This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was magazines.

Topics

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

I do not know why some on the other side are squawking. I am simply trying to explain the difference between “may” and “shall”. In legislation, with a “shall”, we are governed, obliged to do something. With a “may” or a “could”, it means we can do it if we want, or if we have the time, etc. So the “may” and the “shall” do not have the same mandatory nature.

Bill C-54 does not even extend to the private sector the principles governing the protection of personal information under federal jurisdiction. Section 5(2) of the Privacy Act provides that:

5.(2) A government institution shall inform any individual from whom the institution collects personal information about the individual of the purpose for which the information is being collected.

However, clause 4.2.3 of the schedule in Bill C-54 reads as follows:

4.2.3 The identified purposes should be specified at or before the time of collection to the individual from whom the personal information is collected.

Clause 4.2.5 of the same schedule reads:

4.2.5 Persons collecting personal information should be able to explain to individuals the purposes for which the information is being collected.

Since I have only two minutes left, I will have to slightly change the rest of my speech and immediately move to my last two points.

Bill C-54 is based on the voluntary CSA code. But let us take a look at some reservations made regarding the bill by Quebec's access to information commission, in its 1997-98 annual report. The commission says, among other things:

In the opinion of the commission, to adopt that proposal would be a step back in Quebec, as regards the protection of personal information.

The Bloc Quebecois feels that the tools provided in Bill C-54 are ineffective, since the commissioner cannot issue orders, but can only write reports. Second, ordinary citizens will have to go to the federal court to solve disputes. Third, they can only go to court once the commissioner has issued his report.

In conclusion, Bill C-54 will have little effect, since it will create a long and complex process. Under the circumstances, how can one claim that this bill will protect people? If it has no effect, how can one claim that its purpose is to protect people? The answer is obvious.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, let a lot of people find the bill before us today, Bill C-54, which was put forward by the Minister of Industry, to be quite disappointing.

Bill C-54 is a major disappointment but should also be a matter of concern, because it completely misses its main objective, which is to protect personal information in the private sector in a technological environment that puts this fundamental right in jeopardy.

Not only does the bill as it now stands completely miss the mark, but it is fundamentally at cross purposes with its original purpose, since it puts the protection of personal information on the back burner.

In fact, when one reads Bill C-54, one realizes that its purpose is to promote electronic commerce while putting the right to personal information protection on the back burner.

Actually, they could not have found a better title to describe the real purpose of this bill than what we have here: an act to support and promote electronic commerce. It is no longer federal legislation to protect personal information in the private sector, as Canadians and Quebeckers have been asking for a long time, but rather a bill that puts the promotion of electronic commerce well ahead of the protection of personal information.

Bill C-54 as presented by the Minister of Industry adulterates the initial objective and proves that the Liberal government has decided to turn its back on its numerous promises of a federal law to protect personal information in the private sector.

This attitude on the part of the federal government is all the more disappointing because the need to pass such legislation in Canada is more urgent than ever. The right to privacy is a fundamental right and one which is undergoing unprecedented attacks as we are entering the technological era where the old adage about secrets always getting out still applies, but now that happens even faster than before.

The severe threat to Canadians' right to privacy cannot be taken lightly. The protection of that right is fundamental, if a true democracy is to be retained. The issue at stake is very clear: lack of respect for privacy is a death blow to democracy as we know it.

A government which stops making every possible effort to protect its citizens' right to the protection of their privacy is opening up a dangerous Pandora's box, and it does not take a genius to figure out what would happen next.

While I do not want to be excessively alarmist, we all understand the value, for a terrorist group, that the list of dozens of million of Canadian households grouped together according to their ethnic origin would represent.

If such a list compiled by a direct marketing firm could be made available, would we really be able, for example, to continue to ensure the safety of our fellow citizens, whatever their ethnic origin? Could we guarantee them that they would never be the victims of senseless acts of terrorism? The answer is obvious.

Threats from terrorist groups are not the only ones in a society where the right to privacy is no longer guaranteed. There are other threats, more insidious but just as real.

Indeed, what should we think about the ethics of insurance companies, which are increasingly eyeing the results of DNA tests to eliminate or select clients likely to make serious claims? Also, what about employers, who even want to use the results of spot urine testing for drugs, illegal or not?

These examples are only the tip of the iceberg on what awaits Canadians if the private sector, like the public sector, has access to a lot of personal information that it can now connect together, thanks to the explosion of new technological networks. We will have a society where so-called personal information will no longer exist and, consequently, where there will be no privacy for anyone.

It is all the more obvious that Bill C-54 is inadequate to protect privacy as it does not even extend to the private sector the principles governing the protection of personal information under federal jurisdiction. Indeed, section 5 of the Privacy Act which governs the private sector states:

  1. A government institution shall inform any individual from whom the institution collects personal information about the individual of the purpose for which the information is being collected.

