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House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spam.

Topics

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I stand today in third reading to speak about Bill C-28. I was involved as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on the bill, which deals with a very important matter. It was known as Bill C-27 at the time and has now progressed to being Bill C-28, and it is very encouraging to see that we are now at third reading.

First of all, I would like to stress that we must act quickly to resolve the massive problem of unsolicited electronic messages, more commonly known as “spam”.

Let us go back to 2003, when the problem was not nearly as bad as it is now. A report at the time concluded that businesses spent $27 billion on expenses related to the IT personnel needed to deal with this plague.

Who of us in this chamber have not experienced that maddening moment when we have opened up our emails and discovered that a fairly large number were unsolicited, were trying to interest us in something we were really not interested in, were trying to sell us something? Who of us have not experienced the time it has taken to get rid of these unsolicited emails? Of course many of us have now had to purchase software to try to control so-called spam, and this is adding to our annoyance with the whole thing. Even today, the ingeniousness of some people still manages to circumvent even the best spam software, and we still occasionally receive spam messages even with that best software.

Spam represents, according to the experts, 60% to 80% of all email traffic around the world. Clearly this situation is a major challenge for consumers, businesses, governments and Internet service providers. Yet the issue at hand is not limited to spam and, therefore, legislation must also remedy the use of false or misleading statements that disguise the origins or true intent of the email, the installation of unauthorized programs and the unauthorized collection of personal information or email addresses.

Whether spam comes in the form of unsolicited emails, viruses hidden in attachments—which is often the case—phishing, misrepresentations or the use of fraudulent websites, the government must take action to ensure that Canada does not fall behind.

How can we be the only G8 country and one of only four OECD countries that has not introduced legislation on spam? No one can deny the magnitude of this problem that goes beyond the simple annoyance of receiving unsolicited emails.

This practice also has huge costs for users in terms of the cost of receiving emails and text messages, as well as in terms of the users' storage capacities. Furthermore, this interferes with computer systems, which can have consequences on businesses, governments and individuals. When spam floods and completely paralyzes systems, these practices have more serious effects than anyone could imagine on the way society functions.

We often do not realize how vulnerable we are, which is why we must act quickly. In this case, there is no point reminding members that when the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament at the beginning of the year, he ruined our chance to act quickly.

The Liberal Party of Canada has not only always been concerned by this serious problem but has been very proactive on this matter. In fact the Liberal government established an anti-spam task force in May 2004 that held public consultations and round tables with key industry stakeholders. This Liberal initiative led to the 2005 anti-spam action plan for Canada, which was a call to action.

The plan comprised specific recommendations, requiring the implementation of legislative measures that: prohibit the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages; prohibit the use of false or misleading statements that disguise the origins or true intent of the email; prohibit the installation of unauthorized programs; and prohibit the unauthorized collection of personal information or email addresses.

Bill C-28 and the initiatives announced by the Conservative government followed through on the recommendations made by the Liberal anti-spam task force of 2005. However, it is worth mentioning that Bill C-27, as originally submitted by the current government, contained a number of flaws. Fortunately, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology did outstanding work and proposed recommendations that significantly improved the bill. With these amendments and with further changes recently proposed in Bill C-28, we believe the bill is achieving its main objectives.

Bill C-28 introduces legislation to deploy most of our recommendations, and therefore we are pleased to say that the government has finally decided to act on the recommendations brought forth by our task force. This said, care must taken and we will continue to monitor the legislation closely to ensure that it does not stifle legitimate electronic commerce in Canada. It is important to emphasize that the fight against spam is much more than just legislation.

The industry committee also discussed how important it is that the government take responsibility for a cohesive approach once Bill C-28 is passed. What good is this law if the authorities overseeing it cannot take action because they lack resources? What specifications will be given to the various entities that will enforce and implement the law?

The minister must submit a comprehensive enforcement plan outlining the roles of these entities, such as the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The fact is that with this many stakeholders, Industry Canada's role as coordinator will be extremely important. We must give this department the proper tools, both from a human resources and an organizational perspective.

In short, it is essential that there be a coordinated approach involving industry partners, affected organizations and concerned stakeholders in order to implement this bill, and it is in this context that the government needs to take action. It needs to provide the mechanisms to ensure that this legislation is enforced effectively. Enforcing this type of law is complex. It needs to be reviewed periodically so that we, as legislators, can cover all eventualities, such as technological advances.

I should also point it that it is becoming essential and urgent to coordinate our legislation with various countries and engage with the international community in order to harmonize measures to achieve agreed-upon objectives. Canada must now take its place and become a leader in this area.

The Liberal task force also recommended that resources be put toward co-ordinated enforcement of the law, since we all know that legislation will only go as far as the capacity and willingness to enforce the law. Hence it is of the utmost importance that the government put appropriate resources into enforcement, in its determination to work with other nations to stamp out spam.

It is also imperative that the government dedicate resources to clearly establish codes of practice. The Liberal Party of Canada will, without fail, be on task to assure that these elements are not forgotten as the process moves forward.

I am confident that we are on the right track. The members of the Liberal Party will continue to work to ensure that this bill is in line with the expectations of the people.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the research has estimated that spam costs the worldwide economy about $130 billion. This is not a recent number. This is a number that has been building up over time.

If we take that together with the fact that we are the only G8 country that does not have this legislation, and one of only four OECD countries, it begs the question of where the government's priorities are. When we think of the cost of just spam alone, and if we add all of the other abuses that affect productivity, and certainly therefore the cost to persons, business, and the Government of Canada, we have to question the minister's statement when he says that in developing this particular bill, “we have been able to incorporate the best practices of other countries that have launched similar efforts”.

If that is the case, why was Bill C-27, the predecessor to this bill, not based on the good practices of all these other countries? Does it not show that the government in fact was not really serious about making good laws and wise decisions?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned in my presentation, it was the Liberal Party in 2004 that initiated the process of looking at the very serious problem of spam. As my hon. colleague mentioned, this problem has huge cost implications for the entire planet. It is rather surprising that it has taken five years for this bill, which initially was Bill C-27, to reach third reading.

