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House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was funding.

Topics

Main EstimatesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh for his intervention. I apologize to my friend because I was absent for the first few moments of his intervention, but I think I caught the gist of what he was saying.

I would like to point out a couple of inconsistencies, and that is simply this. The analogy that the member was trying to draw between what happened with the estimates today and a government bill is really not relevant. As the member should know, the difference between a bill on notice and the main estimates is that the main estimates are a message from the government, delivered by the Governor General. There is quite a distinction between the two.

The other thing I would point out, quite frankly, is the media article that he is referring to does not give any details of the main estimates. That is what I think is the distinction that the Speaker needs to take into account, as does my hon. colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh. There were no details whatsoever given about the main estimates in the article mentioned.

Since the intervention was made just a few moments ago, even though I believe the two points that I have just given you, Mr. Speaker, are salient and relevant, I would ask you, in your consideration, to allow the government to make a more detailed response at our earliest opportunity.

Main EstimatesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary . I will certainly take the matter under advisement and will await comments from the hon. member before rendering a decision.

If the hon. member for Winnipeg North is rising on the same point, I will hear him now.

Main EstimatesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, on the same question of privilege, I do believe that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has missed a very important point. It is important for us to make a very clear generalization.

It is indeed privileged information. It is part of the parliamentary tradition, I suspect, not only of this chamber but other chambers within the Commonwealth, that there is an anticipation that some documents will be kept in confidence. Then after being released to the legislative chamber or, in this case the House of Commons, they can be released to the public.

In previous Speaker's rulings in the Manitoba legislature often reference is made to decisions that Speakers in the House of Commons have made. I will suggest that this quite serious if it is proven to be true. When a member of the media is posting blogs saying, “Here is how much money, $250 billion, that is to be spent”, and then one hour later the government makes that announcement, that tells me that the government did release, if the allegation proves to be true, the information to one or possibly other individuals.

The releasing of budgetary numbers has a fairly significant ramification to Canada's economy. If people have knowledge in advance in terms of expenditures of government, that can have an impact on stock markets, not to mention other things. It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister and the government to ensure that they are keeping documents or numbers in confidence until they are brought forward in the proper fashion inside the House of Commons.

I would suggest that it would be advisable for us to look into what is being proposed or suggested as a very serious allegation from my New Democratic colleague, and if it is proven to be true that someone did have advance knowledge before the House knew about it, then there is a responsibility for the House to take some sort of action, because once again we will have seen a government being sloppy with what it is supposed to be doing in terms of respecting the importance of this chamber.

I take it very seriously. I applaud the member for bringing it forward. We appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to look into the matter with the blogger in particular and any other individuals who might have been involved in what appears to be the possibility of leaking information prior to it being tabled in the House, because that would ultimately be a privilege that has been denied to members to have that information before it is circulated through the media and the public as a whole. As I said, the long-term ramifications of leaking this kind of information is fairly significant.

Main EstimatesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was here just a few moments ago when our NDP colleague mentioned a possible leak. Like all the members of the House who are rising to speak, I have no reason not to believe the hon. member. The facts, if they prove to be true, are rather troubling. I have been a member of this House for only a short time, and during the last session, the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar leaked, from her office over the Internet, some prebudget consultations we had had. We spoke out passionately against the situation.

I have been a member of another parliament, the Quebec National Assembly, and I have also worked in the public service, in the Quebec finance department. I know how careful a government or a minister must be when it comes to certain publications, particularly budget speeches and estimates. This is not a one-page document. It is a huge document that was allegedly released before it was even tabled in the House.

There was an instance when a Liberal Party finance minister in Quebec, Gérard D. Levesque, unexpectedly had to read out a version of the budget speech one evening. If my memory serves correctly, it was a Thursday evening, but the budget was supposed to be read the following week. Why? Because moments before, photos of photocopies had been accidentally lost. There was a possibility that the information could be made public the following morning. At the time, the minister took responsibility and read his budget speech a week early.

