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House of Commons Hansard #101 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was internet.

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The House resumed from October 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Investigative Powers for the 21st Century ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to speak to Bill C-46. We will probably study Bill C-47 either later today or tomorrow. Bills C-46 and C-47 are very closely related to each other and, for those watching us, have to do with cybercrime.

It appears that the Canadian government has finally entered the 21st century and wants to address the very serious problem of cybercrime. Before going into the details, I would like to give some background. There was a convention, if we can call it that, known as the convention on cybercrime. That convention was the subject of many meetings. In fact, there were 27 different versions of the convention on cybercrime before the final version was drafted and signed by many countries, including Canada, the United States, Japan, South Africa, and even the Council of Europe. All the countries that signed the convention undertook to introduce one or more bills to implement the convention on cybercrime. That is precisely what the government is doing here today.

We can examine the technical details of the bill in committee. Yes, the Bloc Québécois agrees that Bill C-46 should move forward and be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. This will also probably be true for Bill C-47.

Bill C-46 should allow police forces to adapt their investigative techniques to modern technologies like cellphones, iPods, the Internet, as well as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter that link today's online world. This bill will give police forces access to such technologies.

When a bill like this is introduced there is one thing the government and parliamentarians must not forget: the bill must not infringe on basic rights even though we are trying to properly equip our police forces to deal with crime. All of this is being done in response to what happened in 2001. Even though we know that work on cybercrime began in 1995, the events of September 2001 had a substantial impact. That is when governments realized they did not have the means to intercept certain communications. Before and after 1995, and even before and after 2001, surveillance was used. It was very easy to realize you were being followed. We are not talking about a James Bond movie here. We are not nearly as sophisticated as the show 24, where the characters are totally equipped to deal with crimes of this nature. We needed to find tools to help deal with cybercrime and make them available to our police forces.

Cybercrime is very subtle and very insidious. It is everywhere today. The members opposite, especially those from the Conservative Party, talk about the luring of children or what some people attempt to do with computers, namely slowly but surely approach children to have sexual encounters.

It is much more than that. I am not saying that the luring of children is not a serious crime, far from it. This is an extremely serious crime. There are also other crimes that are much more subtle, including identity theft and the planning of major crimes. Just look at the London subway bombings. They were planned right here in Canada. Somewhere near Toronto, attacks were being planned with global targets. Here in Canada, the police thanked an individual whose assistance was instrumental in foiling a crime about to unfold in Great Britain.

Cybercrime has become a global phenomenon. Today, we cannot simply say that cybercrime only occurs in Canada, Quebec, or Ottawa and the surrounding region. Cybercrime is a global phenomenon and it has to be addressed globally. That is the purpose of Bill C-46 and Bill C-47, which we will study in the coming days.

There is something worrying me. We will have to carefully study the intrusion into the personal life of an individual. I hesitate to say this because the line between the intrusion into the rights of an individual versus the protection of society is increasingly blurred. We will have to keep a very close eye on this as we study the bill. We must ensure that citizens do not run the risk of being more vulnerable to an intrusion into their private lives. I do not think that anyone in this House is against adapting legislation to the new realities in technology and crime.

I believe that it is abundantly clear that criminals, especially those working on the Web, are brilliant for the most part. Anyone who can use such tools as Facebook or Twitter and the whole Internet is intelligent enough to hatch a good plan for a crime.

We are very close to that reality when we see someone using their cell phone, sending coded messages and providing information over the Internet. We have to follow this up. I will give the example of the transfer of “illegal” funds to tax havens. I spoke about this when debating Bill C-42 and Bill C-52. Today, criminals who use computer technology are increasingly smart. Thus, police forces must be equipped to deal with them. That is the objective of Bill C-46.

Technologies do not just benefit criminals and are also available to police. The Bloc Québécois believes that it is important and rather urgent for police to be equipped to detect not just crimes that have been committed, not just those about to be committed, but those that are being planned. We have to be one step ahead of the criminal planning a crime and able to intervene before an offence is committed. That is the objective of Bill C-46.

However, we must avoid allowing the police to use their investigative tools to gain access to a very large amount of information—it goes that far—but we must also monitor some peoples' activities on the Internet to learn more about their private lives. It goes far beyond listening to telephone conversations. This bill goes much further than that.

However, we must find a balance between the fundamental rights to privacy and safety. That is what this is all about. Is the right to privacy more important that the right to safety? That line is easily crossed by police officers or unscrupulous individuals.

We must remember that some police offers were convicted of having used the computer system of the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec to monitor a spouse's new friend and watch over the movements of that individual. Those police officers were convicted because they had taken private information.

We must be very careful, and this will probably be the most important debate over the next few months. The Ligue des droits et libertés has raised some concerns. We must be careful, we must be prudent, we must be aware, and we must realize that there could be some slip-ups. When it comes to truly addressing security concerns, is protecting the rights of individuals less important than protecting society? That is a debate that will have to be held when the time comes to examine the bill in committee.

It is clear, and I would like to share a little about what the Ligue des droits et libertés has said. According to the Ligue, the bill constitutes an unprecedented invasion of privacy. It has brought up the following points. The government is presenting its bills as a way to make the necessary changes to traditional investigative powers for electronic surveillance to adapt to new communication technologies. But there is no comparison between the information transmitted through a telephone conversation and information that circulates freely.

Moreover, unlike telephone conversations, which leave no trace unless they are recorded, modern communications leave a trail in computer memories that can be detected long after the fact. That is a very important point, and I hope that nobody in this Parliament or in Canada or Quebec believes that once an email has been sent, it is over and done with. Unfortunately for them, I have bad news, because when people send an email using their computer or even their BlackBerry, there is always a trail. Their hard drives retain information about every email ever sent, and that information can be retrieved. That is where we find ourselves in a grey area.

But the Ligue des droits et libertés adds that everything we do in our everyday lives could come under police investigation. They will have access to lists of the websites we visit, emails we send and receive, credit card purchases, purchases of all kinds—clothing, books, winter gear—our outings, our movements abroad and in Canada, gas purchases, on-line and ATM banking transactions and medical information. Naturally, the list might get even longer.

