Evidence of meeting #28 for Justice and Human Rights in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was information.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Basiliki Schinas-Vlasis  Co-Founder, York Region, Bully Free Community Alliance
Gwyneth Anderson  Co-Founder, York Region, Bully Free Community Alliance
Marvin Bernstein  Chief Policy Advisor, UNICEF Canada
Stephen Anderson  Executive Director, OpenMedia.ca
Parry Aftab  Executive Director, StopCyberbullying, WiredSafety
Shaheen Shariff  Associate Professor, Faculty of Education and Associate Member Law Faculty, McGill University, As an Individual

11 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

I'm going to call this meeting to order. We have a few housekeeping items before we get to our guests.

This is meeting number 28 of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The meeting is being televised as requested. As a reminder to my friends who are on the cameras behind me, these are fixed shots, so no panning the room. Only those who are individually speaking can be televised.

I have a couple of housekeeping items first of all that I want to deal with before we move to the witnesses.

Let me deal with Thursday first. We have a commitment from Facebook to be here live on Thursday. They have requested that The Internet Association also appear. They were was not on anyone's list; this is Facebook's request. They can appear by video conference only. At present we are in Centre Block, because our meeting today is going to be televised, but you cannot do video conferencing from Centre Block until we get it properly wired. We either have to move to another room or to 1 Wellington to have The Internet Association folks appear by video conference.

This time slot always has the issue of potentially conflicting with votes. I don't think it's happening today. I'm leaving it to committee to discuss whether we stick with the Centre Block and have Facebook here, and say sorry to The Internet Association, or move to either to 1 Wellington or stay here and have The Internet Association by video conference.

Madam Boivin, on that point.

11 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

On that point I'm a bit torn.

Mr. Chair, here is what I would like to know.

Can we agree on the following, if we end up with time allocation votes, regardless of how many? I do not want our meeting to be just 30 minutes long. We are in the Centre Block and we are so close to where the votes are held that we can easily keep working here and extend our meeting.

This is the last day we have to hear from witnesses. So let us try to make the most of it. Otherwise, the prudent thing to do would be to reserve next Tuesday’s meeting to meet with the other witnesses we have not heard from.

The committee really wanted to hear from representatives from the Internet Association and from Facebook. I congratulate the clerk for insisting that they were witnesses we wanted to hear from. I appreciate his initiative very much and am very happy with it. But I would not like the testimony from the representatives of those two groups to be short-circuited by the bells, because we have 30 minutes to get into the Chamber area and we would be losing those 30 minutes completely.

My answer as to whether we move or not depends somewhat on your answer.

11 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Let me respond to that point first of all.

Obviously, I can't predetermine whether there will be votes or not. If we were in any committee meeting and there were bells, if I had the unanimous consent of the committee to continue, I would continue, but only following the rules of unanimous consent.

If you embark on having conversations with your colleagues for Thursday because of the difficulty we've had getting some of the witnesses here, and Thursday's the day they're appearing—and I do want to thank the clerk for all his work on making that happen—I think you might be able to find some agreement around the table. But I can't do that now, and I can't predetermine that now.

On your other item you mentioned, which I think Mr. Dechert had his hand up for too, we had planned for Tuesday to begin the clause by clause. I know you put a motion forward. You don't have to do that when we're dealing with an item, just so you know for future reference. If it's within the study or the legislation we're dealing with now, you can move anything you want as long as it deals with that particular item.

Based on the letter we got from the privacy commissioners from Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta.... They didn't ask to appear, but they asked us to have the national Privacy Commissioner, so my suggestion is that we put the first hour of next Tuesday aside and invite that individual to come for that first hour. If we need more hours, as a committee we can decide. If not, we go to the clause by clause.

So for next Tuesday, if I have an agreement, we will invite today the new Canadian Privacy Commissioner to come to talk to his report. And I'll hear from the opposition and from the government on what you want to do on Thursday about the rooms.

Mr. Dechert, and then I'll go to Mr. Casey.

11:05 a.m.


Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

First of all, we're content with the suggestion that the federal Privacy Commissioner appear next Tuesday.