Today, a document containing all the Canadian government's spending information may have been leaked. That is significant. A member said that it could affect the budget, the stock market and the decisions of people who know things before others do. Parliamentarians must be given this information, in a transparent way, before or at the same time as the rest of the population.

We do not even know when the budget will be tabled. The Conservatives are being smart alecks and saying that it will be soon, maybe the 22nd or 24th of March, depending on the weather and the direction of the wind. This government should act responsibly and tell the people and parliamentarians when the budget will be tabled. When estimates are tabled, the government needs to make sure nothing is leaked. When there are leaks of this kind, the minister responsible should resign. When it comes to budget estimates or the budget itself, the question should then be whether or not a leak means that the government should resign.

Main EstimatesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to add one additional point.

First, I very much respect the member from Windsor—Tecumseh for bringing this to the attention of the House. I subscribe to his argument and support his request.

I am concerned that the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader somehow dismissed the matter simply because there was no reference to the estimates themselves, but just some numbers.

I apologize that I could not get to a copy of O'Brien and Bosc quick enough, but if you seek it, Mr. Speaker, I think you will find that something as simple as a committee report tabled in the House is subject to the same rules. It cannot be disclosed. To look even further, you will find that even if the committee was not meeting in camera, if it was in public session and dealt with a report, the contents of that report cannot be disclosed prior to tabling in the House.

This is how careful Parliament has been over the years to protect the privileges of parliamentarians. Not even things that are obviously in the public domain should be used in a fashion which would pre-empt the matter of having to table in the House before it could be used.

The parliamentary secretary to the government House leader has trivialized the matter. It is not a matter of the importance or whether it was used or not. The issue is the privileges and rights of parliamentarians must be protected to the greatest extent possible.

Main EstimatesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The parliamentary secretary said that he would be returning to the House in due course, so we will hear from him when he is ready to make submission on this point.

In the meantime, we will consider the matter closed for the time being.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-42. This is an important bill. The member for Western Arctic has done a terrific job in bringing some of our issues and our concerns to the forefront.

I will spend a bit of my time talking about Canada-U.S. relations and what has happened in a general sense, because it is connected to the bill.

The bill would allow the private information of Canadians to be given to the Americans when they fly through U.S. airspace. We see this as an erosion of civil liberties. The use of this kind of information over the last several years has shown a lack of accountability.

The first case I witnessed was when I was in Washington, D.C. in 2003. The U.S. decided it would unilaterally bring in the NSEERS program, a program that tiered Canadian citizenship. Despite being a Canadian citizenship, if an individual originally came from one of five destinations, that individual would be fingerprinted and photographed. This program later turned into U.S. visits.

I asked the Liberal government at that time if it was going to object to this tiering of Canadian citizens because it was going to create complications, like the ones we are now seeing at the border. The government did not even challenge that, which was very disappointing. We have not yet had a prime minister who will challenge that.

The U.S. patriot act jeopardizes the privacy of Canadians. I fought a campaign a number of years ago when the Paul Martin administration decided to outsource the census to Lockheed Martin, an arms manufacturer. Lo and behold its data assembly was in the United States, so under the U.S. patriot act all Canadian information was accessible.

Under the patriot act, a law enforcement agency in the United States, primarily the FBI or the CIA, can demand private information from any company about its employees. It is interesting to note that, under the act, the company is not allowed to inform the individual concerned or the other companies from which the agency gets the information.

All of our census information would have been exposed and at risk. Thankfully, after a good strong campaign, we were able to get the government to amend the contract to ensure that data assembly stayed in Canada. Lockheed Martin won the contract, but the data assembly and maintenance had to be done in Canada, and it was for that time period.

Why is this important? The private information that we give up, such as our credit card numbers, our phone numbers, a whole series of things that we give up when a trip is booked with a travel agent, will be exposed if Bill C-42 is passed.

The government has not pushed back on these issues. It has just rolled over for the Americans. The Conservatives assume that if we push back on this issue, that will affect trade and commerce at the border. The reality is, as we have succumbed to more of these elements, the problems at the border have become worse.

