Mr. Speaker, on a day like this, many Canadians think about travelling south. Some may be thinking of going to Cuba or to Mexico, to the Caribbean, and in order to do so, they have to fly over American airspace.
The bill before us is truly disturbing. Even though travellers are not landing on American soil, the information of any passengers and tourists going to a southern island will be shared with American agencies, and it is not just one agency, it is many different agencies.
The agreement before us, Bill C-42, would allow information to pass to the U.S., such as both passenger name records, the file created by travel agents when they book a vacation, which includes credit card information, with whom passengers are travelling, their hotel and other booking information, such as car rentals, tours they may take, and any medical and diet information. Essentially, almost their complete personal file would be handed over to the United States. The United States of America can keep the information for 40 years.
The United States agencies can then send the information to a third nation. It could be sent to China, Libya, Russia or wherever they want to send the information, without the consent of the tourist or passenger flying over American airspace. In Canada, a passenger would not even know this information is being shared by any number of countries.
If there is an error in the information, such as an error in a passenger's medical information, how many children they have or any number of things, because sometimes travel agencies make mistakes, neither the passenger nor Canada would find out about it, and before long the third country could have this erroneous information. This is the kind of invasion of privacy we are talking about today.
The United States may amend the information as long as it advises the European Union of the change, but Canada may not necessarily know much about it. Basically, any information about a Canadian would then be shared. Given the tens of thousands of tourists who go south over American airspace as they travel to other countries to visit their loved ones or to vacation, Bill C-42, would have implications for those tens of thousands of Canadians.
Even though the bill is very short, only two pages, the implications for air passengers is serious. Why is that so? Fundamentally, Canada has a slightly different foreign policy, I would hope, than the United States of America. We do not view Cuba, for example, in the same way as does the United States. We do not support the sanctions against Cuba. We allow for free travel to Cuba.
I recall that we had a distinctly different refugee policy when the U.S. was heavily involved in Latin American countries: El Salvador, Guatemala during the 1980s, and Chile during 1970s. For a long time during the 1980s the U.S. would deport people back to El Salvador and Chile where they faced death squads and were systematically killed. Nuns were brutally raped and bishops, such as Bishop Oscar Romero, were murdered in El Salvador.
I cannot imagine what would have happened to the Canadians who defended the rights of these brave church workers in El Salvador if that information was passed on to the United States and shared with the regime at that time. If those Canadians flew to any part of Latin America, their lives would have been endangered.
At that time Canada was very clear that we would not deport people back to Chile because the Pinochet government was not democratic and abused the human rights of its citizens. We would not deport people nor would we share the information of Canadians, especially church workers who worked very closely with people in those Latin American countries who were struggling for democracy and freedom from poverty.
We know that Canada had a different foreign policy. We did not participate in the Vietnam war or enter into the war in Iraq. However, if at that time Canadian passenger information was shared with the Americans then, for example, Vietnam war resisters flying over the United States could have had their family and their future put in jeopardy.
To allow this kind of secure information to be given to another country would reduce the sovereignty of Canada and Canadians.
It is not as if we do not have examples of mistakes made in the past with sharing information with the Americans. We can recall the case of Maher Arar who was sent to be tortured. The information on him was misused and incorrect, but he had no idea that was the case.
He was a 34-year-old wireless technology consultant. He was a native of Syria, but came to Canada with his family at the age of 17. He became a Canadian citizen in 1991. In 2002, in New York at JFK airport in transit to Montreal, he did not think twice that there would be a problem. Twelve days later, he was shackled and flown to Syria. He was then put in a tiny cell, which was like a coffin, for 10 months. Canadians are very familiar with the torture he went through. He was beaten and forced to make a false confession.
We know that was a mistake. Justice Dennis O'Connor, in September 2006, cleared Maher Arar of all terrorism allegations, stating that he was able to say:
—categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada.
The Prime Minister even apologized and awarded him $10.5 million in compensation because he was innocent.
