Mr. Speaker, I recognize that I have about seventeen minutes left. I expect I will not use that, just to warn the next speaker who may be on the list, as I have spoken to this bill before.
Before question period, I was outlining that I was pleased but also troubled to speak to Bill C-13. I outlined that the Liberal Party is very supportive of the cyberbullying aspects of the bill, but troubled over the parts that are measures in the old Bill C-30 on lawful access, which so many Canadians spoke out against.
Efforts were made, and I am disappointed that the government did not accept those efforts by both opposition parties, to split the bill. It was not only the opposition members who wanted to split the bill; it was the new Privacy Commissioner and many others, including Carol Todd, who knows very well about the difficult and troubling aspect of cyberbullying.
The bill was not split. However, regardless, we do feel within the Liberal Party that cyberbullying is such a scourge on society that we are going to have to put not only a little water in our wine, but a fair bit, in fact, because we are very seriously troubled over aspects of the bill. This tends to be what the current government does. The Conservatives will put a couple of good points in the bill and add a whole lot of other material that should not be in that particular bill.
The Liberals believe that a balance must be struck between civil liberties and public safety, particularly when it comes to warrants that may be intrusive and overboard. We do not support the measures that were in Bill C-30, which the government had to withdraw because of Canadians' outrage. The problem is that some of those points are back in this bill. Some of this bill duplicates the rejected Bill C-30, such as word-for-word reproductions of the changes to subsection 487(c.1) of the Criminal Code; and all but one-word changes to subsection 492.1 and section 492 regarding warrants.
We are very concerned about efforts to reintroduce “lawful access”, which the Conservatives promised was dead.
Though the title is the “protecting Canadians from online crime act”, nobody would be protected under this act. In typical government fashion, this is all about punishment rather than prevention. Complex problems like cyberbullying require more than blunt additions to the Criminal Code. This omnibus bill touches everything from terrorism to telemarketing, and cable stealing to hate speech. It is an affront to both democracy and the legislative process in the way it was handled.
If it had been split, what could have been a bill on cyberbullying, which probably would have had the unanimous support of the House, is no longer possible. What is seen from us is reluctant support because we have to, regardless of the consequences, deal with the cyberbullying side. That is certainly why I am troubled.
I want to turn to a couple of quotes that outline the extent of the problem in terms of the way that the government has dealt with this bill.
There was an editorial in The Globe and Mail, on November 22, entitled “Not Without a Warrant”, from which I will quote:
Under current law, a wiretapping authorization will only be issued by a judge if police can show a “reasonable ground to believe that an offence has been or will be committed.” But under Bill C-13, wireless wiretaps can be authorized on the looser standards of “reasonable ground to suspect.”
The editorial goes on:
Why not make police applications for a wireless wiretap clear the same, high legal hurdle as a traditional wiretap? And why is the government burying all of this inside an unrelated piece of legislation covering the highly emotional topic of cyberbullying? Parliament should be debating and voting on each measure separately, on its merits. Once again, the Conservative government is engaging in unnecessary legislative acrobatics. Time to cease and desist.
I will read one more. This is an editorial, also on November 22, from the Ottawa Citizen, entitled “More than 'cyberbullying'”. I will just read a piece of it:
If the government wants to make cable theft a criminal offence, or increase police powers to track online communication, it is perfectly within its rights to propose those things. There is no reason to bundle it in with a bill that has an entirely different purpose. The announcement about the bill calls it “legislation to crack down on cyberbullying.” This suggests the Conservatives never learned the main lesson from the Toews' debacle, and are still trying to bundle and brand their legislation instead of simply defending it on its merits.
We are certainly not the only ones who are troubled about how the government approaches these bills, rams stuff through committee, and fails to give proper legitimate debate to each item on its own merits, so that at the end of the day this place can be proud, on all sides, of what we have passed.
However, as I said, the cyberbullying issue is of such an urgency that we cannot deep-six, if I could put it that way, that aspect of the bill that we do not like. We are forced to vote on a bill that we are troubled over, and, reluctantly, we will.
However, we will put a red flag on all areas infringing upon privacy that we are concerned about, and hopefully in a future Parliament we will see democracy break out in this place, where committees can do their job, as the founders of this country envisioned it would be done.
Let me close by saying that on the cyberbullying aspect, the Criminal Code is not the only instrument that needs to be embellished, if I could put it that way, in order to deal with the problem of cyberbullying. We believe that these legislative measures alone are insufficient to combat cyberbullying, and we urge the government to commit to a broader, more holistic strategy to deal with cyberbullying.
It would also include public awareness resources for parents and kids. In other words, there has to be an education campaign, a publicity campaign, whether it is police forces, or community leaders, or whatever, who go into our school system to talk about the problem of cyberbullying and how this new technological world that we live in can haunt us, and, in fact, is used to haunt certain individuals in society.
In order to save time, I will close my remarks. I appreciate having had the opportunity to speak at third reading of this bill.