Secondly, with respect to this Thursday, we're content to go a bit into the bells period. We'll be in the Centre Block and therefore very close.

Is the issue with respect to the room on Thursday that you can't do a video conference?

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

We cannot do a video conference in Centre Block. Some year, when they close Centre Block and renovate it, we'll be able to do that.

11:05 a.m.


Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

I find this frustrating. My personal view is that having television taping of the proceedings is very important. It would be good to have it in Centre Block for that reason.

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

We can do television and video conferencing from 1 Wellington. We can do both.

11:05 a.m.


Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

But then you'll have a problem with timing because of the bells.

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

The 30 minutes becomes a lot more important, because it takes 10 to 15 minutes to get there.

11:05 a.m.


Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON


11:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Mr. Casey, any comment?

11:05 a.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

I think we need to hear from the Internet providers association. I would prefer to take the chance that our meeting will be shortened by votes than completely abandon any possibility of hearing from them. For example, Google isn't coming because they're purportedly being represented by these guys. So this is as close as we'll get to talking with Google. I'd prefer to take the risk of the votes shortening the meeting than to not have the chance to hear from them.

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace


Based on what I'm hearing, let me make the suggestion that since we seem to have unanimous consent to go into the bells a little bit and we do want to hear from everyone, we go to 1 Wellington so that we can have it televised; we get everybody on the record, or at least get their statements on the record; and we have a question period.

Who knows? We may not have any bells. It's just that with that time slot we want to be sure.

Does that satisfy everyone? We'll have The Internet Association; there will be four witnesses then, and we'll go from there.

Madame Boivin.

11:05 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

The other suggestion might have been to bring them on Tuesday by video conference to 268 La Promenade with the commissioner, if we have the commissioner's office in the first hour.

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Right, but the issue is that our friends from Facebook want The Internet Association appearing at the same time.

11:10 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC


11:10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

So we'll go with 1 Wellington on Thursday. Let's hope there are no votes.

I think that covers off everything.

Your notice of motion we've looked after. We'll invite the new Privacy Commissioner, who will be fully appointed by Thursday. Hopefully they appear. I will let you know on Thursday if there are any issues.

Thank you, witnesses, for your patience on that. It's an important bill, and we want to make sure that all of the witnesses who have been requested to come and see us do so.

As per our order of reference of Monday, April 28, we are dealing with Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act. We have a number of witnesses today. Each group will have ten minutes, and then we will go to a question and answer period.

Without any further ado, we'll start with the Bully Free Community Alliance. We have Ms. Anderson, the co-founder, and Ms. Schinas-Vlasis.

Thank you very much. The floor is yours for ten minutes.

11:10 a.m.

Basiliki Schinas-Vlasis Co-Founder, York Region, Bully Free Community Alliance

Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Ask.fm, Twitter, Vine, Omegle, Yik Yak, Tinder, Voxer, and Kik are just some of the apps and sites that our youth visit, post on, and download from. They are also the 24-hour accessible apps and sites that subject our children to teasing, taunting, torment, and threats, from which the only escape for some has been death.

Good morning, Mr. Chair. My name is Bessie Vlasis. My colleague Gwyneth Anderson and I are co-founders of the Bully Free Community Alliance, a grassroots not-for-profit organization located in York Region, Ontario.

Thank you for inviting us here today. We are honoured to have a voice and to be part of the conversation about Bill C-13.

The Bully Free Community Alliance’s mission and vision is to build and sustain positive communities. Our work began over seven years ago when our children became victims of bullying. We witnessed our young, vibrant, intelligent, and happy children withdraw and become physically sick, anxious, and scared. We felt helpless. We searched desperately for support and found ourselves having to navigate the effects of bullying on our own. We knew that pointing fingers and laying blame would accomplish nothing productive, so our research began and our organization developed.

Our organization collaborates with many stakeholders within the York Region community.

We have partnered for the past four years with the York Region District School Board. Due to our long-standing relationship, we sit on their Caring and Safe Schools Committee and are members of their newly formed Cyber Bullying Task Force.

