Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-13 today, November 29.
There are various reasons why it is important that we sit here today and discuss Bill C-13. The most important reason is the respect that we all have for the fight against bullying, especially bullying directed at our youth.
No one in the House is against virtue or the idea that we must identify all the means and tools that could be used in the fight against cyberbullying.
I will be using my 20 minutes to talk about cyberbullying specifically. That is what the title of the bill makes us think it is about. However, Bill C-13 unfortunately covers more than just cyberbullying. It talks about numerous other ways and means to address a number of aspects of online crime, in addition to other things that have nothing to do with cyberbullying.
Allow me to explain. If members take the time to really read what is in Bill C-13, they will see that the section on bullying is only two pages long. This bill is more than 50 pages long, and it is clear upon reading it that it is yet another Conservative omnibus bill.
I will not hide my disappointment today at having to rise to speak once again to an omnibus bill. This is unfortunately not the first time one has been introduced in the House. We have had several omnibus bills in the past two parliaments—indeed, since this government won a majority. This is a sorry state of affairs, for many reasons.
The latest budget bills introduced by the Conservatives are examples of such omnibus legislation. We had bills comprising hundreds of pages that affected thousands of our laws totally unrelated to the budget. We had to deal with those. They were shoved down our throats. We tried to divide the bills into different parts, so they could be studied in the appropriate committees, but we did not succeed.
As an example, one of the budget bills contained a measure, introduced by the Conservatives, providing for the removal of protections for lakes and rivers in Canada.
Someone on the other side of the House will have to explain to me how removing the protections for our lakes and rivers relates to the budget. We tried to divide this section of the bill to send it to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, where it should have been studied. Unfortunately, the Conservatives refused.
Every time we have tried to introduce amendments to omnibus bills or divide them by seeking the unanimous consent of the House, the Conservatives have flatly refused.
I am extremely disappointed that Bill C-13 does not go deeper into cyberbullying, which is a sensitive issue that requires so much attention. It does not just affect young people, as we have seen in the high-profile media stories in recent years. Cyberbullying affects a large segment of the population. I will come back to this later in my speech.
It is extremely disappointing to see the Conservatives playing cheap political games in the House with legislation that should be passed unanimously. They are trying to add items and make us say yes to things that are in no way related to cyberbullying. It is incredibly disappointing to see the other side of the House engaging in petty politics.
In Bill C-13, the part on cyberbullying is a pretty close copy of what my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour introduced last June. That was a private member's bill, and everyone agreed with the principle of the bill. However, instead of examining it together and passing it quickly, the Conservatives decided to take part of what my colleague was proposing in Bill C-540 and add it to Bill C-13, along with some other elements.
Instead of concentrating on a bill on cyberbullying that was properly divided, the Conservatives opened up the floodgates and added some other things. They have made Bill C-13 into quite the concoction.
I also wanted to talk about another bill today. A few months ago, my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord moved a very interesting motion on cyberbullying. I cannot elaborate on it too much, because the motion had to do with more than just cyberbullying. However, I know my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord worked very hard on that motion. Almost all experts and public interest groups agreed that it was a very important motion. Unfortunately, the only party that voted against the motion was the Conservative Party. It is so sad that the Conservatives are refusing to discuss the private member's bill introduced by the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, which focused solely on cyberbullying, and that they so easily dismissed the idea of debating and adopting the motion moved by my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.
Cyberbullying boggles my mind. Honestly, it is so sad. No one can claim they have never encountered bullying. It is impossible. When I was attending Horizon Jeunesse secondary school in Laval, we had pagers. Cellphones did not exist yet. I am lucky because I was never bullied in high school. I was more of a social butterfly. I had all sorts of friends. I was never directly affected by bullying at school. However, I have friends who were bullied at school. It is serious. My brother was bullied. He would often have his lunch stolen. He was embarrassed and did not want to talk about it with my parents. Today, my brother is six feet tall and as strong as an ox, but, unfortunately for him, that was not the case when he was in high school. He was very cute and very nice. Perhaps he was bullied because he was too cute and too nice.
Those were the early days of the Internet. We did not have a computer at home. We had to do our research on the computers at the library. We could not afford a computer. We did not have to deal with cyberbullying, but bullying was all around me and part of my daily life. I saw what an impact bullying could have. Unfortunately, some students who were bullied at Horizon Jeunesse committed suicide.
Bullying at school is one thing, but when we are at home, we are protected. We are in a bubble. However, cyberbullying follows us 24 hours a day. We go home and use social media. Almost everyone has an iPhone or a BlackBerry in their pockets. We have access to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. We can access a host of social media very quickly. The impact is immediate and it follows us day and night. There is no break from it. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a victim of cyberbullying when there is no getting away from it. It is very serious.
My colleague from Gatineau raised an extremely important point this week. She asked for the unanimous consent of the House to split the bill. I think this would be a way to show respect for people who are victims of bullying and cyberbullying. As far as cyberbullying is concerned, the consent is practically unanimous. As parliamentarians, we have to be respectful of the people we represent. We must split the bill. I sincerely believe that all members of the House want what is best.
The best thing to do in this case would be to split the bill, since there is unanimous consent on one part of the bill and because this is an omnibus bill with several parts that have nothing to do with each other. Let us focus on cyberbullying and fix that problem. Let us make sure that the authorities have the tools they need to address this problem. We can then come back to the rest of the bill the government has handed us—a rehash of the former Bill C-30—which addresses the completely different topic of privacy.
