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House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was adoption.

Topics

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to participate in private members' business. I hope that one day, we will witness a reform that will allow us to dedicate every Friday to debates among parliamentarians on private members' bills.

When I read our colleague's bill and when my party and I analysed it, we asked ourselves why our colleague wanted to add a new infraction to the Criminal Code—that is the crux of my question—when, quite frankly, it seems that his objectives would be reached quite effectively through section 403 of the Criminal Code?

Can he explain why we should amend the Criminal Code? Why create a new infraction from scratch? Why not use section 403? It clearly states:

Every one who fraudulently personates any person, living or dead,

(a) with intent to gain advantage for himself or another person,

(b) with intent to obtain any property or an interest in any property...

is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or an offence punishable on summary conviction

I would like an answer, because I really do not understand why we need this bill, but I know he must have had a good reason for introducing it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I did cover part of the hon. member's question in my speech. I hope it does address it, but the concern is that there are three loopholes that are not covered by section 403.

First, though fraud and impersonation are crimes under the Criminal Code, they do not apply to personal information such as phone records, consumer preferences or purchases. Second, while these actions violate that section and they violate the PIPEDA insofar as it says that information cannot be disclosed without express consent, this does not guarantee a remedy in the sense that the Privacy Commissioner is very limited to what she can actually do.

Our concern is with the Privacy Commissioner in her own situation. Maclean's magazine highlighted the fact that it was an American data broker who did this through impersonation. There is no recourse for the Privacy Commissioner or anyone else to remedy that problem unless there is a situation that we are putting forward in the bill whereby we make Canadian affiliates responsible in some way.

We feel that, in the new information technology, section 403 simply does not cover that. We need to cover phone records as the United States is doing through VoIP services. That requires these three pieces of legislation, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Criminal Code to be amended for that purpose.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, this is only the second time I have spoken in this House.

I would like to thank the people of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe for their support in the recent election.

I would like to underline that Moncton hosted the Memorial Cup. It is a hockey town and a Hockeyville, but that Memorial Cup was sponsored by MasterCard and what a fitting title for the MasterCard Memorial Cup when we are talking about identity theft and credit card misuse.

The issue of identity theft is becoming a concern for many Canadian citizens and the media reminds us of this daily. Canadians want to know that their information is safe and that misuse of their personal information will not take place. The unfortunate reality is that in Canada we are known for our mass marketing frauds. Many fraudsters operate from this country targeting Americans, the British, and to a lesser degree our own Canadian citizens. Let us not forget the Nigerian scams that Canadians and many others have been subjected to for a number of years.

One goal of these fraudsters is to gain the personal information of their victims and to use this information to further their illegal schemes. One example of the use of personal information is to obtain a credit card in the name of an innocent victim and use the card to its maximum without of course making any payments. It may take months, maybe years, for the payments to be made and the victims are probably not in a position to re-establish their credit rating.

In the United States data brokers are being sued by the trade commissioner of that country for the acts that are impugned in this proposed act. Unfortunately, many of our global partners are of the opinion that not enough is being done in this country to curtail this illegal activity and in that vein I welcome this bill.

Our American counterparts are being told by Canadian agencies, such as the RCMP, that it is better to have those committing the frauds from Canada on American victims deported to the United States so proper sanctions can take place. In the United Kingdom the information commissioner has just released his report on this very vexing problem.

Bill C-299 puts us on the right track. It targeted the existing problem, but does it go far enough? That is the question.

First and foremost is the definition given to personal information. Bill C-299, the bill in question, uses the definition found in PIPEDA. We ask ourselves whether that goes far enough. Personal information in that regard means information about an identifiable individual, but does not include the name, title or business address or telephone number of an employee or organization.

PIPEDA is designed to protect people. The hon. member plucked the definition of personal information from the act without perhaps giving it some thought, which at committee it will likely get, to ensure that the information which is stolen is in fact valuable information which does include the name, title and business address of the person in question. Otherwise, what use would the information be? The definition section may be a minor thing. With all due respect to the hon. member, that begs the question: Why limit the definition of personal information? A better definition could be drafted.

