I say, it does have the support of the Liberal Party and we will assist the government allowing the bill, ultimately, to pass.

However, we ask the government to take responsibility when it brings forward legislation, to take into consideration that the House of Commons has a very important role to play. When it brings a bill in for second reading, members of Parliament of all political stripes are should be afforded the opportunity to provide their contributions, whatever they might be. Even if it is a sense of repetition speaker after speaker, it has to provide for that and then allow for it to go to committee in a timely fashion where we can bring in different stakeholders.

I would like to think that under Bill C-55, in a normal process, there might have been a higher level of interest from the different stakeholders from coast to coast to coast with respect to what type of legislation they wanted to see. That would have been very productive.

There was an attempt. It could be very discouraging to move amendments inside the House since there has been a Conservative majority, a different type of Conservative Reform Party going back to the old Reform roots, possibly. However, there has been a different attitude. Even I have detected that. It can be a challenge to move amendments inside the House. I have seen amendments stonewalled. I remember when the member for Mount Royal attempted to move amendments in committee and, ultimately, at third reading and the government turned them down. It took the Senate in order to pass it.

If Bill C-55 were provided the opportunity that it should have been in allowing for not only that fulsome debate within the chamber but equally an opportunity to have stakeholders from across Canada contribute to the debate, I believe we would have had more of a contribution at that point in time.

It is important to allow for that. We are talking about are private communications that can be interrupted or listened to by the police without any warrant. That is very serious. I think many Canadians could have made presentations if it was felt that we had the time to listen thoroughly to our stakeholders or even affording opposition parties or individual members to consult on the legislation in advance.

From committee, we come now to third reading. The bill has been here for a couple of days. We in the Liberal Party want to see the bill pass. I suspect that the New Democrats will support us. However, the timing is a huge concern.

The bill requires appropriate ministers in Canada to report whenever they have an intercept. That means that a minister of justice in a province, such as Manitoba, Ontario, or wherever it might be in Canada, would be notified when an interception occurred in their jurisdiction. Those provincial entities would then be obligated to report to the House of Commons, through the Minister of Public Safety, and ideally, to have it tabled it in some form in the House. It is a very important measure.

We would like to think that the frequency of any police agency having to use clause 184.4 without a warrant would be very low. There is nothing wrong with trying to find and accumulate information that allows us to make valued opinions regarding its usage. We should be reviewing that, because we are talking about individual rights.

Where a person's rights have been overlooked because it is believed that it is in the public interest, that individual has the right to know that a wiretap was done without a warrant. We are not saying that we should give a person a call to say that the telephone is going to be tapped. Once it has been done, there is an obligation to let that individual know that it has taken place. From what I understand, that is being done within this legislation.

The bill would provide more accountability and oversight. It would narrow the number of individuals or offices that could actually use clause 184.4. Today, one could be a mayor of a municipality and have the authority to listen to a private conversation without a warrant. The legislation is saying that this is too wide. We need to narrow the number of individuals who can do that. Bill C-55 narrows it down to police officers.

It also limits the types of interceptions. It should be used very rarely. For example, in a situation where someone's life is at risk or a child has been kidnapped, we need to ensure that police officers have the ability to save that life or ensure that a child is not molested. Bill C-55 moves in that direction.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I was intrigued by some of the member's comments, which is unusual. The member indicated that he believed in individual rights. I was astonished. Liberals do not tend to believe in individual rights; it is more collective rights.

I want to go down that path. He talked about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but what he did not talk about was a very important change that occurred between the Bill of Rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was property rights. It was eliminated by the Liberal Party. Now we see it extended to the point where, in the province of Ontario, for example, residents who are fighting fiercely to prevent wind turbines from being built on their doorsteps are finding that they have no property rights on which to stand. That is because the Liberal Party eliminated them. I wonder if the member would support reinserting property rights into the charter.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to recognize that when Pierre Trudeau negotiated constitutional reform and brought in the charter for all Canadians, it guaranteed those individual rights. The Liberal Party does not have to take a back seat to any political entity in Canada regarding the protection of individual rights. We are in the front seat. We are the driving force in protecting individual rights.

Having said that, had the member, back in 1982, when I was but 20 years old, listened to that constitutional debate, as I did, he would have found that there were issues related to property tax. There was no consensus. I suspect that we might find some Conservative members or premiers who might have had some issues related to property rights. Again, I am digressing from the bill itself.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. Since we are near the end of the Lenten season, I believe that there can be a road to Damascus and that a bright light can come down and throw one off one's horse, and one can wake up and realize that one's whole life has been wrong.

I am listening to the Liberal Party suddenly now interested in protecting privacy rights in terms of warrantless access. In fact, the Conservative government initially took the Liberal bill off the shelf and it became the lawful access bill that would have allowed all manner of wireless snooping on the rights of citizens. We know that the Liberal critics supported that.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague if, at this moment of conversion, he has realized that yes, the privacy rights of Canadians need to be protected, and we need to limit how it is done, unlike how it was defined under the Liberal legislation.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is being somewhat unfair. Maybe wonderland is where most New Democrats are at times.

When in government, members bring forward legislation. Quite often, it is not necessarily perfect all the time. I know that the member has high expectations of the Liberal Party, as I do, but believe it or not, much like New Democratic governments at the provincial level, at times one needs to make changes and amend legislation. However, you will find that when there is a need, and it is fact-based and justified, the Liberal Party never fails Canadians.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech. I want to stick to the specifics for a moment.

In the bill, section 184.4, the section that is most contentious, talks about allowing certain officers, police officers if we narrow it down, to be involved in intercepting communications for the public good and public safety. However, this could have been avoided, as the member pointed out. As a matter of fact, Bill C-30 was an overarching bill. When the Conservatives brought it into this House, there was a public backlash. They pulled it off the table faster than one can say “jurisprudence”, and here we find ourselves with this bill at the very last minute.

I wonder if the member could comment on the process and how this has become how to amend laws at the direction of the Supreme Court, Monty Python style.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, the government had plenty of notice. There is nothing new. We have known that there was a need for change prior to this issue going to the Supreme Court of Canada. Unfortunately, it has taken the Supreme Court of Canada to make a decision, and not only to make a decision, but as part of that decision to say that the Government of Canada has one year to get its act together or the law will not be valid. The government has put Canadians at risk because of its failure to bring in legislation in a more timely fashion.

At the end of the day, if it were not for the Supreme Court putting in that timeline of April 13 of this year, who knows whether we would still have the bill before us today. We might have had to wait until 2015 to get the legislation necessary to make the appropriate amendments.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member said in his speech that the Conservatives had set records for time allocation motions. To be fair to those on the other side, they are tied with the Liberals for the number of time allocation motions that have been brought before the House.

I am wondering if that is consistent with the member's argument that what the Liberals say in opposition is different from what they do in government.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one could accuse me of listening to my colleagues a little too much when they say that something is not the case. However, even New Democrats, some of the member's own colleagues, have said that it is the Conservatives who have set records on time allocation. Maybe the member should meet with his own House leader, and if he confers with him--

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, this pertains to comments my hon. colleague made earlier, because what we are also talking about is the context in which the bill is being tabled. The context is Canadians' widespread disapproval of and anger over the government's proposed online spying legislation, Bill C-30.

The member in the corner, in defence of his own party's record when it was in government, said that people make mistakes. In fact, the Liberals introduced this kind of legislation in 1999, and then they tried it again in 2005, so they did not learn from their mistakes the first time or the second time. I am wondering if the member opposite could maybe answer this question: Is that why they are sitting in that corner over there?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to rise in this House on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay, who have put their trust in me to work on the issues of legislation before the House.

I am going to speak today on why the New Democratic Party is supporting Bill C-55 and what works about this bill, but also on the issues we need to look at and the prism that needs to be applied in terms of how the legislation was crafted, what it was in response to and how it ties into two other key pieces of legislation that this House has been asked to deal with.

One is Bill C-30 and the other is Bill C-12. Within each of the bills are key issues that reflect on the ability of the government to move forward with legislation and on how legislation is actually brought forward.

What is striking already, off the top of Bill C-55, is that it is a very narrow bill. It is simply addressing a section of the Criminal Code, section 184.4, that the Supreme Court struck down.

What we find is that legislation that is limited is usually more effective than legislation that is broad. Legislation is a very a blunt tool. Unfortunately, we have seen that the government likes to throw in all manner of legislation, often without thinking of the consequences or with very little regard for the consequences. We have seen one omnibus bill after another brought before the House without proper review and without a proper understanding of how they related to basic issues like charter rights.

I would like to say that I think the government is doing the right thing with Bill C-55 by having very narrowly defined legislation that addresses a major problem. I would like to think that the government thought this approach up on its own and that this is how it is going to start dealing with criminal matters and the reform of the criminal justice system, but that is not really what has happened here.

The government is responding to the fact that the Supreme Court struck down section 184.4 of the Criminal Code and gave it a deadline of April 13, which is only two weeks away, to address the problem.

I am going to speak a little about Bill C-55 and then explain how the implications of the Supreme Court legislation tie in to Bill C-30 and Bill C-12.

Under section 184.4, the Supreme Court ruled in R. v. Tse that police use of a warrantless wiretap to secure the safety of an individual is a correct step to take. If a life is at stake, law officers have the ability within Canadian jurisprudence to go in, get the evidence and secure a life. That is a long-standing practice within the Canadian law system.

However, the problem with section 184.4 is that there are no accountability mechanisms. What I find very interesting about the Supreme Court decision is that it says that even in the case of criminal activities—and what we were dealing with in this case was a kidnapping, a very horrendous attack against a citizen—basic charter rights still remain and have to be balanced.

The Supreme Court took the larger view and recognized that the spectre of criminality cannot be used to undermine the basic rights of citizens in this country. This is a concept that seems absolutely foreign to the Conservative Party, whose backbenchers jump up whistling and dancing every time they can come up with some extreme case of a criminal activity as a cover to allow them to undermine all manner of privacy rights, all manner of basic citizen rights. They have done it time and time again.

The Supreme Court has said no. The test of law in this country is what is reasonable versus unreasonable. What is reasonable is that if law officers know someone is at risk and need to get that information immediately, it is reasonable to go for the warrantless wiretap to gather that information without the judge's warrant, which can then be obtained later. What is unreasonable is to do that without any oversight mechanism.

Section 184.4 will clarify this, because it defines—and this is a very important thing again in dealing with Bill C-12 and Bill C-30—who is eligible, the police; how it is to be used, under specific circumstances; and why it is to be used, to protect the rights of citizens balanced against the right to bring safety to people who are perhaps under threat of criminal activity. The definition of how this breach of law would be allowed is crucial to Bill C-55.

When we look at Bill C-30, which was the bill that this was supposed to be a part of, we see that none of these definitions of the who, the how and the why are there. In fact, it is so broad that the privacy commissioners from across Canada, in an unprecedented response to the government, wrote against the government's attempt to undermine the basic civil rights of Canadian citizens.

Whenever the Conservative government attempts to do something that it knows will not pass a charter challenge or attempts to pull something that it knows the Canadian public will not stand for, it uses a bogeyman. The minister used perhaps the most baseless attack that has ever been uttered in the House of Commons when he said that anybody who was concerned about privacy rights or the individual rights of citizens in this country or who dared raise a question to him was on the side of child pornographers.

That was about as ugly as it can get. Of course, now we see who is on the side of child pornographers: Mr. Tom Flanagan, who said that it is a victimless crime. We see the right-wing media is concerned about Mr. Tom Flanagan, a very famous and very rich right-wing white man. It was his rights, we are now being told, that were somehow trampled upon. One reporter said that he thought it showed the fundamental shallowness of Canadians that they were outraged that Mr. Flanagan was defending the rights of child pornographers.

However, that was the kind of language being used by this minister to cover up the fact that there were major flaws in Bill C-30. If we tie it back to Bill C-55 in terms of the Supreme Court, the government must have known that none of its provisions would have passed the charter challenge because they did not meet the basic standards of jurisprudence.

Let us look at the lack of the who, the how and the why in terms of Bill C-30 as compared to Bill C-55. Bill C-30 may be brought back by the government; we are not yet sure. Under clause 33, the government would be allowed to designate an inspector to go into a telecom to demand information for being in compliance with Bill C-30.

The minister may designate inspectors, that is his choice, but there is no definition of what those inspectors are. Are they police? Are they private security? Are they political staffers? We do not know. Bill C-30 would allow the extraordinary ability of the minister to appoint inspectors. Under clause 34, these inspectors would be allowed to go into public telecoms to gather information on private citizens. That is clearly something that would never pass the charter challenge.

In contrast, in Bill C-55 we see that they have defined the right to ask for warrantless information to just the police, which is the proper place it should be. We should know who is able to gather that information on us.

What they wanted to do under Bill C-30 was allow warrantless access to subscriber information on the data use of anybody with a cellphone or an ISP address, which would pretty much mean 95% or 96% of the Canadian public. Unspecified persons could gather that information.

The privacy commissioners of Canada spoke out against this. They said that contrary to the Conservative Party's claims, it had nothing to do with being just like a phone book. Ann Cavoukian said that this was “one of the most invasive threats to our privacy and freedom that I have ever encountered”. About being able to demand and being forced to turn over this information, she said:

...customer name and address information ties us to our entire digital life, unlike a stationary street address. Therefore, “subscriber information” is far from the modern day equivalent of a publicly available “phone book”. Rather, it is the key to a much wider, sensitive subset of information.

That is what the Conservatives wanted to be able to gather.

The abuse of privacy rights did not end there. Under Bill C-30, they also wanted to force telecoms to basically build in back-channel spy communication, so that as they expanded their networks, they would have to build in the monitoring system to keep track of any citizen the government felt it should be able to look at at any time, again without any oversight and without citizens knowing they would be spied upon.

Ann Cavoukian, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, said that what they were in fact doing, although they perhaps did not realize it, was creating a hacker's paradise. If we allow wormholes throughout the telecom system to allow police to spy on it, then certainly the hackers, who are usually about three steps ahead of everybody else on this—and we see massive international gangs using sophisticated cyberhacking—would be able to benefit much more than the police or security services.

In terms of the how, Bill C-55 limits the ability to get a warrantless wiretap based on the possibility of a threat to a person. Afterwards there would have to be oversight mechanisms and reports would have to be published and reported to Parliament so that we would know how these warrantless wiretaps are being used. Bill C-55 defines and protects this breach of the private rights of citizens, whereas under Bill C-30, the door was kicked down and all the basic rights of citizens were thrown out.

Of course we know that Bill C-30 was responded to in a massive and very exciting and positive response from the public, a backlash that said that we demand that our privacy rights be protected and defined under the rule of law in this country. It was an unprecedented backlash against the government. The Minister of Justice has been pretty much hiding under his desk publicly ever since. It is a good sign that we have a engaged citizenry here that knows the difference between what is reasonable and unreasonable.

In Bill C-55, the government is limited to gathering information under the reasonableness of protecting an individual who is facing threat compared to the unreasonableness of doing away with all manner of privacy rights whatsoever. In this manner, I would say that the Canadian public are foremost across the world in standing up for their rights, much more than the government, which has very little respect for the privacy rights of Canadians. In other democracies with privacy rights in the digital age and the age of big data and CCTV cameras, other citizens are steadily having those rights eroded, whereas in Canada we want to maintain those rights.

In Bill C-12, which is the other piece of legislation to compare Bill C-55 to, again we see the government showing no respect for the privacy rights of Canadians. There is no understanding of the importance of privacy rights. We certainly saw that with the massive data losses of private financial information on over 500,000 Canadians at HRSDC. We have seen other data breaches. We saw the government's cavalier attitude when, rather than warning citizens that their personal financial data may have been breached, its only desire was to protect the minister, and it kept the breach quiet for two months. Any manner of international gangs could have had that data, gone after people's credit and created massive widespread fraud, because that is what can happen if the public is not alerted.

Under Bill C-12, the government wants to change the reporting threshold for private business when these privacy breaches happen. This is very important in terms of defining how we protect the rights of citizens. Under the changes the government is bringing in Bill C-12, private companies that have our data, whether a bank, a Sony PlayStation, or all manner of online transactions, would only have to report the breach to the Privacy Commissioner if they thought there was a significant risk of harm. “Significant” is an extremely high bar to set. Meanwhile, all manner of abuse could happen underneath it.

Also, private businesses would be very wary about the idea of going public with the fact that they may have lost Visa card information or personal data information for 100,000 or 200,000 or 500,000 people, because it affects their basic online business model. Everything is now done online. However, we see the government telling private businesses that they only have to report a privacy breach if it might cause significant harm. That completely fails the basic test and the understanding of the importance of privacy rights in this country.

We believe that there has to be a very clear rule that if companies fear they have been hacked and that privacy data has been breached, it has to be reported to the Privacy Commissioner, who has such an extraordinary role to play in protecting and reviewing the evidence and deciding whether action must be taken.

However, we see that again the government is undermining the role of the Privacy Commissioner and we have to ask why. As more and more Canadians operate their businesses online and as our financial transactions occur online, the last thing we want to do is create a hackers' paradise in Canada, while the rest of the world moves further ahead of us. Ann Cavoukian has spoken about this.

It is extraordinary that Canada was once seen as the world leader in privacy data. Our Privacy Commissioner is definitely seen as a world leader, but our legislation is falling further and further behind where the Europeans and the Americans are going. As our Privacy Commissioner is asking for the tools to update, to deal with the cyberthreats and to deal with the protection of personal information in the age of big data, the current government is undermining the legislation.

How does that relate to Bill C-55? There are direct connections in the language among Bill C-12, Bill C-30 and what we have seen in Bill C-55. Bill C-12 would allow organizations and companies, including telecommunications companies, to disclose personal information to government institutions, perhaps the police or perhaps not, without the knowledge and consent of the individual when performing policing services. This is under subclause 6(6), but there is no definition of what “policing services” are.

Again, it is the language of Bill C-30, the lawful access and online snooping language, that would allow some undefined security person or force to obtain information on private individuals from telecommunications without defining who would be eligible to gather that information, whereas Bill C-55 would limit it to the police so that is very clear.

I agree with my colleague on the Conservative side and I am telling him that they are going to need to bring Bill C-12 to the same standard, where we define who is eligible to ask for that information. Without doing that, we will end up going before the courts again. If we define that it is the right of the police to ask for that information, then that would meet the test that would be laid out in Bill C-55, but Bill C-12 would not meet that test right now. The issue is that there is no oversight mechanism in Bill C-12. If they did ask for this ISP information on individual users, there are no mechanisms under Bill C-12 for reporting what was happening, and that would fail the test of Bill C-55.

It is clear that what the Conservatives had been attempting to do was to take Bill C-30, which was their desire to be able to snoop on as many people as they wanted as often as they wanted and however they wanted, and build in a number of other subsets in other legislation to make that operable. Bill C-12, which includes changes to the Privacy Protection Act, would certainly allow them to do that. However, being that we have had the public backlash on Bill C-30 and being that we now have defined Bill C-55 very clearly regarding the who, the how and the why of this being allowed, we would need to clarify the same mechanisms under Bill C-12.

We see that the Conservatives are on the straight and narrow right now. They did not want to come. They were dragged, kicking and screaming, and it is our job to ensure they stay on the straight and narrow. We want to work with them. It is hard for them and we will do our part to keep them on the straight and narrow. We will do that 12-step program of accountability and I want to work with my colleagues on that, but they just keep sliding off that wagon. They want to go after personal freedoms. They want to go after individuals. They want to do that spying thing. However, they cannot do it because we have the rule of law in this country.

We are asking them to come work with us and learn from some of their colleagues who might have a little more experience in some of these matters. Certainly the Supreme Court has laid down the test that has to be met. Now that Bill C-55 is in place, the problems with Bill C-12 are too clear to ignore. Then, what we need to do with Bill C-12 is to ensure that Bill C-30 will never come back and that the online snooping provisions of the current government will not come back.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, just on a quick point of clarification, I appreciate the parallels the member drew with Bill C-12 and ensuring that the “officer” is defined as a “police officer” and not just a “peace officer”, but my understanding from the decision from R. v. Tse is that it has more to do with the notification of the person whose communications were intercepted. That was the breach. There was an add-on after that about defining the police officer and such. However, I would like the member to comment on this further, because he is onto a good point.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, section 184.4 of the Criminal Code was struck down by the Supreme Court because the lack of definitions was seriously problematic. To put it in context, we were dealing with a criminal activity that was brought to the court. This was not about spying on ordinary Canadian citizens, which some of my colleagues on the other side would like to be able to do. This was about a criminal act and still the Supreme Court said that even in the case of a criminal act, the rule of law must apply. Therefore, the government had to define who was eligible to get that information.

