Mr. Speaker, I want to describe the aspects of the bill that I feel are very important. I want to thank the Library of Parliament, and we probably do not thank it enough, for the good work that it does and the expertise that it holds. This summary was put together by Alysia Davies, and I thank her for the great job that she has done. In general, I want to thank the Library of Parliament for the research work that it does.
On June 17, 2010 the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities introduced Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act. Its short title is strengthening aviation security act. The bill would amend the Aeronautics Act to create an exception for the application of another statute, the Personal Information, Protection and Electronic Documents Act, or as we know it around here PIPEDA.
The bill would amend the Aeronautics Act and PIPEDA is the main federal legislation governing privacy rights and obligations of the private sector. To date, its application in the aviation context is mainly concerned with the handling of personal information of passengers flying on Canadian aircraft.
Organizations are generally prevented from collecting, using or disclosing the personal information of customers to third parties without the customer's consent except in certain specified situations involving law enforcement, national security, defence, international affairs, compliance with a warrant or subpoena, as well as other situations that would rarely apply in the air travel context such as debt collection.
Currently the Aeronautics Act exempts the operators of aircraft from PIPEDA's restrictions on disclosing personal information without consent when the laws of a foreign state require disclosure of information about anyone onboard a flight that is landing in that state. People in my riding have had issues with this over the years, especially the town of Gander. Gander is the home of the Gander International Airport and it has been and continues to be an important route for many people over the years. It is part of the great circle route and as a result a lot of planes fly into Gander for refuelling and the like. Gander airport has been a famous refueling stop for many years and continues to be. With that in mind, we certainly appreciate the security. We know a lot about international law when it comes to privacy.
Passenger information for any Canadian flight that will land in a foreign state, whether or not the flight originates in Canada, can be disclosed to a foreign government without restriction by the air carrier, provided the disclosure meets the existing requirements in the Aeronautics Act. It is required by the laws under the foreign state. Such disclosure would not require the consent of the passengers or the triggering of the normal exceptions in the PIPEDA legislation.
What brings us to this third reading stage of the bill is the amendment. Bill C-42 would amend the section to expand its application. It would now apply not only with respect to foreign states in which the flight is landing but also to any foreign states that the flight would travel over. Accordingly, whether or not the foreign state that a flight lands and requires the disclosure of any personal information under this bill, an air carrier would be able to provide disclosure without consent or other restrictions to which it would normally be subject under PIPEDA if the laws of the foreign state and the flight path require it.
In addition to this, the bill is an in-depth piece of legislation which would have a great effect on the passenger protect program. The Aeronautics Act is the authority for a federal government program called the PPP, or the passenger protection program. It is informally known in the common vernacular today as the no-fly list under which Transport Canada provides aircraft operators with a list of names of potential passengers that must be checked before issuing a boarding pass. It is called the specified persons list.
There has been much discussion about this program. It is intended to identify potential terrorists on airline passenger lists and block them from boarding domestic or international flights. It is similar to a parallel program run in the United States for the same purpose. There has been some heated discussion about this particular no-fly list and some people have found themselves on this list for reasons such as similarity of name and so on. There may be some past association that no longer has any bearing on their behaviour today. Unfortunately, they do find themselves on the no-fly list and therefore we have a lot of complaints.
Many members of Parliament would agree that they have received several calls regarding the no-fly list and how some people have managed to end up on that list, for example, by just having the same name as someone who is under suspicion, we will say.
The program was the focus of some controversy in the early days and Transport Canada, assisted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, added names to the list without the knowledge or consent of the potential passengers. There has been considerable concern that names will end up on the list mistakenly, resulting in an innocent passenger being banned from air travel. For example, there were media reports that two young boys, a 15-year-old junior champion athlete and a 10-year-old, both named Alistair Butt, were initially stopped from taking domestic Air Canada flights in 2007 because this name appeared on the list.
