Mr. Speaker, it is quite apparent from what my colleagues have said that confusion occurs when a government uses the omnibus bill process to move legislation through the House. It is quite apparent from the comments my colleagues have made that in some of these bills there may be an aspect of things that should and can be supported. Because there is support for some of the amendments, the government also tries to put through other legislative amendments that are not acceptable and are very difficult for Canadians to support. We saw that in Bill C-36 and we see it again in Bill C-42.
The reason for the comments from my colleagues on Bill C-42 is because that is the origin of this section that has now found itself in Bill C-44. This section was originally in Bill C-42 as a measure to advance airline security and to respect the legislation that the United States government passed through its congress.
Quite frankly, it is a fairly good piece of legislation in itself in the one aspect it deals with. I think we will likely find that there is almost unanimous support for this piece of legislation.
If this was the intent by the government or if this is what was necessary in the first place, why did it dump it into an omnibus bill that brings a whole lot of other issues to the table at the same time? This bill should have been introduced by itself without being put in the omnibus bill. That omnibus bill probably should not have seen the light of day. Various sections should be brought to the House that deal specifically with the issues pertaining to defence, the health department or to transport provisions under the Aeronautics Act .
This part of the bill respects the law that the United States has put in place as a result, I would suggest, of the demand by its citizens to respond in some strong measure to answer the concern of safety and feeling secure and confident in using the airlines after September 11. Americans perhaps have more pressure than we do in Canada because they were the victims.
Yes, Canada had individuals who were killed in the towers. Yes, Canada helped the United States in responding to September 11. After visiting Washington and talking to people who lived there and worked in buildings near the Pentagon, we will probably never appreciate the damage that it did to the psyches or souls of Americans or the impact it had on their vulnerability.
Because of that, the American government had to respond in a way so that the American people could feel their government was in control and would prevent this from happening again. In response to that, the American government, the congress, the senate and the administration came up with a very concise and precise bill outlining what safety measures they were going to be taking.
One of them was the requirement for all international flights coming into the United States to provide to competent authorities passenger manifests prior to landing in the United States. That is a legitimate request. As a country, it has the right to ask for that.
Therefore, Bill C-44 was introduced by the government to respond in kind to the American legislation. This legislation will be enacted on January 18, 2002. Because of that, Bill C-44 must also come into effect prior to January 18, 2002 to be in compliance with section 117 of the U.S. aviation and transportation security act.
That is the reason the government removed this section from Bill C-42. Again, if this was timely and an important part of that legislation, then why did it not enter a separate piece of legislation in the House prior to putting Bill C-42 on the table?
The question arises as to what this manifest will contain. Why would a person be concerned about this information being made available? We heard from my colleague from the NDP of how people are concerned about the invasion of their privacy and of information they feel no one has any right to know.
We should make it clear that we are talking about the full name of passengers and crew; the date of birth; the sex; the passport number and country of issuance for each passenger, and crew if necessary; and the U.S. visa number or resident alien card number for each passenger, or crew if applicable. This information must be transmitted by the air carrier to U.S. customs in advance of the aircraft landing.
I do not know that this is really all that invasive. For the most part, this information is pretty widely known and is quite obvious in many cases. However the legislation, other than allowing the manifest to be transmitted before the landing of the aircraft, also permits the disclosure of information to other countries that the cabinet may designate by regulation.
Right now we know the Americans require this in legislation, but we are not aware, or at least I am not aware, of any other countries that might be contemplating similar legislation. I would like to have some idea, and I think Canadians would like to have some idea, of just how widely spread this kind of sharing of information will be.
Another amendment in Bill C-42 relates to changes in the Immigration Act that Canada will require air carriers bringing passengers to Canada to provide similar information by prescribed regulation to Canadian authorities. Obviously what we are doing in Bill C-44 is allowing Canada to send the manifests to the United States and other countries, when we ourselves, in Bill C-42, will be asking for the same kind of manifests to be sent to Canada from carriers bringing people into Canada. It is a quid pro quo and certainly something that is necessary after September 11.
I would like to reiterate that the Americans have reacted this way in a very strong show to their citizens that their government is in control and their government is acting in a very responsible way. Canadians have to realize that this is not new for us and that it will have very little effect, if any, for most Canadian travellers to the United States.
Eighty to ninety per cent of all airline passengers travelling to the United States go through one of seven major airports in Canada where U.S. immigration and customs services conduct pre-clearance before boarding. This pre-clearance basically gives the Americans all the information that they are requiring through legislation now. For most Canadians flying to the United States, this will not be any different than what happens now.
One thing we did hear when we were in Washington was that it had the same problem as we had in Canada where intelligence agencies did not share information with each other. Although this information will be flowing to the United States and to Canada, neither of us have a competent system to deal with that information and ensuring that all agencies, which may have an interest in certain people and threats posed by individuals, have the information in a timely manner. Something we and the Americans have to address is how to use this information, not only in an appropriate manner but in a manner that will make a real difference in the fight against terrorism.
Over a month ago, the coalition proposed a plan on public protection and border management. We put before Canadians and before the government a concept of how intelligence information could be shared, not only with our own agencies but with agencies in the United States as well. We feel this is a very practical approach, an approach that manages intelligence in an effective way, in a way that is useful and meaningful in attacking terrorism and terrorists themselves. We feel our proposal would go a long way to providing a practical application for what the Americans are asking and potentially, through Bill C-42, for what Canadians are asking.
The bottom line with Bill C-44 is that American legislation requires this change for all international flights landing in the United States. A failure to allow Canadian carriers to forward passenger manifests would prevent them from flying into the United States.
I would suggest that Canadians might perceive this legislation as a response to the American demand that Canada put it into practise. The embarrassing thing with this legislation is that it would appear that the Canadian government is once again responding to something coming from the Americans rather than the Canadian government taking a leadership role and putting in place a process that would address this issue. The Canadian government should have shown leadership. It should have shown initiative. It should have stepped out in front of the pack instead of trailing along behind the pack.
I would suggest that the concept put on the table a month ago by the coalition should be given serious consideration. Information collected on airline manifests could be used in a meaningful way and put into a system where it would be dealt with in real time. This would ensure that those individuals, who threaten the security of not only the United States, but of all the free world, could be dealt with in an efficient and expedient manner.
The government will find support for this legislation. We see the need to have this legislation in place. However it is a very small step in the road that has to be travelled to make sure that intelligence information is shared by all necessary agencies and dealt with in an expedient manner to address the issue of terrorist threats.