In order for Bill C-55 to be charter compliant and compliant with the Supreme Court, the government has to define who is eligible and under what circumstances this breach of personal information is going to be allowed. We do not have that same standard on Bill C-12 yet. The government wants to be able to force telecommunications companies and other private businesses to turn over data and subscriber information, but it does not define who is eligible to gather it. That is very disturbing because under Bill C-30, which was the other piece of this triad of puzzles we had before us, a minister was able to designate inspectors. Who were the inspectors that he was designating? That was a very bizarre and wide loophole the government was creating for itself.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and would like to ask him a very simple question.

Does he feel that it is important to strike a balance between police access to information to solve crimes or conduct investigations, and the privacy of Canadian citizens? Why is this balance important? Does the bill allow for a mechanism like this that would enable the authorities to conduct investigations while respecting the rights of Canadian citizens?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his excellent work as chair on the ethics committee, which has been dealing with some of these issues. These issues are very timely for the Canadian Parliament and for members from all parties to actually begin an open debate on them.

We have a situation now where more and more of our lives are spent online. We do everything online. The economic, social and democratic potential of living online is an unprecedented opportunity in the history of our civilization. However, at the same time, the unprecedented threats and international cybergangs that are beyond the rule of law are able to hack and steal information.

We need to ensure that police have the tools, but the balance goes to this test in Bill C-55 of what is reasonable and unreasonable. It is reasonable to ensure that we craft legislation that provides police with the tools needed to go after criminals and stop these kinds of activities. However, it is unreasonable to say that because people now live in the age of Facebook and Google their right to privacy and to maintain who they are is wide open and the government should be able to spy on them at any given time, whenever and however it wants. That is the unreasonable test. The reasonable test is crafting narrowly defined legislation to provide the tools necessary to address the changes in the cyberworld.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have seen time and time again that the government has to be led kicking and screaming into the arena of accountability and transparency. This was one of the many reasons that Canadians had such profound disagreements with the government over Bill C-30.

With regard to the piece of legislation we have before us, Bill C-55, in light of the fact that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has had to take the government to court to get documents, in light of the fact that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has complained that the government has been slow to release documents and in light of the fact that in the 40th Parliament the government was found in contempt of Parliament, I am wondering if the member for Timmins—James Bay has concerns about the reporting mechanism in the bill. Does he feel confident that the government is going to be forthcoming with the reports the legislation requires?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is at the heart of this issue is the fact that regardless of our political stripes, we are in the House of Commons to create legislation. We are legislators who must represent the best of Canadians. The legislation must stand the test of time. For what we create as laws now, certainly in 30, 40 or 50 years we expect that legislation should be able to hold its own.

Unfortunately, at committees of the House of Commons the basic rule of law has been continually undermined by a government that is starving MPs of the basic data they require in order to review legislation. The fact that we have forced closure again and again on debate means that legislation that has problems, that could become seriously problematic, that may not withstand a charter challenge, is not being reviewed adequately.

Therefore, we will support the bill going forward because the Supreme Court has forced the government to address this issue. Conservatives would not have addressed it otherwise. However, we are very concerned about the reporting mechanisms because we see that it is a government that seems to be the exact opposite of what we would want in western society, which is an open, transparent government and maximum privacy for citizens. The government has flipped it upside down to have absolute transparency on the rights of citizens and NGOs and on groups that oppose it, while demanding absolute secrecy for its ministers and party officials.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that protecting citizens' privacy is one of the foundations of liberal democracy. It is, again, one of the reasons that so many Canadians were up in arms over the legislation proposed in Bill C-30.

In reference to a comment that my hon. colleague just made, it seems to be the tendency and reflex of the government to not listen to parliamentarians, to shut down debate at committee and to introduce time allocation in the House. It seems to us that if it were not for the Supreme Court essentially holding the government's feet to the fire, it might not have come forward with this piece of legislation.

I am wondering if my hon. colleague might want to comment on this tendency toward not listening and not engaging with elected representatives in the House, who are here to bring their constituents' concerns before Parliament.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's question because one of the reasons Canadians are so fundamentally frustrated with the political life today is that they see the nasty, dumbed-down atmosphere of it. Even reasonable amendments are generally rejected. Reasonable grounds for debate are continually shut down, yet we are told about all the party hacks who flip pancakes for the Liberals and Conservatives and were elected to the Senate. We are told not to worry, because they are there doing sober second thought.

I have not seen much sobriety in that House in a long time. In fact, senators basically act as sock puppets for the regime at hand. We never see them doing any real review of the issues. Therefore, Canadians are asking what gives. We are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on these guys who are not doing their jobs. Thank God for the Supreme Court.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / noon
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

,

seconded by the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-55, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 10 and 11 on page 1 with the following:

““police officer” means any officer or constable employed for the preservation and”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-55, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing line 18 on page 1 with the following:

“tion if the police officer has reasonable grounds, a record of which is subsequently made,”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-55, in Clause 5, be amended by adding after line 27 on page 3 the following:

“(d.1) the number of interceptions in respect of which no proceedings were commenced and, for each such interception, the offence that the police officer sought to prevent in making the interception;”

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-55, in Clause 5, be amended by adding after line 35 on page 3 the following:

“(f.1) a description of the reasonable grounds recorded by the police officer in accordance with section 184.4 for each interception;”

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-55, in Clause 5, be amended by adding after line 38 on page 3 the following:

“(g.1) the number of interceptions in respect of which no arrests were made and, for each such interception, the offence that the police officer sought to prevent in making the interception;”

She said: Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my colleague, the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, for seconding these motions.

As the House will know, this legislation was brought forward in place of or at least after Bill C-30 was withdrawn. It was the so-called protecting children from Internet predators act. I do understand the reasons for urgency.

This legislation, Bill C-55, is in direct response to a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Tse, in which the court found that the current emergency wiretap provisions failed the charter test. The court suspended its ruling for 12 months to allow the House to remedy those sections of the Criminal Code such that they would conform with the charter. The clock started ticking when the Supreme Court rendered its decision, which was April 13 last year. We have a small amount of time to correct those mistakes.

I want to start my discussion of the amendments I am putting forward by stressing that I also support Bill C-55. It is, overall, well crafted and meets the challenge of ensuring that this extraordinary power of the state to obtain emergency wiretaps without a warrant—and this is what we are talking about—which is quite an egregious invasion of the privacy of the individual citizen, is balanced and only justified in exigent circumstances when certain standards have been met. It is only charter compliant, according to the Supreme Court decision in R v. Tse, if there are adequate oversight mechanisms put in place.

My amendments go directly to the point that we do not want Bill C-55 to be struck down by a future court because we failed to put in place the adequate oversight provisions and because we failed to get the balance just right, based on the advice of the Supreme Court.

I am just going to take a moment to go back to the ways in which the Supreme Court of Canada's decisions around these matters have evolved in very recent years. It was not long ago that our major authority, the precedent from the Supreme Court of Canada that governed in this area, was a 1990 case, R v. Duarte, in which Mr. Justice La Forest found that:

as a general proposition, surreptitious electronic surveillance of the individual by an agency of the state constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure under section 8 of the Charter.

It takes quite a bit of evolution within court decisions to ask how we justify sections 183 and 184 of the Criminal Code in allowing the state, without access to a warrant or even judicial review of any kind, to go forward and wiretap private communications.

That process is now settled in a new precedent of the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Tse, in which the court ruled in the majority that yes, in these exigent circumstances, where, for instance, there is a kidnapping or another criminal event where a life is at stake and there legitimately is not time to get to a judge for a warrant, it is now going to be acceptable under the charter.

What is not acceptable under the charter is when these powers are not adequately supervised. I think that needs to be a foundational point that is stressed here. These are intrusions into the private lives of Canadians that in any other circumstance would be viewed as charter violations. This House must craft, very carefully, that rare exception when we are going to let the state intrude on our personal communications.

I am troubled, sometimes, when I hear the comment: “Why would we worry if people want to wiretap criminals? The only people who would be worried about that would be people who have something to hide”.

We need in this country to constantly remind ourselves why we prize the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms why western democracies, the British Empire, our common law, and centuries of practice and respect for the rule of law recognized that the state has no business knocking down a person's door. It is literally pushing through doors and breaking into houses and invading our privacy, which in an electronic era includes wiretapping.

We have to remind ourselves why civil liberties matter. We have to remind ourselves of this fairly constantly, because in not just this instance but in other laws passed through this place, we are seeing an erosion of our respect for the idea of civil liberties through resort to such rhetoric as “Well, only criminals need to worry” and “We shouldn't be so worried about criminals as we should be about victims.” A victim of an injustice of the state invading our civil liberties is no less a victim than the person mugged on the street. We need to pay attention to civil liberties. That is why I am putting forward my amendments.

The court ruled very clearly in R. v. Tse that the failure of the current Criminal Code provisions was a failure to have adequate accountability measures. The court did not set out what the accountability measures should look like with any degree of specificity, so Bill C-55 attempts to, and does, put forward accountability measures; however, will they pass the charter test in a future Supreme Court case? My submission to the House—and I urge other members to vote with me—is that we make the bill much safer and more secure against being struck down later by improving the accountability measures.

The amendments I put forward would ensure, for instance, that the intercepted communications would require an Attorney General report, which would include records of all those wiretaps for which no charges were ever laid and would require the police officer in question to memorialize the reasonable grounds he or she had at the time for seeking warrantless wiretap evidence. We would record and report as much information as possible to ensure that the oversight statutory process in Bill C-55 would meet any future charter challenge.

My amendments are based on recommendations primarily from three groups that testified before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights: the Canadian Bar Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Criminal Lawyers' Association. Those three bodies recommended, in the language I have used, the amendments I am putting forward today.

They strive to ensure that there be a requirement to publicly report the numbers of persons whose communications were intercepted but who were not subsequently charged. They include a requirement for the police officer's justification for the interception to be recorded and memorialized and would also ensure that if subsequent judicial authorizations were obtained on the same grounds as for the interception under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code, evidence obtained by a further section 184.4 interception may be ruled inadmissible.

The other piece I want to mention briefly is something that was not part of the res judicata of R. v. Tse but that was certainly significant obiter dicta, and that was the court's concern that the definition of “peace officer” was overly broad. I cite the decision of the court on this matter, and there was not a dissent. At paragraph 57 of R. v. Tse, the court noted it would agree that:

We, too, have reservations about the wide range of people who, by virtue of the broad definition of “peace officer”, can invoke extraordinary measures permitted under s. 184.4. That provision may be constitutionally vulnerable for that reason.

I am not saying that the Minister of Justice has not taken account of this obiter dicta. The revised Bill C-55 no longer uses the term “peace officer”. The revised Bill C-55, in clause 2, changes the term “peace officer”, which was overly broad and could include anything from mayors and reeves and so on, to “police officer”, but then in the definition adds an element of overly broad definition by saying:

“police officer” means any officer, constable or other person employed for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace

I remain concerned despite the quite interesting testimony, and I thank the justice critic for the official opposition, who pursued this point with the Minister of Justice. I am less sanguine about leaving in the term “or other person”, so one of my amendments would remove the term “or other person” to further clarify the act and ensure that it is not constitutionally vulnerable.

I will conclude by saying that my amendments are put forward in the interests of ensuring that Bill C-55 will survive any future charter challenge and I recommend them to my colleagues.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Bill C-55, the response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Tse act. This bill responds to the Supreme Court of Canada decision that found section 184.4 of the Criminal Code to be unconstitutional. Section 184.4 provides authority to intercept private communications without prior judicial authorization in dangerous situations such as kidnappings, in order to respond to an imminent threat of harm when the time constraints do not permit obtaining a judicial authorization.

The purpose of Bill C-55 is to ensure that the critical preventive tool that I have just described remains available to police officers in life-threatening situations while offering the appropriate accountability and privacy safeguards in compliance with the Supreme Court decision in R. v. Tse.

The court declared the provision unconstitutional on the sole basis that it does not provide sufficient accountability measures and indicated that constitutional compliance could be achieved by the addition of a requirement for after-the-fact notification to persons whose private communications have been intercepted under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code, similar to the notification requirements for other wiretaps. This bill proposes to add this safeguard.

Bill C-55 also proposes additional safeguards that, while not required for constitutional compliance, would enhance the privacy of Canadians by increasing transparency and ensuring appropriate limits on the use of section 184.4. The bill proposes a reporting requirement that would require the Minister of Public Safety and the Attorneys General of the provinces to report annually on the use of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code. This requirement already exists for other wiretaps, so it seems logical to extend it to wiretaps used in exceptional circumstances as well.

Another safeguard proposed in this bill would limit the power to wiretap without prior judicial authorization in situations of imminent harm by restricting the availability of this power to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code. Currently, the Criminal Code makes this authority available for any unlawful act, which covers a broader range of conduct.

Lastly, the government is proposing to limit the availability of this extraordinary power to police officers only. Currently, section 184.4 of the Criminal Code is available to peace officers, which, as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code, includes not only police officers but also mayors, immigration officers and fishery guardians.

Now that I have given a brief overview of Bill C-55 and its proposals, I would like to address what are now the five report stage motions that were tabled by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Motion No. 1 proposes to amend Bill C-55 to further restrict the class of persons for which the section 184.4 wiretap power is available.

This proposal is problematic. The definition of “police officer” that is included in clause 2 of Bill C-55 was taken from the existing definition of “police officer” in the Criminal Code. It is carefully tailored to ensure that it includes all persons who need access to the authority to intercept private communications in exceptional circumstances without a judicial authorization.

I would like to take this opportunity to again repeat that the proposed definition of “police officer” already exists in the Criminal Code in the context of dealing with the forfeiture of proceeds of crime and that it also exists in other statutes. It has been judicially interpreted as including only those who are statutorily appointed to carry out duties of preservation and maintenance of public peace. Privately hired individuals, such as security guards in a shopping mall or an office building, do not fit within this definition, as they are not statutorily appointed.

The removal of the category of “other person” from the definition of “police officer” as proposed in Motion No. 1 is unnecessary. For these reasons, this amendment is not advisable.

I will address Motions Nos. 3 and 5 together, as the change proposed in Motion No. 5 is a result of a change proposed in Motion No. 3.

Motion No. 3 proposes to add a requirement in the bill that a police officer make a record of the reasonable grounds that formed the basis for his or her decision to intercept private communications without a judicial authorization in exigent circumstances under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code. Motion No. 5 proposes to add this record to the annual report that would be made in relation to the use of the section 184.4 wiretap power.

Creating a record-keeping requirement as proposed in Motion No. 3 would undermine the goal of section 184.4, which is to enable a rapid response in cases of imminent harm. As was recognized in the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Tse, it would be impractical to require the police to create contemporaneous records in exceptional situations in which the police need to act very quickly.

The Supreme Court of Canada was satisfied that an after-the-fact notice provision for those persons whose private communications were intercepted in exceptional circumstances, as envisaged by clause 5 of Bill C-55, would adequately meet that need.

An additional reason for not supporting Motion No. 5 is that the creation of an additional reporting requirement would be inconsistent with what it is currently being reported in relation to other wiretap powers.

The creation of a divergence from existing reporting practices is equally a problem for the proposals in Motions Nos. 4 and 6, which propose to add new reporting requirements with respect to the number of interceptions in relation to which no proceedings were commenced or no arrests were made in the offences that the police sought to prevent in making these interceptions. The proposals in Motions Nos. 4 and 6 are, therefore, not advisable.

The reforms proposed in Bill C-55 are designated to protect the safety of Canadians in a way that is appropriate, proportional and respectful of privacy interests. I am confident that the bill would achieve the correct balance in this regard.

Furthermore, although I appreciate the efforts of the member opposite, the report stage amendments proposed to Bill C-55 that are currently before this House for consideration are ineffective, ill-advised and inappropriate.

For these reasons, I urge the House to defeat the motions tabled by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

As well, I hope that all members will support the timely enactment of the bill as it was introduced. The Supreme Court of Canada suspended its declaration of invalidity in R. v. Tse until April 13 to allow the need for Parliament to ensure the constitutional compliance of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code. As it now stands, if the bill does not come into force before the suspension expires, section 184.4 would not longer be available for police to do wiretaps in the exceptional circumstances contemplated in section 184.4, which are designated, of course, as circumstances in which lives are at risk.

I urge this House to pass the bill.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me get to one point in the time I have for a question. It is related to the overly broad definition of “police officer or other person”.

The reason this issue was put forward by the Canadian Bar Association was actually to get it right. This is not to say that there are not other places in the Criminal Code where we find that definition, but in this specific instance, which is a quite extraordinary intrusion of the state into the personal lives of its citizens, it is trying to make it clear that not just anybody can do this, and that even within the police force, as the Canadian Bar Association letters to the committee pointed out, certainly “Special training and oversight are necessary for police officers who have such potentially intrusive power.”

It is basically suggesting that maybe it is not the cop on the beat who gets warrantless wiretap permission in exigent circumstances. Those same persons, by the way, should be capable of saving their notes from the case. Handwritten notes are all that are required to memorialize why they thought there were legitimate grounds to seek this extraordinary power of intruding into people's private lives.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, while many police officers may be qualified to seek the right to intercept private conversations, not all officers are designated to do this. As suggested by the hon. member, those who do go forth have specialized training to do these interceptions. There is a focus in the RCMP and other police forces to ensure that those who do intrude on the rights of individuals are specially trained. Of course, in exigent circumstances, to require additional delays that may put people's lives in danger is certainly not advisable.

We know that when these wiretaps are obtained in exigent circumstances, they act immediately; however, after the fact and as quickly as possible, that is usually followed by the police authorities seeking a judicial authorization. There is a temporary period when immediacy requires that they intercept, but it is usually followed, in most circumstances, with a requirement to get a judicial authorization warranting this intrusion.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think one of the concerns expressed was on the timing of the legislation that the government brought forward.

When the Supreme Court made the decision back in April of last year, we knew we had one year to straighten up the legislation. It does not take 10 months to come up with the legislation. Why did it take the government so long to present it before the House? The delay ensured that we would have to provide fast passage, whereas there seemed to be significant interest in being able to have some dialogue, whether in committee or in further debate at second reading. It becomes a timing issue. Why did the government wait as long as it did to bring in the legislation?

The member would know that the Liberal Party is supporting the bill and its passage because we recognize the urgency, but why did it take so long for the government to bring it forward?

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, there was a lot of due diligence done to determine exactly what should be done in amending the act and making it constitutional. We know the government always takes great measures to ensure the constitutionality of all its acts. Therefore, the time it took was attributable to the fact that we wanted to ensure all constitutional requirements were met and that we could make the best amendments possible to ensure we protect the rights of private citizens.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague who just asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice the question, hit the nail on the head. The problem with Bill C-55 is that we find ourselves passing this bill at the last possible minute. As we say in English, time is of the essence. If this bill is not passed by April 13, we will have a legal vacuum.

I would like to make some clarifications so that we know what we are talking about.

Section 184.4 of the Criminal Code is very clear. It talks about interception of communications in exceptional circumstances. If Bill C-55 is not passed in accordance with the Supreme Court of Canada decision, rendered last year in R. v. Tse, section 184.4 will no longer exist. Currently, this section states that, in exceptional circumstances:

A peace officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication where:

People are concerned about their conversations being intercepted and heard. Under section 184.4, which was at the centre of R. v. Tse, the conditions for the officer are that:

(a) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;

In other words, there was absolutely no other way to obtain authorization for this type of interception.

(b) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that such an intervention is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property;

This means that, after all due diligence, there is no possibility of obtaining authorization. That is a little difficult in the city. In Gatineau, for example, justices of the peace are available practically 24 hours a day for this type of authorization. The chances that it would be impossible to obtain authorization and that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code would not apply are great. These are truly exceptional cases, and it is important to put that into context.

There must also be reasonable grounds to believe that such an interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm. Serious harm must be more than just a possibility; it must be imminent.

