House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was privacy.


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Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

moved that bill, as amended, be concurred in.

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The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members


On division.

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Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed from October 19 consideration of the motion that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak in the debate on Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act or, the short title as suggested by the government, the strengthening aviation security act.

We know the government has been very creative in selecting short titles or nicknames for some of its legislation. This is one of the least creative it has come up with. There are probably some other possibilities that should have been considered, certainly from a New Democratic perspective. We might have called this the compromising Canadians' privacy act, or the caving in to U.S. security interests act or the dumping Canadians' personal information into an American black hole act. There are a number of other possibilities. Given those suggestions, it is very clear that New Democrats have very serious concerns about the legislation and that we do oppose the bill.

The bill would amend the Aeronautics Act to exempt airlines from the obligations set out in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, or PIPEDA, to allow information in the airlines' control about passengers to be shared with a foreign state.

Currently this information is only shared when a Canadian plane is scheduled to land in a foreign country. However, the bill would expand that to cover any Canadian plane that is due to fly over a foreign country. We are primarily talking about Canadian flights to the United States and over the United States, and certainly over the United States, and it is the United States that is driving these changes.

It is also done in the context where we know that the United States has not always appropriately or justly used the information it has received. I think for all of us the case of Maher Arar comes immediately to mind in that circumstance.

We know there have very serious problems. The situation that Mr. Arar found himself in was a horrible situation and it arose from this kind of transfer of passenger information to a foreign authority.

The bill does not currently cover flights of Canadian aircraft between Canadian destinations that fly over another country. When I fly back and forth from Vancouver to Ottawa, often the flight will go over the United States. Right now, information about the passengers on those flights is not shared with the Americans. However, one wonders when that will happen. I suspect that is the next ask from the Americans when it comes to sharing passenger information. I expect it is not far down the list of demands that the Americans will make of us in this regard. I think that will be a huge concern to Canadians, not that the current proposal is not a real concern to them, because it is.

By proposing to exempt Canadian airlines from the obligations they must currently meet under PIPEDA, the government is throwing out the key operative principles of PIPEDA, which were established to protect the privacy of Canadians, principles such as accountability, identifying purposes, consent, limiting collection, limiting use disclosure and retention, accuracy, safeguards, openness, individual access and challenging compliance. There are 10 principles and they are outlined in great detail in schedule 1 of PIPEDA.

For instance, the first principle is “Accountability” and is described as:

An organization is responsible for personal information under its control and shall designate an individual or individuals who are accountable for the organization’s compliance with the following principles.

It goes on to outline four subsidiary principles from that one on accountability, relating to how an organization handles the information under its control.

The second principle in schedule 1 of PIPEDA is “Identifying Purposes”, which is explained as

The purposes for which personal information is collected shall be identified by the organization at or before the time the information is collected.

Therefore, there is a requirement around clarity of what is around the sharing of that information.

The third principle in schedule 1 attached to PIPEDA is “Consent”. It says:

The knowledge and consent of the individual are required for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information, except where inappropriate.

The fourth principle is “Limiting Collection” of information. It says:

The collection of personal information shall be limited to that which is necessary for the purposes identified by the organization. Information shall be collected by fair and lawful means.

This one goes on to be elucidated with further sub-principles.

The fifth principle, “Limiting Use, Disclosure, and Retention”, is described as:

Personal information shall not be used or disclosed for purposes other than those for which it was collected, except with the consent of the individual or as required by law. Personal information shall be retained only as long as necessary for the fulfilment of those purposes.

There are some pretty particular requirements in PIPEDA around that principle.

“Accuracy” is the sixth principle. It says:

Personal information shall be as accurate, complete, and up-to-date as is necessary for the purposes for which it is to be used.

Again, it is further elucidated in the schedule.

“Safeguards” is the seventh principle in PIPEDA. It says:

Personal information shall be protected by security safeguards appropriate to the sensitivity of the information.

Therefore, organizations are required to safeguard and make appropriate arrangements for the protection of that information.

The eighth principle is “Openness”. It says:

An organization shall make readily available to individuals specific information about its policies and practices relating to the management of personal information.

The ninth principle is “Individual Access”. It says:

Upon request, an individual shall be informed of the existence, use and disclosure of his or her personal information and shall be given access to that information. An individual shall be able to challenge the accuracy and completeness of the information and have it amended as appropriate.

The tenth principle is “Challenging Compliance”. It says:

An individual shall be able to address a challenge concerning compliance with the above principles to the designated individual or individuals accountable for the organization's compliance.

PIPEDA has a very detailed outline of the kinds of principles that should be part of any process of sharing the personal information of Canadians by organizations in the private sector, which airlines are required to comply with currently. What this law seeks to do is grant an exemption to that schedule for airlines with regard to passenger information.

Instead of developing an agreement with the United States that addresses these principles and complies with PIPEDA and showing where security requirements might require some change or safety might require a compromise, what we are presented with in the legislation is a blanket override of PIPEDA. There is no subtlety to this. It gives the government the ability to negotiate something with the United States or another country that completely ignores the requirements of PIPEDA around the sharing of the personal information of Canadians, and I do not think that is appropriate.

PIPEDA outlines some important principles that should be considered and struggled with. It may well be that there is an appropriate compromise to be had in a case of national security, but we will not that out of the process that is elucidated in Bill C-42.

When we look at the current Aeronautics Act, there are a lot of places in the act where the minister has discretion in the name of national security. In that circumstance, where there is a combination of an override of the principles established in our law about the personal information and privacy of Canadians and it is combined with an override by the minister, which is hugely discretionary, there is a huge potential for problems and one that goes much too far, especially when we look at the record of the current government.

