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House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was security.

Topics

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Kitchener Centre.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this debate confirms to me something that I have often observed about how people project their inner selves onto their opposition. I could not help but think of that when the member opposite suggested there were rants going on over here, because quite frankly, I have never heard such a rant as the member delivered a few minutes ago.

When we talk about the facts, again I see him looking at his one-pager. I want to tell him about some facts from my riding of Kitchener Centre. I would like to invite him to drop by the Morning Glory Café which receives money from our government in order to help young people find jobs and to improve their job skills. I would like him to visit our police and our crime prevention society which are doing great work with anti-gang strategies thanks to a $3.5 million grant from our government. I would like him to check out the high on life program which our government is funding to help young people stay off drugs.

These and other measures are all things our government has been funding. I would like to know if the member has even heard of them or if he is deliberately misleading people by ignoring them.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course the member was out of order. When he sees full well that my desk, like the desks of all my NDP colleagues, is packed with information and facts, for him to compare it with a one-pager that he got from the PMO is inappropriate.

That is exactly the issue. He is talking about the few surviving programs that the Conservative government has not yet cut. We said that the National Crime Prevention Centre has been cut 70%. He is right to say there is still that 30%. He brought forward some of the programs.

What the member is doing, very directly, is reinforcing the NDP's position. He is saying that crime prevention programs work. He is saying that the few that are left in his riding, that he has managed to preserve, are doing a good job.

So join with us, join with the NDP and fight the government's mean-spirited approach on criminal justice—

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The time for questions and comments has expired. Resuming debate.

Is the House ready for the question?

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

The vote stands deferred until the end of government orders tomorrow.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

moved that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to rise in support of Bill C-42, Strengthening Aviation Security Act. The bill before us today would help to ensure that Canadian business people and tourists who choose to travel by air can continue to access certain destinations in the fastest and most cost-effective way possible while also building on our ongoing efforts to enhance aviation security in conjunction with our international partners.

It also would allow Canadian air carriers to comply with the secure flight regime in the United States by providing passenger information to the Transportation Security Administration 72 hours before departing for destinations such as Latin America or the Caribbean. At the moment, airline carriers themselves are required to match passenger information against U.S. no-fly and selectee terrorist watch lists if their flight destination is to anywhere in the United States.

The previous government passed legislation in 2001 so that Canadian airline carriers could do this, although concerns have subsequently been raised about privacy issues and the number of false matches. Secure flight is expected to reduce the number of false matches by transferring responsibility for watch list matching from the airlines to the Transportation Security Administration for all U.S. domestic flights, as well as for all international flights to the U.S. and those which fly through U.S. air space. The TSA has also developed a comprehensive privacy plan to incorporate privacy laws and practices into all areas of secure flight.

The legislation before us today is important for a number of reasons. First, I want to point out that any nation, including the U.S. and Canada, has the sovereign right to control its own air space. International laws do recognize that airlines have the right to fly over any country in the world but they also recognize that each state has a right to regulate aircraft entering into, within or departing from its territory.

Moreover, the Chicago convention expressly recognizes that each state has sovereignty over its own air space. Article 11 of the convention requires compliance with:

…the laws and regulations of a contracting State relating to the admission to or departure from its territory of aircraft engaged in international air navigation.

Secure flight is therefore in accordance with the international rules of which Canada is a signatory.

As Canada's Assistant Privacy Commissioner noted at committee hearings on the passenger protect program and the U.S. no-fly list in the spring, it is important to note during this debate that the sovereignty of any state extends to its air space. As a sovereign nation, Canada could say that this country will choose not to comply with secure flight rules but that would force Canadian airline companies to access destinations, such as Mexico, by flying outside of American air space, substantially increasing travel times and costs.

What our government has chosen to do instead is negotiate with the American government and thereby receive an important exemption to the secure flight rules for domestic flights between Canadian cities which overfly through U.S. air space.

The second reason that this legislation before us today is important relates to our commitment to protect the safety and security of Canadians. In a perfect world, programs such as secure flight and passenger protect would not be needed. The truth is, however, that today we live in a world in which terrorist attacks do occur and the threat of an attack against Canada and Canadians either at home or abroad remains a real possibility.

Our government is unwaivering in its determination to keep all Canadians safe and secure. As a government, it is our highest responsibility and we take it seriously, especially with respect to air travel. We must remember that terrorism is not just something that happens somewhere to someone else. Intelligence experts in Canada and abroad have told us that civil aviation remains a favourite of terrorist attacks globally. This is because aircraft passengers and related facilities offer the kind of high profile targets terrorists seek and damage to a nation's civil aviation sector can be particularly crippling to a nation's economy and sense of security. We cannot and we will not be complacent. We must remain vigilant.

