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House of Commons Hansard #137 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was internet.

Topics

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will say to my colleague opposite that I noted the same problem, that the bill allows too much latitude for interpretation. Were I to have had the opportunity to elaborate on the comments that I began, I would demonstrate to the member opposite that the amount of latitude leads us into the situation where we have to wonder whether the bill, as currently written, is going to have the effect that we desire. I have a suspicion that it will not.

I believe this bill is something that has to go before the committee to be studied in great depth.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I both agree and disagree with my colleague.

First, I agree with his comments. He is right. This bill is so badly put together that the only winners will be lawyers. The losers will be the consumers. Businesses will be faced with legal bills because they will have to defend themselves against the lawsuits of disgruntled consumers who, having read the legislation, will assume that they have rights to assert.

The bill being what it is, imprecise and badly put together, the courts will have to arbitrate conflicts between consumers and businesses. Lawyers are going to make money to a degree you won't believe with legislation such as this.

Where I disagree with my colleague is when he says that the bill should go back to the drawing board if you will, that it should be fixed up in committee. In my opinion it is beyond fixing. It has to go back to the drawing board, yes, but we have to start “from scratch”.

We have to base the legislation on the Quebec example, we have to use the Quebec experience, to give Canadians the legislation they deserve, a legislation on par with the one Quebeckers already enjoy.

There might be more questions, maybe from my colleague again, therefore, I am asking for unanimous consent to carry on with the questions and comments period for a short while.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Portneuf has requested that the time for questions and comments be extended. Is there unanimous consent?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to follow my colleague's speech, although I hope to be a bit more brief.

I agree with some of the comments made by members opposite which find fault with schedule I of this bill. So much of the bill depends on this schedule which is, in essence, a code of conduct that has been established not just by industry, but by general a consensus of the various stakeholders, including non-profit organizations, which is an area of specialty for me.

Earlier in the questions and comments it was observed that there were shortcomings in the bill insofar as it relies heavily on the interpretation of what is sensitive information and what needs to be protected. If it is sensitive, then the organization collecting the information is required to do certain things with it, including protecting and handling it in a responsible fashion. The difficulty is that unless you define what sensitive is in legislation there are going to be problems and I believe that situation exists with this legislation.

However, there is another aspect that I would like to draw attention to which is again in schedule I. It raises the issue of lists. When we buy or donate to a charity or anything like that we go on a list. Sometimes these lists are held within Canada and sometimes they are held outside Canada. At any rate, there is a great industry in collecting, selling or renting these lists to various organizations.

According to the schedule's standard, the observation is made that an organization may not always be able to seek consent from individuals and sometimes individuals are unable to request information from an organization concerning themselves, but a charity or a direct marketing firm that wishes to acquire a mailing list from another organization can keep that information.

In my mind there is a bit of a hole there. I would like to know that any organization that is using my name is responsible for that personal information. However, it would appear that schedule I allows direct marketing firms to not be held responsible in the trading and marketing of these lists.

When we know that our name is on a list and we want to get that information from a charity or a for profit fundraiser that has our name on a list, what the schedule states is that certain information cannot be disclosed for legal, security or commercial proprietary reasons, or that information cannot be disclosed which is subject to solicitor-client privilege.

What schedule I states is that if there is a commercial proprietary reason for which an organization does not want to divulge our personal information to us, it does not have to do so. That creates an enormous problem. What if I want to know how my name is being used by one of these fundraisers? Is it being distributed, for example, to other organizations that do not have my interests at heart? Is it being distributed to organizations that will take advantage of the knowledge that I give to one organization, one charity or another?

According to schedule I, as it now exists, if I donate $10 to a charity and another person donates $100 to a charity, that is not considered sensitive information, or it could be considered proprietary information that I cannot get.

I happen to have something for the House to contemplate. This is a list of all the non-profit organizations that have placed their donor lists with a U.S. direct marketing agency. According to the schedule as it now exists, that agency can deny me the information as to who has access to my name on that list.

Therefore, if I had contributed, for example, $1,000 to the lifetime members of a TV ministry, another organization can get that information and find out that I actually donated to an evangelical TV ministry. Talk about religion being sensitive. By merely paying money, this organization can supply me with a list of all the people who contributed to B'nai Brith. It is the total list of all Canadian Jewish donors. Anyone who wants to know who is Jewish can simply find out by contacting this direct marketing firm.

I ask members where the protection is of my private information concerning my religion if organizations, even in the United States, can get that information and distribute it as widely as they like.

It is even worse than that. We would agree that those in Canadian society who are particularly wealthy or affluent would probably like to keep that information secret. If they make generous donations to a charity, they will turn up on this list as “Hotline Canada wealthy donors, 502,000 names”. Those are 502,000 names that anyone can access. If that is not personal information, I do not know what personal information is. If that is not information that can be used unwisely and improperly, I do not know what such information is.

