Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak today as the Bloc Quebecois critic and a member of the legislative committee that analyzed Bill C-17, clause by clause, proposing amendments to it.
The Bloc Quebecois, which I represent, introduced 49 amendments to this bill. Believe it or not, the Liberals retained not a single one. I am therefore disconcerted to hear Liberals, including the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, who has been telling us that the Liberal members were the ones to ask the hardest questions of the RCMP, CSIS and Transport. With all due respect to that member, regardless of the questions she may have raised, the bill was nevertheless not changed. That is the reality.
They can say in this House that they were hard on the RCMP and CSIS representatives, who I am sure quaked at the questions asked by the Liberals. At any rate, we knew very well that there would not be any major changes made to the bill.
We in the Bloc Quebecois introduced 49 amendments and we did not just pull them out of a hat. They reflect the proposals made to us by witnesses before the committee. I am not referring to those from Transport, CSIS, the RCMP and the police organizations anxious to have a police state in Canada and in Quebec. I am referring to the representatives of civil society. I will reserve for the end the independent commission members, who are supposed to be independent individuals appointed to defend our interests, that is the Canadian Bar Association, the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Barreau du Québec and all the other civil organizations which came and told us that this was the greatest encroachment on civil liberties that Canada has ever known. That is the reality. I will read some of the comments and representations from the Canadian Bar Association shortly.
Nevertheless, I want this to be clearly understood. In the name of terrorism and the war on terrorism, subjects we all agree on, the RCMP and CSIS, hand in glove with the Department of Transport, have given us a bill that will threaten our civil liberties. That is the reality.
I am simply going to quote the words of the privacy commissioner, who is independent and appointed by the government explicitly to protect people's rights. He is not there to protect the rights of the Bloc Quebecois or the members of the Bloc Quebecois. He is there to protect the rights of the whole population. This quotation summarizes in two or three paragraphs what this bill is all about. Thus, the commissioner says, in a letter addressed to the government, and I quote:
In Canada, police forces cannot normally compel businesses to provide personal information about citizens unless they obtain a warrant. Section 4.82 would entitle the national police force and the national security service to demand personal information about all Canadian air travellers without any judicial authorization.
That means, as things stand, that when this bill becomes law, the airlines will provide information—Bill C-44, which was passed last year, already authorizes them to provide information and exchange such information with our neighbours to the south—but the RCMP and CSIS will be able to use it for other purposes. That is what those terrible questions that the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine says she asked of the RCMP and CSIS boils down to.
After my colleagues and I asked our questions and got answers, it became clear that finding terrorists is not the only purpose of this bill. At the same time, they are going to try to do what they cannot do now.
And that means those who use air transportation will be more closely monitored than travellers using any other means of transportation in Canada. Of course, this is the result of September 11, because that was a horrible event we never want to see happen again. Unfortunately, people travelling by air will pay the penalty and a databank on frequent flyers will be created.
That is what will happen. Information on frequent travellers will be kept in the data banks monitored by the RCMP and CSIS. That is why the Bloc Quebecois supports the recommendations of the privacy commissioner, who wanted to add the following to paragraph 4.82 (14). I will not read 4.82 in its entirety; the part that the privacy commissioner wanted to add is clear enough on its own. He wanted to add this:
—and a copy of this record must be provided within seven days to the PrivacyCommissioner of Canada unless the Privacy Commissioner waives this requirement inwriting to the Commissioner and/or the Director.
Given the nature of the information that will be kept by the RCMP and CSIS, for whatever reason, the privacy commissioner was saying that since there was injury to rights--and this is an historical precedent--there must be some guidelines. Businesses are not allowed give out private information on their clients. According to the legislation, the RCMP and CSIS can keep the information for seven days. After that, they may keep it longer if it is required for security purposes. The privacy commissioner simply said that if information is going to be kept longer than seven days, he would like a copy of the files to ensure that it was being kept for reasons of protection and security, to fight terrorism for example, so that he could determine that it was not being used for purposes not consistent with the legislation?
Believe or not, CSIS is against that, as are the RCMP and Transport Canada. The Bloc Quebecois amendment requesting that this be added to the act, as requested by the rivacy commissioner, was rejected.
A member of the Liberal caucus who was on the committee said that the members of her party had some very hard-hitting questions for RCMP and CSIS witnesses. In spite of their answers, I know very well that this legislation was drawn up by the RCMP and CSIS for their own ends and that the transport department did not have a say.
Of course, police organizations dream of turning Canada and Quebec into police states. This is terrible. It would be to lose the fight against terrorism when the very thing that terrorists want to do is undermine our rights as a free and democratic society. That is what the terrorists were trying to do.
Today, we are letting them win by allowing our police organizations, such as the RCMP and CSIS, to collect information on frequent passengers from independent data bases. It will be possible to use this information without the privacy commissioner being able to check the data.
Moreover, there is a clause that says that this information will not be subject to the provisions of the Access to Information Act. Certain provisions in this act say that, for security reasons, the information commissioner is not required to respond to certain requests. However, despite these provisions, the bill before us and air passenger information are totally exempt from the Access to Information Act. In other words, we will never be able to know the contents of a file kept by the RCMP or CSIS. It is even worse.
On this issue, I will let the information commissioner and those who will ask questions make up their own mind. However, the commissioner's report was very clear. To him, it was the worst decision, the worst bill or the worst recommendation ever brought forward in Parliament.
Again, I must point out that the information commissioner and the privacy commissioner are independent persons appointed by the government to defend the interests of Quebeckers and Canadians.
When the Canadian Bar Association and the Barreau du Québec support the privacy commissioner request for access to information, it means that all of civil society is critical of this bill. Again, I am sorry that Liberal members did not understand civil society's message.