The government has shown on many occasions that it is always ready to compromise the rights of Canadians in the name of the fight against terrorism. It seems like we just have to say the “T” word and all kinds of other things are expected to fall away, things that we hold dear. Rather than a careful reasoned approach to coming up with policy around national security and safety sometimes, the government goes to an extreme. We have to look at the situation of the security certificate cases. A provision in the Canadian Immigration Act, which was intended to allow for expedited deportation of non-citizens and non-permanent residents, has been used in some cases for indefinite detention, not the purpose for which it was intended.

When we look at some of the specific cases that have been argued and taken to court, we can see that, even when the government extended and re-issued security certificates in the name of national security and the concerns it had about individuals' attachment or participation in terrorist organizations or terrorist activity, the government did not follow the process very appropriately. It did not review all of the information at hand. It did not make available all of the information that was available. In one particular case it did not update its files on the individual involved.

The concern for security allowed all kinds of other sloppiness to happen in that process. I think it was pretty damning of the former minister of public safety and his actions in regard to the re-issuance of security certificates in the court judgment to which I am referring.

There are problems with how the government has approached the use of information in the situations where it has determined it believes there is a question of national security. We have to make sure that all information is taken into consideration in those cases.

Another example might be the use of full-body scanning at Canadian airports, and more intrusive forms of full-body scanning are on the way. We know that backscatter technology, which has been developed and which is being implemented in some American airports, gives a sharper, more defined image than the very basic image the current technology that is in use here in Canada. It is already available and being deployed in some places in the United States.

Canada jumped on that band wagon, probably at the urging of our American neighbours. We have invested heavily in full-body scanning equipment; I think it is millions of dollars. Probably if they had their choice, Canadians would have preferred the kind of scanners that go into hospitals rather than these airport full-body scanners. That is a question about how we use the technology and how we make decisions around security.

It is interesting to look at the example of Israel. An Israeli airline security expert appeared before a parliamentary committee to say that he had great doubts about the value of this kind of technology and did not see Israel moving to adopt that technology. He said Israel thought there were more effective means of ensuring passenger safety and airline safety that did not go down that road.

Again, it seems as if we jumped on a band wagon to appease our American neighbours and their concerns about safety and security. Why would we do this? That is a good question, why we continue to adopt the American agenda, why we do not take our own particular course and why we do not try to negotiate something different with the Americans.

I think there is a concern with regard to the transfer of data to Americans, that the Americans might prevent Canadian airlines from flying over the United States on the way to another destination and that this would increase the cost and be very inconvenient for the airlines and for Canadian airline passengers. There has been some suggestion that they are holding that out as a possibility if we do not comply with this demand for passenger info for Canadian airline flights that are not planning on stopping in the United States, that are not destined there.

I hope that is not the case. Certainly that idea has been floated. The reality is, as my colleague has pointed out, that there are far more U.S. flights flying over Canada to other destinations without stopping in Canada than Canadian flights flying over the United States to other destinations. In fact it is something like 2,000 U.S. flights flying over Canada when only 100 Canadian flights fly over the United States. That is the proportion.

So it is a bigger issue, in some sense, for Americans. What is the reciprocity? Are we demanding similar information from the Americans, or do we see any need to do that? Why would we ask for that personal information about American airline passengers? I think that is the real question. If it is something we do not see the need for, why are we kowtowing to the Americans' demand for it?

The European Commission is also looking at this issue, and last month it released proposals for negotiating an agreement with the Americans and other countries regarding the limits on the transfer of passenger name record data, which is the basic information that we are talking about here. It is the information that airlines collect about us when we fly.

We have to wonder why it would be necessary for airlines to share, for instance, what kind of meal we ordered on the plane, and if we are ordering a special meal of some kind, how this is appropriate or is any kind of information that is necessary to national security or a national security arrangement.

Canada also has an agreement with Europe on the passenger name record issue, but apparently it has to be renegotiated due to the expiration of certain legal commitments. That is something that is either being engaged in or will be engaged in soon.

As I mentioned, last month the European Commission outlined some principles that any PNR, passenger name record, agreement should observe.

I want to go over them so we can see what the Europeans are demanding in their agreement with the United States and other countries. The first principle they are looking to enshrine in any agreement is the protection of personal data, aiming to protect the rights of passengers. They are saying that this data should be used exclusively to fight terrorism; that categories of this information that are exchanged should be limited to what is necessary for that purpose and be clearly listed in the agreement; and that passengers should be given clear information about the exchange of their PNR data and have the right to see their PNR data and the right to effective administrative and judicial redress. This is to help ensure full respect for privacy, that any violation of privacy will be remedied.

They are pointing out that decisions having adverse effects on passengers must never be based on an automated processing of passenger name record data. A human being must be involved before a passenger is denied boarding. This is their attempt to avoid racial and religious profiling of passengers.

I think that is a very crucial one, that this just cannot be some computer generated process but that actual real people must be involved when there is a negative decision involved.

The Europeans are also seeking to have in the agreement that third countries must ensure a high level of data security and an effective independent oversight of the authorities that use PNR data. They are also saying that PNR data cannot be stored longer than necessary to fight terrorism and third countries should limit who has access to the data gradually during the period of retention.

They are also saying that PNR data may be shared by the third country with other countries, in a process called onward transfer, only if those countries respect the standards laid down in the PNR agreement between the European Union and the third country and only on a case-by-case basis.

I think this is a really crucial aspect of this. What happens with the information about Canadians that is provided to, say, the United States? Is that information then available to be transferred to another country, which may not meet the standards that Canadians want to ensure and may not even meet the standards that Americans have agreed to for the treatment of the personal data of Canadians? I think that is a very crucial consideration that we should be insisting on as well.