The material sought to be protected is also very much in question. By simply shadowing the definition found in another act of Parliament, it probably does not go far enough. It is necessary to broaden the definition with a non-exhaustive list. We should think wide if we are trying to protect our citizens.

In the proposed amendment to subsection 362(1), the offence in question is obtaining personal information from a third party. This subsection does not create the offence that is necessary in order to combat the theft or illegal use of personal information.

This amendment does not properly address the unlawful conduct that is at the crux of this problem. In its present state, the amendment to the Criminal Code does not deal with the victim who is directly targeted. Should the offence not be “obtains from any person”, and this would be more Catholic, if we like, and would be more inclusive. The argument will be made that a third party is a person who facilitates the obtaining of the personal information. It does not automatically follow that it comes directly from a victim.

The term “third party” is ambiguous and must be replaced by “any person”. It removes the ambiguity and it gives greater protection to Canadian citizens.

Further, the amendment to the Criminal Code limits that the personal information was obtained by false pretence or by fraud. If the mover were serious about tackling the misuse of personal information, and I have no doubt that he is, with his integrity and track record in Parliament, why would we limit the unlawful manner in which the material is obtained?

I suggest that the proper amendment should be “obtains in any manner”. It therefore does not really matter whether it is obtained falsely, which is certainly bad, or illegally, which is very bad. If it is obtained in any way and misused, that is the crime that should be protected as well. We could of course be looking at tiers or subsections to an amendment to the Criminal Code.

Finally, the information could be acquired illegally and used for an illegal purpose. This is very debatable. I really do look forward to the debate in committee on this. Law enforcement officials and in some cases journalists, ombudspeople, and committees recently created that I am on studying Bill C-2 may in fact find ways and means to use information for illegal purpose. This either must be eliminated completely or addressed in a section of this amendment.

I am not of the same mind as my hon. friend across the way that there must be an exemption, but there probably could be an exemption for illegally obtained information which is used for illegal purpose, and it should be in the section.

Clearly, the use to be made of the obtained personal information must then be attacked, but the offence is to use the material for a fraudulent purpose. Whether it is for personation, to utter forged documents, et cetera, the issue is one where the use of the material needs to be dealt with.

We talked about credit card fraud, which I think is on everybody's minds, but these uses, these personations and using personal information can be a lot less illegal and a lot less damaging, but nonetheless deserve the same protection under this law. The amendment does not deal with the person who steals personal information directly.

An example is the thief who enters a residence and sees the personal documents on a table. Many people just keep their PINs for the ABMs and Aeroplan points and so on by the phone in case they forget them. That personal information, including the social insurance number, might just be there for a thief to see. It might be a friendly worker who appropriates this information.

This information could be used to obtain a credit card and to use the credit card. The victim is not aware of any loss since a theft, as defined by the Criminal Code, never occurred. A year or so later the victim applies for credit and we know the rest of the story. He or she is refused because of a bad credit rating.

In its present form then, Bill C-299 deals with the matter in a less than complete way. On the other hand, should the thief sell the information, he or she may fall within one of the amended sections. This cannot be the intent of the amendment to the Criminal Code.

The other proposed amendments to the Canada Evidence Act and the Competition Act are made as a result of those made to the Criminal Code. I applaud the part of my colleague's bill that creates a civil wrong, or a tort, out of what we always thought of as a criminal act. I cannot say enough about how important it is for government to have hybrid motions and bills like this which encompass both the civil reality and civil loss.

The previous comments apply. The CEA and the Criminal Code must reflect that the personal information may be obtained in any manner. The use of the material is the crux of the issue, I submit.

Bill C-299 is a good idea in principle. I congratulate the hon. member.

The issue of dealing with personal information is complex and must be dealt with effectively. In its present form, this bill needs some work.