We have to be prudent. I do not necessarily share all of the concerns expressed by the Ligue des droits et libertés, but they are urging us to be prudent. As parliamentarians, we have to use our judgment. We have to tell police forces—the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec, the Ontario Provincial Police and other police services in large municipalities—that there are lines that must not be crossed once Bill C-46 is passed.

I firmly believe that one thing is for sure: police forces must have the tools they need to deal with crime in the 21st century. Yes, armed robberies and bank heists are still happening, although less frequently according to the latest statistics. We still hear about corner store hold-ups and all kinds of other assaults. But there is now a new kind of crime called cybercrime. We have been looking for ways to fight it since 1995. We have to make sure we have the tools to do that.

I listened closely to what the Ligue des droits et libertés said, and I feel that we have to be careful. The Ligue says that the bill provides little or no protection against unreasonable seizures without a warrant. The authorities will be able to obtain subscriber data even though the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act recognizes that this information is private. This is provided for in Bill C-47, but the authorities could still obtain this information. Without a warrant and on the basis of a suspicion, an officer will be able to ask a service provider to keep the contents of all your communications. It is like asking the post office to photocopy all your mail in case something should happen. I feel that people may go a bit too far sometimes, but this serves as a reminder that we must be cautious. I do not necessarily share the views of the Ligue des droits et libertés, but as politicians, we have to listen to both sides of the story.

The Ligue des droits et libertés also says that with a warrant obtained on the basis of a mere suspicion, an agent will easily be able to compel the service provider to turn over all its lists and so on. I believe that this is a bit dangerous, and we will have to address it when this bill is studied in committee. The Ligue added that with a warrant, which can be obtained on the basis of reasonable grounds to believe—less stringent conditions than for wiretapping—the content of your communications could be intercepted.

Certainly, what the Ligue des droits et libertés is saying is important. It is calling on parliamentarians to be careful when we print and pass legislation, but especially when we apply it. Once the law is passed, it may be too late to amend it. I will say one thing right now: police forces must be equipped to deal with cybercrime and 21st century crime. It is clear that crime prevention is one promising solution. The police will need to be able to prevent such crimes, and that takes equipment.

Obviously, the authorities have to try to uncover a plot before it is carried out. Once a crime has been committed, it is a little late to intervene, even if the criminals are brought to justice. In closing, if the authorities can thwart the crime before it is committed, I believe that this bill is a step in the right direction.

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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague. There is no doubt this bill provides police forces with additional tools. What bothers me is the question of striking a balance between basic human rights and privacy. I think we do need to give police the tools they need to arrest criminals, but I also read what the Privacy Commissioner said about this:

Privacy is a critical element of a free society and there can be no real freedom without it.

Canada is currently on a dangerous path towards a surveillance society.

This makes us all think of Big Brother. I have a question for my colleague. How can we ensure that this bill really gives police forces sufficient guidelines so that privacy and basic human rights are respected?

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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Trois-Rivières for her question.

I will not beat around the bush. This will probably be the greatest challenge facing the committee that examines this bill, that is, trying to set guidelines to balance individual rights and the rights of society, and indicating how far police forces should go. Indeed, as the Supreme Court put it so well, the police cannot go on a fishing expedition. They cannot intercept just anything or do anything they want under the pretext that possibly, perhaps, something might be happening. No, guidelines are needed.

As legislators, we definitely must tell police forces that they cannot cross certain lines. I agree with Ms. Stoddart that the greatest challenge with respect to this bill will definitely lie in its implementation. We will probably need detailed definitions of the tools that will be available to the police to prevent crime. Indeed, with this bill, police will go from being involved in arrests, and therefore the punishment of crime—since police generally become involved after the crime is committed—to the prevention of offences about to be committed, since police will be able to intervene before the crime is committed. That is what cybercrime is all about. That will be the challenge.

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10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague's speech. If memory serves me correctly, in 1948, George Orwell wrote the book 1984. He wrote about a society that is quite similar to the one the Conservative government wants to give us. In 1958 or 1959, Ayn Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged, which also described a similar society. Yann Martel, a very prolific Quebec writer, has been sending books to the Prime Minister and the 38th book he sent was a book by Ayn Rand.

Does my colleague not think that our Prime Minister and the government should learn from the past, from what already exists, instead of trying to get us to pass bills on law and order quickly without taking into consideration everything that might happen as a result of these bills, all the consequences these bills might have on society, on all individuals and on all human beings?

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10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Laval. She is absolutely right. I do not think that we should be too hasty in passing this bill. Yes, we should pass it here in the House so that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security—which is where it will probably go—or the Standing Committee on Justice—it does not really matter—can study it. That is where the real work will be done.

My colleague is absolutely right. We cannot have cameras all over the place watching everything and everyone for no particular reason. Where exactly do we draw the line? Somewhere between the rights of the individual and the rights of society. The line is a very thin one. The Supreme Court has urged parliamentarians to exercise prudence before making laws that infringe on the individual rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The debate in the coming months will focus on that. I have tremendous respect for my Conservative colleagues, and I hope that they will not try to rush this bill through. Clearly, we have to take the time to work on it properly. The Convention on Cybercrime has been in the making since 1995. It has taken 27 attempts to get to what we have now. I am sure that we can take a month or two to examine this bill properly.

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10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was very impressed with the speech by our colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue. I think that the concern he expressed about the need to protect privacy and civil rights in general in a bill like this is exactly right. There is another thing, though, that is very important and that is the need to ensure that the authorities have the effective means to control crime in the hyper-technological society in which we live.

Will this new bill give the police more effective means to control such crimes as money laundering or transfers to tax havens?

Do such provisions exist in this new bill? Could my colleague tell us a bit about that?

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10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question. He is perfectly right. I will say what I said before, namely that this bill will be studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I sit on the committee and will be very concerned with a close study of this bill.

The following is an excerpt from what I have read. The bill also allows “for warrants”—that is to say search warrants or warrants in cyberspace—“to enable the tracking of transactions, individuals and things…. Police would be able to remotely activate existing tracking devices”.

That is dangerous and someone is going to have to explain it to me properly. I think, though, that this provision will make it possible to track money before it leaves Canada and disappears somewhere in the islands or in tax havens. We have to be able to track this money, and hopefully, this bill will make it possible. They also want to be able to track cars. Therefore, chips will be placed in them. How many luxury automobiles have been stolen and are now somewhere in the Emirates, in Russia, or somewhere else? Henceforth we will be able to track them with chips, locate them virtually anywhere, and send search warrants to get them in Russia or elsewhere.