The second principle that the Europeans are using in terms of negotiating these agreements is the modalities of transfer of the PNR data, which aim to provide legal certainty to air carriers and keep costs at an acceptable level. We have to worry about what costs are involved for airlines.

They are also talking about standards on monitoring the correct implementation of the PNR agreement. And reciprocity is another principle, which I have already mentioned.

We can see that the Europeans are making some very clear demands. Yet here in Canada we are debating legislation and we have no idea what demands our own government is making. The government is asking for a blank cheque to make these changes, to negotiate this agreement, and we have no idea where it is going with it.

I think there are very serious problems. Canada's privacy commissioners in the past have called for written agreements that can be examined, and that was a very serious question when they were looking at the passenger protect program in 2007. We need to make sure we have the detailed and specific agreements and the detailed and specific legislative authority for the provisions of those agreements.

I think we compromise the principles of PIPEDA at our peril. That is what this legislation seeks to do.

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Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas on this issue, and it amazes me to discover, from his speech and from what else we have learned about the bill, that the government intends to enter into an agreement on the use and transfer of data without Canadians having any idea where this information is going to go.

If we happen to go on a holiday to Mexico and are flying over the United States, with no intention of even being in the United States, information about us is going to be made available to the American authorities and there apparently are no guarantees from anyone as to where this information will ultimately go, how long it will be kept or to whom it will be given.

This runs counter to the principles contained in not only our own privacy legislation but, as other countries have determined, the same thing goes for the United Kingdom. The House of Lords' European Union Select Committee had a similar problem with the issues in the agreement between the U.S. and the EU in terms of informing passengers about what happens to their data and specifics about what can be collected, what happens to it and who the data should be going to.

This seems to be required by elementary requirements of privacy. Whether the entire PIPEDA applies is another question, but to just exclude it and say that there is nothing in its place seems to me to be ignoring the privacy rights of Canadians in a very reckless way.

I wonder whether the member has gotten any assurances from the government that that is not going to be the case.

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Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do think it is a really serious issue that there is too broad an exemption in this bill from the provisions and principles of PIPEDA, and when we combine that with the fact that in the Aeronautics Act there is broad discretion for the minister of transport, it is a very problematic combination that will lead to a situation where Canadians really do not know what is happening with our information.

We remember the situations that cropped up when the no-fly list was implemented and the number of people who were delayed at airports or subject to questioning, who missed their flights, who were detained for hours when they were trying to travel and the problems they had clarifying the information, correcting information, and whether they ever really knew if that was done, why that was done or who to approach about it. There were all kinds of problems that arose with the implementation of the passenger protect program.

We should learn something from the implementation of the no-fly list or the specified persons list. There were real problems that came up there, and there will be real problems that come from this proposal to share more personal information of Canadians with countries such as the United States, just because a Canadian is flying to a holiday in Mexico or the Caribbean and the flight happens to go over the United States.

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Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would really like to hear from somebody as to how this bill is actually going to increase passenger safety with these measures. The fact of the matter is that the bad guys should not be on the plane in the first place, based on the no-fly list and all the security we have in place at the airport.

I am much more concerned about the trusted shippers program, the 1,000 or so companies that are part of the trusted shippers program, because in fact mail, parcels and other packages are routinely put on planes every day. Right below where we are sitting on that plane are all kinds of mail, none of which has been scanned. If we want to look for a real security problem, that is a big area that has to be looked at both in Canada and the United States.

Here we are running around, trying to appease the Americans with information on people on 100 flights to the United States, for what reason? We do not even know that giving them the information is going to be of any value in increasing safety. In fact the Americans have 2,000 flights a day going over Canada. Has anybody over here in the government figured out yet that we should be asking the Americans for reciprocity, that if we are going to give them the information on passengers on 100 flights a day over the United States, we want information in its 2,000 over Canada, because we have sovereign airspace as well, and if it wants its planes to be flying around Canada, avoiding our airspace, then it will have to put up with all the complaints it is going to get, thousands and thousands, to its elected people in Congress and to the airlines, because it is going to be inconveniencing the passengers?

We have no problem doing things that make sense and that make people safer, but where is the proof that this is going to happen in this case?

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Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the proof is. I certainly have not heard it in the debate so far on this legislation and I certainly have not heard it from the government.

The member is quite right to point out that we would probably have already intercepted the bad guys before we shared the information with the United States about a flight flying over its airspace with no intention of stopping in the United States.

He is right to raise the shipping concerns, because that may very well be the weak spot in our security system.

The member talked about reciprocity, whether we should be getting the information about the thousands of U.S. flights that go over Canada. I am not sure that is really the issue. We need to ask ourselves, do we need that information? Is it just to collect that information? Why would we want to have that kind of information about American citizens, American airline passengers? What would Canada do with all of that information? Why should we be collecting that information? Do we really have any interest in that information, or are we just collecting it because the U.S. is collecting it?

That might be the way to draw attention to this issue. That might be the way to get American citizens who are concerned about their privacy and the integrity of their own personal information interested in this issue. However, I am not sure that it is the kind of principle on which we would want to base this kind of legislation.

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Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the New Democrats against what I think is a bill that is so thoroughly flawed in principle and execution that every right-thinking Canadian would demand that his or her MP vote against the bill.

This is Bill C-42, which would amend the Aeronautics Act. Let me just say very simply what the bill does. The bill would require airlines in Canada to send information on their passengers, Canadians who are boarding Canadian aircraft, simply if that aircraft flies over a portion of the United States and does not even land in the United States.

For Canadians who are familiar with airline routes, many times a day Canadians get on aircraft, perhaps even flying from one Canadian destination to another, that may go over American airspace.

