Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to Bill C-47. Once again, I compliment the previous speaker for his excellent presentation.
Bill C-47 is an act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations. The short title is “The Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act”. The bill was introduced in the House of Commons on June 18 by the Minister of Public Safety. It 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, in particular the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the National Defence Act. For greater certainty, the bill provides that law enforcement agencies retain the powers conferred by those acts.
The bill complements the current lawful access regime. It addresses the same two issues as the former Bill C-74, the technical interception capabilities of telecommunications service providers and requests for subscriber information. Other aspects of the lawful access regime are addressed in Bill C-46, investigative powers for the 21st century act, which was introduced on the same day as Bill C-47.
Bill C-47 addresses a concern expressed by law enforcement agencies, which contend that new technologies, particularly Internet communications, often present obstacles to lawful communications interception.
The proposed bill permits the following.
It will compel telecommunications service providers to have the capability to intercept communications made by their networks, regardless of the transmission technology used. We heard comments earlier from one of the government members about how we had to get the bill passed as soon as possible to get up to speed with our allies and other countries around the world that had legislation like this in place for some time.
It will also provide law enforcement agencies with access under an accelerated administrative process without a warrant or court order. That is a big issue with the NDP and it concerns us a lot. On that basis, we want to make certain that in committee we can make some changes to the bill that will further protect the privacy of citizens in this country.
It is somehow acceptable to the government that other countries do not have this provision in their legislation. Other countries' law enforcement officers can get the information without a warrant. This seems to be fully acceptable to the members of the Conservative government.
However, the NDP and I think other members in the opposition want to see the provision of warrants to continue to protect the privacy of the public. Furthermore, I think there is support for that argument from the Privacy Commissioner, who has written a six-page letter on the subject, which I will deal with at a later point in the presentation.
The proposed bill provides law enforcement agencies with access under an accelerated administrative process, as I said, without a warrant or court order to basic information about telecommunications subscribers. I have a list which I will read later. Members will draw their own conclusions that the list might be a little broad. At the same time, the bill provides for certain protection measures.
In terms of consultations, since 1995 the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have called for legislation requiring that all telecommunication service providers have the technical means in place to enable police services to carry out lawful interceptions on their networks. Following the development of a strategic framework in 2000, representatives at Justice Canada, Industry Canada and the Solicitor General of Canada held public consultations in 2002. After having received more than 300 submissions from police services, industry, civil rights groups and individuals, Justice Canada released a summary of the results of the consultations in 2003.
Throughout the consultations, protection of privacy was one of the central issues in the debate on lawful access. Other significant elements included technical interception standards, costs related to interception capability and the need for new lawful access rules. The consultations led to the introduction in November 2005 of Bill C-74, which would have created the modernization of investigative techniques act, but the bill died on the order paper before second reading in the House when the general election was called.
Since then, provincial governments, including British Columbia and various Canadian law enforcement agencies, have made submissions urging the federal government to adopt lawful access measures. After consulting a broad range of stakeholders, including those from the telecommunications industry, civil liberty groups and victims rights groups, the federal Minister of Public Safety introduced Bill C-47, which duplicates the fundamental provisions of the former Bill C-74.
Our almost two-year election cycle has caused bills to progress through a certain path. Because they not only have go through the House, committees and the Senate, it is very difficult to get bills through this process, particularly in a minority Parliament, within a two-year range. The government, after setting a fixed election date, carving it in stone, turned around, abrogated its own law and called an election one year earlier than it should have. The election was actually supposed to be right now. Because of that, all the bills in place at that time had to be started from scratch.
Then we have the spectacle of the Liberal opposition demanding, almost on a weekly basis, that we get involved in another $300 million boondoggle election, which would produce, I submit, the very same results we have right now and we would all be back to square one again, starting this process over. In our speeches we will be talking about bills that were introduced so long ago that decades will go by at the rate we are going. I have to smile when I see we are going back three or four successive governments and basically dealing essentially with the very same bill, just with a different number.
In terms of the international context, which I spoke about before, Bill C-47 is a key step in the harmonization of legislation at the international level, particularly concerning requirements regarding the interception capabilities of telecommunications service providers. This type of requirement is already found in the legislation of a number of other countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Canada signed the Council of Europe's convention on cybercrime in November 2001, as well as an additional protocol on hate crime in July 2005.
The convention makes it an offence to commit certain crimes using computer systems and creates legal tools adapted to new technology, such as orders to produce subscriber information, which are similar to the request for subscriber information set out in Bill C-47. The injunction in the convention does not specify whether subscriber information can be obtained without a warrant. This is a big difference because it is allowed in the legislation of the other countries. However, we feel we should not go that far. There should be some judicial oversight and police forces should go before a judge or justice of the peace to present the information to obtain a warrant to get the information they want.
That is the way the system has operated now for many years. It is a fair process. It is a process that the public demands in terms of privacy issues and it is just the right thing to do. In fact, the other countries mentioned actually have gone a little too far at the expense of the privacy of their citizens. I believe there is some evidence to show that there have been examples of misuse and abuse.
