Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-42.
Before us we truly have a misleading bill. On its face, Bill C-42 seems pretty innocuous, with simple changes to the Aeronautics Act, a word here, a word there, which do not appear to provide much difference. What it really does is implement secret letters and memorandums of understanding, not treaties, to invade the privacy of Canadians by handing over our personal information to secret service agencies in foreign countries. Under the bill, just flying over another country is sufficient reason to hand over detailed personal information.
The government would have us believe that we need the bill to fight terrorism. The truth is the government needs the bill so it and other foreign organizations can compile detailed files on Canadians. It will tell us the information is only name and address, et cetera. In reality, what the government is getting ready to hand over is the passenger name record, which includes such vital pieces of security information such as what one ate on the plane, one's medical condition, among other things.
However, the government will not admit to this. In fact, we have a situation where the government is moving ahead with a variety of secret agreements with other countries that will provide the same information to other countries and not simply to the United States.
The government wants us to believe that it is working hard to protect our privacy. Cynically, with Bill C-42, it is stripping away the privacy protection of Canadians.
Perhaps there is a need for some information sharing on flights between countries. That is something the government has said there is a need for. How can we deal with that and maintain the basic principles of privacy for Canadians?
In 1998 the European Commission put forward six key principles, which must be included in any kind of arrangement that is struck with other countries in terms of sharing information. This was specifically tailored towards the aviation industry.
One of the principles is the purpose limitation principle. Private personal information should be processed for a specific purpose and subsequently used or further communicated only in so far as it is not incompatible with the purpose of the transfer.
Another principle is the information quality and proportionality principle, which is Information should be accurate and, when necessary, kept up to date. The information should be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which it is transferred or further processed.
This is extremely important to Canadians. If we hand over information about Canadians to another country, we need to have the ability to ensure that information is kept correctly and is kept up to date. If that is not the case, then we can come into situations where, in the case of a Canadian getting a pardon for particular offences, those are not included in that record.
There is the transparency principle. Individuals should be provided with information as to the purpose of the processing and the identity of those in control of the information in the third country and other information in so far as this is necessary to ensure fairness. In other words, it is part of the rights of people right to understand who else has information about them, where it is kept, what they are using it for, how long it is going to be kept, all those particular things.
The security principle is another one. Technical and organizational security measures should be taken for those in control of the information that are appropriate to the risk presented by the processing. Any person acting under the authority of those in control of the information, including a processor, must not process information except on instructions from the controllers. In other words, if the person collecting the information is not capable of upholding the security of that information, then that is not something we wish to see for the personal information of Canadians.
There is also the right of access, rectification and opposition principle. The subject of the information should have the right to obtain a copy of all the information relating to him or her that is processed and a right to rectification if the information is inaccurate. Further, in some situations people should be able to object to the processing of the information relating to them. In other words, when we take information from people, they should have an understanding of what that information is and the opportunity and the access to those who control that information if the information is not correct.
Then the final one is the restriction on onward transfers principle. Transfers of the personal information to further countries should be permitted only where the second country is also subject to the same rules as the country originally receiving the information.
We have a situation where, when we pass the information on to the United States, it may use it in one fashion. If it passes it on to another country, we understand how that information will be used in the third country and we accept and control how they use that information in that third country.
Bill C-42 does not include any of these protections. It has nothing about the protection of personal privacy in the putting forward of information about Canadians. In other words, under this bill there is an open season on information about Canadians being given to foreign countries.
Two weeks ago, we spent considerable time on an opposition motion talking about the use of the long form consensus. The government was very concerned about the collection of information from Canadians, even though that information was anonymous.
Here we have a situation where, not anonymously, with people's names attached it, we are giving information to another country without any understanding or any control of how that information is going to be used, in a public fashion.
The government may have an agreement behind the scenes about how that information is to be used, but that is not in the legislation. That is not in the law. The government or any further government following it will not be bound to do that with that information.
In defence of this bill, the office of the Minister of Public Safety said it had to do this to ensure Canadians do not face any undue delays in their travel plans. However do we really want to trade off a few minutes' delay for the total loss of our privacy? Is that what is going on here? I do not think so. I do not think that is really a reason at all why we should move ahead with a bill without any controls attached to it.
If we accept this at second reading, there will be no opportunity to insert a major change to this bill, which is required in order to protect Canadians, to make the primary function of this to protect the personal privacy of Canadians. I do not think that is possible. I do not think we will be able to accomplish that in any committee setting.
Not too long ago we went through this with the long form census. I wish the government would bring back the argument it was using then. I wish it would take those arguments and ask, “Does this not mean something to us? Did we not get up and pontificate on this particular issue? Did we not make this a point of principle for us, that the personal information of Canadians is personal, that it belongs to them, that there are privacy aspects to that?”
The government chose not to engage in that principle here with this bill. It chose not to put principles attached to the bill, which would guide the government and ensure that, if we chose and had to put it into a context of giving Canadians' information to another country, if we chose to do that, Canadians would understand how their information was protected.
On November 22, 2007, the government issued a press release saying it strongly opposed handing over to the United States, and one assumes other countries, the personal information of Canadians.
In that release the government said,
However, in light of our complementary security systems and the security cooperation of Canada and the United States, and the relative risk, we believe that there are excellent security grounds for the proposed Secure Flight Program to exempt all flights to, from and within Canada that overfly the United States.
