Madam Speaker, I am pleased this afternoon to have an opportunity to participate in the second reading of Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems. The short title, which also seems like a mouthful, is the remote sensing space systems act.
Although there may be some different perspectives in different corners of the House on exactly what we are dealing with here and what the potential is for good or for the opposite of good, there probably is agreement among all members that it is truly astounding, and it probably makes sense to acknowledge this, that we have such legislation to deal with such a matter.
I am not the only one in the House who can say this but I am old enough to realize that if someone had tried to talk about this, even in my university days, I would not have known what on earth they were talking about. In fact, the very existence of the kinds of satellites that are now hurtling around in the atmosphere would just simply not have been understood or even imagined. There is something a bit daunting and a bit sobering about the responsibility that falls to 308 members of Parliament to now get their heads around legislation to regulate remote sensing space systems. I want to read directly from the summary of the bill. It states:
--to ensure that their operation is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations nor inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations.
We are grappling with a very sobering responsibility.
I want to say at the outset that it would be the intention of my colleagues, the New Democratic Party caucus, to vote for the bill to go to committee. However it is equally our intention to comb through every single dotted i and crossed t of the bill and utilize the best expertise available, the broadest input possible from Canadians, to ensure we fully understand in precisely what way the bill can and will be used to serve those, on the surface of it, very laudable aims and objectives.
One of the reasons I think every member of the House needs to take this responsibility seriously is that we have seen over the last couple of years, in the name of “security”, truly terrifying things to which the government's legislation has now committed us and in which we are embroiled, to our national shame, and to the detriment of what anybody could remotely think of security in the real sense of the word.
I do not actually know who said this but I think it expresses very strongly the apprehensions, concerns and fears that a great many Canadians have, with good reason these days, to remind ourselves that a nation that seeks security through abandoning human rights is bound to end up achieving neither.
What we have watched happen over the last several years in the name of security clearly turned a deaf ear to the prophetic warning of Barbara Lee, the Afro-American congresswoman. In the aftermath of 9/11, when the American president divided the world into us and them and said, “You are either with Osama bin Laden or you are with George Bush”, as if there were no other choices to be made, the world instantly became a less safe place and highly polarized. The advice of Barbara Lee was that in our attempt to defeat terrorism we should not become the evil we deplore. This advice needs to be taken seriously by each and every one of us every single day and every waking moment.
Having said that, being an optimist and always taking my responsibility seriously, we have to ensure the legislation is a positive instrument of public policy and not something draconian or even unintentionally something vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, distortion and so on. I think an important starting point is to understand absolutely, not only the legitimacy of the legislation but why we need such legislation. Sometimes we stand in our place and say that we feel that even the purpose of the legislation that is being pursued is not a legitimate one and we would not vote for it to even go to second reading.
Legislation is a source of pride and we should remind ourselves that Canada is a world leader in remote sensing satellite technology. We do not introduce legislation for the sole and express purpose of ensuring that Canada remains a world leader, but that it can be an important byproduct and in turn can spell future opportunities and challenges for Canada as a whole, for Canadian scientists to contribute toward peaceful and positive purposes for which this technology is earmarked or directed.
However let us also be mindful that there is the potential for such legislation, primarily because of its vagueness, to go off the rails. Many Canadians, and I would include New Democrat members of Parliament among those Canadians, are deeply worried over the potential for this legislation becoming the cloak or the cover for something very different from its intended purposes.
I say that not meaning to accuse any individual member of Parliament of having such intent because he or she votes for the legislation. We will vote for the legislation to go to committee but, because of what can happen in the carrying out of the government's agenda on a parallel track, we could find that the advancing of the missile defence agenda creeps in and overtakes the intended purpose of the legislation that is now before us.
Let me go back to the face value of what this act is about. It would establish a licensing regime for remote sensing space systems and provide for restrictions of the distribution of data gathered by means of them. I want to add my voice to the concerns we have heard about the privacy of Canadians and the potential use of their data. The bill states that there will be appropriate restrictions and I think we need to hear more about that.
I listened to the parliamentary secretary's response to a question that we raised concerning the application of the Privacy Act, but I am still worried. I hope he will take the opportunity to elaborate further on that . It sounds as if we may have some real homework to do in terms of plugging some serious holes to ensure this proposed act will not lead to the invasion of privacy without proper protections.
I believe I understood the parliamentary secretary to say, and I will happily withdraw my words if I have misunderstood him, or the sense of the response was, that yes we are sensitive to privacy concerns, but that we had to remember that this was now a privatized operation, that it was in the commercial domain and that there was only so much we could do about it.
The first obvious response to that is that if the privacy concerns of Canadians cannot be absolutely assured and protected, then what in the name of heavens would we be doing agreeing to a commercialized privately operated operation for RADARSAT without that being an absolute condition. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could provide some further assurance on that issue.
The summary of the bill goes on to state:
--the enactment gives special powers to the Government of Canada concerning priority access to remote sensing services and the interruption of such services.
The devil can be in the details.