The third condition is as follows:

(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.

It should also be said that the ruling in R. v. Tse did not require a review of interception in its entirety. I appreciate what my Green Party colleague was trying to do with her amendments. But since time is of the essence, we should be concentrating on what the Supreme Court has asked Parliament to do. We were not asked to review the entire reporting process and so on. Yet the majority of the member's amendments address those topics, which were not even mentioned in the Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court said the unless a criminal prosecution results, the targets of the wiretapping might never learn of the interceptions and would be unable to challenge police use of this power. There is no other measure in the code to ensure specific oversight of the use of section 184.4.

After all that I have said about this section, if that were the case and a person was never criminally prosecuted, it would be quite possible that he would never know that he had been the target of a wiretap or that his conversations had been intercepted. That is the crux of the issue in the R. v. Tse ruling.

The Supreme Court said that in its present form, the provision fails to meet the minimum constitutional standards of section 8 of the charter. I would like to emphasize the word “minimum”. The NDP is not saying that Bill C-55 is a legislative model when it comes to wiretapping, interception or invasion of privacy as set out in part VI of the Criminal Code. Those are exceptions.

Still, before voting on my colleague's proposed amendments and on Bill C-55, we should consider whether the measures and changes proposed by Bill C-55 respond to the guidance provided by the Supreme Court of Canada:

An accountability mechanism is necessary to protect the important privacy interests at stake and a notice provision would adequately meet that need, although Parliament may choose an alternative measure for providing accountability.

Those who take the time to read Bill C-55 will see that it calls for an accountability mechanism. People whose communications are intercepted will be notified of the interception.

Still according to the Supreme Court:

The lack of notice requirement or some other satisfactory substitute renders s. 184.4 constitutionally infirm.

That is all the Supreme Court of Canada said in R. v. Tse. Without sufficient information, we still do not know whether section 184.4 is excessively broad in scope because it confers power that may be exercised by peace officers as well as police officers. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court did indicate that it considered the matter. As always, the Supreme Court will not rule until the matter has been debated, nor will it rule on the matter debated unless it goes before the court. With respect to the issue of who would be given permission to carry out the kind of interception set out in section 184.4, the Supreme Court did not discuss it and made no decision on the matter.

One good thing about Bill C-55 is that, even in the absence of a decision by the Supreme Court, it restricts the scope of section 184.4 to police officers and other persons employed for the maintenance of the public peace by removing the term “peace officer”.

Section 2 of the Criminal Code lists just about every category of public officer, from mayor to meter reader. Indeed, virtually every type of public officer was covered, giving the impression that the scope of the provision was fairly broad. The power conferred under section 184.4 is one that should not be given to just anyone. In that regard, I am pleased that the government brought forward a bill that addresses one of the issues that the Supreme Court raised but did not rule on. As I see it, in matters of criminal law, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The rights of persons subject to trial are at issue here. Insofar as providing an opinion is concerned, Bill C-55 is the Conservatives’ response to the Supreme Court’s request.

The bill also contains some things that the Supreme Court did not request. All of the provisions amending section 195 of the Act and the requirement for various types of reports have been added to ensure greater accountability. Who would not want that? Certainly more can be done at some point in the future.

However, as to whether Bill C-55 will respond to the questions and guidance of the Supreme Court of Canada before April 13, 2013, all of the witnesses who testified before the committee were of the opinion that it will.

All of the witnesses, whether they represented the Canadian Bar Association or the CLA, were unanimous in their support of Bill C-55. They made a number of minor suggestions. However, since it was not their job to resolve all of the problems concerning interception but rather to address the issue of the constitutionality of section 184.4, I am reasonably satisfied with the responses provided by departmental officials.

All of the questions which the member raised in her amendments have been answered by the minister or by Department of Justice officials. In this regard, there is no need at this point in time and given the context of Bill C-55 to go forward with what my hon. colleague is proposing. We received the answers to our questions when the bill was studied in committee.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her statement.

I read all of the testimony given in committee, and, as I said earlier when I addressed the House, the minister answered my colleague’s questions. Nevertheless, some serious questions remain concerning this bill.

Does my colleague agree with me that the changes brought about by today's amendments would improve the bill?

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the question as follows.

When we looked at the definition of police officer or when we had queries about the contents of reports, we understood that much of this falls under provincial jurisdiction. Therefore, I think we have to focus on the answer to be given to the dictates from the Supreme Court of Canada.

This does not mean that we cannot study the other aspects in greater depth, but they give rise to other problems. I personally do not have a clear-cut answer as to whether using the amendment creates more problems than it solves. That is what was raised by this type of amendment.

Regarding the R. v. Tse case, it would be preferable to leave the text as it stands. Later on, other steps will perhaps have to be taken in terms of wiretapping or interception. However, on the basis of R. v. Tse, the response is more than appropriate.

There are still questions about closing the definition of “police officer”, as my colleague wants to do. Witnesses told us that this would cause some problems. In some places, the situation is perhaps not described in the same way, but there is already a clear picture of this other person who keeps the peace.

Regarding the fact that time is limited, I think that the government will have to take the blame, because it is the government that is pushing for this exercise to be carried out so quickly. That being said, the only question the House must ask is whether the response to the principle requested by the Supreme Court is appropriate. The answer is simply: yes. Unfortunately, what is left leads to too many other questions.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gatineau for her speech.

I would like to come back to the exceptional nature of Criminal Code section 184.4. She expressed her views on this issue very clearly. This is an important key to understanding the extent to which this section is limited in its scope.

Her speech made me think about how imminent the threat has to be to cause a police officer to use these section 184.4 provisions rather than the provisions of sections 186 or 188, for example, of the Criminal Code.

I would appreciate it if the member would go into a little more detail about this issue of imminent threat that could justify and support the fact that section 184.4 is simply being amended by replacing the term “peace officer” with “police officer”?

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned with regard to section 184.4, the imminent threat is not the only factor involved in making that interception; the peace officer must have reasonable grounds to believe it is impossible to obtain the consent of a justice of the peace. So there is a set of criteria.

Limiting access to section 184.4 to peace officers or police officers, within the obvious meaning of that term, was another way of shutting a door that could have been opened before the courts in future and on which the Supreme Court could have ruled.

Sometimes we get the impression the government does not really check its bills to ensure they comply with the charter. For once, however, and this is rare, we sense that the government has listened to the Supreme Court's decision here.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, at the risk of repeating a lot of what has been said here today, I want to elaborate on a few things, notably part VI of the Criminal Code, which deals with the activity of intercepting communications and thwarting crime as a result of that.

The reason we are here is the decision in R. v. Tse. When it came down, it seemed kind of odd at the time. It was just on the other end of the fiasco we had with Bill C-30, when it was introduced in the House. At that time there was a huge public campaign to thwart Bill C-30 because of the overarching measures contained within it and how it went against the spirit of privacy. When it comes to section 8 of the charter, and the charter itself, the charter challenges would have been ad nauseam for a lot of this bill.

Why the government did not wait in this particular case until after the decision is beyond me. It knew it was coming. Nonetheless, as a result of that it brought the bill into the House and then took it back out because of the public campaign against it, I would assume. As a result, we now have this bill, which complies with the judgment that came down from the court case in April 2012.

Here we find ourselves at the last minute on the eve of April 2013. We were given ample notice and yet here we are, up to the last minute. Why the Conservatives would push the envelope like this, I am not quite certain. However, in doing that, Bill C-55 now looks at the decision that came down and how it goes against the Constitution.

Many of my colleagues have already brought up section 184.4, which in this particular situation allows the police officers to intercept imminent communications. In other words, in any particular situation they do not need the paperwork to get that done.

Section 184.4 was originally composed as follows:

A peace officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication where

(a) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;

It goes on to state:

(b) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that such an interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property;

The final point under (c) of section 184.4 states:

(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim....

Here we have a situation where some people may feel we are circumventing the privacy issue for the sake of the immediacy of what is happening; we are able to intercept without certain legal authorities.

There is no doubt that for us and for millions of Canadians, on the surface this would cause a lot of concern, certainly for privacy. Police officers do not need that particular authorization under certain circumstances in order for them to intercept the communications, and therefore this is what we are struggling with right now.

The question was put forward and an opinion is now with us regarding this particular case.

The principal amendment addresses the fatal flaw identified by the Supreme Court. In this situation, Bill C-55 provides that after-the-fact notice be sent, as is the case for other forms of interception. That is what this is coming down to. The court decided this is not congruent with the charter because of the fact that the after-notice was not present in this particular situation. This is where the court has asked us to have a look at it and this is why we have Bill C-55. I certainly agree and voted in favour of it during second reading.

Essentially, this comes down to part VI of the Criminal Code. At the very crux of this is how we deal with the centrepiece of federal legislation on electronic surveillance by law enforcement agencies.

The court summarized the current scheme of part VI of the code as follows, and I would like to thank the Library of Parliament for providing some of this information, the legislative summary:

Part VI of the Code makes it an offence under s. 184(1) to intercept private communications. Sections 185 and 186 set out the general provisions governing the application and the granting of judicial authorizations for the interception of private communications.

There we have it. The interception of these private communications, electronic surveillance of a potential unlawful act, is written in part VI, and it talks about the legal authority to do so, whether it be authorizations or judicial authorizations. Section 184.2 is the other part of that, providing for judicial authorization with the consent of one of the persons being intercepted for up to 60 days.

Let us get to the crux of what we are talking about today. In 1993, Parliament introduced two provisions to permit interceptions without judicial authorization in two exceptional cases. Those would be section 184.1, which permits interception with a person's consent, and what we are talking about here today, which was ruled upon, section 184.4, which authorizes the power to intercept private communications in an emergency for the purpose of preventing serious harm. Neither of these two sections is subject to the requirement to report to Parliament or to provide after-the-fact notice.

This bill is going to change this, so that after-notice is sent to the particular people involved in the investigation, which is incongruent with other sections where other people were surveyed under judicial authorizations or had their communications intercepted.

The other part they got into on this particular case, which was very interesting, was about reporting to Parliament, as well as changing “peace officer” to “police officer”. As many of my colleagues have already pointed out, within the code itself, the idea or definition of a peace office as described is very broad indeed. We are talking about, as my colleague from the NDP pointed out, mayors, reeves and court officers. It is a very broad description. What has happened here is that the bill has taken it and defined it down to a police officer.

I will get to the amendments from my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands in a moment.

In doing so, the other part would be that the court examines the text of section 184.4 closely, with particular attention to phrases that limit its scope. The court concluded that Parliament had incorporated objective standards and strict conditions into the provision itself. That part was fine. The onus would remain on the Crown to show in any particular case that the conditions for the use of section 184.4 had been met. Nonetheless, as I pointed out, the court was concerned that there was no requirement that authorities notify individuals after the fact that their private communications had been intercepted. That is not congruent with other means of judicial authorizations to find and intercept people's private communications.

The final thing was whether to report to Parliament or not. In other places and in other sections, the court considered reading in a notice of requirement, but determined that this would not be appropriate. That is one of the measures it considered. However, because of the notification, the court ruled it to be against the charter. The section on reporting to Parliament was something it added. In it, the court says that “electronic surveillance under the Code is an effective investigation technique used especially by law enforcement agencies” and therefore requires a reporting to Parliament from the Minister of Public Safety and the Attorney General of Canada. Currently, they prepare an annual report on law enforcement's use of warrants for video surveillance and certain authorizations to intercept private communications pursuant to part VI. The ruling here is, and this particular bill addresses, that incongruent with part VI, it allows the reporting within Parliament procedure to continue as well.

I did not have much of a chance to talk about the amendments currently here. My colleague talks about the record keeping, which I have some trouble with, particularly because of the machinations involved. This is an immediate situation, in cases of using section 184.4, and I will therefore be voting against this particular measure, as well as other measures, which I am sure I will get into in questions.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, in general, we on the opposition benches are supportive of the revised Bill C-55. However, as the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor noted at the beginning of his remarks, the government had since April of last year to make the changes to sections of the Criminal Code dealing with emergency wiretaps without a warrant. Would the member care to speculate as to why it is that we find ourselves here at the last moment trying to get the bill through the House?

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. It seems to me that the pattern in this particular case, which is similar to what the Conservatives brought about with the Senate reform, is to push it to the very last minute to seek opinion.

What is most bizarre is that the Conservatives introduced Bill C-30, which caused the most trouble, yet they knew that the decision from the Supreme Court was pending. If they had that decision, they would probably have had a better launching pad for Bill C-30. Unfortunately for them at the time, Bill C-30 became a hornet's nest of opposition across the entire country. They had to scrap it, step back and then wait for the Supreme Court decision to move ahead with Bill C-55, which by the way, may point out that the current legislation is better than they had imagined. It has been tested with the fixes we are doing here today, such as with section 184.4. It points out that the current laws in place were sufficient with a few tweaks here and there, and that is what we are doing with Bill C-55.

Therefore, the hornet's nest created around Bill C-30 was not really necessary. Apparently, because they pulled the legislation back, I guess they did not even agree with what they wrote, as bizarre as that may sound.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor for his speech. It was a great privilege for me to work on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for a number of months and thus to associate with the member for Mount Royal, who, as everyone remembers, was Minister of Justice at another time.

The member for Mount Royal has often raised concerns regarding the rule of law in the creation of new statutes. That is something quite fundamental because we have seen the government make some mistakes in that regard.

Following his speech, I would like my colleague to give us more details on this question of the rule of law and on the protections afforded by such fundamental instruments as the charter in developing legislation or amendments to the Criminal Code.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague. Obviously any modern, advanced, progressive democracy puts provisions in place to protect the privacy of each and every individual. However, that has to be weighed with the protection of our society, and in this particular situation, we must make sure that undue harm would not come to others. Yes, the rule of law has to be followed, but we also have to protect privacy. This is the balancing act we have here.

In the judgment that came down in R. v. Tse, the court noted that the interception under section 184.4 is limited to urgent situations where there is an immediate necessity to prevent serious harm and judicial pre-authorization is not available with reasonable diligence. Therefore, we have to put the safeguards in. We have to be narrow and specific as to how this would be executed.

In the particular case of section 184.4, judicial authorization is not required. Right away that tells us that it could be a fundamental breach of privacy, and essentially that is what it is. However, due to the egregious circumstances dictated in this particular situation, which require short notice, we have to make provisions within our rule of law so that the police officers could execute within that situation, so that no harm would be brought upon another individual.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address Bill C-55.

I did not work directly on this bill as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights because I unfortunately left that committee, although I fortunately have the great privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Finance. However, I have excellent memories of my time on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, despite the problems the members the New Democratic Party are facing on that committee.

In reference to the question I put to my colleague who previously spoke with regard to the rule of law and basic protections, we have moved a motion in the context of Bill C-55. That is why the member for Mount Royal spoke on the subject. He shared the same concerns when he was Minister of Justice. This is an excellent example of the reconciliation of imperatives. We can reconcile certain imperatives even though we belong to different parties. I remember some good exchanges I had with the member for Mount Royal over the fact that he approved of a number of measures we had taken.

Like all of my NDP colleagues, I support Bill C-55. However, I am going to be quite harsh. Objectively, Bill C-55 was a pleasant surprise. I think the government was compelled to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision. Yet, even today, as reported in the Globe and Mail, the justice minister continues to reiterate his full support for Bill C-10, the omnibus bill that unfortunately was passed and will create many problems.

Portions of certain sections of the Criminal Code and other acts that were amended by Bill C-10 could eventually be invalidated. Moreover, this bill has created an excessive amount of work for Parliament. This situation could have been avoided if the government had been open and much more rigorous that it generally is. I would remind the House that Bill C-55 is the exception.

Of course, reinventing the wheel or showing too much originality was not possible, because the decision was very clear and compelled the government to find solutions that meshed perfectly with the Supreme Court’s observations.

This brings us back to our duty as elected representatives and as members of these important and fundamental committees known as the standing committees of the House of Commons.

We have a responsibility to stay informed and adapt to today’s realities on an ongoing basis, all the while complying with immutable principles. We have a responsibility when it comes to passing legislation.

In this regard, I hope that Bill C-55 will serve as a model for the government and will prompt it to be more disciplined and especially to show more respect for all of our country’s institutions. The government must start by showing respect for the Canadian justice system, for Canada’s Parliament, a fundamental institution, and more especially for the House of Commons.

Understandably, there can be differences of opinion, and the government may not always agree with the views expressed by members of the opposition parties. However, the government has a responsibility to respect these views and the fact that people have different opinions. It also has a duty to respect the principle of accountability, which unfortunately is too easily flouted.

In the case of the committee that I had the privilege to serve on last fall, too often the government denied the obvious and rejected the opinions of experts whose positions were quite clear. It is truly a shame. After all, while it may be possible to some extent to defend ideological stances, these have absolutely no place when it comes to governing and establishing conditions for a just and fair society.

The government has made that mistake over and over again.

I repeat, Bill C-55 is a pleasant surprise. In the wake of what my hon. colleague from Gatineau said, I will come back to some important points related to section 184.4. They may seem like minor details, but these changes are important. They do not affect the essence of section 184.4.

The bill defines the term “police officer”, which applies to section 184.4. The bill then continues:

A police officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that (a) the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part; (b) the interception is immediately necessary to prevent an offence that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and (c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would commit the offence that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.

My colleague from Gatineau accurately explained the special nature of section 184.4. Let us not forget that sections 186 and 188 cover virtually every case that would justify a warrant to breach a person's privacy. There are, of course, cases in which the imminence or urgency of the situation, when it is a matter of minutes or hours, would permit someone in authority under the Criminal Code to act quickly without permission to provide genuine assistance and intervene to prevent mischief or a crime.

This is perfectly reasonable. The only problem is with the consequences of such an action. The amendments made to the various parts of section 195 are particularly important. We strongly support them simply because they provide a form of transparency and openness that allows for self-discipline and generally avoids any abuse of police power. First of all, no one wants abuse of this kind from the police. Police officers who possess this extraordinary power ought not to be exposed to situations of potential abuse by themselves or others against anyone here in Canada because it could lead to serious breaches and the public's loss of confidence in police departments.

We believe that section 195 is a step in the right direction in terms of accountability, and that it would set out clear guidelines for the application of section 184.4. In my view, this constitutes significant progress. It is a fundamental and necessary improvement. It would deal with the problems inherent in R. v. Tse that were before the Supreme Court.

I would like to end by saying that it was a pleasure to be able to comment on Bill C-55. I think, and especially I hope, that it will be passed relatively quickly. It is nevertheless deplorable that the government took so long to allow us to review it in this House.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his excellent speech.

I would like to point out that Bill C-55 is the Conservatives' latest attempt after their Bill C-30, if I am not mistaken, failed.

Why do the Conservatives have these kinds of failures? It is obviously because they try to fast-track everything. They want to move very quickly and not allow debate. The two omnibus budget bills are indisputable proof of that.

Does my hon. colleague think that the Conservative government should now ensure that all justice bills are in line with the charter and the constitution, instead of simply basing bills solely on its political agenda and short-sighted ideology?

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Drummond for his question.

I think that there is cause for some legitimate concern. I did not talk about the case of the former Department of Justice jurist who said that, unfortunately, the groundwork was not being done at the department. That case is obviously running its course.

What is very disappointing is that the government continues to deny it and insists on fast-tracking flawed bills at all costs.

Bill C-30 was particularly disappointing. Fortunately, public pressure made the government back down. Bill C-55 fixes some things that Bill C-30 would not have fixed. Bill C-30 would have unfortunately created more problems than solutions.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech and his new role on the Standing Committee on Finance of which I used to be a member. I know that my colleague will do incredible work there. I am now a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

As my colleague mentioned, hon. members will recall the comments made by the Minister of Public Safety with regard to Bill C-30. He said that anyone who did not support the bill stood with child pornographers. This shows that there is a lack of understanding and a problem with regard to openness and discussion.

The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville talked about how flawed Bill C-30 was. The bill was supposed to make the corrections required by the Supreme Court ruling.

I would like the hon. member to comment on the Minister of Public Safety's views and on Bill C-30.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague and congratulate him on his new role as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I am sure that he will do a remarkable job there. He had an excellent track record as a member of the Standing Committee on Finance.