I fear that the schedule as presently drafted does not provide adequate protection for the distribution of donor lists or commercial lists of any kind. We are now in an age when we can go into Radio Shack, buy a speaker or a piece of electronic equipment and that firm will record our name and address in a data bank. We are in an age when because of these lists and the electronic control of these lists we can build up a complete data profile of any individual in Canadian or American society. I would submit that is very dangerous.

While I support this legislation in principle, I hope that when it goes to committee we look very carefully at it because I do not think it addresses the problem of the selling and buying of information on donor lists or commercial lists, and that is something the legislation has to address.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Madam Speaker, the member for Wentworth—Burlington is not making this up. What he told us really goes on. It actually does happen. I would like to point out to the House, however, that when a member of the public provides personal information in Quebec, even to a charitable organization, that organization is not permitted by law to pass it on or use it for other purposes. Quebeckers are well protected in this regard.

What the member for Wentworth—Burlington told us about is not going on in Quebec. The legislation is four years old. Quebeckers are well protected. But it can happen in Canada. Bill C-54 now before us will not prevent what the member opposite just described from happening.

That is why I mentioned earlier that the bill has a serious shortcoming. It is not worthy of Canadians, who deserve the same protection as Quebeckers.

Quebec's legislation goes much further. In Quebec, a business that has information and must deal with a business in another country, not just in Canada or in the United States, and must, in the course of the transaction, provide personal information it obtained in Quebec, must have signed an agreement with the individual outside the country to whom the information is being transmitted that that information will continue to be protected to the same extent that it was in Quebec.

Is that not extraordinary? Is it not extraordinary that the people of Quebec have this type of protection of their personal information? Why is the House letting a bill like this one remain so incomplete as to not deal with the real risks faced by Canadians and as described by the member for Wentworth—Burlington?

Sending the bill to committee for re-examination will not change it. I would like to explain to my colleague that it cannot change the nature of the legislation before the House. The point raised by my colleague is in fact intended to change the nature of the bill to make it more encompassing. The bill, obviously, is intended to facilitate and promote electronic commerce.

What my colleague has referred to aims at protecting personal information in electronic commerce or elsewhere.

This is why, even in committee, this bill cannot be amended as substantially as necessary, as my colleague mentioned.

So, my question is: does he not agree that this bill should be returned to the drawing board and that a real bill should be returned to the House to address the serious concerns he raised and I share?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, that is why we have standing committees, to handle difficult problems with legislation. I would expect that the competency of the industry committee looking at this will show and we will get good legislation in the end.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Madam Speaker, as I said earlier, in Quebec, information is protected beyond Quebec's borders by requiring those contracted to gather it to provide this protection.

I would like to address another aspect of international trade and share my concerns with the member for Wentworth—Burlington.

When I engage in a transaction on the Internet, I do not always know where my query will take me. Will it be somewhere in the United States, Asia, Africa or Australia? I cannot really tell. It does not matter anyway. When a query is made it travels through phone lines and satellites to a place that may be totally different from the one indicated on the screen.

What recourse do I have if I am not satisfied with the transaction I just completed? In Quebec, we have the Consumer Protection Act. In Canada, representations can be made before a civil court in one province or another. In the United States, remedies can probably be sought through some bilateral agreement.

But the countries with which we have not signed agreements in this area outnumber those with which we have. The net result is that any real development in electronic commerce can only take place if there are multilateral agreements between participating countries—and we hope there will be a great many—ensuring a degree of consumer protection similar to the one enjoyed here, at home, regarding the quality of the service or product and the protection of personal information.

For example, I conduct a transaction, and my name, address, telephone number, credit card number, social insurance number and heaven only knows what else ends up in Timbuktu. From there it goes to Ankara, and Ankara sends it on to Moscow. In the twinkling of an eye, there is information on me all over the world, which does nothing to make my eyes twinkle, because from then on anyone in the world can use my name and other information in ways I would not necessarily want them to.

In my opinion, Bill C-54 does not provide Canadians with sufficient protection as far as international commerce and exchanges with other countries are concerned. There ought to be some guidelines for Canadian businesses on how to proceed in order to ensure service quality and protect information while doing business electronically.

The bill is extremely narrow, in fact. It should be far broader, if there is any real desire to promote electronic commerce as it deserves, while providing consumers with proper protection of their rights as consumers and as citizens entitled to privacy. What are the thoughts of my colleague from Wentworth—Burlington on this?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not doubt that the first obligation to the protection of information is at home. I cited a list of an American direct marketer deliberately to illustrate to the House the dimensions of the problem. It is not just a domestic problem. It is not confined to Quebec. It is not confined to Alberta or to Canada. It is a worldwide problem.

We are at a particular disadvantage because we sit next to one of the most aggressive countries in the world in terms of trying to gather information for commercial uses. We do not have to go anywhere but to the United States to discover people who know very well the value of personal information and who will willingly use it to make dollars for themselves.