It is clear as well that Canada has not been ahead of the pack in taking the initiative to bring forward this bill. We have been a laggard on this issue. Canada is the last country in the G8 to bring forward a bill like this one. We are among only four OECD countries that do not yet have legislation on spam. The current government has been in power for almost five years and it has not given the issue of spam, with its huge cost implications, the necessary priority it should have been given.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to remind the member that we are not out of the woods yet because there is always the potential for the Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament or call an election and we would be back to square one.

The violations under this bill are not criminal offences. Members are probably aware of the recent case in which Facebook won a judgment against a Canadian spammer for $1 billion. The spammer declared bankruptcy and that was the end of the problem. The spammer received a lot of publicity in the process.

There are only fines and no criminal offences under this bill. I would therefore like the member's thoughts on what has transpired with the recent Facebook case in light of what is in this bill.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, I hope I made it clear in my presentation that we definitely are not out of the woods, as the member said. There is an important phase ahead of us, because it is one thing to have legislation but it is another thing to enforce it.

The member made a very good point. Once this legislation is put in place, there are going to be instances where people who are accused of propagating spam are challenged. The CRTC, the Competition Bureau, and the Privacy Commissioner will all be involved. The question is whether they will have the necessary teeth to enforce this piece of legislation so that the amount of spam actually will be reduced.

We are finally getting a piece of legislation, but it is like getting to first base. In time we will only know whether this piece of legislation is just window dressing or whether it will reduce the amount of spam that is literally clogging the Internet today.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the issue of enforcement is going to be critical. I am a little concerned because even the Privacy Commissioner does not have the tools to do it now. Even such matters as prevention through public education are not in the Privacy Commissioner's mandate and it has been refused by the Minister of Justice, who is responsible for that particular act, PIPEDA.

My question for the member is a fundamental one which we should probably ask about all the laws that we pass. We make the laws but other jurisdictions are accountable for enforcing them, but they do not have the resources. Have we assessed the resources that would be necessary to enhance the abilities of the federal agencies that will be involved? To what extent would other policing authorities be involved in certain circumstances? What resources have been discussed or made available for them to enforce the laws?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, to my knowledge, we have identified those bodies within the government that will have a role on the enforcement side, but we have not identified the resources. This is where we, as legislators, are going to have to be extremely vigilant after this bill has passed in watching how it is executed. The execution will be very much related to the first instances where spam propagators are challenged and action is taken. We will then discover if it takes an eternity to get anything done.

As we go along, we will have to ask whether the three bodies, the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Privacy Commissioner, have the adequate resources in order to effectively implement what is in Bill C-28.

At this point, I do not believe those resources have been identified. I think those are simply extra duties that are imposed upon those groups. We will have to be extremely vigilant to make sure that this bill not only has teeth, but that the resources are available to put it into effect.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-28, the anti-spam bill, which was formerly Bill C-27.

I have often bemoaned the lack of co-operation in the House, but this is one case where members of all partisan stripes seem to agree.

All of us and our constituents have been inundated with unwanted spam at home and at work. Spam represents about 87% of email activity around the world. At best, it is a huge waste of time and energy. It was estimated last year that over 62 trillion, and I am trying to get my head around that number, spam emails were sent out. It is done in a variety of ways. This bill would identify and eliminate some of those ways.

This bill enjoys strong public support. It certainly has the support of the New Democratic Party. This is part of the New Democratic Party's electoral platform to move forward on a number of consumer issues that we want to see implemented as law.

There will be a push to try to weaken this bill. There are some elements in this bill that make it a really strong and good bill for Canadians and Canadian businesses because it affects our economy.

Canada is actually in the top 10 when it comes to generating and receiving spam. Canada is the only G8 country that does not have the kind of legislation that Bill C-28 represents. Once again, we are behind but we can catch up with this bill quite significantly and have one of the better models to deal with this important issue.

Approximately 1 out of 20, or 5%, of the spam in the world comes from Canada. Canada is known as a harbour for some of the big spammers. I believe we stand fourth in the world in terms of spamming, behind Russia and just ahead of Brazil. An Ipsos Reid poll found recently that approximately 130 spam messages are received by Canadians each week. That is troubling because it is up 51% from just the year before. Speaking for myself, both at work and at home I get quite a bit more than 130 spam emails.

It is not just the irritation of removing unwanted messages and solicitations; it is also time consuming. Employers are worried about the time it takes and the cost to their businesses. As a small business owner myself, I know how taxing spam can be on my computer system's efficiency. It puts my computers at risk and lowers my employees' productivity.

Some may argue that businesses have the right to inundate us with these kinds of messages, but really it is a privilege. No one has an absolute right to inundate us with emails, especially when many spammers use malware and other kinds of spyware to gain data on us regarding where we shop online, what our online consumer habits are, et cetera.

Interestingly, the bill provides for windows of opportunity for businesses with existing relationships to make that connection with their customers. One idea is an 18-month extension in terms of a previous existing business relationship. That makes sense. The Bloc moved a motion to extend that grace period on previous business relationships to 24 months. I strongly disagree with extending it to 24 months. Eighteen months is long enough.

Once this law is in place, there will be three regulatory agencies to punish spammers. The CRTC will investigate complaints. The Competition Bureau will slap on fines of up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million in all other cases. The Privacy Commissioner will get involved when people's privacy is violated.

The part about the Privacy Commissioner is important because far too often spammers have used headliners that look like many banks' headliners, and then people click on them, and I have almost done it a few times, thinking it is their bank, but it turns out that it is a spammer seeking to collect data and information on them, perhaps to create fraud.

There have been cases where people have lost money, thinking it was their own financial institution or a legitimate financial institution. They provided access to some of their monetary resources and suffered financial losses. This is shameful and should not be happening in a country like Canada.

There is going to be recourse to show those who bombard us with spam and those who have to deal with it that there will be real punishments, that it will be more than just a fine, that it is going to be significant for them to deal with and hopefully it will help to curb this behaviour.

