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House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was auto.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for his eloquent speech on this matter.

However, I want to point out very clearly that although I have tremendous respect for lawyers and the job they do, police officers take the brunt of the devastation that many of our victims go through because of identity theft and because of this type of crime.

It is not only about documents. It is really an emotional crime for many of them that they never recover from. Therefore, it is of urgency that we pass the bill so that more of these victims are protected from this devastation. It is devastating. Some of them contemplate suicide because they are so distraught about what has happened to them.

When I talk about urgency, I was very pleased to hear during the speech by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh that he mentioned that the bill should be law now, not in late 2009. We agree on this side of the House.

It is in that context that I ask this question: Will the member then introduce a motion to help us push this through more quickly, a motion in the House that would pass this bill at all stages so that we can get it through immediately?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, that has been proposed by the government over this last week several times. Obviously, the member did not pay attention to my speech with regard to the inadequacies of the bill and where the amendments need to, in particular, address the issue of real estate fraud.

I am very conscious of the impact this has on victims. I am very conscious that the impact is most severe when people lose their homes, as opposed to getting an extra $5,000 they have to pay back on a credit card or having their bank account stripped of all the money. That may be $5,000, but losing a home is anywhere from a couple of hundred thousand dollars to as much as a million dollars because of this.

The bill does not go far enough. For that reason alone we need to take a look at it. We need to hear from the credit granting agencies in this country because it seems to me they have additional requirements to make. Passing the bill as it is now would not address adequately the problems we are confronted with.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member did a great service to Canadians at the beginning of his speech when he outlined how he was frustrated at the bill being delayed and how a former justice minister and a couple of other ministers ranted about trying to fight crime. He also outlined very carefully, and scientifically, all the delays not only of this bill, but a number of justice bills that the government introduced.

As an optimist and a person who always looks on the bright side of things, I would like to cheer the member up and say it is probably a good thing that a number of those bills were delayed. As a thoroughly researched member of the justice committee, I would like him to outline how the government not only did not listen to the experts but did not listen to the experts from the Justice Department. This would have been the normal part of policy making. Therefore, it may be good that some of the poorly written bills were delayed with all the manoeuvring by the Conservatives.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Yukon who sat on the justice committee for a number of years with me and saw this going on with the government. Let me answer his question by addressing one bill specifically because it is coming back. The Conservatives are trying to rejuvenate it and it is the conditional sentencing bill. In terms of taking advice or researching the background of the bill and the reasons why we have conditional sentences in this country, the Conservatives are trying to make these blunt changes without having any understanding of the consequences, mostly to the provinces, or they are simply not caring about the consequences.

Bill C-9 was the bill introduced early in 2006 shortly after the Conservatives were elected and that bill was going to create a situation where about 5,000 more people were going to spend an extra year in jail than they were currently spending. From the process we went through with the minister in front of the committee, I think we even had the public safety minister take a look at this in terms of responding to a question, neither of those ministers had any idea of what the consequences were going to be.

Their department officials did. I gathered some of the information from them and the rest from the Library of Parliament. The opposition parties came together and took out the abusive part of that legislation. We passed the bill where it did need some amendments and clarification, and we ended up with a decent piece of legislation, but now they are back and they are trying to do it again.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my honourable colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh, who understands this bill so well. For a bill like this, can the federal government make its own law without coordinating with the provinces? It seems to me that such collaboration is necessary given that this kind of legislation will affect the provincial governments. I would like my honourable colleague to comment further on that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, my Bloc colleague is right. We cannot fight identity theft unless we work with the provinces. Quebec will do things differently because it uses the Civil Code, whereas the other provinces use common law. I am not convinced that the government has had a satisfactory dialogue with the provinces. That is another thing we will have to figure out in committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question for my colleague from Windsor is quite narrow and specific. At the privacy and access to information committee, we learned that there are over three million compromises of one's personal information per year in this country alone.

