Debates of Jan. 29th, 2008
House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was theft.
- Question Period
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Settlement of International Investment Disputes Act
- Criminal Code
- St. Marys Minor Hockey Association
- Great Lakes
- Joé Juneau
- Public Transit
- Academy Awards
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Human Rights
- Bloc Québécois
- Citizenship and Immigration
- Saul Itzhayek
- Status of Women
- Alzheimer Awareness Month
- National Defence
- Manufacturing and Forestry Industries
- Employment Insurance
- Older Workers
- Chalk River Nuclear Facilities
- Government Appointments
- Public Safety
- Chalk River Nuclear Facilities
- Forestry Industry
- The Environment
- Human Rights
- Manufacturing Industry
- Automotive Industry
- The Environment
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Points of Order
- Criminal Code
- Half-Masting of Peace Tower Flag
Some hon. members
The Speaker Peter Milliken
Order. I think the question was whether she was the one referred to by the secretary of state and I do not think we need to go through all the details of every case here.
In fact, I am not sure these are questions of privilege at all. I can see obviously some members may feel they have been misquoted, but heavens, that does happen from time to time. The hon. secretary of state may wish to clarify this point and then I think we are going to move on.
Jason Kenney Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)
Mr. Speaker, I referred to the Liberal justice critic who I understand is the member for Beauséjour. I was on a panel with him last week where he said that Canada should be at Durban. What we really have here is a party that likes to send different messages to different people. Right now, they are being hoist on their own petard.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform
Mr. Speaker, I have a very important point of order arising out of question period.
Mr. Speaker, today is a very significant day. I know that the Prime Minister was cut off when he was attempting to congratulate you on your seventh anniversary of your service as Speaker. I know in your humble way you were embarrassed and wanted to cut him off.
However, I want to convey on behalf of all members of the House our congratulations to you on that occasion.
Some hon. members
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I thank the government House leader for his kind remarks.
I cut the Prime Minister off because his time had expired.
Does the hon. whip of the Bloc Québécois wish to make a speech or say something now?
Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC
Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to make a speech but, rather, to rise on a point of order. Earlier, during oral question period, when he was replying to a question, the Minister of Finance called the Prime Minister by his name. Considering his experience in this House, not to mention the fact that he also sat at Queen's Park, he should know that it is prohibited in this House to call members by their surname.
I would ask the Minister of Finance to apologize for this blunder.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
The hon. whip of the Bloc Québécois is absolutely right, but I have already indicated to the minister unequivocally that he made a mistake. While it was a minor one, I hope he will not make it again.
I can see that the whip of the Conservative Party has spoken to the Minister of Finance and you can almost see the lashes on his back, but I do not think this is going to be a problem.
However, I thank the member for raising the issue. I am sure the minister will behave in future.
Is the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre rising on a point of order also?
Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I have a question of privilege.
While we are dealing with issues of misleading the House with false quotes, I want to read into the record the correct quote as stated by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development:
[The] Liberal Indian Affairs critic said she's pleased to see the government is making progress on water issues. However, she reiterated her party's concern that the Conservatives have made water a priority at the expense of other pressing on-reserve needs, such as housing and schools.
I can read on, but it is again another quote out of context.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
The Chair is not entirely convinced that members being misquoted are questions of privilege. They are certainly matters of debate. Heaven knows it does happen from time to time in the House, dreadful as it may sound.
I encourage hon. members, of course, to check the documents they are quoting from to make sure that the quotes are accurate and that they are attributed to the right person. Sometimes even the Chair gets mixed up on who should have been recognized and who has not.
Bill C-3 -- Immigration and Refugee Protection Act -- Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
January 29th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on December 13, 2007 by the hon. member for Joliette concerning a proposed report-stage amendment to C-3, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (certificate and special advocate) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.
I thank the member for Joliette and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their interventions. I am aware of the particulars of this case, since the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin was courteous enough to inform me of them in a letter that he wrote to me earlier, in December.
