Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to participate in the third reading debate on Bill C-13, the protecting Canadians from online crime act.
Bill C-13 has received wide media attention, and almost every Canadian who has heard about it has had an opinion on it. Unfortunately, much of what has been reported in the media has disregarded the spirit of this legislation, and this has hampered an informed debate on this important piece of legislation.
Bill C-13, in simple terms, would do three very important things that would help make the world safer for Canadians.
First, it proposes to amend the Criminal Code to create new offences for the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, or what some refer to as “revenge porn”. Bill C-13 would also update existing offences, such as the harassing telephone call provision, to make them relevant in the Internet age. Some of these amendments would be particularly useful for police in relation to cyberbullying cases.
The second important component of Bill C-13 is the proposed enhancement of the investigative toolkit police use to deal with cybercrimes and electronic evidence. These amendments, which comprise the modernization of existing investigative powers as well as the creation of new production orders for specific information, would provide Canadian police with the tools that many other police in other countries have been using for over 10 years. The modernization of the toolkit would ensure that police could access the information they need, and only the information they need, to advance an investigation into an offence.
By providing police with these modern tools, Parliament would not only be facilitating the investigation of crimes involving electronic evidence in Canada but would be enhancing privacy protection for Canadians generally by requiring the appropriate level of judicial scrutiny for all information in relation to which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Finally, Bill C-13 will allow Canada to access and provide greater international cooperation in criminal matters. This is of vital importance because so much evidence in relation to cybercrimes, such as that related to cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, is stored and located outside of Canada. In many cases, where there is no international cooperation, no investigation can proceed.
As was previously pointed out at the report stage, Bill C-13 was thoroughly reviewed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The review involved 10 committee meetings and appearances by over 40 witnesses. While there were appearances by witnesses who opposed aspects of the bill, primarily the investigative tools, many of the witnesses were supportive of the entire legislation package. However, it should be noted that the new intimate images offence received almost universal support, including from members of the opposition.
During his testimony before the justice committee, the Minister of Justice explained that the proposed non-consensual distribution of intimate images offence would prohibit the sharing of sexual or nude images without the consent of the person depicted. It is most important to respond in this manner to cyberbullying that involves this activity, which can cruelly humiliate and shame its target and cause irreparable emotional and psychological harm to the victim, particularly Canadian youth. The minister explained how this would remedy a gap in the criminal law.
The minister also noted that Bill C-13 reflects recommendations made in June 2013 in a federal-provincial-territorial report on cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, which recommended both the creation of a new offence and updates to the existing offences and investigative tools. The report was unanimously supported by the federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety.
The committee also heard from a number of victims of cyberbullying and parents of deceased victims of cyberbullying, many of whom have become advocates for change to better address cyberbullying. Many of these witnesses expressed support for the proposals in Bill C-13. Mr. Glen Canning, the father of Rehtaeh Parsons, expressed concern about the challenge faced by police in trying to respond to modern crimes using antiquated tools. He also believes that had Bill C-13 been law at the time of his daughter's harassment, it would have made a positive difference.
The Committee also heard from police, including the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the CACP, and the chief of the Vancouver Police Department, Jim Chu.
The CACP represents over 90% of the Canadian police community, including federal, first nations, provincial, regional and municipal agencies.
Chief Chu clearly stated that the CACP fully supports Bill C-13. He offered the committee compelling testimony on the challenges of crime in the online environment and on its growth in areas of traditional crime, such as harassment, fraud, and kidnapping, as well as in relation to new crimes more closely linked to technological advances. He also explained to the committee the challenges police face because of the international nature of cyber activity.
Chief Chu articulated how technology can facilitate traditional bullying and make it more persuasive and painful. He also expressed concern about the lack of a safe haven and the difficulty of erasing anything from the online environment once it has been distributed. He said rapid intervention is needed before things get worse for victims, who may suffer consequences of this behaviour for the rest of their lives. He explained to the committee that the modernized tools in Bill C-13 are essential for this response.
Chief Chu explained that the bill does not create authority for police to obtain information without judicial warrant and that the police support Bill C-13's proposed judicial oversight as a good way to balance investigative needs and privacy protection. He also noted, however, that these tools need to allow police to respond quickly, which is essential in the online environment.
He also responded to the inaccurate portrayals of Bill C-13, in some instances, as creating authority for police to wiretap without authority. Bill C-13 does not provide police with this power, and they will continue to require prior authorization by the courts to intercept any private communications. Nothing in Bill C-13 changes this.