In other words, it is a far more widespread problem than most people realize. The reason they do not realize it is that there is no obligation to notify a person if their personal identity has been stolen or if their personal information has been compromised. This is a widespread problem. There are 30 million incidents per year in the U.S. and three million incidents per year in Canada, and there is no duty to notify.

Is there anything in this bill that will obligate, for instance, credit card companies or the supermarket chains that hold massive amounts of personal data to notify people if their personal information has been compromised? If not, will he push for that as an amendment in this bill?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the initial answer is no. This bill does not address the issue of notifying.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

That is a terrible oversight.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

I think I have to caution my colleague from Winnipeg, Mr. Speaker, who is very knowledgeable of this, and very enthusiastic and passionate about getting some resolution.

He will recall in my speech that I mentioned the member from Alberta who is currently the chair of the industry committee. He brought forth a bill and addressed that issue. What came out when we were looking at that private member's bill, and we got this from the Department of Justice, was that the provision was more appropriate in an industry bill, or legislation that the industry department is responsible for.

However, and this is much like the question we had from the Bloc, I do not have a sense that the government has done anything about moving forward in that area. It is not just a question of notification. There is the whole issue of privacy and record keeping and how that is protected. There is a need to enhance the ability to protect that from theft. All of that work is really more a consumer-type of bill. That is where it should be. My belief is that the government is not currently addressing that issue at all.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There is enough time for a very brief question or comment. The hon. member for Mississauga South.

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has to do with crime prevention. At the privacy, access and ethics committee, we found that the commissioner has had difficulty establishing legitimacy of a public education mandate. It would seem to me that, if the Privacy Commissioner were to have the support of the government for a public education mandate, Canadians would start to participate in an important aspect of crime and that is crime prevention.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There are 10 or 15 seconds left for the member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

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4:55 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, recognizing that, I certainly agree that a public education campaign is going to have to be funded at the federal level. It would be one of the appropriate ways to move dramatically to prevent these crimes from ever occurring. There is a regulatory function that needs to be in place with regard to the credit-granting agencies as well.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise on this very important issue of identity theft. Bill S-4, which comes to us from the Senate, is certainly a very important starting point. I should begin by saying the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this bill.

We are obviously very concerned about identity theft. We are worried about it. The Criminal Code needs to be modernized to take this kind of theft into account.

However, identity theft should be fought through the concerted action of various levels of government. This is actually what we have just seen. It has probably not been done yet or not done well enough. It is important, therefore, to take a look at this bill and send it to committee for study of other aspects than changes to the Criminal Code. These changes are important and we agree with them, but that is not enough.

Governments need to look at other measures, such as public education, to reduce the number of victims. Identity theft and identity abuse could, in many cases, be dealt with through a good, Canada-wide education campaign.

Take the case of older people whose identities are often stolen because they are incredibly naïve when people approach them and when they use their own ID. A very good information campaign targeted at these people in particular would certainly result is less theft and reduced court costs. We should not rely solely on the Criminal Code and we should definitely establish a program to inform people about how their identities are stolen and with which means of communication. People’s identities are stolen over the telephone. That too reveals a disarming naivety.

We cannot expect to solve everything just by suppressing theft, and parallel to this legislation, we should also adopt regulations to provide better guidelines for the way companies manage, store and dispose of information. We need regulations outside this bill that would make a major contribution to providing better guidelines. There are also measures to ensure increased security and uniformity of the processes for issuing and verifying people’s identity documents.

Often, in the case of real estate fraud, people do not know how to protect their identity documents. We are not talking about credit cards here. Credit cards are important, but I think we talk about them far too much because some very major identity thefts take place through real estate transactions. People even sell houses that do not belong to them. Some people do that on quite a regular basis. Then it gets extremely complex for the victims to get their identity back. This legislation must address thoroughly the question of identity theft as it relates to real estate, because these transactions cost people huge amounts of money. Often these people have their entire lives ruined. Once they have lost their home, a year or three years later they are living somewhere else, but they have lost part of their life’s dream.