We need a very strong piece of legislation at home that puts the obligation on the people who are collecting information in this country to be answerable for how that information is eventually used. But also we have to be cognizant that we can only do so much. We do live in an information age and we cannot expect to create miracles. Information is everywhere available and it is very difficult to control it in an absolute fashion.

One of the things that concerns me in this debate is that we have probably lost sight to a certain degree on just what is the kind of information we need to protect. Is it really a matter of having to protect what religion we are or is it, as I said in my earlier remarks, a matter of protecting information that relates to our financial ability? That is the information that I think can be used very dangerously.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great interest that I speak this afternoon on Bill C-54.

You will allow me a few seconds to read into the record the title of this bill. I do want to read it because it is a rather long title of about ten lines. The titles reads as follows:

An Act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances, by providing for the use of electronic means to communicate or record information or transactions and by amending the Canada Evidence Act, the Statutory Instruments Act and the Statute Revision Act.

It is a rather complex bill. A few moments ago, my colleague from Champlain asked what was the most important thing in Bill C-54. Is it promoting the sale of electronic material like computers or the protection of personal information? The hon. member for Champlain told me—and I fully agree with him on this—that he could hardly trust a government led by the present Prime Minister, who purports to respect personal information but does not even respect human beings.

The member for Champlain reminded me of the time when the Prime Minister, wearing his big sunglasses, grabbed an activist by the throat, threw him to the ground and then let his bodyguards break a few of his teeth. If my son did such a thing, he would be charged in court for assault and would surely be found guilty. In the case of the Prime Minister, however, the matter was settled by shelling out $700 or $800 to pay the dental bills of Bill Clennett. I am sure you remember this.

The hon. member for Champlain has doubts, which I believe are justified, about the good faith of the government and of the head of that government, the Prime Minister and member for Shawinigan.

He gave us more evidence of this when he welcomed Indonesian dictator Suharto. He forced RCMP officers to clean up the place by 4 p.m.

The place had to be cleared so that Mr. Suharto could leave with a good impression of his visit to Vancouver. The RCMP officers listened and came not with a small pepper shaker so he could sprinkle some pepper over his food, as the Prime Minister said so well, but with big gas cylinders that can reach much further. Excessive force was used against students who had the legitimate right to demonstrate in Canada against Mr. Suharto's lack of respect for civil rights and freedoms.

The Prime Minister did not even respect these students that are our future leaders. This afternoon, during Oral Question Period, in response to a question from a Reform member, the Solicitor General said that he had personally decided against paying the students' legal fees so that they could be properly represented before the commission investigating the conduct of the RCMP.

That is what the Henry VIII clause, which I call the Louis XIV clause, is all about: L'état, c'est moi.

The member for Drummond said the same thing a little while ago. The bill contains a Henry VIII clause, which essentially provides that the governor in council can change the law without parliamentary debate or democratic consultation.

We remember what happened in Quebec in the early 70s in response to the FLQ's activities. The RCMP—and the Prime Minister was then a member of the Trudeau cabinet—was ordered to set fire to barns, to steal dynamite and to blame the FLQ for all this. They even broke into the offices of the Parti Quebecois, a democratic political party. RCMP officers were asked to break and enter some places. There were leaks inside the RCMP. There was the Keable Commission. RCMP officers were prosecuted. The same government did not fire the RCMP officers. Instead, they were promoted with a pay increase.

Members can see how important this Henry VIII clause is. We cannot give so much power to people who sometimes lose control and act irresponsibly. We saw what happened when Trudeau threw 500 people in jail, including the late Pauline Julien. Nowadays, everybody is sorry about it, of course.

They lost their head. There were a dozen of FLQ members and they threw 500 people in jail. The War Measures Act abolished freedom in Quebec. The way several Quebeckers were treated is awful, they were treated the same way and sometimes worse than the students. A student said that he had to spend 12 hours in jail without any charges being laid and that a RCMP officer had him sign a promise not to protest during the APEC summit. That is how dangerous the Henry VIII clause is.

The Government of Quebec passed two bills for the public corporations, the government, and the private corporations, and that legislation is similar but more complete. That was not done by the Parti Quebecois. It was done during the last months of the Robert Bourassa government and under the following government led by Daniel Johnson Jr., that passed a much more complete piece of legislation than Bill C-54 before us.

Bill C-54 is full of assumptions, of words like maybe, we shall see, it could be. Let us take, for example, section 11(2): “If the Commissioner is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to investigate a matter under this Part, the Commissioner may initiate a complaint—”. Consequently it is always subjective. The Commissioner is given a power that he does not have as well as leeway that he should not have.

This bill is full of holes. It undermines Quebec's legislation. This bill will fail miserably, both in the spirit and the letter of its application.

In conclusion, I would like to remind the House that the Bloc Quebecois will vote against this bill, of course, and that it regrets many things. For instance, we believe that the right to privacy, which is recognized explicitly in the 1983 personal information charter and should be applied to all public and private organisations, could be ignored by this bill.

I wish to thank you for your attention, and if there are any questions and comments, I will try to respond to them, of course.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Frontenac—Mégantic spoke eloquently of the flaws we see in this bill.

