Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-42. It really is a fundamental question about the right of Canadians to privacy versus some other foreign national government's decision, whether it be the United States, or some other third party such as Colombia or Panama or any other country around the world that wishes to have the personal information of me or anyone else in our country who chooses to travel by air.
I find it quite astounding that somehow we think that giving this information up is okay and we can trot out security as being the justification for giving up our private information.
Where does it would stop? Some would say that it is just our names, the hotel we are going to, whether we are renting a car and where we are going to travel in that country. We know there are sophisticated programs in place that could develop profiles about people. However, profiles can be false. I remind the House that there are a number of us who have similar last names. I and the member for Tobique—Mactaquac have the same last name, but we ensure in the House that we identify the member for Welland or the member for Tobique—Mactaquac. The same is done for others whose names are similar.
However, as my colleague and friend from Winnipeg ably pointed out, what we see is that where mistakes are made, they cannot be corrected. Therefore, if a person has a similar name that may sound like someone else's, that person ends up on a list. As my friend described his case earlier, travelling from his Winnipeg riding to his workplace in Ottawa became a great challenge based on being misidentified. Imagine how many other folks have been misidentified.
We know about Maher Arar and the absolutely heinous crime perpetrated against that individual by misinformation that was passed from government to government. Yet they were supposed to have the ability to do it well.
Now airlines will pass information to government agencies and we will not know where it goes. We will not know who they share it with. It could be other foreign national governments. It could be other agencies within the United States or within other foreign national governments. Yet as individuals we will have no control over our information and we will not even be able to come to our own government. People could not come to us and say that they needed us to help them control what had happened to their personal information because these agencies had it wrong and thought they were someone they were not.
As representatives of the citizens of our country, how do we protect the sovereignty of this nation and those citizens if we cannot correct the information that we helped deliver to a foreign national that got it wrong, when it simply puts up the roadblock, puts its hands in the air and says that it is sorry but that is the way it is going to be?
I remind my colleagues of the days in elementary school. One of the activities that many teachers used to give elementary school children was to whisper a story into the ear of the first child in a row and ask each child to whisper it to the next and pass it all the way through. By the time it came out from child number 23, the class would see how close it matched the original story. I believe, as that information goes from one government to one agency to a second agency to a third to a fourth to a fifth to another government then another government and its agencies, by the time it is finished I am not sure who they think I am anymore.
If it is our sense that somehow we are keeping terrorists out of the sky, we are really mistaken. That will not prevent folks from doing that. Folks who intend to perpetrate heinous crimes find a way to work outside of the system.
My friends in the government are always keen to talk about the long gun registry and how it does not prevent crime because criminals do not obey the law. Terrorists do not obey the law. Developing a law to give information to someone will not prevent terrorists from simply saying that they think they will become Mr. or Mrs. so and so today.
We know how easy it is in this Internet age to steal identities of other people. In my case, I would hate for someone to steal my identity. I could end up, like my colleague from Winnipeg, thinking I am going on vacation with my family and getting turned away at the airport. Because I am headed back to my ancestral homeland, going back to Glasgow, Scotland to visit with my aunts and uncles, I could find out that I cannot get there because I am about to fly over some foreign country. In this case it could be Greenland or Iceland.
I could be told that my name is on a list, unbeknownst to me and because of someone else who decided to misappropriate my identity. It could end up not being able to be corrected. We face this serious situation. Somehow we have not come to grips with it in our rush to simply give up the personal information of our citizens.
We are not asking for this to be done, by the way. There is no great groundswell of public opinion in Canada asking us to do this.
One of the questions earlier was about information. I believe the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore asked if the government was delineating this information in any kind of political way. Forget about the politics, the government ought to tell Canadians that it is willing to tell foreign governments all about them, that it is willing to give them the information of Canadians, that it is not going to fight to ensure Canadians can keep their privacy and that it is going to pass a bill to ensure their privacy is compromised. Let us see what Canadians have to say to us about that.
This is so far under the radar, no pun intended, that it is ridiculous. We need to inform our citizens that the government is about to compromise their privacy. They believe they have a right to privacy. The charter says they do have a right to privacy.
If citizens believe it and it is enshrined in law, why is the government compromising it, all in the name of “security”? I believe those who work for our security services, whether it be CSIS, the CBSA, the RCMP or the other agencies across this land, are up to the job. When people board a plane, folks have a sense of who they are. They have to identify themselves.
If there is an issue with me, if I have some difficulties with the law, security services will know that and they will then be able to do something about it.
We are contracting out, like we do with so many other things, the security and the privacy of Canadians to someone else. It could be to Panama, Bolivia, Guatemala, the U.S. or the EU. Our right is to our citizens. Our work is on behalf of our citizens. In my view we do not have the right to contract that obligation and that responsibility out to third, fourth, fifth, sixth parties. As they pass it around, that is exactly where it is going to go.
This is from testimony that came before the committee from some of the witnesses who talked about how this thing actually took place. It states:
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...
In other words, someone in Canada is looking to get a board pass, the list goes somewhere else, to Homeland Security in this case because he or she is going to over fly the U.S. The U.S. Homeland Security will decided whether people can get a boarding pass, even though they are not going to the United States. They could be going to a destination wedding in Mexico. My family is participating in one next week for a very gorgeous young woman who I have known from the age of five.
I cannot comprehend the thought of my wife and two daughters showing at the airport and somehow their names being on a list. They could get turned away and not be able to go to the wedding of that young woman, simply because someone in the U.S. said that their names were on a list. Their name would be on a list inappropriately.
We need to ensure we do the job in our country and do it well. I think Canadians expect us to do that. We need to ensure that our security forces are robust, and they are. We do not need the help of Homeland Security.
Homeland Security still thinks the 9/11 terrorists came across the 49th parallel and flew those planes into the Twin Towers. The bottom line is it was wrong. It was such a horrendous, heinous crime and yet Homeland Security cannot get it right. I do not know it can get Smith and Allen right quite frankly.