We are contributors to the Ontario Ministry of Education’s “Parent Tool Kit”, which has just been launched. We are members of the York Region Bullying Prevention Partnership, comprising the York Regional Police, both Catholic and public school boards, Addiction Services of York Region, Character Community, and Children’s Mental Health, to name a few. We work with the Toronto Argonauts Foundation’s Huddle Up Bullying prevention program, as well as the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness. We work directly with the York Regional Police and the Town of Newmarket, including the Newmarket Recreation Youth Centre, where we currently are implementing positive programs and initiatives for youth and their families.

As we discovered early on in our journey, there is very little help or support for victims of bullying and their parents. Often, schools are ill-equipped and lack the knowledge, support, and information necessary to successfully address the problem in an effective manner, particularly in cases of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying poses significant challenges. It has no boundaries and no limits. It can only be addressed with efforts that parallel its limitless nature. To effect positive change, we must work together. Our efforts must span communities and provincial borders. We must identify the root of the problem, where we are going wrong as parents and as a society, and how we can make it better.

11:10 a.m.

Gwyneth Anderson Co-Founder, York Region, Bully Free Community Alliance

We need a culture shift. It's a huge undertaking, but that should not discourage the effort; for it is not a child's privilege to feel safe and welcomed at home, in school, and in their community, but their right, a very basic right.

When children start taking their own lives and mental health issues are at a national high, the adults in this room need to pay attention and we need to take action.

For all of its positive attributes, technology is being used to inflict harm and to socially victimize. Our youth have no safe place to go. It is easy to say to a teenager, “Just turn it off”, “Don’t look at it”, or “Don't read it”, but their reality is very much tied to what they see and hear on the Internet and social media.

The number of likes they get on Instagram or the retweets on Twitter are a large part of how they socialize today and where they draw their sense of belonging.

We cannot trivialize the reality that our children live and deal with on a daily basis. The Bully Free Community Alliance views bullying as a large puzzle. Countless people hold the pieces to this puzzle: students, parents, teachers, administrators, school boards, community members, agencies, municipalities, provinces, and our federal government. All of the puzzle pieces need to come together to find and implement a solution.

We acknowledge the efforts of our federal government. We view Bill C-13 as one piece of this complex puzzle. We agree that the Criminal Code needs to be updated and changed for police to respond effectively and quickly to cyberbullying. Is Bill C-13 the answer to the critical challenges posed by cyberbullying? We don’t think so; not on its own. But Bill C-13 is a positive first step forward.

We are aware of the controversy surrounding the privacy aspect of this bill. Protecting the privacy of Canadians is very important, but when our children press an app or sign on to social media, do they really have privacy?

All of us have an expectation of privacy when we share online; however, when someone ignores that expectation or takes advantage of someone, that right to remain anonymous is lost and our justice system should be allowed to protect us and keep us safe.

The right to remain anonymous cannot take precedence over the basic right to feel safe and protected. Bully Free Community Alliance believes there needs to be a national strategy that follows Bill C-13. It would not be fair to Canadians to say that this is all we are doing to address cyberbullying.

We can't stop here. Bill C-13 must be bolstered by a national strategy. Technology will continue to evolve at a rapid pace and so will new ways to abuse it. We must respond with a sense of urgency to put an end to social victimization. This has become a matter of saving lives. We must initiate steps to cultivate a growing culture of respect and kindness for each other.

This may sound like an unrealistic and impossible undertaking, but let us reflect for a moment. We changed a culture on how we view smoking because it was killing people. We changed a culture on drinking and driving, and how we viewed that because it was killing people. We changed a culture on how we view the environment because people were getting sick and they were dying. We can certainly change a culture on how we treat each other. Canadians deserve nothing less.

Bill C-13, together with a national strategy, is a groundbreaking step. Canada should lead the way and we should set the example.

We will conclude with a quote from Anne Frank:

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Thank you.

11:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you for that presentation from the Bully Free Community Alliance.

Our next presenter is from UNICEF Canada.

Mr. Bernstein, the floor is yours for 10 minutes.

11:15 a.m.

Marvin Bernstein Chief Policy Advisor, UNICEF Canada

Thank you.

