Mr. Speaker, I rise with pride to speak on behalf of the New Democrats in Parliament in the debate on Bill C-47, the technical assistance for law enforcement in the 21st century act.
A number of people in the House have commented, as I did this morning when I spoke to Bill C-46, that Bill C-46 and Bill C-47 represent a combined legislative measure that purports to deal with the modernization of our laws with respect to Internet and digital activity of crimes in those areas, as well as to deal with telecommunication companies and the challenges that those new providers present in enforcing the laws of our country. It is critically important to understand that these bills do different things.
People in the House and all Canadians may know that the New Democrats spoke strongly in support of Bill C-46 this morning and in the days previous for the simple reason that New Democrats believe it is important to modernize our laws to deal with the digital age. We also think it is important to send a strong message that crimes committed over the Internet, whether they be commercial or fraud related or whether they be sexual in nature or the most heinous of all, targeted at children, are dealt with adequately by Parliament.
Having said that, there are also very important privacy interests at stake in these areas. New Democrats are scrutinizing these pieces of legislation to ensure that Canadians' privacy rights are respected.
Bill C-46 which we spoke about earlier, in the New Democrats' view, maintains that balance, by and large. We had some serious reservations about some of the tests that are being proposed by that legislation with respect to the getting of warrants, but every piece of private information that is to be turned over to police forces of whatever type in Bill C-46 is subject to judicial oversight and requires that police get a search warrant prior to that information being turned over.
Bill C-47 is different. The purpose of the bill in colloquial terms is lawful access. This bill deals with very specific aspects of the rules governing lawful access. Lawful access is an investigative technique used by law enforcement agencies and national security agencies that involves intercepting communications and seizing information where authorized by law. Rules related to lawful access are set out in a number of federal statutes, including the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the National Defence Act.
The bill complements the current lawful access regime and it addresses the same two issues as former Bill C-74, technical interception capabilities of telecommunications service providers and request for subscriber information. I will put that in terms that are easy to understand.
The bill does two things. It essentially requires telecommunications companies to install equipment that would allow it to preserve digital data in all of its forms so that the data may be obtainable by the police in a criminal investigation. It also does a second thing. It provides law enforcement agencies with access, under an administrative process without a warrant or court order, to basic information about telecommunications service subscribers. As will be seen a little later, that basic information about Canadian subscribers is quite a long list and one that is causing great concern among a lot of Canadians.
Bill C-47 is a key step in the harmonization of legislation at the international level, according to the government, particularly concerning requirements regarding interception capabilities of telecommunications service providers. This type of requirement in general form is already found in other countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia. Canada signed on to the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime in November 2001 as well as additional protocols. This makes it an offence to commit certain crimes using computer systems, and it creates legal tools adapted to new technologies, such as orders to produce subscriber information to which I just referred. However, there is one key difference. There is no international consensus on whether or not that basic subscriber information has to be obtained through judicial order, in other words, a warrant. As I will describe further in my remarks later on, that is a key deficiency in this bill.
I want to state clearly what New Democrats support when we talk about combatting crimes committed over the digital media and the need to modernize our systems. The NDP supports efforts to combat cybercrime completely. We support efforts to combat child pornographers, others who use the Internet to exploit children or anybody in any manner. New Democrats support efforts to crack down on gangs and organized criminals, including white collar criminals who use technology to organize their activities. New Democrats support modernizing laws to ensure that police can keep up with criminals who use technology.
Those are the reasons we supported Bill C-46 earlier today, because that is what Bill C-46 did. However, New Democrats do not support violating the privacy rights of law-abiding Canadians.
When this bill was introduced in the House in June of this year by the Minister of Public Safety, there was a groundswell of concern raised by ordinary Canadians across the country about the idea of Internet service providers having to deliver to police basic information about them without any kind of warrant or judicial oversight.
A very great thinker who was steeped in western democracy some decades ago said that those who would sacrifice liberty in the name of security deserve neither. That is a particularly appropriate comment in the context of this bill because this bill does not strike that balance and it does sacrifice liberty in the name of security. New Democrats cannot support a bill that provides for warrantless access to Canadians' private information.