I have been talking about vehicles, but it could be something else. That is a good thing. We should be careful, though, not to cross the line between individual rights and the protection of society. The RCMP already said that it was ready and was expecting this bill. I am looking forward to its appearance before us to explain how it intends to do this.

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10:55 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to represent the good people of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission and to speak in strong support of Bill C-46, which proposes changes to the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act in order to bring criminal offences and investigative powers up to date with 21st century technologies.

Bill C-46 is an important piece of legislation. We are all very well aware that technology has been changing rapidly over the last couple of decades. Some my age or thereabouts have a hard time keeping up with the technological changes. These changes have changed the way that crimes have been committed and the type of evidence that police need to gather when investigating such crimes. Developments in technology have changed the nature of the crimes themselves, as well as the nature of the investigations required to combat them.

In many ways these changes have also made the world a smaller place. It used to be the case that overseas communication took days or weeks, sometimes even longer than that.

It was not all that many years ago, Mr. Speaker, you might recall that I lived in the Philippines for a number of years. I lived several hours north of Manila, the major centre. The only way to get information back and forth to my family and friends was the old-fashioned way, by letter. We did not have a telephone where I lived. In fact, there were no telephones in the town. People had to go to Manila.

The only way I could make a phone call was to drive to a neighbouring slightly larger town about an hour away, stand in line, wait for a telephone booth, hope the operator could connect me at the appropriate time and then pay quite a bit. Now in the Philippines I am told that per capita there are more cell phones than in Canada. Anywhere people go there now, they are able to be connected throughout the world. That is what has been happening.

Money can be moved from a bank in Singapore to an account in Switzerland by a person in Saskatchewan, of all places, without any trouble at all. These technologies have opened up a world of possibilities for Canadians and Canadian businesses, but they also create new challenges for law enforcement and criminal justice. Because of the global nature of these challenges, global solutions are needed.

Investigators face some of the most significant challenges brought about by these technologies.

Before I talk about the international nature of the problem we face and how this bill responds to it, let me talk in more general terms about cybercrime.

What is cybercrime? There is no universally accepted definition. It has had a number of definitions. It certainly includes crimes perpetrated over the Internet but also any crime in which computer-based technology is used, things as relatively harmless as spam, some would say, to much more important and serious things such as the exploitation of children.

Internet child pornography, for example, has become a $2.6 billion industry. The latest RCMP estimates indicate that there are 60,000 identified IP addresses in Canada accessing child pornography. People may be surprised to know this but the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children documented that 85 children are reported missing every hour, not every day, every week or every month, but every hour, totalling more than 750,000 missing in a year. Many cases involve luring schemes facilitated online.

There is identity theft, which is very serious. In fact, in 2006 almost 8,000 cases were reported in Canada.

There is securities manipulation where wrong information is put online and the price of securities, stocks and so on go up or down in relation to that information. The markets are manipulated in that way.

There is the serious threat to critical infrastructure. It is estimated by some that the next threat to national security will be either the disruption of electronic commerce or the creation of an emergency situation.

All of these things are very costly. There are social costs certainly, but there are economic costs as well. We do not know how much these things cost. There really is no way to add them all up.

A study released earlier this year by McAfee estimated that hacking, Internet fraud, denial of service attacks and high tech mischief cost the world economy more than $1 trillion a year in lost business revenue, which is a huge cost. There is no reason to think these things will decline so we need to take them very seriously.

Some of this material was taken from a website put out by the Global Centre for Securing Cyberspace, interestingly based in Calgary, Alberta. Its mission is to proactively protect people, property and commerce from cyberspace-enabled attacks through the facilitation of cross-sector collaborations with law enforcement, government, industry and academia. There are some very helpful resources on that site that I would recommend to my colleagues and to anyone listening to this debate. People will find some very helpful things on the site if they are at all involved with the Internet or the computer.

Some of these attacks in cyberspace, cybercrime, can come from outside Canada. Our authorities need to be able to co-operate with authorities in foreign countries to investigate these crimes and to bring the criminals to justice. In order to make this co-operation effective, we, along with our international partners, need to have available a standard set of tools capable of facilitating these investigations in the new technological environment.

We believe that the ratification of the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime and its additional protocol on xenophobia is an essential component of enabling these types of internal and international investigations. This convention is the only international treaty that is specifically designed to provide the legal tools to help in the investigation and prosecution of computer and Internet based crime, as well as more general crimes involving electronic evidence.

In conjunction with the necessary amendments in Bill C-46 to the Criminal Code and the other acts, ratification of the convention would put Canada in a position to effectively conduct modern investigations with an international component. Ratification of the convention would also assist foreign signatory countries by allowing them to access the Criminal Code's new investigative tools in appropriate cases.

I would like to read some paragraphs of the preamble of this convention so members will get a sense for what it is all about. It states:

Convinced of the need to pursue, as a matter of priority, a common criminal policy aimed at the protection of society against cybercrime...;

Conscious of the profound changes brought about by the digitalisation, convergence and continuing globalisation of computer networks;

Concerned by the risk that computer networks and electronic information may also be used for committing criminal offences and that evidence relating to such offences may be stored and transferred by these networks;

Recognising the need for co-operation between States and private industry in combating cybercrime and the need to protect legitimate interests in the use and development of information technologies;

Believing that an effective fight against cybercrime requires increased, rapid and well-functioning international co-operation in criminal matters;

And this is an interesting one:

Convinced that the present Convention is necessary to deter action directed against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer systems, networks and computer data as well as the misuse of such systems, networks and data by providing for the criminalisation of such conduct, as described in this Convention...

And so on.

It is an important convention. Canada was involved in the development of it, along with the Council of Europe. It does a number of important things, each of which plays a part in enabling investigations.

The first thing it does is it requires signatory states to adopt a minimum set of standards for computer-related crimes. For instance, the convention requires that countries criminalize illegal access to computers. This is basically a hacking offence. It also requires the criminalization of illegal interception, data interference, system interference and misuse of devices.