The Conservative government's policies have been atrocious when dealing with the image that Americans have about our Canadian system. The government's position on immigration and its cracking down on crime agenda, as well as a whole series of other things, hyperactivates those elements for its political stock base, basically the mediators in the Conservative Party. This blends in with the American rhetoric we have heard out of Washington from American politicians about the northern border not being safe and being more dangerous than the Mexican border.

We have fed into that negativity. Programs and greater barriers have not necessarily improved things. In my opinion, the data we will provide will create other administrative barriers.

The Conservatives tell us that they are working closely with the United States. We know they have been having private secret meetings. They have signed other protocols that have not worked and they have fed into the American way of thinking that our border is not safe.

I remember when we had the longest border in the world without a military presence. Now the Coast Guard is patrolling the Great Lakes in gun boats. Coast Guard members use the Browning machine gun that fires hundreds of bullets per minute. This reinforces the image of hordes of Canadians scooting into the United States for illegal activities. We agreed to that program. I fought a campaign in the U.S. to raise awareness of the fact that we did not need those guns. Now they are sometimes stored.

Then we saw most recently, and this is a good example of how we feed into their system, how they try to spin these programs as being successes. The one that I am going to talk about a bit is the shiprider program. This is a program where an American pursuing a Canadian can enter Canadian waters and arrest that person; and, likewise, we can do the same.

Interestingly enough, when we signed this agreement, we allowed U.S. federal, state, municipal and coast guard persons to make that arrest in the U.S. However, on the Canadian side, we just have the RCMP. We have basically told the United States, and this is from the comments I get back from Americans, that because our CBSA officers cannot make similar arrests to its American counterparts, we have just admitted that we have a weaker system, that the weaker system needs more attention, and that weaker system has more problems than is being admitted.

Then we see these Americans, like the one from North Carolina, talking about how once again Canada's border is more dangerous than the Mexican border. Meanwhile on the Mexican border, they have lost control in certain jurisdictions because of the drug lords and they have a serious problem where thousands of people are entering and exiting per day. Now we have Canada being considered similar to that element. That is what is fundamentally wrong with not pushing back on these matters.

Not pushing back on this one is really critical, as well, because it gives up our privacy and it adds more barriers and more administrative problems than there have ever been before. That is going to lead to less trade, that is going to lead to more problems, and that is going to lead to a series of other administrative problems.

What is interesting is that when the Americans introduce legislation, and we agree to legislation like this, they will have the opportunity to change it for other data in the regulations. They will have the opportunity to open it up to other types of information. That is one of the reasons we oppose this. There is no set of based rules that people will know for sure.

As with the patriot act, we do not have any details. Is the information going to be shared further? Is it going to be scrubbed? When we have different information and it is wrong, how is it going to be used? One only has to bring up the case of Maher Arar where we saw the Canadian RCMP provide misinformation about a Canadian citizen who was in the United States, who was then sent abroad to Syria and tortured, and we then had to have a public inquiry.

So these things are real. They are not fantasy. These are actual cases that have taken place and are going to continue to be possible because we are giving up this type of a system without having the proper accountability. We have not even written in the measures to be able to change this. That is one of the things that gives us a disturbing sense of the government and its handling of U.S.-Canada relations and its secret meetings.

We do not have a playbook. All we hear from the government on the Canadian side is that our immigration system is problematic and our laws in this country are not tough enough on people. Then when we negotiate with the Americans, they know the type of rhetoric that has been used here and they fuel it for their own purpose.

When we are talking to the United States, are we looking at our immigration system being changed? It has often been said that some of the 9/11 terrorists came from Canada. We have heard those statements from Hillary Clinton. We have heard them from Janet Napolitano. Even if they were to retract them after much attention because they are not fact based, it still would not matter. The impression has been left that we are weak and that we do not stand up for ourselves.

When we have an issue like this bill, Bill C-42, that is not exact, it again proves and reinforces that we just roll over immediately. That is a real difficulty that we have with regard to our approach with the United States. It has to be tougher. We must have more expectations and measurables.