On the other hand, clause 4.2.3 of Bill C-54 schedule provides that:

4.2.3 The identified purposes should be specified at or before the time of collection to the individual from whom the personal information is collected.

And clause 4.2.5 of the same schedule says:

4.2.5 Persons collecting personal information should be able to explain to individuals the purposes for which the information is being collected.

It should be noted that these important provisions, which should be at the heart of Bill C-54, can only be found in the schedule and written in the conditional, which means that they are mere recommendations and nothing more.

As my Bloc colleagues did before me, I must say in conclusion that Bill C-54 is not a bill protecting personal information and our fellow citizens' fundamental right to privacy, but a bill aimed at promoting electronic commerce by sacrificing Canadians' privacy.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues opposite for introducing this amendment. It gives me an opportunity to speak again to this legislation.

The amendment is basically that this House drop second reading examination of Bill C-54 and return it to committee for re-examination or drop it from the order paper entirely.

I disagree with this for one very simple reason. Bill C-54 is undoubtedly the most important legislation that has come before this House since this session of parliament commenced. Bill C-54 is legislation that deals with trying to bring some sort of control in the way private industry uses personal information.

As Canadians we are all schooled in the idea that our religion, colour, financial status, medical records should all be private. The reality is in the commercial world more and more of this information is becoming available. Bill C-54 attempts to address this problem.

I have been very candid in my earlier remarks with respect to Bill C-54 in saying I believe it is flawed. Bill C-54 does not fully address all the concerns of personal information in the marketplace. But because the issue is so important I think we have to get this bill to committee as quickly as possible so that the committee and the public can study the changes necessary to create legislation that truly is workable in this field.

I will tell members what is at stake. I will try to be very simple about it. What is at stake, from my point of view and from what I have been able to see in my own experience, are lists of personal information bought and sold not only here in Canada but in the United States.

I pointed out that non-profit organizations and charitable organizations in order to do fundraising efficiently give their lists of donors to direct marketers in the United States.

I was lucky enough to obtain a list of donors of the organizations that were giving their names to a particular fundraiser in the United States. This list of names represents various organizations engaged in various activities and is available for money. People can buy these lists.

For example, it is possible to get a list of all the Canadian Jewish donors in Canada, 70,000 names. One can get that list in the United States. One can get a list of all those people who have donated to planned parenthood or pro-abortion organizations. One can get lists of people in Canada who are considered to be wealthy, 500,000. I did not think there were that many wealthy Canadians but according to this list in the United States there are 500,000 wealthy Canadians. What is at stake here is what happens if crime gets a hold of these names?

What a wonderful thing to know which households in Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary are big donors of perhaps $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 a year to charities. Is that not just a perfect target for criminal activity? Yet that can be bought in the United States.

We read today in the Ottawa Citizen that there are worries about an anti-abortion sniper approaching doctors who perform abortions. We can get that type of information from these lists and it is not just lists from non-profit organizations and charities.

In the United States organizations rent their lists of names for fundraising. Scientific American rents out its list so people can use the subscriber list in order to identify people who are likely to give to a scientific charity. One can imagine that someone who has other agendas might find this list handy as well, a list of medical practitioners for example. In the United States one can rent a list of the March of Dimes, of Greenpeace.

As long as there are no controls on this type of information all someone has to do is purchase personal information on our citizens that this country is trying to protect. I do not believe this legislation sufficiently addresses that problem. I wish it did. This is no time to fool around. We cannot leave it to the next century. We have to do something about it now. The only way we can do something about it now is to get it in committee and get it examined by our colleagues. I wish it would be examined in committee because I am not satisfied with the response from the other parties here. It has been a dialogue between the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois. There has been almost no input from the Conservatives, no input from the Reform Party and almost no input from the NDP.

Perhaps if we can get this in committee where there is representation by the other parties they will not be so willing to sit silent on an issue that is probably one of the most important issues facing this country today. Personal information is marketable. It is big bucks. It is big business and it is all about personal safety.

I look across to the other side and remember all the complaints about the gun control legislation and the fear that because people had to register their guns they would be targets of I do know what. I guess the fear is that if a person had to register their gun, it was known that the person had enough money to buy a gun and would be a target of a break in. I do not know, but that was one of the fears.

Right now, because of the lack of legislation in this area, we can buy a list that tells us how much money is in that household. We can buy a list that tells us what religion that household is. We can buy a list that tells us how that household stands on abortion.

I think the time is now to address this. We have to do it urgently. It is one of the most important things before the House and I thank the Bloc Quebecois for putting this amendment forward so that I could speak again on this issue. But I am not supporting the amendment because we have to move ahead now on this legislation.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased and this time somewhat surprised to rise to speak to the bill before us.