My colleague is talking about that perhaps being exempted by the bill, but for flights that are going from a Canadian destination to a foreign destination that does not even touch the United States but simply flies over its airspace for a portion of that, we would have to send information about our passengers to the United States.

What information would be forwarded is determined by requirements that are, up to now, laid out in agreements that we have not even been able to see as parliamentarians. We have a bill before the House that would fundamentally violate Canadians' privacy rights over some very important pieces of information, which I will tell the House about in a moment, and we do not even know exactly what parameters surround that information or what that information would consist of.

What we do know is that Canada has signed or is negotiating agreements with the European Union, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Panama, Dominican Republic and the United States, and that details of the agreement between the European Union and the United States for the same information transfer are troubling.

That agreement allows the following. The information forwarded will be the passenger name record, which is the file the travel agent creates when we book a vacation. This is the kind of information that the passenger name record can include: our credit card information, who we are travelling with, our hotel, other booking information such as tours or rental cars, any medical condition of the passenger that may have been disclosed, dietary preferences, our email address, our employer information, our telephone information, our baggage information, and again, with whom we may be travelling.

This is the kind of information that this piece of legislation would permit Canadian airlines to send to American security authorities without those Canadian passengers even knowing about, even if those Canadians have chosen not to fly to the United States. A Canadian could get up and say that they do not want to go to the United States, that they will not fly there, and they still may be subject to having highly personal information about the passenger being sent to American security authorities simply because that aircraft touches American airspace.

This information collected, as we know in some of these other agreements, can be retained by the United States for up to 40 years. The information may be forwarded to the security service of a third nation without the consent or notification of the other signatory.

No person may known what information is being held about them by the United States and may not correct that information even if there are errors. The United States may unilaterally amend the agreement as long as it advises the EU of the changes. There has already been one amendment whereby all documents held by the EU concerning the agreement shall not be publicly released for 10 years, and that is clearly an attempt to avoid access to information requests.

Those are the kinds of details that exist in agreements that we know of and we have every reason to believe are the kind of details that would exist if this very flawed bill were to become law.

Again, as has been pointed out by my colleague, the government has a penchant for coming up with little nicknames for its bills, and this bill has been described by the government as the “strengthening aviation security act”. A true description of the bill would be the “violating Canadians' privacy act”, because that is exactly what the bill would do.

I want to talk a little about this, because we do not hear the government going out to the public talking about it. I have not heard the Prime Minister or any cabinet minister tell Canadians that the government is secretly negotiating a deal that would see flight information about Canadians transferred to the United States government, even if one chose not to fly to the United States.

I am going to mention two very pivotal words that I think ought to be in every parliamentarian's mind as we discuss this bill. One is “sovereignty” and the second is “privacy”, and there is a dramatic effect in violating those two principles of Canadians' rights.

If a person has the same name as someone on a list, he or she may be questioned, delayed, or even barred from flight. Even if one's name does not match, Homeland Security has told the airlines that the person may be denied a boarding pass, or if the person already has a boarding pass, he or she should be watched.

These are the kinds of real life examples and impacts that this legislation will have on Canadians.

I want to talk about what some eminent Canadians who study these issues have to say about this bill. Ms. Chantal Bernier, the Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada, testified before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in May and said:

[P]rivacy and security do not have to be at odds. In fact, they must be integrated. And they converge. They converge in this fashion: privacy commands that we collect as little information as possible, in a minimal approach, and as well in the effectiveness of security, in the sense that its effectiveness rests upon collecting only the information that is relevant.

Let us just pause here. How is it possibly relevant to the United States to know the dietary preferences, the medical conditions, the home telephone numbers, or who a Canadian rents a car from if he or she flies from Canada to Mexico for a holiday? How is that any of their business? How does that enhance security?

The Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada also said:

The first [principle] is that the right to privacy is a fundamental right that cannot be infringed upon, unless it is demonstrably necessary for the public good. It follows, then, that the collection of personal information can only occur when it is proven necessary, and it must be proportionate to that necessity.

What necessity has been demonstrated? We do not know, because this again is an agreement negotiated in secrecy.

Before we violate Canadians' right to privacy, Canadians have a right to know upon what basis that privacy is going to be infringed. Let us get the onus correct here. Canadians do not have to demonstrate why we have a right to privacy, the state has to demonstrate why it seeks to take that away. We have no evidence to suggest that there is any reasonable basis as to why Canadians need to give their information to American security institutions if Canadians are not even flying to the United States.

I want to talk about what Roch Tassé had to say when he testified before the public safety committee. He is with the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. He said:

These regulations give the U.S. access to a whole subset of information on air passengers who are not entering the U.S. but merely overflying its airspace. The program gives the government of a foreign country a de facto right to decide who gets to travel to and from Canada, since the vast majority of Canadian flights to and from Europe and all the flights, of course, to Latin America and the Caribbean will overfly U.S. territory.

Let us stop and think about that. Every single flight to Latin America, every flight to the Caribbean, and most flights to Europe would be caught by this legislation and Canadians would have to send their information to the U.S.

He also said:

There are other concerns related to Canada's sovereignty. For example, half the cabinet of Evo Morales in Bolivia are persona non grata in the United States, so if Canada were to invite one of those ministers for a diplomatic meeting in Canada it is ultimately the U.S. that would decide if that minister has the right to come to Canada after being invited by the Canadian government. The same could apply to refugee claimants from Colombia, who, even if they were admitted by Canada, could be denied the possibility of leaving their country by the U.S.

Disclosure of personal information to the Department of Homeland Security on passengers travelling to certain [controversial in the opinion of the United States] destinations, particularly Cuba, could lead to very unpleasant consequences. ... [T]his information could be used to identify Canadian companies that do business with Cuba or penalize travellers who have visited Cuba by subsequently refusing them entry to the U.S.

