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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

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, is my colleague aware of whether the government at any point in time in these negotiations with the United States even bothered to ask for reciprocity? Not to say that I necessarily agree with that or would even agree with the deal if there were reciprocity, but I find it rather extraordinary that the government would bend over backward and offer something to the United States that I think significantly affects Canadian privacy and would not even ask for the same thing in return.

Again, I stress I am not suggesting that even that would be a good thing, but just in terms of process, I would like to know if the hon. member is aware of any effort in that regard on the part of the government.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, to our knowledge the Government of Canada did not demand reciprocity. At least that would have softened the impact in some sense. We believe there are far more Americans travelling through Canadian airspace than there are Canadians travelling through American airspace. If there was any reason, logic or demonstrable need for this information to be shared, surely what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

To our knowledge the government went into those negotiations essentially taking direction from the United States as to what needed to be done. The Conservatives sold the farm. They sold us out. They sold out on the privacy rights of Canadians for very little in return.

The last thing I will mention is that in this list of things that we have forfeited, the United States may in fact unilaterally amend the agreement as long as it advises the European Union of the change. There has already been one amendment. We would be bound by those amendments made without our involvement or participation whatsoever.

We have signed on to a pig in a poke here. It remains to be seen just how badly our privacy rights have been compromised.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

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.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I greatly appreciate the people who are speaking against the bill today. It is extremely important to recognize the lack of security that would be a part of this and the fact that the amount of information that would be provided would actually surpass what we should be providing.

I just want to refer to the European Commission of 1998, which put forward six key principles that must be included: the purpose limitation principle; the information quality and proportionality principle; the transparency principle; the security principle; the right to access, rectification and opposition principle; and the restriction on onward transfers principle.

Bill C-42 does not include any of these protections. Under the bill, it is open season on the private information of Canadians. We know what happens with that. We just have to look at Maher Arar. He was detained for over a year for being on a list.

My question to my colleague is, could he elaborate on the difficulties that families would have in trying to get their loved ones back, should this information be provided?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague refers to private information in her interesting question. When mistakes are made when governments are collecting private information, as I stated a while ago, this information cannot be corrected.

The bill will therefore prevent a lot of people from travelling outside of Canada. That is not correct and it is something that we have to correct.

As I stated a while ago, the government claims to be the protector of private information. We witnessed that claim with the cancellation of the long form census, but now it is willing to give all types of information to foreign countries, and that has to be stopped.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do have a sensitivity to the privacy issues and the potential misuse of information, but I think the member has maybe inadvertently misled the House with regard to the exact information that is required to be disclosed under this bill and under the agreement with the U.S.

I wonder if the member would care to share with the House exactly what he thinks the required disclosure is, pursuant to Bill C-42.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not misinform the House. The following is what is required when information is given out: a person's credit card information, who they are travelling with, what hotel they are staying at, information about their going on tours and renting a car, and information about any serious medical conditions they have. All of this information will be given out, but it is information that is not necessary.

My colleague asked me what information I think should be given out about a Canadian citizen. My answer is simple: none.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the right of privacy, the right of due process, the right to be able to confront one's accuser, these are fundamental principles of western democracy and the rule of law. The Conservatives obviously do not believe in them and neither do the Liberals.

I ask my hon. colleague why he thinks this parcel of rogues has sold out our nation? At least the original parcel of rogues got some gold and silver, but these guys gave away our rights. They are giving away our citizens' privacy for what? We have nothing in return.

What possible motivation could the Conservatives and their pals in the Liberal Party have for selling out the right of privacy of Canadian citizens?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question and it is impossible to answer it.

What reason would the Conservatives have for wanting to give out our personal information, especially after the fact they cancelled the long form census because it was too invasive.

What is their reasoning? We do not know what their reasoning is, and the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay is correct. They are just a bunch of rogues.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

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.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, this an important issue, considering that the Prime Minister will be in Washington on Friday negotiating even further enhancements of this type of information-sharing with the United States.

I refer to an article in today's Globe and Mail. It talks about key areas of co-operation that have been released out of a document that guides their discussions. One of the items is about tracking travellers. It was a conundrum to me as to why the U.S. government would allow an exemption for domestic flights when there is such a low level of security on domestic to domestic. Here is what the article says:

Countries would develop programs to better verify the identifies of travellers, including through “common standards for the use of biometrics” and shared information on travellers “in real time.”