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada joined with all of her provincial and territorial counterparts in the year 2007 to issue a resolution expressing concerns about the PPP or the no-fly list and recommended that it be referred to the parliamentary committee for study.
The resolution also recommended, among other things, that more detailed and specific legislation authority for the program be developed under the Aeronautics Act, and an independent oversight body be established for the program, which brings us to this debate now.
Several parliamentary committees have received briefings about the program since then, most notably, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and the Standing Committee Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
In 2009, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada conducted an audit for the program, PPP, passenger protection program, and under Transport Canada it is regulated, as I mentioned. In most respects the program was compliant with the applicable statutes and policies, although there were some points that needed attention. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada intends to follow up with another audit of the program this year, 2011.
Bill C-42, which we are debating at third reading, deals with what happens to the personal information of passengers once the air carriers have obtained it, either from Transport Canada's specified persons list or from another source. It therefore affects the application of PIPEDA, the statute which regulates the air carriers, as private sector organizations rather than the Privacy Act, the statute which regulates the federal public sector.
Bill C-42 contains two clauses. The first clause provides its abbreviated title, the Strengthening Aviation Security Act, and the second clause amends the Aeronautics Act, the crux of the bill, to exempt the operators of aircraft from the restrictions in PIPEDA on disclosing personal information without consent when the laws of a foreign state require disclosure of information about anyone on board a flight over that particular state.
Specifically, passenger information for any Canadian flight that will fly over a foreign state, whether or not the flight originates in Canada, could be disclosed by the air carrier to that state's government without restriction, providing the disclosure meets the existing requirements in the Aeronautics Act as required by the laws of the foreign state. Such disclosure would not require either the consent of the passengers or the triggering of the normal exceptions that we pointed out which are in PIPEDA.
I understand many of the concerns that are being brought forward here today, concerns of the NDP, and certainly the concerns of the average individual. Individuals and our society in general require protection and want to feel secure. They depend on us here as MPs to enact the laws that provide security of the people. We also hold the bar rather high when the government puts forward legislation like this, which is why amendments were made at committee.
At a transport committee hearing on air safety on May 11, 2010, Assistant Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier stated that the U.S. will retain this information for as long as 7 days to 99 years. She also added:
--our understanding is that information collected can be disclosed and used for purposes other than aviation security, such as law enforcement and immigration purposes.
The government waited until the last sitting day before the summer recess which we feel was a transparent move to avoid parliamentary scrutiny over these measures. The amendment to the bill at the transport committee was to introduce oversight measures, such as periodic parliamentary review and a requirement that airlines and travel agents inform Canadians of this information transfer before their ticket is purchased.
The opposition is very concerned about the changes being proposed in Bill C-42 which we brought up in second reading of this debate. The Aeronautics Act already allows for the disclosure of personal information by airlines to foreign states and if the flight is landing within the foreign state itself. The act also provides a legislative authority to create the no-fly list, with the PPP, intended to identify potential terrorists in airline passenger lists and block them from boarding domestic or international flights.
As we know, since the early part of the last decade, since 9/11, this has been an incredibly large issue in the United States, particularly for reasons that are obvious, but it has also become a very important issue here as to the security of our people. Since that time we find ourselves now looking at the situation in a different light. Many of our laws have been changed since then to provide for the security of peoples. We have seen many incidents that have taken place internationally, whether it be the London bombings, the Middle East, or other major destinations across Europe and North America that have been threatened. In some situations, attempts to create mass acts of terrorism have been thwarted.
Many of the measures that we have taken as a government, internal security matters as well as foreign security matters, have been implemented and some certainly have been quite successful in thwarting the attempts of people who wish to do terrorist acts around the world. Again, not just in North America but around major destinations all over the world, including key ports in Asia as well as Europe.
The no-fly list, however, is not infallible. Further, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has expressed concerns with the measures enabled in the Aeronautics Act, by further changing the act, forcing Canadian airlines to disclose personal information of Canadian passengers who are simply flying over a foreign state.
