This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.

Topics

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question and the effort of my hon. colleague in dealing with this issue.

I will not speak for the critic in that regard. My preference in this now, because we have reached a stage given the concerns about commerce and air traffic, where we are being held hostage. We have arrived at this point too late.

Having said that, my hope is that over the next little while, and hopefully after a change of government whenever that might happen, there will be a much greater effort to work out a solution with the United States to address these concerns in a much more effective way.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do not know this for sure, but I may be the only member of Parliament here who actually worked in the airline industry for over eighteen and one-half years. I can say that if airline industry executives have told members of Parliament that we have to do this in order to keep our routes in and around the United States, it is absolute nonsense. They are deliberately misleading the members of Parliament, especially on that committee. If airline executives have said that not going along with Bill C-42 would hurt their business, it is simply not true. It is false.

Let us think about this. The economies of Canada and the United States are intertwined. We need each other to keep our economies going. The last thing we want to do is involve even more red tape and harassment to hurt business.

When I worked in the airline industry, people could park their cars in the lot and 10 minutes later they could hop on an airplane and off they would go. Now people have to be there well over an hour and sometimes even a few hours before the flight. People have to go through security and pat-downs and provide all sorts of information just to fly from Halifax to Charlottetown.

What are we saying? There are flights from Halifax to Jamaica which fly down the coast of the United States. Are we saying that in order for the United States to feel safer we have to give some unknown person in a building somewhere the passengers' credit card information, health information, the resort they may be staying at, and what car they may be renting? What utter nonsense.

It is amazing that the Conservatives over there and the Liberals on the committee at that time are saying we do not want the long form census because it is an intrusion of Canadians' privacy. We certainly do not want to know how many washrooms are in people's homes, but we will give people's personal information to the United States, which could share it with other countries.

There are flights from Vancouver to Whitehorse, from Vancouver down to Mexico, from Vancouver to Jamaica, but the fact is that 10 times more flights from the United States fly over Canada than flights from Canada fly over the United States. Did we ask the Americans to give us their passenger information? No. Why? Because we do not have the financial resources or even the wherewithal to collect all that information. As well, what would we do with it?

People travelling from California to Amsterdam fly over Canada. I do not think our constituents care about the credit card information of the guy sitting in seat 21-F. I do not think our constituents care what hotel he is staying at in Amsterdam. He is an American passenger travelling to Europe, yet he is flying over Canadian airspace. I do not see Canadians freaking out over that. However, if we fly from Halifax to Jamaica, Cuba or wherever, the Americans need to know everything and we are going to give the information with no reciprocity.

Here is something. The veterans bill of rights says that veterans have a right to have their privacy protected under the Privacy Act. I will use the example of a group of veterans who live in Nova Scotia. After serving their country well in Afghanistan, they want to take a vacation. They want to go to Jamaica for a couple of weeks to wind down. All their private information, including the hotel where they are staying, car rentals, their credit card information, their medical and health information will be given to the Americans. Why? Now we are breaching veterans' rights.

I ask all parliamentarians, especially the Conservatives, to send out their ten-percenters and householders to all their constituents and do an op-ed piece. They should get on the talk shows. They should tell their constituents why somebody in the United States needs their personal credit card, health and travel information if they are not even going to the United States, but are going past the United States. It is incredible. It is absolutely ludicrous.

For those in the industry to say that we have to do this to maintain their routes and maintain their economics in this regard is poppycock. It is nonsense.

The United States economy is suffering and our economy is not doing all that great. To say that the Americans are going to threaten that our flights will not be able to travel in U.S. airspace is just nonsense. We should call their bluff. I am not blaming the negotiators on this because we know they get their marching orders from the Prime Minister's office. That is how it operates.

For the life of me, I do not understand why the Prime Minister and the Conservative Government of Canada would authorize something of this nature. If the Conservatives are fearful, then they should tell Canadians why they are fearful. If it is based on economics, they should show us the facts. They should show us the proof that the United States will stop flights from leaving Canada to go to Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, or wherever. They should show us that.

What are we going to do? Are we going to tell the United States that flights from California, Chicago, Atlanta, et cetera cannot fly over Canadian airspace? Are we going to tell them that? Of course we will not. It is nonsense for us to even contemplate it.