To combat the theft and the misuse of personal information, it is necessary, however, to draft a more comprehensive bill attacking the problem from all angles.

Only in this way will we be able to protect all Canadians' personal information.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate our colleague for introducing his bill, even though when we first read it in the Bloc Québécois, my colleagues and I and our research service were somewhat concerned about the possibility that it might be criminalizing some behaviour for no reason. I will provide more examples later. However, I know that the member for Edmonton—Leduc has been a serious member in the past, that he has served this House well, and I do not doubt that his motives are noble. Nonetheless, we have some concerns.

One of Quebec's premiers whom we hold in high esteem was called René Lévesque and was a powerful communicator. In the early 1960s, he said—and think how true this is today—that information was power. Obviously, the more information one has, the better a citizen one can be, and obviously, the better a member of Parliament.

The member for Edmonton—Leduc, who also chairs the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, is asking us to consider the extent to which the circulation of nominative information can be used for fraudulent purposes. Personal information about our identity, access to our credit, our telephone number—that is the example the member gave in his remarks—is what is called, generically, nominative information. If I understand correctly, the member is afraid that nominative information might be used for fraudulent purposes.

Certainly, in a world where networks, computers, communications and even cybernetics are burgeoning sciences, this question is a very relevant one.

The member told us that section 403 of the Criminal Code—and I will come back to this—is not completely adequate when it comes to a number of wrongful acts that he is afraid will occur. He therefore wants better protection. He is concerned about the reality of impersonation by telephone.

It is true that as potential consumers we are all very often solicited over the phone. You are familiar with my fundamentally generous nature and my propensity for communicating. I respond to every telephone survey that comes my way. Obviously, when there are political questions, I do have the ethics and honesty to say that I am a member of Parliament. Often it is young students who are earning their living by telemarketing, and I would not want to do wrong by them. Perhaps there are even some of our young pages who have done this in the past.

It is true that we are constantly at the mercy of this kind of solicitation, of being preyed on by telemarketers. The member for Edmonton—Leduc explained to us that there is unfortunately no real recourse, that the Criminal Code was powerless and that it was possible to obtain nominative, personal and confidential information over the phone.

That being said, our colleague’s objectives are extremely noble and we are prepared to look at how far we must go in amending the Criminal Code, but we have some concerns. The member can perhaps tell me whether our concern is warranted.

Let us imagine the following situation. Hon. members know what a powerful motivation love is in life—there is nothing grander and more beautiful than love—and how great we feel when we are in love. Now, let us imagine the situation where a person meets someone, a new love interest. You know how it is. But the truth of the matter is that we never know exactly how the relationship will turn out. So, this person calls the workplace of the someone in question to get his or her telephone number or information about this person he or she hopes to have a date with.

In the opinion of the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc, who believes in love and in interpersonal relationships, is this a case for summary conviction, where a person might be liable to a sentence?

My colleagues in our caucus and our research staff were wondering how far-reaching this bill was. I am convinced, of course, that the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc does not wish for such behaviour to be criminalized.

We are asking ourselves this question: How far should we go in our quest for privacy protection? We would have been more comfortable if the government had amended the Access to Information Act instead, as promised during the election campaign. We were also expecting Bill C-2 to be amended in a more fundamental way than it has so far.

Once again, we are starting from the premise that the member is serious, that he has served this House well, that his objective is honourable, and that he is worried about the networks, about computers. In his speech, the member talked about data brokers. When I was health critic, I remember having met people who specialized in managing information, computer data, for example, concerning what type of citizen was more likely to develop certain types of illnesses over others. As an MP, I have even met people from companies that specialize in the kind of billing used by general practitioners, since these doctors are statistically more likely to recommend certain types of medication over others.

Protecting personal data is a very worrisome topic. We must ask ourselves if this is not something that could lead to harm, a barrier that society does not want to breach.