Now, to be clear, most of those activities are already criminal offences in Canada. The few gaps that remain would be closed with the rest of the amendments proposed in the bill that we are debating today.

The types of crimes we are talking about here are exactly the kinds of crimes that do not respect orders very well, and that is why we need co-operation from our global partners to fight them. We need to ensure our partners are not letting their own citizens hack into Canadian computer systems. We also need to ensure that we all have similar laws to ensure we can prosecute crimes in Canada that have connections to other countries.

The convention covers other types of crimes committed using computers. For instance, the convention prohibits the distribution of child pornography over the Internet, a crime that we have been working hard to fight here in Canada. The convention's additional protocol on xenophobia and racism also broadens the scope of the convention to cover criminal behaviour relating to hate, racism and xenophobia disseminated over computer systems.

We need to do our part and encourage other countries to join us in these important fights. Ratifying the convention and its additional protocol is a necessary step in that direction.

There is another side to what the convention does, which is equally important. The convention also creates a set of investigative tools that every state party will need to fight the kinds of crimes we have just been talking about. These are really important investigative tools in a world where data can be deleted in the blink of an eye. The convention requires that all its signatory states have this kind of mechanism in place. This will be of significant help to our international investigations.

As one can imagine, cross-border investigations are more complicated than domestic ones, which means that they can go more slowly. In order to ensure that vital data in a foreign country is not lost, we need to work with our partners so we will all have such tools available to us.

The convention would also require that we adopt a number of other important investigative powers and that these same tools be adopted by our partners. This common approach to the investigation of computer crimes will speed up the efficiency and effectiveness of cross-border investigations immeasurably.

The convention would also create some new ways of co-operating on these investigations. For example, it would require that each country designate a point of contact that would be available 24/7 to give immediate assistance in these kinds of investigations. This type of mechanism would vastly increase the efficiency of cross-border investigations, which can be quite complicated to conduct.

As members can see, the ratification of the convention on cybercrime is a vital component of Canada's fight against cybercrime and its ability to investigate crimes in the modern world. The amendments in Bill C-46 would go a long way toward addressing these issues, but to make our fight against these crimes truly effective, we need to recognize their increasingly global nature.

Together, ratification of the convention and the amendments in this bill would ensure that we can respond to some of the difficult challenges that new technologies currently pose to the criminal law and criminal investigations.

I encourage all members in the House to give Bill C-46 their full support.

Investigative Powers for the 21st Century ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of his speech, my colleague talked about modern investigations. One could conclude that Canadians might want to jump to the next conclusion and be concerned about what this might mean for law enforcement. Would law enforcement officials be able to monitor everyone's Internet, email or cell phone use if that happened to be the case?

I know that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans understands how important it is to maintain a proper balance involving public safety, privacy and our rights and liberties.

I was wondering if my colleague could take a moment to comment on that. Does he see that as a concern in the bill if law enforcement is able to monitor everyone's email, Internet and cell phone activity?

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11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raised an important issue that was raised in the House earlier today and earlier in this debate as well.

The whole notion of lawful access, which is one of the terms being used, is not about eaves-dropping on private conversations or monitoring web surfing or emailing habits of Canadians or even being permitted to read those. If this bill becomes law, law enforcement agencies will not be able to accept private communications or obtain transmission data without being authorized to do so by law. That is an important point and it needs to be clear.

Throughout the bill, transmission data is talked about as a concept, and that is about being able to look at header data rather than the content of an email itself. Privacy is protected in this bill.

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11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Ligue des droits et libertés has expressed serious reservations about this bill. We would like to move forward with this bill but we must be careful.

For example, one provision of the bill would allow a judge to issue a preservation order for data if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed under the law of a foreign state. Unfortunately, not all countries have the same rights and freedoms as we have in Canada.

This week, we heard about a man from Saudi Arabia who spoke about his sexual experiences on television. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. In a number of countries, homosexuality is a criminal offence. Does that mean that, if we accept these provisions, someone from another country could condemn a homosexual who came here to have a relationship with someone from Quebec or Canada and that this provision would be used to obtain information about the meeting of these two people? Would this person be prosecuted when they returned to their country? That worries me.

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11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I heard her concern but I did not hear a question there.

All I can say is that this government and, I think, all Canadian governments are strongly committed to maintaining the rule of law in all of our legislation in the way we conduct business and in the way we expect Canadians who are governed by these laws to conduct their business as well.

The legislation includes a number of tools that are needed in the society in which we live today in this technological age. All of the access tools, the production orders, preservation orders, interception orders and search warrants would be required to be granted with lawful authority under the protection and governance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Privacy Act, and so on.

These are very important conditions in Canadian law. I understand her concern, which she might want to raise at committee, but it is not a concern that I share.

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11:15 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I noticed the member spoke briefly on the issue of privacy when asked an excellent question by a member on this side. I am concerned somewhat about the privacy issue because I have heard comments from my constituents. I know this Conservative government has stood up for privacy issues for Canadians and the privacy rights that they have.

I am particularly interested in the drafting of the bill itself and whether, in the drafting of this bill, the government looked at the issue of privacy and the issue of protecting privacy rights of Canadians in particular.

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11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right. Those are important considerations and the government is taking them very seriously.

In fact, there have been consultations on this for quite a while. In addition to our involvement with the convention, which I referred to in my speech, the Government of Canada has been consulting on this. It had some consultations in 2002 under a former government, again in 2005, and then, in preparation for the introduction of this bill, there have been some consultations at multiple levels. The issue of privacy has been one of those issues that has been front and centre in those consultations and discussions in order to ensure we get that balance exactly right.

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11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly recognize and acknowledge my colleague's comments regarding the fact that it is a changing world and there is the need for new tools in the 21st century.

Does the member have an example that he could share in terms of something that might happen and how these tools could facilitate justice for the victims?

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11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things. There are those things that are very tragic, such as Internet luring, for which we do not have all the tools we need. When my colleague spoke on this yesterday, he referred to that in his work as a police officer and how these new tools would have enabled him in his work to deal with something like that.

There is also cyberbullying, which has become a pretty serious thing. Receiving threatening or harassing emails is something that goes on and, in fact, maybe some of us receive those from time to time, but that is part of our job. However, it is a serious thing and a growing problem. It can even become a very serious problem, such as securities manipulation and so on, that could put our economies in jeopardy. The tools that are a part of this would help our law enforcement agencies be better able to combat those.