The economic burden of that would be too great for too many people. The reality is this is not what Canadians are asking for. I do not even think the average American is asking for this. There is a bunch of paranoid people somewhere demanding all the personal information of travellers even when they are not travelling to the United States.

We have to ask ourselves, why? Who is going to collect this information? What are they going to do with it? We now hear they can share this information with other entities around the world. Why? What is the absolute reason? It is not about security. It is not about making Americans safer.

I remember very clearly when 9/11 happened, and God bless all those people who suffered that day and all those who helped out. It truly was a sad day. Almost immediately the rumours were flying on Fox and CNN that the terrorists came from Canada, in fact, that they came from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Everyone believed it. Those terrorists were nowhere near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. People panicked. They freaked out and made accusations. There are probably still a lot of people down there who believe those terrorists came from Canada. It simply was not true.

My colleague, the member for Winnipeg Centre, who flies from Winnipeg to Ottawa, is on a no-fly list. How does that happen? How does a member of Parliament for over thirteen and one-half years get on a no-fly list? How does it happen?

As the member said, in order to get on a plane to come to Ottawa to do his job on behalf of his constituents and the people of Canada, he has to misspell his name. He has to not tell the truth. He has to get some sort of permission. He cannot get his name off the no-fly list. He cannot. I find it incredible.

If the Prime Minister does anything, he should tell Obama to get the name of our colleague from Winnipeg Centre off the no-fly list. That would be considered a good agreement. It is unbelievable that with a common name like his that could happen.

Also, there are people who are trying to get security clearances to coach soccer teams and other things. If they have the same birthdate as someone else, they have to wait, get fingerprinted and the whole bit just because they have the same birthdate as somebody somewhere else in the country. Where are we going on this?

In conclusion, I want to say very clearly that this bill should be dead right now. I would encourage my Liberal and Bloc colleagues, and I implore my Conservative counterparts as well, and do what is right for Canadians across this country. They should kill this bill now and protect the privacy and interests of Canadians once and for all.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, some of the assertions from members who have spoken to this bill could be summarized by saying that the U.S. has the sovereign right to control its airspace.

The committee heard from many witnesses, including the governments of the U.S. and Canada, the aviation industry, the Privacy Commissioner, and many civil rights groups. The list is very long. Their conclusion was very clear, that we had no choice but to allow the information to be transferred.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

An hon. member

That is not true.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will speak on this because I have the testimony of the Privacy Commissioner here. The issue really comes down to the sovereign right to protect airspace. Is that something that is under challenge by the member, or is it simply the nature of the information that is being disclosed?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, no one denies any sovereign nation the right to protect its sovereignty.

Let me ask the member a question. If America is so paranoid that it has to have my credit card and hotel information if I fly from Halifax to Jamaica, why then is he not worried about an American travelling from L.A. to Amsterdam in Canadian airspace? Why are we not asking for reciprocity on this one? Why are we not requesting all the sensitive and health information of American travellers? Why have we not asked for that? The reason is we do not need it. We do not want it and do not desire it because it will not protect us. It is not about security. It is about being paranoid.

What is most dangerous and egregious, and I can only make an assumption, is that the real reason perhaps is for commercial purposes, that the information may be used in ways for which it was not intended. That could be very dangerous.

I wonder why the hon. member will not stand up for the private rights of Canadian citizens. I would hope he could tell his constituents that this is a privacy issue. Canadians have a right to protect their privacy. If Americans have the right to protect their sovereignty, we have the right to protect Canadians' privacy.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the speech my colleague just gave. The Aeronautics Act is an untoward invasion of the privacy of Canadians. The fact that the private information of airline passengers will be shared with other countries is quite a concern. Canadians should be worried about that.

I am wondering if my colleague could elaborate on the fact that this information will actually be shared with other countries that have corruption in these areas as well. We know there are corrupt governments out there. Why would Canadians want to have their information shared that way when we cannot have a census that would provide information to assist in programming and research?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is not about the protection of sovereignty of U.S. airspace. First of all, why would the Americans want this information and then have the ability, without our knowing it, to transfer that information somewhere else? It is not about protection. It is not about enhancing security. It has to be for another reason. I can only anticipate, although I do not know this for sure, that it is for commercial purposes, that they would sell that personal information for whatever reason. It is not about security. It is not about protecting people. It is not about the economic opportunities between our two countries.

