Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address two proposals in Bill C-17 that are intended to improve the data sharing regime that was originally set out in Bill C-55. These proposals are designed to respond to some of the concerns raised by members of Parliament and the privacy commissioner about the scheme and to ensure its effectiveness.
Before describing the two proposals, I would like to point out that the government has listened to the concerns raised and has challenged itself on the basic framework for the data sharing regime. As was contained in Bill C-55, air carriers would be required to provide RCMP and CSIS designated officers, as well as Transport Canada, with passenger information, upon request, for transportation and national security purposes. Canadians need the bill to increase the government's capacity to prevent terrorist attacks and deliver an effective air carrier protective program to ensure the safety of passengers and respond swiftly should a significant threat arise. I believe that we have achieved a balance between privacy and public safety.
The destruction, retention and disclosure provisions originally proposed in Bill C-55 all remain the same in Bill C-17. RCMP and CSIS designated officers would have to destroy passenger information within seven days unless it was reasonably required for the purpose of transportation security or the investigation of threats to the security of Canada such as, for example, if there needs to be an analysis of patterns of high risk passengers travelling on a particular route. Passenger information could also be disclosed to a third party for very restricted purposes. These include transportation security, imminent public safety threats, outstanding warrants for serious offences and removal orders, compliance with a subpoena or court order, and counterterrorism investigations by CSIS.
While this initiative serves to ensure the safety and security of Canadians in a changed security environment, the government will continue to be committed to protecting privacy rights. As such, Bill C-17 contains important privacy safeguards, including having only designated officers access the passenger information, approval by senior designated officers for counterterrorism disclosures, records of retention and disclosure, and an annual review of retained information.
In improving the data sharing scheme, the government was particularly sensitive to the concerns of the privacy commissioner about the RCMP's ability to scan passenger information to search for persons wanted on warrants. Consequently, the identification of persons for whom a warrant has been issued was removed as a primary purpose for collecting passenger information. With this change, the RCMP would only be able to access passenger information for the purpose of transportation security. CSIS would be able to access the information for transportation and national security purposes.
However, if the RCMP discovered an outstanding warrant for a serious offence while screening passenger lists for transportation security, the force would still be able to disclose that information to a peace officer for the execution of the warrant. This aspect of the regime is necessary for public safety, because Canadians would expect the RCMP to take appropriate action if it happens to find a passenger wanted on an outstanding warrant for a serious offence such as murder or kidnapping. Ignoring the fact that a person is wanted for a serious offence and doing nothing about it because of the technicalities would be irresponsible.
Another key proposal in Bill C-17 is a consequential amendment to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, or PIPEDA, to ensure the effectiveness of the data sharing regime. Organizations subject to PIPEDA are already authorized to disclose personal information to a government institution without the person's consent for reasons of law enforcement, national security, defence of Canada, conduct of international affairs and where otherwise required by law.
To ensure that airlines and any other organizations subject to PIPEDA can provide the information to a government institution under this regime, there is a need to clarify the use and collection authorities to mirror the current disclosure authority in PIPEDA. For example, if CSIS receives intelligence from a foreign agency that a suspected terrorist is expected to arrive on a flight from Europe within the next three weeks, CSIS is authorized to share core biographical information about the terrorist with the airlines and to request them to notify CSIS the moment the person buys a ticket. Under PIPEDA, the airlines are currently authorized to disclose personal information without consent in this context.
But for this regime to work effectively, it is clear that the airlines need to be able to respond to the query from CSIS and receive or collect the information in the first place. This would ensure a consistency with the overall intent of PIPEDA, which is to protect the personal information of Canadians while allowing law enforcement and national security to continue their investigative and intelligence activities.
I believe that these amendments not only will clarify how the data sharing regime will work but will also strengthen it to ensure that it will be effective in preventing terrorism. Canadians have a right to live in a safe society and I am confident that the data sharing regime in the bill would support that right while ensuring strict privacy safeguards that reflect Privacy Act protections. The bill strikes a balance between protecting privacy and keeping Canadians safe.