Let us review the events that have brought us to this point today. The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin proposed the amendment in question during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill in committee.
The amendment was ruled inadmissible by the committee chair on the grounds that it was beyond the scope of the bill. It was contended that on the contrary his amendment was within the scope of the bill because it simply expanded the appeal provision already contained in the bill.
The hon. member therefore appealed the ruling which was however sustained by a majority of the committee members.
As the hon. members know, at report stage, the decision with respect to the admissibility of motions rests with the Speaker of the House. Therefore, when the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin submitted the same amendment to Bill C-3 at report stage, I too had to consider the matter of admissibility. With regret, I had to inform the member that, in my opinion, the amendment was indeed inadmissible on the same grounds, namely that it was beyond the scope of the bill.
I would like to take a moment to explain the reasons that led me to that conclusion. In essence, what we are dealing with is the distinction between the principle of the bill and its scope. The principle refers to the purpose or objective of a bill, while the scope refers to its legislative scheme or the mechanisms that will give effect to the principle, purpose or objective of a bill. In the case of Bill C-3, the principle with which we are concerned is the right to appeal. The scope of this right to appeal is set out in clause 4 of the bill, more specifically in lines 35 to 39 of page 3, where we read the following:
An appeal from the determination may be made to the Federal Court of Appeal only if the judge certifies that a serious question of general importance is involved and states the question.
Admittedly, the hon. member’s amendment deals with this same principle, namely the right to appeal, but where it goes beyond the scope of the bill is in relation to the conditions under which the appeal may be made. More specifically, the amendment would allow the appeal to be based on a question of law, a question of fact, or both. In my opinion, this goes beyond “a serious question of general importance”. I would point out that the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin himself has stated that the effect of his amendment is to expand the principle of the right to appeal. Consequently, even if the principle remains the same, its scope is clearly expanded.
Last, I refer the hon. member to page 654 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice which states:
An amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principle of the bill.
I appreciate that this is a matter of some importance to the hon. member, but for the reasons just given, I am not able to accede to the hon. member's request.
I believe the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River has a submission to make on a question of privilege that was before the House earlier today.
Alleged impediment in the discharge of a member's duties
Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will be quite brief because you have had the benefit of some comments earlier.
The member for Mississauga South raised a matter of privilege this morning concerning an apparent process within a minister's office that diverted or re-channeled inquiries from members of Parliament. In that process, the member referred to a prior question of privilege which was ruled on by the Speaker and which was found not to be a question of privilege.
The earlier question raised by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley involved a person allegedly assuming or arrogating the functions of an MP in a particular area on behalf of the government. In the bare facts of that case, you found that it was not a matter of privilege.
In this particular case, the MP himself actually uncovered within a department a process whereby when an MP makes an inquiry, it is not dealt with by the department but it is apparently sent elsewhere and that involves written or verbal inquiries.
I am suggesting to you, Mr. Speaker, that no matter what you call that process, whether it be diverting or diversion, re-channeling, punting, referring, proceduralizing or delaying, that process which appears to have been built into that department—and I have come across another case in another department—does involve a tangible material delay. That delay, in my view, and I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, constitutes an obstruction in what is for most of us in this House a very routine piece of work.
If a member of the public were to call in the manner suggested by the MP, the civil servant would have answered the question, but because it came from a member of Parliament, and in his case he described himself as an opposition member of Parliament, and his office staff was asked if it was an opposition member of Parliament, the answer was not given and had to be sent elsewhere. If the constituent himself or herself had phoned the department to ask the same question, the constituent would have had the answer and it would not have been sent on to the minister's office.
I am suggesting that in that context, the procedure adopted by the department, whether it intended it to be this or not, constitutes an obstruction in the routine work of MPs in the way we normally pursue our work in this place. Not only does it create an obstruction and a delay, but it also offers the perception of obstruction. If the constituent were told of this procedure, he or she would say, “I do not need the MP; I am actually better off to do it myself. If I use an MP, it gets diverted and I do not get my answer”.