He asked:

How will Canada ensure that the U.S. does not use the secure flight program to apply its Helms-Burton Act, which imposes penalties on foreign companies that do business with Cuba?

His organization pointed out that it had received testimony from several Canadians who have already been intercepted as false positives by the U.S. list in Canadian airports and have been told by the Department of Homeland Security that the secure flight redress mechanism does not apply to them because the incident did not even occur on U.S. territory. Once again, that leaves Canadians with absolute restrictions on the right to travel with no mechanism for redress.

I want to talk a bit about safety and security. The government, which touts this bill as somehow strengthening security, is the same government that earlier this year cut the funding to provide armed police patrols in Canadian airports. This week the government announced that it was cutting the funding that had up to 50 air marshals on Canadian aircraft.

What keeps Canadians safer, sending private information about Canadians to the Americans when they are not even going to the United States, violating Canadians' privacy, or actually having patrols in our airports and air marshals on our aircraft? Shockingly and astonishingly, the government cut the latter two things and is selling out Canadians' privacy interests.

Ever since 9/11, we have said that we want to protect our way of life and that we do not want to give in to terrorism that would seek to disrupt the traditional rights that we enjoy, the right to privacy, the right to freedom, the right to rule of law and the right to live in a modern, mature democracy, because to do so would then, in a perverse way, allow those who practice terrorism to win.

If that is true, and that phrase has often been said by members on the government side, then let us apply that lens to this. Here we are, nine years after 9/11, and we are debating legislation in the House of Commons that would violate Canadians' privacy rights and force Canadians to send information about their personal lives to the United States security institutions when they are not even going to the United States.

This bill would effectively allow the United States to determine when Canadians can leave Canada to fly to many destinations in the world that have nothing to do with the United States. This bill violates Canadians' freedoms, mobility rights and rights to privacy and it is all done in the name of security and keeping us secure. We cannot sacrifice freedom and privacy in the name of protecting liberty. It is a vicious cycle. It does not make sense and it is illogical.

As was pointed out by Madame Bernier, we can have respect for rights, for privacy, for freedom and for mobility, and concoct an effective security mechanism in this country. This bill does not do that. This bill is a one-sided assault on Canadians' privacy, freedom and mobility.

The issue of reciprocity has also been raised and the fact that the Americans, according to what we can discern from this legislation, have put pressure on Canada to agree to these very one-sided and very unfair provisions that violate Canadians' privacy rights. We do not even know if Canada has secured a reciprocal agreement from the United States, not that I think that would make this any better. It does not make Canadians feel any better to know that American citizens may have had their privacy rights and their free movement also truncated by legislation.

What all Canadian and American citizens share in common, I believe, is that we stand up and fight for our rights to live in a free, democratic society and that we fight for our rights and respect our rights to live in a country where our privacy is respected and cherished. We do not want to give up those rights, whether we live in the United States or in Canada. This bill, which would violate those very principles, is put before the House of Commons with hardly a whimper from the other side.

I must point out what is a bit puzzling for me. The Conservatives tend to use and toss around words like “freedom and human rights” quite a bit. The Prime Minister is in Europe today talking about those very concepts in the Ukraine. He actually mentioned human rights and freedom and here we are in Canada debating a bill in the House of Commons that would violate Canadians' personal private right to control information about themselves and may potentially limit their mobility by a decision of a different government that is not even democratically accountable to its citizens. Therefore, a decision made by homeland security in the United States may determine whether someone in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto or St. John's can actually fly to the Caribbean for a holiday at Christmas. If that is a wrong decision, people would not even know and they have no mechanism to redress it.

There is a concept called responsible government and a concept of no taxation without representation. This violates those principles as well. Citizens need to have the ability to influence the policies that impact on their daily lives and that is why this bill violates that and it violates Canadians' right to sovereignty. If we make a bad law in the House of Commons, Canadians have the ability and the right to remove us from office and replace us with someone else. However, how does a Canadian get at an American politician who might make a rule or a law or implement a decision of homeland security that Canadians have no way of knowing about or even addressing? That is fundamentally unjust.

This bill, which would amend the Aeronautics Act, ought to be sent right back to the trash heap from whence it came. Canadians have a right to know exactly what agreements are being negotiated between the Canadian government and any other state about their private information and about any information that may impact or impede their ability to go where they want to go in the world.

It has already been pointed out that we have had real life examples of this. We have the case of Maher Arar. Lest Canadians think that something bad cannot happen to them, Maher Arar was picked up by authorities in the United States and sent to Syria where he spent 10 months in what has been described as a grave-like cell. The Canadian government in 2007 had to pay him over $10 million of taxpayer money because his rights were violated. Why? It was because information was used by the United States against a Canadian citizen and that person suffered torture and unbelievable harm as a result of that.

Has the government learned from that lesson? I do not think so, not if it tables legislation here that would enshrine potentially thousands of Maher Arars. Any Canadian travelling from a Canadian airport would run the risk of having his or her name and personal information similarly misunderstood and misapplied by the American security institutions with no avenue of redress. Again, that is wrong.

I want to point out again that this is not for a Canadian citizen who is flying to the United States. If that were the case, the present Aeronautics Act already allows information to go to the U.S. security apparatus if people are flying to the United States, which is reasonable because Canadians can choose not to fly to the United States if they do not want their information to go there. However, this would allow the United States to get information about a Canadian, notwithstanding that the Canadian is not flying to the United States but is choosing to fly somewhere else in world. That is astonishingly misconceived.