Our fellow citizens should know that there exists at this time, in the Criminal Code, a section that provides for prosecution of anyone who personates a third party or against anyone who attempts to obtain information for more or less malicious purposes. I will take the time to read this entire section of the Criminal Code because I believe that sharing information is important. I would very much like to discuss with the member for Edmonton—Leduc the scope of his bill.

Section 403 of the Criminal Code states:

Every one who fraudulently personates any person, living or dead...is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or an offence punishable on summary conviction.

There is intent to personate that is punishable as a criminal offence. The Criminal Code adds—and that is what we refer to as mens rea in legal language—:

(a) with intent to gain advantage for himself or another person,—

Obviously, telemarketers and others would fall under this provision of the bill.

Section 403 of the Criminal Code also states:

(b) with intent to obtain any property or an interest in any property,—

In addition to the intent to personate, there is a gain, a more pecuniary interest. There is an interest in a property or the intent to obtain it.

Section 403, which deals with both personation and obtaining a property, adds:

(c) with intent to cause disadvantage to the person whom he personates or another person.

Earlier I was talking about malicious intent; I think we find it synthesized in section 403(c):

with intent to cause disadvantage to the person whom he personates or another person.

I have only a minute left? Time flies. In that case, I will wrap up.

From the outside it seemed that the provisions of section 403 offered some protection. However, the hon. member seemed to be saying that it was not sufficient for cross-border trade or for telemarketing.

Again, in closing, we have concerns about using criminalization because we are nonetheless talking about 10 years in prison. We fear this is a bit excessive, but I would be pleased to discuss this with my colleague and ask him about his true intentions. I am not questioning his intention to serve the House well, with the serious—

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Windsor West.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to work with the member for Edmonton—Leduc since 2002, on the industry committee and on private members' business, and I know his legislation is always thoughtful. However, on this particular bill, some issues need to be examined.

Overall, I see the strategy the member is pursuing here. He is trying to focus on a particular aspect of three different acts that has left a gaping wound in the public privacy of Canadians right now and the repercussions for individuals who are abusing the public trust in many respects. This is a serious crime because identity theft threatens not only adults, but also the youth in our society, especially as we see the use of text messaging and the Internet type of technologies expanded to their present capacities.

Prior to the last 10 years, this technology was less used in terms of business, commerce and personal use. It often was certain segments of society that used the Internet, email, web visualizations, as well as contact through different types of protocols. Now we have the use of voice-over protocols and a whole series of new technologies that are rolling out.

What we have witnessed is that the number of citizens who were able to use this type of information and technology has expanded significantly. Seniors are now able to use technologies such as never before because they have become a lot more proficient. The technology is much more accessible for individuals who are just becoming used to the system. People are becoming much more quickly involved in terms of using these technologies than in the past.

With this expansion, not only in the private sector but in the business sector as well, it requires changes in legislation. One of the difficulties we have with Bill C-299, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Competition Act, for personal information obtained by fraud, is what we need from the government at the end of the day, and this is not the responsibility of the member for Edmonton—Leduc because it is private members' business, but we need an omnibus review of the Criminal Code.

There is a series of updating that is required and this bill is a targeted piece of that update. I think it is worthy of support to move the bill to committee for second reading.

I must say that I am filling in for the New Democratic member for Windsor—Tecumseh who sits on the committee. I know the committee has a lot of legislation that is being tabled as private members' business, as well as government business. Hopefully the committee will get a chance to move this bill through the order so it can have a full review. Whether there is enough time to do so is a question in itself.

The issue of personal privacy is not new. The member went through a good examination of the details of the bill. I will touch on a few elements. One element concerned the data brokers. An important point to note is that the bill would bring into line the change in technologies that I noted. It was not unusual in the past to have individuals collect data information from people prior to the Internet and also the expansion of the Internet.

People do accumulate data information for purposes of marketing, although those with criminal intent do it for predatory practices. In my youth I worked for a telephone solicitation company. We made phone calls from a list of names that basically were out of the phone book. However, we eventually transferred that data to purchasing, decision making and tracking, whether there was an actual purchase of a circus ticket. If the person said no, we would track the person's reasons for saying no. Specific information was also used.

