Mr. Speaker, I am sure people are well aware that I am rising to speak to Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act. We are dealing with the amendment. I want to commend the member for Western Arctic for so ably outlining all of the reasons that New Democrats are opposed to the bill.
I want to read a bit of the legislative summary because it is important that people understand why we are so opposed to the bill.
The bill would amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. It would amend the section that allows the government to expand the application so it would apply not only with respect to foreign states in which the flight is landing, but also to any foreign state that the flight would travel over. The air carrier would be able to provide disclosure without consent. Those are the two key points about which we have been speaking. One is it is not just that flights are going to the U.S., but even flying over it would require that this information be released. The second is that it is without consent.
I want to touch on the legislative summary that outlines the problems with the no fly list. These are problems people are concerned about in the current context.
With regard to the no fly list, the summary states:
The program was the focus of some controversy in its early days, since Transport Canada, assisted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), adds 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 Alastair Butt, were initially stopped from taking domestic Air Canada flights in 2007 because this name appeared on the list.
Essentially, a couple of children were not able to fly.
Many organizations have spoken in opposition to the bill. I want to read something from the press release of the Council of Canadians dated December 3, 2010. It states:
Secure Flight has been roundly criticized by international civil society groups because it requires that a large amount of your personal information be transmitted to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security even if your flight only passes through U.S. airspace. It's not just name, gender, age and destination as government sources claim. Any and all information contained in your travel records will be transmitted to the U.S. security officials, who may use it for whatever purposes they see fit.
We give over a whole lot of information when we are flying, particularly if we are going to a hotel. We have given credit card numbers and we may have given medical conditions. We have given all kinds of information that the Department of Homeland Security will now have access to and can do whatever it pleases with it.
The Council of Canadians goes on to state:
For the vast majority of flights to and from Europe, the Caribbean and South America, Canadians will be asking permission from the U.S. government to travel. If your name is on the expensive and flawed U.S. no-fly list, you could be denied a boarding pass.
Canada has made many steps to harmonize airline security with U.S. programs but none has been good enough to prevent ever more draconian demands. Our severely flawed made in Canada “no fly” list was supposed to prevent the imposition of the U.S. list on Canada. But that benchmark has moved again to the point the U.S. must issue travel permissions to Canadians.
Canada can still say no to Secure Flight. In fact, we would be doing the world a favour by voting no to C-42 because of the enormous global concern about the program from other states, as well as various international bodies, including the United Nations. Because of our geographic location, Canadians have the most to lose from the imposition of Secure Flight rules on Canadian travel. It's only right that Canada takes a stand now, before it's too late.
I could not agree more with that statement by the Council of Canadians.
Other groups that are opposed as well. I will not go through them all, but the Council on American-Islamic Relations has said that the bill could potentially have huge impacts on Canada's sovereignty and our privacy and Charter of Rights.
It is the sovereignty issue I want to turn to now. We are seeing a continuing harmonization in Canada with U.S. rules and regulations. For those of us who have been in the House long enough, we can remember back a few years ago some of the talk that was going on about smart regulations.
Anybody thinking about smart regulations would say, “What is the matter with regulations that are smart?” Smart regulations were an effort to harmonize our regulations in Canada with many of the regulations in the United States. These could affect our health care, our pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and it goes on. These could remove from Canada the right to say no to certain products. Smart regulations kind of went underground because there was a large hue and cry in 2005, particularly in the agricultural sector, about the move to do these smart regulations. Then we had SPP, the Security and Prosperity Partnership agreement. Again, Canadians en masse said, “absolutely not”.
About six or eight months ago some us on Parliament Hill who were opposed to the SPP, the Security and Prosperity Partnership agreement, had a bit of a celebration because we thought it was dead.
I have an article from the Globe and Mail of February 2, which says that the Prime Minister and the President are eyeing sweeping changes in border security. This is an article by John Ibbitson and Steven Chase. The subtitle is, “Plans to implement greater intelligence sharing sure to raise sovereignty, privacy concerns”. I have a few quotes from this because it is relevant to what we are talking about here. It states:
[The Prime Minister] and [President] will meet on Friday to set in motion the most sweeping changes to the Canada-U.S. border since the 1988 free-trade agreement.
According to information obtained by The Globe and Mail, the Prime Minister and the U.S. President will order a working group of senior bureaucrats to finalize within a few months agreements that would transform the 49th parallel through co-operative arrangements on trade, security and management of the boundary line.
It would mean sharing intelligence, harmonizing regulations for everything from cereal to fighter jets, and creating a bilateral agency to oversee the building and upgrading of bridges, roads and other border infrastructure.
The important part of that last sentence is the harmonizing regulations for everything from cereal to fighter jets.
Many of us in the House, certainly in the NDP, have been fighting smart regulations and the SPP. Now the government looks like it is bringing it back under another guise. This time it is border security.
The Globe and Mail article goes on to say:
Some of the agreements could be implemented through changes to regulations, but others could require legislation that would have to be approved by Parliament and Congress.
The new co-operation plan is a follow-up to a failed attempt in the past decade, the Security and Prosperity Partnership, to harmonize the regulatory regimes of Canada, the United States and Mexico....
The most controversial aspect of the talks will be an attempt to more deeply integrate the sharing of intelligence on people and products to ensure that anything or anyone entering either country would be properly inspected and the information shared.
There is a couple of other problems with what is being outlined. One is when things are done by regulation, it effectively removes parliamentary oversight. Most regulations, unless it has been designated in the legislation, do not come to Parliament. What we could essentially have is by the back door, by stealth, imposition of regulations in Canada that Canadians simply do not want. They have signalled that under smart regulations and under the SPP.
First, it is critical that we oppose vigorously Bill C-42, and I hope Canadians are listening to this. I hope they write their members of Parliament to tell them they do not want this violation of our privacy information, that they do not want the United States to say who can fly in Canada. If somebody who wants to go south somewhere and has to fly over the United States, the United States could say, absolutely not, that a boarding pass cannot be issued to that person.
Not only do we not want Bill C-42, we do not want smart regulations. We do not want the SPP. We do not want this new border security agreement that will erode our sovereignty even further.
I am ever hopeful that Canadians are paying attention to this very important issue, the very important erosion of our sovereignty.
There is a number of other ways that the legislation could be amended.
As my time is almost up, I urge people to look at the 1998 European commission's key principles, which would certainly help the legislation be more effective, and also the comments of our Privacy Commissioner who appeared before the committee and outlined a number of issues that she felt were important and that should be included in any legislation where the privacy of Canadians could be infringed upon.