Frankly, the Minister of Public Safety's inappropriate remark is disappointing and shows the government's worrisome lack of openness when it comes to governance and accountability.

The Minister of Public Safety's verbal attack aside, the fact remains that he is responsible and accountable to the House. In my opinion, he seems to want to do as he pleases with impunity. However, things do not work like that in society. Whether it is in the smallest unit of society, namely, the household or family unit, or in community life in general, when an individual interacts with hundreds of people, he has to be able to make concessions and think about others, something the Minister of Public Safety seems incapable of doing.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to speak about Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the government's response to the Supreme Court’s decision in R. v. Tse.

As my colleague explained, I now have the pleasure of sitting on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Before that I sat on the Standing Committee on Finance. Now, I have the pleasure of working with our justice critic, the member for Gatineau. Since becoming a member of this committee and working with her, I have discovered that her knowledge of the justice field is incredibly broad and that she does extraordinary work. As with all the files on which she has worked, she led the team very capably and clarified our position on Bill C-55.

Our position is clear: we are in favour of Bill C-55 because it is a step in the right direction. We have supported the bill at every stage because it resolves one of the legal problems in the Criminal Code. The R. v. Tse ruling made it possible to tell the government that the Criminal Code, as enacted in 1993, with the wiretaps provisions, was unconstitutional. I will discuss this unconstitutional aspect a little later on.

I believe the bill is a step in the right direction. It updates the wiretapping provisions that the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled unconstitutional. In the R. v. Tse decision, the Supreme Court of Canada found that an emergency wiretap authority without a court authorization in situations of imminent harm could be justified under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Certain amendments therefore had to be made. Section 184.4 of the Criminal Code was enacted in 1993 and was unconstitutional, primarily because it contained no accountability measures. I repeat, section 184.4 must be used only in exceptional circumstances. It is an emergency measure. Wiretapping is an infringement of privacy. However, in certain cases, such as in the cases discussed, it is a necessity, as it also involves public safety.

We as legislators must balance the two aspects: public safety with freedom and the right to privacy. Fortunately, this is what the bill does. The law as it was in the past made it impossible to achieve this balance.

The Supreme Court made a rather pressing and important point in its decision. According to the Supreme Court, the Criminal Code, as it stands, is unconstitutional. The court therefore directed the government to introduce a bill to address the problem. The Supreme Court gave the government until April 13, 2013, to enact amendments to ensure that the justice system can function legitimately. Unfortunately, when the government took power, it introduced many bills that it felt were more important, but did not really do what the Supreme Court asked of it.

I will return to Bill C-30, but I would like first to discuss Bill C-55 in more detail. The issue here is the reporting requirement for interceptions of private communications. This is important. We need to know what is going on and we need accountability. This bill concerns the requirement to report, which is important.

Bill C-55 provides that any person who has been the object of an interception must be advised within a period of 90 days to three years. Several questions were raised about the three-year time period, but after hearing witnesses, in particular those from the Department of Justice, we understood that there were reasons that made this acceptable. Of course, the time period will not always be three years. We hope that it will be shorter. However, we are reassured by the fact that those who have been under electronic surveillance will be advised thereof. The bill also restricts what categories of people can make such interceptions.

One of the problems with Bill C-30, which I would like to discuss further, is that it allowed almost anyone to do so, and placed certain obligations on telecommunications companies and so on. Now that has been clarified somewhat. The bill says that the police have the right to intercept communications. Witnesses raised questions about whether this should be clarified and whether it should go still further. Should it be a higher-ranking officer, such as a police supervisor? When we heard the witnesses and thoroughly analyzed the question, we found the definition adequate in terms of being understandable, particularly when applied more broadly to the Criminal Code.

I would like to say more about Bill C-30, because the Supreme Court requirement told the government to come back with a bill that was not unconstitutional by April 13, 2013. We are aware of the fact that it takes a great deal of time for a bill to work its way through the parliamentary legislative system.

The government began by introducing Bill C-30.

Bill C-30 required telecom providers in Canada to monitor user data and be prepared to hand over personal information to authorities without a warrant or judicial oversight. We saw that as a big problem, and a lot of members stood in the House and said that, including my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville, who is the NDP critic.

He is an incredible colleague who fought very hard. The public also helped us by expressing its opposition to this bill.

Canadians must not forget what the Minister of Public Safety said at the time.

On February 13, 2012, the minister, in answer to a question on Bill C-30, said:

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the opportunity to tell him that every province unanimously supported moving forward with the legislation that was introduced first under the Liberal government, by his party. As technology evolves, many criminal activities, such as the distribution of child pornography, become much easier. We are proposing measures to bring our laws into the 21st century and to provide the police with the lawful tools that they need. He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.

When we look at history, we know the government made a huge mistake with the bill, and it knows it. Bill C-30 was wrong. The fact that a minister could speak that way and then come back and say that maybe it was a mistake and the bill went too far, it was not maybe, it really did. When he spoke like that, it showed narrow-mindedness. If Conservatives want to collaborate and work on better legislation, especially after the Supreme Court told us to do it, we hope there will be better preparation by members opposite in the future.

The NDP was very pleased that the minister and the government admitted their mistake and realized that they had gone too far. There was no reason for them to attack the protection of privacy. The scope of their legislation was too broad and they were asking telecommunications companies to obtain information without a warrant. Canadians and my constituents were outraged. I heard this from many of my constituents.

OpenMedia came up with a campaign to go against it. Once in a while, the government actually listens to what people have to say, and I am glad it did. I wish the government would have done it before coming up with such a bill, but coming back with Bill C-55 is a good thing. The government has looked at what needs to be done. The Supreme Court was pretty clear that we needed to amend the law so that we followed what the charter said, which the government did. That is why we support it. It is really important that the rule of law, the Constitution and the charter be respected.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate my colleague's comments. He is quite right about the first bill introduced to deal with this matter, Bill C-30.

I am wondering if he would talk about why it is important for the government to ensure, before introducing bills, that all the proper steps have been taken. First, its lawyers must examine the bill and the government must listen to the advice it receives. The problem should not be addressed when the bill is before the courts. Bills that make sense and that will work should be introduced.

Could the member talk a little more about the fact that the Conservatives may have problems with people who give them bad advice?

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

I would like to thank my colleague for her very fitting question.

We are here today with this kind of bill before us because the previous government—a Liberal government—did not do its homework with regard to complying with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We can indeed see the problem quite clearly in this case. Bill C-30 is one example, but many bills have been passed. As I explained in my speech, the government drafts bills on the back of an envelope, as it were, without really verifying whether they violate the charter. What is really troubling is that it is ultimately taxpayers who must pay more because there are costs. The government is sued by other provinces or other organizations and then has to draft an entirely new bill.

My colleague from Gatineau, our justice critic, was very clear on that point and she even moved a motion. We wanted to study the mechanism in place because we felt it did not work very well. In particular, someone like Mr. Schmidt said that the government was not doing its job, that it was not determining whether its bills in fact complied with the charter. So there is a problem in this area. The government should do its homework and work harder to ensure compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his speech.

This debate obviously concerns my amendments. I want to ask the member whether he supports the idea that it is very important for this House of Commons and for all members to make this bill as strong as possible, to make it comply with the charter. Politicians and groups of expert lawyers currently feel that the bill is a little too weak because we have not added the amendments to obtain more compliance reports or to determine whether a police officer can use this section of the Code.

That is my question.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her question.

In theory, yes, we agree that attention must be paid to the charter and that privacy must be protected. That is very important. Wiretapping must be used in emergencies and really on an exceptional basis.

My colleague raised certain points when we studied this bill in committee. First, we received assurances from the witnesses who were there. They represented all kinds of positions. They were not simply government people. We really got assurances in that respect. I know that my Liberal colleague also proposed an amendment regarding reports, but subsequently changed his mind. The witnesses told us that the provinces already had a certain duty to prepare reports in that respect.

Provincial law enforcement agencies have certain obligations they have to fulfill. We felt comfortable with the explanation that those were in line with what we wanted in terms of protecting civil rights and the right to privacy.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to add my remarks to the debate on Bill C-55. As we have seen, the Conservatives are learning a hard lesson about the proper consideration that should be put into drafting a bill. Unfortunately, this is being learned at the expense of the taxpayers.

Hard-working Canadians know that to save time and money, it is important to do things right the first time. As the old saying goes, and my mom was a seamstress, so I heard this a lot, “measure twice and cut once”. That is a phrase I hope the Conservatives will keep in mind when it comes to drafting legislation going forward.

It is important to assure Canadians that this chamber gives proper consideration to any and every bill before the House, especially those that affect some of the rights and freedoms most cherished by the Canadian people. While I am thankful that the judges of the Supreme Court are able to reinforce our charter rights and declare legislation unconstitutional if it violates these rights, I am in agreement with my extremely knowledgeable colleague from Gatineau, who expressed concerns in her speech to this bill at second reading about sending people to court. Again, it is not because I do not have faith in the courts. I have every belief that our courts work to protect Canadians and defend the Constitution. In fact, the need for tabling bills like Bill C-55 reinforces my statement. However, the process of this roundabout way of making legislation is costly, and there are problems accessing justice.

If we do our job properly the first time, if we give a bill the proper consideration when it is drafted and make sure that it complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the concerns of Canadians, we will avoid many of these issues. If we do our job to the best of our ability, then I have no issue with having to redraft legislation at the request of the court. It is the job not being done right the first time that I, along with hard-working Canadians, take issue with.

Before I speak further to the content of Bill C-55, we must reflect on its history. In 2012, the Conservatives introduced Bill C-30 as an attempt to resolve every conceivable problem related to surveillance. Thankfully, Canadians were not afraid to speak up to ensure that their rights and freedoms were protected from a government that sought to unreasonably limit them. Public opposition to this bill erupted in a swarm of online campaigns and a general backlash. To quote the B.C. Civil Liberties Association:

It incorporates many, many people into a web of suspicion that shouldn't be there. The growth of the database nation presents a grave danger to democracy.

It incorporates many, many people into a web of suspicion that shouldn't be there. This is what we are seeing over and over again from the Conservatives. They are basically trying to say that people on EI are criminals, because now they are sending police there. They are treating seniors with disrespect. They are trying to label people as if they were not abiding by the rules, and they are. It is the Conservatives who are not.

A poll conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion demonstrates that the majority of Canadians felt that the bill was too intrusive. The bill was not only very unpopular among members of the Canadian public, but it piled onto elements of the Criminal Code that are unconstitutional, as noted by the Supreme Court. This is reflected in the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Tse. In that decision, the judges of the court ruled that the emergency wiretap provision in section 184.4 of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional. The judges stated that accountability measures must be put in place. The court gave Parliament until April 13, 2013 to amend the provision to make it constitutional.

It is clear that Bill C-55 was drafted to respond to the concerns expressed by the courts, and at the eleventh hour, I must say. Specifically, Bill C-55 would require reporting on the interception of private communications made under section 184.4. It would narrow which individuals can intercept private communications. People who have been wiretapped would have to be notified. It would also limit the use of wiretapping to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

Finally, we would have some consideration given to accountability and notification. Both are necessary to protect the important privacy interests at stake. I am glad that Bill C-55 would consider the concerns expressed by the courts. We have to thank the Canadian public, which voiced its opinion on this.

It is a shame, however, that instead of considering these issues and trying to fix legislation that is already in place, we get bills like Bill C-30 that seek to further limit our rights and freedoms that are protected under the charter. Instead of ensuring that what we already have is working, the Conservatives attempt to pile on legislation that would further limit our rights and freedoms. This is the most ineffective and inefficient way to enact policy.

On this side of the House, New Democrats will continue to hold the Conservatives accountable with respect to the rights and freedoms of Canadians at every stage of the legislative process and will ensure that things are done right the first time. That is why I want to express my concerns about elements of Bill C-55. While the recommendations of the courts are being implemented, we must ensure that the bill is not simply an updated version of the wiretapping provisions the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional or the surveillance bill that the Canadian people so rightly opposed.

When considering this type of legislation, we want to make sure that we are equipping our law enforcement professionals with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. We want to do this in a way that limits the rights and freedoms of Canadians as little as possible. We want to ensure that the voices and concerns of the Canadian people are reflected in the legislation that is ultimately meant to protect them. As discussed by the Supreme Court, it is a matter of striking a reasonable balance between an individual's right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures and society's interest in preventing serious harm. At every stage of the process, we must consider these conditions.

This is no easy task and is not one we can simply glance over. The Canadian public expressed its concerns about the former Bill C-30, and we are committed to having those concerns reflected in Bill C-55. As stated by the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law, Dr. Michael Geist:

Bill C-30 may be dead, but lawful access surely is not. On the same day the government put the bill out of its misery, it introduced Bill C-55 on warrantless wiretapping. Although the bill is ostensibly a response to last year's...decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, much of the bill is lifted directly from Bill C-30.

Of course, all members are aware of the campaign that helped Canadians share these concerns with their MPs and challenged members to defend privacy.

My office is always receiving inquiries regarding the protection of privacy. Canadians jealously guard section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under which everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.

However, no voter has ever come to the office to request that unreasonable limits be imposed on Canadians' right to privacy. With a government that is trying to pass laws that would allow it to spy on its citizens, Canadians have the right to be concerned.

On this side of the House, we will continue to oppose unreasonable search and seizure. The Conservatives must respect the reasonable limits that have been set out by the courts.

It is ironic that the Conservatives, who claim to want to reduce government intervention, are seeking to pass a legislative measure that will turn Canada into a country that is monitored in a Big-Brother-like fashion. Canadians are right to be wary of any legislative measure put forward by the Conservatives that limits the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the charter.

As we saw during the uproar in response to Bill C-30, Canadians are paying close attention on this front. Now it is time for the government to listen to Canadians as well as to the courts.

The NDP will continue to fight to uphold the rights and freedoms of Canadians. It is important that these rights and freedoms are given proper consideration before drafting and tabling legislation to ensure that things are done right the first time. We must ensure that the guidelines set out by the courts regarding this new bill are followed. We must ensure that it strikes a reasonable balance between an individual's right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures and society's interest in preventing serious harm.

Finally, we must ensure that all of this is done right the first time. We owe it to Canadians to ensure that anything that goes through the House is given proper consideration, especially when it involves the rights and freedoms of the Canadian people. Given the history of Bill C-30 and the Supreme Court decision in Tse, we believe that the current bill, Bill C-55, strikes a balance between personal freedoms and public safety. We expect that consideration of this sort be implemented in all bills passed before the House so that we do not get more bills like Bill C-30.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her excellent speech and the comments that she made about Bill C-55.

Throughout this early afternoon, I listened to what the other members had to say about the importance of this bill, which will remedy a flaw or close a loophole that the Conservatives left in Bill C-30, which is truly an aberration. The Conservatives ended up abandoning this bill because public pressure put them in their place.

The Conservatives are in the bad habit of doing things too quickly, without worrying about respecting the charter and the Constitution, for example. This is a problem that we do not mention often enough and a Conservative shortcoming.

I would like the hon. member to comment on omnibus bills such as Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, two bills that are nearly 800 pages long and that were examined very quickly. The government does not take the time to check whether it is abiding by Canada's key pieces of legislation, namely, the charter and the Constitution.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He is absolutely right. The charter and the right to privacy must be protected, something the government seems to forget. The government prefers to introduce legislation that quite often ends up before the courts. This does not protect Canadians, nor does it put to good use the taxes Canadians pay in order to receive services that help us to manage Canada.

Chris Parsons, from Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets, said, and I quote: “the Canadian government struggled to explain [Bill C-30]—and the need for all of its elements—to the public. In the face of public dispute over the legislation’s need the government sent the legislation to committee before second reading. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police strongly supported the government, as did individual police chiefs from around the country. This extended to calls for examples of where the legislation would have helped to resolve criminal cases.”

However, Canadians saw what this bill was really about. We are very glad that they managed to be heard.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, since we are talking about Bill C-55, I would like to add something important. In Bill C-30, and in the former act, the problem was the imbalance. We support Bill C-55 because it helps to restore balance. In the past, people were able to intercept telephone conversations without having to be accountable or needing to warn the person being spied on, which was inconsistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is why it is important to do things properly. It is also why the NDP will always take these matters seriously and respect the charter and the Constitution.

I would like my honourable colleague to comment on the fact that the balance between the charter and justice is being restored.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, we do not know why the government has waited so long to address a relatively simple issue of freedom and public safety. We should be asking the government—and I am certain that my colleague would agree—to tell us whether, after this debate, its priorities when it comes to justice will be more in keeping with the charter and the Constitution, rather than the Conservative political agenda. That is the question we should be asking the government, as I am sure that the answer would be quite telling.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to take part in the debate on C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, in response to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Tse.

As many of my colleagues pointed out during the previous debate, Bill C-55 is, I believe, a fair legislative measure that strikes a balance between protecting people’s privacy and preserving public safety.

The bill now before us at report stage amends the Criminal Code to provide safeguards related to the authority to intercept private communications without prior judicial authorization under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.

Among other things, the bill would require the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the attorney general of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4. It also provides that a person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified within 90 days. Lastly, it narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception and limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

In the decision in R. v. Tse, the Supreme Court of Canada found that a wiretap authority without a court authorization in situations of imminent harm could be justified under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the court declared that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code, which was enacted in 1993, was unconstitutional because it contained no accountability measures.

Specifically, the court found that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code violated section 8 of the charter because it did not contain a safeguard such as the requirement to notify persons whose private communications had been intercepted. The court therefore asked Parliament to adopt the necessary legislative measures to make this provision constitutionally compliant. The court gave Parliament until April 13, 2013 to amend the provision in question.

Therefore, I am delighted to attest to the government’s efforts to comply with the court’s decision by bringing forward the requested safeguards within the prescribed time frame. The Criminal Code amendments that are being debated today will therefore directly respond to the guidance from the court by adding the safeguards of “notification” and “reporting” for section 184.4.

As I mentioned earlier, this amendment appears to achieve a reasonable balance between respect for Canadians' privacy and the security that the state must provide through its laws.

The bill proposes giving notice within 90 days to a person whose private communications were intercepted in a situation of imminent harm. It also requires the preparation of annual reports on the use of wiretaps under section 184.4. These amendments will also limit police authority to use this provision.

Like the experts who shared their views with the committee, I am of the opinion that the bill strengthens public safety while clearly limiting invasions of privacy. It also sets out a very strict framework for the use of wiretapping methods under section 184.4 and the related accountability.

The NDP believes it is absolutely essential that these investigation measures include oversight and accountability mechanisms that are clear and specific. We also have deep faith in our judicial institutions. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the interests of all Canadians, and it goes without saying that Parliament must comply with the ruling that was made according to our Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These are the very foundations of our democracy and we must respect them.

I join with my hon. colleagues in supporting this bill, responding as it does to a need in our society. In light of all the evidence heard in the House and in committee, there is no doubt that the proposed text is a fair compromise that reflects the expert opinions heard during the drafting and consideration of the bill.

Canadians have the right to be protected in extremely serious situations, such as abductions, bombings or other similar incidents. They also have the right to be protected from abuse by a poorly thought-out legal system, which may cause them harm.

The only thing I would like to point out is the fact that the government waited until the last minute to comply with the court's decision, when the official opposition has been calling for these changes for some time.

We all know that certain provisions were proposed in the now-defunct Bill C-30, but it was obvious that the government was going much too far in its desire to impose a law and order agenda on Canadians.

The opposition strongly criticized the flaws in Bill C-30 and its potential to create abuse when it was introduced in the House, and Canadians did not take kindly to this invasion of privacy in the name of Conservative ideology that panders to the Conservatives' electoral base.

As a result of political, media and public pressure, the Conservatives had no choice but to retreat and go back to the drawing board, consulting the players concerned. They came back with Bill C-55, a bill that is more thoughtful, more balanced and more likely to find consensus among the public.

However, it would have been more judicious and quicker to propose legislation like Bill C-55 from the start, in order to comply as quickly as possible with the court's decision.

Bill C-55 is proof that consensus, compromise, consultation and healthy debate in our institutions are not enemies of our democracy or of progress in Canada.

To conclude my remarks, I would like to invite the government to take the same action in all the bills it proposes and listen to the people, our fellow Canadians.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciated my colleague’s speech and her wish that the government would change its way of doing things.

