Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to address the motion before us today. During the past weeks there has been much attention on Bill C-30, the protecting children from Internet predators act.
Contrary to the implications of the interim Liberal leader's motion, our Conservative government strongly believes in the principles of due process, respect for privacy and the presumption of innocence. Bill C-30 adheres to those principles. Through Bill C-30 we seek to update Canada's laws as they do not adequately protect Canadians from online exploitation. We want to update our laws while striking the right balance between combatting crime and protecting privacy. That is why we will send this legislation directly to a parliamentary committee for a full examination.
Over the days and weeks, since we introduced this legislation nearly two weeks ago, I have listened with great interest to the comments of several hon. members and have also been quite intrigued by the remarks of several individuals and groups which have appeared in the news media, both those opposed and those in support of Bill C-30.
All of us know full well that healthy debate is one of the cornerstones of our parliamentary democracy. Indeed, it is the cornerstone of our democracy, but all of us also know that to be healthy, a debate must be informed by facts rather than speculation and unwarranted fearmongering. It must be informed by actual facts rather than personal attacks and half-truths.
As the interim Liberal leader clearly knows, our government strongly believes in the principles of due process, respect for privacy and the presumption of innocence. The fact that this motion seems to imply otherwise is not surprising.
Just yesterday, the interim Liberal leader apologized for one of his senior researchers who was responsible for a smear campaign against me. As I said yesterday, I take no issue with an open attack on the floor of this House in which the source of the attack may be seen by all. I do take strong issue with the idea that taxpayer dollars would be used to secretly attack a member of this House.
Despite yesterday's revelation and apology, the Liberal Party and the interim Liberal leader owe Canadians some answers. Did the senior researcher for the Liberal Party, Adam Carroll, use taxpayer resources and if so, what was the cost? Is the Liberal Party of Canada going to reimburse this amount to the House? What involvement did the member for Papineau have in this campaign? When did he first know a Liberal staffer was involved? Upon making this discovery, what did he do to prevent the smear campaign from advancing? Indeed, what did he personally do to advance and promote it?
Despite this smear campaign, I will continue to do my duty and carry out my responsibilities in respect of this legislation on behalf of our government. I am therefore very pleased to have this chance to speak to the real facts about Bill C-30 and to set the record straight on a number of fronts.
Canadians deserve to hear a reasonable dialogue on issues which affect their lives and ensure their overall safety, a dialogue based on reason rather than hysteria, a dialogue based on facts rather than the outlandish conspiracies put forward by the member for Timmins—James Bay. I therefore want to focus my remarks today on what Bill C-30 will do and then speak about what it will not do, in other words, what is in the legislation and what is not, what is fact and what is fiction.
I have spent the better part of my career advocating for the safety and security of Canadians. As a prosecutor, as a child protection lawyer, as a federal and provincial attorney general, and in my current job as Canada's Minister of Public Safety, I have made it my goal to put the rights of victims ahead of the interests of criminals.
Over the years it has become more and more clear to me and to countless thousands of other Canadians that our laws were falling far behind the technology used by criminals. The frustration that police have experienced through the years is palpable.
After I entered politics, I heard the same story from law enforcement officials so many times that I began to wonder if the problem would or could ever be fixed. Even so, soon after my appointment as federal justice minister in 2006, I was introduced to the concept of lawful access, which dealt with the challenge of fighting crime and investigating threats in an era of new communications technology. I was struck by the reality that our approach to the Internet has been shaped for a previous generation, one grounded in equipment like the telex machine.
This is a concern that we have heard from law enforcement and security agencies right across this country, as well as our international allies. I might add at this point that our international allies have, in fact, adopted this legislation. In that respect, Canada is not going ahead of any other of our fellow western democracies. In 2009, Chief Constable Jim Chu of the Vancouver Police Department said that our laws were “originally written in the era of rotary phones”. Bill C-30 would repair this.
Bill C-30 is not the first attempt to update our laws. The problem is well known. As acknowledged by the interim Liberal leader, even the Liberals knew it. The Liberal Party introduced similar bills on three separate occasions and its present position on Bill C-30 clearly proves that the Liberals are a value-free, principle-free, idea-free party that will accept and adopt whatever position they think is possible on the issue of the day. Liberals have been supporting legislation such as this for 10 years, with weaker protections for privacy. Our government introduced similar bills twice, once in 2009 and once in 2010.
To the disappointment of many, and despite the tireless efforts of people like Paul Gillespie, formerly of the Toronto Police Service and now the head of the Kids Internet Safety Alliance, and Roz Prober of Beyond Borders, none of these attempts resulted in the passage of these necessary amendments to the law, as these bills all died on the order paper. I am sure that many hon. members have heard Mr. Gillespie speak passionately about the emotional toll that child exploitation investigations take on front-line officers. Each day these officers are confronted by the bleak reality that thousands of children are sexually abused in graphic, unimaginable ways. The reality is that police simply do not have the tools to effectively fight these crimes. This is true not only in cases related to child pornography but also identity theft, online organized crime, and many Internet scams and frauds.
More than a decade ago, police spoke up and told the government of the day that they lacked the tools to keep up with changing technology. Here is just one example that illustrates the ongoing frustration and problems with the current system. It comes from Kingston Police Detective Constable Stephanie Morgan. Detective Morgan received information via the Internet that a person might attempt suicide. When she approached a telecommunications service provider for help in locating that person, she was prevented from proceeding further. She said:
In that case, the Internet service provider refused to give us that information because of the person's privacy. To this day, I don't know who the person was who sent the message, I don't know if they were in distress or if they later committed suicide.... I think that would not have happened if this legislation was in place.
