Mr. Speaker, the events over the past year have impacted all Canadians. The emergence of cyberbullying in society is troubling.
We agree with the government and victims that measures are needed to prevent and address cyberbullying. We, on this side, agree that we need action to properly provide a strong and fair response to those who perpetrate such hurtful acts against others online. It really is a tragedy to hear media reports of young people with their whole lives ahead of them believing that they have no other option than to take their lives. That is how deep and cruel cyberbullying can be. We should tackle this issue in a firm and focused manner.
Just last week, we marked Bullying Awareness Week. Indeed, there was a large summit held in my riding, an international summit, with social media companies and with young people from both sides of the border, which was organized by a well-known expert in this field Parry Aftab. Anti-bullying week and the summit to which I just referred provide us with an opportunity to reflect upon how our words and actions can sometimes have such a devastating impact upon others. This, I submit, holds true, not only for our youth but also the not so young.
As I have said in the House on a number of occasions, bullying is the reality for many people. Words do matter. Often, those words inflict great devastation upon young people. We know that what was once the sole domain of the schoolyard has now moved to the online world. The traditional bully, who typically sought out a victim at school, is now able to extend his reach online. The victim of bullying at school could, at one time, get some relief when he or she would go home, perhaps finding some respite in the confines of his or her room, a place where it was safe and away from the bullies. Not any more. The bullies can now extend that reach into that bedroom, using the Internet as a virtual schoolyard.
We know that some young people say terrible things to each other online. We can only imagine how hurtful it would be to arrive home, perhaps having an already rough day, only to go online and read something about oneself that is likely untrue or perhaps embarrassing. We can only imagine how hurtful and distressing it would be to read an online post or comment calling someone a “fag” or a “dyke” or suggesting that an individual is “weird”, “fat”, “ugly” or any number of hurtful and devastating comments.
We can only imagine how this would pierce the soul of a young person, many of whom are already vulnerable with the all too common challenges of growing up. This is the reality of Canadian youth, day in and day out. This is the ruthless side of technology and the use of the Internet.
That is why we sought to address this issue through legislation last year with a cyberbullying bill from the Liberal member for Vancouver Centre, which I will address again later.
We know that school can be tough, but bullying is not the exclusive domain of young people. I submit to my colleagues that we find bullying here, in this chamber. We often attack one another. We often do so for having a different opinion on such and such a matter. We exaggerate that which is often not worth exaggerating. We do not do a very good job of listening to each other and engaging in real debate. We seem to ignore or exclude the possibility that someone else might have a helpful solution or a proposal worthy of at least a hearing. It is possible to learn from one another.
Instead, as I have experienced in my short time here, having a different opinion is sometimes tantamount to siding with the criminals, and then we use the pretext of democracy to legitimize such behaviour. This is, frankly, the poor example we sometimes give to the public and to young people.
Earlier in my remarks, I indicated that there was an international summit held in Charlottetown on bullying. The organizers of that summit were actually invited into the House of Commons last week on the day of the announcement of this introduction of this legislation. I can say that on that day we did not exactly do our best job. When these constituents, who were here at the invitation of the Prime Minister, had a chance to observe the antics on the floor of the House of Commons, it is safe to say that as advocates against bullying, they were not impressed.
Today we are debating a bill that was supposed to address bullying and the emergence of cyberbullying specifically. However, for some reason, much of this bill has little to do with cyberbullying. I was surprised by this. I actually assumed that the Conservatives would have played this one straight and up front.
Bill C-13, we were told, was to address cyberbullying. It would appear, however, that the Conservative government knowingly used this highly emotional issue as a cover to include legislative measures that have nothing to do with cyberbullying. Conflating, for example, terrorism with cyberbullying does not make any sense. Furthermore, using the scourge of cyberbullying in order to resurrect elements of the infamous Bill C-30, a piece of legislative work wholly rejected because it was in effect an e-snooping bill, is wrong.
