Madam Speaker, it is important for all members to speak to Bill C-42 because, even though it has not received a lot of media attention and journalists have not been writing the kinds of articles they should be writing about its implications, it does have implications for the average Canadian from coast to coast to coast.
I hope that as a result of the debate that has grown over the course of this week that we will see more interest from our Press Gallery and from our national journalists on this important question because Bill C-42 would have an impact everywhere in the country.
I will begin my remarks where the member for Ottawa Centre left off on what this bill actually says. It says that:
--an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada that is due to land in a foreign state or fly over the United States and land outside Canada or of a Canadian aircraft departing from any place outside Canada that is due to land in a foreign state or fly over the United States may, in accordance with the regulations, provide to a competent authority in that foreign state any information that is in the operator’s control relating to persons on board or expected to be on board the aircraft and that is required by the laws of the foreign state.
The bill states that someone's personal information can be handed over. That is not a small issue, particularly as we go through some of the personal information that will be handed over to the secret services of the United States and other foreign states. It is not information that any Canadian would want to have shared widely.
We know the extent to which security services share this kind of personal information. All of us see the chaos that is occurring in Egypt. We know that the secret service of the Egyptian government is one of the potential recipients of this kind of personal information. The information will not be held in any sort of secure place. It can be held for up to 40 years. We are talking about personal information that is completely out of the bounds of what is normally considered to be personal information protection.
The privacy question is completely gutted by this bill, and perhaps that is the reason we are not hearing many Conservative voices rising up to defend it. This bill is, quite frankly, indefensible. I think the Conservatives, particularly in light of what they purported to put out on a census, will have some great difficulty defending to their constituents what is a significant massive handover of personal information.
What is the kind of information that the Conservative government wants to hand over to the United States secret service and other foreign secret services? It begs the questions: why is the government not standing up for Canadians? Why has it not tried to negotiate any sort of agreement that takes into consideration the concerns that the Privacy Commissioner has brought forward?
Concerns have been raised by the Privacy Commissioner. A number of my colleagues in the Liberal Party said that her concerns do not matter but I have to disagree. It certainly does matter when the Privacy Commissioner raises a whole series of conditions around this exchange of information and the government does absolutely nothing to protect that personal information. That is a cause for great concern.
What is in the information that can be exchanged? As my colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore said, we are talking about a passenger's name record that can include credit card information, who the passenger is travelling with, the passenger's hotel, the booking information concerning the trip and also medical conditions. Medical conditions and credit card information then get sent abroad.
The government has not in any way tried to change that. The government seems to be trying to ram this legislation through. The Minister of Public Safety stood in the House in December and said that the bill needed to be passed by December 31 or the earth would collapse, the roof would fall in and all planes would be grounded.
I was on a plane yesterday and what the Minister of Public Safety said was complete balderdash. That has not happened.
The government needs to step back from what has been an hysterical attempt to ram the legislation through and start to justify why it wants to share credit card information and confidential medical information with foreign secret services regardless of the fact that it has no idea where the information will end up.
The information can be stored legally up to 40 years. We are not talking about information that is transferred and then destroyed according to very strict protocols. We are talking about information that is gone forever. Our personal information and the personal information of other Canadians across the country is out there. It is gone. This is a statement of fact and yet the Conservatives have not tried to justify in any way why they did not endeavour to put in place protocols that would allow for the destruction of that information on a very strict and time sensitive basis.
The other element here is that Canadians cannot find out what information is held about them and, if that information is inaccurate, they cannot in any way change that information. Personal information is sent to the United States and to other foreign governments and the information is held for decades in conditions we have no knowledge of and no control over. It is information that can never be corrected and we can never find out what that information is about.
It is absolutely absurd, when we look at the components of what is actually in the bill, that we have a government trying on the one hand to defend this wholesale transfer of Canadians' personal information, their credit card information, their medical information and other information, and, at the same time, it is the same government, as the member for Winnipeg Centre said earlier today, that wanted to shut down the census because it thought information like the size of a person's house was too sensitive to share.
What is wrong with this picture? The census is a valuable tool. The mandatory long form census was used to give governments an accurate idea of what was happening in the population, whether Canadians were moving to larger homes, whether more people were living within the same residence and to what extent government policies impacted people's housing arrangements and incomes. Those kinds of elements are vitally important for the government to act in the public good.
The Conservatives were screaming hysterically against the mandatory long form census and now they are bringing in a bill that would transport vastly more personal information all over high heaven, to security services wherever; the Egyptian secret service or the American secret service, and that information can be thrown about for decades without any sort of checks and balances or any type of controls.
The government either does not understand how hypocritical that looks to Canadians or it has been playing politics all along with the census information and is now playing politics in a very clear way with Canadians' personal information.
We have seen with the no fly list how the kinds of mistakes that are made can lead to people simply being unable to board flights. We have seen it with fine upstanding citizens, such as Senator Ted Kennedy, members of Parliament and well-known celebrities, who, through no fault of their own, found themselves on a no fly list and are completely incapable of getting themselves off the list.
Instead of trying to fix that, we have a government that is going into vastly darker, deeper recesses of the kinds of information sharing that is irresponsible and clearly not in the interests of Canadians. That is why in this corner of the House the NDP is standing up for those ordinary Canadians and saying no to this wholesale, irresponsible transfer of Canadians' personal information.