We mentioned on several occasions that Quebec has its own act, which works well, it is efficient and truly protects consumers. For the benefit of the House and in keeping with my colleague's comments, I would like to read a few sections from the current Quebec act. This might inspire the House to make the necessary improvements to Bill C-54.

This is part IV, section 27 of the Quebec Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector. Section 27 states: “Any business manager who has a file on someone must, when requested by the person concerned, confirm its existence and release to said individual any personal information it contains”.

You and I, every member of the House and the public at large know that we have a file in many organizations. It may happen that the information on file is wrong, which might have an impact on our capacity to enjoy life; for instance a credit file might contain errors which might result in a person being denied or looked at in a funny way when applying for a credit card or a loan, without having a clue as to why or how to rectify the situation.

This cannot happen in Quebec. In Quebec an individual can ask for confirmation of the file and ask the bank manager: “Where did you get the information that my credit is bad?” “I got it in such or such a place”, he will answer.

I quote section 28: “Besides the rights provided for in paragraph 40(1)of the Quebec Civil Code, the individual concerned may have any personal information concerning him or her erased if its gathering was not authorized by law”.

So, I go where the records are kept and realize some data have been included without my knowledge. I never authorized any company or body to disclose such data to the agency and I can ask that it be withdrawn without prejudice to other legal action that I might take to ensure that those who broke the law are adequately punished.

Under section 29, anyone who operates a business and keeps personal records on other individuals must take proper measures to ensure that they can exercise their rights under Quebec's Civil Code as well as under this act. Moreover, the person must inform the public where it may consult these records and how to do so.

Quebeckers are protected by strong legislation, the main purpose of which is to protect the public. This is obviously not the purpose of Bill C-54.

I would like my colleague, the member for Frontenac—Mégantic, to tell me what he thinks about the wide discrepancy between the meagre protection proposed for Canadians and the concrete, solid and honest protection provided for Quebeckers.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear that Bill C-54 is a timid bill. This is a very lukewarm bill that, I believe, only deals with the promotion and commerce of electronic products, and not with the privacy protection of our fellow citizens.

The member for Portneuf has been interested in electronics for several years, since it was somewhat his previous profession in the private sector. We fully realize that this could hit us in the face. The government is stretching the elastic. It is already quite tight and could snap at any time and hit us in the face.

I would like to remind the House that in London, capital city of Great Britain, it was said the each citizen is filmed 51 times a week on average. With the technical means that we have today, this may be very useful. We can find robbers, prisoners on the lam, but just imagine being spied on as you go about your business 51 times a day, Mr. Speaker.

Here in the House of Commons, we see cameras installed almost everywhere on the roofs of buildings. I think they are useful against terrorist acts. Our Prime Minister must be protected. Heaven forbid Canadian citizens should treat him the same way he treats his own people or individuals like Bill Clennett.

Imagine how these laws are misused. With the Henry VIII clause that was described earlier as extremely negative, the minister responsible is given increased powers, terrible powers, a bit like the solicitor general who was telling us again, during oral question period: “I have decided—”. Who does he think he is? This afternoon, around 2.30 p.m., I heard him say that he decided that the students' fees for legal counsel would not be paid.

The Henry VIII clause grants similar powers to a minister and if he loses his mind, he can have searches carried out, or things covered up. I remind the House that when the federal police, the RCMP, torches barns, steals dynamite, blows up trucks and steals member lists of a political party that is democratically recognised in this country, it means we have sunk very low. This reminds us of the way things worked under Hitler. This reminds us of the way things worked under the Communists when the motto was “All for one and one for all”. There was no respect for the individual.

This is a real threat to us all and I can assure the House that the Bloc Quebecois members will always rise in this House to condemn this. With the means available to us, and if the government is really determined to have Bill C-54 passed, we will try to propose the amendments required so that it is more like Quebec's legislation, which is much more comprehensive and complete and which primarily respects the individual.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it would appear that in this day and age the RCMP does not have to use unusual methods to obtain any political membership list. I am sure it can be purchased now anyway. It is available somewhere for a certain price.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Comme au Québec.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Maybe in Quebec. I hope the member is right on that.

I appreciated the remarks. Does my colleague opposite see some opportunity in the legislation to address an entirely different dimension, that is being able to buy time on satellites which can peer down into our backyards?

This is a problem that extends across borders. Various spy satellites run by Americans and other powers are now offering satellite time to peer into backyards anywhere in the world. Does the member have a comment with respect to that?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question that my distinguished colleague from the government party is asking reflects exactly what my hon. friend and colleague from Portneuf was pointing out to me earlier this afternoon when he asked whether Bill C-54 was aimed more at promoting modern high technology to advance sales of electronic goods or at protecting personal information about every citizen of this country.

When that question is asked to me, I realize that, for the government party, the protection of personal information is not a priority in Bill C-54, and that, on a scale of ten, this concern would rate at one whereas the promotion and development of high technology would rate at nine.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 1998 / 5:55 p.m.

