moved that Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
This is very important legislation, but it is well-recognized that it will require a holistic approach when it comes to the subject of cyberbullying. It will require efforts within the education system. It will certainly require very direct and mature discussions with young people and others in the country when it comes to the awareness and understanding of the effects of bullying and cyberbullying.
I want to indicate immediately that all elements of this bill to assist police with investigations online require a warrant. I emphasize that judicial authorization is deeply entrenched in Bill C-13. The bill and the government's long-standing commitment to help keep our streets and communities safe is very much in keeping with efforts of judicial oversight and focusing on all programs and all instances of having young people come to understand the terrible phenomenon of online bullying and its far-reaching effects.
The bill is very timely and significant legislation. As all would know, it is aimed at improving the safety of Canadians, not only in their homes and neighbourhoods but also online, where so many spend an incredible amount of time. All of the sections of the bill deal with electronic communications. This is our generation's preferred mode of correspondence. We now have to bring some of the elements of investigation also into the 21st century when it comes to electronic communications.
The necessity for security with respect to online activities is becoming more apparent as our use of social media and other technologies continue to grow. Consider that, according to StatsCan, in 2010 roughly 80% of Canadian households had access to the Internet. Maclean's magazine reports that more than 19 million Canadians, more than half the population, are now users of Facebook.
In the 1990s, there were hundreds of websites. Now the numbers have swelled to billions. These numbers will only continue to increase and the technology involved will become more sophisticated, making it even more essential to develop a legal framework that will support the online safety of Canadians and will give our security forces commensurate tools to ensure safety
Bill C-13 is comprised of two related but distinct parts. The first addresses the particularly vile and invasive form of cyberbullying involving the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. The second aims to ensure that the Criminal Code and other federal legislation is keeping pace with technological changes. Both involve electronic communications and improving public safety. I am delighted that I am joined by my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, for this debate.
The bill proposes updates to offences and to the powers of police to investigate crimes committed using electronic networks or that use electronic evidence.
I would like to address both of these parts in turn, beginning with the key elements of the bill that address cyberbullying.
We are all aware of the issues of bullying and cyberbullying and how they have become priorities for many governments around the world. Cyberbullying is the use of the Internet to perpetrate what is commonly known as bullying, but it is of particular interest and concern of late. This interest is due in no small part to the number of teen suicides over the past few years in which cyberbullying was alleged to have played a part.
We have heard of cases involving Rehtaeh Parsons in my province of Nova Scotia, Amanda Todd on the west coast, a young man named Todd Loik in Saskatchewan recently, and countless others. It is clearly a case of the worst form of harassment, intimidation and humiliation of young people, which resulted in a feeling of hopelessness, that there was no other way out, and they took their lives.
Having met with the parents of many of these young people and spoken to many young people within my own circle of friends and family, it becomes clear that there is a clarion call for Parliament and for our criminal justice system to respond. This is truly an issue in which I would hope the House would come together around our efforts to improve things. As I said, it goes well beyond this legislation and this Hill. It will require a very fulsome discussion of the implications and the understanding of what it means to post images and to use the Internet for the purposes of harassing another individual.
There appears to be a greater need and profound understanding of the impact that this form of bullying has on young people and its pervasiveness in the schools.
Online bullying increases the speed and the scope in which statements and images can be made and shared with many others, as we know. Once something is posted online, it is very difficult to control its further use or dissemination. Most times, it is from a cowardly, anonymous, malicious individual, whose identity is very hard to track.
Cyberbullying victims also report that is it very difficult to retreat or escape from the cyberbullying activity. It is pervasive in the way in which telecommunications play such an important part in young people's lives these days.
Canadians want to know what we can do to deal with cyberbullying. Questions have been raised about whether the Criminal Code deals adequately with this type of behaviour and recent technological advances.
Currently, the Criminal Code can in fact address most of the serious forms of cyberbullying through, for example, existing offences of criminal harassment per section 264, uttering threats per section 264.1 or identity fraud, found in section 403. However, there is no offence in the Criminal Code that specifically addresses the contemptible form of cyberbullying that has emerged, involving the distribution of sexual images without the consent of the person depicted in that image.
Addressing this gap in the Criminal Code is one of the goals of Bill C-13. The bill proposes a new Criminal Code offence prohibiting the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. Essentially, this offence would prohibit the sharing of sexual or nude images without the consent of the person depicted.