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11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be speaking in support of Bill C-46, which seeks to provide necessary amendments concerning evidence. In many ways, this legislation is a long time coming. I believe that it allows policing authorities and our court system to operate in the 21st century. Criminals are committing their crimes in the present tense. We cannot live in the past.

My history with this bill began earlier this year when my community was reeling from a spate of gun crimes. It seemed that every other day yet another shooting had claimed the life of someone. In the past, most citizens believed that gang violence only affected those who were involved in gang culture. There was less public outcry because of this.

How that changed over the course of this year. Not even innocent women, children or senior citizens were safe from a stray bullet or from feeling the grief of losing a loved one to this terrible increase of killings in our community. I needed to know what could be done, so at that time I spoke to Kash Heed, the current minister of public safety and solicitor general in British Columbia, along with my friend and former colleague, Mr. Wally Oppal, and MLA John van Dongen, who was the minister of public safety and solicitor general in British Columbia at that time.

All three of them were very frank about how they felt about the current legislation. They had lived and breathed these issues in the courtroom and they have listened to the police officers on the front lines of this battle in British Columbia. I have spent a great deal of time listening to these front line officers and first responders as well. I knew that the recommendations that Mr. van Dongen, minister Heed and Mr. Oppal would give me were sure to be grounded in reality, a reality that the current legislation does not reflect.

That is why this bill is so important. The Liberal Party of Canada was lucky enough to have Wally Oppal and then B.C. solicitor general John van Dongen come to Ottawa to present a whole slate of legislative recommendations. This bill represents job one from what we have heard.

First and foremost, by extending the definition of transmission data to all means of telecommunications beyond telephones goes a long way to addressing a situation we are all familiar with in the House. Members only need to look at the holsters on their belts or in their pockets to know what I am talking about. I am talking about the BlackBerry.

We all have to face one thing here. We may try to be ahead of the curve, but we should face the fact that criminals are at least as sophisticated as we are. They talk on these tools. They email and send PIN messages to each other. They know their way around police surveillance because right now in a court of law anything they say or write will be inadmissible.

We could argue that we in the House are asking for legislation that allows our email correspondence and PINs to be admissible. Yet, the Conservative government's own legislation on freedom of information for the government stops short of email correspondence. I leave it to the members on the other side of the House to explain this point to Canadians, especially because they were the ones who made such a big noise about transparency and accountability when they were first elected.

As we have seen over the last year, of course, transparency and accountability have taken quite a beating in the cheque republic we are all living in now, but let us hope that with this legislation the government is moving in the right direction at least within the Criminal Code.

There is another part of the bill, however, that I would like to be a bit more serious about at this time. It refers to an issue that I think every member of Parliament in the House would agree goes far beyond partisan interests.

The stiff penalty that this bill would bring in for those who use the Internet to exploit a child makes this bill, without a doubt, one of the most important reforms we as members of Parliament can champion.

As a parent of two daughters and a young boy I can say that I, along with my wife Roni, like most Canadians view this very modern form of evil as a family's worst nightmare.

As a member of Parliament I know we all, no matter what party we belong to, come to the House to work for our communities, but what no one riding can speak for is the community that exists online and the importance we must place in ensuring the highest standards of conduct to protect the innocent.

This amendment is really about bringing our justice system into the century we are all living in now, the world our kids will inherit. Let us ensure they can grow up in a world where we can guarantee their safety when they are online as well.

I would like to say in closing that I really do not have any problem with the main points in the bill at all. Indeed, I know from my side of the House when a crime bill works for Canadians we see no reason in slowing down the process. Of course, we will never hear that from my colleagues across the floor, but a quick look at our record on crime bills that make sense tells that story.

The fact is, as I mentioned earlier, we do not have the luxury of living in the past tense because criminals are taking advantage of how our laws have not modernized. We have to move with the times and allow our police and our court system to let justice prevail. Though there may be finer points with the bill that could stand a closer look, that is what we are here for.

I am sure I speak for all of us in the House when I say that if we truly mean it when we say we want to make Parliament work, there is no greater priority than making it work for the justice system.

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11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour for me to speak in favour of BillC-46, the investigative powers for the 21st century act which aligns with the government's priority of getting tough on crime, including the Internet and other computer crimes. It also responds to many of the issues surrounding organized crime.

The justice committee has undertaken a comprehensive study of organized crime, and at every venue and at every hearing we hear about the need for the police to have the exact type of tools that BillC-46 provides.

With the amendments put forward in Bill C-46, which amends the Criminal Code among other acts, including the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act and the Competition Act, Parliament would provide police officers with more precise and less cumbersome investigative techniques which they need and have been asking for in the 21st century to do their work in a more effective and efficient manner.

Crime is becoming more sophisticated. Criminals are becoming technocrats and police need to keep up with technical advances that organized crime has been developing.

In addition to updating certain existing offences that are facilitated by the Internet, including child sexual exploitation, Bill C-46 proposes to create new production and preservation orders to address today's computer and telecommunications environment.

Investigative powers must be tailored to modern technologies. Investigations may be compromised if they are not. In addition, these changes assist in ensuring that established privacy protections put in place to protect the rights of all Canadians are maintained in the face of these ever-developing new technologies.

Bill C-46 would update the existing dial number recorder warrant, which currently allows police to obtain data relating to dialed telephone numbers. The proposed transmission data recorder warrant would allow police to obtain data in relation to the routing of an electronic communication, including communications by email or by cellphone in real time. Police would also be able to obtain historical data of the same kind under such a production order.

The existing requirements for obtaining dialed telephone number data would continue to apply to the data obtained under the transmission data warrant. As with the existing warrant, the updated powers would explicitly exclude access to the content of the message.

The existing tracking warrant would similarly be updated to provide for both a production order for tracking data and a warrant for the real-time collection of that tracking data. These updates would create a two-warrant system, which would better recognize the different expectations of privacy that persons have in relation to their personal location and that of their vehicles, transactions and other things.