The committee also heard from Greg Gilhooly, a lawyer who was a victim of an Internet predator when he was in his youth.
Mr. Gilhooly expressed his strong support for the proposals in Bill C-13 and provided the committee with personal insight into the urgency and importance of acting precipitously to enhance the law in this area because, as he put it, “there are monsters among us,” and police need tools to enable them to act and protect Canadians.
The committee also heard from Mr. David Butt, legal counsel for the Kids' Internet Safety Alliance and a front-line criminal lawyer who commended the government for striking the right balance between investigative needs and privacy protections with the proposals in Bill C-13.
I would like to share with members this quote from his testimony to the committee:
...let's have vibrant police powers to investigate digitally, coupled with significant judicial oversight to control those police powers independently. That's the sweet spot that I say this bill hits. That's my measure of success in a bill: does it enable the police to act effectively, but does it also give another branch of government, the judiciary, the appropriate tools to oversee? If you've got both of those, you've got the right mix, and I say you've got the right mix here.
While other witnesses expressed similar views to the committee, I found this a particularly eloquent statement of what Bill C-13 accomplishes.
I would like to continue by citing the support for Bill C-13 expressed by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Lianna McDonald, the executive director of this organization, appeared before the committee and explained that her organization is a registered charity providing national programs and services related to the personal safety of all children.
Ms. McDonald explained at the committee that her goal in appearing was to provide both insight and support for Bill C-13. After over 30 years of working for child protection, she considered the bill to be something that would address the challenges her organization is very familiar with as first-hand witnesses to what she described as the collision between sexual exploitation, technology, and bullying. She explained to the committee that Cybertip.ca, Canada's national tip line for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children, has received more than 100,000 reports of sexual abuse and exploitation of children, which has resulted in more than 500 arrests and in removing numerous children from abusive environments.
Ms. McDonald expressed concern that technology has become a powerful weapon and tool in the hands of those who wish to hide their criminal behaviour behind a cloak of anonymity, making it easier to engage in reprehensible harassment behaviour. She urged the committee not to fail in understanding the role of technology in the commission of offences and to be conscious of the importance of modernizing the law. She also expressed concern that the privacy rights of victims have been neglected in the focus on privacy issue discussions, and she indicated that Bill C-13 would be fully supported by her organization. Ms. McDonald also expressed support for having the new offence of the non-consensual distribution of images apply to victims of all ages, as the impact of this behaviour is significant regardless of age.
I hope that I have succeeded in conveying the reality of the broader witness testimony, which is that while there were some dissenting voices, many informed and engaged witnesses considered the proposals in Bill C-13 as necessary and advisable. Unfortunately, media coverage focused primarily on those who expressed criticisms of the bill. Some of those criticisms demonstrated a lack of understanding of the proposals.
Another aspect of the proposals that has not reached much attention but that may be of interest to note, given the prevalence of online crime, is the amendments to the Competition Act proposed in Bill C-13.
We know that there are complex forms of white collar crime, and sometimes there are businesses that push the envelope too far and break the law.
The Competition Act is a federal law governing most business conduct in Canada. The Competition Bureau, headed by the Commissioner of Competition, is an independent law enforcement agency responsible for the administration and enforcement of the act. The Competition Act includes both criminal and civil provisions aimed at preventing anti-competitive practices and other harmful conduct in the marketplace. It is designed to ensure that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive, innovative marketplace. In particular, the Competition Act sets out certain criminal offences, including, among other things, price fixing, bid rigging, deceptive telemarketing, pyramid selling, and false or misleading representations that are knowingly made recklessly. It also includes civil provisions that deal with false or misleading representations and deceptive marketing practices, mergers, abuse of dominance, agreements between competitors, price maintenance, exclusive dealing, tied selling, and market restriction.
Bill C-13 would amend certain definitions found within the Competition Act to ensure that they are clear and technology neutral and that they align with those in the Criminal Code, the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, and Canada's anti-spam legislation. This bill would also incorporate in the Competition Act, by reference, the new powers in the Criminal Code regarding preservation demands, preservation orders, and production orders for historical transmission data so that they could be used in investigations of all conduct under the Competition Act, both criminal and civil. As is the case throughout the bill, preservation and production orders sought by the bureau would be subject to judicial oversight.
In closing, I strongly support Bill C-13, and I encourage all members to vote in support of this important piece of legislation and to send it for further consideration to that other place.