It is unbelievable that we as parliamentarians or the government will not stand up for the privacy rights of all Canadians. It is a shame and a sham and the bill deserves to be dead right now.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, my interest in the bill is from having recently spent three years on the access to information, privacy and ethics committee, where I got to know a fair bit about the Privacy Act and PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and their importance to the protection of Canadians' privacy.

Throughout this debate, a lot of assertions have been made that somehow a great deal of private information is going to be transferred consequential to a flight going over U.S. soil or through their airspace. It is not quite that straightforward.

Bill C-42 is a very short bill. In fact, the information is not prescribed in the bill. That has to be handled through the Aeronautics Act and through the regulations.

When I asked the question earlier, what information did the particular member who spoke on this believe was going to be disclosed, the member rattled off a litany of information, such as what hotel someone was staying at, and a whole bunch of other things. That is not correct. There is not this laundry list of information.

If a person wants to stand in the House and claim, “I am the defender of the privacy rights of Canadians”, and to make general statements raising the spectre of a bogeyman and the invasion of privacy and say that, “I'm protecting them and I'm going to challenge this bill”, there has to be some substance to it. Politically, it is easy to say, “I'm defending privacy rights”. It is like saying, “I have the flag on my chest here and I'm going to protect Canadians”. However, there has to be a substantive way that someone can demonstrate they are protecting Canadians. They have to protect Canadians against something, and that something happens to be information that we provide in many ways when we travel to the United States. We must have a passport these days, with our name, our address, our birthdate, our passport number, and information on everywhere we have travelled. The U.S. has access to that. That is as much information as will be given under the intent of Bill C-42 when someone is flying over U.S. airspace.

The issue was always whether or not there was an obligation or duty to respect another country's right to protect its own airspace. Indeed, when we look at the testimony before committee, and I have looked at the testimony from November last year, particularly the testimony of the Privacy Commissioner when she appeared, and a number of other witnesses, including representatives of the Government of the United States, the Government of Canada, the aviation industry, and a very large list of civil rights groups that had expressed concern about the disclosure of information, it is clear that the bottom line or conclusion of the proceedings of the committee was that there was no choice. We had to allow the requested information to be given.

Thus I guess some of the questions, and maybe members who are not sure may want to inform themselves by other ways, are: who is going to decide what information it will be, where that information is to reside, and when it is going to happen.

This whole thing was supposed to be in place by the end of 2010. It is not. We are carrying on here; we have not completed this bill.

However, I would refer the members to the committee hearings of November 18, 2010. Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner, appeared and gave a statement outlining very succinctly what we were facing.

Ms. Stoddart characterized Bill C-42 as a deceptively simple bill. It is short. It only has two clauses and only does one thing: it amends the Aeronautics Act to allow the operator of an aircraft scheduled to fly over a foreign state to provide certain personal information about passengers on the flight to the foreign state, when required to do so by the laws of that state. That is what it does. It is their right, and if a carrier that is resident of another country is not prepared to respect the rights of the destination country, or a country over whose airspace it travels, it has a choice. It can take another route. We cannot expect one country to dictate what the rules of the game will be in another jurisdiction, another country. That is their sovereign right, and we want to protect our sovereign right as well.

Arguments have been made that it should be reciprocal, that we should get their information too. I am pretty sure that we do in many ways already.

With regard to the specifics, I am looking at the testimony of the Privacy Commissioner and her suggestions, including to:

Ensure that the minimal amount of personal information is disclosed to American authorities.

Here the commissioner noted that the secure flight program, which is another program:

requires only three pieces of information. In particular, Transport Canada should work...to avoid excessive disclosures of personal information.

Of course, that is the role of the Privacy Commission, to protect the disclosure of information that is not essential or necessary for the point, and this is what has happened.