One of the reasons that the bill will be strong is it would have those three regulatory agencies actively involved in maintaining the accountability of the actual bill. Interestingly enough, there was a bit of a debate about whether or not this bill should deal with the telephone solicitation issues. It would not. However, at the same time, it would allow the minister actually some degree of ability and capability, and quite frankly, a bit more strength to work on the do not call list.

It is also important to note that there was another issue in the bill that was defeated. It is important to recognize that, because it is an issue that people are concerned about. In the original manifestations of the bill there was a provision that would have allowed companies to go onto our computers and seek information regarding that computer site. If we had agreed to them being part of our Internet relationship, we would be consenting or allowing them to go onto our computer and access information and documents, and basically surf through our site, at times unknown to us. That issue was taken off the table as well, thank goodness.

There was great Internet discussion and blogging about this offensive piece of legislation. I was happy to see that this was removed as well. It is important because had that provision been there, as well as the other provisions I have mentioned that were taken out, I do not know whether I could have supported this legislation because it would have weakened it so much. It would have become far weaker than even the do not call registry, which is pretty weak. It is very fortunate that we were able to get consensus and push that back.

As well, there were a couple of amendments that were interesting, and I was rather curious as to how they came forward. We will see whether or not, in the Senate, they will be pushed forward again.

One of them came from the Bloc, and that was the extension of the time to actually opt out of an email subscription. The way it works is if I, for example, agree to receive an email and I have a relationship with a company, or if someone is sending me that information, then I could opt out of that later on. I would just send an email that I do not want to continue this relationship. The way the legislation was, in 10 days, I would be taken off the list. The Bloc moved a motion for it to be 30 days. The final part of the bill is now 10 business days.

If we agree to an email through our bank or somewhere else, they will instantly start spamming or sending information. Once we agree, they start flying in. I have Aeroplan points, for example, from Air Canada, and then boy, that thing rings all the time with all kinds of stuff. I have agreed to that relationship and sometimes it is helpful. Sometimes it is irritating, but I make that choice. To suggest that I want that out and that it would take 30 days to get out of that is absolute nonsense, especially with the sophistication of some of today's programs. Ten business days is more than sufficient time within which to end that relationship.

As well, it is important to reinforce the issues of how serious spam is. Spam is used in crime. Spam is also used in an organized way that affects the whole Internet capacity of the system. We just have to look at some of the botnets. This is like a zombie computer where specific programs are written to go in and turn our computers into a generator for spam, or our email address for someone else who controls a whole grid of computers.

I hope to see the bill passed and I hope to not see it watered down in our unelected Senate. One of the interesting results of the American legislation that was passed was the conviction of Robert Alan Soloway who was arrested in the United States. He was one of the world's largest spammers. Among the 35 counts that he was charged with were not only identity theft and fraud, but also money-laundering.

I want to touch on companies too because some of the market they invest in gets lost or hurt because of spamming. Some of the spamming is very particular, very effective and professional-appearing in imaging and induces people to think it is something it is not, such as, for example, the banking industry as I have already mentioned. It costs the banking industry because it loses customers. People then do not want to trust that company because others have abused the site that appeared to be theirs.

That is why we do not want to lose sight of the criminal aspect of this as well. We must move the bill through as quickly as possible. It has taken long enough to get through committee, despite the noble efforts of my colleague, the hon. member for Windsor West, who has worked hard and smart on the bill.

Let us show Canadians that the government can get useful things accomplished for Canadians.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, earlier there was a discussion in the House about enforcement and making it work, and this is an area of serious concern. The member has now raised the criminal element, which is not part of the bill effectively, except that the spam aspect is only one aspect of the problems we are facing. They include matters such as spyware, malware, computer viruses, phishing, viral attachments, false and misleading emails, and use of fraudulent websites and harvesting electronic addresses, all of which cause a lot of difficulty to individuals as well as businesses.

My concern, and that of a number of constituents, for a very long time has been on the issue of phishing, particularly with regard to those representing themselves as being a bank, using official logos of banks, and suggesting that an account has been suspended and if people respond to it, it will be taken care of for them, which is of course simply a mechanism to get people drawn into a problem.

The question has to do with international collaboration with other countries because most of this stuff does not happen or does not originate within Canada. The bounds of our legislation only allow us to deal and to monitor those basically in the domestic environment. The question for the member is whether or not this legislation has maybe missed the opportunity to set up a specific body with resources to be able to collaborate with international partners, all the other G8 countries who are there already with good legislation, to find out and track down those who are a big part of the problem in Canada.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, those are good points and a thoughtful question by the hon. member.

Most days I consider myself to be a sophisticated business person, a member of Parliament, and a sophisticated scrutineer of my own spam. I must admit that many of these phishing expeditions have raised my hackles, made my blood pressure go up, and raised my concern when what appears to be my bank or my Internet provider lets me know that my account has been compromised, that action needs to be taken, et cetera. So I can only imagine what a senior citizen who is perhaps new to email banking or email access, or another person who has not had a lot of sophisticated experience, experiences when this happens. The hon. member's comments underscore the importance of taking quick action.

I also agree that after this bill, which is a good start but does not go far enough, we need to go further. We need to taken international action. We need to co-operate. One would have thought that $1.1 billion for the G8 summit would have resulted in meaningful things including this kind of activity where we actually start to show effective co-operation on issues that are important to Canadians.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the bill actually gives the agencies power to deal with information with the international counterparts, as the member has mentioned, of the G8 countries. Canada is the only one without such legislation.

When the legislation is in place it will give the power for co-operation with the other countries involved with this type of legislation.

However, I go back to my original point on the last question about the fact that there are no criminal offences under the bill. The penalty is just a fine.

We have already seen an example where Facebook spent a lot of money getting a judgment against a spammer for, I believe it was, $1 billion. The spammer declared bankruptcy and that was the end of the case.

If there were to be some criminal offences in the bill I would think a spammer might think twice about spamming if the spammer was going to be spending some time in jail as opposed to receiving a fine and the spammer simply declares bankruptcy.