Bill C-42 further endangers the privacy rights of Canadians which we acknowledge and worked through at committee. Maintaining public security however is important and a balance must be achieved.
The opposition members expressed this concern when the bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Liberal members amended the bill in three specific ways.
First, the House of Commons will be required to conduct a review of these measures two years from the date they come into force and every five years thereafter. Second, this data transfer will be limited to us in legislation. The original version of the bill allowed the Canadian government to add other countries by order in council. Third, airlines and travel agents will be required by Canadian law to inform passengers of this impending data transfer before their ticket is purchased.
It is important to note that the Canadian government did secure an exemption for Canadian flights where the origin and destination are both in Canada but the plane would enter U.S. air space.
Bill C-42 amends the Aeronautics Act to exempt the operators of aircraft from the restrictions in PIPEDA on disclosing personal information without consent when the laws of a foreign state require disclosure of information about anyone on board a flight over that particular state.
Currently the Aeronautics Act exempts the operators of aircraft from PIPEDA's restrictions of disclosing personal information without consent when the laws of a foreign state require disclosure of information about anyone on board a flight that is landing in the states. That is why, when we looked earlier at the situation, we decided to make the amendments through the committees and now we find ourselves here at third reading.
Accordingly, passenger information for any Canadian flight landing in a foreign state, whether or not the flight originates in Canada, can be disclosed to a foreign government without restriction by the air carrier, provided the disclosure meets the existing requirements in the Aeronautics Act and is required by the laws of the foreign state. Such disclosure would not require the consent of the passengers or trigger the normal exceptions in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, part of the Aeronautics Act.
Only specific pieces of information will be required by the U.S. government, such as, name, birthdate, gender, flight and passport information, as available. The U.S. government insists this information will only be used for no-fly list matching. The U.S. has the right to control its own airspace and that is enshrined in international law. If we were not to pass this bill, Canadian airlines would be barred from U.S. airspace, which would cripple their ability to operate.
This is the situation in which we find ourselves.
As I mentioned earlier, security over the past 10 to 15 years has changed dramatically. At the beginning of the decade we found ourselves in a situation where security was the utmost when it came to acts of mass terrorism. We found ourselves creating and enacting legislation that changed our behaviour and way of thinking in many ways.
This was not isolated only to the United States, which was the recipient of the damage of 9/11 in a most inhumane manner. In this country we realized how linked we are to the United States in trade, air travel, borders, which is still a contentious issue, and at the same time maintaining our sovereignty and of course respecting the privacy rights of all individuals. We found ourselves in a situation where we had to balance our right to privacy with our right to be secure.
This debate has given us the chance to flesh out that balance to achieve between security and the right to privacy. Since coming out of committee, we have struck a balance that we certainly believe is the right way to go. I commend all members of this House voting for or against this piece of legislation for having a mature debate about how to achieve that balance and be responsible for securing our citizens in this country and North America in general.
At the same time, we have to be respectful and uphold the rights of our citizens in this country. To do that we have made amendments that we feel are responsible. We brought our concerns to the table at second reading and to committee. I want to commend the committee on the work it has done and on the amendments it has accepted.
We now find ourselves at third reading of this bill. I think it goes a long way in protecting our security. It is good for our economy and is respectful of the rights of our citizens to their privacy.
As I mentioned earlier, a community in my riding has played a very important role over the last 50 years or so when it comes to aviation and international travel. The town of Gander, home to the Gander International Airport, was the main refuelling stop for major flights between Europe and North America. Back in the day, in the 1950s, 1960s, and even into the 1980s, air security was not debated as much and was certainly not top of mind for citizens of this country. However, it certainly is today. The world is changing. Gander has changed accordingly. The airport security regime has changed accordingly. Today we are now responding to threats we did not face many years ago, back when Gander International Airport was in its heyday with major international flights coming in from Europe to North America.
In closing, I have appreciated the opportunity to speak to Bill C-42.