Computer data by its very nature is volatile. As a result, there is a risk that it will be lost in the time that it takes for police to get a warrant or order to obtain that type of evidence. Police need a way to ensure that computer data necessary to an investigation is preserved during this time and during the fullness of the investigation. The new preservation demand and preservation order is simply a do not delete order, requiring the custodian of the computer data to ensure the preservation for a limited period of time, and of specific data related to a specific communication or to a specific subscriber. This data will only be preserved for the purpose of conducting a specific investigation.

It is crucial to understand that any disclosure of information under all of these legislative proposals would be pursuant to a judicial authorization. That protection is not being changed by these amendments to the Criminal Code.

We need to ensure that pursuant to a judge's order, investigators can obtain the kind of information they need, but no more and nothing else. We must ensure that any intrusion into privacy only goes as far as is necessary. These new measures guarantee privacy with precision and strike the appropriate balance, I submit, between law enforcement needs and privacy protections.

The proposed legislative amendments are required to meet our domestic imperatives. However, they would also allow Canada to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime and its additional protocol on xenophobia and racism. In the international context, this treaty is not only one of its kind and will allow Canadian law enforcement to avail itself of the international cooperation that the protocol permits.

I can assure the House that the legislative proposals put forward in the bill would not only contribute to getting Canadian law enforcement officers the tools they need in the 21st century but they also demonstrate Canada's commitment to cross-border and hemispheric security in the Americas, and assist in meeting international expectations for Canadian participation in the global fight against cybercrime.

Lawful access is not about eavesdropping on private communication, or monitoring the web surfing and emailing habits of ordinary Canadians. It is about ensuring that law enforcement and national security agencies have the technical and legal ability to keep up with new developments in information and communications technology.

New technology is a useful and powerful tool. However, in the hands of criminals, terrorists and organized crime, this same technology can be used in ways that threaten public safety and national security. That is why the Government of Canada is committed to updating Canada's laws to keep pace with these ever emerging technologies. While Canada was one of the first countries to enact criminal laws in the areas of computer crime, there have been no substantial amendments since the 1990s. Technology has evolved considerably since then and Canada's laws have to keep pace.

These increasingly complex technologies are challenging conventional investigative methods and criminals are taking advantage of this situation using sophisticated technology to help them carry out their illicit activities that threaten the safety and security of Canadians. To overcome these challenges, legislative tools such as this bill and amendments to the Criminal Code must evolve so that law enforcement can effectively investigate criminal activities while ensuring that Canadian's privacy laws and civil liberties are always respected. The proposed legislation will update certain existing Criminal Code offences and investigative powers as well as create new powers to meet the demands of today's technological cybercrime environment.

The proposed legislation will accomplish five things. First, it will update the current Criminal Code provisions to allow police to obtain transmission data, also known as traffic data, that is received or sent via the telephone or Internet. Second, it will require telecommunication service providers to preserve, for a limited period of time, data related to a specific communication or subscriber, if that information is needed for the investigation of an offence. Third, it will make it a specific offence for two or more persons to agree to arrange to commit an offence against a child by means of telecommunication. Fourth, it will modernize the current tracking warrant provisions to better recognize Canadians' expectations of privacy. Fifth, it will update the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act so that the proposed new investigative powers in the Criminal Code are accessible to Canada's treaty partners.

This bill deals with data preservation and not data retention. When requested to do so through a preservation order, ISPs would only be required to preserve specific data already in their possession with respect to a particular suspect. Data preservation would ensure that volatile information vital to an investigation was not deleted before the police were in a position to access the specific data by way of a judicially authorized search warrant or a production order. These proposed amendments would not require ISPs to retain data relating to all of their customers' Internet activities.

Privacy will be protected by these amendments. The government is strongly committed to maintaining the rule of law in all of its legislation. None of the lawful access tools such as production orders, preservation orders, interception orders and search warrants can be obtained in the absence of lawful authority. A person's reasonable expectation of privacy will continue to guide how the Canadian government operates and how its legislation will be enforced.

In addition, the government will ensure that such authority will continue to be exercised, bearing in mind privacy and human rights contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The issuance of warrants will continue to require judicial authorization. No lawful access, production orders, preservation orders, interception orders, or search warrants can be obtained in the absence of lawful authority.

It is with a view to maintaining the privacy of Canadian citizens and keeping up with the sophistication of the new breed of high-tech criminals that I ask all hon. members to support Bill C-46.

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11:35 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member seems to be very knowledgeable about this particular bill and, I suspect, the whole e-government file itself. I am not sure if the hon. member can answer, but could he give us an update on what is happening with the government's program on e-government, particularly the secure channel? Does he have any information that he could impart to the House as to what the status is of the government's secure channel program?

We know a little about the e-health situation. Only about 17% of the health records are online at this point and somehow a billion or six hundred million are missing, and I would certainly like to get into that at some point.

However, could the hon. member tell us anything about the secure channel, or about the e-government file, and any progress the government might have made in the last four years?

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11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before I go to the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert, I would remind members that we are discussing Bill C-46. With that, the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert.

Investigative Powers for the 21st Century ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think you have answered the question for me. Bill C-46 is a safe street and safe community initiative that fits with the government's law and order agenda. Electronic health records and e-secure channels are beyond my area of expertise.

The member's question is a good one, but it has very little, if anything, to do with Bill C-46.

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11:35 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to speak to Bill C-46 on behalf of the New Democratic caucus. The bill amends the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, and is colloquially known as the investigative powers for the 21st century act.

New Democrats agree that we must be tougher on crime. We must be tougher on Internet-based crime. We have to have zero tolerance for child pornography or any offence targeted at children or any particularly vulnerable people in our society. In this regard, we support modernizing our laws to make sure that cellphones, email, the Internet and all modern forms of communication through which crimes may be committed are not a haven for criminal activity.

The New Democratic caucus is pleased to work with the government to ensure that these changes are made, but also that they are made in a correct manner so that they are effective and efficient and achieve the goals to which they are directed.

New Democrats support this bill in principle, but look forward to examining it in detail to ensure that it will be effective in combatting cybercrime while protecting the privacy rights of ordinary, law-abiding Canadians and in following long-held, cherished and established precepts of civil liberties and law in this country, which I will speak to in a few moments. There are a number of provisions in this bill that we think are positive and we are pleased to support.