Since 2006, that is exactly what this government has been doing. Our government has worked to prevent global terrorism. We have strengthened aviation security and taken steps to protect the safety of air travellers through actions and measures, including a new passenger protect program, to keep people who may pose an immediate security threat from boarding commercial flights and a new air cargo security pilot test program. We have introduced legislation to starve terrorists of financing.

Our government has openly condemned groups with links to terrorism and has worked with the United Nations and our allies to prevent terrorism.

We have also introduced measures to allow the RCMP to expand criminal background checks for workers with access to secure areas in Canada's airports, people such as baggage handlers, catering crews and airplane groomers and flight crews, among others.

What is more, we took additional steps to strengthen aviation security in the week following December 25, 2009, when there was an attempted terrorist attack on a flight bound for Detroit. Those measures include strengthening explosive trace detection, new full body scanners and steps to develop a passenger behaviour observation program. It included funding of $1.5 billion over five years to help the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority strengthen the security of our aviation system and protect air travellers. It also included a full review into the spending efficiency and structure of Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.

Most recently, our government announced the air cargo security program, a $95.7 million investment that will be phased in over five years building on the air cargo initiative unveiled by thePrime Minister in June 2006. Of course we share views through several multinational discussions on global aviation security. Because of the action our government has taken, air travellers today are safer and more secure than ever.

However, we cannot let our guard down. We cannot become complacent. We need to continue to strengthen security within our borders. We also need to continue to work with our international partners to ensure not only the safety of Canadians but also the safety and security of our allies and partners.

This is what Bill C-42 is all about. It is about working with our partners to enhance international aviation security while also ensuring that individual privacy rights are respected.

I would note in this regard that the American Civil Liberties Union has acknowledged that the present version of secure flight represents a substantial improvement over its precursors. What the group has emphasized is that the Department of Homeland Security will neither use commercial data to conduct background checks on travellers, nor create a risk score for passengers through secure flight.

The Department of Homeland Security also is minimizing data collection to only necessary data elements and greatly reducing the length of data retention by removing information on most travellers after seven days.

Bill C-42 is not a large piece of legislation but it is an important one. It supports the commitment I believe all of us share to protect the safety and security of air travellers. It supports the commitment I believe every Canadian shares to combat terrorist threats both at home and abroad. It also supports the commitment, which I believe we all share, to ensure that air travel remains safe and that Canadians can access destinations south of the border in the most efficient and cost effective ways possible.

I therefore urge all hon. members to work with the government to ensure that we pass Bill C-42 into law in a timely and fast manner.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his presentation on this particular bill. It is certainly a bill that will be debated here today.

When he speaks of the American Civil Liberties Union and says that there are significant improvements, could he describe what those significant improvements were to the homeland security procedures that would be followed to establish this information, as most of these procedures are based on secret agreements?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear my colleague across the floor sound as though he is in favour of this legislation.

As I have indicated, this legislation would give Canadians a far better opportunity to travel in North America, particularly across U.S. airspace. As I have indicated, there are agreements and most of this information will not last in any files beyond seven days.

This would give Canadians huge advantages. My hon. colleague is probably well aware, as I have already indicated, that sovereign nations have the right to protect the airspace above them and also to have the information validated of people travelling through it.

I welcome his support for this bill. It is a good bill and it would go a long way to helping air travel safety in North America.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the parliamentary secretary with regard to whether there is reciprocity here. Would the American airlines need to provide the same information for their, I believe, 1,000 or so flights a day that fly over Canadian air space on their way to Europe or other parts of the world?

I also would like to know if it is still the intention to provide this information for, essentially, domestic flights, point-to-point flights within Canada. Would the information on flights from Winnipeg to Toronto that fly over American air space need to be provided? I have read news reports indicating that those flights would be exempt under U.S. homeland security. I would like to know what the current status is of that information.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, again I thank the member for his support for the bill.

We have an agreement with the Americans that point-to-point domestic flights that pass over American air space are exempt and it is not necessary to share the information for those flights.

My colleagues should know that the information that will be shared is no different than the information that is currently available on the passports of any Canadian entering into the United States, or other countries for that matter where passports are required, and likewise of anyone coming into this country from a foreign country who shows their passport. It is the same information that is available on a passport. This is not a case of some wild and crazy country demanding all kinds of information. It is just simply the same tombstone information that is available on a passport.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my hon. colleague on the government benches that standing to engage in debate does not really show support for a particular bill. It is certainly something that I think he would probably learn after a while in this House.