Canadians want to live in a secure country but they do not want to sacrifice their fundamental liberties to do so. Once again, we can live in a country where we rationalize our need for security and safety and our respect for our fundamental rights that we have as Canadian citizens living in a mature western democracy. In fact, as parliamentarians, that is exactly what we should be doing. We should always be seeking to ensure that balance is maintained.

Benjamin Franklin said that those who would sacrifice their liberty to gain a little security deserve neither.

I hope that when government members read this legislation they will go to their cabinet ministers and the minister responsible and tell them that this bill would violate our liberties and harm our constituents. Any time a constituent wants to fly to Mexico or somewhere--

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The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Thunder Bay--Superior North.

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Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway is well informed and quite erudite. I am quite impressed. I thank him for doing such a good job of describing what is happening and the implications of this bill.

I wonder if he would be willing to share his opinion on why such a silly bill is being promulgated. Is it that the Conservatives are more concerned about the wishes of foreign countries than they are about Canadians' right to privacy? Is it that the Conservatives are paranoid on this issue? Worst of all, is this a deliberate strategy, learned from George Bush and Dick Cheney, on how to instill false panic among Canadians so that they will not notice the largest deficit in Canadian history and the loss of Canadian democratic rights?

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1:25 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I remember a time in this country when Canadians were proud of the fact that their government charted an independent course on the world stage and where we acted with respect and maturity but had no problem telling other countries that we will fight for and protect Canadians' rights.

I remember a time when Canadians expected their government to stand up to attempts by governments, the U.S. government in particular, to violate Canadians' expectations of sovereignty. I cannot explain exactly why that does not seem to be a priority for the Conservative government.

The Conservative government has left a Canadian citizen languishing in Guantanamo Bay. It is the only government in the world that has let one of its nationals stay in an illegal U.S. prison in Cuba and not do anything to repatriate that person.

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An hon. member

A Canadian child.

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Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

A Canadian child at the time.

The government has failed to repatriate many Canadians convicted of crimes abroad. It wants to make it easier to refuse entrance to those Canadians to serve their sentence in Canada. Never before in my lifetime have I seen a time when the Canadian government is less interested in standing up for Canadians and protecting their rights on the world stage. This bill is further evidence of that.

This bill has been described as nothing more than a data mining exercise for U.S. security institutions to get information rapaciously about any person in the world so Americans can think they are secure. However, there are other principles besides security in this world. There is privacy, liberty, freedom, respect and sovereignty. I would commend the government to pay attention to these principles as well.

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1:30 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, in the course of this debate, we have heard quite a bit about the fact that rules are already in place that help to provide for the security of Canadian citizens. According to this bill, we would be taking this one step forward, whether it is the creation of a no-fly list or whether it is providing security information to other countries, and, invariably, the United States of America keeps coming up as one of the places that could use or possibly abuse this information. We juxtapose that with personal liberties and the fact that we respect privacy in this country and, I gather from my colleague, this bill would truly violate those liberties that we hold so dear.

With the current rules in place, how would this bill make it that much more insulting? I am not saying that I do not disagree with that but would the member just bare down the details of the bill on how this would be an insult to our personal liberties and freedoms?

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Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is obvious from a reading of the bill itself. It requires Canadian airlines, which currently control information about their passengers, to send information to the United States about every passenger, whether or not the aircraft is going to land in the United States. The plane may only touch U.S. airspace.

Under the current Aeronautics Act, information about the passengers is sent to the American authorities if the plane is going to land in the United States. That is reasonable.

But requiring Canadian airlines to give passenger information to American security institutions when the plane is not even going to land in the United States may have the effect of compelling the airline to refuse to board a person because the Americans will not let the person fly over their airspace.

In effect, the American government will determine when a Canadian citizen can fly to a non-U.S. destination.

I cannot explain it any simpler than that. It is a profound violation of Canadians' mobility rights, a fundamental abdication by the Canadian government of its responsibility toward its citizens. The government has a duty to facilitate Canadians' ability to travel where they want unless there is a good reason not to do so.

This bill eviscerates the notion of responsible government as well as Canadians' rights of privacy and sovereignty. What Canada should do is say to the United States, “With respect, we will not give you information about our Canadian citizens when our citizens are not even coming to your country”.

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Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have a practical question which I presume all Canadians would want to have answered.

What exactly is the effect of this list of information? Does this mean that the Americans can prevent a person from boarding a plane that will overfly the United States? Who is it going to apply to?

We have practical questions, complaints, and concerns from citizens. For example, if a couple shows up on a flight to Florida with their three children, and the husband has a criminal record that might be 40 years old, and the American authorities have information about the criminal record but no record of a subsequent pardon, is this man at risk of being deplaned while the children and spouse carry on? Information might be considered inconsequential in Canada but not in the U.S.

Can the member give us any assurance that this is innocuous? The member forBonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor said it would make no difference. My concern is that it makes practical differences, but we do not yet know what they are.

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Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can quote the Liberal transport critic, who said, “Canadian sovereignty has gone right out the window with this bill. You're going to be subject to American law”.

In answer to my hon. colleague from St. John's, the practical answer is yes. Yes, it means that a Canadian could be prevented from boarding an aircraft because of what the Department of Homeland Security says.

If a person's name matches someone on an American no-fly list, the person may be questioned or barred from that flight. Even if the person's name does not match, Homeland Security tells the airline in Canada whether or not the person can be issued a boarding pass.

Talk about an abdication of sovereignty. We are letting the Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. decide who gets to board an aircraft in Canada to fly from Canada to a country other than the United States. The consequences of this could be devastating.

Canadians cross the border every day to the United States, and we are stating to experience more risk of being denied entry to the United States because of information we know nothing of, with no mechanisms of redress.