We have consulted broadly with a number of experts. I will talk about their input later. They told us that no compelling evidence has been provided by any police force in this country when directly asked on numerous occasions for a single instance where a police investigation somehow had been interfered with or truncated because they could not get information from an Internet service provider. No compelling evidence has been presented that the current provisions in the Criminal Code and other pieces of legislation are insufficient for police to do their jobs. I will pause here.
This is not a hole in the Criminal Code. There are currently provisions in the Criminal Code that allow police, the RCMP, CSIS, any policing agencies, municipal or otherwise, in this country to obtain warrants when they want to either wiretap or seize information or material that is in the custody of anyone. I will speak more about this later.
There is the concept of telewarrants. If there is an urgency to a matter, police can get a judge on the phone 24 hours a day and usually obtain a warrant within 30 minutes. We heard nothing from any police forces as to any problem in that regard. There is the concept of hot pursuit. If any police officer believes that a crime is being committed currently, in real time, they do not have to obtain a warrant from anybody. They are able to interfere and investigate that matter immediately.
Since the government introduced this bill, experts in the field of digital law, privacy advocates, media commentators and ordinary law-abiding Canadians have spoken out against the provisions contained in the bill.
Bill C-47, as I have said, would provide police with access to a substantial array of private information. This information goes well beyond an individual's name and address. Police would be given access to Canadians' phone numbers, email addresses and a vast array of unique digital serial numbers.
This legislation, if passed, would compel telecommunications companies to provide the following information to the police upon request with no judicial oversight: IP addresses, mobile identification numbers, electronic serial numbers, local service provider identifiers, international mobile equipment identity numbers, international mobile subscriber identity numbers, and subscriber identity module card numbers, commonly known as SIM card numbers which are in cellphones.
These digital identifiers are considered to be private information for good reason. When someone's Internet protocol address falls into the wrong hands, great damage can be done to his or her online identity and personal privacy. In fact, someone with the right skills and the right combination of the above information could perpetrate serious identity crimes and even take remote control of a person's computer.
The government, it is fair to say, has demonstrated what can fairly be described as a consistent disregard and disrespect for both the rule of law and for our judicial system.
We have Omar Khadr, a person who has been the subject of torture down in Cuba, whom the government does not deem fit to bring back here. It does not care about his international rights.
We have the Prime Minister's comments about left-wing judges and how they interfere, in his view, with the administration of justice.
We have CSIS misleading the courts in the Harkat case on multiple occasions, failing to disclose information after being ordered by the court to do so with no reaction from the Minister of Public Safety. And as my colleague from the Bloc said, we had the spectre of our government breaking its very own fixed election law, that the Minister of Justice crowed about when it was brought in. It violated its own law with absolute impunity and had the audacity to not even be embarrassed about it.
It is unsurprising then that the government would seek to cast aside a fundamental tenet of our justice system, which is this. Canadians have the right to privacy, except to be deprived of that through due process of law. We do not have to justify to the government why we have the right to be private, why we have the right to be safe and secure in our information, why we do not have to let the government read our mail or read our emails or seize our property or kick down our door. We do not have to justify that to anybody. Those are the rights of Canadians.
What the government has to do, what the state has to do, is justify when it seeks to abrogate those rights, not the other way around.
It is 2009 and I am absolutely aghast that I have to stand in this chamber, hundreds of years after these rights had been fought for, where people died for these rights, and actually explain, as the only person in this chamber whom I have heard speak so far, that the state has to justify and go before a judge, and at least put forward some reasonable evidence, some compelling reason, before any private information is turned over to the state. This bill does not do that and that is a shame.
The government would have us believe that judicial oversight is some sort of outdated luxury or some sort of impediment that it cannot move quickly enough. Let me tell members something. Rights do not depend upon speed. Rights do not depend upon exigencies. Rights do not depend upon convenience. Rights are rights, and as I said earlier, it has not even been demonstrated by a single person in this country that the present telewarrant system or hot pursuit concept has proved insufficient in any manner.
Let me stop and say that the New Democrats agree, as we did in Bill C-46, that there should be preservation orders of data and production orders of telecommunications companies so that the data is preserved and can be the subject of warrants and seizure. That is very important and we support the modernization of our laws to make that possible.
What we do not and will not agree with, however, is that that is a decision only of a police officer. That is a decision that must always be subject to judicial oversight.