When we talk to industry and other types of organizations, they tell us the border is getting thicker, and it is getting thicker because of the government's policy. When we look at places like Windsor, Ontario, which is the busiest border and we are adding capacity, where the CBSA is being moved out of for crass political reasons, again, that shows the U.S. that we are going to be weak. This is going to lead to more problems, not solutions.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his presentation on Bill C-42.

We have not heard any representations from the government on this during the last couple of days. I would be very interested to see a government member stand and speak to this bill, so that we could actually ask some questions.

I believe it was the lone Liberal who spoke to the bill who spoke about how some amendments were made, and one of them was a two-year review. I had to ask her a question about what we were going to find out from a two-year review when we are the ones giving the information to the Americans. What we want to know is, if they are going to review it, what are they going to do with the information?

All our review is going to show is that we gave them X amount of data. However, we will have no idea what they did with that data. If members think for one moment that the Americans are going to answer the questions and tell us what they did with the data, and what the result was of turning it over, they have to be dreaming.

I think this review is basically dead in the water. It is just a way for the Liberals to roll over and support the government, and at least have some explanation for their support base as to why they did it.

I do not know why the Liberals are not asking more questions. I do not know why the Bloc is not asking more questions. There are a lot of questions that should be answered before we pass this legislation.

I wonder if the member has any further comments about this issue.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. It is like grabbing a cloud. It is just going to slip away from us.

A two-year review will be meaningless because we do not have the power in the act as it stands now and we do not have the capability to demand the answers about how that information will be used, when it was used, where it was dispersed, and all those things. It is not included in the act. We will have that problem.

It is unfortunate that there is not a greater debate in the House of Commons about this. Later on, if there are situations where citizens are going to be affected, potentially having an interruption of travel or of their lives, as with the extreme case with Maher Arar, there is not going to be any accountability. There will be no recourse and no expectation.

This is what is truly unfortunate about this debate, that we are not even putting that on the record. It is sad that nobody else is engaging on this. I think airline travellers across Canada should be alarmed that both the government and the Liberal Party are allowing this to pass through the House of Commons, basically without any type of oversight whatsoever. The oversight will come from those in the U.S. who want to use Canadians' personal information for whatever benefit they want. That will be the result.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his remarks.

The part of his speech that intrigued me most was the reference to American gunboats in the Great Lakes. It would seem to me that that very act would endanger Canadian citizens. The fact that our government seems to have put up no resistance, just simply rolled over and played dead, in light of this American decision leaves me amazed.

I wonder if the member would expand on that situation. I would be very interested to know the circumstances and the end result of his interventions.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the question because it is an important aspect.

The government amended a treaty that went back to the War of 1812. When it did that, it shredded the great knowledge that our undefended border with the United States was well managed but was also a signal to the world about how that can actually be done in a modern age.

What is interesting is that even though we lost that battle, the Americans wanted to create 40 gun ranges for these training exercises to take place. The bass fishermen are lower in the water, so the radar would not picked them up.

They were literally going to use lead casing bullets, by the thousands, and dump them into the Great Lakes. Only the New Democratic Party made a submission against that proposal in the United States and we were able to stop that. The U.S. decided not to do it.

The government actually made a submission two days late, so it was not even considered in the discovery and analysis. It did not make it on time for that. Allowing 40 gun ranges on the Great Lakes would have been a terrible idea for the environment and safety.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I deeply regret that the government has brought forward such a draconian piece of legislation as Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act.

As I indicated in previous remarks, Bill C-42 quite simply should be defeated. It is nothing more than data mining by foreign security services, primarily the United States, and is an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of Canadians.

Bill C-42 would amend the Aeronautics Act to allow for an exemption for airlines from the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, thereby permitting them to transmit to the United States department of homeland security personal information about airline passengers.

The U.S. department of airline security could then run this information through a number of databases to determine if the travellers should be prevented from entering U.S. airspace. If the U.S. department of homeland security determines a person may be allowed into the United States airspace, then the airline is given permission to issue a boarding pass.

