House of Commons Hansard #223 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-55.

Topics

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the question as follows.

When we looked at the definition of police officer or when we had queries about the contents of reports, we understood that much of this falls under provincial jurisdiction. Therefore, I think we have to focus on the answer to be given to the dictates from the Supreme Court of Canada.

This does not mean that we cannot study the other aspects in greater depth, but they give rise to other problems. I personally do not have a clear-cut answer as to whether using the amendment creates more problems than it solves. That is what was raised by this type of amendment.

Regarding the R. v. Tse case, it would be preferable to leave the text as it stands. Later on, other steps will perhaps have to be taken in terms of wiretapping or interception. However, on the basis of R. v. Tse, the response is more than appropriate.

There are still questions about closing the definition of “police officer”, as my colleague wants to do. Witnesses told us that this would cause some problems. In some places, the situation is perhaps not described in the same way, but there is already a clear picture of this other person who keeps the peace.

Regarding the fact that time is limited, I think that the government will have to take the blame, because it is the government that is pushing for this exercise to be carried out so quickly. That being said, the only question the House must ask is whether the response to the principle requested by the Supreme Court is appropriate. The answer is simply: yes. Unfortunately, what is left leads to too many other questions.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gatineau for her speech.

I would like to come back to the exceptional nature of Criminal Code section 184.4. She expressed her views on this issue very clearly. This is an important key to understanding the extent to which this section is limited in its scope.

Her speech made me think about how imminent the threat has to be to cause a police officer to use these section 184.4 provisions rather than the provisions of sections 186 or 188, for example, of the Criminal Code.

I would appreciate it if the member would go into a little more detail about this issue of imminent threat that could justify and support the fact that section 184.4 is simply being amended by replacing the term “peace officer” with “police officer”?

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned with regard to section 184.4, the imminent threat is not the only factor involved in making that interception; the peace officer must have reasonable grounds to believe it is impossible to obtain the consent of a justice of the peace. So there is a set of criteria.

Limiting access to section 184.4 to peace officers or police officers, within the obvious meaning of that term, was another way of shutting a door that could have been opened before the courts in future and on which the Supreme Court could have ruled.

Sometimes we get the impression the government does not really check its bills to ensure they comply with the charter. For once, however, and this is rare, we sense that the government has listened to the Supreme Court's decision here.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

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.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, in general, we on the opposition benches are supportive of the revised Bill C-55. However, as the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor noted at the beginning of his remarks, the government had since April of last year to make the changes to sections of the Criminal Code dealing with emergency wiretaps without a warrant. Would the member care to speculate as to why it is that we find ourselves here at the last moment trying to get the bill through the House?

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

March 18th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. It seems to me that the pattern in this particular case, which is similar to what the Conservatives brought about with the Senate reform, is to push it to the very last minute to seek opinion.

What is most bizarre is that the Conservatives introduced Bill C-30, which caused the most trouble, yet they knew that the decision from the Supreme Court was pending. If they had that decision, they would probably have had a better launching pad for Bill C-30. Unfortunately for them at the time, Bill C-30 became a hornet's nest of opposition across the entire country. They had to scrap it, step back and then wait for the Supreme Court decision to move ahead with Bill C-55, which by the way, may point out that the current legislation is better than they had imagined. It has been tested with the fixes we are doing here today, such as with section 184.4. It points out that the current laws in place were sufficient with a few tweaks here and there, and that is what we are doing with Bill C-55.

Therefore, the hornet's nest created around Bill C-30 was not really necessary. Apparently, because they pulled the legislation back, I guess they did not even agree with what they wrote, as bizarre as that may sound.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor for his speech. It was a great privilege for me to work on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for a number of months and thus to associate with the member for Mount Royal, who, as everyone remembers, was Minister of Justice at another time.

The member for Mount Royal has often raised concerns regarding the rule of law in the creation of new statutes. That is something quite fundamental because we have seen the government make some mistakes in that regard.

Following his speech, I would like my colleague to give us more details on this question of the rule of law and on the protections afforded by such fundamental instruments as the charter in developing legislation or amendments to the Criminal Code.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague. Obviously any modern, advanced, progressive democracy puts provisions in place to protect the privacy of each and every individual. However, that has to be weighed with the protection of our society, and in this particular situation, we must make sure that undue harm would not come to others. Yes, the rule of law has to be followed, but we also have to protect privacy. This is the balancing act we have here.

In the judgment that came down in R. v. Tse, the court noted that the interception under section 184.4 is limited to urgent situations where there is an immediate necessity to prevent serious harm and judicial pre-authorization is not available with reasonable diligence. Therefore, we have to put the safeguards in. We have to be narrow and specific as to how this would be executed.