UNICEF appreciates the opportunity to present to this committee, so thank you very much.

We see Bill C-13 as one step in the right direction. We certainly commend the work of the Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials Cybercrime Working Group, which delivered its report. Among its important findings, the working group concluded that existing Criminal Code offences generally cover the most serious bullying behaviour and a new specific Criminal Code offence of bullying or cyberbullying isn't required. However, the working group also concluded that there is a gap in the Criminal Code's treatment of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images or “sexting”, which can lead to excessive responses, such as the laying of child pornography charges against young people. It therefore recommends that a new criminal offence addressing the non-consensual distribution of intimate images be created, and this bill provides for it.

While the report covers a number of important issues very effectively, we do have some caveats. The report doesn’t address the degree of flexibility required when cyberbullies are children or young people. The report seems to be based upon the contemplation that children and young people will always be the victims, and it doesn't consider the unintended implications of removing specific intent and adding an alternative recklessness standard to the constituent elements of the offence.

We are pleased that this bill is before the committee and is receiving further study at this time.

We also would encourage this committee to consider, as I'm sure you will, the important recommendations set out in the Senate committee report “Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age”. In that report, there was a strong call for a national, well-coordinated anti-bullying strategy with the provinces and territories. One of the manifestations of not having that coordinated strategy is that we see the provinces and territories branching out and introducing anti-bullying legislation of their own. There are some common elements from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but there are some significant differences and approaches. Some of those perhaps aren't always in keeping with best practices and evidence-based research, so there is a role for the federal government to coordinate more effectively.

We also propose the development of prosecutorial guidelines that would see young people prosecuted only as an option of last resort.

Finally, we recommend in our brief a series of further amendments to the Criminal Code that would provide for the addition of bullying intent as a requirement of the offence; the deletion of a reckless standard from the offence provision; and the amendment to the open-ended length of Internet prohibitions upon conviction. Right now, the way the provision reads it seems to even give effect to a lifetime ban, which would have very serious implications. We are also recommending an exemption for young people from a child pornography conviction for sexting caught by this new offence and for lawful consensual sexting for selfies.

We would support the provisions in Bill C-13 and commend all of the strong work that has gone into developing the bill, limited to cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, if its provisions were supplemented by the additional Criminal Code amendments we are proposing. These, together with a well-coordinated, multi-pronged federal-provincial-territorial strategy to combat cyberbullying founded on the pillars of prevention, education, child empowerment, and capacity-building, including the appropriate use of legal sanctions, would balance the best interests of all children and young people, whether their experiences are those of actual or potential victims, cyberbullies, or bystanders.

It's important to recognize from our view that children and young people are not just victims but can also be cyberbullies and bystanders, and even when they are victims they can sometimes move into the roles of cyberbullies and bystanders on other occasions. This requires a careful balancing of their rights and best interests when considering the impacts upon all groups of children in these various roles as they migrate from one role to the other. If we are not careful, the bill may end up inadvertently hurting and punishing some of the very children and young people it's seeking to protect.

We appreciate that for the most egregious acts perpetrated by young persons, the relevant provisions of the proposed legislation are more appropriate as a response than the use of child pornography charges. The fact that the proposed legislation would apply to people of all ages rather than unfairly targeting young people as perpetrators is also welcome.

In tandem with any new legislative response to the broader social problem of bullying, UNICEF Canada urges a stronger focus on education and prevention so that young people, be they potential or actual bullies, victims, or bystanders, understand the social, health, and legal consequences of their digital actions for others and for themselves. Children have the ability and resiliency to protect themselves and others and to alter their own behaviour once they are effectively informed about the risks. We should be empowering children at an early age to become good digital citizens and make informed and responsible choices when they use online media.

In the case of children we urge the development of prosecutorial guidelines for any new legislation so that only the most serious cases result in criminal charges against young people. Such guidelines should also encourage the laying of charges for the non-consensual distribution of intimate images under the new Criminal Code offence once proclaimed in force rather than under the more punitive child pornography provisions of the code where young people are charged.

In addition, we recommend the careful analysis and evaluation of both the intended and unintended impacts of this proposed new legislation on children and young people.