I personally attempted to get information from a different government department. It was the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. I contacted the person and asked the question. The person said, “I am afraid I cannot give you the answer. I have got to give it to the minister's office”. I spoke a little while longer and finally the person in the department said okay, and gave me the answer. I was able to finesse the answer. The civil servant was good enough to give me this very routine answer to a question, but apparently the department was under instructions to refer the matter elsewhere within the department.
I think we have developing here a potential problem in relation to the privileges of members of the House. In connection with this, in the event you find that this is a matter of privilege, and I certainly will not prejudge that, but if you do, and if there is a motion to deal with it, then I would suggest that the motion include an order requiring the delivery from the department of the forms that are being used to deal with this procedure inside the department.
Maybe the minister himself in this case will be able to table the form if he wishes, and maybe this issue can be dealt with between the department and the House before it becomes a matter of privilege, if it does become a matter of privilege.
I simply would anticipate, although it perhaps is not my role, that in the estimates procedure coming up with respect to the Standing Committee on Health, I cannot imagine members would be very happy voting money for a department that at least on the surface appears to be impairing or diverting inquiries from members of Parliament.
Alleged impediment in the discharge of a member's duties
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I thank the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River for his intervention in this matter. As I indicated earlier, this matter is now under advisement and I will consider his remarks before coming back to the House with a ruling.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to rise on Bill C-27, an bill that seeks to protect Canadians from identity crime.
At the outset of my speech, I do want to particularly thank the Minister of Justice, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and the entire department for all their work on this issue. I had an opportunity to work on it with respect to a private member's bill that was unanimously adopted by the House in the last session. I was very pleased that the government did bring forward a much more comprehensive piece of legislation on identity theft in general.
The reality is that technology has made financial transactions virtually instantaneous, but it has also made personal information more vulnerable to misappropriation and misuse. Identity information has in reality become a commodity. It is easily acquired and can be instantaneously transferred from one person to another.
Identity thieves can use stolen personal information to open credit card and bank accounts, redirect mail, rent vehicles, obtain government benefits and even secure employment. When this happens, unsuspecting victims are left with unpaid bills and bad credit. Thousands of Canadians are victims of identity theft every year. Many of them contacted me in the course of preparation and adoption of my private member's bill.
In November 2006 an Ipsos Reid survey indicated that 73% of Canadians are concerned about becoming victims of identity theft and 28% said that they or someone they know has already been a victim of identity theft. In 2006 almost 8,000 victims reported losses of $16 million to PhoneBusters, the Canadian anti-fraud call centre. Many more cases are thought to go unreported. The PhoneBusters numbers likely represent only the tip of the iceberg as they do not include reports made directly to local police agencies, or all the incidents that go unreported for one reason or another, nor do they include identity thefts that have not yet been detected.
The Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus has estimated that identity theft may cost Canadian consumers, banks and credit card firms, stores and other businesses more than $2 billion annually.
Credit card losses in Canada were reported by the Canadian Bankers Association to have reached nearly $300 million in 2006. Losses from debit card fraud approached $100 million in 2006 according to the Interac Association.
It is already a crime to fraudulently use another person's identity information and Bill C-27 strengthens the protections against identity fraud. But Bill C-27 also gives the police, prosecutors and courts new tools to catch, prosecute and punish those who commit identity crime by creating new offences that allow the police to intervene at an earlier stage of criminal operations before identity fraud or other crimes that actually cause financial or other harms are attempted or committed. These provisions will help stop criminal activity before Canadians fall victim to identity fraud.
Let me explain how the bill will accomplish its objectives. There are two phases to identity crimes. The first is in preparation where identity thieves gather and exchange personal information about others for later fraudulent use. The second phase is where identity thieves actually use that information to commit identity fraud.