In the particular case of section 184.4, judicial authorization is not required. Right away that tells us that it could be a fundamental breach of privacy, and essentially that is what it is. However, due to the egregious circumstances dictated in this particular situation, which require short notice, we have to make provisions within our rule of law so that the police officers could execute within that situation, so that no harm would be brought upon another individual.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address Bill C-55.

I did not work directly on this bill as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights because I unfortunately left that committee, although I fortunately have the great privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Finance. However, I have excellent memories of my time on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, despite the problems the members the New Democratic Party are facing on that committee.

In reference to the question I put to my colleague who previously spoke with regard to the rule of law and basic protections, we have moved a motion in the context of Bill C-55. That is why the member for Mount Royal spoke on the subject. He shared the same concerns when he was Minister of Justice. This is an excellent example of the reconciliation of imperatives. We can reconcile certain imperatives even though we belong to different parties. I remember some good exchanges I had with the member for Mount Royal over the fact that he approved of a number of measures we had taken.

Like all of my NDP colleagues, I support Bill C-55. However, I am going to be quite harsh. Objectively, Bill C-55 was a pleasant surprise. I think the government was compelled to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision. Yet, even today, as reported in the Globe and Mail, the justice minister continues to reiterate his full support for Bill C-10, the omnibus bill that unfortunately was passed and will create many problems.

Portions of certain sections of the Criminal Code and other acts that were amended by Bill C-10 could eventually be invalidated. Moreover, this bill has created an excessive amount of work for Parliament. This situation could have been avoided if the government had been open and much more rigorous that it generally is. I would remind the House that Bill C-55 is the exception.

Of course, reinventing the wheel or showing too much originality was not possible, because the decision was very clear and compelled the government to find solutions that meshed perfectly with the Supreme Court’s observations.

This brings us back to our duty as elected representatives and as members of these important and fundamental committees known as the standing committees of the House of Commons.

We have a responsibility to stay informed and adapt to today’s realities on an ongoing basis, all the while complying with immutable principles. We have a responsibility when it comes to passing legislation.

In this regard, I hope that Bill C-55 will serve as a model for the government and will prompt it to be more disciplined and especially to show more respect for all of our country’s institutions. The government must start by showing respect for the Canadian justice system, for Canada’s Parliament, a fundamental institution, and more especially for the House of Commons.

Understandably, there can be differences of opinion, and the government may not always agree with the views expressed by members of the opposition parties. However, the government has a responsibility to respect these views and the fact that people have different opinions. It also has a duty to respect the principle of accountability, which unfortunately is too easily flouted.

In the case of the committee that I had the privilege to serve on last fall, too often the government denied the obvious and rejected the opinions of experts whose positions were quite clear. It is truly a shame. After all, while it may be possible to some extent to defend ideological stances, these have absolutely no place when it comes to governing and establishing conditions for a just and fair society.

The government has made that mistake over and over again.

I repeat, Bill C-55 is a pleasant surprise. In the wake of what my hon. colleague from Gatineau said, I will come back to some important points related to section 184.4. They may seem like minor details, but these changes are important. They do not affect the essence of section 184.4.

The bill defines the term “police officer”, which applies to section 184.4. The bill then continues:

A police officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that (a) the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part; (b) the interception is immediately necessary to prevent an offence that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and (c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would commit the offence that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.

My colleague from Gatineau accurately explained the special nature of section 184.4. Let us not forget that sections 186 and 188 cover virtually every case that would justify a warrant to breach a person's privacy. There are, of course, cases in which the imminence or urgency of the situation, when it is a matter of minutes or hours, would permit someone in authority under the Criminal Code to act quickly without permission to provide genuine assistance and intervene to prevent mischief or a crime.

This is perfectly reasonable. The only problem is with the consequences of such an action. The amendments made to the various parts of section 195 are particularly important. We strongly support them simply because they provide a form of transparency and openness that allows for self-discipline and generally avoids any abuse of police power. First of all, no one wants abuse of this kind from the police. Police officers who possess this extraordinary power ought not to be exposed to situations of potential abuse by themselves or others against anyone here in Canada because it could lead to serious breaches and the public's loss of confidence in police departments.

We believe that section 195 is a step in the right direction in terms of accountability, and that it would set out clear guidelines for the application of section 184.4. In my view, this constitutes significant progress. It is a fundamental and necessary improvement. It would deal with the problems inherent in R. v. Tse that were before the Supreme Court.

I would like to end by saying that it was a pleasure to be able to comment on Bill C-55. I think, and especially I hope, that it will be passed relatively quickly. It is nevertheless deplorable that the government took so long to allow us to review it in this House.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his excellent speech.

I would like to point out that Bill C-55 is the Conservatives' latest attempt after their Bill C-30, if I am not mistaken, failed.