The United States is trying to reach into Canada and control our travel to countries other than the United States. This is wrong. It is a violation of our sovereignty. It is a violation of Canadians' privacy. It is a fundamental question of Canadian sovereignty, and I would hope that the government stands up for those principles, as it likes to claim.

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Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, for many Canadians who are unemployed because of Conservative government's actions, and who are taking a breather from hitting the streets to look for work by watching the House of Commons on CPAC today, what they have seen is a common theme.

Earlier today, the Conservatives were trying to foster the trade bill with Panama, a country that tied for the worst in the world in the laundering of drug money. The government essentially wants to give the regime in Panama a vote of confidence and allow Canadian companies and individuals to launder money in Panama.

Here it has gone one up. Clearly, the Conservative government has jumped the shark. This was the government that was supposed to be strong on privacy, strong on crime issues, and what we are seeing is that it is encouraging money laundering. Now, as my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, said earlier, it is ripping up the rule book on the Privacy Act.

This is not a long bill. This is a bill of exactly one page, but what it says should be of some concern to all Canadians who want their personal information protected.

Regarding section 4.83 of the Aeronautics Act, this bill says, “Despite section 5 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act”, despite what currently exists, which is personal information protection and electronic document protection, it is throwing all of that out the window. Now when an aircraft leaving Canada either lands in a foreign state or flies over the foreign state, all the information that is on the passenger name record is available to the foreign state.

Let us recap. The government has thrown the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act out the window. If a person is landing in a foreign state or flying over the state going somewhere else, it is open season on that person's information.

It is hard to believe how irresponsible the government is becoming. It is not just the corruption allegations that we are hearing daily. It is not just the incredibly bloated deficit, the inability to control spending, the fake lake, or the inability to deliver any programs that actually improve the lives of Canadians. It has not destroyed health care yet, but it would like to if it were given the opportunity. It is not just that. It is that now it is doing things that are--

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The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, order. I would ask the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster to come to order when the Speaker asks him to.

The hon. member for Wetaskiwin is rising on a point of order.

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Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I respect the opinions of all members. We parliamentarians are allowed to speak on matters that are important to our country, to our constituents. However, a matter of relevance should be brought to question the hon. member's comments. I believe that he is speaking off the cuff in an attempt to filibuster this bill. If he could get back to the relevance of the bill before the House, that would be great.

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The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for Wetaskiwin. I am sure the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster will keep the rules of relevance in mind as he finishes his speech.

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Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, my comments are relevant, but it is not something Conservative members like to hear. They will be hearing it more and more, however, from the public in their ridings. When we look at the implications of Bill C-42, when we couple it with all of the other inept actions of the current government, Canadians should be really concerned about what is going to happen to their personal information.

This short bill rips up the Privacy Act. This short bill says that if we just fly over a foreign country, never mind whether we land there, all of a sudden our personal information can be passed over to the foreign state, whose laws we do not know.

Who is the current government signing this deal with? It is signing it with the United States. But it is also signing it with Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Panama. These are not countries known for their openness. In fact, Mexico rates very low on the international scale of corruption, the Dominican Republic is not a democracy, and Panama is now tied for worst in the world, according to the IRS, for laundering drug money. Yet, the Conservatives want to give the Panamanian secret service open access to Canadians' private information. That is brilliant, but not at all corresponding to what they said.

Back in 2007, the government, before it jumped ship and decided not to pay any attention to Canadians' wishes, issued a press releasing saying how strongly it opposed doing what it is doing today. It said it opposed handing over the personal information of Canadians to the U.S. It also said that the consent to give access to personal privacy records was central to Canadian privacy standards. A year later, before that first prorogation, when the government was on the ropes, it assured us that this type of program would not apply to Canadians. It said that the U.S. had said that a program of this nature would exempt countries like ours with comparable security systems.

This was in response to planted questions during question period from the government's own members.

At the time, the Minister of Transport said they were not going to go that route. The minister said, “Our government is committed to respecting the safety, security and privacy of each and every Canadian”.

Today, with Bill C-42, the government has thrown that out the window. All of its pretensions, all of its promises, like the promise to have prudent financial management, or the promise to respond to the needs of rural and northern Canadians, have been ripped up. Now we see that the commitments made in 2007, 2008, and 2009 have been ripped up and replaced by this bill, which would do the exact opposite.

What is in the passenger name record that is now being handed over to intelligence agencies in places like Panama and the Dominican Republic, simply for the act of flying over? If we want to fly over those states, the current Conservative government is saying our records are free game.

This is where it gets very interesting and very worrisome for those Canadians who value their privacy.

I know the member for Wetaskiwin will want to jump up on this, but for the government to ditch the long form census, to rip it up because of so-called privacy concerns, when it is willing to do this, is an absolute crock. It is pure hypocrisy. On the one hand, the government says it is going to rip up the long form census. On the other hand, the government says it is going to give people's personal information on the passenger records to the secret service of Panama. There is no problem at all.

For Canadians who are not aware of this, the passenger name record is a file that is created by the travel agent when the ticket is booked. This system was created by the travel industry to facilitate travel. The booking information is passed along. It is considered confidential and private. That is why in this bill the government is ripping up the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, because it is protected information now. It can contain credit card information, who a person is travelling with, where a person is staying, the person's home address and other contact information, any medical conditions the person suffers from, even what the person ate on the plane. That is the passenger name record that is protected by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which would be ripped up by the government.

Now the government is saying that personal information would be shipped to the Dominican Republic's secret service or the Panamanian secret service for the simple act of flying over part of a country to get to somewhere else. Is that absurd and irresponsible? Absolutely, but that is what the government is purporting to do in this bill.