First, this bill creates a new Criminal Code offence to prohibit people from agreeing to or making arrangements with another person to sexually exploit a child. I am going to pause there. That is a positive amendment to our Criminal Code with which we think it is impossible for any right-thinking individual to disagree. We would point out, however, it is probably the case that there are presently Criminal Code provisions which, arguably, cover such an offence now, but if it helps the police community, the judiciary and our prosecutors, and more important, if it makes it clear as a social denunciation by our society that it is absolutely unacceptable and intolerable that anybody would even think of sexually exploiting a child, then we think this is a positive amendment.

Another provision in this bill that we are pleased to support is the creation of another new Criminal Code offence for possessing a computer virus for the purpose of committing mischief. This pales in comparison to the previous amendment I just discussed. However, it does modernize our Criminal Code to take into account something in the digital world that has become a pressing problem and creates economic and social dislocation in our society.

Much of the rest of the bill is taken up with amendments to the definition of various terms to reflect modern technologies. As an example, the Criminal Code presently discusses the warrant system with respect to telecommunications. This bill proposes to modernize the language by making it clear that when we speak of telecommunications, we speak of things such as Internet transmissions, email transmissions, website visits and website creation, as well as cellular phone transmissions.

In that respect, we think this is a positive and long overdue amendment to the Criminal Code that will again help our judiciary and prosecutors and, indeed, everybody associated with the judicial system to expedite and make our warrant system better.

While we have not been presented with any compelling evidence that the current definitions are impeding police and investigations, we are not opposed to updating this language in our laws to reflect this new technological reality.

I will pause there to comment that many people in civil society and experts in the digital and technological world have pointed out repeatedly that there does not seem to have been a case made where any police force in this country has not been able to use the current definitions and provisions in the Criminal Code to get warrants in a case involving new digital technology. A number of organizations have repeatedly asked for such examples and, to my knowledge and understanding, not a single example has been forthcoming.

Nevertheless, sometimes it behooves Parliament to act in a proactive manner and to identify gaps in our law or needed improvements in our law without waiting for mischief to actually take place. In this respect, this is a positive step.

Concerns have been expressed by experts in the digital world, including those who have a particular interest in ensuring that citizens' privacy interests are always taken into account by Parliament, including the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and privacy commissioners of various provinces. They are concerned that this legislation has some deficiencies and may not strike the right balance between individual privacy and the legitimate needs of the authorities. The Privacy Commissioner has set forth a number of very helpful and valid benchmarks that will help us as parliamentarians as we consider this bill and other bills that touch on these areas. Let me mention some of these considerations.

Any intrusions of our civil liberties must be minimally intrusive at all times. We must impose limits on the use of new powers and ensure that appropriate legal thresholds, including judicial oversight, remain in place for all court authorizations. We must require that draft regulations be reviewed publicly before coming into force. We must always include effective oversight whenever we are talking about expanding or creating new police powers, particularly when those relate to intercepting communications from our citizens.

We must provide for regular public reporting on the use of these powers. In particular, it would be considered very helpful to include a five year parliamentary review of this bill and others like it, which I will speak about in a moment, that also deal with Internet privacy and the need for us to modernize our laws in terms of technological and digital communications.

We look forward, as New Democrats, to working together to address these concerns and others during the committee study of this bill.

The current telecommunications provisions in the Criminal Code that speak of intercepted communications were drafted in a time when telephones were the primary mechanism over which certain crimes were being committed. It is called telephony, and in the telephony world our police forces used wiretaps. The digital world has changed the type of technology and the type of investigative tools that are needed to deal with crimes.

In terms of the content, we need to have laws that are geared more toward production orders and preservation orders so that when a crime is committed digitally, the information is not erased or overridden quickly in order to destroy the evidence of those crimes before there is a chance to intercept it. It is very important that we give our police forces the tools to effectively police and intercept these kinds of communications, which is one thing that this bill is geared to do. The provisions in this bill to create production orders and preservation orders in the digital world are sound and new.

However, there are some concerns about this bill that New Democrats have heard through our early consultation with people who are very familiar with the digital world, and in particular with crimes as they are being committed in that world. One concern is that the bill appears to lower the standard for getting warrants. At present, in order to get a warrant to get a telephone intercept, a police officer would have to appear before a judge and would have to provide information or evidence that would give reasonable grounds to believe that a crime was being committed or was about to be committed.

This bill uses different language. It departs from that long, well-litigated, well-known standard. It talks about having police officers appear before judges to get production orders or preservation orders based on a reasonable suspicion, having reasonable grounds to suspect that a crime may be committed.

Using different words, “belief” as opposed to “suspicion”, we of course know will result in a different standard before our courts. A number of civil liberty groups in this country have expressed the concern that this would result in a diminution of the standard test used to get a warrant. This matter is something that I believe the committee will be looking at very carefully, calling witnesses to appear before it who have expertise both in criminal law and in civil liberties jurisprudence, to ensure that Canadians' rights would not be unduly affected by this.

There is also a concern in the digital community that this bill, while positive in its own right albeit with some of the reservations I have mentioned, when combined with some of the government's other legislation, would represent a holistic problem.

I am not going to get into too much detail, but there is a companion bill to Bill C-46 before this House, and that is Bill C-47. Bill C-47 is a bill that would require telecom service providers to install equipment that would allow them to preserve data about their subscribers so that they would be subject to a warrant later on. In that respect, we on this side of the House, in the New Democratic caucus, think that may be a positive and necessary development in our law.

However, Bill C-47, as it currently stands, would also allow police, without a search warrant, to demand that those telecom service providers give the police personal information about their subscribers, including their name, their address, their Internet service provider, ISP, and the number in their cellphone that would allow it to be digitally tracked. That has raised grave and serious concerns, not only among experts in the digital community, but also with every Canadian who uses the Internet or web surfs, because that provision represents a serious departure from our law under which Canadians' personal private information ought not to be disclosed to the police without judicial oversight.

Now, the concept of having Bill C-46 and Bill C-47 together is something that we, as parliamentarians, have to be very cognizant of because, as all members of this House know, bills do not operate in isolation. Laws do not operate in isolation. One law may have impacts on another. In this respect, New Democrats are going to be working very hard to achieve a balance between preserving Canadians' privacy and ensuring that our police and our judiciary have the tools they need to effectively fight crimes committed over the Internet or in the digital world. Case closed.