Yet, to this day, Maher Arar is still on the American no-fly list. How many more Canadians are on that no-fly list? How many innocent Canadians are on this no-fly list? Canada has a right and a responsibility to tell Canadians and to advocate on their behalf to ensure innocent Canadians who are on the no-fly list see some kind of justice. Yet the bill probably would increase the number of people being entered onto an American no-fly list. That is highly dangerous and is highly invasive of people's privacy.
Coming from a Conservative government that claims to protect people's privacy, through not wanting people to fill in the long form census, et cetera, we would think this bill would not see the light of day. Perhaps, at the end of the day, the Conservative government really does not care about people's civil rights and privacy.
We are seeing a disturbing trend of the charter rights of Canadians being violated. One of the charter rights states that in a democratic society such as Canada, it is important:
Security measures must be developed in the context of respect for and protection of individuals’ constitutional rights, including democratic and due process rights, the right to privacy, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
The G20 report today said that people's rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression had been violated, yet the government will not call a public inquiry. Now we are debating Bill C-42, which totally violates the person's right to privacy, including the due process. How can Canadians have due process if they do not know their information is being shared with other countries? There is no consent and no notification. This means that person who is on some record, and not just one agency but many U.S. agencies share the information, will not have any due process that according to the Charter of Rights should be given to the he or she. The person will not be given any process to get justice.
It is no surprise that the Canadian Civil Liberties Association spoke out very much against this bill. It said:
—this bill would not meet a section 1 challenge, because it has no limitations. It does not adequately protect the problems that may arise with the disclosure of information....
Therefore, the first point is there is a constitutional vulnerability that should be looked at before we approve the bill.
She further talked about there being no requirement in Bill C-42 or in the regulations of the U.S. TSA for safeguards to protect the information.
There is no safeguard that the TSA will not pass information to other government agencies, such as law enforcement or immigration. There is no safeguard that the TSA will not pass this information to third countries and, in fact, it can do so. We know this has been a particularly difficult issue for some Canadians, Maher Arar being a case in point. There are several others. There is no guarantee that the TSA will not use the information for profiling Canadians, to put them on its watch list or the no-fly list.
In terms of immigration policies, for quite a large number of years, we know Americans were deporting people back to Haiti, whereas Canada does not do so. Again, it is because we have slightly different foreign policies. To now merge all this information is giving away Canada's right to have its own established rules and regulations.
The general counsel with Canadian Civil Liberties Association mentioned that the United States no-fly list was under constitutional review. It has been challenged because there are too many false positives arising out of it. We know there have been difficulties with this no-fly list, including a famous Canadian, Maher Arar, being on it.
The process has been described has Kafkaesque, as it does not allow people to know whether they are on it or not, how to get off it and what evidence is there. To this day, Maher Arar still does not know why he is on the American no-fly list. He has still been unable to remove his name, even though the government and our Parliament have said that he is innocent and is no threat whatsoever.
There is no guarantee that an innocent Canadian would not be mistakenly placed on the list, like Maher Arar. There is no guarantee that the person would not be prevented from flying or being detained in the U.S. or elsewhere without due process.
Speaking of the number of agencies, 16 U.S. agencies can share this information. Those who end up landing in a country that the U.S. may not support, such as Cuba, could end up in trouble because it is a third country.
All of this points to the fact that this is a massive invasion of people's privacy.
We have other examples. One case is a Belgium citizen, Paul-Émile Dupret, who is an analyst for the European Parliament and who has conducted a campaign opposing the transfer of European travellers' personal information to American authorities. As his flight was en route to Mexico, his final destination was Sao Paulo, where he was travelling to attend the World Social Forum, the aircraft had to circumvent the United States because the U.S. authorities were not authorizing Mr. Dupret to fly through American airspace.
We note that these individuals clearly do not represent a threat to air security. Mr. Dupret could very well have been a Canadian journalist or a public servant travelling to Latin America. It is an illusion to think that information provided under the secure flight program will be protected, or that it will be destroyed or that it will be error-free.
Last, Justice O'Connor's investigation of the Maher Arar affair made a lot of recommendations. To this day, the government has still not implemented those recommendations. Instead, it is going in the opposite direction and bringing in Bill C-42, with the support of the Liberal Party of Canada. What a shame.