In questioning the Privacy Commissioner, the member for Markham—Unionville asked:

In respect of the minimal amount of information being passed to the U.S. government, are you suggesting that the Canadian government can have regulations to ensure that only the three basic pieces of information—name, date of birth, and gender—can be transferred to the U.S.? Is that what you're suggesting?

The Privacy Commissioner responded:

Yes. I understand that this can be specified under the Aeronautics Act. My understanding is that they would have to specify whether they want Canadian planes to continue to fly over airspace in harmony with what DHS [Department of Homeland Security] is asking for.

I think we have found ourselves in a situation where, if we want to drag out a bill, this is probably a good one with which to do it because it is very short, but it touches on an area that is an important concern, not only to Canadians but also to members of Parliament.

Privacy issues are a big topic, particularly with regard to things that we have studied about Facebook and Google and whatever, including the banking system. The velocity of information in our society is enormous, but we understand that in the United States, with the Department of Homeland Security that operates separately from transport operations, they do have an extraordinary latitude and a mandate to be able to give assurances to American citizens as well.

That is what the United States has done in requesting this accommodation to have this information, but if we are to debate the bill, we had better debate the facts of what information is actually to be transferred. It cannot be acceptable in this place to start saying that hotel addresses will have to be given out and the names of family members. That is not the case. Members really need some focus here.

I understand the fervour for protecting privacy, but we cannot just put it on our sleeves and say we are protecting the privacy of Canadians. We need to understand that we have some obligations.

This is not the only bill involved in our relationship with the United States. We have many arrangements with regard to the United States that work for our mutual benefit. They are not identical in all respects in the way in which they have a special interest, but we have taken a position to work with the United States to ensure public security.

I am sure my time is going to run out shortly, but the other thing that members will find if they look at the testimony of the Privacy Commissioner deals with the retention of the information. That is another area. Indeed, the Privacy Commissioner looked for retention periods of somewhere in the neighbourhood of seven years, mirroring our current practice.

I hope I have helped members to understand this is not that complicated.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member knows that for any flight actually landing in the United States, the Americans get passport information before the flight actually leaves the ground in Canada. This legislation would basically extend that same process to flights that are overflying the United States.

It makes perfect sense to me that when the Canadian government is negotiating with the Americans, it would demand reciprocity. That is just the normal process. Thus if we are going to provide information on those 100 flights over American airspace, the U.S. in turn should provide us with information on 2,000 flights over Canada.

A member of the government told me the other day that the government could not afford to pay for the computer system to process all of the information and that because of that, the government had not asked for it. Had we asked for that information, the whole process would have ground to a halt, because the American airlines and the American public would have been enraged and would have gone to Congress and their senators and voiced their concerns. If so, this whole idea would not have been pushed with the deadline of December 31 and this other sense of urgency that we are seeing right now.

Furthermore, in the Canada-EU agreement, in regard to PNR management matters, the PNR is treated totally differently. There is a time limit for disposal of the data, which is not in this agreement before us, where the data can be held for 40 years. There is a limit on the data's use, which is not in this agreement. Under this agreement the data can be shared with other countries like Panama. There are limits in terms of the individualization of the data. The information is rendered anonymous so the security services can build up a profile without attaching it to any one individual. Is that not--

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I must give the hon. member for Mississauga South equal time to respond.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, Bill C-42 has to do with Canada complying with a request by the United States to have air carriers disclose basic information on people flying.

The member's premise, and I have heard him repeat this several times, is that if the U.S. is going to do that to us, then we should do that to the U.S. That is not part of the bill. It is not the kind of discussion we should be having. It could be something that could be asked of the government in question period. The Minister of Transport or whomever could be brought before committee and asked about it. Let us discuss the process of how we do these things, because this is not part of the bill, and I am not sure whether or not it is part of what we need.

We would define our needs, and if we had thought we needed to know that information for public safety reasons, then we would have made that request. The case has not been made, apparently. The need has not been expressed, apparently. Consequently I am not sure that the argument holds that if the U.S. has asked us to do it, then we had better get the same information back. I am not sure, but we do not even play in the sandbox like that.

