Mr. Speaker, it is very important for me to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-13.
Before I begin my argument, I think it essential to show the government how ready the NDP is to work with it. I will simply lay the foundation for my argument, so that it is not misinterpreted by some people in the House who unfortunately tend to turn our words around and throw them back at us.
I am very disappointed. I think of myself as still being young. I hope that I am still young. Not so long ago, I too was in school and was a victim of bullying. I think it is extremely important to demonstrate that a parliament wants to help people. As I have said many times, the role of a parliament and a government is to give a voice to people who are too weak to defend themselves or who unfortunately have not had the same opportunities as others to be able to feel equal and face difficult times in their life. All of us have gone through adolescence. Some adults are also sometimes victims of bullying.
First of all, we were all on the same wavelength when my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour introduced his Bill C-540, because we had learned of a number of young teenagers who unfortunately had decided to take their own lives. Perhaps they were thinking they had no other way out. Today it is our role to reach out a hand to young people and to provide the resources needed by those who can help these young people see the light at the end of the tunnel, get through a difficult period and become accomplished and fulfilled adults, like all of us.
As some members have mentioned in their speeches, it is a great pity, because the government decided to vote against our bill, which had exactly the same purpose and objectives as the cyberbullying provisions in Bill C-13, which the government now wants to pass.
Why did they stand in opposition to our bill? We will probably never have an answer, but that is okay. The government has its prerogatives. What is more, this is a majority government. It wanted the privilege of introducing this sort of legislation. I understand. It has its prerogatives.
However, given the fact that this is such an important issue that affects so many people, it is regrettable that the Conservatives decided, as usual, to present us with a bill at least 50 pages in length, where only the first five talk about cyberbullying—and that is a considerably rounded figure so as to give them a little leeway—while the other 50 talk about totally different things that have no tangible connection to cyberbullying. That is why the government chose to move from a bill on cyberbullying to a bill whose title contains the words “from online crime”.
As I said, and this is precisely why I wanted to make the basis of my argument clear right from the beginning, cyberbullying is a problem, and we as legislators have a duty to pass laws to protect young Canadians.
Notwithstanding the respect I owe the government, my argument will unfortunately have to identify certain shortcomings and certain problems in this bill that the government says is intended to address cyberbullying. I would like the people watching today to know that we have asked the government to divide the bill so that the provisions on cyberbullying can be given expeditious examination. Indeed, as many of my colleagues have said, we are all in agreement. That way, we could demonstrate to Canadians that we are prepared, as parliamentarians, to work together to pass positive legislation that will have a tangible impact on the lives of young Canadians.
With the other 50 pages of this bill, which deal with subjects as broad as terrorism, banking services, telecommunications services and so on, we could make a second bill. We could study it in depth, with the experts and the institutions, to know exactly where we are going. In this way we could amend and modernize Canada’s criminal legislation, but—and I emphasize this—still respect our institutions, Parliament and, above all, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives always try to use wedge issues to force their bills down the opposition's throat. They use extremely sensitive issues in order to usher in by the back door bills that would require us to put on our legislator's hat and address these provisions in a logical and informed manner, in committee of course.
I would like to drawn the hon. members’ attention to three little points before beginning to address the government’s shortcomings and missteps in this matter. For example, on cyberbullying, the Criminal Code has to be modernized. We have to ensure that future victims will be protected. As my colleague from Gatineau was saying, the parents of certain victims have said that, yes, this bill might have helped or even saved their child. No one in the House will say otherwise. The cyberbullying provisions need to be passed as quickly as possible.
On the other hand, it is important to remember that the government stated in its throne speech that it intended to invest in addressing bullying. Bill C-13 was probably part of the first step in that direction, but here we are talking about long-term prevention. However the government voted against our motion to have Parliament consider the issue of bullying in order to adopt a national strategy for helping the people on the ground who must be able to support young people going through a difficult period. Unfortunately, as I have said, the government voted against that motion.
Bill C-13 is a step in the right direction, and we thank the government for having taken the demands of Canadians and Canadian families seriously. However, why did the government vote against a motion that did not require it to do anything, not even to pass a bill? That motion called on Parliament to consider ways of preventing bullying.
I would really like to put the emphasis on prevention. I have a report that was produced by a youth round table. These are young people between the ages of 12 and 17 in Pointe-aux-Trembles, in east Montreal, in my riding.