I heard the Liberal member who spoke before me say that the protection of personal information is one of the most pressing issues in our country. I agree with him on that point. In this electronic age where Canadians and Quebeckers are linked through computer systems at the office and in their home, it is indeed a fundamental issue.

However, contrary to the member opposite, I do think that what's worth doing is worth doing right. It so happens that the bill put forward by the government is ill conceived is a botched job, which contradicts what has already been done in that area, and I would add what has already been done right.

In the year and a half that I have been here, I have grown accustomed to seeing the House of Commons ignore what exists in the provinces, particularly in Quebec. I must remind members that there is a law in Quebec that has been widely praised, entitled an Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector. Support for this legislation is almost unanimous, and many people around the world have expressed their admiration for this initiative.

It must also be noted that the Quebec government is the only administration in North America that has a law to protect personal information in the private sector, and it has had it for four years. With this bill, it seems that the government has completely ignored that fact. The legislation is effective, but this does not matter. Since it is in Quebec, the federal government chooses to ignore it.

The bill put forward by the government is aimed at promoting electronic commerce, giving second billing to the protection of privacy in the public sector. The government can make all the philosophical speeches it wants saying in the most dramatic way how important the protection of personal information is, the fact remains that the main purpose of this bill is not to protect privacy, but to promote electronic commerce. Let us not kid ourselves, that is the objective of the bill.

Speaking of the bill, it would be interesting to look at some of its provisions, in particularly clause 27, which deals with regulations.

Section 27(2)(b) reads:

27.(2) The Governor in Council may, by order, b ) amend Schedule I to reflect revisions to the National Standard of Canada entitled Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information, CAN/CSA-Q830-96;

This is gibberish. Anyone listening might well wonder what I am talking about, why it is so complicated. What it means is that the government can amend this legislation without bringing it back before the House, and this is quite serious. Without consulting Parliament, the government can amend something that the hon. member opposite might consider crucial in Canada, which is the protection of personal information.

Section 27(2)( d ) reads: “The Governor in Council”—meaning the government—“may”: d ) if satisfied that legislation of a province—

I remind the House that we already have in Quebec a piece of legislation which is working very well. Why leave it to the government to decide when it would have been easy to say: “There is already an act in effect in Quebec. Let us leave it be and not enforce Bill C-54 in Quebec”.

Let me also quote the 1996-97 annual report of Quebec's Commission d'accès à l'information. I want to quote some excerpts because this is a very important document. This is an independent, non partisan organization that has a high credibility in Quebec.

The annual report says:

The commission has examined the consequences of introducing Canada-wide standards and legal principles regarding privacy on the information highway. Under the terms of a proposal submitted to the ministers responsible for setting up this highway, this protection would be based on the voluntary code of practice developed by the Canadian Standards Association.

It is the commission's contention that, if implemented, this proposal would represent a setback on the privacy issue in Quebec.

This contention is based on a comprehensive review of the CSA code. There is good reason to be pleased with the Canadian industry adopting such a code. This marks quite a breakthrough, stemming from an interesting analysis of the OECD guidelines on privacy. However, the CSA code does not meet the objectives of the personal information protection system established under the two Quebec laws, namely to guarantee to all citizens an impartial and fair solution to any problem or conflict that may arise with regard to the protection of this most important aspect of one's privacy. Therefore, the Commission suggested to the Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications that she remind her counterparts that Quebec has such a statutory system in place. According to the Commission—

—the Quebec system is the only response to the challenges of the information highway that respects the rights of citizens.

This is in Quebec. We must realize, of course, that the federal government often pays little attention to what Quebec organizations have to say. Therefore I will quote the federal privacy commissioner, Mr. Bruce Phillips. I will read the

“Building Canada's Information Economy and Society” is revealing in that it lends priority to economic issues over social issues. As such, the focus on electronic commerce precedes the goal of protecting personal information; the paper also indicates that the federal government wants to engage Canadians in a variety of network activities first and then develop protection of privacy later.

After quoting all these authorities in the area of protection of privacy, the Bloc Quebecois can only represent the consensus that exists in Quebec and vote against Bill C-54.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is the House ready for the question?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have had discussions with representatives of all parties. I believe you would find consent to defer the recorded division requested on the amendment of the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière to second reading of Bill C-54 to the expiry of Government Orders on Tuesday, October 27, 1998.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is it agreed?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 1998 / 1:45 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

moved that Bill C-55, an act respecting advertising services supplied by foreign periodical publishers, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, Canadian culture is our inheritance from the past. It is our joy in daily lives and it is our gift to the future.

Generations of Canadians who came before us made possible the birth of Canadian television. They did so through extraordinary artistic effort and through an act of national will.

Canadians who went before us made it possible for us to be a world leader in the music industry.

