This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join today in the second reading debate of Bill S-3. I would like to focus my comments more specifically on the amendments themselves as made by the Senate to the bill. I want to assure this House, though, that the people of Cambridge and North Dumfries in my riding wish me to support this bill, so I am happy to speak in favour of it.

I would like to mention, too, that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Selkirk—Interlake.

Some people may think that my riding of Cambridge is one of those communities that is not on the terrorist list and would wonder why I would be up in the House speaking to this issue, but my riding has one of the busiest highways in all of Canada, the 401, going right through it. We have an urban area of about 110,000 to 113,000 people, divided into nice little communities that we used to call Hespeler, Preston and Galt.

Within 45 minutes of Cambridge, there are three airports and the riding itself is actually very diversified. One of the largest veal producers in North America is in my riding. Eighty per cent of the satellites that circle this world have parts from COM DEV in my riding. A statistic that shocked me is that there are 150 million people living within an eight hour drive of my riding, so I think it is exceptionally important for the folks in my riding that we concern ourselves with the threat of terrorism.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to debate, at second reading, Bill S-3. I will limit my comments to the amendments made to the bill by the Senate.

When the Minister of Justice appeared before the Senate special committee on December 3, 2007, the committee questioned the constitutionality of the wording that was used in section 83.3, which deals with the recognizance with conditions provision.

The concern raised flowed from the 2002 judgment by the Supreme Court of Canada in a case called R. v. Hall. In the Hall case, the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the specific wording in the bail provisions, wording which was replicated in actual fact in Bill S-3.

Specifically, the Supreme Court found that paragraph 515(10)(c), the third ground for denial of bail, was unconstitutional under sections 7 and 11(e) of the charter, in particular because of its use of the words “any other just cause and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, that...”.

As I said, as introduced, Bill S-3 had also proposed the use of the same wording in the recognizance with conditions provision.

The government obviously agreed that this needed to be corrected. The amended version of paragraph 83.3(7)(b)(C) now begins with the words “the detention is necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice”, and it goes on from there. I refer my colleagues to lines 28 to 30 of page 6 where they will find that the wording has been corrected and is now quite constitutional.

The second amendment addressed inconsistencies in the wording that appeared in clause 1 of the bill. Subsection 83.28(4) contains two paragraphs. The first one focuses on past terrorism offences. The second one focuses on future terrorism offences.

As introduced, however, there was an inconsistency in the use of the terminology between the two paragraphs. The former referred to “a terrorism offence”, whereas the latter referred only to “the offence”. The French version suffered the same defect.

The special Senate committee therefore amended subparagraph 83.28(4)(b)(ii) to ensure consistency in the wording in both provisions and of course in both official languages.

Finally, the third amendment made by the Senate to Bill S-3 was to subsection 83.32(1.1). This subsection originally proposed that a review of these two powers proposed by Bill S-3 be made at the discretion of Parliament. The Senate amended this particular provision to make the parliamentary review of these powers mandatory.

As we can see from the summary of the Senate amendments, these were slightly technical although very important amendments and they did not alter the essence of Bill S-3.

The proposals in Bill S-3 provide law enforcement agencies with the proper tools. I will point out that the committee met with a number of law enforcement agencies that deemed these tools to be necessary to help them do their jobs in addressing the ever present threat of terrorist attacks. They also include safeguards required to help preserve the safety and security of all Canadians, as well as to protect their fundamental rights, the right of hard-working Canadian families to play, to feel safe at night and to live their lives in peace.

I am asking all hon. members in this House to hear the facts of this bill and understand the need for such important legislation. I ask them to join me and support it.

I urge all members of this House to support Bill S-3.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my colleague's speech today he talked about his home constituency of Cambridge. I went to Wilfrid Laurier University, which is in Kitchener-Waterloo, just outside of Cambridge. It is a very beautiful community, one with a lot to be proud of, and is very diversified. He mentioned the 401 and concerns. Everybody in Canada really is concerned about terrorist attacks.

My riding actually has the busiest international border crossing in the world. In fact, more than 30% of Canada's entire trade to the United States goes through my riding on a daily basis, including more trade than all of Canada's to Japan. There are actually four crossings, but the main crossing is the Ambassador Bridge.

On that bridge, there is a system right now whereby someone drives on and does not actually get checked until getting to the other side. As well, the only real plan for security, for appearances and so forth, is to rent a police officer once in a while who goes underneath the bridge. This is a four lane bridge that obviously is very important for the economy, connected right to this member's community.

Given the fact that these are the government's criteria for security, I would like to ask the member whether he thinks that is sufficient. Why have there not been, in this private enterprise, the mandated improvements to make sure? There are 24 international bridges and tunnels between Canada and the United States. Only two are privately held. This is one of them. I would like to hear from the member as to whether he is satisfied with that type of security provision from this private operator.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises a very good point. In fact, he is not mistaken. Regarding the Ambassador Bridge, I have heard numbers indicating that $1 million a minute of trade goes across that privately owned bridge. I cannot account for how that bridge ever became private. I suspect that it was done before I was born, which was not that long ago, just to be clear.

With all due respect, though, the fact is that the member is looking at this single bill as the be-all and end-all of this government's agenda to fight terrorism and to make Canadians safe. The truth is that this is only part of the government's anti-terrorism efforts. I know that there is a front away on our infrastructure funding of $33 billion to improve that border crossing. Part of that will obviously include increased border security.

I would like to suggest that the previous government had an idea of putting an inspection ground on the American side. Of course the Americans said that not in their lifetimes were they going to have our vehicles come into the country and then be inspected.

I know that our government is looking at putting inspection 15 miles away from that bridge, for example, so that we can in fact increase the security of that border, which in my opinion is actually an economic security as well. I appreciate the hon. member's question, but I want the hon. member to rest assured that this is only one piece of this government's anti-terrorism actions.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my good friend and colleague speak on this important amendment and bill. I would like him to expand a bit, but it is important to understand why we need anti-terrorism laws, why we need this legislation and where this began.

We know about 9/11 and we know that the United Nations passed a resolution requiring all its member nations, thus most of the world, to begin to enact measures to defeat terrorism or to protect their citizenry and the world against terrorism. Canada, of course, being the good member of the United Nations that it is, took upon itself the need to have anti-terrorism legislation.

I wonder if the hon. member might expand a bit on that and other items concerning this legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member cannot expand very much because there are only 20 seconds left.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. The sad truth is that terrorism is still alive and well in the world and we cannot sit back, put our heads in the sand and deny that it exists. We have to step up to the plate.

The number one job of a government is to keep its citizens safe. We will do what we have to do and that is what we are doing.

Statements Regarding Voting Record of MemberPrivilegeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeSecretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief on this matter which arose after question period and an undertaking I gave the Speaker, pursuant to a question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Richmond, in which he claimed that in a recent interview with the Chinese Canadian media, I had mischaracterized his voting record regarding Bill C-50.

I had told media outlets that the member for Richmond was saying one thing to them about this bill, but voting a different way in the House. The member for Richmond rose today on a question of privilege to contest that fact. I undertook to review the voting records. I have done so, and although I do not think I need to table the Hansard transcripts of the debates of this place, the transcript of Hansard from Wednesday, April 9, 2008 with respect to the votes on the Budget Implementation Act demonstrates clearly that the member for Richmond did in fact vote against a motion in the name of the member for Trinity—Spadina which sought to split Bill C-50 and which, had it passed, would have effectively been a confidence measure and defeated the bill.

