Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-17, the public safety act.
Specifically I would like to address section 4.82 which would amend the Aeronautics Act. This is an improvement over an earlier proposal in Bill C-55 because it addresses a number of concerns, not only of parliamentarians and people in the House, but also the Privacy Commissioner.
At the same time it is a very important provision for public safety. It will give our law enforcement and security agencies an effective and timely tool to improve transportation security and safety for all Canadians. How will it do this? It will require airlines, which already collect personal information about passengers, to share it when requested with specifically designated RCMP and CSIS officers.
Let me assure the House that designated officers cannot use the information for unrestricted purposes. Their use will be strictly limited to the purposes of transportation, security and counterterrorism. This makes sense because the RCMP requires information about passengers to deliver an effective air carrier protection program.
In practical terms the RCMP needs to know if there are potentially dangerous passengers on flights so that it can assign aircraft protective officers to cover them. Likewise, CSIS needs the information to identify known suspected terrorists before they board a plane. I do not think it would be in the interests of Canadians to deny the RCMP and CSIS access to this information if it could avert a terrorist incident or protect Canadians from potential harm.
We have removed the identification of persons subject to outstanding warrants as an authorized primary purpose for obtaining passenger information as it was set out in Bill C-55. However during the course of analyzing passenger information to check for terrorists and other high risk persons, the RCMP would be able to notify the local police if they identified a fugitive wanted for a serious crime such as murder.
This change specifically responds to concerns raised by hon. members and the Privacy Commissioner that accessing air passenger lists to identify persons with outstanding warrants for serious offences goes beyond the counterterrorism intent of the bill.
In keeping with public expectations, the RCMP would still be able to take action in the interests of public safety. If the RCMP happened to identify a dangerous wanted criminal or terrorist, it would then be able to notify the local police so it could be apprehended before they could harm someone else. The public would not expect anything less from the RCMP.
We must not lose sight of the fact that an arrest warrant is essentially an order that is issued in situations where the justice or the court believes it is necessary in the public interest to do so. What is more, it commands peace officers to arrest the person and to bring him or her before the justice or the court to be dealt with according to law. Without this provision we would be placing RCMP members in a very difficult position by preventing them from assisting in the execution of serious warrants they may discover in the context of analyzing passenger data for transportation security purposes.
I would like to take this moment to assure hon. members of the House that this authority would in no way give the RCMP blanket permission to arrest and detain just anyone. Before any passenger could be arrested, the RCMP and any other police force for that matter would have to take reasonable steps to positively identify the person named in the warrant.
That brings me to the second change, which is to narrow the types of offences for which warrants can be executed. Only warrants for offences which are punishable by five years or more in prison and which are identified and specified in a schedule to be listed in a regulation will be subject to disclosure.
Finally, the hallmark of Canada's approach to national security is collaboration among departments and agencies at the federal and provincial level, industry, parliamentarians, citizens rights groups and in the international community, especially the United States. The joint resolve of these stakeholders is one of the reasons why Canada remains one of the safest countries in the world in which to live.
To ensure that air carriers have the authority to collect and use information about individuals obtained from the government and to search for information about them for specific purposes, a consequential amendment to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, is proposed. This amendment would ensure the effectiveness of the data sharing regime proposed by Bill C-17.
The PIPEDA was developed to ensure that privacy and enable law enforcement agencies to protect the safety of Canadians and support a competitive and innovative marketplace. This same balanced approach has led to this amendment which would maintain the overall integrity then of intelligence activities in a changed security environment.
The amendment to section 4.82 needs to take into account Canadians' privacy rights as well as their protection against terrorism. That is why this proposal makes very strict privacy safeguards and as such is well worth considering.
All passenger information would have to be destroyed within seven days unless it was reasonably required for the restrictive purposes of transportation security or the investigation of terrorist threats. When we consider there are thousands of flights a day in Canada, it makes good sense then to give the RCMP and CSIS the time they need to analyze passenger information they have accessed before planes actually depart.
To ensure accountability and transparency, written records would have to be kept then to justify intentional disclosure of any passenger information. This would enable review agencies such as the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the Inspector General for CSIS or the Privacy Commissioner to readily examine records for compliance with the law. The RCMP and CSIS would each be required to conduct an annual review of information retained by designated officers. If retention could no longer be justified, the information would have to be destroyed.
In closing, section 4.82 is what Canadians want and I believe that sincerely. It will ensure that law enforcement and national security agencies can improve transportation and national security and work effectively with our international partners. It will do this while maintaining privacy rights which as all members of the House know are also very important.
We have taken into account concerns expressed about proposals in the previous legislation. We have listened and we believe we have struck the right balance. After all, I believe Canadians want and expect from parliamentarians and those of us in the House to strike the right balance when it comes to privacy and the rights of Canadians and also security and safety for all Canadians.