I know some of the information was sold or given to other types of companies. This was certainly a practice that was very valuable because the accumulation of that information can be very important, not just in terms of the type of customer we would get, but in terms of the contact. The list was certainly cleaned up in terms of new numbers, availability, a correct contact and was worth quite a bit for those trying to get customers.

I would like to outline a few specifics of the bill because they are important. The bill, as I noted, is an act to amend the Criminal Code to create the following criminal offences:

(a) obtaining personal information from a third party by a false pretence or by fraud;

(b) counselling a person to obtain personal information from a third party by a false pretence or by fraud; and

(c) selling or otherwise disclosing personal information obtained from a third party by a false pretence or by fraud.

It also amends the criminal offence of “personation with intent” to include fraudulent personation with intent to obtain any record containing personal information about a third party.

The bill would strengthen the Criminal Code and, as it has been identified, it would fill the hole or the void that is currently in legislation.

I know there was debate earlier about keeping the PIPEDA definition of privacy. What I interpret in terms of that, especially with private members' legislation and in particular this bill, is that to amend PIPEDA's definition of privacy would be a lot more complicated. We would have to amend that act to change the definition and a private members' act would then need to be amended later on to be consistent.

We have control of this right now but until the government actually examines or brings forth PIPEDA we need some type of way to proceed if the member's bill is to go forward. I think it is something that needs to be looked at.

I want to touch on another important point that cross-sections this in terms of privacy in general terms, which I hope members will take to heart. One point that is important to note is the one dealing with the patriot act and privacy. This bill in particular does have some elements related to the penalties of actually having data invasion and fraudulent use from the United States' perspective and having some type of Canadian repercussions so that companies are held more accountable when they do that, and then we have some international obligations.

What is important to note is that we cannot have that behaviour happening. I can understand that we do want to actually clamp down on those types of practices and we have an obligation to the rest of the world to do the same here but we are not addressing the larger picture. We have not and the bill does not address the issue of the patriot act. The patriot act, passed after September 11, 2001, has several clauses dealing with privacy. They basically allow the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, as well as other U.S. governmental agencies to access Canadian private information.

There have been a number of different subsequent responses to this. They have come from the provinces, in particular British Columbia. Quebec has been the latest and it intends to table legislation to deal with that.

Until the federal government brings forth an international treaty, we are susceptible to this privacy invasion. The privacy invasion is very important too because it also has the problem where our personal information is accumulated and taken by the American government. It is actually against the law for the company to disclose what happens to the information.

In the previous circumstance with which I was dealing, the CIBC decided to outsource its credit card data accumulation. It actually cannot tell Canadian customers, including myself, whether or not our information has been accumulated by any department of the U.S. government. Similar to that, there is no record of where the information goes.

The second point is that we do not know how that information is disposed of, treated or developed. What ends up happening is that we have a gaping hole that is not plugged.

I commend the member for bringing forth a private member's bill that does address some of the problems that we have on privacy. However, it opens up a larger issue, and perhaps the government is listening, that the Criminal Code is deficient at this point in time, not only in terms of protecting Canadian privacy from the elements of business and conduct on our side related to companies, but by individuals who use it for fraudulent purposes. The government has an obligation to protect the privacy of Canadians from American legislation.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-299. I would like to say at the outset that the government applauds the member for this very timely bill as well as his hard work in putting the bill together.

This bill would do several things. It would amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Competition Act, all with a view to dealing with the obtaining of personal information by deception. More generally, this bill seeks to address the scourge of identity theft.

Identify theft is a term that is frequently used and freely bandied about. For the most part, identity theft refers to the acquisition and improper use of another person's identification information.

