Madam Speaker, I am delighted that so many of my fellow MPs are here to listen to my speech.
I would say first of all that Bill C-30 is legitimate in what it ultimately wants to accomplish, which is to assist police authorities in uncovering and pursuing criminals. No one can disagree with that aim but it has never been the reason the bill has provoked so much public outcry.
How we can uncover and pursue criminals is very much the question today, but if we do it by infringing on people's most basic rights, then we have a problem.
In Canada there is a charter, brought in by a Liberal government some 30 years ago. This document is very important. In fact, its content is paramount in any consideration of the Criminal Code of Canada. The charter is the guarantor of the most basic rights and freedoms of Canadians. As an aside, I personally regard the charter, whose 30th anniversary we will celebrate in April, as such an important document that I took a copy of it with me on my second space flight in 1996 to then be able to present it to the prime minister, which I did.
In Bill C-30 as currently written we have a potential violation of the charter, specifically as regards unreasonable search and seizure. More fundamentally, this is also about the privacy of individual Canadians, something that we all cherish and must be extremely vigilant to preserve. Our task is to achieve the right balance between civil liberties and police oversight.
In this context, I must remind this government that it was the first to speak out when it decided that protecting the rights of Canadians with regard to the firearms registry was of the utmost importance. We all remember the government's indignation when individuals had to provide certain personal information when registering a long gun. We also remember the government's position on the census.
I can remember coming here several times in the summer of 2010 to discuss the census issue, particularly the fact that the government wanted to take the compulsory long form census and turn it into a voluntary national household survey. Why? It was because the census was going to be an attack on people's personal privacy, as I remember the Minister of Foreign Affairs mentioning, in wanting to know how many bathrooms people might have in their houses. I remember how indignant he was about that kind of information. Yet we know that the bill as presently written is very much at risk of trampling on citizens' most basic rights to privacy, by inappropriately authorizing access by police authorities to sensitive personal information without a warrant.
I do not want the police knowing whom I phone, email or text, and when and how often I do it, unless the police have some sort of authorization to track me. This presupposes some sort of warrant to ensure that such checking of Canadians by police does not get out of control. I am very open to looking into ways of expediting such warrants, but I want there to be some protection from potential abuse. It also presupposes that we have to incorporate measures once a warrant is issued so we do not leave the process completely open ended.
Some Conservative members have dared to suggest that the personal information collected could be found in a telephone book. Could anything be more innocent? What a pathetic attempt to trivialize something as important as privacy.
Amendments must be made to Bill C-30 in order to ensure that a balance is achieved between the right to privacy and public safety, of course. I would even go so far as to say that the process transcends this bill because it pertains to the fundamental balance of our country and what that should mean to all Canadians.
We are dealing here with the essence of our fundamental values, the very ones that are found in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. How can the minister ignore this reality?
Our position is clear: all parliamentarians have a duty to recognize the fundamental right of every Canadian as set out in the charter and to recognize every Canadian's fundamental right to privacy.
I know that Bill C-30 will be sent to committee before second reading and, needless to say, I support this step, which validates our position. However, this is just the first step, and we must now be vigilant in order to ensure, on behalf of Canadians, that this is not just a smokescreen.
Will the government set aside its ideological modus operandi in order to adopt a modus vivendi in the interest of all Canadians? We must take the time required to conduct an in-depth examination of this bill. We will have to hear from many witnesses and experts, and I hope that we will not accept half measures when it comes to legitimately respecting procedures.
We need to recognize that, given these realities and what they mean, the Liberals' reasons for introducing this motion today are quite legitimate. The democratic nature of a society is measured by the manner in which it balances the protection of public safety with civil liberties and individual rights and freedoms.
The Conservatives want to destroy the data about long gun owners, but at the same time, they are planning to collect much more personal information about some Canadians. This bill is a major violation of individual rights and freedoms. We will ask the government to seriously consider the amendments that the Liberals propose in committee in order to ensure that the right to privacy of law-abiding web-surfing Canadians is maintained.
The Liberals are currently consulting experts, including federal and provincial privacy commissioners, with a view to formulating sound amendments to this bill. Even Conservative backbenchers have recognized that this bill goes too far and is a violation of Canadians' privacy.
The Minister of Public Safety's now-infamous suggestion that those opposing the bill stand with child pornographers is disgusting. The minister has not yet apologized in the House. The minister's comment is in the same category as disturbing remarks uttered repeatedly by government members slandering anyone who does not share their opinions, calling them Hitler or Taliban supporters. That kind of remark undermines the parliamentary process and the entire political system.
It is important to bear in mind that police forces already have plenty of tools in terms of investigative powers, tools that could be enhanced in an effective, structured operational framework that meets the needs and expectations of Canadians.
Not only do the current provisions in Bill C-30 go against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but they will be very expensive, and my hon. colleagues can be sure that the cost will be passed on to consumers. Such a broad measure as the minister is proposing will also put an additional burden on wireless and Internet service providers.
Everything depends on the government's willingness to accept the amendments needed to make this an effective bill, particularly concerning the obligation to secure warrants from a judge beforehand.
These amendments must be presented, debated and voted on in a truly transparent context in which all Canadians can witness this bill's progress. To that end, a full debate, complete with testimony from stakeholders on all sides, is absolutely crucial.