Coordination with governments is important, therefore, but we must also include real estate fraud more specifically. In some real estate frauds, and I have had cases in my riding, the people are no longer entitled to cross the American border because they are considered to be the ones who committed the fraud themselves. It is a temporary situation, because once that is resolved, everything is put back as it was.

This is therefore very serious and it is much more than a temporary pecuniary loss.

The purpose of the bill is to combat identity theft such as the unauthorized collection and use of personal information for criminal purposes. This is important. People do it in order to steal from other people. It is rare for someone to steal an identity simply to identify themself as someone else. In general, the bottom line will be crime.

Names, dates of birth, addresses, credit card numbers, social insurance numbers and any other personal identification number can be used to open a bank account, get a credit card, have mail forwarded, subscribe to a cell phone service, lease a vehicle or equipment, or even sell a house one does not own.

Three new basic offences are created by this bill, and that is very good. They are all subject to a maximum term of five years. That is why we believe these three offences should be considered in committee. They must be properly assessed so we know whether they will properly protect the public.

The three offences are: obtaining and possessing identity information with the intent of using it in a misleading, deceitful or fraudulent manner in the commission of a crime; trafficking in identity information, an offence that targets people who transfer or sell information to a third party, knowing or being reckless as to whether the information might be used for criminal purposes; and possession or illegally trafficking in identity documents issued by the government that contain information about another person.

People become someone else and are responsible.

There are also other amendments to the Criminal Code; the new offences of redirecting or causing to be redirected the mail of another person are created.

That may not seem serious, but people regularly take someone else’s mail, particularly in the suburbs.

The new offence of possession of a counterfeit Canada Post key will also be created.

That will be in the law and it is very important. Canada Post is installing more and more mailboxes with keys throughout rural communities. People are able to get their neighbours’ keys to steal their mail.

Additional forgery offences, such as trafficking in forged documents and possession of forged documents with the intent of using them, will be created.

This is another point addressed by the law that should be thoroughly considered in committee.

There will be the new term for the offence of personation, to be called identity fraud, and the meaning of the expression “personation” is clarified.

Moreover, the addition of a new power would enable the court to order the offender, as part of the penalty, to make restitution to the victim of identity theft or identity fraud for the expenses associated with rehabilitating their identity, including expenses to replace cards and documents and to correct their credit history.

All this does not address thefts in connection with real estate, which cost victims huge sums of money.

This legislation needs to be coordinated with the Civil Code of Quebec so that people can recover their property, whether it is money or something like a boat that was sold by someone it did not belong to. This often happens, because boats are harder to identify than cars. Even a house can be sold fraudulently.

Since this law should have been passed long ago in Canada, it is important to look at what has been done elsewhere, especially in the United States and France. I would like to give an example of what is done in France. Identity theft is not an indictable offence in itself, except in very specific cases, such as using a false identity in an authentic document or an administrative document intended for a public authority. Assuming a false name in order to obtain a police record check is an offence under the French criminal code. These are things we should look at, because the proposed legislation does not cover them.

In France, specific provisions stipulate the following:

A penalty of six months' imprisonment and a fine of € 7,500 [a substantial fine] is incurred by:

1. using a name or part of a name other than that assigned by civil status;

2. changing, altering or modifying a name or part of a name assigned by civil status,

in an authentic or public document or in an administrative document drafted for public authority, other than where regulations in force permit the drafting of such documents under an assumed civil status.

It would be a very good idea to refer to civil status for names, as French law does. Earlier, a member said that in Quebec, there are two ways for a person to be identified: by birth record or by government record. The first has been abandoned, and now only the government's birth records are officially valid. That is why it is a good idea to work with other governments to stay on top of how things are changing in the provinces.

Another important thing in France is this:

Identity theft becomes a criminal offence as soon as one “[assumes] the name of another person in circumstances that led or could have led to the initiation of a criminal prosecution”. In this case, it is punishable by five years' imprisonment and a fine of € 75,000.