This is an activity that is by all accounts rising rapidly in Canadian society. The types of information and information based items which may be obtained and exploited include names, addresses, financial account numbers, credit cards and debit cards and numbers, driver's licences, health insurance cards, passports, and social insurance numbers, to name but a few of the more significant and highly targeted items.

Armed with this information, a criminally minded person may do any number of things, such as obtain direct access to a person's bank accounts or make purchases with a person's credit card. Title fraud, a particularly troublesome form of identity crime, involves fraudulently assuming the identity of a property owner and using that identity to sell or mortgage the property out from under the owner.

In each of these manifestations of identity crime, the criminal is out to obtain money, obtain some form of financial value, or gain access to a service for which he or she would otherwise have to pay. Indeed, most incidents of identity theft are motivated purely by financial gain. Many of us as members of Parliament sometimes have had to deal with the very troubling stories from constituents who have been the victims of identity theft. It is something that leaves people feeling very vulnerable and violated.

There is another side to identity theft which is no less dangerous to society. Assuming the identity of another can get a person things, but it can also be used as a shield to blanket the identity thief in a form of anonymity. There is a freedom in having people believe that someone is other than who that individual actually is, a freedom that allows the individual to operate undetected by others from whom the individual wishes to hide.

In this form, identity theft may amount to a person renting an apartment or obtaining services in someone else's name. In many cases the criminal is very diligent about paying bills on time as this avoids raising suspicions. Criminals may also use the identity of another person to obtain employment. Worse still, a person may offer up the identity of another if detained or arrested in the investigation of a crime.

Both objectives of identity crime, financial gain and anonymity, may be closely linked to several very serious issues which this government is dealing with currently, such as drug trafficking, organized crime, and most alarmingly, terrorism. The reasons for this are obvious.

Identity theft is a means of generating revenue. Those involved in these types of activities directly seek this type of revenue. It is essential for them to fund their operations. They are seeking this revenue either as an end in itself or because money furthers their primary criminal intentions.

Drug traffickers, organized criminals and terrorists are certainly interested in staying beneath the radar of law enforcement, out of the eye of border authorities and away from the view of intelligence officials. Unfortunately, one of the best ways to accomplish all of these aims is to exploit and assume the identity of some innocent and law-abiding Canadian.

In many ways identity theft is not new. Human beings have been deceiving each other to obtain advantages for millennia. Identity deception is just one of many ways one person may deceive another in order to obtain something of value. It may be, for example, that one factor contributing to the rise in identity crime is the pace of new technologies. We have seen an explosion in technologies in recent years. While we are all reaping many of the benefits of new technologies, there is also the threat of new harms.

The Internet in particular has allowed computer hackers to get inside private sector and government databases to steal sensitive personal information. Any of us who have read the news are familiar with some of those situations.

Mass e-mailings or spam sometimes contain what is known as a “phishing” attack. This is a link to a deceptive website designed to look like the legitimate website of a known commercial establishment with a request for the recipient to input personal data. Phishing is a prime method of stealing identity information for criminal use.

The impact of identity theft on the victims of this practice can be devastating. There are obviously the financial losses suffered by the victim, including dozens or hundreds of hours and significant costs associated with rectifying frauds, clearing credit card records and squaring things with banks or credit card companies.

There is also the emotional and psychological harm to the victims who frequently report a feeling of being violated or having had their personal lives invaded. The seriousness of identity theft can be seen in the fact that there is a range of activities and initiatives currently under way to better safeguard Canadians from identity theft. The private sector, provincial governments, police, consumer advocacy groups and document issuing authorities to name just a few are tackling identity theft in a variety of ways. Through public education campaigns, consumer advisories, improvements to the security features on credit cards and identity cards, enhanced protection of privacy interests within businesses and government, and improved security of computer networks, the corporate, public and the not for profit sectors are working together to help minimize this behaviour.