Why do the Conservatives have these kinds of failures? It is obviously because they try to fast-track everything. They want to move very quickly and not allow debate. The two omnibus budget bills are indisputable proof of that.

Does my hon. colleague think that the Conservative government should now ensure that all justice bills are in line with the charter and the constitution, instead of simply basing bills solely on its political agenda and short-sighted ideology?

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Drummond for his question.

I think that there is cause for some legitimate concern. I did not talk about the case of the former Department of Justice jurist who said that, unfortunately, the groundwork was not being done at the department. That case is obviously running its course.

What is very disappointing is that the government continues to deny it and insists on fast-tracking flawed bills at all costs.

Bill C-30 was particularly disappointing. Fortunately, public pressure made the government back down. Bill C-55 fixes some things that Bill C-30 would not have fixed. Bill C-30 would have unfortunately created more problems than solutions.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech and his new role on the Standing Committee on Finance of which I used to be a member. I know that my colleague will do incredible work there. I am now a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

As my colleague mentioned, hon. members will recall the comments made by the Minister of Public Safety with regard to Bill C-30. He said that anyone who did not support the bill stood with child pornographers. This shows that there is a lack of understanding and a problem with regard to openness and discussion.

The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville talked about how flawed Bill C-30 was. The bill was supposed to make the corrections required by the Supreme Court ruling.

I would like the hon. member to comment on the Minister of Public Safety's views and on Bill C-30.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague and congratulate him on his new role as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I am sure that he will do a remarkable job there. He had an excellent track record as a member of the Standing Committee on Finance.

Frankly, the Minister of Public Safety's inappropriate remark is disappointing and shows the government's worrisome lack of openness when it comes to governance and accountability.

The Minister of Public Safety's verbal attack aside, the fact remains that he is responsible and accountable to the House. In my opinion, he seems to want to do as he pleases with impunity. However, things do not work like that in society. Whether it is in the smallest unit of society, namely, the household or family unit, or in community life in general, when an individual interacts with hundreds of people, he has to be able to make concessions and think about others, something the Minister of Public Safety seems incapable of doing.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to speak about Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the government's response to the Supreme Court’s decision in R. v. Tse.

As my colleague explained, I now have the pleasure of sitting on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Before that I sat on the Standing Committee on Finance. Now, I have the pleasure of working with our justice critic, the member for Gatineau. Since becoming a member of this committee and working with her, I have discovered that her knowledge of the justice field is incredibly broad and that she does extraordinary work. As with all the files on which she has worked, she led the team very capably and clarified our position on Bill C-55.

Our position is clear: we are in favour of Bill C-55 because it is a step in the right direction. We have supported the bill at every stage because it resolves one of the legal problems in the Criminal Code. The R. v. Tse ruling made it possible to tell the government that the Criminal Code, as enacted in 1993, with the wiretaps provisions, was unconstitutional. I will discuss this unconstitutional aspect a little later on.

I believe the bill is a step in the right direction. It updates the wiretapping provisions that the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled unconstitutional. In the R. v. Tse decision, the Supreme Court of Canada found that an emergency wiretap authority without a court authorization in situations of imminent harm could be justified under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Certain amendments therefore had to be made. Section 184.4 of the Criminal Code was enacted in 1993 and was unconstitutional, primarily because it contained no accountability measures. I repeat, section 184.4 must be used only in exceptional circumstances. It is an emergency measure. Wiretapping is an infringement of privacy. However, in certain cases, such as in the cases discussed, it is a necessity, as it also involves public safety.

We as legislators must balance the two aspects: public safety with freedom and the right to privacy. Fortunately, this is what the bill does. The law as it was in the past made it impossible to achieve this balance.

The Supreme Court made a rather pressing and important point in its decision. According to the Supreme Court, the Criminal Code, as it stands, is unconstitutional. The court therefore directed the government to introduce a bill to address the problem. The Supreme Court gave the government until April 13, 2013, to enact amendments to ensure that the justice system can function legitimately. Unfortunately, when the government took power, it introduced many bills that it felt were more important, but did not really do what the Supreme Court asked of it.

I will return to Bill C-30, but I would like first to discuss Bill C-55 in more detail. The issue here is the reporting requirement for interceptions of private communications. This is important. We need to know what is going on and we need accountability. This bill concerns the requirement to report, which is important.

Bill C-55 provides that any person who has been the object of an interception must be advised within a period of 90 days to three years. Several questions were raised about the three-year time period, but after hearing witnesses, in particular those from the Department of Justice, we understood that there were reasons that made this acceptable. Of course, the time period will not always be three years. We hope that it will be shorter. However, we are reassured by the fact that those who have been under electronic surveillance will be advised thereof. The bill also restricts what categories of people can make such interceptions.