Members will remember that bill. It was a bill proposed just last year by Vic Toews, the former Conservative public safety minister. We are also given to understand that the former minister of justice and the current Minister of Justice sought to meet with victims of cyberbullying and their families as they prepared to introduce cyberbully legislation. I commend them for reaching out.
However, much of this bill has little to do with cyberbullying, and that is why we agree with the motion that was put forward by my colleague from Gatineau to split the bill at committee. We do so because all of us on this side had genuinely hoped that it was to be a stand-alone issue; instead, we have a bill before us full of content unrelated to cyberbullying.
We know the minister consulted victims of bullying and their families. I suggest that there will not be one member of the Conservative caucus able to coherently tell Canadians why providing, for example, big telecom companies with immunity to share private information of any Canadian to the government without a warrant has much to do with cyberbullying. There will not be one Conservative MP who could say with any sense of reliability that allowing telecom companies free range to divulge to Canada's security services anything they want at any time without any exposure to civil litigation or criminal charges is in any way tackling cyberbullying. As we heard earlier in the debate, that, in my submission, is the poison pill in this legislation.
The government seems to be using victims of cyberbullying for political and partisan reasons. That is why we agree with the proposal to split this bill at committee and deal with the cyberbullying aspects of it as a stand-alone bill.
When Vic Toews introduced his odious and unconstitutional e-snooping bill last year, a bill that would have allowed widespread government invasion into the privacy of Canadians without a warrant, he did so, to his credit, up front. He did not try to hide it—well, not too much. Faced with fierce opposition to such a massive assault on the privacy of Canadians, he famously said of the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, “He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”
At least Vic Toews was up front in his effort to attack the privacy of Canadians.
Again the minister has a bill before the House, the vast majority of which has nothing to do with cyberbullying. I am not sure that I got an answer to my question, but I hope the Minister of Justice will do the right thing and allow the Conservative members of the justice committee the option to split this bill so that we can deal with cyberbullying as a stand-alone bill. Numerous measures from the old Vic Toews' e-snooping bill have no place in this bill.
I know that the minister will resist the temptation to suggest that we are on the side of the bullies when we seek to split the bill to deal with the cyberbullying as a stand-alone bill. To that point, let me be very clear: there is not one person in this House of Commons who does not want to combat cyberbullying.
As mentioned earlier, my colleague from Vancouver Centre, a person of great distinction and someone who has worked with victims of bullying and their families over the years, proposed a bill just last year on the very issue of cyberbullying. When it came time to vote on her bill, the Conservatives voted against it.
Since there was no discernible reason for the Conservatives to vote against her cyberbullying bill, we are left to speculate that they did so because the bill emanated from an opposition party, in this case the Liberal Party of Canada. Now here we are today, dealing with a bill we hoped would not be politicized. Unfortunately, it contains just five pages on cyberbullying, with the remaining 50-plus pages containing unrelated measures.
I earlier commended the minister for reaching out to victims of bullying as he prepared this legislation. As the minister was consulting victims of bullying and their families this summer, I contend that not one of those Canadians would have asked the minister to give telecoms and Internet service providers the right to share online data with Canadians without a warrant and to make it a criminal offence to steal cable signals or WiFi. I would challenge the minister to produce evidence if he could suggest otherwise.
Why, then, did the minister not simply do the right thing and introduce a stand-alone bill that tackled cyberbullying and only cyberbullying? Why did the minister include matters so disconnected to the issue of cyberbullying?
There are measures in the bill that seek to address cyberbullying. That much is not in dispute. As my colleague from Gatineau pointed out, they are in clauses 1 through 7.
The relevant section is the one that deals with the non-consensual exchange of intimate images. It belongs there. It is an issue that needed to be addressed, and we do not take issue with it. In light of the recent tragedies involving cyberbullying, we should support the creation of an offence to deter the non-consensual transfer of intimate images. This new offence would criminalize this kind of malicious photo sharing that specifically contributed to the tragic circumstances in which Rehtaeh Parsons decided to take her own life.