In less that 10 days, I will be in Montreal for the ADISQ gala, hosted by Céline Dion, who is known all over the world not only for her talent, but also for her support of national cultures.

They did so through exceptional talent and through national will.

Canadians who went before us made it possible for books by and about Canadians to be published in Canada. They did so through hard work and again through a collective national decision.

Generations of Canadians who went before us made it possible for us to have our own magazine industry, to have stories about Canadian information, ideas, news, art, talent, culture and voices.

The results produced by those generations of Canadians are really quite spectacular.

They worked hard to make Canada one of the countries most open to foreign cultures, while building a strong cultural identity that unites us all and shines throughout the world.

The sad reality, as world citizens, is that for the first time in history the number of spoken languages is diminishing. This reality should give us food for thought and raise the alarm. The futures of our respective cultures and cultural diversity are at stake.

There were difficult and controversial decisions made by previous governments and by previous members of parliament. Those decisions were taken starting with the creation of a national broadcasting system 60 years ago because successive governments believed that culture is central to our identity. They understood that culture is an element of individual, community and national strength. They knew that culture speaks to our heart, to our mind and to our soul as a country.

Today it is our turn as parliamentarians to rise once again to the challenge. It is our turn to ensure the future flourishing of Canadian magazines. It is our turn to show wise stewardship over our cultural birthright and our future. It is our turn to exercise an act of national will.

Magazines like Canadian Legion Magazine are important to Canada. Magazines like Canadian Legion Magazine survive because of the support of the government.

Bringing Canadian magazines to life requires an industry with imagination, dedication and nerves of steel. Bringing Canadian magazines to life entails a belief in cultural autonomy and a love for the free flow of ideas. Bringing Canadian magazines to life requires policies and actions by the Parliament of Canada.

In some ways the challenges that we face today are even more daunting than those faced by previous parliaments. We live in a more connected world. We live in a time when communication barriers are falling everywhere. We live in a country that thrives on exports and competition. And I repeat that we are the most open country in the world for all cultures of the world. We live in a world that thrives on exports and competition in which technology is turning old thinking and old rules on their ears. We live next door to the world's only remaining superpower and dominant cultural influence.

A member asks why we are putting up barriers. We are not putting up barriers. Canadian Legion is a magazine that deserves the support of the government for its voice to be heard. That does not prevent us from reading the American legion's magazine, but we have an opportunity and a responsibility as the Parliament of Canada to provide some space on the world's cultural shelf for our stories to be written about and to be heard.

We can walk into any magazine store in Canada and we will see more American magazines available for sale than any other country in the world. We are not putting up barriers but we reserve the right as a country to have a small space for our own voice.

Part of the role of parliament is to make sure that this voice is there for future generations. The law of the marketplace does not respect the law of cultural diversity upon which this country has been built and this party will continue to support until—

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Promotional protection.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

It is not promotional protection. The challenge is to address those issues of globalization with real solutions, not to snuff out the Canadian voices, not to fall prey to the globalization trend of those who would say that there is no difference between Canadian and American magazines, not to fall into the trap of claiming that we are building barriers.

These same members of the Reform Party who are crying down legislation that would help protect those Canadian voices are the same members of parliament who want the government to support the Canadian Legion Magazine . If there is anyone opposite who does not want us to directly support the Canadian Legion Magazine , I would dare them to stand in their place today, on the eve of Remembrance Day, and tell us they are against the support of the Canadian people to Legion Magazine . I do not see anyone putting their name forward. The truth is—

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

An hon. member

How about censorship?

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

Nobody is talking about censorship. This is not about censorship. This is about multiple voices in a global world.

The truth is that it has never been easy to publish a Canadian magazine. The first one was printed in 1792 by John Howe. The very first magazine was the Nova Scotia Magazine and Comprehensive Review of Literature, Politics, and News . This magazine folded after three years because of high publishing costs, a small domestic audience and the marketing power of far more established publications imported from abroad.

For 206 years Canadians have had to fight hard to ensure the survival and growth of our nation's magazine industry.

I repeat to those who would twist and distort the truth, to those who would sell out the Canadian magazines on the altar of globalization, I want to reinforce the fact that Canada has the most open cultural market in the world. More than 80% of the magazines sold on our newsstands come from other countries. Ninety-five per cent of those magazines are American magazines. And we have no intention of stopping that. We want to see a multiplicity of ideas.

The sale of U.S. magazines in Canada is far and away the largest export of magazines to a single country in any country in the world. There is no other nation that comes within a country mile of our country when it comes to being open to magazines from around the world. If that is protectionist, then I should be a member of the Reform Party.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Foreign Publishers Advertising Services ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

That is a thought that would even stop me in my tracks.

This closed market that the Reform Party is talking about should be underscored by the fact that in a small market like Canada there are 71 American magazines with a Canadian circulation of over 30,000.