It may be useful to better understand how this behaviour typically comes about. It usually begins, in some sense, with a non-criminal context of perfectly lawful, consensual recording of intimate images in a private setting. I specifically set aside any images depicting an underage youth. These images may be subsequently transmitted electronically to a partner, a practice commonly known as “sexting”. Upon the breakdown of the relationship, however, one of the known partners may distribute these images to third parties without the consent of the person depicted in the image. It is now commonly known as “revenge porn”.
It is important to note that this offence is not intended to criminalize sexting when it is done with consent. Rather it is the unauthorized, non-consensual distribution of these images that is targeted in this new offence.
I would like to take a moment to fully describe the specific aspects of the proposed offence.
The proposed new offence will prohibit all manner of distributing, sharing or making available of an intimate image without the consent of the person depicted in that image. This is intended to capture all the ways in which intimate images are shared, including posting an image on a website, sharing via social media, email or in person, but will not capture the consensual recording or the private use of these images.
The main element of the offence is that the sharing of the distribution would be done without the consent of the person depicted. The accused would not have to know that the person depicted in the image did not consent to the distribution or be reckless as to whether or not the person depicted consented to the distribution.
Bill C-13 also contains a three part definition of intimate images to help guide the courts in determining whether or not a particular image would be subject to the offence. There is clarity there in the determination and specific wording of what classifies as an intimate image. The definition is similar to those found in existing voyeurism and child pornography offences.
Second, the image must be one which, at the time it was taken, was done in circumstances that gave rise to the reasonable expectation of privacy. This would ensure that the offence did not capture the distribution of images in which the person depicted could not have easily have asserted privacy interests. For example, it may be difficult for people to assert a privacy interest if, in fact, the photo were taken while they were publicly displaying nudity. If they walked down the street without clothes and someone took a picture, there would be no expectation of privacy.
Third, at the time of the offence, the image must be one in which respect the person depicted retains a privacy interest. In other words, if someone posted a nude picture on a website and someone else then subsequently shared the image, it would be unlikely that the person would retain an expectation of privacy.
In addition, the bill contains a number of amendments that would complement this proposed new offence. I stress again that judges must look at these facts and interpret how the law would apply in the collection of evidence and in determining whether a warrant was warranted.
As a means of prevention, the courts would be able to authorize and order a peace bond against a person who had intimate images in his or her possession, where there were reasonable grounds to fear that the person could then play into a new offence. That is, the person could post the offence or share those images.
As part of the sentence for the new offence, the court would be permitted to make a prohibition order, which would limit access by a convicted offender to the Internet or other digital networks unless the access was exercised in accordance with conditions set out by the court. There would be a very specific penalty that could attach with respect to limiting use to go back online.
The court would also be authorized to order non-consensual posted images removed from the Internet. The existing provision allows the court to order the removal of child pornography and voyeuristic recordings. That would be amended to include intimate images. I stress here that we have already made a number of Criminal Code amendments and have brought forward legislation requiring Internet service providers, for example, to report these images when they appear online.
Additionally, the court could be authorized to order any tools used in the commission of the proposed offence, such as cell phones or computers, to be forfeited to the Crown. This is in keeping with other criminal acts we have seen, where vehicles and tools used in the commission of an offence can be seized by the Crown.
At the end of the process, the court would also be authorized to order the convicted offender to pay restitution to permit the victim to recoup expenses incurred to secure the removal from the Internet of these non-consensually posted intimate images.
Finally, the Canada Evidence Act would also be amended to ensure that the spouse of a person accused of distributing intimate images could be eligible to testify for the Crown. That is, spousal immunity would be waived. We have done this, as well, in sections pertaining to protecting children.
The bill also proposes updating existing offences that are relevant to cyberbullying. For example, the offence of false messages and harassing phone calls, in section 372, refers to behaviour conducted by letter or telegram, among other methods, but does not include more modern methods, as though the Internet or smart phones do not exist.
I point out that many of the sections we are trying to update were enacted during the time of rotary dial phones and telegrams, well in advance of the arrival of the Internet. We are modernizing and bringing those sections into the 21st century. This offence is relevant and is an applicable offence in the cyberbullying context. However, as it is currently drafted, it would not apply to conduct committed via modern technology. The bill is all about updating offences to make sure that any prohibited conduct done through any form of telecommunication would be captured.