In terms of the current criminal law, hon. members should know that where the term identity theft is used to refer to the actual use of another person's identity to commit a crime, our Criminal Code contains some offences that cover this range of behaviour. Where a person pretends to be another person and thereby obtains property or something of value or service, that person may be guilty of fraud or false pretense. Our Criminal Code also has a very broad and flexible offence of impersonation which prohibits pretending to be another person with intent to gain an advantage or cause a disadvantage. This is broader than an economic advantage.

There is also a range of offences related to forgeries, specific credit offences, specific passport offences and mail theft.

It is clear that identity theft at its worst is addressed in some offences in our Criminal Code. However, Bill C-299 accurately highlights the fact that there are limitations to the current reach of the Criminal Code, and as always, there is room for improvement. As I mentioned, the explosion in new technologies and the fact that criminals never rest means that we also as a government can never rest in our defence of Canadians' rights and protection of their property and their freedoms.

In 2004, justice officials consulted with some key stakeholders on basic questions about improving our Criminal Code. Based on this input, officials are refining some key points for improving the criminal law's ability to deal with identity theft. New and more focused consultation is certainly needed with the banking community and other sectors covered by identity theft.

We look forward to the fruits of those consultations. We are committed to ensuring that our criminal laws contain comprehensive and effective tools to combat identity theft.

I also look forward to working with my colleague, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, on protecting Canadians' personal information. I also wish to thank the member for introducing his bill and for giving me the opportunity today to discuss this pressing issue.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the motion is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, what are northern Ontario's concerns about the softwood lumber deal? Why would this deal be called a sellout or a capitulation? There are many concerns, and clearly most have not received satisfactory answers, in spite of repeated reasonable questioning. Lumber groups and associations, private companies, exporters, manufacturers and labour have identified several tragic flaws.

First, the deal allows the Americans to keep 20% of the tariffs that were collected illegally. Recent reports suggest that the White House will receive $480 million, to be used at the discretion of President Bush. There are no controls on the use of these funds, so the fear is that they will be used in the Republican campaign or as third party funding in the next Canadian election. Five hundred million dollars will go to U.S. lumber interests to pay their legal bills from the past years or for future challenges to Canadian exporters. No interest will be paid for the funds that have been illegally held for such a long period of time.

Second, as for free trade, it eliminates the dispute panel, which means that all of Canada's hard-won victories in proving our case are thrown out. Already other American industries are challenging Canadian products such as corn, knowing that it will not cost them anything to stop us.

Third, this deal was rejected many times previously because it simply gave away too much. However, the dire straits of the industry may make any deal seem attractive in order to at least temporarily stop the bleeding. This situation easily could have been offset by the Liberal forestry plan of $1.5 billion, which was put in the funding envelope immediately prior to the November 2005 election call. Certain victory in the courts would have compelled the Americans to return all of the money, with interest.

Why have 80 Canadian companies now filed suit against the United States? Why have the major forest companies and many associations filed their protests? Why are both the Canadian and American governments being sued for selling out?

The main reason for all of the above is the special conditions that give free access only if current conditions stay the same. If there are changes, Canadian industries will suffer more penalties. We are still paying $40 million a month. So much for the good faith.

Just because there is a deal does not mean it is good. Northwestern Ontario will suffer heavily. It is predicted that 20% of Canadian sawmills will close. This is unacceptable.

Provincial and federal governments will not be permitted to change forest policies in any manner that could be interpreted as assisting the forest industries because of the terminology of the anti-circumvention measure, nor can any new assistance be provided. Should regional energy pricing come to the northwest, the Americans can overrule it.

The deal has been called an outright political surrender, but it is not too late, even now. I stand here today to let the Prime Minister know that northwestern Ontario will not be subjected to President Bush's hidden agenda.

For four years, Canada has been winning this battle. We do not have to give everything away just to end the war. The government must stand up for Canada.

7:35 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the question asked by the hon. member.

As the hon. member knows, on April 27 the Prime Minister addressed the House to announce that Canada and the United States had reached an agreement in principle that provides a basis for ending the longstanding softwood lumber dispute. This agreement in principle meets all of Canada's objectives and will provide Canadian companies with a stable and predictable market environment.