We know that cyberbullying is all too common among children and teenagers. As we proceed with addressing this issue, we must acknowledge that, given the immaturity of children, we should support preventative and restorative measures and not just punitive measures. We do not wish to see the imprisonment of Canadian children and teenagers in large numbers, so while supporting the intention of the creation of this offence, we should be careful to emphasize the importance of including a summary conviction option to allow for sufficient prosecutorial discretion, as is currently the case. I believe and hope the government will be open to that.
We should also assess and be open to addressing cyberbullying through restorative justice and non-legislative methods, and we should do so in conjunction with the provinces.
I mentioned earlier that most of this bill has little to do with cyberbullying. The measures that actually relate to cyberbullying amount to about five pages out of a bill that is more than 50 pages in length.
The government wonders why Canadians do not trust it to be up front and transparent with respect to its real agenda. If those provisions I just outlined had been placed in a separate bill, we could have proceeded. We could have sent a stand-alone bill immediately to the justice committee for review and provided the much-needed opportunity for victims to lend voice to the merits of such a bill. We could have then agreed to pass the bill at all remaining stages, and I would suggest that we could have it passed by Christmas.
Instead we have a government bill that reintroduces odious and unconstitutional measures that Canadians rejected last year. Here are just some of the measures currently in the bill that have absolutely nothing to do with cyberbullying. These measures are recycled from the bill put forward by the former minister of public safety, Vic Toews. We were told this would not happen again in light of the reaction of Canadians. The former justice minister, now occupying the national defence portfolio, said:
We will not be proceeding with Bill C-30 and any attempts that we will continue to have to modernize the Criminal Code will not contain the measures contained in C-30.
The new bill proposed today contradicts that promise in 37 of the 47 clauses contained in the bill. That is why we wish to have the bill separated and to place those provisions related to cyberbullying in a stand-alone bill.
Let me outline the elements contained in the old Vic Toews bill that we were promised would never rear its head again. These measures are now in the bill before us.
They include updates to technology-related offences such as theft of telecom signals and unauthorized use of computers, which has nothing to do with cyberbullying; the power to make preservation demands and orders to compel the preservation of electronic evidence, which has nothing to do with cyberbullying; new production orders to compel the production of data relating to the transmission of communications and the location of transactions, individuals, or things, which has nothing to do with cyberbullying; a warrant that will extend the current investigative power for data associated with telephones to all means of communication, which has nothing to do with cyberbullying; warrants that will enable the tracking of transactions, individuals, and things that are subject to legal thresholds appropriate to the interests at stake, including time extensions for warrants relating to organized crime and terrorism, which has nothing to do with cyberbullying; a so-called streamlined process of obtaining warrants and orders related to authorizations to intercept private communications, which has nothing to do with cyberbullying.
We reject using victims of bullying as a way to bring back the ghost of Vic Toews and his e-snooping bill. This was supposed to be a good day for young people and others who have been the subject of bullying online. This was supposed to be a day when this whole House, all of us, could stand in solidarity with victims of cyberbullying and support legislation that would help address its prevalence in Canada. Instead, we have politics as usual.
It is unfortunate that members who have a sincere interest and desire to address cyberbullying are being used as cover for the introduction of multiple items that have little or nothing to do with cyberbullying. The bill capitalizes on the tragic passing of teens victimized by cyberbullying to reinstate elements of legislation the government had previously withdrawn and had sworn not to reintroduce.
The current bill deprives members of a chance to stand in solidarity in addressing one of the problems affecting Canada's young people, namely cyberbullying, as a distinct and stand-alone bill. It includes provisions unrelated to cyberbullying that may infringe on civil liberties. It raises privacy concerns that ought to be referred to the Privacy Commissioner and legal experts, or perhaps be dealt with at committee prior to deliberation and debate in the House. The bill encourages telecommunications companies and Internet service providers to co-operate with the government in surveillance matters in a way that Canadians would find objectionable.
That is why we wish to have the bill split at the justice committee so that those measures, and those measures alone, that seek to address cyberbullying could be captured in their own legislation, free from the politics and division that this issue should avoid.