Until now, only the second phase, the actual identity fraud, is a criminal act. Bill C-27 criminalizes the first stage by creating new offences for identity theft. These new offences will let the police intervene at the earliest stages when identity information is collected and transferred for the purpose of committing identity fraud. In this way, criminalizing identity theft will help prevent identity fraud and the victimization that ensues as a result.
Bill C-27 criminalizes identity theft because identity theft enables identity fraud. Before someone can commit identity fraud, he or she must obtain another person's identity information. This information, such as a credit card number or bank account number, is not considered to be property within the meaning of the theft provisions in the Criminal Code currently. For example, an unscrupulous salesperson who surreptitiously retrieves the information from a bank card or credit card during a purchase, a process which is known as skim and clone--something that happened to me--cannot be charged with theft because no physical object was stolen and the card holder has not been deprived of anything other than the ability to control the flow of the information. This is not subject to the current law on theft.
Other common ways of collecting identity information are going through another person's garbage, a practice known as dumpster diving, or catching a glimpse of account numbers or personal identification numbers of the person next to them, a practice known as shoulder surfing.
Another way for identity thieves to gather information is called “phishing”. Identity thieves send unsolicited emails that look like they are from a bank, credit card company or other merchant. The unsuspecting recipient is asked to provide his or her account numbers and passwords. The information is then sent straight back to the identity thief.
It is important to remember that identity information is not always obtained clandestinely. Identity thieves can get a potential victim's name and address from the phone book. They can browse social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook or gather other personal details that have been posted by users.
Social networking sites encourage users to share their birthdates, hobbies, interests, friends and addresses. In the wrong hands this seemingly harmless personal information can be used to perpetuate identity fraud.
Identity theft is a necessary step on the road to identity fraud. That is why Bill C-27 proposes to get tough on those who traffic and possess identify information for the purposes of later committing an offence involving the deceptive use of someone's identity. To this end, it creates three new offences.
First, Bill C-27 would make it an offence to possess or obtain, without lawful excuse, certain government issued identity documents. This new offence targets those who have official government documents with false information or who, without excuse, have the official documents of another person.
Official government documents are particularly useful to identity criminals because they are used to obtain other identification and access to government services. Criminalizing the simple possession of official documents, without lawful excuse, is at the outside of the criminal law power. However, the danger of having these documents fall into the wrong hand warrants these steps to protect them. It will be clear that people who hold these cards on behalf of family members or for legitimate business purposes are not committing an offence. Only where there is no lawful excuse for the possession will an offence be made out.
It is not only government documents, however, that need to be protected. Bill C-27 would create two offences that would target unlawful conduct in relation to identity information, whether or not the information was captured in an official identity card or document.
The first of these offences prohibits the obtaining or possessing of another person's identity information with the intent to perpetuate identity deception. Identity information is defined very broadly and includes anything that can identify an individual.
In addition, it explicitly includes a range of key pieces of information, such as name, date of birth, biometric information, financial account numbers, crucial alphanumeric identifiers issued by a range of authorities. This new offence targets those who have information about others, but who intend to use it to commit an offence that involves fraud, deceit or falsehood.
The second new offence also targets the illegal flow of identity information. This offence, however, goes after those who profit from supplying identity information to others, but do not themselves use it to commit offences. This offence prohibits trafficking in identity information, where the person knows or is reckless as to whether the information would be used to perpetuate an offence.
Each of these three new offences targets a separate aspect of the early stages of identity fraud. They are all dual procedure offences and punishable by up to five years in prison.
One concern in criminalizing the deceptive use of identity is to ensure that we do not inadvertently prohibit the use of undercover identities by police and other agencies. Toward this end, Bill C-27 contains two exemptions for the benefit of law enforcement.
The first exemption allows police officers engaged in undercover work to obtain and use forged documents in the course of their duties. The second permits document issuers, who sometimes are called upon by various government agencies to produce false documents for use in undercover operations, to continue to produce those documents without fear of prosecution for forgery. These two exemptions ensure that the new protections against identity crime will not hinder the legitimate work of law enforcement.