Thus I disagree with the member's premise. The question is an interesting one and it should be asked in the proper forum.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, quite clearly, when the Minister of Public Safety appeared before our committee, he said that the government did not want this bill, that the government did not want to give this information to the U.S., that it had tried everything it could but did not accomplish its task of getting the U.S. to give up on this idea because, quite clearly, the security implications of it were minimal, if anything.

When my colleague says the government should have worked harder to find a way to get the U.S. to recognize the ridiculousness of this bill, that is what we are trying to do here. That is why we put forward a three-year drop dead clause.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, we would prefer not to have to do anything to protect public security or to deal with our neighbours to the south. However, the U.S. has asked for this. We cannot say that we are not going to do it. We cannot say this is not the way we want to go. The important thing is to look at the whole story.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, which is very important legislation.

We have finally heard other opinions in debate about the legislation, and I want to congratulate the members of the Liberal Party for joining the debate. It would be nice to hear from some Conservatives, but it has been interesting to hear the various points of view.

The last member who spoke, someone I have great respect for, said that we would have to go along with the bill because we had no choice when it came to negotiating on issues of security with the United States. On that very issue, I would take him on. I believe we have a choice and the government has a choice. The government has a choice about whether we should stand up for the privacy rights of Canadians. I believe the bill diminishes the privacy rights of Canadians.

The key part of the bill is to exempt airlines from the provisions of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act so they can provide personal information about passengers on Canadian airlines to American security agencies. I think this is a very serious concern to Canadians. Just how much of our personal information will get into the hands of U.S. security agencies and where does it go from there? Who else is it being shared with? There are all kinds of questions that we need to be ask.

Rather than saying it is not a privacy issue, though I think it is, it is also an issue of sovereignty. How do Canadians make decisions about their personal information and do we have to fold every time the United States seeks to increase the security of its borders, which impacts Canada? We see that time and time again.

I wish the Conservative government was as aggressive on this issue as it is on the issue of the census, which is a no-brainer. It will defend the right of Canadians not to tell census takers how many bedrooms or bathrooms they have in their homes, but when it comes to sharing our personal information with American security officials, it is open season. It is incredibly ironic we have this debate about the legislation and that we should just holus-bolus roll over and send the information south.

The government claims to be great defenders of the privacy of Canadians, that somehow it is too intrusive to ask people how many bathrooms or bedrooms they have, when most of us know how that information is used and how much the personal privacy of the people who provide the information is protected in our country. It is an incredible irony to me that the same government is responsible for both of those positions.

Should we be concerned about our information going south? Time and time again we see that information crops up in places where it is a real problem. This morning we heard the member for Winnipeg Centre say that he was on the no fly list, that he could not get on a plane in Canada easily. It has changed now because he misspells his name to alert the airlines and security officials that he is the member of Parliament from Winnipeg Centre, not the guy who should be on the no fly list. What kind of bogus approach is that?

A Canadian member of Parliament cannot get his name off of the no fly list. What chance does an average citizen have? That is just one of the problems with this kind of security apparatus that has been established. When a mistake is made, it cannot be corrected.

I have a friend who is in exactly the same position as the member for Winnipeg Centre. He has to make the same kind of run around the no fly list because it has created havoc with his ability to travel, totally unjustly. There is no way of correcting that in the system. There is no way of finding out why a person's name is on the no fly list.

People are justly concerned about their personal information and what happens when it gets into the hands of a security agency that they have no ability to access, to appeal to or to make changes.

We see it in other ways. It is not exactly a parallel to the situation we are debating today, but it is another instance of what happens when a security agency outside of Canada gets hold of our personal information. Recently, a woman from Toronto was denied access into the United States because a U.S. customs and border protection officer at Pearson airport denied her entry for medical reasons because he had access to her medical report. He knew that she had attempted suicide in 2006. Apparently he knew this because police records were available to him that showed the police had attended at her house because she had attempted to do violence to self.

Why does this American agency have information about a non-criminal activity from the metro Toronto police? Why would it have what is essentially health information about this Canadian woman who is trying to travel to the United States? Why would the Americans deny her entry on the basis of that information?

She had to go through a whole rigmarole. She had to have a medical examination by a state department physician that cost her an additional $250. Then that report had to be screened before she was eventually allowed into the United States.