Let there be no mistake. My friends on the Conservative side of the House seem to think they have a unilateral lock on concern for victims in this country. They seem to think that they are the only people who care about safety, or the only people who care about crime, or the only people who care about victims. I would point out that people on this side of the House, New Democrats, have always championed the most vulnerable people in this society and we have always supported laws that make our citizens safe in this country.

With the greatest of respect to my colleagues on the other side of the House, I think they are prepared to sacrifice civil liberties and privacy rights in order to achieve safety, whereas New Democrats believe that it is important to have a balance whereby we can live in a society that is safe, democratic, and secure for our citizens and at the same time respects the privacy and civil liberties of those citizens.

That is the balance that we believe needs to be achieved in this bill and when this bill is read in conjunction with Bill C-47.

We on this side of the House will be working hard in order to achieve both of those objectives.

I just want to move briefly into some of the details of Bill C-46 so that Canadians who are watching us here today or those who are interested in this bill can understand what it would really do.

Bill C-46 would allow for warrants to obtain transmission data, thereby extending to all means of telecommunications the investigative powers that are currently restricted to data associated with telephones. In other words, it would modernize our warrants and our production orders, bringing them from the telephone age into the digital age.

The bill would require the production of data regarding the transmission of communications and the location of transactions, individuals or things. Again, this would be a positive step reflecting the fact that in the digital world, crimes can be committed in a nanosecond and evidence of them destroyed in a nanosecond. Through the use of cellular phones and mobile computers, that data can be moved. We need to take care of that.

Bill C-46 would create the power to “make preservation demands” and “orders to compel the preservation of electronic evidence”, which I spoke about a bit earlier. If data on these crimes can be created, that data can be erased. Sometimes police need the ability to go in and freeze the status quo, and that is a very important power that our police may need to have.

The bill would provide for warrants to allow the tracking of transactions, individuals and things, within legal thresholds that would be appropriate to the interests at stake.

Under this bill, police would be able to remotely activate existing tracking devices. Forty years ago a telephone line went into a house and that line did not move. Now, a cellular phone is mobile and it goes wherever the person who has it goes. It is important to modernize our laws to deal with that.

I am going to pause here to emphasize that we need to make sure that the legal thresholds for giving police these powers remain at the current levels, to make sure that police must still appear before a judge and must demonstrate before a judge that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been or is about to be committed so that Canadians' privacy rights are not restricted or impinged upon when it is unjust to do so.

The bill would create a new offence, which would involve someone using a telecommunications system, such as the Internet, to agree to make arrangements with another person for the purpose of sexually exploiting a child. The offence would carry a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment. I touched on that earlier. There is nothing more odious, in New Democrats' view, than a crime that involves the sexual exploitation of anybody, but in particular, a child.

Further, this bill would amend the Competition Act, for the purpose of enforcing certain provisions of that act, in view of new provisions being added to the Criminal Code concerning demands and orders for the preservation of computer data.

This bill would amend the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act such that it would give Canadian authorities responding to requests for assistance some of the new investigative powers being added under the Criminal Code and it would allow the Commissioner for Competition to execute search warrants under the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act.

Overall, we think Bill C-46 would be a positive step that would help modernize our laws. It would help give our police the investigative powers they need to catch up to the digital world and the digital age.

New Democrats will support this bill as it moves forward to achieve that aim, while we remain at the same time a strong and unceasing voice to make sure that the privacy interests and civil liberties of Canadians are kept firmly at the forefront of our mind at every step of this equation.

We can have that balance in Canadian society. One of the reasons Canada is one of the best places on earth to live is that we have always managed to achieve that balance between safety, security and liberty and civil liberties and civil rights. New Democrats will continue to work hard to achieve this balance, and we encourage all members of this House to join with us in making sure that Canadians are safe and free.

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11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with a great deal of interest to the presentations and, in particular, to the very serious misgivings about this bill expressed by my NDP colleague.

I would like to bring to his attention the serious reservations expressed by the Ligue des droits et libertés and, if possible, have him comment on them. The Ligue is a Quebec organization that was established in 1963 to defend the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Quebec.

It has expressed very serious reservations about the bill especially the fact that it provides only limited, if any, protection against abusive seizures. For example, this organization says that the authorities will be able to obtain your subscriber information without a legal warrant, even though the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act recognizes that this information is private. It has also pointed out that, without a legal warrant and on the basis of a suspicion, an officer can ask a service provider to preserve the contents of all your communications. It is like asking the postal service to photocopy someone's letters just in case they may contain some information.

I would like to know what my NDP colleague thinks of these aspects of the bill.

Investigative Powers for the 21st Century ActGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his thoughtful comments and questions.

One of the confusing parts of the bill is that the government chose to introduce Bills C-46 and C-47 at the same time, and they interrelate.

It is quite complicated and difficult to untangle which particular clause deals with which particular bill.

One of my colleague's concerns was the ability of police to get subscriber information from telecom service providers without a warrant. With respect to my colleague, that provision is in Bill C-47, but he can be forgiven for being confused about that. We were all confused about that because of the way the government chose to combine these bills.

The bill before us, Bill C-46, does not, from our reading, contain any provision for police to get any information from anyone without a search warrant. That is Bill C-46.

However, with regard to Bill C-47, he is exactly right. New Democrats will be opposing Bill C-47 on that very basis. That bill allows police to get very personal information about people without a search warrant, and we will stand firm against that. However, this bill does not do that.

One thing the member is correct about though is that this bill does create the concept of a preservation order so that telecom service providers will have to, upon the request of police, preserve certain data. I believe the member is quite right to point out the serious privacy reservations we have with that. At committee I think we will be looking very carefully at that area.

I guess the difficulty is that with electronic crimes, evidence of which can be created and then erased, there has to be some mechanism, the argument goes, to preserve that data. Otherwise a crime can be committed and the data is gone.

Therefore we have to look for a way to see if we can balance that need with the need to protect Canadians' privacy rights. The member is quite right and I thank him for pointing out that very important balance that must be struck. We will work in committee to see if that balance can be achieved.

If it cannot be achieved, then we can always come back to the House at third reading and vote against the bill.