Whether or not the kinds of powers that the bill assigns to government and the responsibilities of government in handling RADARSAT-2 are what they need to be will provide the answer as to whether it can be assured that there are protections that the legislation will in fact be used for its intended purpose. We do not want it to be exploited and to find that this is actually dragging us through a back door into a possible future participation in ballistic missile defence.
Canadians in greater and greater numbers are making it clear they want absolutely nothing to do with participation in Bush's missile defence initiative. It is becoming more clear that Canadians are saying no to Canadian participation in missile defence, but are saying yes to our federal government and Parliament providing leadership. Canadians want us to persuade Bush to say no to the militarization of space, the weaponization of space that is inherently built in to the missile defence trajectory that the U.S. government is now launched on.
For anyone who doubts that, the biggest mouthpieces for the Bush administration's policy are the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. Those organizations have been on the front lines, in much the same way that the Fraser Institute and the C.D. Howe Institute have deliberately driven the evolution of the reform-alliance, and now no longer progressive conservative party. The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute have had a major influence over foreign policy choices in general and the military agenda in particular of the Bush administration. They have been trumpeting missile defence.
Yesterday a spokesperson for the Heritage Foundation appeared before the foreign affairs committee. His testimony will be in the committee Hansard and it is important that people familiarize themselves with it. He said that from the perspective of the Heritage Foundation the issue of weaponization of space and the concerns about the possible militarization of space are ill-founded because, according to him, both are already true. We already have the militarization of space. As we speak, the weaponization of space is beginning to happen. It is not some distant concern.
The previous Liberal cabinet minister who was defeated, David Pratt, used to say, “I do not know why the NDP, why progressives in this country, why people who feel we should be investing in peace and not escalation of war, keep raising militarization of space as if it is a real concern”. For one thing, $200 billion has already been spent in missile defence evolution. Every year we can look at the U.S. budgets and we can see the allocation of resources, $10 billion this year alone, to further develop the weaponization of space.
David Pratt would say that nothing is going to happen on that front until at least the year 2010. What kind of timeline is that? What kind of vision is that? What kind of horizon of planning for the future protection of the human race is that?
I do not want to go too far afield in this but we need to face reality. The government either does not know where it is going on this matter, in which case it is high time it did, or it knows exactly where it wants to go on this and it is walking a tightrope that has a lot more to do with its own immediate electoral fortunes than it has to do with the kind of broad concern about what kind of leadership Canada is going to provide to the world to make sure we do not get on course to the weaponization of space.
Witness after witness appeared before the foreign affairs committee. It is hoped that there are Liberal members of Parliament who read the committee Hansard because hardly any of them are ever there to hear what is being said in regard to these matters. I find that deeply disturbing because I know there are a lot of Liberals who are very concerned at any possibility that they would be attached to a government that would plunge us into Bush's missile defence. However, there does not seem to be much of a presence in terms of expressing concern or of eliciting information and so on.
I want to say one other thing before I deal with a few of the specific concerns about the bill. Those who think it is paranoid to be concerned that this legislation might morph into something that was never intended should think about the anti-terrorism measures that were brought in with Bill C-36. They should think about, in the name of security, the kind of security certificates that are being issued today that absolutely trash human rights, trample civil rights, suspend the rule of law, suspend assumption of innocence, suspend any meaningful legal process. People's lives are being destroyed and are being held in abeyance but they face no charges and have no way to get out of that legal nightmare. Let us be careful that we do not pass legislation that gives powers that we cannot actually deal with in the regulations.
Coming back to the issue of ownership and use, let us be clear that this commercially owned satellite, RADARSAT-2, is billed by its manufacturer, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, as incorporating state of the art technology featuring the most advanced commercially available radar imagery in the world. I think that is true. We need to applaud that.
We need to be sure that that incredible capability is used for constructive, peaceful purposes. This means we need to take up the challenge to become world leaders even more so in verification matters as they relate to the development of weapons and armaments. Let us make sure that we do not redirect that kind of technology into areas that go against Canadian values and against the promises given.
Let us also be clear that Canadian taxpayers have funded approximately 75% of the development of this satellite. This is another reason that we have to have a major say around the assurances about how it is used and that the regulatory mechanism for doing it has to be used stringently.
It is important to note that RADARSAT International has sold imagery from RADARSAT-1 to the U.S. military in the past. Some of this information may have been used by the United States in its war in Iraq, a war in which Canada did not want to participate and a war in which we have no assurance we were not in fact complicit by having sold information to the U.S. military that aided and abetted the war in Iraq.
We need ironclad assurances about any possible future use of this legislation. It is very worrisome that the government saw the obvious link that one can make to the use of RADARSAT-2 as part of the U.S. ballistic missile defence system. The very first words out of departmental officials were to assure us that there is no connection between RADARSAT-2 and missile defence.
We need to make sure that those are not just empty assurances. We need to make sure that the provisions in the regulations and the actual content of the legislation is such that there is an ironclad guarantee that that is not what ends up happening to be the real use, if not even at this point the intended use, of RADARSAT-2 in the legislation that is now before us.