Let us focus on the two pages on cyberbullying out of the 50-some pages in Bill C-13. Let us pass these measures so that the authorities can make use of them as quickly as possible. That is how we can combat cyberbullying together.
Before I talk about privacy in more detail, I want to say that Laval does a lot of good things and I like to brag about them. A Laval organization called Volteface has found a unique way to address bullying and especially cyberbullying in Quebec. I cannot speak for the other provinces, regions or territories in Canada, but this is the only program of its kind in Quebec. Volteface is an alternative justice organization that finds ways to help build harmonious relationships by offering preventive activities and alternative conflict resolution mechanisms. It works with teenagers, victims, the general public, parents, schools and the community.
Volteface created an innovative tool as part of its “Ultimatum < Échap > LA CYBER INTIMIDATION” project. The organization is actually based in Shawinigan, but it operates in Laval. It has developed a partnership and focuses on high schools. The guide is intended for high school students, their parents and school staff. It offers information on how to prevent cyberbullying and talks about what kind of action is appropriate. This project focuses especially on youth and has been operating in Laval since Volteface created it. It is a very worthwhile program.
They are targeting young people because a number of studies indicate that, although people of all ages can be affected by cyberbullying, youth 12 to 14 are at greater risk. My daughter is seven months old, and I am already worried about the tween years. I do not know what social media will be like then, but I say to myself every day that time is flying by, and it seems as though she will be 12 or 14 so soon. The research also shows that girls are at greater risk of cyberbullying than boys, as proven by some studies. I can name them: there was Sengupta and Chaudhuri in 2011 and Tokunaga in 2010. Unlike traditional bullying, boys are more likely than girls to be involved in acts of bullying. We have the facts. This is extremely important.
I applaud a Quebec organization that is finding tools to fight cyberbullying and that is trying to engage groups most at risk of being bullied or bullying. We must educate both sides, those who are bullied and those who bully. It is extremely important.
With respect to the protection of privacy, which we have to talk about, this bill deals almost exclusively with that issue. Many experts believe that Bill C-30 is being brought back to Parliament disguised as Bill C-13. I will quickly talk about that.
Bill C-30 contained measures that were considered extremely serious infringements of privacy.
I remember that the public safety minister at the time, Vic Toews, who is no longer in the House, said that if we did not side with him, then we were siding with pedophiles. That was absolutely ridiculous because Bill C-30 was another omnibus bill. Come on. At some point, we must call a spade a spade. We are therefore concerned about the protection of privacy.
Oddly enough, the Privacy Commissioner was not consulted on any of the privacy-related measures contained in Bill C-13. There was no consultation. Moreover, the commissioner is saying that she is very concerned about the measures in Bill C-13.
The commissioner is most concerned about the new powers that will make it possible to obtain information about people's private lives and the high number of government employees who will have access to that information. This is a direct attack on privacy. However, I think we all agree that privacy is a fundamental right.
I would also like to take some time to speak about OpenMedia.ca, a digital media lobby, which:
...welcomed the measures on cyberbullying but expressed concern that the new legislation makes it easier for the government to spy on the activities of law-abiding Canadians. After reviewing the bill, OpenMedia.ca indicated that the bill contains only 2.5 pages about cyberbullying and 65 pages about online spying.
It is unbelievable, particularly since, yesterday, extremely serious allegations were made in the House against the Canadian government. Let me explain.
Yesterday, we learned that, while on Canadian soil, the Americans allegedly spied on all the heads of state who attended the G20 summit in Toronto, with the consent of the Prime Minister and this Conservative government. The Conservatives were therefore aware that this espionage was taking place and they approved of it. However, now they are saying that these are allegations and that they were not aware that this was happening.
Espionage is already being carried out with the Conservative government's approval, and now this bill will give the government even more ways to spy on law-abiding Canadians.
I know that many of my colleagues opposite really like to say that we have to respect Canadians' privacy, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. The right to privacy is a fundamental right.
Why are these measures reappearing in Bill C-13? Why is the government looking to put them back in when every group said that they were a terrible part of Bill C-30?
We also spoke about Bill C-13 yesterday. The Conservatives told us that they deleted the worst parts of Bill C-30 and put the least objectionable parts into Bill C-13. It is frightening to hear such things.
These measures are yet another attack on peoples' privacy. What has the government done? As usual, no one was consulted. The worst part is that the Privacy Commissioner is raising some extremely important points and some were already raised in relation to Bill C-30. The Conservatives wanted to stop talking about it. They said that it was over, that things had gone too far. However, those measures are resurfacing in Bill C-13. I am extremely disappointed.
I do not have much time left, so I will wrap up.
I am disappointed that the government did not decide to split this bill in two and focus specifically on cyberbullying. If the government insists on bringing back measures from Bill C-30, it should create another bill that does not address cyberbullying. Then we would have two separate bills.
The government has come up with another omnibus bill. This demonstrates a lack of respect for victims of cyberbullying.
I believe that our work as parliamentarians is extremely important. The committee study must be non-partisan. I look forward to seeing what will happen when this bill is studied in committee, but I am not overly confident.
I want the government to take the time to think about all those who have been affected by cyberbullying, reverse its decision and split this bill in two.