NDP

Angela Vautour NDP Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to join the debate on Bill C-54. The bill before us aims to support and promote electronic commerce by increasing Canadian confidence in online transactions, providing protection for personal information that is collected, adjusting the legal framework of the electronic environment, and providing an alternative means for the federal government to provide services.

Bill C-54 is part of a larger overall strategy to make Canada an international leader in the growing realm of electronic commerce. I will talk about some of the contents of the bill and outline the reservations New Democrats have with Bill C-54.

I will discuss the phenomenon of electronic commerce in the information age. A variety of commentators from all sorts of disciplines have commented upon the increasingly important role that electronic commerce is playing in the lives of everyday people.

The chairman and CEO of Bell Canada, Mr. Jean Monty, told delegates at the Ottawa OECD conference last week that we are witnessing the birth of a new economy, a new economic order based on networks and chips. The electronic transfer of information has changed the very way in which humans interact with each other. For this reason it is a subject of great importance and we would be wise to consider carefully any decision we take.

First it may be helpful to discuss the definition of electronic commerce. If we are to adopt a broad understanding of the concept of electronic commerce, we will see that it includes two very different types of transactions. One type which has proven quite successful involves the exchange of information through closed networks. This would include systems such as those used by debit cards and credit cards.

Other types of transfers are those conducted through open networks such as the Internet. This type lags far behind its closed network counterpart for numerous reasons which I will now examine.

When one thinks about the on-line world, a certain minister comes to mind. Just as the solicitor general has had some difficulty lately maintaining the security of his department's private information, so too does the Internet in ensuring the confidentiality of important matters. Canadians have demonstrated a lack of faith in the minister. This is similar to the reservations they have about entrusting their own personal information in cyberspace. It is our job to address these concerns.

The Internet remains for many an intimidating world in which trade relationships are poorly developed and people cannot be certain of the ways in which confidential information is being handled. Businesses as well as consumers are often unsure as to exactly whom they are dealing with, whether payment measures are secure and what the legal frameworks for such transactions are.

The Internet for most Canadians remains a sort of wild west where law and order is poorly represented and people enter at their own risk. Many parents are reluctant to establish Internet access because of well-founded fears that the on-line environment has become a haven for those who traffic in child pornography.

At home, we used to be connected up with the Internet, but I gave it up one day because I found some pictures on the screen, and I was very happy that my 10-year old son had not seen them. If my mother had seen them, I would have had trouble talking to her about them.

It is obvious that pornography on the Internet is a serious problem.

Businesses as well as consumers have been clamouring for confidence building measures on electronic commerce for quite some time. Canadians do not want cyberspace to be lawless.

One part of the bill which attempts to tackle people's reservations about trade on the information highway is the section on privacy rights. The bill adopts a set of guidelines developed by the Canadian Standards Association for gathering, using and disclosing the personal information of Canadians.

At the present time, the federal Privacy Act deals strictly with information that is collected by the public service. Bill C-54 goes farther than this. After a period of three years the guidelines for the handling of personal information will apply to all commercial transactions.

For example, the bill would force companies to obtain the consent of Canadians in order to collect personal information. It would force them to only use the information for the purpose for which it is collected.

Under the bill, people would be granted access to the information held about them and they would also have the right to make changes to it when there are inaccuracies. Bill C-54 strengthens significantly the office of the privacy commissioner and allows Canadians a means of recourse against those who abuse confidential personal data.

New Democrats support these provisions in principle and feel that they are long overdue. With the rapid manner in which information can be transferred in today's world it would be reassuring to know that individuals do have some control.

In order that Canadians can feel confident enough to engage in electronic commerce, common guidelines for the handling of personal information are essential. They would benefit business as well as give peace of mind to consumers.

The other prominent section of the bill that attempts to assuage the fears of Canadians is the discussion of security features such as secure electronic signatures which would be recognized by law.

More noticeable however is the absence of any discussion of encryption technology. At first glance this appears to be an adequate solution for addressing security concerns. However, the way in which the government is going about this raises some serious concerns for the future.

Cryptography technology allows users to encode information and then pass it along the Internet. This can be used to encode all sorts of information such as credit card numbers, medical records and private correspondence. In itself this is very good thing.

Unfortunately, the government has adopted a completely hands off approach in the area of licensing encryption software. The government has not demanded any sort of access mechanism that would allow it to intercept and decode such messages.

I fear that the government has forfeited any means whatsoever of policing the Internet. For example, the privacy commissioner would have little power to actually see whether or not personal information is being mishandled and transferred illegally. The privacy provisions in the bill seem then to be weakened by a hands off approach to cryptology.

Also, law enforcement agencies might see their ability to thwart child pornography traffickers severely curtailed. Similarly, without any sort of access mechanism, cryptology technology will possibly play into the hands of organized crime and perpetrators of corporate sabotage.