My concern is quite clearly the arrangements that are made for these particular bills. The parliamentary secretary seems quite sure about the nature of these arrangements and how they will go forward. However, that is not really included in this bill. The arrangements for the collection of information or the information that is collected has nothing to do with the discussion that is taking place within this bill. The bill would simply enable the government to give information to another country.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have certainly been here long enough to know that we cannot expect the support of the NDP for most anything, including budgets that its members have not even read. I would just hope that the NDP members would finally come to their senses on some of these bills and support the bills going forward. It is not a big bill. Even they can read it. I hope they will and I hope they will in fact support it.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague and fellow member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

We have met many experts on the no-fly list, and they have told us that the American list has many errors. They were not sure if there were false positives on our list, but citizens' rights groups say that there are. There are 15- and 16-year-old kids on the list because they have the same name as someone else, and it was incredibly difficult to get these names off the list.

Given that the American list is a bit of a farce and that ours is far from perfect, does the member not feel that it is somewhat dangerous to give so much information and power to the United States?

I am a sovereignist, a separatist, and I would not like an independent Quebec to have to give information about my fellow citizens to a foreign country.

Consequently, as a Canadian, does he not feel that it is somewhat dangerous to give information about Canadian citizens to a foreign state that has yet to prove that it is thorough with its infamous no-fly list?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention from my colleague. She is a valued member of the committee on which we both serve, but I would say to her that even if one was in Quebec, one would still like to visit other countries in this world. The United States has a sovereign right to get the information that is provided by one's passport.

As a matter of fact, this bill should reduce some of the errors that occur on the American no-fly list. It is the American no-fly list that she refers to, not a Canadian no-fly list. We have a different system than what the Americans have. This system, by providing the information to which they are entitled under international convention, will simply make things easier, simpler, and far more efficient for Canadian airline carriers to cross through American airspace.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take this opportunity to speak about Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, on behalf of the official opposition. This is a one-paragraph bill that makes a minor change to the wording of one section of the Aeronautics Act. However, these changes are significant in practice.

The bill would provide legal cover for airlines and travel agents to provide foreign governments with personal information about passengers when a plane they are on flies through a country's airspace. Currently, the act allows for this transmission of information only when a Canadian plane lands in that country.

Let me take a moment to go over the history of these provisions in the Aeronautics Act. The subsection in question is 4.83(1). It allows for the Governor in Council to make regulations regarding the transmission of this information. Subsection 4.83(1) only creates the legislative exemption to the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

The supporting regulations remain the critical component of this piece of the framework. Schedule one of the regulations lists the category of information that may be automatically provided to an authorized foreign government. This includes basic information such as name, gender, passport number, et cetera. However, authorized foreign governments may request more specific information.

Schedule two of the regulations provides what detailed information may be provided to a foreign government. These details include the passenger's address; the passenger's phone number; the class of ticket, for example, business or economy; method of payment for the ticket; and whether the passenger in question paid for the ticket.

The final schedule in these regulations, schedule three, lists the government and agencies that are authorized to request or receive any of the information listed in either of the first two schedules. There is only one country and agency on the list, the United States and its commissioner of customs.

Where did these regulations come from? Introduced on November 28, 2001 during the 37th Parliament, Bill C-44 amended the Aeronautics Act to allow the transmission of this information to foreign governments. This was in response to new U.S. requirements for any plane landing inside that country. Subsequent U.S. legislation has required that any country provide their government with details of any passenger in a plane flying over the U.S.

The Liberal Party has very strong concerns about the erosion of Canadian sovereignty expressed in this bill. We have very real concerns about the privacy of Canadians and about the ability of the government to conduct foreign affairs to the benefit of Canadians.

Before the heckles start to arise from the government benches that Liberals are “soft on terror”, let me remind hon. members that it was a Liberal government that created the Anti-terrorism Act in the first place, and that it was a Liberal government that created the exemption in section 4.83. However, when the previous Liberal government tackled these issues, it always did so with an eye to protecting the rights of Canadians.

The most powerful and controversial provisions of the anti-terror bill came with a sunset clause. We recognized the heated and emotional environment that existed immediately after the tragic events of September 11, and Liberal lawmakers wanted to ensure that Parliament would revisit these parts of the law five years after that bill was made law. The balance between national security and personal freedom is a crucial balance for any government, and I, as well as my colleagues in the official opposition, am very concerned that Bill C-42 goes too far.

For starters, this bill is not designed to protect the national security of Canadians. It is designed to transmit information to other countries for flights outside Canadian airspace. Once this information is in the hands of a foreign government, we cannot control what they do with it.

In May of this year, Assistant Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier was speaking to the transport committee and said that the U.S. government, the only government currently authorized to receive this data, could keep the personal information of Canadians anywhere from 7 days to 99 years. She also stated that the U.S. can use that information for any purpose, even those not related to airline security such as law enforcement.

The U.S. Patriot Act, passed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, is a piece of legislation that caused concern all around the world. It allows the U.S. government unprecedented access to, and control of, information about citizens from a number of countries. When a foreign government puts information, even information about that country's own citizens, in the hands of the U.S. government, it is consumed by the mechanisms in the Patriot Act.