Will the Prime Minister be in Washington to strike a deal that would allow information about any Canadian on a flight to be shared with a foreign power? What does that mean to our privacy and our rights as Canadians?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Western Arctic is a real champion of the privacy of Canadians. If it had not been for my colleague from Western Arctic standing up for the privacy of Canadians, I do not think anybody in the House would have. He has brought it to the forefront.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

I would have.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hear my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore saying that he would have, and so would all New Democrats.

The bottom line is the member for Western Arctic is the champion who has said that ultimately we need to protect the privacy of Canadians because they expect that from us. They expect no less. New Democrats will ensure we do that. I encourage every other member in Parliament to do exactly the same thing.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the concern about privacy issues, whether it be under the Privacy Act or under PIPEDA, is of importance to the House. The Privacy Commissioner has opined that this is a reasonable accommodation, taking into account the nature of the concerns between Canada and the U.S. and with regard to public safety and security.

Is the member aware of the position of the Privacy Commissioner? Does he believe she erred in her assessment?

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me answer the last part of the question first. I think the Privacy Commissioner did err.

The bottom line is there will always be a different point of view when it comes to the need for security, and I do not think anyone would argue with that. We have always had security.

I lived in a border town nearly all my life. Years ago it was good enough for me to tell border security on both the U.S. side and the Canadian side that I was from Welland and I was going to Pete's Pizza in Niagara Falls, New York. The security officers would tell me to have a good night. When I came back later in the evening with a car full of young people, and we know young people can be quite energetic, I told border security that I had been at Pete's Pizza. When an officer asked me if I had anything to declare, I said no. The officer told me to have a good night.

We have gone from that to the point where an individual needs a passport to get across because of some erroneous, fictitious folks in some countries who believe terrorists came from here when in fact they did not. The folks who destroyed the Twin Towers did not come from here, yet the Homeland Security chairperson still believes that.

Canada has been identified as a hotbed of terrorism in relationship to Mexico. How in heaven's name did that happen? Yet the Conservative government wants to share information on our citizens with senior U.S. officials who still deny history. It is astounding to me that would be the case. If senior leaders of the U.S. government cannot get it right, then surely to goodness we ought to pull back and tell them we will not share information on our citizens with their government.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was not going to speak to this given that I am not even on the schedule but I am on House duty and I used to be the critic for transport. In fact, I had the pleasure of being the minister for transportation issues when this bill was first proposed on the very last sitting day of the session in June, just before the House recessed for its summer break.

As one can imagine, I was immediately outraged both by the process and the substance of the legislation. I note, with some pleasure, although with some astonishment as well, that the NDP today has arrogated to itself sole possession of the virtue of being the watchdog on people's issues. However, it was rather silent in June. In fact, its silence was only replicated by the deafening tomb-like response of government members on the following issues. Bill C-42 is couched a security issue. The government addresses all issues as matters of security and/or law, crime and justice. There is no other government agenda, none whatsoever, that anyone can discern. In fact, all issues relating to the economy, which it purports to hold as the closest and most important priority of the nation, take second place to security, crime and justice. All economic issues are tied to those but this bill fits in neither of those categories.

Bill C-42 does one specific thing. It alleviates the risk factor, the liability issues associated with revealing information on private Canadian citizens that airline operators might divulge without their knowledge to foreign states. Notice that I said “foreign states”. I did not say the United States. I said foreign states because the bill was poorly drafted. It says that as long as a country can draft regulations demanding to know information that is in the possession of the airline operator on each and every one of its passengers and that airline operator overflies our territory, our airspace, it does not matter where we are, we have a right to demand it.

What the legislation says, notwithstanding the privacy regulations in Canada and the guarantees that we provide our own citizens within our own borders, is that the airline operator can provide passenger information to a foreign state if the plane overflies or lands there. That is all this would do. It would protect the airline operators from any civil suit for the breach of the privacy laws that we have taken great care to implement in this country and, in fact, which we promote everywhere as the hallmark of a very progressive nation.

I might be tempted in an unkind moment, and I am not there yet, to suggest that perhaps the government is treading marginally close to no longer worrying about the progressive component of the quality of Canadian life. However, as I say, I am not there yet so I will move on to the second thing that the legislation does.