Bill C-27 would make other amendments to existing offences in the Criminal Code. All of these either supplement existing offences or clarify or expand their scope.
Additional Criminal Code amendments will create a new offence of fraudulently redirecting or causing redirection of a person's mail and a new offence of possessing a counterfeit Canada Post mail key. There are already certain Canada Post and mail related offences in the code, but the addition of these two new offences to complement the others are necessary because mail fraud continues to be a technique commonly used by identity thieves to get valuable personal information.
The bill would also create new forgery offences to complement those already in existence. Currently, it is a crime to make a forged document and to use a forged document as if it were in fact genuine. The bill would add to these new offences of trafficking in forged documents or possessing forged documents with the intent to either traffic or use them. These amendments should cover off all possible situations in relation to the handling of forged documents so there should always be a chargeable offence.
The legislation also proposes a few clarifications to the personation offence. We are proposing to rename the personation offence “identity fraud”. Personation is somewhat of an historical term that seems out of place in our modern world. More important, there is a great deal of confusion and uncertainty over what the terms “identity theft”, “identity fraud” and “identity crime” mean from one context to another. By renaming personation as “identity fraud” and by introducing preparatory offence for “identity theft”, we hope that this would at least bring some uniformity to the discussion about these issues in the Canadian criminal law context.
A few other more technical amendments will clarify that the offence of unlawfully possessing or using debit card data includes the PIN, or personal information number, of the bank card and will clarify that it is a crime to possess instruments for copying debit card information, devices known as “skimming” machines.
Bill C-27 gets tough on identity criminals, but we must not forget that thousands of Canadians are victims of identity crime.
Bill C-27 would allow a judge to order that a person convicted of identify offences be required to provide restitution of reasonable costs associated with the rehabilitation of the victim's credit rating and identity. This restitution power would supplement the existing restitution provisions, which allow for an order of restitution in respect of actual financial losses. It would help victims recover the costs associated with restoring their identities, in addition to whatever direct financial losses they suffered as a result of a fraudulent use of their identities.
I am sure all members of the House are concerned about the growing threat of identity crime. I know that I certainly am. That is why I introduced my private member's bill, Bill C-299. I want to thank all members for unanimously supporting that bill to go to the Senate, where it currently is.
I am very pleased that Bill C-27 would create new offences for possession and trafficking in identity information.
Bill C-27 would get tough on those who perpetrate identity crime. The government is responding to the demands of Canadians to do more to combat this problem. However, the identity theft problem will not be solved by government action alone. There are simple precautions that all Canadians can take to minimize the risk of falling victim to identity crime.
Prudent Canadians should take steps to protect their identity information. Experts of all types suggest: shredding all documents with personal information before putting them in the recycling or garbage; not clicking on links in unsolicited email messages; using automatic bill payments or secure online banking sites; only carrying essential identity documents in a purse or wallet; carefully reviewing all bank card and credit card statements and following up promptly on any unusual or unfamiliar charges; and contacting Visa or Mastercard or whatever institution with respect to travelling overseas that might result in payments. All these steps should be taken by Canadians in order to be prudent in the protection of their information.
Finally, some Canadians may want to take advantage of credit monitoring services that watch for signs of identity theft. Early detection of identity theft is crucial for minimizing the repercussions of the crime.
Identity theft and identity fraud are serious crimes. By tightening the identity fraud provisions of the Criminal Code and introducing new identity theft provisions, the bill would provide police, prosecutors and the courts the tools they need to combat identity crime.
Certain elements of the legislation are rather technical and complex. The criminal law has never before criminalized the acquisition of information that is, in many cases, in the public domain and widely and freely shared by millions of Canadians. The criminal law must ensure that this information is not used fraudulently to the detriment of others.
I believe all members are equally concerned about these problems. I also believe all members will be supportive of the approach we have taken. I ask all members of the House, as I did for my private member's bill, to stand in unison, support the bill and ensure that there is greater protection for Canadians with respect to their personal information and take some real action on identity theft.