I am therefore pleased to present this as per my undertaking which underscores the veracity of my remarks and the fact that the member for Richmond did effectively vote to support the government on this matter.

Statements Regarding Voting Record of MemberPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on the same point because my colleague from Richmond is not here to comment.

I know that he would have liked to thank the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity for his perspicacity, but he probably would have asked that it be indicated that the vote would have been required at any rate. The NDP motion could not possibly split the bill. What my colleague would have said is he would have voted against the measure when it came at third reading.

Statements Regarding Voting Record of MemberPrivilegeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I am not sure that either point is a point of order. With respect it appears as if the House just heard points of debate and not points of order.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-3, an act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions).

Today I will focus my remarks regarding Bill S-3 on these provisions and how they compare with the provisions found in the anti-terrorism legislation of other major democratic countries. I will do so in order to show that the provisions in this bill are either similar to or in some cases narrower than those of other countries.

Let us first turn to the proposed investigative hearing procedure. Other democratic countries have similar procedures.

The United States has a grand jury procedure. A federal grand jury can compel the cooperation of persons who may have information relevant to the matters it is investigating. It can subpoena any person to testify under oath. If the individual fails to appear or refuses to answer, or fails to produce evidence or documents in his or her possession, he or she may be held in contempt absent a valid claim of privilege. If a witness or the custodian of a document asserts a valid privilege, he or she may be provided with use and derivative use immunity and then be required to comply with the subpoena to testify or produce evidence.

Investigative hearing provisions roughly equivalent to those proposed in this bill are also found in Australia and South Africa. The United Kingdom goes even further.

In 2001, the U.K. amended its Terrorism Act 2000 to create a crime of withholding information relating to a terrorism act. Specifically, a person commits a crime who fails to disclose information to the police which he or she knows or believes might be of material assistance in preventing an act of terrorism or in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of someone for an offence involving the commission, preparation or instigation of a terrorist act. Punishment for this crime is up to five years' imprisonment.

Also, the U.K., through the Terrorism Act 2006, applied to terrorism investigations the disclosure notice procedure that was created by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. Under that legislation, an investigating authority such as the director of public prosecutions, can have a disclosure notice issued to a person. The notice could require the person to answer questions relevant to the investigation, provide information or produce documents.

Let me now turn to the recognizance with conditions provision. First, the arrest without warrant power found in this provision would be, as before, very limited in scope, for example, where pressing exigent circumstances make it impractical for a peace officer to go before a judge and have the judge compel a person to attend before him or her. Where the person is arrested without warrant, the peace officer would have to bring that person before a judge within 24 hours or, if not feasible, as soon as possible thereafter.

If the judge decided to adjourn the hearing and detain the person until then, the adjournment would be for no more than 48 hours. Thus, under the recognizance with conditions power, the maximum period of time for which a person could be detained until the hearing takes place would generally be for no more than 72 hours.

However, the United Kingdom has a much broader arrest without warrant and detention power. Under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the police may arrest without warrant a person whom he or she reasonably suspects is a terrorist. The maximum period of time that a person can be held in detention without charge under this power was extended from seven days in 2000 to 14 days in 2003 and was increased again to 28 days in 2006. In January 2008, the United Kingdom government introduced a new counterterrorism bill which, if passed, would extend this period of detention, in extraordinary cases, for up to 42 days.

The U.K.'s Terrorism Act 2000 also contains other police powers not found in our Criminal Code, such as the power of a senior police officer to designate a cordoned area where considered “expedient for the purposes of a terrorist investigation”. This allows the police to, for example, order a person to leave the area or not enter the area, and failure to obey the order is an offence. The police may also be authorized to search premises in the area.

There is another power that allows a senior police officer to authorize a uniformed constable to stop and search a vehicle or pedestrian in an area set out in the authorization where the officer “considers it expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism”.

As well, in 2005, the U.K. put in place a system of control orders which may be imposed on a person, citizen or non-citizen alike, to prevent terrorist attacks. There are two kinds of control orders that may be imposed, those that do not derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights and those which do derogate from the convention. The latter would, arguably, apply in cases of house arrest.

Some of those non-derogating control orders that had imposed lengthy, daily curfew periods were successfully challenged in the lower courts and these decisions were appealed to the House of Lords.

In the fall of 2007, the House of Lords ruled that a number of control orders that had imposed an 18 hour curfew violated the right to liberty under the European Convention on Human Rights, rendering these orders null. However, it upheld control orders that imposed 12 or 14 hour curfews.

Australia has also enacted legislation that creates a system of control orders and preventive arrests of terrorist suspects. The Australian federal police may apply for an order for preventive detention for up to 48 hours of a terrorist suspect where there has been a terrorist act or where a terrorist act is imminent. Additionally, Australian states and territories have enacted legislation allowing preventive detention for up to 14 days.

To summarize, Bill S-3 proposes a maximum period of detention of generally 72 hours in relation to the recognizance with conditions power. In contrast, a suspected terrorist in the United Kingdom may currently be detained without charge for up to 28 days. In Australia, states and territories allow for preventive detention for up to 14 days.

It is obvious that in contrast to the United Kingdom and Australia, the power to detain persons in Canada to prevent terrorist activity is far more narrow in scope. The investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions were drafted with due regard for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They help to protect Canadians from the scourge of terrorism in a manner consistent with human rights. As the comparison with other democratic countries show, they have been crafted with restraint.

We must also not forget that these powers can serve to respond to our international obligations to prevent and suppress terrorism. In this regard, it should be noted that United Nations Security Council resolution 1373 states in part that state parties are to “take the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts”.

These provisions are necessary to prevent the commission of terrorist acts and therefore they respond to the international obligation set out in resolution 1373.

For these reasons, I will be supporting this bill and I urge all hon. members in the chamber to do likewise.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake for enlightening us on the law that is being debated here today. In particular I want to expand on what he mentioned a few moments ago with regard to the United Nations requiring its member nations to begin to enact the anti-terrorism laws and to begin to fight the global war on terror.

Some high school students were in to see me last weekend. With regard to human rights and what is occurring around the world vis-à-vis countries using children to do some very improper things, such as strapping ammunition or explosives to their bodies and sending them into places where people are shopping, et cetera, I reminded them of what a late great world leader said. She said that this war between us and our foes will end when the enemy begins to love their children more than they hate us.

However, we are discussing the Anti-terrorism Act today and in particular some of the issues surrounding it. I want to ask my friend, the member for Selkirk—Interlake, what are some of the safeguards in respect to investigative hearings that are currently in this law?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree 100% with what the member said about the need to protect our citizens in Canada, that we have some international obligations to carry this out. Definitely, Canadians right across the country expect the government and this Parliament to initiate these types of measures to ensure that terrorism can be disrupted.

When we know a terrorism undertaking may be happening, we need our police officers and our judges to have the tools they need to execute the necessary measures to disrupt the planning process. We need to be able to hold people, investigate what they are doing and, hopefully, charge them under the Criminal Code for their activities.

We need to remember there are a number of safeguards to protect the rights of these citizens we are so concerned about, especially when we talk about investigative hearings. We need to remember that this does not just involve the federal government. It also involves the provincial jurisdictions. The peace officers, of course, will be the ones carrying out the investigations, looking at the situation and then making their recommendations to the court but they will need to come forward with a pretty strong case.

First, they will need to get the consent of the attorney general of either Canada or of the respective provinces to go ahead with the application. A judge will then need to look at the information that is presented, weigh it off against the rights of the individual, along with the information as presented, and then will need to exercise his or her authority as to whether an order will be provided for the investigative hearing. Therefore there is that safeguard.