This is just another example of what happens to our personal information. In my opinion, from what I have read in the media and heard from her lawyer, this information should never have been made available to a foreign security agency. It has no relevance to her interest in travelling to the United States. There is no security issue with her travelling to the United States. Yet it was raised in that circumstance with her at the airport while she was trying to travel to the there.

No one can seem to allay my fear that this is the kind of thing that will become more common. More information will be shipped south about Canadians wanting to travel to the United States and even when they are not trying to travel there. It is very worrisome.

Another example is this. Most of us who travel at least have had pause to consider the placement of the full body scanners in Canadian airports. We have seen these expensive machines cropping up at all of our security checkpoints in airports. There are real privacy concerns about the kind of imaging they produce, the full body scan. Recently a new generation of these machines have been unveiled that gives an even finer, more exact naked image of the person being screened. I think people have legitimate concerns about that.

Today there is a report that the machines are being modified so not all images would be viewed by the person doing the screening, only those where there is an identified problem. One wonders why that feature was not built into the system from the get-go rather than weeks or months down the road when people raised concerns about it. It speaks to the enthusiasm for new security measures that are not tested appropriately and not thought through.

Again, why do we have these kinds of expensive scanners in airports? I have not seen the evidence that says the old scanning system was somehow flawed or that there had been incidents of major concerns, especially in Canada, that would cause us to need this new technology. Every time I see one of those I wish it was a scanner in a hospital rather than at the airport. If we could sink that money into scanners for medical purposes, I think Canadians would be extremely enthusiastic.

Somehow, because the United States started putting them at security checkpoints in its airports, we had to do it in Canada. I do not think we did it for our own reasons. I think we did it because the Americans wanted it. Once again, they said “hop” and we hopped and put them in here at the expense, aggravation and diminution of the privacy of Canadians. The perception of the Americans of their security needs demanded it. I do not think that is acceptable. It is not acceptable from a privacy standard or a sovereignty standard.

This goes back to the misapprehension that somehow the 9/11 attackers came from Canada. We know they did not. However, Canada accepted 30,000 people who were trying to fly into the United States without question. We landed them here, welcomed and took care of them when the United States would not let them into its country.

That says something about the difference between how we approach a security problem and how the Americans approach a security problem. I want us to remember that when we approach any kind of legislation that deals with the security demands of the United States and the sovereignty and privacy concerns of Canadians.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, let me congratulate the member for bringing the discussion to where we really should be on this bill.

The bill has raised a broader question about our relationship with other countries, particularly with the United States. The member has raised a number of questions such as whether we should we monitor those development or invest and follow as much as we do.

Those are the questions that should be asked. Maybe we should urge the transport committee and the public safety committee to take these into account. Maybe we need to ask the government more specifically about the reasons and the rationale for taking a decision.

Those are the fundamentals that really underlie this issue. It is not so much that we disagree with someone's right to sovereignty over airspace. We are concerned about the privacy, but if we are talking about name, birthdate and gender, that is not an invasion of privacy about which Canadians will get terribly excited, but it is at the thin edge of the wedge.

Those are the kinds of things the member has brought up. I want to thank him for that. Does he have any further suggestions on how we address this important issue?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I hope when the Prime Minister is meeting with President Obama tomorrow, when they are discussing perimeter security arrangements for North America, which is a legitimate topic for discussion, that he calls the American President on some of the excesses of what the Americans are doing.

I understand the Americans feel threatened. I understand they have been attacked. However, maybe somebody needs to put those questions and who better than their closest neighbour? Who better than someone they share all kinds of common interests with? Those are the kinds of questions that a friend can put to them most clearly.

I think the Americans may have gone too far on some of these things. Maybe we are the right people to ask them that question, to point that out to them and to try to find a different way through that. Those are things that we could be doing as Canadians.

Maybe that is something we bring, rather than what appears to be the case of always conceding to the demand of the Americans for the new technology, the new restrictions and the new requirements for more information to be shared. Is it the right way to go? We need to ask those questions and put that kind of pressure on our friends. Friends are for that. When we are in difficulty or are not seeing the situation clearly, friends raise those kinds of issues.