Let me give a second example. Hon. members may have heard of the case where, as part of a massive worldwide investigation of child pornography, Germany alerted Canadian law enforcement officials that 200 IP addresses using Canadian Internet service providers were associated with online child exploitation. The RCMP requested information from these Canadian Internet service providers to help them identify potential suspects. Unfortunately, the RCMP was unable to identify the account holders associated with 47 specific IP addresses due to a lack of co-operation from some service providers. That meant that 47 leads reached a dead end and that today countless children remain at risk.
A third example is an international criminal investigation that involved 78 Canadian IP addresses linked to the purchase of child pornography. In this case, requests for customer names and addresses were submitted to the relevant Internet service providers. However, this basic subscriber information was again not provided by all the service providers. As a result, 18 suspects have not been identified and today remain free to jeopardize the safety and security of young Canadians.
These are not isolated cases. Last year alone, 62 requests for basic subscriber information made by the RCMP's National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre in Ottawa were refused. It is simply unacceptable.
That is why, on February 14, I reintroduced legislation that closely resembles the efforts of the previous Liberal government, but with important improvements that better protect the privacy of Canadians. I might point out that this legislation has the support of all provincial and territorial attorneys general and public safety ministers. The Liberal flip-flop on this piece of legislation is simply unbelievable.
Bill C-30 allows police to request six kinds of basic subscriber information to assist with the kinds of investigations that I just spoke about. However, just as critically, it makes police 100% accountable through audits and obligations to report to federal and provincial privacy commissioners.
Let us look at the first part, that relating to basic subscriber information.
Basic subscriber information is essential for criminal and national security investigations, as well as for responding to non-criminal community needs such as assisting families to find runaway youths. We have improved on previous versions of this legislation by reducing the number of basic subscriber information points that police could request of service providers, from 11 in the Liberal legislation down to 6. This information is clearly stated: name, address, phone number, email address, Internet protocol address, local service provider identifier and nothing more. This is the modern day equivalent of a phone book and phone book information.
Bill C-30 would put in place a system of checks and balances that simply does not exist today, including the fact that officials would have to be designated to make subscriber information requests. Only a limited number of officials would be allowed to be designated to request basic subscriber information, either five individuals or 5% of an agency's workforce, whichever is greater. It would be set out in the law that all requests for basic subscriber information would have to be made in the performance of a duty or a function of the agency in which the designated official is employed.
For internal auditing purposes, officials would be required to record the purpose of each request for basic subscriber information. The police, CSIS and the Competition Bureau would conduct regular internal audits to ensure that their practices and procedures for requesting basic subscriber information complied with the legislation. All findings of these audits, including any concerns and actions taken or proposed, would be provided either to the Minister of Public Safety or the Minister of Industry, as well as the review body responsible for that organization, such as the Privacy Commissioner.
Basic subscriber information does not include information pertaining to the websites a person has visited, or the content of emails or phone calls either made or received. Police will continue to obtain judicial authorization, or a warrant, before requesting this type of information from service providers, as they do today. There is no change to the law in this regard. Bill C-30 would create no new powers to access the content of emails, web browsing history or phone calls beyond the powers that already exist in Canadian law today.
Law enforcement and national security officials will continue to rely on lawful authority before they are allowed to intercept communications. This has been the case for the last 40 years and will continue to be the case under Bill C-30. I emphasize this point because so far there has been a great deal of misinformation spread about this component of the legislation.
As I mentioned earlier, law enforcement officials today can already intercept private communications in very exceptional circumstances without first obtaining court authorization. It simply recognizes that there are situations and some cases where action needs to be taken quickly, in such cases as kidnappings or bomb threats, where an immediate interception could help save lives. Furthermore, this legislation proposes to add robust safeguards to the laws that will increase accountability and transparency.
Some have accused me of not reading a bill that I have been involved in shaping for over half a decade. Ironically, when I read most media coverage of Bill C-30 I am struck by just how poorly the bill is understood by many writers.
That is why our government intends to send this legislation directly to committee for full examination. I hope that all Canadians, and especially members of Parliament and the media, will read, discuss and reflect on the bill. The fact is that stakeholders, victims advocacy groups, police associations, all attorneys generals and public safety ministers in this country have asked for and support these changes, as do many ordinary Canadians.
As I have said before, the proposals we are putting forward are not new or even revolutionary. The focus of Bill C-30 is not to create new interception powers. It will not compromise the privacy of Canadians or put an undue burden on businesses. What it would do would be to bring our country's legislation out of the Cold War era and into the 21st century, along with other western democracies around the world.
This legislation would provide law enforcement and CSIS with the updated tools they need, while providing maximum flexibility for industry and creating rigorous safeguards to protect privacy. It strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of law enforcement and CSIS, the competitiveness of industry, and the privacy of Canadians.
We told Canadians during the last election that we would continue to crack down on crime. We have delivered on that. We told them that we would address the needs of the victims of terrorism by allowing them to sue the perpetrators of terrorist acts and their supporters. We have delivered on that. We have done a lot. We are doing a lot.
I look forward to continuing the debate on Bill C-30 both at committee and in the House.