The government is aware of the difficulties and challenges facing our forest industry and has made resolving the softwood lumber dispute a priority. A resolution to this dispute is required to provide our lumber industry, workers and communities with the certainty and stability they need.

When the government first turned its attention to resolving the longstanding dispute, it quickly realized that Canada's approach needed to be reinvigorated.

The government recognized that litigation is a lengthy process, the results of which cannot be guaranteed. In the absence of a negotiated settlement, litigation could have continued well into 2008 and beyond, and even if Canada were ultimately successful, nothing would have prevented the U.S. industry from launching yet another round of lumber litigation against Canada.

A final agreement will put a stop to the endless court battles and costly legal bills.

The government views this agreement to be in the best interests of Canada. That includes the lumber industry, communities, lumber workers and their families, who have been hit hard by the punitive duties at the border.

The provincial governments have come out in support of the framework agreement, as has the majority of the softwood lumber industry. A final agreement will provide a seven year framework agreement designed to ensure U.S. market access to Canadian softwood lumber. It will protect Canadian market share, eliminate U.S. duties and the relentless trade actions brought on by the U.S. industry, and return to Canadian exporters some $4 billion U.S. Our obligation was to conclude a deal that is in Canada's best interest. We have done that.

This agreement provides predictable market access for Canadian exporters. When the price of lumber is above $355 U.S. per thousand board feet, as has generally been the case the last two years, no restrictions will apply on Canadian softwood lumber entering into the United States.

The agreement establishes a dynamic framework. It takes into account the different operating conditions in Canada from coast to coast. It provides provinces and industry with flexibility to respond to their specific circumstances as well as exempting certain regions and products.

Canada and the United States, with the full participation of the provinces, will discuss provincial exits based on policy reforms under the terms of the agreement.

The agreement also includes an innovative measure that will respond to Canadian industry concerns about the possibility of other lumber producing countries increasing their exports to the United States at the expense of Canada.

As the hon. member can see, this is an agreement that addresses the interests and concerns of Canadian stakeholders and one which meets the needs of the country as a whole. That is why Canada is working to finalize this important agreement with the United States, which will pave the way to a long term resolution on softwood lumber.

Canada and the United States are engaged in a dynamic process. Negotiations between Canadian and U.S. officials are ongoing. Canada has consulted closely with the provinces and industry and will continue to do so.

In conclusion, the Conservative government has delivered to Canadians what could not be delivered before. We were asked to secure a better deal for Canadians than what was on the table in previous rounds of talks. That is exactly what we have delivered.

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, for months reasonable people have been urging the government to listen and to represent Canadians in regard to what is a long list of shortcomings.

In summary, anti-circumvention will kill new companies and stop innovative government programs. There will be no money for Canadian lumber companies for the next 10 months. We are still paying $40 million a month in illegal tariffs as we speak. The gutting of the dispute mechanism for NAFTA will end the free trade agreement, and we have seen enough examples of new products coming on. There is no interest on the $4 billion that we are expecting to be returned and no one knows when that will come. One billion dollars will be given to the Americans to work against us, to pay their legal bills and for President Bush to use to campaign.

And this just in: the Ontario government now objects to the deal because of the illegality--

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade.

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. member that I did have the pleasure today of actually meeting with one of the stakeholders that I believe is in his riding. It is Bowater. We had a lengthy discussion today. By the end of that conversation, it was concluded that overall Bowater actually supports the resolution and the deal.

The Bowater stakeholders do have a couple of concerns, but they have also said to me that they had a lengthy conversation with the minister. They also had a lengthy conversation with the provincial minister responsible. They feel their concerns have been heard and they are quite confident that they will be accounted for when the deal is actually presented in its final draft form.

I would urge the hon. member to have another meeting with the stakeholders that are directly in his riding, because his information is incorrect.

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 7:46 p.m.)