I hope that is what the Prime Minister is taking to the meeting with the President.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to acknowledge the work the member for B.C. has done over the years in this place and thank him for that work. I wish him all the best in future endeavours. We will certainly miss him.

One thing the member touched on was how we would approach these issues. We hear concerns raised by some of the other opposition parties, but when it comes to voting for or against this proposition, only one party will vote against the bill because we have concerns.

Does my colleague see the value in raising concerns on the one hand, but at the end of the day just voting for the bill and watching it pass through the House with no amendments even proposed by other opposition parties? What does he think about that?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 12:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his tribute to the nearly departed.

It is really important that we pay attention to these issues and raise them in this place. There is often this feeling that somehow the Americans always have the power to enforce their interests. I do not believe that is the case.

Canadians have a power to bring to negotiations with the United States, that we do not always have to compromise in its interest. We can stand up for our own interests in these discussions. We have had governments that have been too willing to compromise our interests for too long. I see other parties in this place continuing that trend.

Clearly we want to have a good relationship with the United States. It is our closest neighbour. However, we could take a different course in our negotiations with the Americans.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, our party's concern with Bill C-42 is not news to other members. I should correct the record. I mentioned a moment ago that other parties had not put forward amendments. They have. I would consider them minor. A review of a process that is flawed should be addressed at the beginning, not after three years.

I want to go back to a debate we had in the House on Bill C-31. It addressed concerns around the electoral process in our country. I remember well the debates around the bill at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs The bill looked at how we could streamline the electoral process in this country. Our party was the only one to push against the provision for the government to allow birthdates of Canadians to be put on the voters' list. It had never been utilized before. It was fascinating to watch. People I thought were libertarians, people who believed in the protection of Canadians' privacy, simply caved on the issue of whether or not birthdates should be on the electoral list. It was the two other opposition parties at committee who welcomed this change.

Their colleagues were not aware that we would have birthdates on the electoral list. Thankfully, the Privacy Commissioner intervened, at my request, which was not initially allowed at committee. The committee thought we had heard enough from Ms. Stoddart, however, she had not been able to intervene on this new provision for electoral lists. She provided her opinion that this was a sellout of privacy of Canadians, that they should not have their birthdate on the electoral list.

It was astonishing to see the two other opposition parties allow this to go through. The provision was killed but not because of opposition from the government or the other two opposition parties. Our party fought against it. Why? It is a very basic principle that the privacy of Canadians is paramount. There are times when there is a need for authorities to have information on Canadians, but imagine having one's birthdate and address on a list for all to see.

At the time, we called it a theft kit for identification fraud brought about by the Government of Canada. That is really what it was. For those who want to steal an identity, whether it be for false credit cards or whatever, all that is needed is a birthdate and an address.

We fought against it. Thankfully, we were able to get a clear opinion from the Privacy Commissioner. That made a huge difference, to the point where that provision was eventually dropped. We relied on her office and her opinion to do that. The government fought against having her evidence brought forward at committee. Members sitting on that committee know of what I speak.

Here we are again looking at a bill that would compromise Canadians' privacy. I am astonished that instead of getting this right to ensure that Canadians' privacy will not be compromised, we are going ahead full bore.

The government has recycled countless bills through prorogation, elections, et cetera, simply so it can reintroduce them and claim it is moving ahead, usually on crime legislation. It is all politics, all the time. A bill as important as this gets very little debate, very little attention from the government and not a lot from my friends down the way in the opposition. In one case an opposition party thinks the bill is great and would push it through as quickly as possible.

Someone has to stand up for privacy in this country and in this Parliament. If we do not do that, we have to go to our constituents when the bill is passed and tell them we looked at this in Parliament and we are sorry their names were compromised and ended up on a no-fly list. We were told it would not happen on flights from Windsor to Vancouver.

It is not good enough. We have to be thorough. We have to be careful when we are talking about issues of privacy. This is very different from the Canada Elections Act. The elections act was an abuse of privacy. Ms. Stoddart talked about it in her testimony and we debated that in the House and at committee. This is about another government having access. It is one thing to have Parliament acquiesce and provide that information to Elections Canada that ends up being in the hands of anyone who has access to those lists, but it is another thing to provide that information to another government. With all due respect, it matters not which government. This is a question about our sovereignty. This is a question about who gets to decide the privacy of Canadians.