There has been absolutely no effect so far in stopping these people because they simply declare bankruptcy whenever they get caught.

Does the member have any observations about whether criminal offences might have been a positive addition to the bill?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, it never ceases to amaze me the attention to detail the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona has. He is sophisticated and well read on many subjects. I thank him for the additional comments.

I would absolutely agree, as I underscored in my speech, that we need to go further. Criminal sanctions are needed against this kind of activity.

It is clear to me that one of the fastest rising kinds of crime in Canada is not crime caused by poverty, nor crime in the blue collar community. It is white collar crime.

In the ancient Greek city states, if a poor person stole, the person was reprimanded and helped. If a rich person stole, the person was executed. In our modern western societies, and all too often here in Canada, if a poor person steals the person is sent to Stony Mountain to be hardened and abused. If a rich person steals we allow the person to go bankrupt and the person moves on to do it again and again.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, recently we had a bill that required Internet service providers to report when they found out that there was sexual exploitation of children. This concept of proactive response or feedback leads me to the question of banks.

I received some of these phishing emails and I took them to the banking institution. Its response has been dismissive.

This seems to me that if one is not part of the solution, one is part of the problem.

I am not sure whether or not this is the kind of thing we can deal with in terms of specific jurisdictions but I would think that the issue of public education and a protocol or perhaps a proactive checklist for Canadians on how people can protect themselves, on what they can do to report, makes eminent sense. Prevention is a far better approach to a problem than dealing with the problem after there is one.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, once again the hon. member has raised a good point.

There are banks that do not seem to think they have a partnership with the Canadian public. They think it is okay to charge their clients excessive credit card charges, to charge small businesses excessive bank, Visa and MasterCard processing fees, but think that they have little responsibility to protect their clients, average Canadians, from these kinds of abuses.

Hopefully we will gain a Canadian banking system that is not only profitable but responsible and co-operative with its lenders.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, when I was first elected in the summer 2004, spam was a burgeoning issue, but it was something that was focused. Everyone's Internet account was getting inundated with spam and solicitations of a nefarious nature. In 2004 the activity was measured at $130 billion worldwide. One has to wonder exactly how it goes from zero to $130 billion in a very short period of time.

The situation has proliferated to the point where it has become oppressive to individuals who have email accounts and certainly for small businesses with accounts. In dealing with spam and unsolicited emails, we are at a point where the system has been clogged. Now 80% of the information traffic to our computers and PDAs constitutes what we know as spam.

That was then and this is now. Not only has the situation been exacerbated by the fact that so many people are trying to get involved in unsolicited emails and are becoming much better at, the system is allowing them to become much faster and in many cases more elusive. We have several platforms by which people can do this.

As imaginative as we can be when it comes to the world as an extension of who we are, since 2004, we have had the proliferation of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Also an abundance of texting has taken place. We know it is not only the computer on our desks at home or at the office, it now travels with us all day no matter where we go because it is much more compact.

Back in 2004, about six months after I was elected, an anti-spam task force was established. At that time, experts were gathered because it was a pressing issue. Let us remember, it is not only the domestic issue at which we are looking. Sometimes we extensively deal in a domestic nature in the House with issues such as the economy, social security, pensions and employment insurance. Sometimes these serve as models for the world to follow, such as our Canada pension plan.

Now we are now completely intertwined with the world. As we know, electronic commerce, or e-commerce, knows no boundaries. It surpasses all that CBSA can put out there. It travels around the globe instantaneously. We are able to connect to the world in a way we never thought possible. I am not saying that is a bad thing. It is absolutely wonderful if we are to achieve a common understanding around the globe. However, it becomes problematic when we have to create domestic legislation to follow suit on international agreements. Therein lies the crux of what we are doing.

Other members have pointed out, and I would wholeheartedly agree, that we are behind the eight ball when it comes to this type of legislation. Legislation has been addressed in other G8 nations and it has gone farther than we have. Now we find ourselves in the situation where we are playing catch up with the rest of the world.

However, that is one issue. We still have to do our due diligence within the House, through debate and committee work, so we can create legislation that has teeth and is effective.

The second phase of this follows from the legislation we create in the House, and that is the enforcement of it, which is very important. This is why the myriad of agencies, as mentioned in this debate, have been brought into this in order to enforce it.

I mentioned the international component of this. Being from the east coast, primarily Newfoundland and Labrador, we have dealt with legislation on an international perspective when it comes to our fisheries. As many past politicians from Newfoundland and Labrador have said, “borders are borders, but fish can swim”, and they swim over borders.

Therefore, the international scope of this issue is much like issues of climate change. Many of the models created to govern our resources are created in international forums. For fisheries, it is the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, NAFO. For climate change, it is the United Nations and other avenues and even the Council of Europe for that matter.

This agreement has taken place through international governance. Now we have to follow with our own domestic legislation. That goes a long way in cluing up and taking our place in the world to deal with this issue.

I have compiled some background information. My compliments to the Library of Parliament for this legislative summary. I want to congratulate Ms. Alysia Davies for compiling this information. She did a fantastic job. She is with the legal and legislative division, Parliamentary Information and Research Service.

There are a few clauses in the bill that deal with the situation at hand.

Following the work of the task force, we had the first go around with Bill C-27. When it made its way through committee, certain changes were brought forward by the committee, as well as the government and the department, which have been incorporated for the most part. That too follows a great debate. Following the prorogation, the bill died on the order paper. Now we are with Bill C-28 and we will do our due diligence yet once again.

As Bill C-27, it was known as the electronic commerce protection act. We now incorporate items that were added to the former ECPA as government amendments during its original passage when it was Bill C-27.

As with the previous bill, the new bill, called “fighting Internet and wireless spam act”, would amend four existing acts that deal with telecommunications regulation, competition and privacy. Among other changes, these amendments designate the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, commonly known as the CRTC, as the main regulator of the fighting Internet and wireless spam act. Also, both the Commissioner of Competition and the Privacy Commissioner will play enforcement roles related to their respective mandates.