It also is important to note that both federal and provincial crown attorneys general would be required to report annually on the use of any of these investigative hearings.

This is a five year process that we are undertaking here right now with the legislation, with the review after 2011, and these annual reports will help set the tone, I believe, on ensuring the process does work, that it does protect Canadians, and that it looks at the overall scope of how this whole process was applied through the investigative hearing.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions) or, as I prefer to call it, the investigative hearings and preventive arrest.

This bill is a follow-up to Bill C-36, which went through the House of Commons and through the Senate in time for the provisions of investigative hearing and preventive arrest to be continued because they were sunsetted and were about to end in February 2007.

At that time there were some discussions and agreement that perhaps some enhancements could be made. The Senate has considered some enhancements to what was Bill C-36. At least the bill was passed in time for these provisions not to lapse. Now we have before us an improved former Bill C-36 in the form of Bill S-3.

I will comment in a moment on the enhanced provisions, but I would like to set the stage for a moment. It is my own view, and I think largely the view of this side of the House and our caucus, that this bill is needed for a few reasons.

First, the threat of terrorism is still with us. The threat of terrorism has not subsided. We saw not too long ago in the newspapers and other media a case in the United Kingdom where a cell of alleged terrorists had been plotting to blow up aircraft that were destined for Canada and the United States. Admittedly, they will be facing those charges in court, but there have been terrorist events preceding that.

I think we need to be ever vigilant. In fact, in Canada we should be somewhat proud that we have had a regime in place that perhaps has been successful in thwarting any attempts to compromise our national security. Having said that, we need to be ever vigilant because the terrorists do not sit idly by. It is known that al-Qaeda has Canada on its list of targets. It is no secret that our troops are in Afghanistan and that causes some consternation among certain parties. I believe this anti-terrorism regime and these provisions are still needed because terrorism is still around us and still a threat.

I also believe these provisions are needed because I do not subscribe to the argument that because we have not had a terrorist event in Canada since the original Anti-Terrorism Act was enacted that we do not need these provisions any more. To me, it is sort of tantamount to saying that if one's house has not burned down one does not need fire insurance. I think that is folly for an argument and we need to have these provisions in place to ensure we do not have a fire in our home.

Third, I think the concerns of some, when these original provisions were enacted, that they would be used in a less than judicious way by the law enforcement agencies, has proven to be wrong. The fact is that they have never been used but that should not mean that we do not need them because we do. We need to have this tool in the toolkit of our law enforcement people in Canada so that if the day comes, and hopefully it will not, they can resort to it.

There is no greater responsibility of a government than to protect and safeguard its citizens. This always needs to be carefully balanced with the civil rights of its citizens. It is a very delicate balance. I do not think anyone would be as naive or as vain to think that we always have the balance right. It is never an easy task but we need e to deal with it and that is why this bill is before this Parliament. As parliamentarians, we need to wrestle with these issues and deal with them.

We have a group in Toronto that was rounded up a couple of years ago, the Toronto 15. There is some confusion I think among Canadians about how these people were charged and rounded up. The fact is that provisions of the Criminal Code were used to arrest these people.

One could argue that if we used the provisions of the Criminal Code there, why could we not always use provisions of the Criminal Code? It is a good point but it is not a compelling argument because in this particular case the police had informants. They had information and certain evidence.

At the end of the day, of course, these people are being tried and dealt with by the prosecutors, the courts and the police. Some of them have already been released. If they were completely innocent, it is unfortunate that they had to be incarcerated for a period of time. I am not sure if some of them got out on bail but it is always an unfortunate event if people are arrested and then not subsequently charged. However, in this particular case, the police had sufficient evidence and arrested them under the provisions of the Criminal Code.

This type of situation does not always exist. We know that terrorists communicate, sometimes in encoded ways, sometimes electronically, sometimes in various shapes and forms, and our investigative forces, law enforcement and other security forces in Canada, have ways of tracking this type of communication traffic. There will be a time, and perhaps there has been already one that we are not aware of, when the law enforcement agencies will pick up something that indicates that perhaps a terrorist event is about to be committed but they do not have sufficient evidence to lay a charge or to have these people arrested.

I had the good fortune and honour to serve on the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We investigated, exhaustively, the anti-terrorism legislation in Canada when it was up for review after five years. I will never forget the testimony of a gentleman who came from the United Kingdom. I forget his exact title but he was responsible for overseeing the anti-terrorism provisions in the United Kingdom.

The analogy he used was that if the police pick up information that a bank is about to be robbed, what they can do in a case like that, and they often do, is stake out that particular site. If the crime is perpetrated, then the police are there, they arrest the criminals and that is it. However, we cannot do this with a terrorist attack.

People move, and we see it all the time in various shapes and forms, different guises, perhaps with munitions strapped to them and it is often impossible to stake out. We could stake it out but then the terrorist event could happen and innocent people could lose their lives. Therefore, it is not really susceptible to that same type of action by law enforcement agencies.

I want to talk briefly about what the Senate has done to improve these provisions of preventive arrests and investigative hearings.

First, the Senate amendment calls on law enforcement to convince a judge that all reasonable attempts for the collection of information about potential or prior terrorist activity has been done before an investigative hearing is ordered.

An investigative hearing would be when the police bring together a group of people to seek out information about a possible terrorist activity. In my own judgment, I am more interested in the proactive view of how these provisions would be applied. I am not that interested in how they could be applied retroactively because I think the whole idea of the anti-terrorism legislation is to prevent a terrorist event, not go back in time, but, nonetheless, I know there are others in this House who feel differently about it. However, we need to at least have the provisions that would look forward to any proposed or possible terrorist event in the future.

What these amendments do is say that law enforcement must have to convince a judge that all other reasonable efforts have been made to deal with this, without having an investigative hearing. At an investigative hearing people are rounded up and asked to come before a judge and there are questions, and it is somewhat of an infringement on civil rights.

Nonetheless, a judge is involved within 24 hours. In other words, a hearing has to be conducted in a very swift fashion, and the same applies to preventative arrests. In fact, the people under the provisions of our law have to be released within 24 hours, and as others in this House have pointed out, these provisions are actually less onerous than those in countries like United States, United Kingdom and Australia. These amendments in the Senate call for that.

Also, another important change is that the bill now has narrower wording stipulating the grounds on which an individual may be detained. It is useful and responsible for legislators to be precise and to not leave it open to misuse. This bill and the amendments that are placed in it allow for that.

There are other provisions that call for the review of this legislation, in fact, making it mandatory to review these provisions. Rather than as an elective, Parliament is required to review these provisions at the appropriate time and interval.

These enhancements improve these measures. We never like to infringe on the civil liberties of our citizens, but at the same time we have to have measures in place that adequately safeguard our citizens. We are blessed in this country that, although I know some would argue the other way, our law enforcement people act responsibly and we have to have continuous oversight.

The RCMP has been under the public microscope lately and I am sure it has some improvements to make. This is not a police state, and we want to make sure it never even comes close to that, but our law enforcement people generally will use these tools only when they have to.

I recall at the subcommittee we had a panel. We looked at the provisions of the former Bill C-36, and this was particularly in the context of the security certificates. Even though security certificates are outside the scope of the anti-terrorism legislation, the subcommittee was tasked with looking at the provisions of the security certificates.