It is important to realize, and I wonder whether she is aware, as I am, that it took a Supreme Court decision. The court simply put the repercussions of its decision of nearly a year ago on the back burner to force the government to take balanced action.

I also share her desire to see the government show somewhat more respect for the compatibility of these acts and regulations with the charter and the Constitution. I will not hold my breath, but at least we can salute the fact that the government did not really have a choice: it either had to come to this decision or lose the benefit of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.

I would like my colleague to say more about this part of her intervention.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is completely correct about what she just alluded to.

What I fail to understand is that we have a charter and it is very easy to check whether a bill is unconstitutional before introducing it and moving on. There are people who can check this out from a legislative standpoint.

I cannot understand why it took two bills, Bill C-30 and Bill C-55, to achieve this result and for people being wiretapped to be protected, like our system.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we know, Bill C-55 is of great interest to me, particularly because it reveals and illustrates the extent of the Conservative government’s failure. The government always wants to move too quickly without showing any concern for our country’s most democratic and most important documents, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution.

On this topic, I would like my hon. colleague to explain how the failure of Bill C-30 and the recent introduction of Bill C-55 show that it is important, when drafting a bill, to take the time to ensure that it is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada's Constitution.

The fact that the Conservative government wanted to do everything in its power to push through Bill C-30, even though it respected neither the substance nor the spirit of the charter, is indicative of the government's lack of interest in and sensitivity to the importance of Canadian institutions.

That is the question I would like to ask my hon. colleague, particularly in view of omnibus bills like C-38 and C-45, which were put together very quickly and did not comply with the prescribed time limits.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the government needs more respect for this process in drafting bills and in implementing bills that become laws.

Yes, we must also give police officers the tools to take action when they have reasonable grounds to believe that a situation is urgent. Yes, this is necessary if there are reasonable grounds to believe that immediate interception is important. We must also inform people who are under surveillance, but there is a process to follow.

If we want this country to remain a democracy—something we are proud of—we must be very careful about what we are doing. We cannot act based on panic and put innocent people under surveillance without warrants.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, today's discussion on Bill C-55 gives me another opportunity to congratulate the government for scrapping its ridiculous Bill C-30. The infamous Bill C-30 claimed to solve all the world's problems, but it showed that the Conservatives are unable to come up with a well-thought-out policy. It has now been replaced by the much more balanced Bill C-55.

The NDP feels that Bill C-55 is a suitable response to the court's demands, because it:

(a) requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4;

(b) provides that a person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified of the interception within a specified period;

(c) narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception; and

(d) limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

Of course, we in the NDP support this bill. However, I would like to point out a couple of things to this House. First of all, the Conservatives are forcing us to pass this bill in record time because the Supreme Court gave them until April 13 to amend the legislation. Yet the Supreme Court issued that request a year ago. So why did the minister wait until 20 sitting days before the Supreme Court's deadline to introduce the bill? That is not the most responsible way to treat such an important bill, nor is it a responsible way to govern.

Once again, the Conservatives are clearly trying to do whatever they can to project an image of competence and rational planning, but what we are really seeing in this House is the exact opposite.

The press release on this bill issued by the Minister of Justice states that, “the introduction of this legislation is part of the government’s plan for safe streets and communities....”

The Conservatives must really take Canadians for fools. Everyone knows that this bill is the result of a request from the Supreme Court. They did not really have a choice, and this is not the result of government policy. In fact, the government revealed its policy in Bill C-30, which was not at all what Canadians wanted, and the government had to back down.

It is nice to see that a good plan has been put forward, since the previous plan was so flawed.

In addition, the minister has the audacity to ask for our unconditional support of this bill.

I am sorry, but I am proud to say that my NDP colleagues and I will never give our unconditional support to a bill without thoroughly studying it first. We know just how irresponsible this government can be and we have seen its lack of respect for laws and justice. We also know that it is not very good at prior consultation.

Contrary to this government's irresponsible attitude, the NDP always wants to study anything, like this bill, that will have an impact on society, unlike the minister who views the formalities and procedures for complying with the Constitution and charter as luxuries. The NDP and I are aware of the public's concerns about wiretapping. We understand that very well, given that this government bases its position on vengeance and punishment rather than on justice.

After a rigorous study, we believe that this bill complies with the Supreme Court's decision. It even goes beyond that and strikes a genuine balance between personal freedom and public safety. This is a refreshing finding, particularly when we see how the Conservatives improvise here in the House from day to day. So this is a breath of fresh air, and the result of everything the public has done to combat Bill C-30. That was utterly incredible.

This also shows that, when the public mobilizes, it can force the government to do its job right.

The power to wiretap in emergencies is important for police officers. That is an undeniable fact. However, it is also true that these kinds of measures must be subject to an oversight and accountability mechanism.

Some Conservatives indiscriminately accuse us of trying to block the bill. I would like to remind them that the NDP submitted no amendments to this bill in committee because it was well drafted. The process was diligently followed. We examined the bill and we realized that the work had been well done and that no corrections had to be made. A number of amendments should normally be brought forward to make a bill acceptable from both political and constitutional standpoints. We in the House are often unsure whether bills are lawful.

In conclusion, although we deplore the way in which the debate was disrupted, the NDP has ensured that Bill C-55 respects, as far as possible, the rule of law, the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The NDP will therefore support the bill.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to my colleague's speech.

Indeed, the members of the committee carried out an extremely serious review of Bill C-55 since it has to do with intrusion into privacy. It is clearly an extremely important issue.

It is a tad ironic that, under normal circumstances, the government should have conducted this kind of review before being forced by the Supreme Court of Canada to do so. Since this morning, I have said again and again that the reason Bill C-55 is before us is because the Supreme Court of Canada gave the government a grace period of one year to amend section 184.4 of the Criminal Code, which is unconstitutional.

Section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act obligates the Minister of Justice to carry out such an exercise before introducing any government legislation, so someone, somewhere, dropped the ball.

My colleague is right to say that public pressure played a big role. Having said that, the bill complies with the Supreme Court decision.

My time has run out and I am not sure that my colleague will have the time to respond. The court, therefore, forced the government to act. Unfortunately, that seems to be too frequently the case.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gatineau for all the work that she does as the justice critic for the official opposition. I am sure that she will make an excellent Minister of Justice in a couple of years.

Indeed, she works very hard to ensure that her bills are balanced. The Conservatives do the exact opposite. My colleague from Gatineau is completely blown away by the fact that the Minister of Justice does not know how to draft legislation. I congratulate her, therefore, on her excellent work and thank her for it.

We will support this bill.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActRoutine Proceedings

March 18th, 2013 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I realize the House appears to be ready for the question, and I will keep my remarks relatively short.

We recognize that Bill C-55 is an interesting bill. I did have the opportunity to speak to it at second reading. It is important we recognize, especially when we look at what has been debated, the whole issue of the Supreme Court and the role it plays and what happens inside the House.

I thought maybe what I would do is reflect a bit on why we have Bill C-55 before us today. Many would argue that we would have to go back to a Supreme Court decision that was made back in April of last year. It was pointed out at that time that section 184.4 was unconstitutional, it infringed upon the rights of particular individuals or had the potential to infringe upon the rights of individuals. It essence, it demanded that the Government of Canada make amendments to the legislation that would allow for things such as due diligence or a better sense of accountability and a better time frame when wiretapping was used.

In listening to the speeches on this, one could easily conclude that it was the Supreme Court of Canada that raised or profiled the issue and as a result of that we now have to make the change. In fact, this is something we have known about for a while now. People could talk about Bill C-31, which was actually introduced back in May 2009. I was not around at the time, but many members were.

That is when the Prime Minister prorogued the House, thereby collapsing and killing the entire legislative agenda. That included Bill C-31. One could talk about Bill C-50. More recent, one could have talked about Bill C-30, another attempt by the government to deal with this issue.

We can recall what took place last year in regard to Bill C-30, and the public outcry that became very apparent because the government had gone too far in terms of politicization and the manner in which it was trying to get into computers, or websites or Internet hookups. The public reacted quickly on the issue.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, the government put its legislation, Bill C-30, on hold, even though there were components in the bill, such as what we are talking about today, that really did need to be addressed. The government had gone somewhat, and I am putting it conservatively, overboard on the legislation. As the result, one could argue, and I would be one of those individuals, that the government has lost an opportunity to deal with other types of crimes that take place.

We talk about the Internet and child exploitation. There is a need for government to do more on that front, but at the end of the day the bill was stopped in its tracks because of the manner it was introduced and the degree to which it would invade the privacy of individuals who wanted to ensure that their rights were protected. As a result, that bill was on hold.

We waited and we waited, as I pointed out. We did not have to wait for the Supreme Court to make a decision, but in essence that is what it has taken for us to see Bill C-55 today. When the minister brought it forward for second reading, I posed the question as to why it took so long to bring forward Bill C-55.

In short, Bill C-55 was deemed necessary because of the government's failure to bring in the appropriate legislation in a more timely fashion. Because it went overboard on other pieces of legislation, it ultimately prevented the need we have today to have it passed. Therefore, the government had to bring in another piece of legislation, which is Bill C-55.

I have two very important quotes that came from the court in the Tse decision.

The first states:

Section 184.4 recognizes that on occasion, the privacy interests of some may have to yield temporarily for the greater good of society — here, the protection of lives and property from harm that is both serious and imminent.

I continue to quote from the court in the Tse decision, which states

Section 184.4 contains a number of legislative conditions. Properly construed, these conditions are designed to ensure that the power to intercept private communications without judicial authorization is available only in exigent circumstances to prevent serious harm. To that extent, the section strikes an appropriate balance between an individual’s s. 8 Charter rights and society’s interests in preventing serious harm.

This case, which was brought to the Supreme Court, was an appeal by the Crown of the finding of a trial judge that section 184.4 in its current form did in fact violate the charter. As a result, we have the legislation before us.

It is important for us to make note of what the legislation would do in a very real and tangible way. As has been made reference to, it would narrow the scope in terms of individuals who would be able to act on it. For example, the previous legislation allowed a peace office, which would include mayors of local municipalities, to intercept communications. This bill narrows that to say it has to be a police officer.

There is general consensus that police officers are well trained to meet many different needs. One would argue they have an excellent understanding of where and when it would be most appropriate to use this special wiretapping measure.

We could talk about the types of cases that might occur. When someone's life is in danger or there is a kidnapping, there is an argument to be made that if the time required to request authority from a judge to acquire a warrant for this measure puts into jeopardy someone's life, these are exceptional circumstances which would not require a warrant. Under this legislation, a designated police officer would have the authority to allow wiretapping to take place.

The other thing that is fairly significant is it would allow for more accountability. When individuals, provinces or jurisdictions use this method, there is an annual reporting mechanism to report back to the House. We see that as a good accountability aspect.

The time has expired, and we will be looking at passing the bill.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / noon
See context

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-55, a response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the R. v. Tse case. This important piece of legislation would ensure constitutional compliance of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.

The bill we debate today is the government's response to the April 2012 Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the matter of Her Majesty the Queen and Tse.

In this case, the Supreme Court held that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code is conceptually sound but that it is constitutionally invalid in its current form because it does not provide for an after-the-fact notification requirement to persons whose private communications were the object of a wiretap interception pursuant to section 184.4.

The court suspended its finding of constitutional invalidity until April 13, 2013, to provide Parliament with time to remedy the defect of this provision, failing which section 184.4 of the Criminal Code would no longer be available to law enforcement agents. With the introduction of the bill, I hope that its provisions will receive the widespread support of all parliamentarians so that we can move forward with this essential investigative tool.

Before members consider the specific amendments proposed by the bill, I think it would be helpful for them to know the facts of the R. v. Tse case, because they illustrate how important section 184.4 is in practice, and more importantly, they show how critical it is that the police continue to have access to such an essential power in situations where every minute counts.

In the case I refer to, three persons were kidnapped one night in 2006. When the daughter of one of the alleged kidnapping victims began receiving calls from her father stating that he was being held for ransom, the police used the power provided to them under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code to carry out interceptions of the communications without prior judicial authorization. It had become clear to them that the victims were at serious risk of being harmed and that a wiretap was the way to assist in providing critical information about the situation at hand.

Since lives were at risk, the police could not afford to lose time by following the regular process and preparing all of the paperwork required to obtain a regular wiretap judicial authorization beforehand. Neither could they, given the imminent danger involved, obtain an emergency wiretap under section 188 of the Criminal Code. Section 188, which does allow for a more streamlined process to obtain a temporary judicial authorization to intercept private communications, still requires some paperwork and the availability of a designated peace officer and a specially designated superior court judge.

In the Tse case, the police determined that there was no time to go through either the regular elaborate wiretap process or the so-called emergency process to obtain the authorization to intercept the private communications. Accordingly, they relied on section 184.4 of the Criminal Code to perform wiretap interceptions without a judicial authorization.

When the case went to trial, the accused argued that section 184.4 was unconstitutional because it did not offer the usual privacy protections that are provided when a full-blown wiretap authorization is issued by a judge, which is the mechanism that police usually rely on to intercept private communications.

The judge found that in the circumstances at hand, the use of a wiretap without a judicial authorization could be justified; the court also held, however, that more safeguards should be built into section 184.4 to ensure that this exceptional power was used appropriately.

The trial court was particularly concerned about the lack of any requirement for officers to, first, give notice to those persons whose communications had been intercepted and, second, to report their use of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.

As a result, the trial judge in British Columbia declared the provision unconstitutional and gave Parliament a deadline to remedy the constitutional shortcomings. Since then, trial-level courts in Quebec and Ontario have made similar rulings.

The crown appealed the declaration of unconstitutionality in R. v. Tse directly to the Supreme Court of Canada which, as I mentioned earlier, confirmed the constitutional invalidity of section 184.4 but suspended the effect of that declaration until April 13, 2013.

The Supreme Court of Canada also provided some helpful direction with respect to privacy safeguards that could be added by Parliament to improve the provision.

Bill C-55 therefore proposes to amend section 184.4 of the Criminal Code so that it remains available in life-threatening situations while offering appropriate privacy protections.

It is critical for members to also understand that section 184.4 does not exist in a vacuum. It is part of a broader spectrum of wiretap powers provided for in the Criminal Code.

Part VI of the Criminal Code was created nearly 40 years ago, in 1974. Entitled “Invasion of Privacy”, part VI criminalizes the wilful interception of private communications, subject only to a few exceptions. Part VI contains numerous privacy protections and stringent tests to ensure an appropriate balance between investigative needs in pursuit of criminal justice and the privacy of Canadians.

The provisions contained in part VI of the Criminal Code have evolved from the two originally enacted types of authorizations—regular and emergency wiretaps, sections 186 and 188 respectively—to the five provisions for wiretaps that we have today.

These five different types of wiretaps form a spectrum of police interception powers that range from a high level of judicial oversight for the purpose of obtaining evidence of a crime, which could be described as investigative wiretaps, to no judicial oversight when the purpose is to prevent an imminent harm, or what could be described as preventive wiretaps. Section 184.4 of the Criminal Code falls into that latter category.

Section 184.4, the preventive wiretap, allows peace officers to intercept private communications without any judicial authorization in situations of imminent harm. It is designed to be used in order to prevent an unlawful act which a police officer believes on reasonable grounds would cause serious harm to a person or property.

The peace officer also has to believe, on reasonable grounds, that the person whose communications are to be intercepted is either the person who plans to commit the offence that is likely to cause the harm, or the victim or intended victim of the harm.

Importantly, the peace officer must also rule out the possibility of obtaining any other type of wiretap authorization contained in part VI.

Section 184.4 is designed to allow police to prevent serious harm to persons or property and to save lives in the most extreme cases. In high-stakes situations like bomb threats, every minute lost can be a game changer, and gathering evidence of the crime is a secondary consideration.

However, this does not mean that this power is without any judicial oversight. As was recognized by the Supreme Court, while this provision “allows for extreme measures in extreme circumstances”, the police know that their ability to intercept private communications without judicial authorization in exceptional circumstances under this section diminishes with the passage of time.

The court also noted that once the police start wiretapping in such circumstances, the speed with which they can obtain the follow-up judicial authorization plays a role in assessing whether this section passes constitutional muster. If the police do not proceed to seek the appropriate authorization when circumstances allow, they risk non-compliance if they continue interception under section 184.4. Thus, even in cases in which the situation allows for an interception under section 184.4, given the imminent harm or danger, steps need to be taken to regularize the process and the police need to start as soon as possible to prepare an application for a judicial authorization under section 188 if there is still urgency, or through the regular process otherwise.

This is exactly what happened in the Tse case. Twenty-four hours after having intercepted private communications in accordance with section 184.4 of the Criminal Code, the police obtained a judicial authorization to continue those interceptions.

Given the broad spectrum of wiretap powers and the parameters within which the police operate in urgent situations, I hope that we can all agree that it is absolutely necessary for police to continue to be able to get these communications without judicial authorization in exceptional circumstances in order to prevent serious harm.

However, the Supreme Court of Canada has clearly said that in order to retain this essential tool in a way that does not contravene the Constitution, the privacy provisions provided in section 184.4 of the Criminal Code need to be improved by requiring the police to notify, after the fact, persons who were the object of the wiretap interception. Therefore, Bill C-55 proposes to do not only this, but to also add other safeguards into section 184.4 consistent with our objective of ensuring the safety and security of Canadians while protecting their right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. This critical balance is reflected in the bill.

Bill C-55 proposes an amendment that would require persons whose private communications have been intercepted to be notified of that interception once the interception is complete. As is currently the case in the Criminal Code for other wiretap authorities, Bill C-55 would require that such a notification be provided in writing within 90 days of the interception unless an extension is granted by a judge. Notification ensures that those whose private communications have been intercepted will be made aware of that fact so that they can exercise important rights, including their right to a fair trial.

Requiring after-the-fact notification for section 184.4 is clearly what is required by the Tse decision to pass constitutional muster. However, our bill goes further by proposing another safeguard to better protect the privacy of Canadians.

Section 195 of the Criminal Code currently requires yearly reports to Parliament on the extent of the use of electronic surveillance. This provision provides a detailed list of information to be included in the annual reports. By adding section 184.4 of the Criminal Code to the list of wiretaps that need to be reported, the bill would require the federal Minister of Public Safety as well as provincial Attorneys General to prepare a report each year on the use of this particular section, consistent with the existing reporting requirements under section 195 of the Criminal Code for other types of wiretaps.

As spelled out in the bill, the reports would include, for example, information about the number of interceptions and notifications, the methods used, and the number of persons arrested whose identity became known to a police officer as a result of the interception.

If Parliament and the public in general know how and how often these powers are used, it will be possible to review their use on an annual basis, thereby assisting to ensure that these powers are only used in appropriate situations. This, in turn, would allow Parliament to make adjustments, if necessary.

Another safeguard proposed by Bill C-55 would limit the use of the Criminal Code to specific offences only. Currently, the law permits section 184.4 to be used in respect of any unlawful act. While the unlawful act has to be one that would cause serious harm to any person or property, the concept of unlawful act could be made clearer. That is why the bill proposes to limit the use of section 184.4 to the offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code. This limit already applies to most other wiretap authorizations. It would create certainty for police so that they could easily determine whether this investigative tool is available in the situation they are dealing with.

Finally, the bill proposes to restrict a class of persons who can use this authority to police officers only. Currently, the authority under section 184.4 is available to peace officers, which is defined in the Criminal Code to include not only police officers but also a wide range of officials, including fishery guardians, mayors and customs officials.

This proposed amendment accepts the Supreme Court of Canada's suggestion in R. v. Tse to consider whether the availability of the provision to peace officers generally might be overly broad. The court declined to address this situation in the absence of a proper record, but that is not to say that it could not come up in the future.

This legislation would not only remedy the constitutional defect of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code but would enhance the safeguards associated with this provision that allow police to intercept communications without judicial authorization in situations where there is an imminent and serious risk of harm to any person or property. The amendments are specifically intended to reduce privacy concerns and to increase accountability and transparency.

I hope the bill can be passed quickly to meet the April 13, 2013 deadline imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada. Passing this legislation would ensure that we continue to have the tools necessary to obtain information required to deal with exceptional situations, such as kidnapping, while at the same time respecting the privacy rights of Canadians.