This is a process set up under the United States secure flight program, and it mandates that only those the United States department of homeland security allows may enter into U.S. airspace, regardless if those individuals are landing in the United States or not.

While the Conservatives like to point to name, gender and birth date as the only items of information required, the secure flight final rules state that airlines must forward information that includes the passenger name record, which is a file that a travel agent creates when a customer books a vacation. It can include: credit card information, names of companions travelling with the individual, hotel and other booking information such as tours, rental cars, and any serious medical conditions of the passenger if the airline possess that information.

Unfortunately, it is sufficient information to allow the department of homeland security to data mine the travel reservation systems used by all airlines because these databases are physically located in the United States.

Previous to Bill C-42, this information was passed to the U.S. department of homeland security only for passengers travelling to the United States. There was an exemption for domestic Canadian flights. However, almost all flights within and to and from Canada pass through United States airspace. Bill C-42 would essentially allow the United States department of homeland security to determine who may enter and leave Canada by air.

Bill C-42 would also allow airlines to send personal information of passengers to foreign security services. What information would be forwarded is determined by requirements laid out in secret agreements with other countries. Details of these agreements have not even been released. However, it is known that Canada has signed or is negotiating agreements with the European Union, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Panama, the Dominican Republic and the United States.

Details of the agreement between the European Union and the U.S., for the same information transfer, allows the information collected to be retained by the Americans for up to 40 years. As I have already indicated, this information may be forwarded to the security service of a third nation without the consent or even notification of the signatory, meaning the passenger.

The secure flight final rule also stipulates that 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. In essence, the U.S. already has such an agreement with the EU that all such documents will not be publicly released for 10 years.

That means for an airline passenger seeking recourse in regard to a prohibition to travel, this would preclude any access to information requests. In essence, Bill C-42 gives the government agencies too much access to private information without protection for our citizens. It is also being spun by the government as necessary in our fight against terrorism.

There is no example of how this data mining has caught a single terrorist or any other criminal. Bill C-42 is an unacceptable invasion of privacy of Canadians by foreign security forces.

I have heard from many of my constituents who are most concerned that such an intrusion is an unacceptable invasion of their privacy and it undermines their personal security.

Maher Arar, who has already been mentioned, is an example of how this type of misinformation can be misused. In September 2006, in New York at the JFK Airport on his way home, Mr. Arar was detained by American officials. He was interrogated about alleged al-Qaeda links and 12 days later he was chained, shackled and flown to Syria. During his captivity he was beaten, tortured and forced to make false confessions. Despite a commission of inquiry, an apology and financial settlement from the Government of Canada, the United States authorities refuse to accept Mr. Arar's innocence and he remains on the American no-fly list. Clearly this is a terrifying example of how information can be skewed, misinterpreted and abused.

Many people have commented on the agreement being considered by the Government of Canada in regard to the proposed amendments to the Aeronautics Act. In May 2010, Dr. Mark Salter, who is an associate professor in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa, told the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities that governments want this information so that they can build profiles not just of risky passengers, but safe passengers as well. Research clearly demonstrates that in the United States and the U.K. government agencies are trying to collect as much data about travellers as possible.

What worries the experts about this particular legislation, Bill C-42, is the widespread distribution of the data. Flights that use polar routes from Vancouver to Hong Kong would have to go over Russia and China. Are we suggesting that they are reasonable destinations for the passenger data of Canadian citizens? Is the Government of Canada confident that the destination for this data can provide adequate protection?

What worries many of us on this side of the House is that neither the government nor other agencies have put protection in place for data that will now go abroad. It is dangerous to sacrifice our privacy and 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.

Quite simply, this bill makes Canadians more vulnerable to the security services of other nations. Canadian data should never be hostage to any regime that an air company chooses to fly over. The proposed change to these data protection regulations to include overflight states dramatically increases the vulnerability of Canadians' data while offering no means of redress or appeal.

The proposed changes to the Aeronautics Act are dangerous and without any clear benefit to Canadians. Dr. Salter is not the only expert in Canada warning that Bill C-42 sets out a dangerous path, one that we should not follow. Over and over we have heard the warnings from reputable experts and indeed the voices of concerned Canadians. Surely the government will listen to these warnings.