There was an official who came from the Department of Public Safety and National Security with a brief and a dossier on an individual who was an alleged Iranian assassin and who was being detained under a security certificate. Of course, some of the material in the dossier had to be whited out to protect allies who had provided various information and sources of information, on the grounds that it would compromise our national security. The dossier was nonetheless a very thick dossier and the official took the subcommittee through this file, indicating why this person was being detained under a security certificate.

On that same panel, there was a representative from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. I remember turning to him at that point in time and asking whether, after hearing the profile of this particular gentleman who is being detained under a security certificate, would he like to have this person as a next door neighbour. It was kind of a risky question, but I thought it was a reasonable question to ask. In response, he said that he would not. If anyone heard this dossier, they would say that no reasonable person would want this person as a next door neighbour.

He was opposed to these kinds of provisions. I asked what the problem was and he replied that it was the process. We agreed that the process needed improvement and that is why, with respect to security certificates, that was enhanced.

We need to understand that citizens of this country want their government to have a balanced set of measures that would keep their families and themselves safe and secure in their neighbourhoods, and would have the optimal balance between those requirements while protecting the civil liberties of Canadians, which is equally important. Balance is something that we must continue to strive for in the House.

Bill S-3 provides a very good balance between those two competing elements and I certainly will be supporting it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When we return to the study of Bill S-3, there will be four minutes left for debate for the hon. member for Etobicoke North and 10 minutes of questions and comments.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

April 17th, 2008 / 5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

moved:

That the House call upon the government to bring forward an airline passenger bill of rights similar in scope and effect to legal instruments being either proposed or enacted by jurisdictions within Europe and the United States for the purpose of protecting passenger interests in a consistent and rules-based way and to provide a means of ensuring adequate compensation being offered by the airline industry to airline passengers who experience inconveniences such as flight interruptions, delays, cancellations, issues with checked baggage and other inconveniences incurred while travelling on commercial passenger airline services originating from anywhere in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that Parliament must take immediate and decisive action on a matter that is of vital importance to Canadians, creating a guaranteed protection for the rights of airline passengers.

Air travel is not an elitist privilege or at least it should not have to be. Air travel is the way that millions of Canadians, living and working in every part of this country, reunite with their families and stay connected to each other. It is how many Canadians from coast to coast to coast choose to explore the beauty and expanse of this great country, and it is vital for a country as large as ours that we remain truly linked together.

Air travel is an important part of that. The actual experience, however, is not always a positive one.

How many Canadians have felt the sheer frustration of sitting in an airport waiting area, straining to listen to hear the crackle of an inaudible overhead PA system wondering if this might be the long awaited boarding call for their flight, one that has already been delayed for five hours, and one for which absolutely no explanation has been offered by the airline as to the original cause of the delay?

How many Canadians have felt the anxiety of having a connecting flight cancelled while in mid-journey, a situation completely beyond their control and one that will inevitably force them to incur unanticipated, unbudgeted for, additional costs, such as hotel bills, taxis and meals? This is money they may not necessarily have.

How many Canadians have arrived at the assigned gate for their flight, boarding passes in hand, only to be told to go back to the desk because the airline decided several weeks ago to oversell the same flight to ensure that it would take off full?

How many Canadians have been forced to remain on board an aircraft, held captive with no place to go, no choices available for them to make themselves, and delayed for hours with no end in sight?

How many Canadians have arrived at their destination only to find that their bags have not and then to discover that there is no one available at the airport to explain what they should do next?

Instead, they are told to get in touch with a call centre located in India where the person on the other end of the phone tells them how they can make a claim in 30 days if their bags are not found by then. Obviously, it is impossible they are told to say from India whether their bags are still in Winnipeg or in Toronto.

How many times do Canadians, who are grieving loved ones and who are awaiting the remains to be returned back home in time for the funeral services, have to find out that the body was bumped in Montreal for either better paying cargo or because clerical errors at the airline? We are not sure which?

The answer is that these situations occur far more often than any of us may actually think. These are the stories of real passengers and real problems, and these problems in the airlines are getting worse.

Let me be clear at the outset. Canadians should rest completely assured that when it comes to flight safety, Canada has one of the most effective regulatory regimes in the world. Canada is a global leader in ensuring mandatory flight safety. We are always looking for better ways to make improvements on that impressive record.

The problems, however, that I refer to are not ones of flight safety but of that woefully inadequate consumer protection for passengers of commercial airlines. Let me put it this way. These issues do not occur while the planes are in the sky. They are ones more typically that occur when the planes are still on the ground.

A well run competitive airline should not consider reasonable customer service as an option to be exercised occasionally and then only for the highest paying passengers.

In Canada airline passengers are left completely vulnerable to the recent industry turbulence that has been created by a complete lack of any regulated consumer protection. In Canada there are precious few rules protecting passengers, but there is a lot of legal language that limits the liability of the airlines themselves.

This inadequacy of voluntary compensation strategies and yes, commercial greed and abuse directed toward paying customers is the issue at hand. Once we pass through security or on the aircraft, the airlines duty of care and the responsibility inherent in that relationship are no longer a matter for the marketplace to direct.

It is a matter for the regulator to oversee. In any other circumstance this lack of consumer protection would never be tolerated, especially when we consider that the airline industry is guarded by the oversight responsibility of the federal government.

Since tabling my motion in the House, my office has been inundated with faxes, emails, telephone calls and letters from ordinary Canadians, airline passengers and consumers, who paid good money for a ticket thinking it was a contract to travel from one destination to the other.

Reaction to their experiences range from genuine empathy to sheer horror at the extent to which greed and neglect has been shown to them by certain airlines. They all have an interesting story to tell. All were paying customers.

None, however, can illustrate any better why a Canadian passenger bill of rights is so badly needed here in Canada than Cubana Airlines flights 170 and 172, which flew on March 8, six short weeks ago.

Having left Havana en route back to Montreal, two plane loads with hundreds of Canadian passengers on board had to be diverted to Ottawa when Montreal closed down due to weather. When they arrived, there was no bus waiting for them to continue on to their final destination. Nor was there a lounge where they could relax, get a cup of coffee and wait it all out. Instead, after five hours in flight, over 300 Canadian passengers were held on a runway for 12 hours, with the cabin doors closed and no way for them to escape. The plane did not connect to a gate.

After about eight hours of this, food and water began to run out. Then toilets completely filled and began to overflow. Still neither the company, nor the captain, nor the Ottawa airport authority took effective action to ensure that the flight hooked up to a gate and the passengers were unloaded. Fingers are still pointing as to whose fault this all was. Personally, I do not particularly care. It should never have been allowed to happen, period, not in Canada.

It was not until one of the passengers had the good sense to dial 911 on his cellphone, demanding to be put through to an RCMP duty officer, that something finally happened. The clear distress and desperation in the passenger's voice caused police to intervene and the plane finally docked so passengers could leave.

I can only imagine what law was used by the RCMP against those who caused all of this. I can only imagine because there are no rules in Canada against such clear cut consumer abuses when it comes to the Canadian airline industry.

I can only assume that the sole tool police had available to them that night to assist those passengers was the powers of the Criminal Code. Without any laws or regulations to protect these passengers, I can only presume that the police must have advised all involved that if those passengers were not allowed to get off those planes of their own free will, immediately, police would be forced to seize the planes and lay charges related to involuntary confinement under the Criminal Code.

The Criminal Code seems like a rather blunt instrument to ensure basic consumer rights are protected in Canada. Plainly put, that is why we need a airline passenger bill of rights, legislation similar to what is already in force throughout all of Europe.