The legislation speaks to the total inability of the government to negotiate with the one foreign state that matters to all Canadians, our neighbour. It matters not because we have an economic relationship that we have not nurtured well but take for granted because we are in the same hemisphere and share a common border, most especially in the central Canadian Great Lakes Basin, because that is where the greater part of the population lives, or even out west where the border is long. The Americans defined it in a fashion that is pejorative but I like to think of it as progressive, that it is open and people actually talk to each other across a fence that does not exist.

The bill does not erect a fence but it does say something about the Government of Canada. I am getting close to that unkind moment now so I need to be forgiven if I breach that aura of kindness that I wanted to envelope myself in and name the type of government we have. However, I will not do it yet.

The legislation does not say that we will erect a fence. This is not a security issue. This says that the Government of Canada heard the Government of the United States plead with it for the better part of three years by saying that it will enact homeland security issues that will infringe upon Canadian sovereignty and that the Government of Canada should take note, submit its objections or put in place legislation that will take this into account.

Can members guess what happened? The government snored for three years and then last June suddenly woke up to the fact that homeland security had said that Canada needed to have legislation in place by the end of December for passengers flying over American airspace.

My colleague from Winnipeg, who flies to Ottawa, does not land in the United States. However, he says that his aircraft may fly over the northern tip of the central northern United States, which means that the U.S. would want to know everything that the airline has about him. He is not going to the United States and is not landing or transiting through the United States. He is going directly to Ottawa or Toronto.

The problem is that the shortest distance between Winnipeg and Toronto will probably see that aircraft carrier, for economic reasons, use American airspace. Now the airlines would need to give up information about Canadians who travel from one part of Canada to another part of Canada. The Americans are saying that our airlines should either go around their airspace and pay more or they can come through their airspace and let them know who everybody is.

The Americans were right to do that but we were wrong not to have objected. We were especially negligent in not taking the opportunity to negotiate with them when they invited negotiations. Now we must protect our airlines because of our own negligence. I should not use the first person plural pronoun anymore because it is no longer “our government”. It is the Conservative government that is less than progressive, totally negligent and derelict in protecting the rights of Canadians.

The government is now saying that it has to protect. Who? Is it the Canadian citizen? It is the corporate citizen first and foremost. In this sense, this now becomes part of an economic issue because the corporate interests of any aircraft carrier needs to take precedence over privacy issues.

The third thing about this bill that grated on everybody was that the Conservative government was not only negligent in its duties and obligations in accepting an invitation, but it was totally incompetent in its negotiations once it was given the final verdict. The Americans said, “Please, do you want to trade something off?” We have lots of things to trade-off but the government chose not to trade-off with whatever leverage the people of Canada had with the Government of the United States on its perceived needs. The government did not do that, but came forward with this legislation. In so doing, the government has now opened us up to every other interest, any country around the world that Canadian carriers fly over.

Is it the Americans' will to harass us to do something? It is not a problem. As they would say, they have regulations and they want the information on those travellers. I am not exaggerating. We were just kicked out of Camp Mirage. Two of our ministers were not allowed to go over Emirates' airspace because it had a problem. What did the Conservatives do by way of negotiations? They got down on their knees and begged forgiveness.

I want to compliment my colleagues from the Liberal Party who sit on this committee for having introduced a couple of motions that would mitigate the absolute atrocities that the Conservative government was trying to perpetrate last June on the people of Canada. My colleagues on that committee deserve to be complimented and I look forward to hearing their advice on where we go from here.

However, these are the initial impressions that Bill C-42. If I were sitting on that side of the table, I would be embarrassed. They have forgotten about Canadians, they have forgotten about our interests and they have promoted everybody else, in their negligence.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will quote a couple of things said by a witness who was before the committee talking about this bill. The witness stated:

[Bill] C-42 raises important sovereignty issues. ...the Canadian government has a duty to protect the privacy and civil rights of its citizens.