I urge all members of the House to give this legislation their full support.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of Justice for rising in the House to explain Bill C-55. We appreciate it.

We all know that we are on a tight deadline. April 13, 2013 is not that far off. The Supreme Court rendered its decision almost a year ago, and it basically told the government to get its act together. Bill C-55 was introduced a few days ago.

It reminds me of my university days. We would wait until the last minute to do our work, which sometimes yielded great results because we could come up with some great things at the last minute. However, there were also instances where we did not have enough time to ensure that there were checks and balances in place. I would like to ask the Minister of Justice a question about that.

This is an urgent situation. Since the government did an about-face by abandoning Bill C-30—which it felt would fix the issue—and since the Minister of Justice took on the task of making Bill C-55 more palatable, did he also take the time to speak with experts in his department to find out if the proposed amendments are in line with the Supreme Court decision in R. v. Tse?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that the analysis that has been done with respect to the bill goes beyond what was required by the Supreme Court of Canada.

I indicated in my remarks that we are limiting the application of this procedure to the offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code. The Supreme Court of Canada was actually very clear on that. It said that it does not have to be limited to section 183. It could be any provision of the Criminal Code. We went one step further, and I think it provides some clarity.

Getting the report to Parliament on a yearly basis, in a sense, enhances and goes beyond what was absolutely required from the government.

The government has addressed the issues raised at the court level, in particular by the Supreme Court of Canada. I think it has taken it one step further with the additional changes, such as clarifying that this provision applies to police officers, which is a more narrow category than what has traditionally been used. In the Criminal Code and other pieces of legislation at the federal level, it refers to peace officers. Even though, on many occasions, mayors do have responsibility with respect to keeping order in their communities, it is appropriate that it be limited to police officers, so we made that change.

I am confident that we have met all the suggestions made by the Supreme Court of Canada and that we have taken it one step further to protect privacy issues.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, to what degree is a minister representing the Government of Canada obligated to ensure, prior to the introduction of legislation, that there is some form of constitutional compliance? Does the government have a check in place to ensure that the legislation it is passing is, in fact, constitutionally compliant?

My second question is related to the previous question. The bill is being introduced today. In a relatively short time, a few weeks, we are expected to pass Bill C-55 straight through the system. The minister had the opportunity to introduce the bill months ago. One could accuse him of being negligent in terms of his own responsibilities by not bringing forward the bill in a more timely fashion that would have allowed for due diligence. I am wondering why it took him so long to introduce the bill.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the constitutionality of the legislation we introduce in Parliament, procedures have been in place since the early 1990s, when his party formed the government. A very careful analysis goes into all pieces of legislation to comply with all aspects of the Constitution, be they the charter or the Canadian Bill of Rights. That is a process that has been in place for quite some time.

I am very confident and supportive of all the pieces of legislation we have brought forward. We have carved this out. The bill has actually been before Parliament. It was actually contained in another bill tabled before Parliament, but in the interest of moving this as quickly as possible, this bill has been hived off. It is very specific and straightforward.

As the hon. member and members of the House know, there have been many bills in the justice area that we have pushed. I would like to see them all passed very quickly. A bill on elder abuse I wanted through in two days. I would like to see that. These are all very important. I am asking the House to have a look at this and give it its support.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Minister of Justice for his endeavours. The justice agenda put forward by the government, and by the minister in particular, has been, bar none, one of the most impressive I have ever seen. As a former police officer, of course, I always look very closely at bills to see how they empower the police to do a better job to protect and preserve security in our communities. I see that he has done it again by putting forward a bill that will give them the tools to do a better job.

I have been approached a number of times by many organizations or individuals who have wanted to be included under the designation of peace officer. In fact, transit bus drivers have approached me saying that they would like some measure of protection by being included. Therefore, I am quite interested in hearing from the justice minister about the importance of ensuring that it is police officers who have the ability to use this tool, as opposed to those under the broader designation of peace officer.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, we wanted this bill to be as specific and as clear as possible. As I mentioned in answer to a previous question, we said specifically what sections of the Criminal Code this would apply to. We did not just leave it open-ended as “an unlawful act”, as it presently reads. We said that it must be contained within section 183. That adds clarification and precision to it.

In addition, changing the definition of who this power is available to and indicating that it is to police officers and not peace officers again clarifies exactly what we are addressing and the issues at hand. That is important. This is an extraordinary power given in emergency situations. We want to be exactly sure who has the ability to do that. That is number one. As we know, and as I indicated, there are a number of safeguards in place after this provision. We balance the rights of an individual to privacy, but on the other hand, we know that there are situations when there is imminent harm that must be addressed. I believe that this bill strikes the appropriate balance.

In answer to the hon. member, we wanted to make the provisions with respect to who and what this applies to as clear as possible. As I say, we have gone beyond the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada. We have taken it one step further.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the minister. In terms of any sort of justice agenda, we have seen the cutbacks to crime prevention programs the government has made, its refusal to keep its commitment to putting additional police officers on the street and its systematic refusal to put in place a public safety officer compensation fund, even though Canadian police officers and firefighters come to the Hill year after year and continue to get the back of the hand from the government. It is fair to say that we do not take lessons from the government on criminal justice issues.

The question that has come up, which the member from Gatineau and others have raised, is why the government is putting forward this bill at the last moment. It knew that Bill C-30 was problematic. There was a big push-back from the public. Yet even though it had almost a year to bring forward provisions, it is doing it a few weeks before the deadline expires. It seems to be improvised on the back of a napkin.

I would like the minister to stand and explain very carefully to the Canadian public why it is putting forward this last-minute bill on something the government has known about for almost a year.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I completely reject the preamble to the hon. member's question. No government has done more to support law enforcement agencies across this country than this government. Nobody has made it more of a priority.

I will give good advice to the hon. member. He should take lessons from the Conservative Party when it comes to the justice agenda. New Democrats should do that. It is in the best interests of the constituents they represent. It is in the best interests of law-abiding Canadians, and it is certainly in the best interests of victims.

I never introduce a piece of legislation without being asked by some of my colleagues, members of the public and victims groups how it affects victims in this country. I am very pleased and proud of the fact that we have consistently made sure that victims' interests are taken into consideration.

This bill is before Parliament. I know that there has been a lot of stalling on a lot of government bills before, but I certainly hope that this one gets everyone's support. We need it.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would say to the Minister of Justice that when one is seeking support from people, it helps to be nice to them.

Indeed, it is going to take quite a bit of mental gymnastics to ensure that a bill as important as Bill C-55 is given the attention it deserves. I cannot believe that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is asking the 307 other members of this House to simply take a leap of faith and blindly accept this bill because we have an obligation imposed by the Supreme Court.

On this side of the House, we in the official opposition plan to work very hard on this. I can tell the minister that we will support this bill so that it can be sent quickly to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

This will not stop us from doing our job in committee, as we always do, as the minister knows very well. We do not do this in order to systematically oppose the government. I hope I will not hear this from any Conservatives for the next 10 days, which is how long members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will have to examine Bill C-55. I am very serious. The Supreme Court of Canada has set a deadline. We are not the ones asking for a favour here; rather, the government is, if it wants to meet the deadline.

I cannot believe that the brilliant legal minds at the Department of Justice took 11 months to draft Bill C-55. The fact is that the Conservatives made a serious mistake at the outset. They introduced Bill C-30 thinking that it would solve every conceivable problem related to wiretaps. I cannot exactly blame the Minister of Justice, since it was not his file. Rather, it was the Minister of Public Safety's file.

The Conservatives had to backpedal and introduce this bill with just a few weeks' notice. The members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights are meeting today, but they will not be studying this bill. They are meeting on Wednesday, but they will probably not study this bill then either. That leaves two days at most. On this side of the House, we promise to look at this bill closely and we will do our best to finish our study of it in time.

However, I would ask the government to be more open than it has been since we arrived in this House, since the 2011 election.

The official opposition makes some very good suggestions sometimes that would prevent the government from looking bad and ending up yet again with a case like R. v. Tse. In its ruling on that case, the Supreme Court said that there was a problem with the legislation. The government can keep saying, and rightly so, that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code already existed, that this provision has been around since 1993, before it came to power.

I am not really interested in knowing who to blame. I just want us to settle this issue. The Supreme Court was very clear. It pointed to the problem and to the aspects that were inconsistent with the charter. It set its findings aside for one year to give the government a chance to deal with this major legal void.

Often, that is why I ask the minister or his officials whether any serious, in-depth studies have been done before certain bills are introduced. From a distance, these bills may be well-meaning, but up close they create more problems because they are drafted so quickly. This will come back to haunt the Conservatives maybe not tomorrow, next month or in the next six months, but someday.

When I was a lawyer, I tried to prevent any future problems by anticipating problems that could come out of any document I wrote. As legislators, we should do the same.

We should not believe, as a Conservative colleague told the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, that the courts will set things right if we make a mistake. I found that really ironic coming from a member of the Conservative government, which does not really have the greatest respect for what is known as judicial authority. When it suits them, the Conservatives rely on judicial authority to fix everything and set things straight.

However, I do not want to send people to court. This is not because I do not have faith in the courts. Quite the contrary. However, I know that it is very expensive, that the situation is not clear-cut and that there are problems accessing justice.

In this context, if we do our job properly in the House, if we draft bills that comply with our charter and our Constitution, we will solve many of the problems. After that, the courts will do their job, based on the circumstances.

The Supreme Court handed down its decision in R v. Tse. I urge all my colleagues in the House to read the decision before voting on Bill C-55. There is no need to read all 50 pages of the decision, whether in French or in English, but at least read the summary. It gives a good explanation of the problem arising from the section on invasion of privacy. Believe it or not, that is what it is called. In the Criminal Code, the section concerns invasion of privacy. However, according to the Supreme Court of Canada, this section is justified in the very specific context of certain offences. Section 183 of the Criminal Code explains in what context this section applies.

I would point out to my colleagues and to those watching that we are not referring to minor offences. We are talking about extremely serious situations such as sabotage, terrorism, hijacking, endangering safety of aircraft or airport and possessing explosives. I could repeat them all, but there is a good list in section 183.

This section on invasion of privacy pertains to very specific cases that must be considered within the context of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The authorities must ensure that the circumstances in question actually constitute an invasion of privacy. Most of the sections provide for some checks and require the Crown and the police to obtain certain authorizations. Section 184.4 has proven to be problematic in this regard because it is rather unclear about wiretapping. Unless an indictment was filed against the people in question, they would never know that they were being wiretapped. This problem therefore needed to be resolved. The Supreme Court gave directives to follow in such cases.

The Supreme Court often has more respect for the government than the government has for the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court still provides very general solutions and leaves it up to the government to draft bills.

Some clauses require more reflection and debate. I am not sure that the definition of “police officer” set out in clause 3 of Bill C-55 responds to the question that the Supreme Court of Canada will have to consider. The Supreme Court refused to rule on this specific issue because it had not been discussed before the court. Since the Supreme Court is very respectful of its role, it said that it did not have enough information to make recommendations to the government regarding this definition.

This will be examined in committee. The members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will be able to ask representatives of the Department of Justice and the minister questions about how the definition was developed and what the basis for the definition was. The bill is not really clear on that. We will certainly have some good discussions in this regard.

I would also like to draw hon. members' attention to the provision that sets out the possibility of renewing certain authorizations for three months to three years. I am no longer talking about section 184.4.

I would like to reiterate that I am talking about the section that pertains to invasion of privacy. Is it reasonable to renew such authority for three years? These things should be discussed.

These bills sometimes appear to be straightforward at first glance, but prove to be more complicated when we really get into specifics.

And since the devil is in the details, I think that as legislators we have a duty to at least do our job seriously. If we do not, in six months or a year, the Supreme Court of Canada will render a decision that shows we did not do our job. It will take a look at what we did so it can determine what the legislator's intent was. It sometimes uses the debates from the House or the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

The legislator here refers to us. We must stop thinking that the legislator is some separate person within the confines of Parliament. The legislators are all of us, here in the House of Commons. If the Supreme Court wants to know the legislator's intent, it will look at what was said during the debates.

If the records show that there was no debate because the government waited until the very last minute to push a bill that has huge repercussions in terms of invasion of privacy—we are talking about invasion of privacy here—we must all, as good legislators, do our due diligence.

The bill will not be needlessly stalled, but I repeat to my colleagues opposite that they are the ones who need to get this bill passed as quickly as possible. They do not even have enough time to move the closure motions they love to use to prevent us from debating the bill, because in the time it will take to debate those motions, the bill will not even have had the time to get to committee or back to the House.

The Conservatives need the official opposition to help ensure that this bill passes. On behalf of the official opposition caucus, I can say that we are not in the habit of blocking something simply for enjoyment. We leave that kind of attitude to the members opposite. However, my colleagues and I will not sit back and listen to them say that the NDP supports criminals. If I hear anyone say that, I swear, I will talk so long at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that the Supreme Court will have time to replace seven out of nine justices before I am done.

Let us all do the work that we were sent here to do and let us be serious about it, so we can assure people that the Criminal Code has a section on the invasion of privacy. In the R. v. Tse case, all the necessary safeguards were in place to say that this is acceptable in a free and democratic society, considering the seriousness of the offences covered by section 183.

These are just a few of the points that need to be seriously examined in committee—but with good questions and good answers, and not by playing silly games or being secretive and pretending that everything was carefully considered. We must look for solutions.

Bill C-55 will probably pass by the deadline set by the Supreme Court, but I repeat that the government waited until the last minute. It should be ashamed of playing games with something as serious as this. I will not hold it against the Minister of Justice, since he had been steered in the wrong direction. The Conservatives started out on the wrong track with Bill C-30, and it took time for them to admit that and to withdraw that bill.

It is like finding out that a bad TV show was pulled from the lineup. Bill C-30 was finally pulled from the lineup. Thank goodness. It was replaced to a very small extent by Bill C-55. I do not want the people listening at home to think that Bill C-55 is a carbon copy of Bill C-30. That is absolutely not the case. It does what needed to be done. It amends a very specific section of the Criminal Code—section 183 and following—to answer the questions and carry out the orders of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Some of my colleagues will likely talk about the various provisions, but I want to speak to section 184.4, which is amended by clause 3.

That is quite possibly the most critical section in the decision in R. v. Tse, because it is exactly what the Supreme Court was referring to.

I would also like to draw the members' attention to something else that bothers me, and that is the clause about reporting authorized interceptions. Clause 5 of the bill covers authorizations and extensions for up to three years. Extensions are set out in clause 6 of the bill, specifically in the amendment to section 196.1. The clause mentions the initial 90-day period and states that an extension can be granted under subsection x, y or z for up to three years.

We should be looking into those aspects because they could have some serious implications. The definition of “police officer” should also be addressed. It is somewhat worrying, given what the Supreme Court said:

In the absence of a proper record, the issue of whether the use of the section by peace officers, other than police officers, renders this section overbroad is not addressed.

The Supreme Court is always careful to respond only to issues that are before it. Since the issue of who has the right to wiretap—in this case, peace officers—did not come before the Supreme Court, much to its credit, the court said that it would not rule on the issue. Generally speaking, the Supreme Court is not there to provide legal opinions, except when the government, regardless of which party is in power, lacks political courage and decides to go through the Supreme Court to be told what it has the right to do, whether it be with regard to the Senate, same-sex civil marriage or even Quebec's right to secede. These are some examples that come to mind.

This is often the strategy used by governments that do not want to stick their necks out. They hope that the Supreme Court of Canada will wave its magic wand and solve all of our country's political problems, which does not often happen, because the Supreme Court is actually very respectful of political power, our power to enact legislation. That is exactly what the Supreme Court did in this case.

The wording of the new definition of “police officer” seems a bit odd to me. It does not seem to be written in a typical fashion. It says:

“police officer” means any officer, constable or other person employed for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace

As I lawyer, I must say that the expression “[any] other person” is vague, and I never like to see this type of expression in provisions of the Criminal Code pertaining to invasion of privacy. Does this refer to security guards? This brings up so many questions for me.

What I would like to show my colleagues is that a bill that seems so benign and that is described by the minister as being “very straightforward” can be more complicated than we think. It is our job to point that out, particularly since this bill responds to a request from the Supreme Court of Canada that we go back to the drawing board. In my opinion, if we do not want the Supreme Court of Canada to give us another “F” for “fail”, we should at least take the time needed to do that.

I am ready to answer questions.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of the member. In the past I posed a question for the minister with regard to government legislation and its constitutionality. Has the government looked into it? Is it offensive to our charter and so forth? In particular, the Minister of Immigration brought in legislation that could easily be challenged in the courts.

Would the member provide comment on the responsibility of government ministers to do their homework prior to bringing in legislation to provide assurances to the House that the measures being put into law are constitutionally compliant?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the Liberal Party supports this as well.

The week before the break that gave us all a chance to return to our ridings, I moved a motion at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights calling for a review of whether there is compliance with section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act. The government has its answers for that. I, for one, get my answers from the Minister of Justice, since he is the one I turn to the most when it comes to government bills or Senate bills.

How does this work? What information do the experts at Justice give the Minister of Justice on each of these bills? The minister cannot tell me, as he usually does, that everything is fine and dandy simply because there have been test cases. These cases are currently before the courts, and the courts have overturned these measures.

I refuse to believe that the Department of Justice lawyers are idiots. Actually, I think that the Conservative government's risk tolerance is extremely high. In other words, the government will introduce the bill that has good political traction even if it thinks the chance of failure is 95%.

We get the impression that the government is improvising, and that is a shame. This absolutely goes against the fundamental principles of the rule of law in Canada.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Gatineau, our justice critic, for her exceptional work on this issue. It is truly remarkable.

This type of bill needs to strike a balance between exceptional circumstances and privacy protection. I would like to know whether my colleague thinks that this bill achieves that balance. If not, what recommendations would she make to that end?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her compliments, which are always appreciated.

Having said that, I love justice and that is why I am in politics. It seems to me that justice or social justice should guide us all. Law is also one of my passions; it allows us to examine these issues.

How can we achieve a true balance? That question is always before us. The Supreme Court had to answer that question in R. v. Tse. No matter how serious the offence, the Supreme Court concluded that there is a need to define how to notify a person who has been the subject of a wiretap.

That was missing from section 184.4 of the Criminal Code. I am reasonably satisfied that this element is now being introduced. The minister is right about that. However, there are some minor irritants and questions. I should not even be saying irritants. I have some questions about the new definition of who will have the right to do certain things. We need some clear and specific answers. “Everyone else” does not provide enough information, especially when it comes to invasion of privacy. We know that this raises a big red flag in the courts.

Given the section in question, we, as legislators, cannot afford to make a mistake. That has been pointed out once by the R. v. Tse. decision. I would not want to be told again that we have not understood a thing, and that we have not done what we were asked to do. That is the kind of balance that must be struck, and I cannot say that we are quite there. I hope that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will be able to do its job.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know that the member for Gatineau loves the law, and she will make an excellent justice minister when elected in 2015. I am certain that her expertise and interest will bring about significant change.

I would like to point out that the deadline is only 20 days away. The government just introduced this bill. We know that Parliament and committees will sit for only 20 days. The government just introduced a bill that should have been introduced 10 and a half months ago. Now we have only 20 days to finalize it, to ensure that we will not find ourselves in the same situation as before—with a botched bill that creates problems and that will be thrown out by the courts.

As the member for Gatineau mentioned earlier, the Conservative members see nothing wrong with that. They do not have an issue with introducing a botched bill that has not been reviewed. They think it is someone else's job to review it. Our role, our responsibility as members, is to review bills to ensure that they are in line with the objectives.

So why did the government not fulfill its obligations? Why did it introduce a bill at the last minute, just 20 days before the deadline?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster for his question. The answer is simple, and yet very profound at the same time.

This government is a little arrogant. I am trying to be polite, because, in reality, they are extremely arrogant.

With Bill C-30, the Conservatives were sure they had solved every problem on the planet. They did not take the pulse of the nation, even though they boast about knowing what Canadians want. They then saw what happens when the public takes an interest in an issue and the government does something that affects fundamental rights like individual rights and the right to privacy. I have never seen such a strong reaction.

I am very active on social media, including Twitter and Facebook. It was incredible. Everyone will recall the famous “#TellVicEverything” hashtag. It was enough to inflame public opinion. I am not naming any members by saying that.