It will be interesting to see over the course of the next few hours whether any Conservative members are going to have the guts to stand up and try to defend this action. This is in direct contradiction to the promises they made prior to the election campaign and in direct contradiction to the promises they made subsequently, even in response to Conservative members' own questions.

Does this bill that rips up the privacy act correspond in any way to the prudent collection and protection of personal information? It does not. It would be worthwhile to take a few minutes to talk about what the government should be doing and what it has not done.

For example, the European Commission has established principles for data collection that must be observed. These principles include, first, a purpose limitation. Private personal information has to 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, in other words, one purpose. That is not contained in this bill in any way.

Second is the information quality and proportionality principle. The information should be accurate and kept up to date. The information should be adequate, relevant, and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which it is transferred and further processed.

That is not in this bill at all. There are no safeguards at all. There is one paragraph on ripping up the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act with respect to air travellers, but there is nothing that replaces or puts into place any protections subsequent to that.

Third 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.

This bill does nothing of the sort. It is transferred wholesale and the individual would not even be aware that if he or she flew over Panama his or her personal credit card information may be given to the Panamanian secret service.

Fourth is the security principle. Technical and organizational security measures have to be taken by those in control of the information appropriate to the risk presented by the processing.

Again, there is not a single word of protection and security of that information in this bill.

Fifth is the right to 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 of rectification of the information that is inaccurate.

There again, there is not a single word regarding that European Commission principle on data transfer and personal information in the bill.

Sixth is the restriction on outward transfers. Transfers of 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. That is perhaps the most important.

Here we have a bill that rips up protections offered to Canadians and does not provide any of the principles that are best practices worldwide. I mentioned the European Commission. These are best practices in any industrialized first country. Yet the transfers of the personal information is given over to the Panamanian government, or to the Panamanian secret service, or to the Dominican Republic and its secret service. As we know, that country is not a democracy and yet it is included in this bill and there are no protections at all.

All six of the principles of personal information protection, security and data management are violated in the bill. It is not as if the Conservatives missed by a few words, that they almost got it right, that they really tried to protect Canadians' personal privacy and just missed one of those principles because they did it too quickly, as they do with many of their crime bills on the back of a napkin. They mess up and then the bill goes to committee and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh endeavours to fix the errors. Sometimes we are able to fix them, but sometimes the Conservatives do not co-operate. But we are not talking about missing it by an inch, or a foot, or a metre, we are talking about missing it by a country mile. The Conservatives did not include a single one of the six principles of personal information protection, not a single one. They ripped up the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and did not replace it with anything. It is open season.

If people fly over Panama, their information is gone and there is not a single element of protection in this two clause bill. The Conservatives did not seem to understand the problem, except when we go back to the commitments made over the last three years. They obviously understood in 2007 when they committed not to do this. They obviously understood in 2008 and 2009 when they said they would not do this. Now it is 2010 and they toss this bomb on the floor of the House of Commons for all Canadians who are concerned about their personal information being spread far and wide and there is not even an explanation.

The Conservatives have not stood up in the House and tried to defend or explain this bill. Maybe it is because the Prime Minister's Office has not issued its one page of speaking notes. Still, one has to wonder when they do something so irresponsibly, not ineptly in this case, because they have not responded to any of the data management protection, any of the personal information protection. They have not responded at all. They have just acted as if people can hand over their credit card information and it is okay if a Panamanian secret service agent has it. It is no problem at all, say the Conservatives.

In this corner of the House we tend to review legislation very critically. We go through it word by word. In this corner of the House we are not standing for that kind of irresponsible behaviour.

There is a wide range of people who have spoken against the bill and have raised concerns about it. I want to mention two.

Roch Tassé of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group said about this bill that the Americans will have a veto on every passenger who gets on a plane in Canada even if they passengers are not going to set foot on American soil. Mr. Tassé asked what would happen if Canada invited the ambassador from a country such as Cuba, if we now have to share that personal information even if the plane is just flying over the United States. What could the consequences be?

More important, the Air Transport Association of Canada has said:

The submission of Canadian passengers' details by Canadian airlines violates Canada's laws on the protection of personal information and electronic documents, as well as laws on aeronautics.

That is why we are seeing this bill today. Because it violates Canada's laws, the government through some subterfuge is trying to get this through the House of Commons hoping that opposition members will not be concerned about what is a wholesale handover of Canadians' personal information.

In this corner of the House, NDP members always stand up for ordinary Canadian families. We are the ones who stand up. We are the ones who have read through this document. We are saying that this is irresponsible, inappropriate and we are not going to stand for it.

The fact is that the government has put forward a bill that removes personal information protection, removes that key component and yet in no way replaces it with any of the principles of data management, of personal information protection. The fact that the government is doing this is highly irresponsible. It is something that the NDP will oppose.

As our critic, the member for Western Arctic, has said so eloquently in this House, we are not going to allow information, such as credit card information, whom people are travelling with, where they are staying, their home and other contact information, medical conditions, even such details as what people ate on the plane to be dispatched wholesale, left, right and centre, without any due regard to protection of personal privacy or protection of personal information. We are simply not going to stand for that.

Finally, I am going to cite a comment from a United Kingdom House of Lords' European Union Select Committee report on the passenger name record:

We believe that the use of PNR data for general law enforcement undesirable and unacceptable.

We have had comment after comment from people who are concerned about protection of privacy rights and people who are concerned about personal information protection. We have had very eloquent comments from a number of members of Parliament, particularly from this caucus. There has been a very strong reaction. What the government should be doing with this bill is it should be taking a step back. This is a violation of its promise and commitment to Canadians, and it should withdraw this bill. We certainly hope it will do that having heard the comments about this atrocious bit of legislation.