In UNICEF's recent report card on child well-being, Canada ranked 21st out of 29 industrialized nations in the incidence of bullying. Canada must examine what other countries with lower rates, such as Italy, Sweden, and Spain, are doing right so we can prevent more pain, more loss, and senseless death.

We know there are a number of different pieces. This is certainly one component. In a recent Canadian Bar Association webinar speaking to the Nova Scotia legislation approach to cyberbullying, it was explained that protection orders can be obtained through an application to a JP or a prevention order can be obtained after a complaint is made to a director of public safety.

It was conveyed to us that in about 250 orders, virtually all of these orders have been applied for or obtained by schools or by parents. This is not a vehicle by and large that young people are actually accessing so there must be some concern about perhaps being subject to further victimization, or perhaps having their parents fined by virtue of the Nova Scotia legislation.

So we need to find responses. This is one mechanism, but this is really after the fact. When we talk about deterrents, and we explain to young people there might be certain consequences, it's important that, in terms of public spots, in terms of profiling some of the implications, the emphasis should really be on prevention and education. We should be talking about responsible behaviour and engaging in constructive and positive interaction with their peers, rather than the punitive side and perhaps attempting to inject the fear or the spectre of criminal sanctions.

Thank you.

11:25 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you to UNICEF Canada.

Next, we have from OpenMedia.ca. It's Mr. Anderson. I understand you're from Vancouver, Mr. Anderson. I hoped we offered you video conferencing based on that conversation before, so you didn't have to make the trip.

Thank you for being here. The floor is yours for 10 minutes.

11:25 a.m.

Stephen Anderson Executive Director, OpenMedia.ca

Thanks for having me, and thank you for this opportunity to speak before the committee regarding Bill C-13.

I'm Steve Anderson, the executive director of OpenMedia.ca. We're a community-based organization working to safeguard the open Internet.

As you may know, OpenMedia.ca works with many other groups to lead the Stop Online Spying campaign, which successfully convinced the government to shelve the lawful access legislation, Bill C-30. Nearly 150,000 Canadians took part in that campaign.

Last year we started the Protect Our Privacy coalition, which is the largest pro-privacy coalition in Canadian history, with over 50 organizations from across Canada.

You know you've hit on a common Canadian value when you have groups ranging from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Council of Canadians, to small businesses, to labour unions, all joining forces on this issue of privacy. As it stands, we have a privacy deficit in Canada, and I'm afraid that Bill C-13 will only deepen that deficit.

I believe this privacy deficit is the result of a democratic deficit. If the government, including members of this committee, were listening to the concerns of Canadians, there is no way you would be paving the way for a range of authorities to have increased warrantless access to our sensitive private information.

To help bring the concerns of Canadians to this committee, I have crowd-sourced this presentation for you today. I asked Canadians online what they thought I should say, and I have done my best to incorporate their input into my presentation. I'll reference them from time to time.

I'll confine my presentation to the lawful access portion, as that is where Canadians have expressed the most concern and I think where I personally also have the most concern.

The Canadians I spoke to had three main concerns: first, immunity for activities that victimize innocent Canadians; second, accountability and oversight; and third, data security.

On immunity, which I'll talk about first, Bill C-13 in its current form provides communications companies that hand over sensitive information about innocent Canadians with absolute immunity from criminal and civil liability.

Recent revelations show that the government agencies made 1.2 million requests for customer data from telecom companies in only one year and that companies apparently complied with those voluntary requests most of the time. After learning of this, Canadians have been looking for more safeguards rather than weakening privacy safeguards.

At the moment, an unlimited swath of information can be accessed by a simple phone call to an Internet service provider. Government agencies don't even need to provide a written request, and we are told that some agencies even refuse to put their requests in writing to avoid a paper trail. This extrajudicial practice works, because there is a loophole that allows authorities to obtain voluntary warrantless access to law-abiding Canadians' sensitive information.

The disclosure immunity provided in Bill C-13 will make the privacy loophole even bigger by removing one of the few incentives for telecom companies to safeguard our data from warrantless disclosures.