As mentioned by my colleague from the north, we are putting into law provisions that would allow, in this case, the United States, access to information that normally would not be given to it when a flight is just going from A to B within our own country. It is astonishing that we would go through the process so quickly with a government that makes no bones about the politics of keeping bills going for Parliament after Parliament. When it comes to an issue as important as the sovereignty of Canadians, it wants to get it through as quickly as possible.

We need to understand what is at stake here. We are not talking about being “soft” on terrorism. That should be thrown out immediately. If we are going to talk about provisions around security, let us look at where investments are being made. Let us look at border security. Let us look at shared information with regard to law enforcement. We have been very critical of the lack of investment in that area. Let us look at cargo inspection. If we really want to get at the issue of security, then we should put our investments in the right place. This is the veneer of security, at a cost. The cost is the vulnerability of Canadians' privacy.

In the first part of Bill C-42 the government did not do its usual play on language and nomenclature. I usually do not read the exact text because it sometimes is not as engaging as one might want to have in debate, but this is important. Proposed subsection 4.83(1) states:

Despite section 5 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, to the extent that that section relates to obligations set out in Schedule 1 to that Act relating to the disclosure of information, and despite subsection 7(3) of that Act, an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada that is due to land in a foreign state or fly over a foreign state and land outside Canada or of a Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada that is due to land in or fly over a foreign state may, in accordance with the regulations, provide to a competent authority--

Those are the other guys.

--in that foreign state any information that is in the operator’s control....

Let me be clear about the first part. It means that we have to amend our privacy rights for the bill to go through and it compromises Canadians. That is wrong.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, the member for Ottawa Centre has always been strong on issues of personal privacy, personal information and assuring Canadians that their personal information is protected. He raised extremely valid points about the impact of what, up until now, has been a fairly obscure bill, but a bill that Canadians are increasingly concerned about.

We know the Conservatives are pushing ahead and Conservative MPs do not have the ability or the right to disagree in any way with their government. They just rubber-stamp anything that the current government brings forward.

Why are the Liberals supporting this appallingly bad, intrusive legislation? Liberal members have criticized the legislation, but they are voting for it. I would like the member to explain that incredible contradiction. Why is the Liberal Party rubber-stamping bad Conservative legislation yet again?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish I had a sanguine answer for that, but I do not.

I am very concerned about the fact that members have been very clear about this being wrong in terms of the privacy provisions and that we need to do something about it and if they had been in government, they would have done a better job somehow.

The fact is we are in this place debating this legislation. If we do not think it is good enough, a three-year review is not the answer. It is a matter of saying our personal information is at stake and we should vote against the bill. There is no in between, there is no middle ground on this bill. It is unfortunate members feel they have to vote for this bill and yet make arguments against the content of the bill.

I say to my colleague who asked the question it is a matter of members having to look in the mirror and ask whom they are standing for, who are they representing and can they in good conscience vote for a bill that compromises Canadians' privacy. The answer is clear. They should not compromise privacy and should vote against the bill. There is time to do that.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the member to consider for a moment that there could have been some common ground in these negotiations. It would have been a much tougher approach by the Canadian government to say to the Americans that 100 flights a day from Canada fly in United States airspace but there are 2,000 flights a day from the U.S. flying in Canadian airspace, that Canada will provide that information but the U.S. will have to provide Canada with the same information. Immediately American airlines and consumers would have become very agitated and would have started calling their representatives in Congress and there would have been a pullback on this issue.

The government told me the other day that Canada could not afford the computer system to process all of this information and the Americans have the half a billion dollars to dedicate to that.

The other issue is that in terms of the agreement itself, Canada has an agreement on PNR use with the European Union. It deals with the PNR totally differently. Unlike this agreement where we are going to give the Americans the information and they can keep it for 40 years, the PNR agreement with the EU requires a very limited time period for the disposal of the data. It makes sure that the information is rendered anonymously so it is not tied to an individual. There is—

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Ottawa Centre.

I must give the hon. member time to respond.