Who was that witness? Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The Privacy Commissioner has said that the government has a duty to protect the privacy of Canadians. Since this is a sovereign nation, and I know I certainly agree with that statement, does my colleague agree with it too.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure my colleague thinks that asking a rhetorical question means that he has set a trap from which I cannot escape. However, he will probably already know that I invited a colleague from his caucus to join with me. When the government thought it was so important to prorogue Parliament, destroy the democratic rights of an open parliamentary system last spring, I invited the NDP colleague from northern Arctic to co-chair with me a round table on security issues where the Privacy Commissioner did come to present her views that we sought, that we elicited and that we absorbed, not only her views but also those who are experts in security issues.

Did we frame an appropriate approach to this? Of course we did. When we get expert opinion that is not tinged by partisanship, it is valid and it is valuable and we operate on valid and valuable information.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been looking at this matter and I am not sure whose interests it would serve for the bill to be defeated and for Canada not to be able to comply with the U.S. security requests. I am not sure whose interests it would serve for Canadian flights not to be able to enter the United States or even to overfly the United States. However, the one thing I am sure about is that it would not be in the interests of those Canadians whose jobs depend on commerce with the United States and it would not be in the interests of those Canadians who want to visit the United States or to fly over the United States for this bill to be defeated.

As to privacy concerns, my learned colleague across the way is obviously familiar with the great rules regarding privacy that Canada has instituted. I wonder if my friend would care to comment on whether or not Canada's Privacy Commissioner will in fact be following the progress of this bill and the implementation of this bill and will alert Canadians if she has any concerns.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is not about the rights and powers of the Privacy Commissioner because she will not be able to enforce any infringements of the Privacy Act against the Government of Canada or, indeed, against the United States or any interested parties in the United States.

However, this is not about the Privacy Commissioner. Yes, we did, before the bill came before this House, engage that Privacy Commissioner in dialogue and in consultation. I actually called her after I saw Bill C-42. She expressed some concerns that the government did not take into consideration all of the consultation that she provided. It is unfair for me to say anything beyond that because it was a private conversation. However, the issue is not about the Privacy Commissioner, nor is it about whether we will limit the commercial rights of Canadians and Canadian companies.

The first issue is that the Government of Canada waited until the middle of June before the House rose in order to come forward with an issue it now says is a security issue and a commercial issue when all it is about is the demands of the Americans that it was forewarned about many months before and did nothing about.

The second issue is that it is not about security. It is about the commercial liability risks of our commercial operators, aircraft operators, who comply with American law. They are not doing anything illegal but they need to choose between one law and the other. This is to absolve them of any risk in Canadian law. I do not know how that advances Canadian interests but maybe my colleague would like to expound on that.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, we find ourselves in a rather difficult position because although we have significant concerns about the privacy of Canadian travellers, the government, through its failure to do anything to protect those interests, has allowed us to get to the point where we have, in effect, become hostage to demands from the United States.

Canadians obviously now are faced with concerns about commerce and the challenges to travel, but where on earth was the government when this issue first came up? This is not the first time, either. The Conservative government seems to be far more interested in placating or pleasing the United States than in even listening to Canadians' concerns.

A number of my colleagues have proposed some significant amendments, which I am very pleased about. My hon. colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence was extraordinarily eloquent in describing the concerns about Canadian privacy. I have a much larger concern, which is how we got here in the first place.

When the Conservative government was first asked to agree to this, it did not even ask for reciprocity. How is the government acting on behalf of Canadians when it will not even ask for fair and equal treatment for Canadians? I find it appalling. This is another example of the government's apparent desire to please the Americans rather than listen to Canadians.

Another example is the fact that the Prime Minister is in the process of negotiating a security perimeter agreement with the United States. He is doing it in the United States. He is doing it with the Americans. He is not speaking with Canadians about this. He is not answering any questions about what this might mean. Once again, it is all in the guise of security.

At some point Canadians are going to have to take a stand and say that using the word “security” and spreading fear that somehow we are under attack at all times is simply not true in Canada. It is wrong to make the people of this country fearful all the time. It is just not right. It is also particularly offensive to me to use the word “security” and fearmongering as a foil to hide the failures of the government to do so much more with the United States.

Although the bill deals with aeronautics and air travel, it is more of the same in what the Conservative government has not done in terms of trade. For example, the security perimeter is being billed as the answer to the thickening of the Canada-U.S. border and that this is something we should agree to, even though we have no idea what is in it as we were not part of the discussions. That is reserved for the Prime Minister and the Americans.