The Conservatives could have simply acquiesced and reversed their decision. After all, we are here to represent the people. There is no shame in admitting that we are wrong and made a mistake. We all make mistakes; it is only human. A fault confessed is half redressed.

The Conservatives struggled for months to find a way to get out of this without having to admit that they were wrong. Because of this lack of humility, the government now has only 20 days to comply with the Supreme Court ruling.

No one on this side of the House will be to blame if we do not manage to deal with this in 20 days. They are the ones who are putting us in this position, and everyone needs to realize that.

We will do our best to help the Conservatives get out of this, but they will need a dose of humility, something that has been lacking along the way. Their lack of humility is what got them into this situation.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her passionate speech.

Bill C-30 was a disaster, as someone said earlier.

What do we need to make sure we do when it comes to Bill C-55? What process do we need to go through to ensure that this bill complies with the charter and the parameters set by the Supreme Court for protecting privacy?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question.

The minister, actually the government, should allow representatives of the Department of Justice to appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and answer clear and specific questions about this.

What analyses did they do? What jurisprudence did they study? Did they examine a certain aspect? Is it balanced?

They must stop simply trotting out the empty phrases that we sometimes hear from the government. They say that they were assured of this or that, but who gave assurances and about what and how?

We need substance this time, because this is not just a bill, it is the response to a test of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-55, the bill we are debating today, needs to be seen against the backdrop of Bill C-30, the government's Internet surveillance bill introduced in February 2012. When Bill C-30 was tabled it crashed and burned, largely because the government failed to do its homework. Mainly, the government did not charter-proof the bill or listen to telecommunications service providers about the impracticality of some of Bill C-30's key provisions, nor did the government properly gauge Canadians' views about such a bill in advance of introducing it.

Finally, the Minister of Public Safety's mishandling of the beginnings of the debate in the House on Bill C-30, namely his hyperpartisan reaction to anyone who raised reservations about the controversial and likely unconstitutional aspects of the bill, added oil to the fire and de facto shut down the public conversation, thus foreclosing the possibility that the bill's problems might be remedied through amendment in committee; though many people doubt that the bill could have been salvaged even that way. In short, the minister's rhetoric killed the bill in its legislative tracks. One wonders also if the bill's fatal flaw, its inconsistency with charter principles, was tied to the rumour that the government no longer vets legislation against charter requirements in the drafting phase prior to tabling in Parliament.

The government's decision to withdraw Bill C-30 raises a series of questions.

First, was Bill C-30 needed in the first place? Second, if it really was necessary for public safety, why did the government withdraw the bill, given it has a majority in Parliament? As we have seen with budget legislation, the so-called stable majority Conservative government can and will do what it wants with its majority. To the government, the word “majority” means never having to say “compromise”.

Third, given its decision to withdraw Bill C-30, does the government have the courage of its convictions, whatever their merits?

The fourth question is related to the first. Does the current Criminal Code provision, namely section 184.4, provide law enforcement agencies with sufficient means to investigate and apprehend those who seek to exploit children on the Internet? By withdrawing Bill C-30, the government's answer to that question seems to be “yes”. I will come back to section 184.4 in more detail in a moment.

Another related question that comes to mind, in light of the government's new focus on the costs of policing, is whether the Conservative government is in fact investing enough to give police the resources it needs to fight cybercrime. This may be the real crux of the issue: money for policing. By not sitting down with the provinces to discuss extending and replenishing the police recruitment fund, is the government undermining the current capacity of the police to fight cybercrime? Is the government abandoning communities and leaving them more vulnerable? For example, the police recruitment fund was used in Quebec to beef up the cybercrime division of the Montreal police department. What will happen when federal funds dry up? Is the RCMP spending enough on cybercrime, or are fiscal constraints being imposed on it by the Conservative government, hurting its valuable work patrolling cyberspace, not to mention fighting the ever-complex problem of white-collar crime?

These are the tough questions that the government needs to honestly ask itself. The safety of our communities and families depends on the answers to those questions.

Bill C-55, which the Liberals support, is a response to the Supreme Court's decision in Regina v. Tse, rendered by the court last April. The Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code came shortly after the government's controversial tabling of Bill C-30 in the House. In other words, the court was deliberating on some of the issues at the core of Bill C-30 at the time the government introduced the bill. This raises the question of why the government did not wait for the Supreme Court's decision before rushing to table Bill C-30. The government could have benefited from the wisdom of the court in its final drafting of the bill. Furthermore, given that the Supreme Court, in April 2012, gave the government a full 12 months to rectify problems with section 184.4 that made the section unconstitutional, why did the government wait until the very last minute, namely two weeks ago, to deal with this matter?

As mentioned, the Tse case was a test of the constitutionality of section 184.4 in its existing form. Section 184 of the Criminal Code deals with emergency wiretapping or wiretapping in an emergency situation.

Section 184.4 is about the interception, without the normally required warrant, of private communications, including computer communications, in exigent circumstances—that is, in circumstances where interception is immediately necessary to prevent serious harm to a person or property, and a warrant cannot be obtained quickly enough to prevent the imminent harm; in other words, in situations where every minute counts.

In the Tse case the police in B.C. used section 184.4 to carry out unauthorized interceptions of private communications when the daughter of an alleged kidnapping victim began receiving calls from her father stating that he was being held for ransom. The case brought before the Supreme Court was an appeal by the Crown of a trial judge's finding that section 184.4 in its current form violates the charter.

The question the Supreme Court was asked to address was whether section 184.4, as currently written, contravenes the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure pursuant to section 8 of the charter relating to privacy rights and, if so, whether this section's constitutionality is salvaged by section 1 of the charter, which allows a charter right to be circumscribed if it is deemed reasonable to do so in a free and democratic society.

In the earlier landmark decision Hunter v. Southam Inc., the Supreme Court determined that a warrantless search is presumptively unreasonable. In other words, the presumed constitutional standard for searches or seizures in the criminal sphere is judicial pre-authorization—that is, obtaining a warrant.

In Regina v. Duarte, the Supreme Court found that:

...as a general proposition, surreptitious electronic surveillance of the individual by an agency of the state constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure under s. 8 of the Charter.

However, as the court said in its decision in Tse:

Exigent circumstances are factors that inform the reasonableness of the search or authorizing law and may justify the absence of prior judicial authorization.

Thus, in principle, it would seem that Parliament may craft a narrow emergency wiretap authority for exigent circumstances to prevent serious harm if judicial authorization is not available through the exercise of reasonable diligence.

Thus, section 184.4 is based on the accepted principle that, to quote the court:

...the privacy interests of some may have to yield temporarily for the greater good of society—here, the protection of lives and property from harm that is both serious and imminent.

To further quote the court in the Tse decision:

Section 184.4 contains a number of legislative conditions. Properly construed, these conditions are designed to ensure that the power to intercept private communications without judicial authorization is available only in exigent circumstances to prevent serious harm. To that extent, the section strikes an appropriate balance between an individual's s. 8 Charter rights and society's interests in preventing serious harm.

This reasoning is consistent with Justice Lamer's observation in Godoy, which states that “dignity, integrity and autonomy” are values underlying the privacy interest; however, the interests of a person in need of police assistance are “closer to the core of the values of dignity, integrity and autonomy than the interest of the person who seeks to deny entry to police who arrive in response to a call for help”.

The court's main finding in Tse is that section 184.4 is unconstitutional because of the absence of a requirement to notify the person whose communications have been intercepted of the fact of that interception. This is in contrast to judicial authorizations obtained under sections 186 and 188 where the subject of the interception must be notified within 90 days.

While the court refused to rule on the need to tighten the definition of “peace officer” under section 184.4, arguing it lacked “a proper evidentiary foundation to determine the matter”, it did express “reservations about the wide range of people who, by virtue of the broad definition of 'peace officer', can invoke the extraordinary measures under s. 184.4”.

The term “peace officer” currently includes mayors, bailiffs, prison guards et cetera.

The Liberals nonetheless support the government's initiative in Bill C-55 to narrow the class of individuals who can make an interception under section 184.4. to mean police officers only, meaning an officer, constable or other person employed for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace. However, we wish to know if this narrowed class also includes private security guards of the type contracted more and more by municipalities to fill the reduction in their regular police coverage, for example, when regional municipalities cut police budgets or reassign police to other geographic areas.

Similarly, while the court ruled that there is no constitutional imperative for the government to report to Parliament on the use of section 184.4, we believe the requirement in Bill C-55 that this be done is a positive step, obviously, as it provides an important safeguard needed to balance the interests of the state in preventing harm and prosecuting crime with the obligation to protect section 8 charter rights.

Finally, we are a bit puzzled, however, as to why Bill C-55 limits section 184.4 interceptions to the large number of offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code. True, it was the opinion of Justice Davies, the trial judge in Tse, that section 184.4 should be limited to offences enumerated in section 183. However, the Supreme Court disagreed, in the appeal:

There may be situations that would justify interceptions under s. 184.4 for unlawful acts not enumerated in s. 183. We prefer the conclusion of Dambrot J. in Riley...that the scope of the unlawful act requirement is sufficiently, if not more, circumscribed for constitutional purposes, by the requirement that the unlawful act must be one that would cause serious harm to persons or property.... No meaningful additional protection of privacy would be gained by listing the unlawful acts that could give rise to such serious harm. The list of offences in s. 183 is itself very broad; however, Parliament chose to focus upon an unlawful act that would cause serious harm. We see no reason to interfere with that choice....

...the serious harm threshold is a meaningful and significant legal restriction on s. 184.4 and is part of this Court’s jurisprudence in a number of different contexts....

...this threshold is also consistent with the police practice surrounding s. 184.4.

It appears that Bill C-55 is an admission by the government that police forces already dispose of necessary legal powers to act to intercept incidents of cybercrime involving children or terrorism for that matter. We are thus a bit puzzled as to why the government went ahead and introduced Bill C-30 only to withdraw it.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the presentation by the member for Gatineau clearly outlined that the problem we face today is that the bill was introduced at the last minute. Earlier, I said that there were 20 days left, but, in reality, there are only 19. I forgot to exclude Good Friday.

The government wants the bill to go through all the stages in 19 days and duly pass. But this bill was never analyzed. We already know that there will be flaws. As the member for Gatineau said, we will do what we can. The government's approach is really not professional.

My questions are for my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis. First, what does he think of the last-minute introduction of this bill? There are only 19 days left on the parliamentary calendar to study it.

These problems date back to the previous Liberal government. So why did the Liberals not deal with these issues when they were in power? At the time, even members from Montreal expressed concerns about the Liberals not making changes.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed by the government's actions on this issue. It keeps making the same mistakes and then takes a long time to pick up the pieces.

I am also shocked to hear why the government took so long to introduce this bill. I think it is because it wanted to distance itself as much as possible from the Bill C-30 controversy.

As for the Liberal government, I was not in cabinet seven years ago. I was not privy to the discussions surrounding a similar bill that was debated at the time. Unfortunately I cannot comment on that government's motives.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question for my colleague builds on some of his early comments about the government's pattern of behaviour in bringing forward legislation that it knows to be unconstitutional. I would like him to address this while taking into account three things.

The first is that the government has already been found to be in contempt by the Speaker of the House of Commons for the first time, not just in Canadian history but commonwealth history, for not bringing forward costs on crime bills.

The second thing I would like him to take into account is that there is a legal duty on the Minister of Justice to bring forward legislation that is deemed to be constitutional and, I would argue, goes further because, as a lawyer, the Minister of Justice is bound as an officer of the court to do so.

The third is that the day after David Daubney retired, a former Conservative member of Parliament who used to head up the criminal law policy unit for the Department of Justice, he assaulted the government for forcing that unit to be unable to deliver up options which it told the government would be constitutional with its crime bills.

Could my colleague explain the pattern of this kind of deceptive and unacceptable behaviour?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I recognize the hon. member's expertise in the law. He has tremendous and lengthy experience in the legal profession. I, on the other hand, am not a lawyer, but I will attempt to answer his questions the best I can.

I believe it is because the government is in a permanent campaign. Therefore, it thinks it can simplify and spin, with a view to scoring political points. When dealing with important legislation after the campaign is over, that attitude should be put on the shelf. It is time to get down to serious business.

On the other matter of whether the minister is properly vetting legislation or instructing his ministry to vet legislation against charter principles, if I were the Minister of Justice, which I will not be because I am not a lawyer, I know that if the Prime Minister said not to worry about charter concerns, that we would adopt a sue-me-later attitude, I would respectfully tell the Prime Minister that I could not do it and that my professional ethics made other demands on me.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question but I am curious. He just told us what he would do if he were the Minister of Justice. We are not there yet, but I have a question for him in his capacity as an MP who works on the justice file.

We know that Bill C-30 was introduced and practically caused an uproar. The NDP wants to ensure that the new Bill C-55, which we are discussing today, is in line with the charter and the new parameters set out by the court for protecting people's right to privacy.

What does my colleague think we should do while examining Bill C-55 to ensure that the charter and the right to privacy are respected? What procedures need to be followed? What should be done before the bill is passed?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her question.

I read the Supreme Court's ruling in R. v. Tse very closely. I read the decision with Bill C-55 in hand, and I was able to see that this bill follows the court's privacy directives.

Some of the bill's wording bothers me, though, and the member for Gatineau mentioned one example. Does the term “peace officers” include private sector security guards? Is the definition that broad?

I expect the government to agree to have subject matter experts testify before the committee and to give these experts the latitude to fully address the issue.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member indicated that we would support the bill going to committee, but I have two specific questions.

First, is there any advice he can provide the committee that would be studying the bill in terms of amendments or areas of improvement to the bill?

Second, could the member comment on the extent to which the drafters of the bill have heeded the advice of the Supreme Court of Canada? Is all of the advice contained in the Tse decision incorporated into the bill or is there room for improvement?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is another fine member of the bar.

Based on my reading of the decision, the bill responds to the concerns and directives expressed in the decision. However, as I mentioned in my speech, I am a little curious as to why the government went further in some way than the court requested when it came to the applicability of section 184.4 to offences.

The court was quite clear in its decision that section 184.4 did not have to apply exclusively to the offences in section 183. Yet the government seems to have narrowed the scope of section 184.4 to only those offences. If the government really wants to prevent harm to persons or property, why does it not take the broader perspective that the court recommended?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the excellent, elegant, hard-working and resourceful member for Halifax. She will be using the second half of the time allotted for this speech, so we will have the opportunity to hear from her.

I am rising after the member for Gatineau, who gave a wonderful speech about this issue.

We will be supporting this bill at second reading. However, it is unbelievable that the government is introducing a bill now, even though it knew for a year that changes were needed.

The Conservatives did nothing for a year. They introduced Bill C-30, which the public clearly rejected. The government even tried to denounce those who were opposed to their ill-conceived bill. The government reacted, but luckily, pressure from the Canadian people eventually forced it to abandon the bill.

Now the Conservatives have introduced Bill C-55, only 19 days before the deadline of April 13, 2013, which was imposed by the Supreme Court.

We have 19 days in total to debate it at second reading and to examine it in committee. We have 19 days to hear from witnesses from all over and to do the clause-by-clause study in order to avoid problems and ensure that the Supreme Court does not have to deal with another botched bill from this government. We have 19 days to get to third reading, to consider proposed amendments and to have a final debate and vote. That is completely ridiculous, when we have known for a full year that the government had work to do on this.

Once again, the government did not do its job. This is not the first time. We on this side of the House see this as a real problem.

As the hon. member for Gatineau put it so well, this government's bills are botched, improvised, flawed and nonsensical.

When our work is not done in the House, when witnesses do not have time to come and share their expertise, and when members do not have time to do the clause-by-clause and amend a bill based on what witnesses tell us, what happens?

True to form, the government moves a closure motion, and the bill passes, even if it is a bad, improvised bill. Canadian taxpayers are then forced to pay judges to examine the merits of the bill.

When the government does not do its job and disrespects the opposition members, Canada as a whole pays the price. Now the Supreme Court has to examine several Conservative bills that are botched, flawed and improvised. In fact, the Conservatives introduced yet another botched bill here today.

The Conservatives continue to have an attitude of entitlement. They think that they can introduce any bill in the House and that it does not matter if it is flawed. As a result, we end up spending a lot more time and tax dollars to fix these botched bills than we would if the Conservatives were disciplined and did their homework properly from the start. I think that Canadians are fed up with this.

That is one of the many reasons why more and more Canadians are saying that they look forward to 2015, when they will be able to get rid of this government and bring in a government that will introduce well-written bills, listen to witnesses and amend its bills accordingly.

In a democracy, it takes time to listen to the opinions of people across this diverse country and to fine-tune bills.

The government is being irresponsible and taking that time away from us. Even if we could work together since the deadline is 19 days away, the reality is that, if the government refuses to co-operate and tries to impose its opinion, then we will once again end up with a Conservative bill that is likely to be challenged in the courts.

If the government refuses to co-operate and tries to impose its opinion, we will once again end up with a Conservative bill that will be challenged in the courts, as we heard this morning and as we have been seeing for months. That is not what Canadians want. They want us to take the time to do things right here in Parliament.

We now have 19 days to put forward this piece of legislation. We have 19 days to get through every single level of speaking, hear from witnesses and get through all of this work. All of this could have been avoided if the government had simply done its work a year ago. After the judgment came forward from the Supreme Court, the government could have moved forward in a responsible way. It chose not to.

Yet again, we have the Conservatives basically asking the NDP to fix the mistakes they have made. Very many Canadians are looking forward to the day when we will not have to have Conservative mistakes fixed, when we will have an NDP government that can bring forward legislation that actually meets that test and receives the consent of the population.

I want to talk about the broader justice agenda. Bill C-55 is part of it. It is symptomatic of just how bad the Conservatives are on justice issues. We had crime prevention programs in the country that were doing a remarkable job. Crime prevention programs are a good investment for Canadians. When we put $1 into crime prevention, we save $6 later on in policing costs, court costs and prison costs. For every buck put into crime prevention, we see a $6 return. More importantly, we do not see victims, because the crime is never committed in the first place. That has always been the foundation of how the NDP has approached justice issues.

What did the Conservatives do? They gutted crime prevention programs. They destroyed them across the country. In my area and elsewhere, Conservatives have gutted the funding that would allow crime prevention programs to stop the crime before it is even committed, to stop having victims because the crime is not committed, saving $6 in policing costs, court costs and prison costs for every $1 spent on crime prevention.

The Conservatives have done far more in a negative way for Canada. The whole issue of putting more front-line police officers in place was a commitment made by our former leader, Jack Layton, and by the Conservatives before the last election. What have the Conservatives done? Nothing. They have failed on that front-line policing duty.

Most egregious, and there is only one way to put this, is the Conservatives' complete lack of respect for our nation's police officers and firefighters in terms of the public safety officer compensation fund. Members will recall that six years ago, before the Conservatives were elected, they voted for and committed to putting in place a public safety officer compensation program so that when our nation's police officers or firefighters are killed in the line of duty, killed protecting the Canadian public, their families are taken care of.

Since that time, I have talked to families who have lost their homes, kids who have had to quit university, and spouses who have had to try to put something together to keep the family together, because the Conservatives broke their promise to the nation's police officers and firefighters. For six long years now, firefighters and police officers have been coming to Parliament Hill. For six long years, the Conservatives have given them nothing more than the back of their hands. That is deplorable.

In 2015, when an NDP government is elected, what we are going to see is respect for the nation's police officers and firefighters. We are going to see in place a public safety officer compensation fund. We will never again see the families of our nation's police officers and firefighters left to fend for themselves because the federal government does not respect them and does not care about them.

We in the NDP take a different approach on these issues. We actually believe that bills should be brought forward in the House of Commons in a respectful way. We should hear from witnesses, improve the legislation, and make sure that it is not the type of legislation that is then subject to court challenges just to fix the mistakes the government has made.

We would take a more mature and more professional approach to justice issues. Like so many other Canadians, I can hardly wait for 2015.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:25 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. As always, his passion for the legislative process is evident. He pointed out the Conservatives' shortcomings in some areas, including the fact that it does not allow us enough time to examine bills that it introduces. The bills should also not be bricks.