The fact that government will allow virtually any type of cryptology technology will serve only to increase the security fears of Canadians. The thought that the RCMP and other police forces will be basically powerless to investigate Internet abuses is of great concern. This is a violation of the peace and good government principle upon which this nation was formed. It will do little to make Canadians feel secure.

I must add that we are nevertheless in a country where people often find it difficult to feel secure. We saw what happened in recent weeks, not only in Vancouver with the students who were attacked, probably under orders from the Prime Minister, but also the events in New Brunswick. We saw what happened to the parents and the young students of the Saint-Sauveur school when they tried to keep their school open. Premier Frank McKenna had decided he was going to close schools. They sent in the RCMP. They sent in the pepper spray. They attacked not only the adults, but small children, students.

There are also the events in Kent County in the past two weeks, where a man named Jackie Vautour went fishing for a pail of clams, although fishing season is closed. He ended up with broken bones. I do not understand how that can happen to someone just for going for a pail of clams. This is a 65 year old man.

He and his wife had been in court before for fishing clams in a national park out of season. The charges were thrown out because, as you may or may not know, it is not clear whether Kouchibouguac national park is really a national park.

Each time Mr. Vautour is caught the government drops the charges. That is what they did the first time Mr. Vautour was caught fishing for a little pail of clams. They began proceedings, took him to court and were obliged to drop the charges, because they could not prove where the park boundaries lay. The gentleman went for another pail of clams. This time he had his shoulder and his arm broken. In this case too, a complaint must be lodged with the RCMP commission so the matter will be investigated.

These sorts of things are always the responsibility of someone higher up. When the Saint-Sauveur families were attacked, it was clear who had set the gang on the students. I have no doubt the same thing happened when Jackie Vautour was attacked by the RCMP.

It is outrageous to think that they are capable of breaking limbs. Mr. Vautour did not have a gun or a knife, but he ended up with broken limbs. He and his wife, aged 65 and 64 respectively, ended up in jail because they took a bucket of clams, after park employees had told them they could continue to catch shells.

The same thing happened to a man in 1969 because he did not want to leave his house when Kouchibouguac national park was established. They bulldozed his house. That is what they did to him. He stayed in the park. Had it not been for him, we would have ended up with nothing. In 1971, we left the park with $6,600. This was the money we had to move, to settle elsewhere. People in Kouchibouguac park did not get rich.

Mr. Vautour was smart. He said “I am not leaving. They put us in boats back in 1755, but I am not going in boats again”. This is what happened to Mr. Vautour. My father was told the same thing: “If you do not move, we will be close to your house and you will not get anything”. This is what they did, and Jackie had a large family. He stayed anyway and he kept fighting.

I am not saying that what he did was always right, but I do know that this is how the hate started. It started the day they hired someone with a bulldozer to destroy his house. We were not pagans in Kouchibouguac park. We were poor people living in the middle of nowhere, but we were not people who did not know what they were doing. We were not trash. There was no crime in Clairefontaine, Fontaine, Cap-Saint-Louis and the Kelly region. We were not bad people.

In those days, the current Prime Minister was the minister responsible for expropriation. It is funny how the people who were expropriated from the park re-elected him and made him the Prime Minister of the country. It is incredible how forgiving we Acadians can be. But he better not try his luck again.

I was 11 when we moved away. In our region, people did not have much formal education. But my father had work year round. We had a television and a telephone as well as an Eaton's catalogue we would order from once in a while. We were good folks and still are. The story does not end here. Mr. Vautour went to court to know why his shoulder and arm were busted and why he was thrown in jail. The judge did not even want to let him out for three months pending trial. Mr. Vautour was 65 and his wife, 64.

Is there any justice, any democracy in this country? The APEC Summit does not have the monopoly on lack of justice. It is the same all over the country.

It is ironic for me to have become a member of Parliament. I am sure there are ministers across the way wondering if I will ever stop pressing the Kouchibouguac national park issue. The fact is that we will keep asking questions and raising the matter until our questions on what happened have been answered. In 1969, 239 families were treated unfairly and no commission of inquiry was established. The government does not want to look into what went wrong.

As long as the issue remains unsettled, families will continue to live under extreme conditions within the Kouchibouguac park boundaries. We will carry on and we will not let them down. Coming back to Bill C-54.

Bill C-54 attempts also to establish the federal government as a responsible and model user of the Internet as a tool for delivering services. With this in mind, many federal statutes were examined to see whether or not their references to means of collecting information were limited to paper. The result was that nearly half seemed to indicate paper transactions as the only legal means of sharing information. Bill C-54 attempts to adjust or apply current laws so that there is an electronic alternative for transmitting information.

It would be interesting if Jackie Vautour could put the history of Kouchibouguac park on the Internet.

In principle this is a good proposition. It would offer Canadians access to a new and faster means of communicating with government bodies.