On February 17, 2005, European parliamentarians brought in a passenger bill of rights, requiring all European airlines, as well as foreign-based airlines flying out of European airports, to provide reasonable care and compensation to passengers in the event of delays, cancellations, denied boarding, delayed or lost baggage, along with legal requirements to publicly report the reasons for flight delays and to ensure that customers were made aware of the full extent of their rights.

Three years after coming into force, no one in Europe today is saying “let's get rid of it”. The legislation is applied fully regardless of what the actual cause of the original delay to begin with, whether it was a storm, company negligence, or mechanical issues.

Jacques Barrot, the European Commission's vice-president responsible for transportation, noted that when he announced the European airline passenger bill of rights back in 2005, “Competitiveness and competition in the air sector must go hand in hand with guaranteed passengers' rights”.

Here is a special point of interest to the debate. Even non-EU airlines that fly from European airports are required to comply with the European airline passenger bill of rights.

In other words, when Air Canada or any other Canadian airline leaves an EU airport to fly back home to Canada, its passengers are given statutory rights to service and compensation through the EU's bill of rights. However, when that same Air Canada flight arrives back home and goes on to a new destination, these rules no longer apply. It is an interesting point.

People might be interested to know as well that the United States has already enacted airline passenger rights legislation. They may have heard about the state of New York's laws that created significant legal obligations on air carriers choosing to fly in and out of that state. The rules that New York created were clear and meaningful and provided for significant fines against any breach by an airline. It was struck down, however, but only because responsibility for aviation regulation is a federal jurisdiction, not a state prerogative. This regulatory void, however, is quickly being filled by the legislature with appropriate jurisdiction, the U.S. Congress.

H.R. 1303, the airline passenger bill of rights act of 2007, which is currently before the House of Representatives, and S. 678, the airline passenger bill of rights act of 2007, which is currently before the U.S. Senate, are both moving forward. These bills deal specifically with airline passengers' rights in the case of flight delays.

At the same time, there are also two other bills before Congress that include the same provisions as the two bills I just mentioned, but are part of a much broader package of amendments to certain other acts that create even greater airline passenger rights for U.S. customers. Those bills are H.R. 2881, the FAA reauthorization act of 2007, which has already been passed by the House of Representatives, and S. 1300, the aviation investment and modernization act of 2007, which is currently before the Senate.

Bill H.R. 2881, namely, sections 401, 406 and 418 to 423, may be of particular interest to members as the legal requirements established for both U.S. and Canadian carriers flying within the U.S. clearly protect consumer rights. My question then is: Are we prepared to have a two tier international aviation system, with Canada being on the bottom rung?

It is almost a certainty that the U.S. will be imposing these regulations, similar to what is already in place in the European Union. This creates an important consideration for the Canadian airline industry and its oversight of it. Failure to at least match consumer protection standards of our international competitors will leave the Canadian industry with a serious competitive disadvantage.

If one has an option to travel on a British Airways flight, for example, or on Air Canada on a return trip to the U.K., which airline would one fly on? The airline in which the European parliament will be guaranteeing a person's consumer rights or one where the Canadian Parliament is guaranteeing a person nothing?

The international context of an emerging best practices model in the aviation industry is moving rapidly toward providing superior state enforced customer service minimums and this is not something that Canada should ignore or avoid. The time for the Canadian airline passenger bills of rights is now.

I implore the House to dig into this issue further. I would enjoy the opportunity to work with each and every member to draft legislation and bring it forward.

Given that my time is up, if anyone wishes to continue this exchange or look for more indepth information or analysis, I invite people to visit my website at www.gerrybyrne.ca, where they will find significant research and background information on this issue and an opportunity to provide feedback.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member and I share a concern that consumer protection be robust in Canada, especially for those who use the airlines to travel. He made specific reference to a model that I think he would like us to follow, the model used by the European Union, which has a bill of rights for airline passengers.

Given the fact he has quoted that as a model, could he elucidate for us a little further the advantages that model would have over Canada's current system? Perhaps he could also comment on Bill C-11, which was passed in the last Parliament and which seriously enhances consumer protection for airline passengers in Canada?

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, the international governance model for air carriers is covered under both the Warsaw and Montreal conventions. There are rules in place related to international carriage. What the European Union has decided is that there needs to be further enhancement to that. As we know, both the Montreal and Warsaw conventions do not apply uniformly because not all states have signed on.

One of the issues that I think is really relevant is there are a number of discount carriers that exist in the European Union. Some of them offer flights for one pound or one Euro per flight. The European Union has decided, regardless of the price of the ticket, to put in place specific mechanisms, specific fees or fines that are payable back to the consumer should there be a breach of a contract related to the passenger bill of rights. That is a very important point because in Canada there are no consumer airline passenger orientated rights that go with them.

Each airline in our country, under the Canadian aviation regulations, is required to submit and publish tariff schedules, but those tariff schedules do not guarantee or require specific remedies or prescriptions should a customer issue service arise. It simply says that the airline must indicate what it would do in a particular circumstance. The Canadian airline, when it publishes its tariffs, could simply say that it will do nothing, and that complies with the Canadian aviation regulations. There is a void on this issue.

While there are some basic protections, we obviously need to do more. Ask the passengers on Cubana Airlines if those are the facts.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the end of January, I brought forth a call for the government to bring forward legislation. We have not yet seen that, but this motion at least creates a process, a potential element to deal with the situation.

One of the points the member made, which I think is important, is that the European Union as well as the United States are looking at different models as well. Would he expand again on the importance of Canada being left out if we do not do the same?

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, we live in a global marketplace and we live under the examples and the benefits of best practices models.

I will repeat again the clearly logical example that if a Canadian airline fails to operate under a set of norms or a consistent set of rules, rules which are being applied in other jurisdictions by other competitors, and if those rules do not raise the standards for customer service and expectation, then Canada is really left at a competitive disadvantage. The Canadian airline industry will be held to a competitive disadvantage. Customers will make their choices.

Again, if there is an airline operating with state-guaranteed protections for a customer's interests in one instance and another airline is operating without such guarantees, where will the international customer gravitate its business to? Obviously to the airline operating under a better customer service quality standards. That is a good best practices model.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for bringing this motion forward. In principle, I do support the motion. Whatever we can do to strengthen consumer rights in Canada is welcomed.

I am also an air traveller. I travel every week to and from my riding, and I know what it means to be delayed, to sit on the tarmac waiting for a plane to take off.

I want to start by unequivocally stating that our government is committed to consumer protection for Canadians. Our country has a solid, effective and constantly improving consumer protection regime, and that applies to those Canadians who travel by air.

Canada's approach to air travel has always been to put the safety of the travelling public first. That is non-negotiable. That is why Canada is a world leader in aviation safety, as the member mentioned. Canada has even been cited by the International Civil Aviation Organization as having among the best safety standards in the world. Safe operation of our aircraft is our paramount consideration.

What about some of the other aspects of air travel? What about the comfort, safety and convenience of the travelling public?

The motion before us asks us to do a number of things. It calls upon our government to protect air passengers' consumer interests in a consistent and rules based way. It also asks us to provide adequate compensation to air travellers who experience inconveniences and delays on commercial flights originating in Canada.

The motion seeks to address those concerns by formally calling upon our government to implement a passenger bill of rights similar to the one in Europe and the one in the United States. Let us look at those models. Let us first review the situation in the United States.

