Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in today's very important debate on Bill C-13, the protecting Canadians from online crime act.
Bill C-13 would provide a strong criminal justice response to the problem of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying, much like bullying in general, is a very complex social phenomenon that requires the attention of all segments of society. Most bullying behaviour is not a criminal behaviour and should be dealt with outside of the criminal justice system. However, we know that the reach of the Internet, the speed at which information can be shared, and the ability to act anonymously have made cyberbullying a serious concern.
This problem cannot be fixed simply by enacting a new law that would adequately cover all instances of this behaviour, but that does not mean that the criminal law cannot be strengthened in this area. This is why Bill C-13 provides a targeted response within the government's broader commitment to address the issue of bullying and cyberbullying.
If passed into the law, the proposed Criminal Code amendments would create a new offence of non-consensual distribution of intimate images with accompanying complementary amendments. The second main purpose of Bill C-13 is to provide the police with tools to give them the ability to address all crimes committed via the Internet or that involve electronic evidence.
Let me state the obvious here. All of the elements of Bill C-13 logically go together. Police will be able to more effectively and efficiently investigate the proposed new offence and other crimes committed via the Internet or that involve electronic evidence with the proposed legally authorized tools.
Absent the new production and preservation orders proposed in Bill C-13, there would be no tool in the Criminal Code to enable the preservation and ensure that important evidence is not deleted. There would be no tool designed for production of specific subsets of tracking data and transmission data, nor would there be a tool to assist in tracing a communication by using one order with multiple providers. Without these tools, law enforcement's ability to protect Canadians from online crime and cyberbullying would be seriously hampered.
I would like to focus my remarks today on a specific provision included in Bill C-13, proposed subsection 487.0195(2) of the Criminal Code, which would provide immunity from civil and criminal liability to persons who voluntarily assist police. In a nutshell, proposed subsection 487.0195(2) would amend existing subsection 487.014(2) of the Criminal Code, which was enacted in 2004 with the creation of production orders in the Criminal Code. Subsection 487.014(2) was designed to clarify that the new production orders were not intended to preclude ongoing voluntary assistance where such assistance was not precluded by law and to reconfirm existing legal principles that such assistance would not create any liability, either civil or criminal.
When new authorities such as production orders are created in law, the result can be that common law authorities are displaced. This was not the intent when production orders were introduced into the Criminal Code in 2004, nor is it the intent with respect to the updates to production orders and the new preservation authorities proposed in Bill C-13.
The ability of the public to voluntarily assist police is essential to effective policing and a core component of ensuring public safety. Police may request information on a voluntary basis in many situations, including general policing duties that may not relate directly to investigating a crime, such as requesting information so they can contact family members when there is an accident.
However, I want to be clear. Bill C-13 would not create a new authority for voluntary assistance. It would simply clarify that any existing authority for voluntary assistance continues to be in place where not prohibited by law. It would also not create a new protection from civil or criminal liability but reconfirms the existing protection. This provision simply reconfirms existing legal principles that if an entity is legally permitted to turn over data to the police, then that entity will not be subject to civil or criminal liability for doing so. If an entity is prohibited by law from disclosing information, for example, by legislation or by contract, then immunity will not be available.
The minor revisions to existing subsection 487.014(2) that are proposed in Bill C-13 are primarily to make the provision more transparent and understandable by specifying that the protections from civil and criminal liability that are currently provided in section 25 of the Criminal Code, which deals with the protection of persons acting under authority, apply not only in the context of the current production orders but also in the context of the new production orders proposed in Bill C-13. The proposed amendments would also reflect the addition of preservation demands and orders to the Criminal Code.
This existing provision, which did not receive any attention when it was first enacted in 2004, attracted considerable criticism in the media and during committee hearings on Bill C-13. Indeed, this provision was wrongly reported as providing police with warrantless access to personal information and has been inaccurately described as a means of opening the floodgates of data between the private sector and the police.
In addition, some have also called for the deletion of this provision as a result of their interpretation of the June 2014 unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Spencer.
I wish first to confirm what the government has stated all along, a view supported by the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Spencer: that proposed subsection 487.0195(2) does not create any new search and seizure powers. Second, the proposed section continues to be required for those who continue to voluntarily assist the police where not prohibited by law. Those words are very specifically spelled out in the proposed legislation.
Specifically, the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Spencer said in paragraph 73 of the decision that the existing voluntary disclosure and immunity provision is “...a declaratory provision that confirms the existing common law powers of police officers to make enquiries”, as indicated by the fact that the section begins with the phrase “for greater certainty”. The decision makes it clear that Bill C-13 does not, and never did, create new police powers to access telecommunications data without a judicial warrant.
In R. v. Spencer, the court expanded the privacy protections afforded to information related to an Internet protocol, or IP, address in certain circumstances, thereby taking this information out of the realm of information that can be provided voluntarily. However, the court did not suggest that voluntary disclosures were now impermissible. Rather, it held that voluntary assistance could still be provided in exigent circumstances, or pursuant to a reasonable law, or where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. This clearly leaves scope for permissible voluntary assistance and provision of information without judicial pre-authorization.
Since the R. v. Spencer decision still allows for voluntary assistance to police in those circumstances, the clarification and the protection from immunity contained an existing subsection 487.014(2) and proposed subsection 487.0195(2) are still needed.
Bill C-13 was thoroughly examined by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The committee amended the bill to require a parliamentary review of proposed sections 487.011 to 487.02 of the Criminal Code—i.e., the new preservation demands and orders, the updated production order scheme, and the assistance order provision—seven years after these provisions come into force.
I agree with this amendment and said so at the justice committee. Given the highly technical nature of these reforms, I believe that a parliamentary review would be helpful to assess if the reforms have achieved their intended impacts. This amendment may also serve to alleviate some concerns expressed by privacy advocates, as it provides a future opportunity for inquiry into the privacy impacts of the legislation.
In summary. Bill C-13 was strengthened at committee and deserves to be passed into law in the form in which it was reported back to the House. I urge all hon. members to make this possible by ensuring the swift passage of the bill.