Canadian citizen, Gord Tomlin, had this to say on the matter via Facebook:

If 'authorities' need information, they can get a warrant. It's not onerous, it's one of the checks and balances that is supposed to protect our system from abuse.

Danielle had this to say on the OpenMedia.ca website:

If accessing an individual's private information is not arbitrary but is justifiable, then a warrant can be obtained. Otherwise, it is expected that the law [will] protect us from privacy violations...

There were many more like that.

Providing telecom companies who engage in extrajudicial disclosure of Canadians' sensitive information is encouraging moral hazard. It's encouraging reckless and irresponsible behaviour.

I'll now move on to accountability and oversight.

Canadians find it troubling that Bill C-13 makes little effort to keep government agencies transparent and accountable. Most shockingly, there is no requirement that officials notify those innocent Canadians who have had their data stored in government databases. The lack of knowledge and consent by those victimized through surveillance and warrantless disclosure is frustrating to many Canadians.

As one Canadian put it:

I would like to see a requirement that persons whose data has been accessed, be informed of this fact and that there be a major penalty...if there is a failure to comply with this requirement.

The proposed lowering of the “reason to suspect” threshold for transition data warrants is also of concern to Canadians. We're talking about the collection of data—and let's be clear about this—that can reveal political and religious affiliations, medical conditions, the types of activities we engage in online and offline, and whom we socialize with. This is incredibly invasive stuff.

On the topic of accountability, several people also highlighted the costs associated with these data transfers and that they would have to pay for them, and that it would limit our digital economy.

On data security concerns, many Canadians are concerned with how secure data will be once authorities expand their collection through the measures in Bill C-13.

Given recent breaches at federal offices—the CRA and student loans, for example—many Canadians question if we can trust government authorities to properly protect their data from cybercriminals and identity thieves.

One person online said: The federal government, and indeed the vague category of 'public officials,' has a poor track record of protecting private information already. It's common occurrence in the Canadian news environment to hear about some government agency or officials losing the confidential information of Canadians such as last March's revelation the government had lost the student loan information of nearly 600,000 Canadians. Broadening the powers of officials to access this information only increases the danger that confidential information will end up in the wrong hands.

Bill C-13 also problematically expands the bureaucrats and agencies that can access our private information, including CSEC and CSIS, which are currently facing their own crisis of accountability, given the recent Snowden disclosures. I fail to see how that is connected to cyberbullying at all.

Bill C-13 does not, in its current form, provide effective measures to increase transparency, accountability, or reporting on warrantless access to private data.

In sum, I recommend that this committee remove the telecom immunity and weakening warrant standards, while adding new reporting and accountability measures to this bill.

I also want to join the growing numbers calling for you to split the bill up so that we can move on the cyberbullying portion, which I think there is growing consensus around, minus some reforms, and have a proper debate on lawful access.

As one person put it, “Any expansion of government powers needs to be linked to a compelling societal need.”

The lawful access section is not connected to cyberbullying. I don't think that connection has been made for Canadians in nearly enough detail.

I also think it's worth repeating what Carol Todd, the mother of cyberbullying victim Amanda Todd, told this committee. She said:

I don't want to see our children victimized again by losing privacy rights. I am troubled by some of these provisions condoning the sharing of the privacy information of Canadians without proper legal process.

I think both those on the front lines of law enforcement and Canadians want authorities to have the tools tailored to bringing a variety of criminals to justice. What this bill does at the moment is unnecessarily combine some of those tools with unpopular mechanisms that encourage mass disclosure of sensitive information.

I implore the committee to consider that just one database, the RCMP's Canadian Police Information Centre, has sensitive data on more than 420,000 Canadians. These people have no criminal record of any kind. Many have their information stored due to simply having suffered a mental health issue.

I'd also consider that a Canadian named Diane is one of more than 200 Canadians who recently came forward to say that their personal or professional lives have been ruined despite never having broken the law. Why? Because information about them has been wrongfully disclosed to third parties—in Diane's case, her employer.

Now consider the fact that in recent years federal government agencies alone have seen over 3,000 breaches of highly sensitive private information of Canadians. Consider also that this has affected an estimated 750,000 people.