There may be some questions. For example, one question earlier in the debate was about the Privacy Commissioner not being mandated to educate the public. That is a very valid point because then it falls within the realm of justice. That certainly needs to be brought out in the House and we need to have a thorough debate as to exactly who will to educate on what is not right, not legal and what fines may result.

My hon. colleague from Manitoba brought up the idea of prosecution for the sake of criminal charges being laid. Right now we are dealing with just fines, but that too should be addressed. In future, this may be re-addressed in this legislation.

I also want to talk about the four pillars. This is a combination of a process that began with the anti-spam action plan in 2004. That was a private sector task force, chaired by Industry Canada, to examine the issue of unsolicited commercial email, which we now know as spam.

By the end of 2004, spam, which is in many ways the electronic equivalent of junk mail, had grown to encompass 80% of global email traffic. Imagine a mailbox with 80% of its mail being junk mail. Many would say that is already happening, and in some cases I am sure it is.

Nonetheless, 80% is a high number because it is so easy and cheap to put out these emails. Typing something in, either a scam or something close to a scam, and feeding it to the masses electronically is much easier than doing it with physical paper.

The task force on spam led the action plan at a round table of national stakeholders in December 2004. We received feedback through announcements in the Canada Gazette and in a dedicated online forum. It issued a report in May 2005. That report recommended, among other measures, legislation specifically aimed at combatting spam, which we are dealing with today. It is a second incarnation of a spam act. The federal government introduced a first attempt back in the 42nd session.

I want to thank two gentlemen from the Senate who did a lot of work prior to this. First is Senator Donald Oliver. Second is former Senator Yoine Goldstein from Montreal, who did a tremendous amount of work on this issue. We owe both former Senator Goldstein and Senator Oliver a debt of gratitude.

The spam act can be seen as a complement to the e-commerce legislation that has gradually been developing in each of the Canadian provinces and territories over the past 10 years.

We owe a debt gratitude to provincial legislation that started back in 1998 under the uniform electronic commerce act created by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. The provincial and territorial acts have thus far served as the underpinning for burgeoning e-commerce sectors across the country. We also owe a debt of gratitude to many of the respective provincial ministers for helping us create the bill in front of us today. Eventually we will deal with the enforcement aspects of it.

Basically what came from that, the main federal legislation related to e-commerce, was the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, or PIPEDA, which governs privacy requirements for private sector organizations and electronic documents within federal jurisdiction and in provinces or territories that have not yet established their own similar legislation. This is typical for many pieces of legislation since the inception of Parliament.

As I mentioned, Canada is the last of the G8 countries to introduce specific anti-spam legislation domestically, and a lot of this came from what was negotiated in international fora. Some existing Criminal Code provisions were identified by the task force as being of possible assistance in prosecuting spam cases. The task force worked on this with the Department of Justice and the Technological Crime Branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 2004 and 2005.

This is another element of the bill that should be engaged to a greater degree. We are still on the cusp of understanding the influence that spam emails have around the world. In six years we have come a long way in electronic commerce. We have gone from the nuisance of spam email to Facebook and social media, such as Twitter and other forms of apps, iPads, and so forth. Members get the idea. The platforms are evolving, but the people who are behind the criminal aspect of spam, and some not so criminal, are adapting around the platforms that currently exist. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to try to keep up to date, to ensure people are informed as to what they can and cannot do and to allow the government agencies, at arm's-length, to deal with the enforcement of these issues.

I mentioned the technological crime branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the requirements to bring a charge under the existing provisions. However, when the task force report was published, these provisions had not been used for this purpose, so questions remain around that.

Other agencies, such as the office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Competition Bureau, have received complaints from members of the public about spam as well and there was no overarching framework for addressing such complaints. We can see the genesis of this. At the time, the task force was able to tell them to deal with the issue of the Criminal Code and deal the fact that our government agencies are inundated with complaints and that we have to marry the two. The fine situation we have right now was a result of that. That is something we need to address at a future date.

The legislation would provide a clear regulatory scheme, including administrative monetary penalties, or AMPs, with respect to both spam and related threats from unsolicited electronic contact, including, which is the important part, identity theft, phishing, spyware, viruses and botnets. It would also grant an additional right of civil action to businesses and consumers targeted by the perpetrators of such activities. Therein lies another aspect of taking these people to court. Does it hold enough teeth is the expression and this is what I have a few reservations about.

For descriptions and analysis, clause 2, for example, contains its own definition of what we call commercial activity. It is different from the one in PIPEDA, the legislation that served as the paramount legislation for dealing with spam. It does not modify the existing definition to that act but builds on the PIPEDA wording of “any particular transaction, act or conduct or any regular course of conduct that is of a commercial character”, and adds the qualification “whether or not the person who carries it out does so in the expectation of profit”.

Therefore, we get the incentive for doing this when we talk about unsolicited emails and other nefarious activities that I described earlier, the botnets, the spyware and those sorts of things, because those are the programs that are adapting, for a nefarious nature, to solicit from us money taken under circumstances that consumers would consider to be not right. Therefore, it tries to define that for the sake of profit.

It does reflect an intention to widen the scope of who could be considered responsible under the new law in cases where spamming or other activity occurs, possibly implicating Internet service providers, or ISPs, or even those whose computers are being used for spamming without their awareness or consent. We can see how this has taken place.

A lot of situations have developed since we first started the task force about six years ago that this legislation has to address. A lot of that came out of the committee work on Bill C-27 and now enacted within this. Part of clause 2 acknowledges that.

There are also provisions discussed in further detail, which I will talk about in just a little while, but one of the situations was telemarketers and what we call the DNCL, the do not call list, which members of Parliament receive a lot of calls about. I would say that over the past six years of being here, I have certainly dealt with a lot of that and the bill would address it to an extent.

Eighty per cent of global traffic regarding spamming is an incredible amount of activity. This is what this legislation attempts to address. There are key provisions in clauses 7 to 10 and 13.

