Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to address Bill C-46 on investigations and the Internet.
This is an interesting bill for a very specific reason. For the past little while, the government side has been introducing legislation to deal with crime, cybercrime and new technology used by criminals. One can think, for instance, of the identity theft bill, which the Bloc Québécois supports, and Bill C-46, which the Bloc Québécois will also be supporting. I will outline later our reasons for supporting this bill, but I will also mention the contraindications to this bill; it is a matter of dosage.
I must say that what is being proposed by the government side is interesting for a change. We can sense a desire to modernize, which is something of a novelty on the part of a Reform-Conservative Party. They should normally be acting like dinosaurs, but all of a sudden, we can see an increased effort to try and modernize some pieces of legislation. The problem is that subtlety is not their forte. Complications might happen, which they may not know what to do about. Hence the importance of thorough debate.
We cannot pass a bill as important as this one that quickly. A few short days are not enough to conclude debate, close the matter and immediately pass the bill. We will need time to examine the bill and consider its consequences. If this bill can be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice or the Standing Committee on Public Safety, for example, we will have to take the time to speak with witnesses and see whether some valuable amendments could be made.
I will confess that the Bloc is supporting this bill because of its importance and because of the fact that, increasingly, the world is turning to the Internet. More and more banking is done on the Internet, which could attract fraudsters to the net. There is another major problem, that of pedophilia. There is the risk of having to deal with the exploitation of minors and children. That sort of thing happens on the Internet. At least, with new legislation, there will be new equipment to go after sexual offenders, these predators—if I can put it that way—and catch them as quickly as possible and clean up the Internet a little.
We are all aware of the meteoric rise in the use of the Internet since the mid-1990s. Its use is constantly growing. I provided a couple of examples about pedophilia on the Internet, which can be and is misused. There is Internet fraud as well. I will establish a link with what we were debating last week regarding identity theft. With the arrival of sites such as Facebook, more and more information is available on the Internet. It can of course be improperly used. With this bill, we will at least have the means to deal with this sort of crime all the more vigorously.
On the subject of problems, we must not go to the other extreme. It is in this regard that I have some fears about the Conservatives, and perhaps more about the Reform and Alliance wing of the Conservatives. It would be easy to get carried away with this bill. The Ligue des droits et libertés in Quebec has expressed serious concerns regarding this bill, since confidential information obtained on people could be misused. The league says the government has to be transparent and the private life of people has to be protected.
So already there is a problem with this bill, which will have to be debated in committee. Witnesses will have to be heard and serious work must be done, as the Bloc has done each time in legal matters. To echo what my NDP colleague said earlier, we in the Bloc have always been smart on crime. I think we have one of the best critics on the subject in our colleague, the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. He was minister of public security in Quebec for many years and it was he who fought the hardest against crime, among other things. The Hell's Angels at the time, are an example.
All of the knowledge and intellect of the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin could shed fantastic light in committee, where witnesses could be called and amendments worked out. This bill is consistent, but needs fine tuning. I am known to be a perfectionist. We will have to make improvements in committee.
I have been listening to my other colleagues’ speeches since the beginning of the day. I am not just a perfectionist, I also have a good ear and am a good listener. One of the areas that could be tackled most easily with this bill is cyberpedophilia. Unfortunately, people do not use the Internet only for good purposes. I was surprised recently when I read statistics about Internet usage. Nearly 90% of Internet sites and Internet pages are related to pornography. This is shocking. Obviously cyberpedophiles have no qualms about using the Internet to distribute child pornography files. We have a duty to combat this vigorously, to make sure that we eliminate this atrocity to the extent possible; we are all in agreement. This is the example that came up most often in the case of this bill.
My colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue has done just as good a job as my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin when it comes to justice and public safety issues. He was just saying that we could put chips in cars. Very often, when a car is stolen, it is broken down into parts that are sent to the four corners of the world, and this makes tracing a difficult task. It is very hard to find the car or the parts intact.
At least, we are seeing modernization of some laws, as I was just saying. This is no longer the era of highway robbery and of trains being derailed so the cars could be robbed. The Jesse James's of this world belong to the past. But it was a somewhat more romantic era, if I may say so. Nonetheless, we are seeing bandits making wide use of the Internet, in our day, to achieve their ends. Bank thefts are becoming increasingly complex. These people have an extraordinary ability to reinvent themselves. I have always been told that government reacts rather than acting, but it is clear that the government has finally decided to act, and to introduce this bill.
As I said, it will be extremely important to move this debate to committee so we can examine all facets of the bill. My fear is that the Conservatives want to pass it too quickly. We have seen this in far too many justice-related files. They say they are tough on crime. I will not say what I think of this tough on crime analogy, but in some cases we can very clearly see that it is completely bizarre.
Just now, my colleague drew comparisons with the United States. In particular, I am thinking of the minimum sentences the Conservatives are trying to shove down the opposition parties’ throats. We can see that the American Republicans have tried such sentences, and where it has got them.
Bill C-46 amends the Criminal Code. Among other things creates a new concept called “transmission data,” which would extend to all means of telecommunication the investigative powers that are currently restricted to data associated with telephones.
As I said, this is no longer the era of mere telephone wiretapping. We have to look at all information exchanged on the Internet. I will draw a parallel. I certainly would not want to get involved in the election about to be held at the municipal level in Quebec, but when there is collusion, we often see that the Internet has been used to exchange information about price fixing.
It is apparent, therefore, that these kinds of dishonest, fraudulent conversations are not carried out solely on the telephone any more or in dark little rooms. We have reached the point now where people can easily commit fraud from their offices over the Internet.