I also want to move on to the part of the bill that involves elements related to modernization of the Criminal Code and other federal legislation, some of which has caused some consternation. There has been some significant misinformation disseminated.
Specifically, the bill contains amendments to the Criminal Code, the Competition Act, and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act to ensure that our laws are suitable for the technologically advanced world in which we live. They are meant to modernize both offences and investigative powers to make the Criminal Code more responsive to current criminal behaviour, which, as we know, is becoming more and more sophisticated. Organized crime, in particular, and those who prey on children very often use the Internet as the means to carry out these nefarious acts.
There is a common thread in these amendments. They all have as their primary objective providing law enforcement agencies with the tools they need in the 21st century to continue to respect their roles as protectors of the public while at the same time respecting the civil liberties of Canadians. They all require judicial authorization to carry out their duties.
Let me begin by stressing that the purpose of the legislative and investigative power amendments is not to give extensive new authority to the state to intrude into the privacy of Canadians. On the contrary, the new powers in this bill are carefully and narrowly constructed to respond to the investigative challenges posed by the advances that have occurred in technology over the past few decades and also to maintain the privacy protections and expectations of Canadians.
Modernizing investigative tools is especially important in investigations into these proposed new offences of non-consensual distribution of intimate images, which may be implicated in serious cases of cyberbullying. These updated tools would also, as they should, assist police in the investigation of all online crimes, and any crimes that involve digital evidence, such as fraud, the distribution of child pornography, and various forms of cyberattacks.
What are these amendments? First, Bill C-13 proposes to create a new data-preservation scheme. These tools would allow police to safeguard computer data while they apply to the court for a proper court order to acquire the data. Simply put, it is a do-not-delete order until such time as the police require the warrant.
Next, Bill C-13 proposes to update the existing judicially supervised production orders. These amendments would result in a comprehensive toolkit involving a general production order, which is comparable to a search warrant, and four specific production orders for information with little or no privacy impact. They would help police commence investigations.
The production orders could only be used to obtain historical information before the specific production orders contemplated by Bill C-13 would allow police to do the following: determine where individuals were or what they were doing at a specific moment in time, meaning tracking information; obtain transmission data, such as an email address the communication was sent to; trace the path of the telecommunication to determine the identity of a suspect; and, finally, collect basic financial information. It should be noted that police already have the ability to apply to the court for the same type of information in other areas.
This bill also proposes to modernize two existing judicial warrant powers: the tracking warrant and the number-recording warrant. These warrants are unique in that they allow police to collect this type of information in real time.
Finally, the bill also proposes some efficiencies with regard to wiretap applications. These amendments basically are a codification of the practices of many of our courts, but the amendments would ensure that Canadian courts, as in all jurisdictions, would use the same process. The proposed amendments would create a single application for all judicial warrants and orders related to the execution of the wiretap authorization. This new process would make it clear that the judge who issued the wiretap authorization could also issue all the other supporting warrants or orders without requiring a separate application. It is a streamlining process whereby the court would have a full picture of all the interventions.
I apologize for some of the minute detail, but it is important that we are again emphasizing here that judicial authorization would be required in all instances in aspects of this bill. Data preservation and the sophistication and proliferation of information are what we are trying to get at while, at the same time, balancing this with Canadians' reasonable expectations of privacy.
What is envisioned in this bill are not massive scoops of information, or mega-data, as it is sometimes called, as is the case in other jurisdictions in European countries. This bill would not ask Internet service providers to collect anyone's information and keep it indefinitely. Like other warrants, these would be for a set, specified period of time. As I mentioned, this could be done as of a do-not-delete order for a period of up to 21 days, or in cases of foreign preservation information, up to 90 days. However, again, judicial authorization would be required.
The power, I suggest, would facilitate the investigation of offences where much of the evidence is in an electronic form and would be used, as I said, to go after the non-consensual distribution of intimate images in an era when crucial evidence can be deleted, sometimes even inadvertently, in the blink of an eye.
As I mentioned earlier, in addition to proposing new investigative powers, the bill would modernize existing powers, bringing into the 21st century what the police are trying to do and protecting our communities.
I would note that this is a bill that has tremendous support from the provinces. We have had the Privacy Commissioner consulted on aspects of this bill. We look forward to further debate throughout this process as we move forward on what I believe is an important step to protect Canadians and protect information and at the same time respect the fact that this is the new way of communicating among Canadians and around the world.