The government believes that by acting as a role model, it can stimulate a substantial increase in the use of this technology in all realms. A quick glance at the current electronic commerce situation though reveals that Canadians are far from embracing the Internet. In many cases this is because they simply cannot afford to. Even if we assumed that about 30% of Canadians have some sort of access to the Internet, and this may just be because they have a connected computer at their school, we must acknowledge that the other three-quarters of the country are in the dark.

I think it is important to mention that we have a lot of schools. My son is in grade 7 and I am sure he does not have access to the program. A lot of young people and families today may not be extremely poor, but they certainly cannot afford to have a computer at home. We must be careful.

A few moments ago, a government member seemed proud to say that he could change plane tickets and that it would cost only a few dollars. But how many jobs will be lost? Is anybody trying to maintain some kind of balance in all that? It is all well to say that we are going to save money. Hurrah! the Internet is here and we will save money, but what is the real cost in terms of lost jobs?

In closing, I will say that not everybody is connected and we have to recognize that as a fact. It is a problem for those people, and it is not just a matter of not having a computer.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity after the member's remarks to pose a question to her. It arises out of my earlier remarks in which I observed that the bill is deficient insofar as it does not clearly and explicitly explain what the parameters are in sensitive personal information when it comes to fundraising for donor lists for non-profit organizations.

Moreover, in another aspect it also is very deficient in that if a person knows that their name is held as a result of donating to some charity or another and they go to that direct marketing firm that has their name on that list and ask that direct marketing firm how many other lists their name has been distributed to, how many organizations it is out to, according to the legislation as I see it, because of commercial proprietary reasons that direct marketing firm can withhold that personal information about how a person's name is being used and who it has been given to.

I have a list from an organization in the United States that has this kind of information. It gets the names of these individuals because these individual organizations approach the organization to do direct mail fundraising in Canada for them. It has the list and once it has done direct mail fundraising for a particular organization, it offers that list of names to other organizations for hire or for rent.

For example, the Canadian Abortion Rights League is a group of 7,500 women. We can get their names, as well as the International Planned Parenthood Federation. So someone who is perhaps very virulently anti-abortion can get the information of all those individuals who directly support abortion with their money. I submit that is a very dangerous thing.

I mentioned also that this list contains 73,000 Canadian Jewish donors. I submit to the member that this is a highly dangerous thing because organizations that may be engaged in anti-Semitic activities can therefore access this information one way or another, yet the legislation does not prevent this information from being given out.

When I as an MP have tried in the past to get information from my own government about the funding of women's programs or anti-poverty programs, the names of the individuals involved have often been withheld in this information. I have not even been able to get them under access to information on the grounds that those who seek government grants, either poverty groups, women's groups or other minority groups, need the protection of the government that has their personal information sought as grants. It is very hard to get this information.

Yet on this list to this direct marketer in the United States, this for profit fundraiser, we find the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. There are 5,000 names there. Immediately underneath it is the National Anti-Poverty Organization. There are 17,000 names there. The National Association of Women and the Law, 1,300 names. Under that we have the National Gay and Lesbian Rights Supporters. These are all actually in alphabetical order.

I submit to the member opposite that there is something dreadfully wrong when an MP cannot get the basic information of who these people are who support these organizations. I am not saying that we should but we as MPs cannot get that information from the government even though the government is funding these organizations. Yet for mere money we can go to the United States and get the names of every one of these people.

Is this something that is acceptable to the hon. member? Does she not think that these organizations should not be giving their donor name lists to an American organization and should we strengthen Bill C-54 in such a way as to make this type of thing not occur?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Angela Vautour NDP Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have to agree with my Liberal colleague for once. It does not often happen.

The member has mentioned incidents that are very alarming and not only in those cases, but there is so much information on the Internet. It is pretty well out of control and nobody has really admitted it. We cannot turn on the Internet without seeing three or four people in positions that I still cannot figure out today.

This is a computer. We have children. It is supposed to be friendly to everybody. I have my limits on friendliness. It goes on and on. There is a need to get control of what is happening on the Internet.

I know we do not want to censor everything where we are all boxed in and we do not know what is happening on the outside. That is not what I am talking about. Most of us in this country have common sense. Sometimes it is unfortunate that common sense does not always win. There are so many other factors that common sense is put off. We say this is what we have to do although we know it is not right.

I have to agree with my colleague. There is a need to strengthen it.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I had a speech prepared for today on Bill C-43, but strong defender of the right to privacy that I am, I could not help but dive into this debate, particularly since there are only a few minutes left and I would not have had the time to finish my speech on Bill C-43.

I have listened to what all my colleagues have said. It is true that I am a defender of the right to privacy. It is not an easy job. In my union days, I have seen police officers entering union premises. It is a bit like having someone break into your home. For me, the right to privacy is absolutely essential.

I have also looked at the difference between the provincial and the federal legislation. I will read the title of the two acts, because this strikes me as important in this debate. What does the provincial legislation say? Its title is an Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector, whereas the title of the federal legislation is an Act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances.