One of the situations that subclause 7(6) originally added to the predecessor bill through a government amendment that was before the House of Commons under the industry, science and technology committee specified that the prohibitions on sending a commercial or electronic message do not apply to quotes or estimates for the supply of a product, goods, a service, land or an interest or right in land, if the message was requested by the recipient. Therefore, this bill would not impede on the normal course of e-commerce.

We need to face the fact that those businesses, especially the small and medium size businesses, the SMEs, have been successful through the world of Internet and therefore we want to ensure this legislation will not impede upon their efforts to create business and to solicit in what I would call a way that is consistent with good consumer practice.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, Canada is the only G7 country without anti-spam legislation. It was only a matter of time before spammers began to take advantage of our country. Canada ranks fifth worldwide as a source of web-based email spam, trailing only Iran, Nigeria, Kenya and Israel.

The recent Facebook case that has been referred to has placed the spotlight on Canada's ongoing failure to address its spam problem by introducing long overdue anti-spam legislation. That case is only the latest illustration that government inaction has had an impact.

The fact that organizations are forced to use U.S. courts and laws to deal with Canadian spammers points to an inconvenient truth that Canadian anti-spam laws are woefully inadequate and we are rapidly emerging as a haven for spammers eager to exploit our weak legal framework.

I wonder if my colleague would care to expand on the effect that Canada's lack of action legislatively has had on the development of Canada as a haven for spammers who do so much damage to our economy.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member raised an extremely valid point. What ends up happening is that we become that international laggard that we do not want to be.

I am not only talking about this. I am talking about copyright as well. Copyright legislation has been passed and is currently in a special committee. This is one of the issues that comes up dramatically in international fora. Right now we are in the process of working on a comprehensive free trade agreement. What is comprehensive? Does that have any attachment to it? Yes, it does. The agreement is with the European Union and it will be one of the most extensive, detailed, intricate free trade agreements that we have with any other entity. The European Union and its 27 nations thereof have well over 800 million people.

The reason I raise that is because it ties into my colleague's point. This is the type of legislation that we need to be out in front on in order to get involved in free trade agreements in earnest. A lot of people will refrain from interacting with us in international fora and, even on a bilateral basis, if we do not have legislation that deals with spam emails and spam activity, or copyright for that matter that we are currently going through. It is almost like we have been catching up over the past while and it is unfortunate that we are in this situation. The government needs to improve that and, as legislators, we need to follow suit.

The member also raised the point that this deals with electronic commerce in general. Boy, is Canada a player. He mentioned that we are fifth in the world when it comes to spam. For a country of 30 million to 35 million people, that is an extensive amount of activity on a per capita basis given that we are fifth in the world. With only a small population, it gives us an idea of just how intertwined we are as nation, our citizens from coast to coast to coast, with not only the Internet, but e-commerce, copyright and free trade. We are incredible exporters but, unfortunately, if we are going to export not only the good stuff but the bad stuff as well, then we need to get our own house in order.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague mentioned that we did not go as far as other G8 countries, that we are playing catch-up and that in the vast evolving technology we will be playing catch-up for a lot longer.

My concern is that the bill includes fines but no criminal sanctions. It also does not provide a mechanism for us to even attempt to look at international information-sharing agreements so that there can be some co-operation and collaboration among countries to start to deal with this problem, because so many of these near fraudulent activities, or the process of committing fraud, originate internationally and are beyond the reach of our legislation.

If we are going to be playing catch-up for the foreseeable future, why would the government not consider an approach, such as the one we have in the Income Tax Act called the general anti-avoidance provisions, which basically says that, notwithstanding any other law that we have here or what the act says, if we determine that someone has found a new way to get around the law, he or she will be caught under the law in any event, because it is achieving the same thing that we were trying to deal with? It is trying to deal with it using a proactive approach.

Is the member aware of the government having made any indication whatsoever that it really wants to deal with this problem that carries approximately a $130 billion price tag around the world?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comment about the Income Tax Act because I was not aware of that. It is a good point because there is no doubt about it. The way this legislation is set up and with the international context of it, it needs to build in that degree of flexibility with which people can do the right amount of enforcement.

Has the government gone as far as to be a visionary and seek out the people who are up to no good? I do not particularly see it within this legislation. The sanctions being brought forward in this bill do not include the criminal aspect, but that may be an oversight on the government's part. Nonetheless, I hope that in the next little while we will look at a degree of flexibility within our international agreements with which we can use that. The income tax model that he talks about would be a fantastic model.

I do have the reservations that he has about the lack of criminal sanctions in this. The CRTC does have a fair number of teeth in this, but the problem with that is that I do not feel that the CRTC ever did have enough teeth, whether on domestic policy or now dealing with the international context. Nonetheless, it does go further than what it has been and maybe that is a sign of better things ahead.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, to put this in some context, Canada is estimated to be the source of nine billion spam messages a day, which is about 5% of the worldwide spam traffic. It has been estimated by Cisco Systems that 200 billion spam messages are sent every day in this world. To put this in perspective for Canadians who may be watching this or following this issue, that is double the volume of spam messages sent last year. Therefore, it is a growing problem.

Part of what this bill would do, which follows the spam task force's recommendation from 2004, is the establishment of a private right of action to facilitate lawsuits against Canadian-based spammers. ECPA, the act under consideration, would create a new right that would allow for such lawsuits with penalties that reach a maximum of $1 million per day. This private right of action extends beyond just violations of ECPA, as it includes contravention of the new PIPEDA provision and the Competition Act provisions as well.

My friend has already mentioned that he is concerned about the lack of criminal sanctions that are in this bill, but in terms of the private civil rights of actions, I would be interested in hearing his views on whether he thinks that those will be effective in helping to address this serious problem that really irritates and affects millions of Canadians every day.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I have always thought that monetary sanctions are an effective tool to be used. The problem is a price has to be fixed to that and to be effective, it has to be the right amount that punishes the right people. A fine of $1 million would be a lot different for one person than it would be for another person. A fine of $1 million for an individual or a group could have a crippling effect and it would change the individual's or group's behaviour. I will not mention any companies, but for a larger entity, $1 million is petty cash. We are in a situation of determining what is effective and what is not. We have to come up with numbers that in this situation go further than what has been seen with PIPEDA. Nonetheless, to a certain extent it may not be far enough.