Last week I was in this chamber when I saw the spectre of the Liberals and the Conservatives joining together to gut climate change action. Now I see the Liberals and the Conservatives joining together this week to gut privacy rights and civil liberties, and that is not a pretty thing to see.
The government, in this legislation, would have us believe that requiring police officers to get warrants before accessing deeply private digital data is hindering their ability to investigate crimes. The fact is that our current system provides a number of tools to give police officers swift access to help them combat crime.
It is extremely important that the police forces of this country demonstrate the requirement to get a warrant before accessing this data. That judicial oversight of police actions is an important, critical aspect of our cherished western democratic legal system, and only in that regard will Canadians be willing to surrender their valued rights to privacy.
I want to mention, as well, that just today we received a letter from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart. I just want to quote a bit from this letter. She states:
--we recognize the concerns of law enforcement and national security authorities with the speed of developments in information technology and the anonymity they afford. Bills C-46 and C-47 seek to address the consequent public safety challenges and that objective is valid. [New Democrats agree] That said, whenever new surveillance powers or programs are proposed, it is my view that there must be demonstrated necessity, proportionality and effectiveness...It is a matter of protecting human rights and assuring public trust.
Ms. Stoddart goes on, over a five-page letter, to say that, in her view, these bills are seriously flawed; at least Bill C-47 is.
Now, the minister was asked a little while ago about examples in the real world as to why this bill is necessary.
I have spoken with a number of experts in the field of digital law and privacy, for instance, Professor Michael Geist, professor of law at University of Ottawa and Vince Gogolek, from the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. I spoke this morning with David Fewer and other academics. They documented a very disturbing fact with regard to the government's attempt to convince Canadians that police need these powers; that is, the government comes up with examples that are not actually true.
The Minister of Public Safety, on numerous occasions, in the media and elsewhere, has used the example of a high-profile Vancouver kidnapping case as an instance where police were hindered by the existing laws. In a number of interviews, the minister has claimed that he witnessed this emergency situation and that Vancouver police officers had to wait 36 hours to get the information they needed in order to obtain a warrant for a customer name and address information.
What is troubling about this is that it is not true. Professor Geist filed access to information requests with the Department of Public Safety, the RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department. A legal adviser to the Vancouver Police Department disclosed to Professor Geist that no Internet service provider records were ever sought, at all, during the investigation of this terrible crime.
If the only example that our own minister can put forward to this House as to why he thinks it is necessary to trample Canadians' privacy rights in the name of security is one which due diligence shows never even occurred, that is somewhat troubling.
Now, one other thing. The previous minister of public safety, the current Minister of International Trade, has made comments in this area before. This idea of floating a warrantless search has come up before. I think the Liberals keep boasting that they brought forward this legislation before. I wonder if they also thought that it was necessary for Canadians to give up their rights to digital privacy without a warrant. If that is the case, then I think they have been wrong for years.
The response from the digital community, from privacy experts and from ordinary law-abiding Canadians, was overwhelming. The government, the previous minister, was forced to back off when it tried to introduced this legislation. What the previous minister said was that the government would never bring in any kind of disclosure requirements without a warrant. He made that comment publicly.
I do not know what has changed in the government. We heard some interesting comments from my colleagues in the Bloc, and even in the Liberal Party, about the way the government uses crime as a weapon to prey on people's fears and to dodge weighty important political issues that are going on when it throws out hastily conceived, poorly thought out and rights-violating legislation, and then it pretends that anybody who is not in favour of it is not against crime.
What a simplistic argument. What an argument that offends any Canadian's sense of right thinkingness and sense of justice and respect for civil rights; particularly when we are on the eve of November 11, when all Canadians are going to be taking a moment of silence to think of all those veterans who fought in wars. For what? For democracy and for civil rights, for the right to not have the state seize our information without judicial oversight. And here, these people in this chamber, the ones who care about public safety and security, they are going go attend those celebrations and they are going to pretend that they value the sacrifices of our veterans.
If they do, and I will give them the benefit of the doubt, they can show that by going back to their minister and saying, “Minister, we will not support this legislation if it requires Canadians to deliver public information without a warrant”.
New Democrats will work with this bill, but we cannot and we will not sacrifice Canadians' rights to privacy in the name of security. Canadians deserve both. We can have both. We can have security. We can have civil rights. That is what Canada is about.