Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to speak on this bill.
One of the most disturbing pieces of legislation the government has brought forward is Bill C-42. As I understand it, Bill C-42 amends the Aeronautics Act to allow airlines to send the personal information of passengers to foreign countries. The information to be forwarded will be determined by the requirements laid out in a secret agreement with other countries.
Imagine, it was the current federal government that cancelled the long form census, because it was too invasive of Canadians' privacy, but it is now trying to pass a law to hand over to foreign security agencies undisclosed information about Canadian passengers who may not even be landing on those countries' soil. This secretive government, which is so eager to divulge its citizens' private information to other governments, will not talk about these secret agreements, but we have some understanding of similar information transfer agreements between the European Union and the United States and they are all very troubling.
We know that the agreement allows the forwarding of a passenger's name record, which is the file a travel agent creates when the passenger books a vacation. This file could include credit card information; the name of the person a citizen is travelling with; hotel details and other booking information, such as tours and car rentals, et cetera. This agreement also provides details of any serious medical conditions of passengers.
The information collected can be retained by the United States for up to 40 years. This information may be forwarded to the security service of a third nation without the consent or notification of other signatories. I will dwell on this because it particularly concerns me.
Canada has signed another secret deal with one of the countries that is on this list, and that is Brazil. The secret agreement that was signed concerns the Investment Canada Act. Now we would be sending information on all Canadian citizens who fly over the United States to this country. It was this country that came to Canada under a secret agreement and then put our workers on strike for one year and used scab labour. This same country was given $1 billion by the Canadian government so it could lay off most of its employees in Thompson, Manitoba. Now Canada is going to send to this country all of the information about Canadians who fly to the United States. I think it is unreasonable that we would be sending this information to this country in particular.
No person may know what information is being held about them by the United States and may not correct that information if there are errors. I will also dwell on this.
We had a very good example by our colleague from Winnipeg a few minutes ago. An error was made on his information and it cannot be corrected. This information can be kept for 40 years. Our colleague from Winnipeg is stuck for 40 years. I am sure he is not the only Canadian who had mistakes made, and this is going to increase if we sign this agreement.
The United States may unilaterally amend this agreement as long as it advises the EU of the change. In essence, this bill would allow data mining of Canadians' personal information by foreign security services.
We know that Canada is being bullied by the U.S., that unless this bill passes, the United States could close its airspace to Canadian aircraft. The truth is that Canada and the United States have a long history of co-operation in politics, economics, defence, security and culture. We know that the United States cannot simply cut off its airspace to our flights and passengers. That is simply not realistic.
The government could do better for its citizens, but it is not. We on this side of the House are dumbfounded as to why the government, which bills itself as a great defender of our privacy, would so readily abandon our rights. It is utterly shameful.
I want to stress that this debate is not an ideological one. Its significance is due to the extent to which the federal government would go in relinquishing our rights without any disclosure to its citizens. This is truly a bad piece of legislation.
Do not take my word for it. I will read what others have had to say about this legislation. Roch Tassé, the national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, has stated:
After running a risk assessment for each passenger using data-mining technology, the Department of Homeland Security in turn issues a boarding pass result back to the airline. The result instructs the airline to issue a boarding pass, deny permission to travel, or issue enhanced screening requirements.
These regulations give the U.S. access to a whole subset of information on air passengers who are not entering the U.S. but merely overflying its airspace.
Another witness at committee has noted:
Furthermore, this information can be shared among at least 16 U.S. agencies and with foreign governments. The program gives the government of a foreign country a de facto right to decide who gets to travel to and from Canada, since the vast majority of Canadian flights to and from Europe, the Caribbean, and South America overfly American airspace.
There are many cases that involve Canadians. Canadians have been denied boarding by the U.S. Even domestic flights in Canada have been reported. These cases include several individuals who have been deemed by Canadian courts and commissions of inquiry not to pose a risk to the national security of Canada.
Dr. Mark Salter, associate professor at the School of Political Studies of the University of Ottawa, had this to say:
Governments want this information so that they can build profiles of not just risky passengers but safe passengers as well.
He went on to say:
What worries me about this particular legislation is that the data not only go to the destination country but may go to all states that the airline might fly over. That, I feel, is the significant change that this legislation brings, and it worries me a great deal.
He is right when he says:
...I think it is dangerous to sacrifice our privacy and our freedoms for the dream of zero risk or perfect security. This particular measure does not provide additional security for the aviation sector, and it places an additional burden on Canadian citizens who are flying.
Mr. Edward Hasbrouck of the Liberty Coalition, a U.S.-based civil liberties group, stated:
You should be very clear that the enactment of Bill C-42 would grant to the U.S. government de facto veto power over the ability of virtually anyone to obtain sanctuary in Canada, since in most cases it's impossible to get to Canada to make a claim for political asylum or refugee status without overflying the U.S., and that power of the U.S. would be exercised at the worst possible point: while a refugee is still on the soil of and subject to the persecution of the regime they are trying to flee.
I want to speak about one point that my colleague from Vancouver East touched on. She said there were six points and she touched on one. I would like to touch on the second point, the information quality and proportionality principle. Information should be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.
I just want to inform the House that if this information is not accurate, we cannot make any changes to it. How many Canadians will this affect? We know there are many Canadians who fly regularly over the United States. It will result in more and more mistakes, and these mistakes will not be correctable.