The emphasis of the federal bill can be seen. The economy comes first, before the protection of privacy, rather than the opposite as in Quebec. This is the main reason I believe the federal bill we have before us at this time needs to take its inspiration from the provincial legislation.

Knowing how the Liberal Party operates, what is more important: protecting privacy or protecting the economy, protecting human rights or protecting the economy? So far, I find the Liberal newsletter is very weak on the protecting of protecting human rights before the economy.

In a bill like the one we have here, why would the federal government now be protecting privacy rights over economic rights?

The bill has some serious weaknesses, in my opinion. Some of them have been pointed out. There is the whole issue of the schedule. The schedule contains most of the substance. It strikes me as odd that it is necessary to refer to the schedule rather than the bill proper for questions of interpretation.

Lawyers will have a field day with it, and not just because of this business of the schedule. The bill itself is full of conditions. Imagine someone who wants to defend his right to privacy as opposed to an economic right, and who tells the court that he thinks his privacy has been violated. Everything is in the conditional, leaving the citizen no choice but to hire a lawyer, while we know what the federal government will do if it wants to defend its legislation. It has the best lawyers. It has a justice department chock full of lawyers, and never-ending coffers to dip into.

In addition, a lot of questions are now being asked about the need to drag these issues through the courts, and this is yet another example. The public is being told that all it has to do, if it does not agree with the interpretation of the legislation, is take the government to court. This is typical of this government. I think that the average citizen is at a disadvantage, because he faces economic limitations that the government does not have to think about.

I would also like to mention the famous Henry VIII clause. We know that Henry VIII proceeded by decree when calling for the death of his opponents. It was as simple as that. Fortunately, the Henry VIII clause no longer exists and the Prime Minister cannot avail himself of it. Otherwise, there might be 45 victims on this side of the House. I have a feeling that we would be hit with a royal order in no time.

This bill gives the governor in council full discretion to amend the regulations. But who can amend regulations? On whose recommendation, under whose pressure will the governor in council amend a bill?

In dealing with this bill, we have to consider the big lobbying firms. Who can afford to hire big lobbying firms today besides major Canadian corporations, big banks? They have a lot of money.

What will outweigh everything else when the time comes to decide whether regulations should be amended for the governor in council, in other words cabinet? What will prevail? Will it be the opinion of consumers? Will it be the opinion of the organizations that defend the right to privacy, or rather will it be those with economic clout? Which is the biggest backer of political parties?

We have no problems with this. Our funding comes from the grass roots. But who funds the Liberal government? The major corporations: Bombardier, Bell Canada, the Royal and Toronto-Dominion banks, and the like. Those are the ones with the big money. They are the ones backing the Liberals.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Pierre Corbeil knows who it is.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

The hon. member for Frontenac—Mégantic says that Pierre Corbeil knows who is behind the Liberal Party funding. It is not citizens' organizations, and not the consumer protection organizations, for they have no money. Their strength lies in collective effort and consolidation against a government which accepts financing from all these big corporations.

To whom do you think the governor in council will listen? Who do you think the cabinet will listen to? Not the organizations. Not the defenders of the right to privacy. The Governor in Council will listen to those who are behind the funding. They will say to each other: “We will change the regulations because the people funding us don't like the way things are at present, either the little details or the major points. So we will change all that”.

In my opinion, this bill is not right, and I join with my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois in saying that I will be pleased to vote against it.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Saint-Jean will have 13 minutes the next time we debate this bill.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, for too long now, the Minister for International Trade has been pathetically slow to defend asbestos internationally. He seems to have nodded off completely on this issue.

The proof is that his government waited 30 months before finally deciding to turn to the WTO to challenge France's unjustified ban on asbestos. The minister clearly has a double standard when it comes to defending Canadian companies on the world market.

How can he explain the speed with which he rushed to the defence of the Toronto-based Sherritt company, when the United States passed the Helms-Burton legislation? Why, at the same time, was he so timid and slow in defending the interests of asbestos workers?

I hold the Minister for International Trade, the Prime Minister and Canada's ambassador to France, Jacques Roy, responsible for the negative impact of France's ban on chrysotile asbestos and the resultant domino effect.

Asbestos sales have been dropping for several months, leading to the closing of the BC mine and increasingly frequent sporadic closings in two other mines, Lac d'Amiante and Bell, in Thetford Mines. In the meantime, the minister just throws up his hands.

Why is this government not taking the necessary action to promote chrysotile asbestos, a product unique in the world, effectively? Why is it not ordering an exhaustive study of the environmental risks of the products replacing asbestos? Why is it not also ordering a study of the poor performance of these replacement products?

Yes, the minister took vigorous and speedy action in the Sherritt case, in the case of durum and in the case of Pacific salmon, but when it comes to asbestos, the response has been limited to telephone conferences organized by Ambassador Roy or small evening receptions where a personal friend of Canada's Prime Minister has presented his French counterpart with a piece of asbestos.

What the asbestos region needs is a government that defends its interests actively on the international scene. This government does not even come close.