There is the amendment to the act, that is, the provision incorporating the new powers of the CRTC by clause 70, and things such as the definition of electronic message and of sanctions, even though it lacks the criminality charge of it. I do believe this is a step in the right direction.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise here today to speak to Bill C-28, once known as the Fighting Wireless and Internet Spam Act.

I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of Bill C-28, which was previously known as Bill C-27, but which died on the order paper at prorogation. A number of minor changes have been made, but the overall text, its objectives and key elements remain the same.

New legislation that specifically targets unsolicited commercial electronic messages has been needed and requested by society as a whole for some time now. Governments, Internet service providers, network operators and consumers are all affected by the problem of spam. Preserving the efficiency of legitimate electronic commerce is a vital and pressing issue. Not only are commercial emails sent with the prior and ongoing consent of the recipient important to electronic commerce, but they are also essential to the development of the online economy.

The Bloc Québécois is pleased to see that Bill C-28 takes into account most of the recommendations in the final report of the task force on spam. On the other hand, we are upset that the legislative process has taken four long years. Computer technology is evolving at astonishing speeds, and spammers keep finding new ways to achieve their goals. Accordingly, consideration of the bill in committee should give many industry stakeholders and consumer protection groups an opportunity to express their views on the proposed Electronic Commerce Protection Act. A number of other points also need to be examined in committee and I will come back to those points later on in my speech.

The task force on spam was struck in 2004 to look into this problem, which is constantly evolving, and to find ways of dealing with it. The task force heard from Internet service providers, electronic marketing experts and government and consumer representatives.

In all, more than 60 stakeholders took part in the discussions, providing input on issues such as legislation and law enforcement, international co-operation, and public education and awareness. In addition to launching an Internet-based consumer awareness campaign entitled “Stop Spam Here” to inform users of steps they can take to limit and control the volume of spam they receive, the task force on spam presented its final report to the Minister of Industry on May 17, 2005.

Entitled “Stopping Spam: Creating a Stronger, Safer Internet”, this report calls for new, targeted legislation and more rigorous enforcement to strengthen the legal and regulatory weapons that Canada could use in the global battle against spam.

The report also supports the creation of a focal point within government for coordinating the actions taken to address the spam issue and other related problems like spyware.

Among the report's key recommendations are more vigorous legislation and enforcement and legislation to prohibit spam and protect personal information and privacy, as well as computers, emails and networks.

The proposed legislation is designed to allow individuals and companies to sue spammers and hold any businesses whose products and services are promoted using these means partially responsible for spamming activity.

In addition, new and existing resources of the organizations responsible for the administration and enforcement of anti-spam laws should be strengthened.

The task force recommended creating a centre to coordinate the government's anti-spam initiatives. This focal point would coordinate policy and education campaigns and support law enforcement efforts. It would also receive complaints and compile statistics on spam.

To curb the volume of spam reaching users, the task force developed a series of industry best practices for Internet service providers, network operators and email marketers. Examples include allowing ISPs and other network operators to block email file attachments known to carry viruses and to stop emails with deceptive subject lines.

As well, email marketers would be required to obtain informed consent from recipients to receive emails, provide an opting-out mechanism for further emails and create a complaints system. The report recommends that these groups voluntarily adopt, regularly review and enhance the best practices.

To help change people's online behaviour, the task force created an online public education campaign called “Stop Spam Here”. Launched in 2004, the website offers consumers, volunteer organizations and businesses practical tips for protecting their personal information, computers and email addresses. The task force recommended that all partners continue to enhance the site's content.

Since most of the spam reaching Canadians comes from outside the country, international measures to stem spam are vital. Therefore, the task force proposed that the government continue its efforts to harmonize anti-spam policies and to improve cooperation among all countries to enforce anti-spam laws.

Four years later, on April 24, 2009, the Government of Canada finally introduced new legislation to protect electronic commerce, namely, Bill C-27. Inspired primarily by the final report of the task force on spam, Bill C-27 established a framework to protect electronic commerce. To achieve that, the bill would enact the new Electronic Commerce Protection Act, or ECPA. Basically, this act would set limits on the sending of spam.

Spam can be defined as any electronic commercial message sent without the express consent of the recipient. It can be any electronic commercial message, any text, audio, voice or visual message sent by any means of telecommunication, whether by email, cellular phone text messaging or instant messaging. Considering the content of the message, it would be reasonable to conclude its purpose is to encourage participation in a commercial activity, including an electronic message that offers to purchase, sell, barter or lease a product, goods, a service, land or an interest or right in land, or a business, investment or gaming opportunity.

Note that the following types of commercial messages, which appear in clause 7, are not considered to be spam: messages sent by an individual to another individual with whom they have a personal or family relationship; messages sent to a person who is engaged in a commercial activity and consists solely of an inquiry or application related to that activity; messages that are, in whole or in part, an interactive two-way voice communication between individuals; messages sent by means of a facsimile to a telephone account; messages that are a voice recording sent to a telephone account; a message that is of a class, or is sent in circumstances, specified in the regulations.

This means that, under this legislation, sending spam to an electronic address—email, instant messenger, telephone or any other similar account—would be prohibited. The only circumstances under which it would be allowed is when the person to whom the message is sent has consented to receiving it, whether the consent is express or implied

In addition to being in a form that conforms to the prescribed requirements, the message will have to make it possible to identify and contact the sender. Lastly, the message must include an unsubscribe mechanism, with an email address or hyperlink, so that the recipient can indicate that he or she does not want to receive any further commercial electronic messages from the sender.

The bill would also prohibit altering the transmission data in an electronic message so that it is delivered to destinations other than that specified by the initial sender. In addition, the bill would prohibit installing a computer program on another person's computer and sending an electronic message from that computer without the owner's consent.

