Mr. Speaker, at the risk of repeating a lot of what has been said here today, I want to elaborate on a few things, notably part VI of the Criminal Code, which deals with the activity of intercepting communications and thwarting crime as a result of that.
The reason we are here is the decision in R. v. Tse. When it came down, it seemed kind of odd at the time. It was just on the other end of the fiasco we had with Bill C-30, when it was introduced in the House. At that time there was a huge public campaign to thwart Bill C-30 because of the overarching measures contained within it and how it went against the spirit of privacy. When it comes to section 8 of the charter, and the charter itself, the charter challenges would have been ad nauseam for a lot of this bill.
Why the government did not wait in this particular case until after the decision is beyond me. It knew it was coming. Nonetheless, as a result of that it brought the bill into the House and then took it back out because of the public campaign against it, I would assume. As a result, we now have this bill, which complies with the judgment that came down from the court case in April 2012.
Here we find ourselves at the last minute on the eve of April 2013. We were given ample notice and yet here we are, up to the last minute. Why the Conservatives would push the envelope like this, I am not quite certain. However, in doing that, Bill C-55 now looks at the decision that came down and how it goes against the Constitution.
Many of my colleagues have already brought up section 184.4, which in this particular situation allows the police officers to intercept imminent communications. In other words, in any particular situation they do not need the paperwork to get that done.
Section 184.4 was originally composed as follows:
A peace officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication where
(a) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;
It goes on to state:
(b) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that such an interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property;
The final point under (c) of section 184.4 states:
(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim....
Here we have a situation where some people may feel we are circumventing the privacy issue for the sake of the immediacy of what is happening; we are able to intercept without certain legal authorities.
There is no doubt that for us and for millions of Canadians, on the surface this would cause a lot of concern, certainly for privacy. Police officers do not need that particular authorization under certain circumstances in order for them to intercept the communications, and therefore this is what we are struggling with right now.
The question was put forward and an opinion is now with us regarding this particular case.
The principal amendment addresses the fatal flaw identified by the Supreme Court. In this situation, Bill C-55 provides that after-the-fact notice be sent, as is the case for other forms of interception. That is what this is coming down to. The court decided this is not congruent with the charter because of the fact that the after-notice was not present in this particular situation. This is where the court has asked us to have a look at it and this is why we have Bill C-55. I certainly agree and voted in favour of it during second reading.
Essentially, this comes down to part VI of the Criminal Code. At the very crux of this is how we deal with the centrepiece of federal legislation on electronic surveillance by law enforcement agencies.
The court summarized the current scheme of part VI of the code as follows, and I would like to thank the Library of Parliament for providing some of this information, the legislative summary:
Part VI of the Code makes it an offence under s. 184(1) to intercept private communications. Sections 185 and 186 set out the general provisions governing the application and the granting of judicial authorizations for the interception of private communications.
There we have it. The interception of these private communications, electronic surveillance of a potential unlawful act, is written in part VI, and it talks about the legal authority to do so, whether it be authorizations or judicial authorizations. Section 184.2 is the other part of that, providing for judicial authorization with the consent of one of the persons being intercepted for up to 60 days.
Let us get to the crux of what we are talking about today. In 1993, Parliament introduced two provisions to permit interceptions without judicial authorization in two exceptional cases. Those would be section 184.1, which permits interception with a person's consent, and what we are talking about here today, which was ruled upon, section 184.4, which authorizes the power to intercept private communications in an emergency for the purpose of preventing serious harm. Neither of these two sections is subject to the requirement to report to Parliament or to provide after-the-fact notice.
This bill is going to change this, so that after-notice is sent to the particular people involved in the investigation, which is incongruent with other sections where other people were surveyed under judicial authorizations or had their communications intercepted.
The other part they got into on this particular case, which was very interesting, was about reporting to Parliament, as well as changing “peace officer” to “police officer”. As many of my colleagues have already pointed out, within the code itself, the idea or definition of a peace office as described is very broad indeed. We are talking about, as my colleague from the NDP pointed out, mayors, reeves and court officers. It is a very broad description. What has happened here is that the bill has taken it and defined it down to a police officer.
I will get to the amendments from my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands in a moment.
In doing so, the other part would be that the court examines the text of section 184.4 closely, with particular attention to phrases that limit its scope. The court concluded that Parliament had incorporated objective standards and strict conditions into the provision itself. That part was fine. The onus would remain on the Crown to show in any particular case that the conditions for the use of section 184.4 had been met. Nonetheless, as I pointed out, the court was concerned that there was no requirement that authorities notify individuals after the fact that their private communications had been intercepted. That is not congruent with other means of judicial authorizations to find and intercept people's private communications.
The final thing was whether to report to Parliament or not. In other places and in other sections, the court considered reading in a notice of requirement, but determined that this would not be appropriate. That is one of the measures it considered. However, because of the notification, the court ruled it to be against the charter. The section on reporting to Parliament was something it added. In it, the court says that “electronic surveillance under the Code is an effective investigation technique used especially by law enforcement agencies” and therefore requires a reporting to Parliament from the Minister of Public Safety and the Attorney General of Canada. Currently, they prepare an annual report on law enforcement's use of warrants for video surveillance and certain authorizations to intercept private communications pursuant to part VI. The ruling here is, and this particular bill addresses, that incongruent with part VI, it allows the reporting within Parliament procedure to continue as well.
I did not have much of a chance to talk about the amendments currently here. My colleague talks about the record keeping, which I have some trouble with, particularly because of the machinations involved. This is an immediate situation, in cases of using section 184.4, and I will therefore be voting against this particular measure, as well as other measures, which I am sure I will get into in questions.