Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join this important debate on a Friday before Thanksgiving. I would also like to wish everyone here a happy Thanksgiving and a productive constituency week.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-13, which is the protecting Canadians from online crime act. This bill would give enforcement officials the tools to conduct their investigations in a world that has moved from old fashioned telephone calls and snail mail to a constantly evolving telecommunications environment.
I might date myself a bit, but I remember in the late 1980s, early 1990s, learning about the Internet. If we look at what has happened since then, we had giant computers and now most of us sit here with our smartphones and small iPads. There has been an amazing change in the world, and to be quite frank, our tools have not kept up with these enormous changes.
Although the primary objective of Bill C-13 is to ensure that the criminal justice system is able to keep pace with this new environment, as well as changing the nature of how criminals operate, the government has to be attentive to the privacy intrusive character of investigative techniques. This is what I will focus my remarks on today.
The media, through some commentators, has characterized Bill C-13 as bad for the privacy of Canadians. To be quite frank, that is not accurate. Bill C-13 would enhance the privacy protections for Canadians.
While a police investigative tool, such as a search warrant or production order will naturally impact upon a person's privacy, all the amendments included in Bill C-13 have been very carefully crafted to balance the pressing need to provide police forces with the effective investigative tools they need in the current environment with the constitutional imperative to protect the rights of Canadians to a reasonable expectation of privacy. A good term for that is “privacy with precision”.
The Criminal Code already contains several tools that allow police to obtain evidence of crimes. For example, there are judicial warrant provisions to allow police forces to collect evidence themselves in real time, such as through tracking of a person. There is also judicial production orders, which allow the police to ask a third party to produce certain types of historical data or documents, for example, a record of phone calls.
These current tools were designed and implemented before the advent of much of the technology and social media that we rely on today, making them inefficient in today's world and too privacy invasive in some respects. Therefore, the approach we have taken with Bill C-13 is aimed at ensuring that the privacy of Canadians is adequately protected, while meeting the investigative requirements by providing police appropriate investigative tools that have been judicially authorized for specific investigative needs.
For example, C-13 would create new types of production orders to obtain specific information of a less personal nature, such as the path of a telecommunication, rather than relying on the current general production order, which allows access to all types of information, including those of a more personal nature, such as the content of the data that has been stored on a computer.
Police officers today basically have access to only one means of compelling the production of documents and data in relationship to the electronic evidence, and that is the general production order. Whether they want to attain a library full of information on a suspect or one single piece of information, such as an email address, police officers must use the same judicial protection order. To put it another way, and I think it is more illustrative, we can think of a general production order as a large net that authorizes police to catch everything within reach of that net.
I am going to use a bit of an analogy here, coming from a family that loves to fish. If we think of the police as the fisher, the fisher would use this net to catch everything the net came into contact with, such as mackerel, cod and salmon. It would be appropriate for the fisher to use the net if he or she was authorized to catch all those fish and the fisher wanted to catch all those fish. In the same way, when police want all data and documents a third party has on a suspect, it would be appropriate to use the net, in this case, what we term the general production order.
However, let us say the fisher is only authorized to catch a subsistence quantity of cod, so that he may be able to put food on the table for his family. If he were to use a net, the fisher runs the risk of not only catching the cod but also the mackerel and the salmon, which the fisher neither wants nor is he authorized to catch. For this purpose, the fisher should be using a more precise and more specific tool. A fishing line and a jigger is a good example. With the cod jigger, the fisher can catch his three or four fish and be on his way without fear of over-catching or taking fish that he does not want or need.
In this vein, the new privacy with precision production orders in Bill C-13 provide the police with tailored tools that grant access to specific and limited information. The specific judicial production orders are like the cod jigger, only capable of catching cod, for example.
In the context of production orders, a specific production order would only give police access to a limited range of information that does not have an elevated expectation of privacy, such as historical data related to the tracing of a communication or historical data related to the tracking of a transaction.
The use of these specific tools provides police with the information they want and need to continue an investigation, while at the same ensuring that police are not over-obtaining the personal information of Canadians.
These new tools under the reasonable suspicion standard have been crafted to reflect the leading decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada and mirror existing Criminal Code provisions, some of which date back to 1993. I mention this because these proposed new production orders have been criticized for introducing the reasonable suspicion standard to the Criminal Code.
Let me be clear, this standard is not new. It has been employed in Canadian criminal law since 1993. On this point, I am going to go back to my net analogy one more time in relation to judicial scrutiny. One could characterize this as a resource issue for police, because for police the difference between meeting the judicial standard of reasonable belief and reasonable suspicion is the amount of time and proof they need to meet each standard. In this regard, we could say that meeting the standard of reasonable belief is more resource intensive than meeting the standard of reasonable suspicion.
For the fisher, this would be the cost of his equipment or his tools. The fisher must decide whether he will spend $100 on a net or $5 for a line. While the net would give the fisher access to whatever is in the sea, the fisher may really only want a few cod for dinner. The net would be overkill and could catch things the fisher should not be catching. Again, the fisher, for this purpose, should be using the cod jigger.
I apologize for the analogy, but I think if there are Canadians watching, sometimes those analogies do help make a little sense out of what can be some very complicated legal issues.
Conversely, if the fisher is entitled to a commercial catch and authorized to catch a certain tonnage, he would probably prefer to use the net.
For the police, it is more appropriate for them to provide more proof to the courts and to spend more time preparing the application when they need all the data and documents related to a suspect for which there is a high expectation. Conversely, it is also appropriate that they meet a lower level of judicial oversight when the information they want is limited and less privacy invasive.
Before I conclude, I would like to emphasize that nothing in Bill C-13 would permit the police to compel the production of any personal data without a judicially authorized warrant or order. There are absolutely no provisions in the bill that would authorize the warrantless access of private personal data.
In addition to privacy with precision, the bill also includes other privacy enhancements. For example, Bill C-13 proposes to increase the threshold for obtaining a tracking warrant in situations involving the tracking of an individual's movements.
While reasonable suspicion would remain the test for obtaining a warrant to track the movement or location of things, the government strongly believes that tracking an individual's movements is a much more serious infringement on the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. Hence, the legislation proposes to provide a more stringent test, which the police would have to meet before they could obtain a warrant to track an individual.
The Government of Canada is strongly committed to maintaining the rule of law through all of its legislation. It will continue to ensure that such authority will be exercised, bearing in mind the privacy interests and human rights protected in Canadian laws, such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Privacy Act, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
Bill C-13, protecting Canadians from online crime act, is a prime example of this commitment. Again, I would like to urge all members in this chamber to support Bill C-13 and to see it put in place.