This bill also creates, therefore, the power to compel the production of data relating to the transmission of communications; it creates the power to require the production of data on the location from which individuals operate; it creates the power to make preservation demands and orders to compel the preservation of electronic evidence; it allows for warrants to be issued, subject of course to legal thresholds appropriate to the interests at stake; and it makes it possible to track transactions, individuals and things. The police will be able to remotely activate tracking devices. These are exactly the kind of things that can become problematic and should be considered in the implementation of the bill.
As I have been saying and as the Ligue des droits et libertés said, we must be careful that the government itself does not use the legislation at some point for the wrong reasons. Far be it from me to suggest that the government might currently have some nefarious ideas. We have seen, though, what they are sometimes capable of. The bill will also create a new offence with a maximum punishment of ten years in prison for the use of computer systems like the Internet to agree or arrange with another person to commit a sexual offence against a child.
The bill also amends the Competition Act—this is ironic because it is precisely what I was just talking about in regard to the collusion on Montreal Island—to make applicable for certain provisions of the act the new provisions being added to the Criminal Code respecting demands and orders for the preservation of computer data and orders for the production of documents relating to the transmission of communications or financial data.
Finally, the bill amends the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act to make some of the new investigative powers being added to the Criminal Code available to Canadian authorities executing incoming requests for assistance and to allow the Commissioner of Competition to execute search warrants under the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act.
As I said, the Bloc Québécois is in principle in favour of Bill C-46, whose purpose is to enable police forces to adapt their investigative techniques to contemporary technological realities, such as the widespread use of cellphones and the Internet.
I would like to draw another connection. Not only criminals use these kinds of communications but increasingly also terrorists, who use such things as the Internet and cellphones to carry out their plans. We can therefore fight on both fronts.
Facilitating police work, where it does not unduly interfere with fundamental rights, is an avenue the Bloc Québécois has always advocated for fighting crime. This approach has certainly proved itself in Quebec. The Bloc Québécois also thinks that increasing the likelihood of getting caught is a much greater deterrent than increasing the punishments, which often seem pretty remote and abstract.
I must say that when I see criminals, of whatever sort, who are warned that they will get a sentence of 15 or 20 years in prison for something like cocaine trafficking, they do not seem very worried about it because they are focused on what they stand to gain. Criminals may well think it would be pretty good to sell cocaine for a few years for the $10 million or so they would get.
So it is much more a question of increasing police presence and better equipping the police to fight crime. It is this that will really deter criminals rather than simply warning them they will get a 10-year sentence, because no criminal thinks they will be caught until the means are in place to catch them.
However, as I was saying, this bill raises a number of concerns regarding respect of privacy, whereas there has been no justification provided for such infringement. Given the importance of strengthening police powers to fight the most complex forms of organized crime, the Bloc supports the principle behind the bill.
I wish to reiterate my full confidence in my colleagues from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and Abitibi—Témiscamingue. I am sure that they will do some extraordinary, meticulous and exemplary work in committee to ensure that there are as few intrusions into people's private lives as possible, and that those intrusions are always necessary and very well delineated.
If I am permitted a few minutes, I may perhaps put the whole thing in context and recall to some extent the origins of the spirit of the bill. It all comes from the Convention on Cybercrime, which underlies Bill C-46 and Bill C-47, which we will study a little later. The bill before us draws largely on it. The convention was formulated by the Council of Europe with the active involvement of Canada, the United States, Japan and South Africa.
Under the terms of its preamble, the convention aims to pursue a common criminal policy aimed at the protection of society against cybercrime, inter alia, by adopting appropriate legislation and fostering international co-operation. It is structured, more specifically, around three regulatory lines, that of harmonization of domestic laws, the establishment of appropriate means in order to facilitate the conduct of investigations and criminal proceedings on electronic networks and, finally, the establishment of a rapid and effective system of international cooperation.
On the subject of cybercrime and the Internet, the letters, www, stand for the World Wide Web. And we know why—because it is truly world wide. So, a criminal can easily be based in South Africa and commit crimes in Canada or Europe. Hence the importance of cooperating multilaterally with other countries to acquire the means and to work together to stop these criminals.
In order to harmonize domestic laws, international conventions on cybercrime set out the offences in four broad categories. First, there are offences relating to the security of networks, namely offences involving confidentiality, integrity, or data or system availability. There are also computer-related offences, namely falsification and fraud and then offences relating to content, namely child pornography, as I was saying earlier. Finally, there are offences relating to infringement of intellectual property and related rights, such as the illegal reproduction of protected works. In the case of offences relating to the dissemination of racist or xenophobic ideas and to trafficking in human beings over the networks, there is an additional protocol.
To facilitate investigations and prosecution in cyberspace, the convention contains a series of provisions that the signatories will have to approve. These provide, among other things, for the preservation, search and seizure, and interception of data stored on a computer system. Finally, to promote international cooperation, signatories will be permitted to act on behalf of others in acquiring electronic evidence. This will not give the signatories the authority to conduct transborder investigations, proceedings or searches, but a network of national contact points will be established to provide constant and immediate assistance with ongoing investigations. This goes to show the value, as I indicated, of multilateral cooperation in that regard.
I gave the example of a criminal who could very well send data—or commit a Criminal Code offence—from South Africa to Canada. The idea of going over there to arrest him is therefore far from our minds, but if we are at least able to provide information to local authorities, send them the data, we will be much more likely to catch him.
So, the cybercrime convention is the result of a lengthy process undertaken in 1995. The document underwent 27 drafts, because of the need to take into account reticence on the part of several consumer associations, warning against the serious danger of breaching privacy.
The Chair is signaling that I am running out of time. That is unfortunate, because I could have gone on for hours. My hon. colleagues will no doubt put very good questions to me, and I will gladly answer them.