As it turns out, the United States actually has no national passenger bill of rights. Although the state of New York tried to adopt a law which would have addressed health and safety concerns related to long delays on the tarmac, the U.S. Court of Appeals actually struck down the law. Despite past efforts, the United States has never been able to implement a broad passenger bill of rights to date.

Not only does the United States not have a passenger bill of rights, but it does not even have a complaints mechanism available to passengers. A discontented passenger is left to deal directly with the airline and has no other recourse for resolution aside from the courts.

Only Europe has a passenger bill of rights at this time, and it is appropriate for us to reflect on the particular circumstances of that bill of rights.

The fact that the European Union has some 20 different member states, many with their own air carriers, explains why the EU was so anxious to have a consistent set of rules and approaches to consumer complaints.

What was worse was that in Europe there were persistent challenges with congestion and overbooking, challenges which existed as early as the 1990s, which is approximately when the European passenger bill of rights was originally introduced. The European aviation industry was known to regularly overbook passengers, cancel undersold flights and make refunds very difficult.

Europe also faced serious challenges when its airline industry saw over 35 low cost carriers exit the market between 2003 and 2006. That in itself would have been a huge blow to consumer confidence in the European airline industry.

The European Union passenger bill of rights addresses specific situations where either boarding is denied by the carrier or flights are cancelled or delayed for a long period of time.

That bill of rights also requires each member state to have an enforcement body to deal with consumer complaints. Surprisingly, its enforcement process has many similarities to our Canadian approach. Just as in Canada, enforcement bodies in the EU provide recourse to passengers for complaints not resolved by the carrier.

However, European Union resolution of complaints is limited to the very issues I have already articulated: denied boarding, cancellations and delays. This is different from our system where our complaints enforcement body, the Canadian Transportation Agency, has a much wider mandate. The agency has the power to address a wide variety of air traveller complaints as reflected in the broad range of carriers' terms and conditions.

The EU passenger bill of rights does not address the concerns raised by the United States regarding lengthy delays on the tarmac, nor does it address the issue of lost baggage.

Let me elaborate further on the situation right here in Canada.

I would first like to address the unfortunate circumstances that have probably triggered the motion before us. Let us not beat around the bush. This last winter was a tough one for Canadians. It is easy for me to sympathize with those people who were victims of delayed and cancelled flights during the 2007 Christmas holiday season as a result of the winter storms in eastern and Atlantic Canada. I happened to be one of those passengers. Indeed, some Canadians rely on air transportation as their only means of travel. It is also regrettable that vacationers had their reading week and spring break trips cancelled or significantly delayed as a result of the massive storms that hit Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal on March 8 and 9. These were very unfortunate events that are a product of our northern climate.

I began my comments with the statement that we in Canada are fortunate to have strong consumer protection laws. Let me take a few minutes to remind members of what that regime actually entails.

In Canada, as in most other countries, the terms and conditions of carriage are set by carriers that compete aggressively with each other. They are not set by government. This approach is consistent with our privatized air industry framework which relies heavily on the competitiveness of the marketplace to ensure that terms and conditions of carriage are reasonable and fair.

In Canada, airline passenger rights are protected through the provisions in the Canadian Transportation Act. All carriers operating within Canada or arriving or departing from Canada are required to develop terms and conditions of carriage and to make them readily accessible to the public. The information contained in the carrier's terms and conditions of carriage is important to consumers because it sets out that carrier's obligations and commitments to passengers.

As my colleagues in this House know all too well, the Canadian Transportation Act was recently amended unanimously by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I am a member of that committee and I was part of that review process.

Bill C-11, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, was passed and received royal assent in June of last year. It included enhanced consumer protection for air travel. These enhancements were in addition to existing consumer laws that we already had in place. I would like to list some of those improvements we made under Bill C-11.

Under that bill airlines are now required to prominently display and post their terms and conditions of carriage at the business offices of their domestic airlines. Bill C-11 also made permanent the informal and flexible complaints resolution process within the Canadian Transportation Agency. It integrated the role and functions of the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner with the authority and day to day operations of the agency.

The changes introduced under Bill C-11 are improvements to an already open and transparent reporting process. It is also important to understand how the complaints process in Canada works.

Canadian passengers are first required to address their complaints directly to the airline. To me, that seems reasonable. They then have recourse to the Canadian Transportation Agency if they are not satisfied with the carrier's response. Consumers can also seek redress and file a complaint with the agency if an airline fails to follow its terms and conditions of carriage. As a result of the complaints process, the agency can then assess monetary damages, if appropriate.

When considering whether to introduce our own passenger bill of rights, we have to consider many of the elements that are already in place in Canada. These are terms such as those that lay out the obligations of a carrier when flights are cancelled or delayed, conditions that determine how lost baggage is dealt with, which does not happen in the European Union, and an existing thorough and comprehensive complaints process.

The bottom line is that Canadian air passenger consumer protection laws are much stronger than those in the United States, and they more than hold their own when compared to the passenger bill of rights in the European Union.

Let us wind up this discussion by simply saying that Canada should not sell itself short. We are doing a good job in the area of consumer protection. What I do not want to do is till soil that has already been thoroughly tilled.

While I do not for a moment question the motives of the mover of this motion, I am not yet certain that a new passenger bill of rights is absolutely necessary, but I am certainly open to hear his remarks and the rest of the debate on this motion. I am certainly open to having my mind changed on this issue.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to Motion M-465 to bring forward an airline passenger bill of rights. Some things have been said by the hon. member who made this proposal, the hon. member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, and the Conservative member who just spoke. Let us be very clear.

First, allow me to read an excerpt from a letter I received from ATAC, the Air Transport Association of Canada, “I wish to inform you that our industry is not opposed to the principle of this motion”.

That means that even the industry is not against the principle of this motion. However, it hopes that all stakeholders will be included in this.

The hon. Liberal member who presented this motion cited events related to two Cubana Airlines planes, dramatic events that involved passengers returning from Cuba, whose flight was rerouted to Ottawa because of the weather and who had to spend hours on the plane. This type of bill of rights is not going to help those passengers. It is not just the airlines who are to blame; it is the airport authorities, including those in Ottawa and Montreal.

In my opinion, there needs to be a major investigation into this. The Liberal member who spoke earlier led us to believe that adopting this motion would prevent this type of situation.

I agree with the Air Transport Association of Canada on that point, that the people responsible also need to understand the consequences. I am talking about those responsible, but it is not always the airlines. In this case, there needs to be an investigation to find out who made the wrong decision: the airline that was supposed to land in Montreal but was rerouted to Ottawa and did not take care of its passengers, or the airport authority?

There needs to be an investigation to get to the bottom of this. We cannot suggest to the passengers who suffered through that terrible day that the hon. member's motion will resolve this problem. That is why, when the time comes, I hope we will have an informed debate, where the airlines can be heard and the airport authorities can be involved in the discussion, as they share some of the responsibility in this case.

Let us not forget that in some cases we are talking about an independent company. NAV CANADA is practically a quasi-governmental agency with an independent administration, and CATSA is responsible for security.

Canada has its way of doing things, and the airlines should not always get the blame. When the time comes to debate and update this motion, we will have to look at the big picture. I know that the Air Transport Association of Canada is not opposed to this motion in principle. I have the text of the regulation adopted by the European Parliament on February 11, 2004, and I will read a summary of the purpose of the regulation, which is clear and simple:

1. This Regulation establishes, under the conditions specified herein, minimum rights for passengers when:

(a) they are denied boarding against their will;

(b) their flight is cancelled;

(c) their flight is delayed.