There are provisions for administrative recourse. Anyone who contravenes, even indirectly, any of these provisions would be liable to an administrative monetary penalty, or AMP, if the computer used is located in Canada. The maximum AMP is up to $1 million for individuals and up to $10 million in all other cases. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, will be responsible for investigating complaints and, when necessary, imposing the penalties. Furthermore, the CRTC will have the authority to apply for an injunction if it finds that a person is about to or is likely to carry out a violation.

In order to carry out these inquiries, the CRTC would have interesting powers. It could require a person to preserve transmission data, produce a copy of a document that is in their possession or prepare a document based on data, information or documents that are in their possession. It could even conduct a site visit in order to gather such information or, if necessary, to establish whether there was a violation under clauses 6 to 9. Note that it will have to get a warrant from a justice of the peace prior to entering premises.

An individual who refuses or fails to comply with a demand under clauses 15, 17 or 19 will be guilty of an offence and subject to a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offence and up to $25,000 for repeat offences. Businesses will be subject to a fine of up to $100,000 for a first offence and $250,000 for repeat offences.

There are also private remedies. Bill C-28 provides for the creation of a private right of action, modelled on U.S. legislation, that would enable businesses and individuals to initiate civil proceedings against any person who contravenes clauses 6 to 9 of the new act.

If the court believes that a person has contravened any of these provisions, it may order that person to pay an amount corresponding to either the loss or damage suffered or the expenses incurred. If the applicant is unable to establish these amounts, the court may order the applicant to be paid a maximum amount of $200 for each contravention, up to a maximum of $1 million.

Bill C-28 also proposes an extension of the co-operation and information exchange powers for anything that has to do with the Competition Act, the Telecommunications Act or the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

For example, any organization to which part 1 of that act applies may on its own initiative disclose to the CRTC, the Commissioner of Competition or the Privacy Commissioner any information in its possession that it believes relates to a violation of the act. The CRTC, the Commissioner of Competition or the Privacy Commissioner must also consult with each other and may share any information necessary to carry out their activities and responsibilities in accordance with the act.

Over the years, unsolicited commercial electronic messages have turned into a major social and economic problem that undermines the business and personal productivity of Quebeckers. Not only does spam impede the use of email for personal communication, but it also threatens the growth of legitimate e-commerce.

The Internet has become an essential tool for commerce and communication in general. According to the government, the online marketplace represents an important segment of the Canadian and Quebec economies. In fact, there was $62.7 billion in sales in 2007. In 2009, e-commerce reportedly surpassed $8.75 trillion. But the Internet and e-commerce are also becoming increasingly vulnerable and threatened.

Spam accounts for more than 80% of global electronic traffic, which results in considerable expenses for businesses and consumers. Spam is a real nuisance. It damages computers and networks, contributes to deceptive and fraudulent marketing scams, and invades people's privacy. On a larger scale, spam directly threatens the viability of the Internet as an efficient means of communication, undermines consumer confidence in legitimate e-businesses and hinders electronic transactions. And in the end, everyone loses.

The need for new legislation dealing with unsolicited electronic messages has been urgent for far too long. The Bloc Québécois is pleased to see that Bill C-28 covers most of the recommendations made by the task force on spam. However, we deplore the fact that the legislative process has taken four long years. Computer technology is evolving at astonishing speeds, and spammers keep finding new ways to achieve their goal. In terms of information technology, four years is an eternity.

Consideration of the bill in committee should give many industry stakeholders and consumer protection groups an opportunity to express their views on the relevance of new electronic commerce protection legislation. The committee should also study the exchange of information between the CRTC, the Commissioner of Competition and the Privacy Commissioner. And while we want these exchanges to take place in order to maximize the efficiency of the ECPA, any personal information that is shared must always remain confidential. This is even more critical because this information could be shared with foreign states. The question of vigilance in relation to protecting commercial ties between businesses and consumers will also be studied in committee. And although the ECPA's provisions on this subject may seem to be sufficient, industry evidence must be considered because this legislation cannot slow down the use of the Internet as a catalyst for and facilitator of trade.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, each day when we start the business of the House, we say a prayer, and at the end it says that we make good laws and wise decisions. After listening to the assessment of hon. members so far in this debate, I can say that we have missed the boat probably on both counts.

We just dealt with a bill on tax treaties with Greece, Turkey and Colombia. Part of that whole arrangement was to have information-sharing agreements. We have information-sharing agreements with more than 90 countries already around the world. We have relationships, we have tax treaties and we have trade deals with them. I think it is absolutely unconscionable that the bill does not somehow link to these relationships, that we have information-sharing agreements with regard to matters related to the bill before us now on spam.

It is $130 billion a year in terms of costs around the world for spam and the damage that it does. That is just spam. We are ranked fifth. Yet somehow the government does not seem to get it.

It has been five years since the bill first came to us. It has already been disclosed that we have not gone as far as the other G8 countries. We are the only G8 country that does not even have legislation yet, and one of four OECD countries. One member of the committee said that we are going to be playing catch-up because we did not go as far.

I think the bill is going to be a failure unless the government steps up, considers criminal sanctions, enters into international agreements with our partners in other fora and takes this very seriously because it is costing Canadians as well as the Canadian economy. Therefore, Canada is the worse for it.

I wonder if the member would care to comment on whether or not the bill is doing justice and in fact represents a good law and a wise decision.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, we support Bill C-28 in principle, even though it contains certain elements that we must come to terms with. As I said, it has taken too long to pass this kind of legislation to protect all of our networks and individuals, while the Internet and computer industry are evolving with lightning speed.

We must always remain ahead of the game, because those who use the Internet and spam to do business and hassle people know how to move quickly. As soon as we find solutions, they find new ways around them.

We need to work together. A great deal of spam is sent to Canada and Quebec. It is therefore important to raise people's awareness about this problem.

I have to wonder if users are perhaps too tolerant. They should act quickly as soon as they receive spam that invades their computers and their lives. It should be a spontaneous reaction.

Existing legislation and international agreements do not go as far as they should, but there is always room for improvement. That is precisely what the Bloc Québécois wants to do.