In Diane's case, she was the victim of a false accusation, which was withdrawn years ago, yet it continues to affect her career. Diane's response after being victimized by this privacy intrusion and having her professional life unfairly curtailed was, unsurprisingly, disbelief, shock, and anger.

Now imagine that Diane was your family member or someone you know. You don't need to put them at risk like this. You can choose to split up the bill and make the necessary reforms whilst dealing with cyberbullying.

Why should Canadian victims be re-victimized by violations to their privacy? Why should those with mental health issues need to live in fear? They don't.

Canadians, including some of the government's biggest supporters, whom I'm working with closely on this matter, are wondering why the government is deepening our privacy deficit when other countries are beginning to rein in surveillance. They're wondering why you're mismanaging our data security.

In closing, as Jesse Kline wrote in the National Post last week, “When the Canadian public, parents of victims of cyberbullying, privacy commissioners and former cabinet ministers all voice serious concerns about a bill, it is a sure sign that something is wrong, and the government should listen.”

Thank you.

11:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Mike Wallace

Thank you very much for that presentation from OpenMedia.ca.

Our next presenter is from WiredSafety, Ms. Aftab. The floor is yours for 10 minutes.

11:35 a.m.

Dr. Parry Aftab Executive Director, StopCyberbullying, WiredSafety

Thank you.

Good morning, and thank you very much for inviting me to speak here as a witness today. I wasn't given the option to do it by video conference, but I wouldn't have taken it anyway because I enjoy Ottawa and Canada. I'll tell you a little bit that's not in my prepared notes, but I first fell in love with a Canadian, and I married a Maritimer, so it didn't take long for me to also fall in love with Canada.

I'm an Internet privacy and security lawyer. I run WiredSafety, and we are the oldest and largest Internet safety organization in the world. We are one of five members of Facebook's international Safety Advisory Board. We are the only ones who are uncompensated, to my knowledge.

I also run StopCyberbullying. It's the first non-profit program devoted to cyberbullying also in the world. It's been around for eight years now formally, and much longer informally. We hold summits and bring in young people to help on these issues. Leah Parsons, Glen Canning, and Carol Todd sit on our advisory board at the StopCyberbullying Canada level, as does Sharon Rosenfeldt and Barbara Coloroso. She's been invited, even though she's not a Canadian. Only Canadians can sit on the StopCyberbullying Canada board.

I also have a youth board, and the youth are from all of the provinces in the country, and they provide very knowledgeable input as we look to find ways to improve the safety of other young people. They speak, they do research, and they work with other professionals.

We partner, and we're all unpaid volunteers at WiredSafety, and that includes me. We've been doing this for a very long time. I'm excited to see that Canada is the first country in the world to deal with sextortion, revenge porn, and unauthorized sexting issues.

You also were the first country, through a Supreme Court decision, to recognize that minors may be sharing intimate images consensually with each other. With the couple, if a boy takes it and shares it with a girl voluntarily, or the girl shares it with a boy, or whatever their sexual preferences are, they will not be prosecuted under your strong child pornography laws. It deals with once it starts disseminating.

Notwithstanding the fact that this is a wonderful bill when you're talking about cyberbullying and you're talking about abuse of young people, I think it has some problems. I was the keynote speaker in Nova Scotia when they held their cyberbullying summit, and we held a large summit in Prince Edward Island. When I misspoke before the media, promising that Prince Edward Island was going to do a bigger summit than the one that had been done in Nova Scotia, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Barbara Coloroso, Sharon Rosenfeldt, Leah and Glen, all came to little P.E.I. to meet with hundreds of young people and other experts in the room to come up with an action plan for Prince Edward Island. We've done something similar with the first nation community in New Brunswick, and our action plan on cyberbullying will be issued shortly. We're working with the premier there, as well as the premier in P.E.I. We were assisting on the action plan in Nova Scotia from the very beginning. We're working with Alberta, we've worked in Yellowknife. We are all across Canada, as my adopted nation, where I think you can solve the problems of cyberbullying better than we can anywhere else in the world. I do this all over the world.

