Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-13, the protecting Canadians from online crime act.
The legislation would make Canada a safer place by closing the gaps in criminal law by providing police officers with the tools they need to properly investigate crimes in the age of Internet communications. If I may, I would like to spend my time today talking about the elements of Bill C-13, which deal with the new and updated investigative tools that the legislation would provide to the police.
I would like to emphasize that nothing in the bill creates authority for warrantless access to personal information. This is my first point because I want to make it clear that proposals for access to subscriber information from former Bill C-30 the protecting children from Internet predators act, which were so controversial and so very unpopular, are not included in this legislation.
Bill C-13 and its proposals to modernize investigative tools for police, represent a giant leap forward for Canadian police by giving them tools for modern technology and investigations. These are the same tools our international partners have been using for years. These new investigative powers not only provide police with the judicially authorized tools they need to collect evidence in a modern telecommunications environment, they also take into account advances in technology and the potential impacts they have on the privacy of Canadians. In other words, they give police the tools they need to effectively investigate today's crimes, while ensuring the privacy of Canadians is properly considered.
I do not think it is an overstatement to say that technology has fundamentally changed the way we communicate with each other. The possibilities and opportunities that new technologies open up for us are nothing short of incredible. However, with the great potential comes great risk. The Internet and other new technologies allow criminals to commit identity theft in Switzerland, while sitting in a cafe in Halifax. It has also facilitated the explosive growth of sexual exploitation offences, such as the distribution of child pornography. As we have recently seen, it can provide an online forum for criminal harassment and extortion two criminal forms of cyberbullying.
An important consideration for the legislation before us is that technology has changed the type of evidence left behind after a crime has been committed. Scotland Yard estimates that over 80% of all crimes, whether a fraud committed over the Internet or an assault in a bar, have some form of telecommunications evidence associated with them.
The legislative proposals in the bill will not only assist police in investigating online crime, but also all crimes that involve electronic devices.
The guiding principle for the bill was to ensure that the Internet and other new communications technologies did not create a safe haven for activities that were otherwise unlawful. To prevent this from happening, Bill C-13 proposes to amend a number of existing offences in the Criminal Code to ensure that the Internet and other modes of communications are covered. For example, proposed amendments to subsection 372.3 of the Criminal Code with respect to harassing telephone calls will not only modernize the language of that provision, but also make it applicable in some cyberbullying situations.
Because so many of today's crimes are being committed online and using Internet-based technologies, we must ensure that our investigative tools are designed with this technological environment in mind.
Another important element of Bill C-13 is the proposal to update the existing production order scheme. A production order is a judicially authorized order that requires a third party to provide police with documents containing information connected to an investigation. There are currently two types of production orders in the Criminal Code: those relating to financial information and those relating to any other type of data that might be needed to conduct an investigation.
Often the requirements of an investigation are quite targeted. In those cases it makes sense to create specific tools that are designed to obtain specific types of data that also reflects the expectation of privacy associated with that kind of data.
As such, the bill proposes to retain the two existing production orders already found in the Criminal Code, but it also proposes three more to deal with the specific types of data associated with modern technology. These would include judicially authorized production orders for the following: first, data related to the dialing, routing, addressing or signalling of telecommunications, which would be known as transmission data; two, data relating to the whereabouts of a person, transaction or thing, which would be called tracking data; and third, data relating to the tracing of specified communications.
This last type of production order is particularly important, as it would allow police, for example, to trace the origin of an email, which would be extremely useful for identifying someone who is engaging in cyberbullying, specifically criminally harassing an individual, but has used several IP addresses to conceal his or her identity.
As I mentioned earlier, some of the proposals reflect the impact on personal privacy that advances in technology have brought. Police have been able to get judicial warrants to track individuals or things for 20 years now. As we can imagine, technology has changed a lot in that time. Where we were once able to track people with only limited accuracy, there are now technologies, like GPS, that can track the location of a person with much greater precision.
To take account of this, the bill proposes to increase the threshold necessary to get a tracking warrant in order to track an individual. Specifically, the police would now need to demonstrate that they have reasonable grounds to believe, as opposed to reasonable grounds to suspect, that an individual has or will be committed and that tracking an individual's movement will assist in the investigation of that offence.
The existing lower threshold warrant will still be retained for tracking things such as vehicles. We believe the new amendment regarding individuals is a significant privacy enhancement. This dual approach will allow police to retain the efficiency of the lower threshold warrant for tracking things, while increasing the privacy protection in situations of tracking individuals where there are greater privacy interests at play. This is an example of what we call privacy with precision.
The bill proposes to create some new tools designed to respond to the special demands of the digital environment, the preservation demand and the preservation order. These new tools would provide for a quick freeze of data. They would ensure that a person or business preserves a specific set of data long enough for a police officer to get a judicial warrant or order to obtain that data. Let me be clear, that preservation would not be confused with the types of data retention schemes we see in other places around the globe.
The bill does not ask a company to collect everyone's information and keep it on hand indefinitely or for a certain length of time. That is data retention and the bill is not proposing data retention. Rather, this proposed amendment addresses the highly perishable nature of digital information.
For example, a company might be required to preserve data related to a specific transaction that it would normally keep in order to further an investigation of identity theft. This data would be preserved only for a limited amount of time in relation to a specific investigation.
This kind of tool is essential to our ability to conduct effective investigations in an era where crucial evidence can be deleted in the blink of an eye. The preservation demand and preservation order will give police enough time to go to a judge and get the warrants or orders they need to subsequently obtain this highly volatile evidence.
Before I conclude my remarks, I would like to point out that one of the common myths I have heard opposition members and media alike talk about is that Bill C-13 would make it illegal to steal a cable signal. The fact is, it is already illegal to steal cable signals. This behaviour is prohibited by sections 326 and 327 of the Criminal Code. It is a type of theft.
The amendments proposed in Bill C-13 to these long-standing offences will update the telecommunication language to expand the conduct that it covers making it consistent with other offences. For example, it will add imports or “makes available” to the prohibited content in section 327.
The bill would also make section 327 a hybrid dual procedure offence, which would give prosecutors more discretion in their charging practices depending on the seriousness of the offence.
Further, the amendments proposed to repeal the definition of telecommunications found in section 326 and the criminal law will rely instead on the statutory definition of telecommunications in the Interpretation Act. This is not a substantive change.
In conclusion, I would like to add that the government undertook extensive consultations with stakeholders from industry, police and privacy advocates across the country in developing these amendments. With their input, this bill achieves the right balance between promoting safety and security and protecting the rights of all Canadians.
I hope all members appreciate the importance of this bill. Our police need modern tools for modern times. Bill C-13 would provide them with just that.
I have heard encouraging words from all sides of the House on this important debate and I urge all hon. members to give the bill their full support.