This round table considered the issue of youth felt to be at risk of joining street gangs or criminal organizations.
The report says that 50% of youth at risk of joining a street gang or a criminal organization said they had been victims of violence. It also says that bullying is the form of violence most cited in the open question asked of the group of young people most at risk, followed by physical violence and verbal abuse. Bullying is therefore the main source of violence among these young people. The report also cites feelings of depression.
It is important to mention that the government's bill includes clauses on cyberbullying. However those clauses cover only offences of a sexual nature. They refer to the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.
I do not want my remarks to be misinterpreted. This is a good thing, except that certain cases, such as situations where people receive repeated hate messages, are not covered in the bill’s clauses on cyberbullying.
I understand that this is a step in the right direction, but if the government truly intends to prevent bullying and to help workers on the ground prevent bullying among young people, these things have to be considered here. A national anti-bullying strategy is extremely important. That is what the people on the ground are saying.
I have a report that concerns only my riding of La Pointe-de-l'Île. However I am fairly certain that the situation is the same in every riding. The people on the ground need a strategy, money and assistance. Therefore, if the government truly intends to help victims of bullying, I hope that Bill C-13 is just a first step in the right direction. This is extremely important.
With regard to the example I was giving of a person receiving text messages, emails and so on, I hope that all of these elements will be considered by the government in the context of an even more general approach to the prevention of bullying.
The minister has rightly expressed his interest in this type of case. He is concerned about the problem of bullying. I sincerely hope that he is listening to my speech today and taking note of what I have said.
It is very important to mention that we really would have liked to see the minister decide to split the bill in two.
We always have to put on our legislator's hat in opposition because the Conservatives unfortunately decide to disregard their responsibilities and we have to point out to them certain deficiencies in their bills.
I really find that unfortunate because we know that several bills have been, or will be, challenged in the courts. It is important for the Conservatives to realize that we must listen to Canadians and to victims.
I want no one to misinterpret my comments, but at same time we have to tell ourselves that the legislation we pass here has an impact on everyone across Canada. It is important to debate here and to have experts testify in committee so that we can pass the best legislation for our fellow citizens.
I would like to mention that my colleague from British Columbia introduced Bill C-279. It is very important and I hope the minister will take note of it. That bill is currently before the Senate.
Clause 12 of Bill C-13 amends the list of groups in the Criminal Code section on hate crimes.
It is important to understand that gender identity is not included in Bill C-13. Consequently, there may be a contradiction between two acts. Bill C-279 has been passed by Parliament and is currently before the Senate. That is why the bill must be divided. Some problems absolutely must be examined in depth. It is unfortunate that the victims of bullying and their families have to wait longer than they should for us to legislate on cyberbullying. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have decided to use this problem as a way to pass an omnibus bill.
Now I will talk about the bad aspects of the bill. We must put on our legislator's hat and clearly assess the problems the committee will have to face. Clause 20 of the bill concerns new procedures for obtaining warrants. As the minister said, the provisions are subject to the judge's interpretation. A warrant is therefore needed. However, it targets metadata. Based on the language the minister uses in the bill, the threshold for obtaining warrants that target metadata is lower. We are talking here about “reasonable grounds to suspect”, not “reasonable and probable grounds”. This will have to be examined with the bar associations and with the experts to determine the language that should be used in the bill so that all warrants are subject to the same burden of proof in the courts.
The bill encourages telecommunications businesses and Internet service providers to respond, without a court order, to requests for information concerning their customers and grants them criminal and civil immunity should they decide to grant those requests. It is extremely important to say that most people agree that the first part of the bill, which concerns cyberbullying, is good. It is really unfortunate that the Conservatives decided to include all kinds of different provisions.
I spoke about terrorism in particular. Why does the bill concern terrorism when we are talking about cyberbullying? Several questions have been raised about companies and the provision of user data to police. I think we really need to ask the experts, such as the Privacy Commissioner, to write a report on the bill. We really must put the necessary tools in place so that authorities are able to enforce the law since the framework of the bill calls for that. It is very important to do that based on expertise specific to the various acts, such as the Competition Act, for example.
I am really pleased to have had a chance to speak to the bill. I can hardly wait for my colleagues' questions.