We had one suicide in Italy because of revenge porn issues and cyberbullying. We're seeing them around the world, but nowhere are we seeing more suicides per capita connected to cyber issues than in Nova Scotia. Little Nova Scotia has had three suicides connected with digital abuse. Rehtaeh was the last, but not the first. And Jenna...Pam Murchison has been dealing with this issue for a long time. We have to focus on it here. This is an island, and this a country known for kindness.

There are old jokes on television when they talk about being kind and people who are courteous in this country, about how you care about each other more than you do in other places. Having two houses in the Maritimes, I agree. I think you do care about each other. I think this is a country of community. We can come up with solutions, a number of people on this panel with me today, and others who you've had testify. We've spoken at UN conferences, we've been on task forces together. You have the talent, you have the expertise, and you have a government that cares about our children, and that's crucial.

The one concern that I have is the voluntary disclosure. It's not that I don't trust the Canadian government with our information. I don't want Rogers, and Telus, and Bell, and all of the other telcos in this country to make a decision about my personal information and who they're going to give it to and whether or not it's authorized.

Giving that immunity to them frustrates me. I carry six cell phone numbers with Rogers. If Rogers won't promise that they're not going to turn over information voluntarily, without a court order, without a subpoena, without a warrant, I'm going to change cell phone companies. If Telus won't promise it, then I won't go to Telus, and if Bell won't promise it, whether it's Bell Canada or Bell Aliant.... Someone who is in the business of providing cell phone and wireless services is going to have to tell me as a customer that they are going to respect the privacy contract, the privacy policy that we've all agreed to. Otherwise I have lost contractual rights with a commercial company that's providing services to me, because of that little immunity clause.

Do I want somebody in a call centre or somebody who's close to someone else, who doesn't understand the standards we need, to have immunity from answering to me? No.

I understand in all likelihood that Bill C-13 will probably pass pretty much the way it is. If it does, I'm going to ask Canadians to vote with their cell phones. I'm going to ask Canadians to turn around and hold their telecom companies responsible for protecting the privacy of their users, and if they don't, then we'll find other ways of communicating with each other. But I think if somebody is going to take a lot of money from me every month for my cell phone, then they're going to have to stick with the promises they made to me.

Canada can have all of the lawful information about us—Canadians or anyone who is in Canada—that they want. I trust the government. I do not trust some low-level customer-service person at a telco to make a decision about my personal information.

I live with death threats. I received the RCMP Child Recovery Award for bringing Amber Alert to Canada on Facebook for the first time in the world. I couldn't go back to Washington for six months—nobody would talk to me—because we did it here.

I live with attacks online from cyberbullies plus. Do I want my personal information exposed in ways I can't control? No. Neither should our children have to do that. When Carol Todd said that she doesn't want anyone to give up their privacy rights in exchange for safety rights—or to do that in Amanda's name—I think that says it all.

I think if we just alter that one provision that gives immunity to the telcos, then I could support this bill. It's not perfect, but it's the best thing on cyberbullying, sexting, and revenge porn that we have seen in the world today. I say that non-stop everywhere I talk and when I reach out to Canadians for help.

You have the head of global policy from Facebook coming here Thursday. You don't have somebody from Facebook Canada; you have the head of global policy from Facebook. That's how seriously they're taking this. I know the clerk has been wonderful in trying to reach out to them, but I should tell you, knowing this from the inside, that they're taking this very seriously as well. They've been looking at it from the beginning.

You have the Internet Alliance. The Internet Alliance is everybody, not just Google or Twitter. Everybody else is in there. You can ask these questions, but don't tell me I have to trust telcos to decide what information they can give away and what they can't, not in the name of protecting our children. We can do it without that, with the help of everyone here.

So I offer my help and assistance while I try to get through all of the papers in all of the places I've lived since I was 18 in order to become a permanent resident of Canada. It takes a while when you're 63. I'm trying to remember. My mother doesn't remember them either. But until then, I am a permanent resident in my heart. I love this country, and I love what you can do, and I don't want anyone sacrificing the rights of Canadians to the benefit of a telco.

Thank you.