Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a pleasure for me to rise today to speak on this motion moved by the New Democratic Party. This is not a votable motion because it was presented on an opposition day, and some motions are votable and others are not. The motion reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of this House, the introduction of a national identity card offends the principle of privacy and other civil rights of Canadians and this House therefore opposes this motion.
First, I would like to inform the Chair that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Mercier.
This motion is being moved today because, last November when the federal government and Manitoba were signing a bilateral agreement, the minister publicly mentioned this idea. Since the media more or less ignored it, he brought it up again during an interview. Last week, he mentioned it again, but this time before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
The committee wanted its members—currently travelling across Canada regarding a bill under consideration—to consult with Canadians. I have absolutely nothing against the government conducting consultations. Consultations are good, in my opinion; this is a democracy.
However, many years ago, before becoming a member, I studied consulting and communications. Being somewhat of an expert in this field, I would say that, normally, hypotheses and proposals are submitted. Alternatives are sometimes proposed during certain consultations.
In Quebec, for example, I remember having worked with the Minister of Agriculture on estates general on the economy. The minister or the government would mandate public servants to study the issue. If the public servants did not have the expertise needed to examine certain issues, then the government would usually consult experts.
Why am I talking about experts? Because, at first glance, a national identity card—several already exist—seems like a harmless idea. But, in this case, the minister is talking about a smart card, a card with a silicon chip able to store personal information. The minister is not setting guidelines or limitations. He is submitting the entire thing to consultations, in an ad hoc sort of way, which is unusual, at least when it comes to something so serious.
The principle of an identity card is a subject for debate on its own, but what about the personal information they want included on such a card?
If its creation is in reaction to the events of September 11, one may assume that its purpose is to be forewarned of terrorists. But does anyone really believe that a terrorist's card would bear the identification “I am a terrorist”? We are talking of biometric data, and I know that the eyes are the mirror of the soul, but can being a terrorist show up in a person's eyes? That is impossible.
There are other aspects as well. One could raise the question of DNA. Do they want to go that far? The minister does not say. I do not want to get carried away and end up putting words in his mouth. Then there are fingerprints, but the minister does not talk about what the cost of this will be.
We know what is happening with gun control. The Bloc Quebecois agreed with the principle of registering firearms, but the problem lies with administering this. They were after information, asking for instance “Do you have a gun, and if so what type?” But we see now that it is costing way more than expected, $1 billion even, when the initial figure was $2 million.
People say we ought not to always mistrust government, but we will recall that the Auditor General, in 1998 I think it was, reported that there were 3.8 million more SIN numbers than people in Canada. I am not talking hundreds of thousands, but 3.8 million. That is one example.
Two years ago, the Minister of Finance of the day wanted to give Canadians a gift to offset the increase in heating costs. He sent cheques to dead people. One is therefore justified in questioning the administrative aspect.
I am sure that if the member for Mercier has time, she will broach the subject of Bill C-54 and the fight she led at that time. Like her, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. We wondered who would manage this type of personal information and how it would be linked. We know that today, with computers, with data being linked with other data, there are few things that people can keep private. Will this go so far as to include medical data?
What I condemn is the fact that the minister appears open to holding consultations, but everything is so broad that much of the detail gets lost. In my riding, people have asked me why this is being done now.
The minister seems to be making it up as he goes along, which gives us the impression that he is a bit of a puppet. With the pressure since September 11, we know what the government has done in terms of public security. Public security measures have been strengthened. We have seen a shift take place. People have serious questions. They want to know how far the government plans on taking this. We may also wonder just how far the American government will ask us to take it and what changes it will ask us to make in order to meet its requirements.
I remember a time when you did not even need a passport to enter the United States. All you had to do was say you were a Canadian citizen and you could get through the border without any problem. I understand that there needs to be more control, but should this extend to an identity card for citizens? You have to wonder. The need should be demonstrated, and that has not been done yet.
The government has given people too many reasons to be wary of any attempt to collect personal information. We do not know a whole lot on how and where this information will be used. Unlike the minister, we are not sure that it will protect our identity.
As Réal Caouette said, “The government has your good at heart, and it will manage to get its hands on your goods as well”.