I know our justice critic mentioned earlier that he did not anticipate this would be a problem, even if we did not have the warrant system, but we want to be sure about this. The one way of having certainty about this is to require a warrant to be taken. It works well. It has worked for many years. I would prefer to err on the side of caution. If we find evidence over time that it does not work, we have provisions under this bill for a five year review.
I have suggested that perhaps the government may want to look at a sunset clause on the bill. Given the way technology changes in a very rapid manner, who knows what sort of technology picture we will see in five years. Perhaps we want to sunset the bill and then after the five years we start over with a new bill with a new context and new environment at that time.
Complementary legislation in Bill C-46 includes other provisions such as those concerning preservation and production orders and the modernization of offences related to computer viruses and hate propaganda, which will enable Canada to ratify the convention on cybercrime and the additional protocol.
I also want to point out that while Bill C-47 has provisions for the five year review, Bill C-46, a very integral part of these two bills, connected in fact, does not require a review. I wonder why this happened that way and whether at committee the parties could get together and deal with this.
Our critic has indicated that we would vote against the bill at second reading, but he left the door open very wide for improvements at committee that will satisfy him in terms of judicial oversight and the whole issue of the warrants. If the government wants to make some overtures and some moves, we will not hold the process up. We can be convinced if the government is prepared to make some movement in this regard.
I know members were speaking just yesterday about another committee of the House and were relating how happy they were that the committee was co-operating like it had never co-operated before. I am not certain which committee that was. I know, for example, the transport committee of the House has in fact operated on a very consensual basis for a number of years now, in spite of the fact that other committees of the House were basically in virtual meltdown in the last couple of years. The transport committee was the one committee with the reputation of the parties working together and getting this done.
I heard members saying yesterday that they had never seen the level of co-operation in that committee. They thought something was wrong with the committee because it did not even function properly in past years. Now, not only is it functioning properly but we are getting concessions and getting things done, which we never saw possible before.
This is a positive sign, that a minority government can work. I have worked in minority governments before and they have worked well. There is no guarantee that we have to plunge ourselves into a needless $300 million expense of an election in February or spring, or fall of the coming year, or even the next year.
If the minority government is doing what it should do, cooperating and getting things done, there is no particular reason why it cannot survive its entire term, provided it is reasonable and shows concern for people, shows consideration for the opposition parties and does a total about-face to what it did last year, and provided that it has learned something from its fundamental mistakes of the first few months of last year.
I did want to talk about the interception capabilities of the bill. When we speak about bills, sometimes we plan our speeches to last the 10 minutes, 20 minutes or time that we have. I just find, on a consistent basis over the last 23, 24 years now, that I am rarely ever able to fit all that I want to say within my timeframe. Fortunately, in this environment, I really like this environment a lot, there is a question and answer period provided, which allows us to present some of our missing points.
In terms of the interception capabilities in the current situation, at present no Canadian legislation compels all telecommunications service providers to use apparatus capable of intercepting communications. Only licensees that use radio frequencies for wireless-voice-telephony services have been required since 1996 to have equipment that permits such interceptions. There is no similar requirement for other telecommunications service providers.
This particular bill is designed to remedy the absence of standards for the interception capability of telecommunications service providers. It will require all service providers, including, for example, ISPs, which are Internet service providers, to possess apparatus enabling law enforcement agencies, once they have obtained a judicial authorization, to intercept communications sent by the service provider. Within six months of the date on which the bill comes into force, telecommunications service providers will have to submit a report to the minister, stating their capability to respond to the interception requirements set out in the bill. We deal with that in clauses 30 and 69.
In terms of the obligations of the telecommunications service providers in the capacity to intercept telecommunications, the requirement for interception capabilities relates both to the telecommunications data and the actual content of the communication. The telecommunications service providers must use apparatus that enable law enforcement agencies to intercept, for example: subscriber emails; IP addresses, and that is a very controversial point; the date and time of the communications; the types of files transmitted; and the substance of the messages.
In terms of the provision of requested information, once a law enforcement agency has obtained a judicial authorization, the telecommunications service provider must provide all communications that have been intercepted. If possible, the telecommunications service provider must provide the intercepted communications in the form specified by the law enforcement agency and the service provider must also be required to give law enforcement agencies, on request, information relating to its facilities and the telecommunications services offered.
In addition, in terms of confidentiality, all intercepted processes must be kept confidential. Telecommunications service providers are thus required to comply with the regulations and to guarantee the security of the contents of the intercepted communication, the telecommunications data, and the identity of the individuals and organizations involved.
Clearly, I will not be able to finish the full content of my speech because I have many more pages. I want to deal with the whole issue of the penalties in the bill, but I will skip ahead to the list of information that I promised to talk about, the information covered by the special rules and strictly limited.
The bill lists information associated with subscribers services and equipment that can be obtained without warrant, and here is what they want: name, address, telephone number, email address, Internet protocol address, mobile identification number, electronic serial number, local service provider identifier, international mobile equipment identification number, international mobile subscriber identity number and, last but not least, subscriber identity module and card number. We can see there are many pieces of information being required.