I would like to hear what he has to say about the fact that MPs once again have limited time to speak, all because the government has been dragging its feet. Does this not remind him of all the times debate on other bills has been cut short? It is a similar tactic used in a different way.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for LaSalle—Émard, who is a strong advocate for her constituents and all Canadians in this House. I appreciate her work in the House and thank her for her question.

That is precisely the problem. I am talking about those who voted for the Conservative Party, and I know there are fewer and fewer of them. In my riding, the people who voted for the Conservative Party last time have no intention of doing so next time because of things like this. The government hands Parliament sloppy bills, and these bills then get passed because the government moves closure motions. These same bills end up being challenged in court. Then, taxpayers end up on the hook for the court costs to fix the problems.

Although we sometimes agree with the principles of certain bills, they are patched together and are so poorly drafted that taxpayers are forced to spend more of their hard-earned money to fix the Conservatives' mistakes. Canadians deserve better than that.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from British Columbia on his awesome speech. He talked about all the promises the Conservatives made to the police officers and firefighters six years ago. We could hear them yip-yapping in the background. We can still hear them.

Now they have a chance to stand and ask questions, but they are not. What is happening on the other side? Are they maybe ashamed of having promised these firefighters and police officers that they would do something to help their families, and now that it is time to do it, they are not doing anything?

Would the member give his opinion on that, please?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Nickel Belt is a terrific member to work with. I work with him on the natural resources committee. He has been a very strong representative for Nickel Belt in the House of Commons. He is very eloquent and very knowledgeable, so I appreciate his question.

It is absolutely shameful treatment. It is shameful for the Conservatives to have voted to bring in the NDP bill and to have promised in the election campaign that they would bring it in. For six years police officers and firefighters have been asking, “Can you take care of our families when we pass on? When I die in the line of duty, can you take care of my family?” Is that too much to ask so that they do not have to sell their homes, so that the kids do not have to quit school, and so that they are actually taken care of by a grateful nation? That is what New Democrats stand for. That is what Canadians stand for: respect for our nation's police officers and firefighters.

I have no doubt that the Conservatives should be ashamed of the behaviour they have exhibited over the last six years by giving the back of their hands to firefighters and police officers in our country.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to note the heckling from the other side about “hug-a-thug” and that kind of nonsense. It is pretty depressing to be here and to hear that kind of talk, when it is very clear that the hecklers on the other side have not actually read this legislation and do not really know what it is about. This is a serious issue in front of us. This is a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, which has instructed Parliament to change the Criminal Code of Canada.

Let us do a legal analysis of the bill. We will start with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Specifically, let us start with section 8, which provides that everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure. There are very few words, but there is a lot packed into that section.

The courts have held that a search without a warrant is unreasonable. The standard for determining whether a search is reasonable is to have it brought before a judge. There must be a neutral and impartial party, such as a judge, who can determine if a search is unreasonable. However, the courts have noted, in particular Justice Dickson in Hunter v. Southam that:

[I]t may not be reasonable in every instance to insist on prior authorization in order to validate governmental intrusions upon individuals' expectations of privacy. Nevertheless, where it is feasible to obtain prior authorization, I would hold that such authorization is a precondition for a valid search and seizure.

However, there is also a long line of case law that states that judicial authorization can actually be waived if there is potential for serious and immediate harm or exigent circumstances. I use those words purposely: serious and immediate harm. For example, when a person calls 911, the police are actually permitted to enter the home without a warrant. Why? It is because it has been held that the police duty to protect life warrants and justifies a forced entry into the home in order to figure out if the person is safe. Section 184 of the code says that violations of privacy are against the law, but then we say that this can be violated or waived with judicial authority. However, judicial authority can be waived if there is potential for serious and immediate harm. That is the chain of thinking.

Bill C-55 is an attempt to update the wiretapping provisions in section 184.4 of the Criminal Code. Why? The government is making an attempt to update the code after the Supreme Court of Canada's decision R. v. Tse struck down the wiretapping provisions in the Criminal Code because they violated section 8 of the charter, which I described, which is the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.

It is worth noting that the court gave us the deadline of April 13, 2013 to correct the decision, but here we are in February 2013 debating this legislation.

I will move on to the analysis. Before we can analyze Bill C-55 and the government's proposal, we need to take a close look at what the Supreme Court said about section 184.4. We need to understand the problems with section 184.4 and why it was struck down if we are going to be able to understand whether this attempt by the government actually fixes those problems or whether we are going to have the same constitutional problems.

The court stated that:

[I]n principle, it would seem that Parliament may craft a narrow emergency wiretap authority for exigent circumstances to prevent serious harm if judicial authorization is not available through the exercise of reasonable diligence.

These are lots of words, but let us unpack them.

When section 184.4 made its way through Parliament in 1993, there was testimony at committee about the need for this kind of emergency power for situations such as hostage takings, bomb threats and armed standoffs. These are pretty serious situations. There was also testimony that this was necessary for very short periods of time during which it might be possible to actually stop that threat and prevent harm from occurring.

I will return later to the phrase “peace officers” in the wording of section 184.4.

Peace officers may only use the power to wiretap without judicial authority if they believe, on reasonable grounds, that the urgency of the situation is such that authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision in the part, so there are four key concepts there.

What happened? The Supreme Court of Canada found that section 184.4 does not meet accountability standards because it does not provide any accountability measures. If we think about it, wiretapping is not at all like a 911 emergency call.

I want to quote something important from the decision.

The Supreme Court of Canada quoted Justice Davies who, I believe, wrote the court of appeal decision:

The interception of private communications in exigent circumstances is not like situations of hot pursuit, entry into a dwelling place to respond to a 9-1-1 call, or searches incidental to arrest when public safety is engaged. In those circumstances, the person who has been the subject of a search will immediately be aware of both the circumstances and consequences of police action. The invasion of privacy by interception of private communications will, however, be undetectable, unknown and undiscoverable by those targeted unless the state seeks to rely on the results of its intentionally secretive activities in a subsequent prosecution.

In other words, it would actually come out in court. In this case, however, a person could actually be wiretapped and never know it. There is no accountability here.

Another piece that the Supreme Court quoted was the intervener, the Criminal Lawyers Association, and I think this is really interesting:

...notice is neither irrelevant to section 8 protection, nor is it a “weak” way of protecting section 8 rights, simply because it occurs after the invasion of privacy. A requirement of after-the-fact notice casts a constitutionally important light back on the statutorily authorised intrusion. The right to privacy implies not just freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, but also the ability to identify and challenge such invasions, and to seek a meaningful remedy. Notice would enhance all these interests. In the case of a secret warrantless wiretap, notice to intercepted person stands almost alone as an external safeguard.

As we can see, it is not at all like a 911 call, and we need to have notice. As was pointed out, notice after the fact is still notice. There needs to be an accountability provision, and the Supreme Court of Canada found that Parliament actually failed to provide adequate safeguards to address the issue of accountability in relation to unwarranted wiretaps and went on to outline why this charter breach was not saved by section 1 of the charter.

Parliament was tasked with drafting a constitutionally compliant provision. How has the government attempted to deal with these accountability provisions?

It did introduce a new provision that the authorization should be reported back to Parliament by the Minister of Public Safety.

Like any law student, I took criminal law, but I am far from a criminal law expert. However, it strikes me that this might actually be a creative way of addressing this issue, the issue of accountability.

Offhand, I cannot think of any similar accountability provisions whereby the accountability problem is solved through annual reports to Parliament. In a way it reminds me a bit of a sunset clause, when legislation is debated and is brought back to the House for debate again, but at the same time, it is really quite different. Through this way of dealing with the report, quite a number of details would be introduced in section 195 of the Criminal Code.

It is interesting, it is potentially very creative, and I am curious about how it would work. My first instinct is to think that it just might work, but then I remember where I am. I am in the House of Commons in the 41st Parliament, with a Conservative government that refuses to accept amendments to legislation, that invokes closure or time allocation to stifle debate, that buries important legislative policies and changes in omnibus legislation.

I would like to see the bill go to committee not just to find out if this is a creative and interesting accountability solution that might work but also to find out if it would work in the context of a government that has such disdain for parliamentary oversight.

I cannot say I have the answer to those questions right now, but I really do think Canadians have good reason to be concerned about the legislation, because the government's record on privacy is not very encouraging.

I very much look forward to the testimony at committee.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to highlight what we believe is a big issue with the government, and that is negligence in terms of procedure and the way it brings things into the House. The member made reference to this as she started to wind up her speech.

It is important that we recognize that the government is now expecting us to pass the bill through the House, committee, back into the House and so forth, between now and April 13. That is not a reasonable timeframe. However, because the government was so negligent by not bringing the bill forward in a more timely fashion, the type of due diligence the House should be giving to legislation of this nature is going to be put into question. We see the benefits in its going to committee, but I wonder if she might want to comment about the timeframe and the idea that the bill has to be passed by April 13. Would she agree that it is highly irresponsible of the government to do it in such a poor fashion?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to answer that question because I did not have time to address it in my speech.

I do not have answers to the questions I raised here today and I am not sure we are going to be able to get to them in about 19 days. I think this is negligent attention to parliamentary duty. I do not think the government has acted. It did bring forward Bill C-30. We see a lot of the provisions of Bill C-30 now in Bill C-55, but Bill C-30 was a total, utter, abject failure, and Canadians cried out against it. Rightly, finally, the government did withdraw that piece of legislation.

However, here we are. The clock is ticking. It has been practically a year, and now we have this legislation in front of us and we are just supposed to agree and vote for it. That is not responsible decision-making. That is not a responsible way to make legislation.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, compared to Bill C-30, this bill is focused. It is looking at the specific issues of how we appropriately balance warrantless access to anything. I stress warrantless. It is not as though our police forces, even prior to the Criminal Code sections that were found offensive by the Supreme Court of Canada in the recent court case, did not have access, but the idea of warrantless access is inimical to democracy.

It is worrying to say there is not time to go to a judge to get a warrant before intruding in someone's affairs if there is otherwise no lawful access to that information. Clearly, in emergency situations such as kidnapping and so on, we want police to do everything they can to save lives. Does the hon. member for Halifax have any sense at this point whether the public report that would be required at the end of each year would be sufficient to meet the Supreme Court's concerns?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague that warrantless searches like this are worrying. However, the courts have determined that in principle Parliament may—and that is a key word—craft a narrow—another key word—emergency wiretap authority for these kinds of circumstances.

Will the report be the balance we need for that extreme violation of our charter rights? I cannot answer that question. This is yet another reason we have to get this bill to committee. We have to have the proper legal analysis.

We also have to have more than 19 days to get this done. The government has not allowed us to do our duty as legislators and properly review this legislation, given the time constraints that the Supreme Court of Canada has given to us.

It is worrying. I absolutely agree with her on that point.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her excellent speech.

Although it did not render a ruling, the Supreme Court also considered the issue of the definition of “peace officer”. Could my colleague expand on her extraordinary analysis of the bill by sharing her thoughts with those of us who are members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and who will be debating this issue?

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate being able to answer this question as well because I did not have a chance to get to it in my speech.

The Supreme Court of Canada did have a problem with the fact that the wiretap power could be granted to peace officers who were not police officers. The government has, it seems, addressed this problem and has narrowed it to police officers. It potentially looks like a good step. I look forward to the testimony at committee.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to rise and indicate that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

I appreciated and enjoyed the presentation from the member for Halifax, who has the constituency adjacent to mine. I know that she and her constituents enjoy looking across at the wonderful constituency of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

We were provided some wonderful information about the Supreme Court decision that led to Bill C-55. I do not have the capacity to engage in the type of legal analysis my colleague did. However, on the question of legislative procedure, there is a need for all members of this House to understand what their responsibilities are and to ensure that they follow through on those responsibilities, so that each and every piece of legislation tabled in this House does not leave the House unless it has been fully examined and vetted and until we have ensured that it is the best possible piece of legislation that it can be.

These are the laws of our country. These are the laws that affect all of our constituents. These are the laws that will continue to exist long after we have left here. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that we dot the is and cross the ts so that a piece of legislation does not leave here and immediately get struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada, for example, because we did not show due diligence.

Members should understand that this bill, which is a direct response to a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, is being introduced in this House with a time limit of 19 sitting days to deal with it. It is absurd that the government, in all seriousness, would expect members of this House to deal with a piece of legislation of this magnitude—one as detailed and specific as this is, and one with such serious ramifications for privacy and for the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Canada—in 19 sitting days. That means the justice committee will have about two days to examine this important piece of legislation.

Let us not forget that the current government does not have a very good record when it comes to issues of privacy or when it comes to introducing legislation and trying to ram it through this House.

We have already seen provisions in some of its justice legislation struck down and seriously questioned by some of the courts in this land. We know what happened to the bill that was supposed to take care of this, the bill that preceded this, Bill C-30, which was tabled approximately a year ago in this House. It was torqued up by the minister, who tabled it in such a partisan, mean and ugly manner that Canadians from one end of this country to the other responded with outrage at the manner in which the government and that minister were dealing with such a sensitive and important issue to all Canadians.

They spoke with one voice. They said that it was simply unacceptable that the Government of Canada would deal with a very important issue in such a partisan and irresponsible manner. It was later determined, as people sifted through the details of the legislation, that the government did not do what it said it would do, that it was flawed in so many ways that finally the minister and the government tried to kick it under the carpet, pretend they had never tabled it and that they did not know what people were talking about when discussing the infamous Bill C-30.

What I remember, and I suggest what many members on this side and many Canadians remember, was the second attempt, in part to deal with something that Bill C-30 was supposedly to deal with. The government tells us not to worry, that it has been dealt with it, that it has responded to what the Supreme Court of Canada has said, that it has been very specific, that it has limited it to the particular provision as it relates to section 184.4 and that it has it covered. Therefore, there is no need for members to be concerned or engage in a great deal of debate, so we do not need a lot of time.

The NDP critic, who gave such an eloquent and informative speech at the beginning of this debate, suggested that the government often introduced legislation with a sense of arrogance and knowing what was best: regardless of the members opposite and the constituents they represented had to say, the Conservatives were the ones who had all the answers, so when they brought in legislation that they said was good to go, we should say “fine” and let it go. However, that is not what we were sent here to do.

The government has shown that we have to be on our toes because it does not do its job. It has been raised in the House by members on this side on a number of occasions. They wonder why the government does not properly vet legislation. We understand that the demands of the Supreme Court are such that we are not, with completely certainty, able to say that a piece of drafted legislation will pass muster in the Supreme Court of Canada. Surely the government takes the time, and we have not had the answer, to ensure there has been some examination and sense of proportionality that any particular piece of legislation will pass muster in the Supreme Court of Canada, but it has not given us that assurance.

In terms of the legislation the government has presented to the House since May of 2011, much of it has been flawed in detail and substance. It sometimes seems that when the government produces legislation, it is more concerned with the title and politics of the legislation than it is with the details, the substance, the implications and the impact that changing the laws of our country will have on Canadians. That is very much a case of the government thumbing its nose at members of the chamber.

On initial review of this bill, we hope it will do what the government says it will in relation to the Supreme Court decision. There will be an examination of the bill at the justice committee. Let us hope we get the opportunity to examine the bill to ensure that when it heads out of the House, we have made sure it is in fact the best piece of legislation it can be.

Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2013 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-55, a Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse Act.

This bill amends the Criminal Code to provide safeguards related to the authority to intercept private communications without prior judicial authorization under section 184 of that Act.

Bill C-55 requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4; provides that a person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified within a specified time, which is currently done only where charges are laid; and narrows the class of persons who can make such interceptions.

This bill updates certain provisions of the Criminal Code relating to wiretaps that were enacted in 1993. The updating was ordered by the Supreme Court in R. v. Tse, in which it held that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional and had to be amended by Parliament no later than April 13, 2013. The deadline is fast approaching.

In that case, the Supreme Court found that this section infringed the right to be protected against arbitrary searches and seizures, a right guaranteed by section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and was not a reasonable limit within the meaning of section 1 of the charter. That decision is based on the fact that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code does not provide a mechanism for oversight and does not require that notice be given to persons whose private communications have been intercepted.

Bill C-55 is a somewhat desperate last-minute attempt by the Conservatives to comply with the instructions from the Supreme Court by the deadline given. I say “last-minute” because as of today parliamentarians have exactly 19 days left in which to pass Bill C-55 at second reading, examine it in committee, pass it in the House and then repeat the process in the other place, before it ultimately receives royal assent and comes into force as the law in Canada. That is very little time for such an important bill, which could have negative consequences for too many Canadians if we do not take the time to analyze it thoroughly.

I can understand why, after falling flat on their face with Bill C-30, the Conservatives would be somewhat nervous about the idea of considering the electronic surveillance issue again, or indeed any issues relating to potential breaches of Canadians’ privacy, but bill C-55 ought to have been introduced long ago.

Perhaps the Conservatives were trying to minimize the Minister of Public Safety's opportunities to insult potential opponents of Bill C-55. Who knows?

In any event, the NDP believes that it is an initial step in the right direction, and that is why we will be supporting Bill C-55 at second reading so that it can be studied in committee.

As I mentioned earlier, this bill would make important and essential amendments to the Criminal Code to make section 184.4 consistent with the Constitution by adding a number of safeguards as directed by the court.

The NDP has been asking the government to take action for a long time in order to act on these recommendations. From this standpoint, we would like this bill to move on to the next stage. It is essential for the investigative measures provided in any bill amending section 184.4 of the Criminal Code to have oversight and accountability mechanisms that protect the privacy of Canadians.

I am aware of the fact that it is sometimes necessary to put aside individual privacy to protect human lives and property from serious and imminent harm.

On the other hand, one cannot simply cast aside the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Supreme Court of Canada has established new parameters to protect privacy. We expect Bill C-55 to comply with these new criteria.

However, analysis of the defunct Bill C-30 and its stinging failure makes it obvious that the Conservatives need to rethink their approach to privacy and personal information.

A close look at the Conservatives’ agenda in this area demonstrates clearly that Canadians have good reason to be worried about any government bills on wiretapping and privacy.

My New Democratic colleagues and I are aware of the public's concerns about wiretapping, and we share them.

When Bill C-55 is studied in committee, the NDP will work, as we always do, on behalf of all Canadians to guarantee respect for the rule of law, the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We want to ensure that Bill C-55 is in compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision in R. v. Tse to make section 184.4 of the Criminal Code constitutional and to achieve the necessary balance between personal freedom and public safety.

I invite my Conservative colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to work with the NDP to improve Bill C-55 to guarantee respect for the fundamental rights of all Canadians as set out in our charter.

We know that it is sometimes difficult in committee to get support for opposition ideas. However, this time, we all agree on the basic idea that the Criminal Code needs to be amended to comply with the Supreme Court directives. There are people with impressive legal expertise in every party. They understand this issue and have suggestions to make to ensure that public safety in this country is a given for everyone, but that people's fundamental rights are also guaranteed.

It is important that all of the parties work together on this task so that the end result will truly protect us by keeping Canadians safe from terrorist attacks and any other wrongdoing. However, we need assurance that personal rights will be respected as well.

The Conservatives do not need to get caught up in hyper-partisan debates, as they did when they introduced Bill C-30. There is no need for rhetoric and no need to label people as child pornographers—as the Minister of Public Safety did during debate on Bill C-30—if they dare raise the issues that remain in Bill C-55. They also do not need to wait for public and political pressure to get to the point where the government has no other choice but to abandon its own bill, as it did with Bill C-30.

After that huge debacle, I would hope that the Conservatives have finally learned their lesson and that they will be willing to work with members of the official opposition and the third party to fix enduring issues in the Criminal Code of Canada.

We in the NDP share the government's desire to maintain and ensure public safety, but we also care about respecting the principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in every bill that is passed in this House. Unfortunately, that does not always seem to be the case with this government, which would rather be called to order by the Supreme Court after introducing its bills, rather than legislating proactively and ensuring that its bills are constitutional before introducing them in the House.

This government could benefit from the advice and opinions of the opposition in order to ensure that Bill C-55 complies with the Supreme Court decision in the R. v. Tse case. I hope the government will be more open than it typically has been since winning a majority.

I heard many of the speeches given by my NDP and Liberal colleagues. They all regard this bill from more or less the same perspective, specifically, that it addresses something that has been a serious problem in the Criminal Code since 1993, but has never been resolved, not by past Liberal governments or by the Conservative government.

No