We need to defeat Bill C-42. Canadians deserve better than questionable leadership and an absence of due diligence from the government. How can anyone trust a government, its ministers and a Prime Minister so willing to jeopardize their privacy and security?

In the words of our Privacy Commissioner: “However, the Canadian government has a duty to protect the privacy and civil rights of its citizens.”

It is time the government understood that duty. It is time that it exercised due diligence for the sake of Canadians.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I think the member's speech and arguments were quite well presented, but we do have a situation. The U.S. government and Canada have an agreement that is already in place which is directly related to the sovereign right to control their own airspace in the U.S. As the member knows, the thrust of the bill is to permit the request of the U.S. government for certain information, which, she is quite right, is still being discussed. The alternative is that the U.S. can say that flights would not be able to fly over U.S. airspace if they do not comply.

Given that the Privacy Commissioner before our committee on November 10 laid out some suggestions on how the security of the information could be safeguarded, she did not conclude it was an invasion of privacy and inappropriate disclosure. I wonder what the member's solution would be if Bill C-42 does not pass.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I find it interesting that there have been references made to previous agreements. I am not entirely sure that there was any wisdom in some of these agreements. It feels very much like the government is simply rolling over and playing dead.

What about the sovereign rights of Canadian citizens? What about our right to privacy and security?

This whole issue seems to revolve around threats from the United States. No matter how paranoid the Americans may be, it makes absolutely no sense to shut down the border or to preclude air flights from Canada. Yet that seems to be what is in Bill C-42. The American government is saying that even if we are not landing but simply flying over its airspace it has an issue with that.

In terms of safeguards, there has been a great deal of secrecy around these discussions. I have seen those safeguards and that is not acceptable.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague on a very well-reasoned speech and one of profound importance to Canadians. I believe we need to get right down to the nub of the matter.

The bill would force Canadian airlines to send personal information to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Canadian travellers who are not even touching U.S. soil, but fly over U.S. airspace.

We know that the passenger name record has very detailed information, such as credit card numbers, where one is staying, who one is flying with and potential health concerns. We also have no way of knowing what third countries will get that information because this agreement permits the United States to send that information to third countries.

I am wondering about the question of reciprocity. Canadians want their government to defend their interests. Did the Conservatives, at the same time that they were selling out information on Canadians' privacy rights to the Americans, get reciprocal treatment so that American passengers who are flying over Canadian airspace have to let our security personnel know the passenger name record information on American travellers? I wonder if the government ensured that we would get reciprocal treatment in this regard.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my understanding that there is no reciprocity.

I find it absolutely amazing that the Canadian government is willing to give over information about credit cards and personal data without any assurance that information is secure or even accurate. It comes back to the whole problem of misinformation. As was the case with Maher Arar, people being denied access and refused the right to fly within their own country based on misinformation that they cannot correct. There is a stranglehold on the retention of that information and that quite simply should never be.

Strengthening Aviation Security ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak once again in the House on what I have called before, and will call again, one of the most ill-advised pieces of legislation that I have seen in my time here in the House of Commons.

Bill C-42 amends the Aeronautics Act to require airlines in Canada to send personal information on passengers to foreign security services. In particular, Canadian travellers who are travelling to destinations that may touch U.S. airspace, but do not land in the United States, would have the decision over whether or not they are issued a boarding pass in Canada determined by U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

There is so much wrong with the bill that it is hard to know where to start, so I will start at the beginning. The passenger name record that an airline creates on each passenger when they book a flight to fly from Canada to Mexico, Cuba, Latin America or Europe contains the following information: the file that a travel agent creates when a vacation is booked, the name of the travel agent, credit card information, who is travelling with the passenger, the hotel, booking information for tours or rental cars, and any serious medical condition of the passenger.

This information that would have to be turned over to U.S. Department of Homeland Security could be retained by the United States for up to 40 years. We know this because there are similar agreements that contain this information. This information may be forwarded to the security service of a third party nation without the consent or notification of the other signatory.

