Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to Bill C-42, Strengthening Aviation Security Act. I worked on this bill as a member of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities last fall.
Everyone recognizes that the world changed forever on September 11, 2001. Security procedures across the board have tightened from an unprecedented commitment to prevent such terrorism from ever happening again. Yet we must not sacrifice our freedom or our privacy in this battle. The previous Liberal government ensured that we maintained this balance as we must today.
One response in the United States was the secure flight program, which requires airlines to submit passenger information to the U.S. government prior to boarding. The information could include: name, date of birth and gender, passport data and flight information. It is then run against a watch list and passengers are approved or rejected for boarding or receive additional screening.
Secure flight has been in effect for all U.S. bound flights for some time now and the American government is now seeking to extend it to overflights, such as when a flight goes from Vancouver to Mexico by flying over the U.S. Bill C-42 would allow airlines to transmit the information required to comply with secure flight to the United States government.
I am deeply disappointed that the Conservative government was unable to secure an exemption for Canadian flights in its negotiations with the Americans. Why could the government not convince them that the Canadian security screening standards already ensure the safety of our flights? It is not as if we are a lawless nation that is unknown to our American cousins.
Nevertheless, there is a hard truth about this debate. The crux of the issue is that the American government has jurisdiction over its own airspace. If it requests this information, it is within its rights under international law.
However, that does not mean that we roll over. Our duty as Canadian parliamentarians is to ensure that Canadian interests are protected. In committee, we did just that and introduced key amendments to defend Canadian travellers.
First, we required that travellers be notified that their personal information will be transmitted to the U.S. government. Strangely, the only thing requiring passenger notification in the first draft of the bill was an American law. That simply was not good enough for Canadians.
Second, we required that this bill be reviewed in two years and every five years thereafter. Times change and priorities change. We should not lock in these rules without recourse. Perhaps a different government will be better able to give the Americans confidence in our own security screening procedures.
Third, we have restricted the transmission of passenger data to the United States alone. The Conservatives wanted to open the doors willy-nilly for any other country to receive Canadians' private data in the first draft of this bill. We will not give legislative consent to sharing of our personal information to third world despots.
Those amendments would ensure that the legislation is able to secure Canadians' privacy, at least within Canadian legislation.
The real challenge is not in our laws but in the practices of the American government. There are still significant concerns that can only be addressed to diplomacy.
Earlier, the hon. member for Western Arctic said that this bill would do nothing to protect the privacy of Canadian passengers. First, the passenger data transmitted will be subject to the United States patriot act. This has been confirmed by our Privacy Commissioner. This means that this information can be used and shared for other purposes than the aviation security, such as immigration and law enforcement authorities at home and abroad. That was a key concern for some of the witnesses who came before the committee.
The Privacy Commissioner also confirmed that non-residents would have very little protection or recourse with respect to their personal information. In other words, it is American rules and policies that remain a serious cause for concern. In particular, they must strengthen the procedures for the management of passengers and improve the redress program for passengers who wrongly end up on the no-fly list.
The Conservative government rode into power five years ago claiming that it would bring our relationship with the Americans--