That shows just how heavily the law relies on authorities with respect to civil status. It is interesting to see how other countries do things.

I have one last example, also from France. One article reads as follows:

Assuming the name of another person in circumstances that led or could have led to the initiation of a criminal prosecution against such a person is punished by five years' imprisonment and a fine of € 75,000.

[...]sentences imposed for this misdemeanour are cumulated, and may not run concurrently with any imposed for the offence in the context of which the name was usurped.

The penalties set out under the first paragraph apply to a false statement in respect of the civil status of a person which has led or could have led to the initiation of a criminal prosecution against another person.

That is why I think it is so important for the committee to find out how things are done in other countries and to acknowledge that others already have good identity theft legislation.

The Conservative member mentioned earlier that if we are serious about this bill, we should adopt it immediately without sending it to committee. We believe that, on the contrary, even though we support the bill and it is necessary, there is work to be done in committee. We cannot skip this very important step.

I was saying that the Bloc supports this bill. We wish to send it to committee because identity theft is an issue that we have felt strongly about for a long time. It is important that we realize that identity theft, the issue before us, can happen in various ways. For example, someone could take a social insurance card and use it to obtain housing under a name other than their own. They could build an identity with very few documents.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Pablo Rodriguez

Come on.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Absolutely.

In 2004, costs associated with identity theft were in excess of $50 billion in the United States. That is huge. Identity theft is costly for consumers, banks, business people, and governments as well. The federal government has to initiate legal proceedings while the police must check all complaints. Provincial governments lose money through health card fraud and, eventually, medical insurance. Non-Canadians have fake cards. It is the government, and in the end every one of us, that pays for it all. Health cards are passed among foreigners who are not even Canadian citizens and do not have a Canadian identity. Those people come here to be treated at taxpayers' expense. That is truly unacceptable.

In 2002, the Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus estimated that consumers, banks, credit card companies, stores and other businesses lost $2.5 billion as a result of identity theft. Once again, citizens are forced to cover these losses.

In addition to these financial losses, victims of identity theft suffer damaged credit ratings and compromised personal and financial records. As I said earlier, some people cannot cross the Canada-United States border because they have been the victims of identity theft.

According to a very interesting 2006 Ipsos Reid poll, one Canadian adult in four, that is 25%, or about 5.7 million Canadians, reported being a victim of identity theft or knew someone who had been a victim. We can see how common it is, how absolutely necessary this bill is, and how it could be broad enough to stop this. I will say again that this bill is no replacement for a very good education campaign. We absolutely need to have both.

In conclusion, I want to say that the Criminal Code is an unwieldy instrument for fighting identity theft. The rules of evidence are strict but necessary; we agree on that. It is important to harmonize with the civil laws so that, in some cases, the civil law alone can be used to recover lost funds.

Other measures will have to be put in place to effectively fight identity theft and recover lost funds.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and I believe you will find consent for the following motion:

I move that:

Notwithstanding Standing Order 93(1)(b), the recorded divisions requested for Private Members Motions M-297 and M-295, currently scheduled to take place immediately before the time provided for Private Members' Business on Wednesday, June 17, 2009 instead take place at the conclusion of question period earlier that day; and that if a recorded division is requested on Private Members Bill C-309 later today, that the vote also take place at the conclusion of question period on Wednesday, June 17, 2009.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. Chief Government Whip have the unanimous consent of the House to move this motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, like auto theft, identity theft requires a multi-pronged approach. We need strong criminal laws, which we are dealing with in this bill and which are long overdue. We need resourced police investigators. As I indicated before, we have examples in Winnipeg where people complain about credit card fraud and they are told to take a number with the 30 other people in line and to consider it a civil matter because the police do not have either the resources or the legislative power to deal with it.

The member mentioned that a more alert, more informed consumer is very important. However, we also need to deal with more technology, more secure smart cards. This has been an issue for quite a number of years.

As a matter of fact, the first smart cards were looked at by the Bob Rae government back in 1990, when it was looking at how many Americans--