No person may know what information about them is being held by the United States and may not have a chance to correct that information if there are errors. The United States has signed similar agreements with other countries that may unilaterally amend the agreement as long as it simply advises the other party of those changes.

In essence, once the passenger name record is logged by the airline and is sent to officials of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, they will make the decision as to whether or not the Canadian citizen who is going to board an aircraft in our country will be allowed to board or not.

That is something so fundamentally wrong on the surface that it is hard to believe that anybody would proceed any further than that. Imagine having a Canadian citizen's right to fly to a country around the world determined by U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Is there anything more preposterous? Is there anything more undemocratic? Is there anything more offensive?

Imagine Canadian citizens who choose not to go to the United States. They may make the deliberate decision not to go there. They have to have personal information about themselves transferred to security apparatus in the United States and decisions about whether they can fly or not determined by American authorities.

I have heard Conservatives in the House say “Well, what can we do? The Americans have asked for it. They will not let us fly over their airspace.” Let us examine that. First of all, Canadian airlines have been flying over U.S. airspace for decades and decades without having to send this personal information to the United States. That is number one. What is the difference now?

Number two, why can Canadian authorities not retain control, authority and responsibility of the security of Canadian airlines? Canadian soldiers are good enough to fight in Afghanistan right now. They are good enough to fight right beside U.S. soldiers. They are good enough to work side-by-side in NATO and to be trusted with that. But the United States does not trust Canada to maintain adequate security over our own aircraft?

I might also add that Canadian airlines and Canadian security apparatus have an outstanding record of controlling security in our country. I would go so far as to say that it is superior to the security arrangements in the United States.

Moreover, and here is the kicker, Canada sought and obtained an exemption from having to send information on Canadian citizens to the United States for domestic flights that fly over U.S. airspace. Let us stop for a moment and look at the absurdity of that.

If in fact it is true that the Americans need this information about Canadian travellers to fight terror or to make sure that these flights are secure, why is it not needed on domestic flights that fly over American states? That is ridiculous.

As a matter of fact, security steps and methods for international travel are actually superior and more in depth than security checks for domestic flights. One could argue that if we actually needed these steps, then the one place we would absolutely insist on there being passenger name information would be on domestic flights, but that is the one thing that the Americans said was not necessary.

I want to talk about the lack of reciprocity. What kind of government negotiates with a foreign state and allows that state to demand the personal information of its own citizens and does not insist on the same for itself? That is not negotiation. That is abdication.

What about the violation of Canadians' privacy? Canadians may want to take their families to Mexico. Many families have done that in the past 10 years. Do they run the risk of having their decision turned down by the United States?

What about Canadians travelling to Cuba? We all know that the United States has the Helms-Burton Act, which prohibits its businesses and citizens from having any kind of dealings with Cuba. Are we going to have the United States determine whether or not Canadian passengers can go to Cuba or Latin America? Canadians should know that it is not just Latin America. Of course, every flight to Latin America will fly over U.S. airspace. Many flights that go to Europe and other parts of the world also touch U.S. airspace.

This is also a profound violation of Canadian sovereignty. It has been pointed out by witnesses before both the transport and public safety committees that decisions over whether Canada can invite diplomats from certain countries, diplomats who would fly over U.S. airspace, could essentially be vetoed by the U.S. government.

Of course, the most profound violation of sovereignty is allowing a foreign government or institutions of a foreign government to determine where our own citizens can travel in the world.

We heard the government say when it abolished the long form census, a ridiculous move if there ever was one, that it thought it was not the state's business to know how many bedrooms people had in their houses, that it was offensive for the Government of Canada to know how many bedrooms a Canadian citizen had. At the same time, it signed an agreement with the United States that would sell out information on Canadian citizens, such as their credit card information or health status or where they were travelling, and give that information to a foreign government. That is ridiculous.

The government also likes to say that the primary duty of any government is to protect its citizens. That is not being done here. It is a sad day in Canada to see the Conservative government not protecting Canadian citizens, not protecting their freedom and their right to travel where they want to in the world. The government is failing completely in that regard.