The regulation is clear. We can see that it is not possible to regulate every single situation. Obviously, once again, each situation will have to be considered, when a passenger is denied boarding, when a flight is cancelled or when a flight is delayed.

It goes on to say:

3. This Regulation shall not apply to passengers travelling free of charge or at a reduced fare...However, it shall apply to passengers having tickets issued under a frequent flyer programme...by an air carrier or tour operator—

This is becoming increasingly common considering the points individuals can accumulate by using credit cards. Thus, the tickets purchased using frequent flyer points are covered by this regulation.

Obviously, sometimes situations arise where passengers are denied boarding. The regulation clearly explains in article 4 what this means:

When an operating air carrier reasonably expects to deny boarding on a flight, it shall first call for volunteers to surrender their reservations—

The regulation explains what happens if passengers are denied boarding. Article 5 pertains to cancellations and article 6 to delays:

When an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure:

(a) for two hours or more in the case of flights of 1500 kilometres or less; or

(b) for three hours or more in the case of...flights of more than 1500 kilometres—

The regulation is extremely detailed. When passengers are denied boarding or when their flight is cancelled or delayed, they are entitled to compensation in euros. I will spare you all the details, but the regulation provides for compensation. In addition, passengers are entitled to assistance, reimbursement, re-routing and care. Passengers do not just receive compensation, but assistance and care. Care is covered by article 9:

Where reference is made to this Article, passengers shall be offered free of charge:

(a) meals and refreshments—

(b) hotel accommodation—

(c) transport between the airport and place of accommodation—

The regulation details everything the airline is to provide for passengers free of charge.

Article 10 even covers upgrading and downgrading. It states that if an airline upgrades a ticket, it does so at its own expense, and that if it downgrades a passenger, it must reimburse the passenger accordingly.

Article 11 of this regulation—and I am still reading from the Official Journal of the European Union—even provides that “operating air carriers shall give priority to carrying persons with reduced mobility” or special needs.

This is where things are at with our airlines. That is why I want to again quote the letter I received from the Air Transport Association of Canada. I understand them when they say, “I wish to inform you that our industry is not opposed to this motion in principle”.

That is why I am having a hard time understanding why the Conservatives are opposed to this motion. If the airline industry is not opposed to this motion in principle, then I would ask my Conservative colleagues to reread the regulation adopted by the European Union.

We are talking about the right to care, assistance and compensation. We are also talking about people with reduced mobility and the services that must be offered to them. That is how far we have come. We must partner with the airline industry, pass the motion that my Liberal colleague has put forward, and work with the airline industry to improve things in such a way that all major stakeholders will be involved. And coming back to the incident with Cubana Airlines, because the majority of those involved were Quebeckers, we must be able to shed some light on the subject.

In my opinion, the fact that the two Cubana Airline planes were redirected from Montreal-Trudeau airport to Ottawa merits an independent inquiry. Once again, merely passing this bill of rights for passengers will not fix the problem for the simple reason that in Canada there are authorities that have responsibilities, that take care of the tarmac, the airport, that welcome passengers and that are not airline companies. Security companies, like CATSA for one, take care of security and could be responsible for delays. NAV Canada is in charge of directing the planes.

We have to be able to write a bill of rights for passengers that is consistent with our needs. And all of the reasons I mentioned prove that we are at that point.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Motion No. 465 this evening. The NDP supports this motion.

About a month ago, I issued a challenge to the government to bring forward a passenger bill of rights. Motion No. 465 is very complementary to that. I would like to read the motion for those who are joining the debate tonight.

The motion is very open and also provides a mode of flexibility and has been crafted in a very good way. The member should be recognized for that because it provides an opportunity to have a good debate about airline passenger service in this country and the way in which problems and issues are dealt with and whether or not we are satisfied with the status quo.

Most people across the country are not satisfied. Most people recognize that, not only in the European Union but also in the United States.

The motion addresses a few of the concerns. I am concerned that members of the Conservative Party do not want to participate in this type of process. This process would be helpful and would also get to other airline issues that need to be debated in this country.

The motion states:

That the House call upon the government to bring forward an airline passenger bill of rights similar in scope and effect to legal instruments being either proposed or enacted by jurisdictions within Europe and the Unites States...

I will halt there for a second, because what the member has done, and this is what I was concerned with in regard to the government's presentation, is clearly outlined that other jurisdictions have enacted legislation, for example in the European Union. The Bloc member went through some of the details of that legislation which was to deal with very difficult problems that the EU had and the EU felt that it had to enshrine something.

The member also recognizes the fact that the United States is going through a process. There is a bill in the house and a bill in the senate in the United States with respect to a passenger bill of rights. There has been a significant change in the U.S. airline industry and it has rocked the nation in many respects. There are going to be continued issues around passengers and their ability to get value because there is going to be another potential merger. There has been a lot of change, a lot of bankruptcies and many other issues. We have seen all too often footage not just in terms of weather delays but also cancellations related to aircraft being grounded and airlines that have gone bankrupt. A lot of travelling Americans and Canadians have been left high and dry.

These are very important issues. The member has acknowledged that those are the ones to be looked at.

When we look at this issue we cannot put our heads in the sand and say that the European Union has not solved everything and the United States has not quite done it yet so we should just forget about it and wait and see what happens.

There is an opportunity in the House to actually engage in this. Airline travel involves everything. We travel on personal visits with our families and our friends but airline travel is also very important for business and economic development across the country, especially as we are looking at competing in larger markets.

These issues are very important. When a person purchases a ticket, it should come with some basic rights. That is what we are really getting at.

The motion continues:

...for the purpose of protecting passenger interests in a consistent and rules-based way...

I want to stop there. When we talk to airline passengers and when we talk to people who work in the industry itself, the rules based approach is very important. People do not understand all these aspects. There are hidden charges. I know the industry is very concerned with a number of different fees that have been added on by the government. One example is the airline security tax. There have also been increased costs for landing fees. Also Nav Canada has been allowed to accumulate over a $60 million surplus. All these costs have to be passed on to the passenger.

There is concern from the industry that there has not been a real review of those types of things and those costs get passed on to the consumer. Similarly, there has to be a rules based approach when it comes to expectations when a person buys a ticket.

Bill C-11 was mentioned, but the fact of the matter is even when there is legislation the government has failed to live up to some of the principles of the legislation. In particular on Bill C-11 there was supposed to be consultation with different groups of Canadians about how to bring in a ticket pricing element that was fair and transparent.

CBC's Marketplace had very good program that outlined how some ticket prices have increased 50% because of fuel charges. People see a flight advertised at a certain price, but when they go to purchase their ticket, they are in for a big shock. We should have a rules based approach on issues like that so consumers know when an advertised price includes that charge, when it does not and all the airlines would have to follow that.

Having that element specifically mentioned in the motion gives some good ground to create fairness. This would create expectations not only with regard to when passengers should arrive, but what they should do to prepare themselves for air travel and what they should do in their conduct in air travel. Also, there would be an understanding of the company's obligations so that passengers can meet those types of conditions.

I have talked to representatives of some of the companies. They have expressed a bit of concern around issues related to checking in and so forth. For example, if there are not enough security officers to screen people, there is a problem. If people arrive too late, there is a problem.

In this debate, we can look at that context. We can look at the issue of whether the security charge that has been applied and continued by the government is going to be one that has value in terms of making sure that air travel is safe, but also making sure that we are going to reduce wait times and meet a mandate within a passenger bill of rights. Those issues can now come to the forefront.