We must be concerned about any law that allows information about Canadians not accused of any crime to be put in the U.S. intelligence machine. We could be creating a situation where the government helps to provide to a foreign government information that is used to prosecute Canadians, all without any formal judicial process. It should be clarified that these are not information-sharing agreements. Rather, this legislation would create a one-way flow of information out of Canada and into the hands of foreign governments.

By passing this legislation, we are creating a troubling legal framework. Members of this place must ask themselves if they want to create the legal framework for other countries to ask for this information. In effect, by passing this legislation and allowing the government to add other countries as it sees fit, we are saying publicly that we as a country are willing to provide this information to other nations. For example, I wonder if the government would be willing to add the United Arab Emirates to such a list and allow it to receive all this information about Canadians flying over its airspace.

Currently, only the U.S.A. is authorized to receive this information. However, the legislative framework in the Aeronautics Act is not exclusive to the United States. As I mentioned before, the Canadian government may add other countries to the list through order in council.

What happens when other countries start to ask for this privilege? It is no secret that the Conservative government is woefully inept when it comes to foreign relations. Let us take a look at its track record.

In the past few weeks the government managed to get our military kicked out of Dubai and embarrassed us at the United Nations by failing, for the first time in 40 years, to obtain a seat on the Security Council. We have gone from a country that is respected around the world to one that commits blunder after blunder, all culminating in our embarrassing loss of the seat last week.

The government's inability to handle sensitive diplomatic negotiations has led to a falling out with the United Arab Emirates. That relationship is critical to our efforts in Afghanistan, but the government and the Prime Minister's obstinate nature led to such an impasse that Canada is now scrambling to find another base for our troops.

For the past four and a half years, the government has eroded Canada's standing in the world, failed policy after failed policy.

Should we pass this legislation, how are we to know that the government will not botch another important diplomatic negotiation involving information transfer rights? What if another country asks for an information transfer agreement? Could we trust the Conservative government to protect our interests without destroying another important international relationship? I do not think so, and at this point I think most Canadians have these same doubts. The Conservative government has an abysmal diplomatic track record. As parliamentarians, do we want to give it one more angle, one more complication to misunderstand in the already complicated world of international relations?

Canada has invested billions of dollars over the past decade in security. Why after all these upgrades and all the spending do foreign governments still not trust Canada to ensure that only safe passengers fly? Our closest allies should be able to trust that, when the Canadian government allows someone to board a plane, that person has been cleared and is not a threat to their country or to ours. In allowing this information to be transferred, is the government not admitting either a failure of security or a failure of diplomacy?

Government is a difficult task. My Liberal colleagues and I know this first-hand. I spoke earlier of striking the balance between personal freedoms and national security. This balance is not found in the overwrought rhetoric that comes from the benches opposite me. It comes from careful consideration, from listening to experts and listening to Canadians.

Also important is Canada's sovereignty. If this legislation were enacted as is, Canadians on domestic flights may have their information transferred to another country. Canadians travelling to foreign destinations such as Mexico or the Caribbean would also have their information transferred to a third country.

The Liberal Party, and I believe all opposition parties, have some very serious concerns with the bill and with the erosion of Canadian sovereignty that is associated with it. We have concerns about the effects it will have on the rights of Canadians to privacy. We have concerns about whether this does anything to increase the safety of Canadians. Finally, we have difficulty with the ability of the government to navigate the subtle and complex arena of international relations.

The official opposition may support the bill at second reading in order to send it to committee, but this is no guarantee that we will necessarily support the bill further. If it does go to committee, the bill will need to be studied thoroughly. MPs and Canadians need to hear from authorities such as the Privacy Commissioner, the U.S. and other experts in security and civil rights before we can come to a final conclusion.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to question my colleague, the Liberal critic for transportation, on this issue. It has concerns for all of us.

As my colleague has pointed out, we have a very simple amendment to the Aeronautics Act, which has significant connotations attached to it. It is not so much within the bill, but within the ability of our government to enter into a multiplicity of agreements. Many of these agreements are not characterized in treaty, but in letters. Many of these agreements, which have already been entered into, do not represent any opportunity for debate about the nature of their intrusion upon the personal privacy rights of Canadians.

Does my colleague agree that the simplicity of the bill is really its downfall, that it does not give assurances to Canadians about the nature of what will follow from it?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems my colleague and I share similar concerns about the bill and the breadth of its scope in terms of allowing the government, without debate in the House but simply through order-in-council, to extend such agreements with other countries beyond the United States. Canadians flying over any country with which the government comes to an agreement would have their information rights forfeited.

As I said in my comments, given the government's dismal track record on diplomatic relations, I would certainly have a major hesitation in offering them a carte blanche in this access to privacy rights of Canadians.