Why did the government give in? It certainly would not have said that if it did not think it had some opportunity to negotiate a different arrangement. Remember, the flights that overfly Canada from the United States are considerably more and considerably more important to the United States than the flights from Canada that overfly the United States. That is clearly the case. Clearly Canada had the leverage to do something different with this bill.
My question is: Did the government even want to do that, or has it made a decision along with its secret negotiations with other countries around the world to share information? Has it made the decision that it is okay to share this information, that we want to give up this information, that we do not care about the privacy rights of Canadians, that we are going to leave them wide open?
A year later, just before they prorogued for the first time, the Conservatives assured the House that the secure flight program would not apply to Canadians. The government then told the House that the U.S. had indicated the secure flight program would be exempt for countries with a comparable security system. This was in response to a tame question from the government's own benches. We could not put it down to the minister not understanding the question because he had been given the answer directly. At that time the Minister of Transport said, “Our government is committed to respecting the safety, security and privacy of each and every Canadian”.
With Bill C-42 this commitment has gone straight out the window, flushed down the toilet, disposed of. This is the same government that killed the long form census just recently because it was too much of an invasion of privacy. This is the government that feels the long gun registry is too much of an invasion of privacy. The same government brings forward Bill C-42, which will make it possible for the personal and private information of Canadians to be sent out not just to the United States but perhaps to Panama, Mexico, the Dominican Republic or any other country the Canadian government deems appropriate.
It does not take much to fly over a country and give the Canadian government the right to hand that information over. Whether the current government does it or the next government, the rights of Canadians are not being protected.
In August 2007, the European Commission released an opinion on an EU-U.S. agreement on the processing and transfer of PNR by air carriers to the United States Department of Homeland Security. The opinion compared the 2007 agreement to others, and remember that the European Union does not fly over the U.S. nearly as much as Canadians do.
The opinion found that safeguards for private information are weaker than other types of agreements. Especially and specifically, the amount of information transferred is increased; the Department of Homeland Security may use sensitive information that has been excluded by previous agreements; transfers of information to foreign agencies were made easier and no longer subject to previous protection safeguards; and information under that EU agreement with the United States would be kept for at least 15 years and, in some cases, for 40 years.
The opinion also found that the new agreement contains an increased number of exemptions. Specifically, safeguards protecting personal information can be waived at the discretion of the United States.
So if we are following in the footsteps of the European Union in its secret agreement that is not public with the United States, we are going in the wrong direction.
The European Commission stated: “...the new agreement does not strike the right balance to uphold the fundamental rights of citizens as regards data protection”.
However, I am not the only one to oppose this bill. Roch Tassé of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group said: “The Americans will have a veto on every passenger that gets on a plane in Canada even if they are not going to set foot on American soil”. Mr. Tassé added, “What will happen if Canada invites the ambassador from a country such as Cuba?”
The Air Transport Association of Canada made its grievances known to America's Department of Homeland Security last December. Chief in ATAC's critique was that “the submission of Canadian passenger’s details by Canadian airlines violates Canada’s laws on the protection of personal information and electronic documents, as well as laws on aeronautics”.
We are changing the law, so this quotation might be a bit out of date, but the purpose of the law would protect information.
Interestingly enough, the government has already been handing over personal information about Canadians to foreign security services for some time, even if it was against the law. Take the case of Teresa Healy.
In June 2007, Ms. Healy, the lead researcher of the Canadian Labour Congress, was the subject of a prolonged interrogation by American customs officers at the Cornwall, Ontario, border crossing when she set off a radiation detector. After it came to light that the radiation was due to medical tests, they switched the subject of her interrogation to her 1991 arrest at a non-violent protest. No charges were filed at the time, but the customs officers had her digitized fingerprints at their disposal nonetheless. She said that they told her, “Do not worry about it; we are just keeping them in case you do anything else”.
That is the truly worrying issue here. This information can be held for years and used for purposes other than what it was first provided for. Now the government will tell Canadians it is taking steps to ensure the information handed over will be only kept for a few days. The reality is that, once this information is handed out, the monkey is out of the bag. That is it for that.
The only way we can ensure the privacy of Canadians is protected is to stop this information grab by the U.S. and other countries, but the government will not protect Canadians' personal privacy.
What should have been done when the Americans and other nations demanded that we violate the privacy of Canadians? If the government had the concerns of Canadians really at heart, it would have clearly said no, but the government cynically plays the game of let us pretend. Let us pretend we are protecting Canadian privacy, while all the time working to erode the very laws protecting our privacy.
What will Canadians get for this gross violation? Not much. Maybe they will get a slightly shorter waiting time to board an aircraft, but they will get an increased risk that they will be arrested or denied boarding, by mistake, by accident or for some unknown purpose.
The no-fly list has a very dismal record, and my colleague in the Bloc referred to a number of very prominent cases that fit under that, such as Maher Arar and the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
The likelihood is that this information is going to be used in an incorrect fashion. This bill, as it stands, is a poor attempt and a miserable little bill that does nothing to protect the personal privacy of Canadians in difficult situations that we face. If the government had come forward with a bill that showed it was serious about protecting personal privacy, I could support it. I could find some way to support it. However this is not a bill that can be supported in this fashion, and there is no opportunity to change the bill in committee to the degree that it needs to be changed. That is not on. So what are we to do here? What can we do with this bill?
My sense is to send it back to the government and get it to come back with a better answer.