The end of the motion is important as well. It talks about:

...adequate compensation being offered by the airline industry to airline passengers who experience inconveniences such as flight interruptions, delays, cancellations, issues with checked baggage and other inconveniences incurred while travelling on commercial passenger airline services originating from anywhere in Canada.

It refers to “such as”, and therefore, it does not have to be exclusively those items. The items can be looked at to determine whether they are appropriate or not, but at least it opens up that opportunity.

It is important to note that some airlines are actually moving on some of these items right now but they are charging extra fees for them. One airline has introduced a new service where for $25 or $35 passengers rise up a level and are able to bump other passengers. There are also emails and other services with regard to food and hotel accommodation.

Some of those things should be included in the price of the ticket right now but they are going to offer those services, the costs of which are going to be passed on to the customer. It is going to create another class of individuals who will be able to afford that $25 or $35, depending upon the fee, who will then purchase better tickets than other people who did not want to put that money on the table or could not afford to put out that money. That is important, because if we do not set some minimum standards and expectations with regard to airline passenger travel, then the companies are probably going to take advantage of customers. That is not right.

I only have a couple of minutes left, but I want to touch on a couple of issues. The issue of the Cuba to Montreal flight was mentioned. It is really important to acknowledge that those people were stuck on a plane for over 10 hours without the proper hygiene, nourishment or supports. They were having to sit in those seats for a long period of time. The basic health and sanitation systems had failed on the plane, and it took a 911 call to get some action.

That is enough to say if this extreme situation is going to happen in our country, in our nation's capital, there needs to be a change. We cannot simply leave things to the courts and other types of operations where there are no expectations or rules. We need to establish a bill of rights.

I will conclude by pointing out that we are going to once again have an opportunity to move forward on this or we will fall behind and watch our competition move ahead. It is important to point out that we will lose out on this.

In my area, many people choose to fly from Detroit, Michigan as opposed to going from Windsor on another air carrier to Toronto. That is because of the extra rights they are granted. The airlines and groups that are involved want to develop something right now. They want to clear the air. This motion is a start.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Before moving on to the next speaker, I would like to share with the House something remarkable that I have observed over the last 40 minutes. All political party members who spoke were also in attendance during their opponents' speeches.

This shows a great deal of respect and courtesy to each other, and I hope will serve as a model to all members of this House.

The next speaker is the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope that I will be equal to the task of demonstrating the degree of respect you have observed.

I want to compliment my colleague from Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte because I think he presented his motion in a most precise, persuasive and, I might say, compelling fashion.

I note that in part of our discussion we highlighted some of the points by focusing on what happened in the beginning of March. However, I remind all colleagues who have made some very thorough and thoughtful presentations that the motion was actually presented before the events of the beginning of March which underscored the need for this motion.

I think that the motion has stimulated good debate. I want to focus on a couple of points, if I might, first, before I carry on.

This is a debate that has been long overdue. We have, from Canada's four major airports, at least 60 million passengers utilizing plane service every year. That is twice the population of Canada. So, as my colleague in his motion indicated this is not a service for the elite; it is for everybody. We have come to point where we need to address the specifics about good service. It is time, as my colleague from Windsor West said, that Canada got with the program.

The Europeans have gone through this kind of turmoil. They continue to go through turmoil, but they have recognized that what needs to be put in place is a rules-based system to which both the service provider and the client can point to for an appropriate level of service.

My colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel says more or less the same thing. He says what we need to do is point the finger at all of those who have a responsibility but the responsibility, first and foremost, rests with the regulator.

My colleague from Abbotsford pointed out that perhaps we might be moving a little too quickly on this, and perhaps unnecessarily so, because we have already passed Bill C-11 in this House after some thorough discussion in committee and that provides the bases for a bill of rights, that is, a series of services to be provided by the carrier to its clients whether they be passengers or material that needs to be transported. So, we are dealing with a system that is not only a transport system but it is a transportation system.

I dare say, if I might, that we can add that this is no longer just a service; it is in fact an experience with real live individuals. Roughly 60 million of them a year in Canada are engaged in just those four major airports.

Back to what my hon. colleague from Abbotsford indicated in Bill C-11. There is a clause, clause 27, that calls on the government to help put in place what we might refer to in this motion as a bill of rights, to work with the industry, to consult with all the stakeholders, and to come forward with a basic standard of service criteria to which everybody can point. The government has not acted on that, yet.

Furthermore, there is another clause in Bill C-11, and I know my colleague knows this for sure because he, along with me and the member for Windsor West and the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel worked on this in committee, clause 64, that imposes on the cabinet an obligation to ensure that clause 27 is enacted. In other words, that those consultations take place and that the criteria, the regulatory framework, be put in place.

Not only has been clause 27 not been acted upon, clause 64 has virtually been ignored and so, one should not be surprised that my colleague would present Motion No. 465 in order to address these issues.

It is important for us to get a handle on that relationship between carriers, for example, one of them, Air Canada, who last year reported operating revenues in excess of $10.5 billion, and its vast clientele. There has to be a relationship where the clients, the passengers, can accede to a rules-based system that says this is what we contract to receive. I pointed out Air Canada perhaps unfairly. It is all carriers.

I point to Air Canada because my colleague from Windsor West and I both were part of the panel. I see that he pointed to it again today, that in response to the activities to the events of last March, instead of looking at how to enact some of these rules voluntarily, Air Canada came forward with a package that said “pay $25 or $35 and you can enhance your service”.

Now we are talking about increasing prices for a level of service that everyone expected would be part of the ticket price initially. I do not know whether that was good public relations or not. The people who we deal with at Air Canada are always wonderful people, but certainly the company in this instance made an error.

However, this motion is not in response to that error. It is in response to a genuine need, a get with the program need for Canada to join such other countries like those in the EU and the United States in coming forward with a bill of rights that says that passengers are entitled to this kind of service.

It cannot simply be case of caveat emptor. It has to be a case where there is a reciprocal obligation implied, understood and accepted by the carrier that receives the money as its part of the contract.

My colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel says we should include as well all the other service providers. He points to the fact that the Air Transport Association of Canada says it accepts this concept in principle. It does accept it, but we should bring into the equation all those other associations, many of which operate thanks to the regulator's authority, for example, Transport Canada, and that is fine.

However, my colleague's motion is very specific about what should be included. It does not necessarily point to what CBSA and CATSA and what anyone else might do. They have their responsibilities under a different set of regulations and they are held accountable for them. They should be held accountable for the service that they must provide not only to the airport authorities or to the carriers but to the passengers as well.

The most important thing is for this House to be seized with the thrust of the motion. The thrust of the motion says there are already models for us to follow. People have already gone to court to ensure that some of these be enacted, witness the example in the United States that my colleague so rightly pointed out.

However, there are also examples in Europe and 27 European countries are getting together and accepting it. All 27 countries and jurisdictions are in a position to adopt a bill of rights that addresses specific items. My colleague from Abbotsford said yes, but there are three specific areas. Three specific areas no doubt, but there are an addition 12 others that indicate the kinds of elements that must be addressed in this bill of rights.

We have models. We have American models and we have European models. There is no reason why we cannot adopt both. As the mover says, if everyone else can provide that service and constrain our carriers to provide that service when they fly over foreign airspace, why can those same carriers not be constrained, compelled and encouraged to provide a bill of rights for those same passengers over Canadian airspace?

That is the essence of this motion. Let Canadian passengers be treated on a par with Canadian passengers flying other carriers in other jurisdictions. We should offer no less and I encourage this House to adopt my colleague's motion.