We are being asked to support this. We are going to be asked to support an idea of a North American security perimeter because it will enhance trade and help reduce the thickening of the Canada-U.S. border from a trade perspective.

There has absolutely been a thickening of the border. Liberals do not disagree with that at all. For many Canadian businesses, whether in the agriculture or agrifood sectors, all sorts of other businesses, as well as Canadians travelling back and forth, there has been a significant thickening of the border, which has created lots of problems and, indeed, many jobs lost in this country. To say it is entirely due to security is completely false.

Onerous country of origin labelling rules have absolutely nothing to do with security. Buy American legislation has nothing to do with security. The proposed legislation in the United States to deal with foreign trade representatives is extraordinarily protectionist and has nothing to do with security.

Increased fees to simply get across the border have nothing to do with security. There are all sorts of examples of how the border has been thickened, not because of security, but because of protectionist sentiment in the United States which, thanks to the most recent elections, has only increased.

A number of people think that the Tea Partiers are somehow more Republican in the sense of being more open to free trade. On the contrary, I am afraid a significant number of the Tea Partiers, and a significant number of the new congressmen and women, are more against trade than their predecessors which is of real concern to us here in Canada. The government simply seems to let it go.

We have done very little, we being Canada, and I put the blame squarely on the Conservative government. The government has not been on the ground in Washington. The current ambassador has been doing yeoman's work, but he is one person. We have not been on the ground nearly enough, negotiating and lobbying. Yes, lobbying, because that is how the American government works. We have to be on the ground to protect Canadian interests. We have to be on the ground in Washington. We cannot just respond and at the last minute expect to accomplish something. We have to be on the ground. We have to be working with the Americans. We have to explain why Canadian interests are important to them and how that affects their interests in return.

We have to be working at the state level. It is simply not enough to do a photo op in Washington. We need to have Canadian representatives working on the ground at the state level with the governors, with the congressmen and congresswomen in Washington, but we need to be on the ground doing far, far more.

I will bring that back to the question at issue today. Has anyone been doing that? Has there been any effort in the United States to protect Canadians' interests? Has anyone said that we do not think the United States should have all that information about Canadians, simply because they are flying over the United States, that we have some real concerns about that?

As my colleague described, we worked very hard to establish legislation to protect the privacy of Canadians and we are very proud of that legislation. In one fell swoop we ended up being held hostage in such a way that we have to exempt this particular situation from the protection of privacy of Canadians.

The government seems far too interested in pleasing the Americans, listening to the Americans and adhering to American interests. I have nothing against the Americans, but in this situation we are sacrificing the interests of Canadians in order to please the interests of the United States. That is simply not acceptable.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my learned colleague opposite whether in their 13 long lost years of government the Liberals ever proposed that the Americans should not have control over their airspace? That is my first question.

Second, does my learned colleague opposite have some inside information to back up her accusation that Canadian diplomats, skilled lifelong career civil servants, did not negotiate as hard as they could for the best treaty they could get on this issue? Does she have some inside information that she would like to table with the House? Although she may think that Canada can dictate terms to the United States, our career diplomats would tell her differently.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the proof is in the pudding. We would not have a buy America act if we had enough people representing Canadian interests on the ground before it happened. The buy America act and the response, by the way, that only includes 37 of the states, so even then is incomplete, was a reaction after the fact. People were scrambling.

The fact that we have had such difficulty with protectionist sentiment and protectionist legislation in the United States is the problem, and if we have that problem, we know we are not doing enough.

It is not a commentary on the diplomats who are there. The ones who are there are very capable, but we simply do not have nearly enough resources or the will on the part of the government to do it.

Second, in terms of the Liberal government, I would assure the hon. member that if, in a Liberal government, we had been asked to sacrifice the privacy of Canadians in this way in terms of control over airspace, the Americans have control over airspace, just as we have control over our airspace. This goes further and we are now being held hostage. If a Liberal government had been asked to do this, we would have asked how we could work this out so we did not accede to this and sacrifice the privacy of Canadians.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, what the member said was well known at the committee.

I put forward an amendment to the bill which would have been a three-year drop-dead clause to ensure that after three years the government would have to renegotiate this and that we would not be tying Canadians' privacy to a bad bill for eternity. Why did the Liberal critic at the transport committee refuse to go along with the drop-dead clause?