I want to talk for a minute about the Liberals' shameful record. After speaking against this bill and sounding like they actually understood the privacy and sovereignty issues, the Liberals voted in favour of Bill C-42 at second reading. Every Canadian should know that when the Leader of the Opposition questions the government on why it is entering into security perimeter negotiations with the United States and selling out the privacy rights of Canadians, Liberals are voting for it. They are voting for this very bill that gives the U.S. Department of Homeland Security the right to determine where Canadians travel.

The New Democrats are going to stand against this kind of cynicism. We are going to stand up for Canadians, for privacy rights, for Canadian sovereignty, for fair dealing with Canadian citizens, and we are going to restore Canada's place in the world as a country of fairness, decency and democracy. We will stand up for our citizens to make sure their fundamental rights are respected.

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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, we are getting to the point where we have heard some of these arguments before.

The Privacy Commissioner was before committee and the member referred to what was going on in committee. He is probably aware that the Privacy Commissioner raised some issues of concern from the point of view of how we can mitigate the risk of information getting out, such as in the retention agreement and how long information would be kept and with whom it could be shared with, et cetera. All of these things are still ongoing.

What she did not say but we would have expected from the Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, an experienced and excellent official on behalf of the Government of Canada, was that this was a gross violation of the privacy rights of Canadians. That was not her position.

Therefore, I ask the member, if the Privacy Commissioner does not think it is a gross violation, why does he?

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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to tell my hon. colleague what his own colleague from the Liberal Party, the member for Willowdale, said:

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.

That is what a Liberal MP will say in the House, and then the Liberals will vote for Bill C-42.

The Privacy Commissioner had serious concerns about the bill, but she was only one of about 11 witnesses whose testimony I have read, including Roch Tassé's. In fact, I will go over some of the testimony of the people who testified extensively on the bill.

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NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. Perhaps the hon. member could bring forward some of that information in response to the next question.

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague, who had many of his facts absolutely correct. I just have to question, though, as I am not quite sure if he might have seen the whole context.

We know that the Conservative Party will sell out civil liberties on a dime. The Conservatives would do that before getting up in the morning. We know what they think of people's personal liberty, but I am surprised at the hon. member's surprise that the Liberals would also be willing to sell out Canada's civil liberties, because was is not the leader of the Liberal opposition who previously stood up during the worst, darkest days of Bush's torture regime and defended coercive investigation?

We know the Conservatives do not mind using the rubber hose. That is in their DNA, but it was the Liberal leader who supported coercive investigation and said it was necessary, and so why would we think that the Liberal Party would actually care about people's privacy rights, about people's--

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Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would like to give the hon. member equal time. I understand that the hon. member has a minute to respond.

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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, Canadians have known one thing over the last 20 years, that the Liberal Party of Canada will say almost anything to get elected.

The Liberals said they wanted a national child care program in 1993, in 1997 and in 2001. They said they would bring in a national housing program in 1993, 1997 and 2001. They broke those promises every time. They said they would abrogate NAFTA. They did not do that. They said they would repeal the GST. They did not do that.

It does not surprise me that the Liberal Party of Canada will say one thing and do another. That is exactly what Canadians know the Liberals to be and that is why they have lost seats and the percentage of the popular vote in every single election since 2001, at least that I have seen. That is because Canadians do not trust them. The Liberals want to talk like New Democrats when they are out of power and then govern like Conservatives when they are in power, and Canadians have their number. Canadians know that.

However, to see the Liberal members stand up and vote in favour of Bill C-42, an absolutely unacceptable violation of Canadians' privacy rights and an absolutely appalling abdication of Canada's sovereignty, is really something that I hope every Canadian from coast to coast to coast gets to see. I say this because when Canadians want to travel to Mexico, the only place that decision should be made is in their family room or kitchen. They are the only people who should be deciding where they as Canadians travel.

When the Conservatives say they will let the U.S. Department of Homeland Security do it, that is not good enough.