One of the problems with Bill C-30, which I would like to discuss further, is that it allowed almost anyone to do so, and placed certain obligations on telecommunications companies and so on. Now that has been clarified somewhat. The bill says that the police have the right to intercept communications. Witnesses raised questions about whether this should be clarified and whether it should go still further. Should it be a higher-ranking officer, such as a police supervisor? When we heard the witnesses and thoroughly analyzed the question, we found the definition adequate in terms of being understandable, particularly when applied more broadly to the Criminal Code.

I would like to say more about Bill C-30, because the Supreme Court requirement told the government to come back with a bill that was not unconstitutional by April 13, 2013. We are aware of the fact that it takes a great deal of time for a bill to work its way through the parliamentary legislative system.

The government began by introducing Bill C-30.

Bill C-30 required telecom providers in Canada to monitor user data and be prepared to hand over personal information to authorities without a warrant or judicial oversight. We saw that as a big problem, and a lot of members stood in the House and said that, including my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville, who is the NDP critic.

He is an incredible colleague who fought very hard. The public also helped us by expressing its opposition to this bill.

Canadians must not forget what the Minister of Public Safety said at the time.

On February 13, 2012, the minister, in answer to a question on Bill C-30, said:

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the opportunity to tell him that every province unanimously supported moving forward with the legislation that was introduced first under the Liberal government, by his party. As technology evolves, many criminal activities, such as the distribution of child pornography, become much easier. We are proposing measures to bring our laws into the 21st century and to provide the police with the lawful tools that they need. He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.

When we look at history, we know the government made a huge mistake with the bill, and it knows it. Bill C-30 was wrong. The fact that a minister could speak that way and then come back and say that maybe it was a mistake and the bill went too far, it was not maybe, it really did. When he spoke like that, it showed narrow-mindedness. If Conservatives want to collaborate and work on better legislation, especially after the Supreme Court told us to do it, we hope there will be better preparation by members opposite in the future.

The NDP was very pleased that the minister and the government admitted their mistake and realized that they had gone too far. There was no reason for them to attack the protection of privacy. The scope of their legislation was too broad and they were asking telecommunications companies to obtain information without a warrant. Canadians and my constituents were outraged. I heard this from many of my constituents.

OpenMedia came up with a campaign to go against it. Once in a while, the government actually listens to what people have to say, and I am glad it did. I wish the government would have done it before coming up with such a bill, but coming back with Bill C-55 is a good thing. The government has looked at what needs to be done. The Supreme Court was pretty clear that we needed to amend the law so that we followed what the charter said, which the government did. That is why we support it. It is really important that the rule of law, the Constitution and the charter be respected.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate my colleague's comments. He is quite right about the first bill introduced to deal with this matter, Bill C-30.

I am wondering if he would talk about why it is important for the government to ensure, before introducing bills, that all the proper steps have been taken. First, its lawyers must examine the bill and the government must listen to the advice it receives. The problem should not be addressed when the bill is before the courts. Bills that make sense and that will work should be introduced.

Could the member talk a little more about the fact that the Conservatives may have problems with people who give them bad advice?

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

I would like to thank my colleague for her very fitting question.

We are here today with this kind of bill before us because the previous government—a Liberal government—did not do its homework with regard to complying with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We can indeed see the problem quite clearly in this case. Bill C-30 is one example, but many bills have been passed. As I explained in my speech, the government drafts bills on the back of an envelope, as it were, without really verifying whether they violate the charter. What is really troubling is that it is ultimately taxpayers who must pay more because there are costs. The government is sued by other provinces or other organizations and then has to draft an entirely new bill.

My colleague from Gatineau, our justice critic, was very clear on that point and she even moved a motion. We wanted to study the mechanism in place because we felt it did not work very well. In particular, someone like Mr. Schmidt said that the government was not doing its job, that it was not determining whether its bills in fact complied with the charter. So there is a problem in this area. The government should do its homework and work harder to ensure compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his speech.

This debate obviously concerns my amendments. I want to ask the member whether he supports the idea that it is very important for this House of Commons and for all members to make this bill as strong as possible, to make it comply with the charter. Politicians and groups of expert lawyers currently feel that the bill is a little too weak because we have not added the amendments to obtain more compliance reports or to determine whether a police officer can use this section of the Code.

That is my question.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her question.

In theory, yes, we agree that attention must be paid to the charter and that privacy must be protected. That is very important. Wiretapping must be used in emergencies and really on an exceptional basis.

My colleague raised certain points when we studied this bill in committee. First, we received assurances from the witnesses who were there. They represented all kinds of positions. They were not simply government people. We really got assurances in that respect. I know that my Liberal colleague also proposed an amendment regarding reports, but subsequently changed his mind. The witnesses told us that the provinces already had a certain duty to prepare reports in that respect.

Provincial law enforcement agencies have certain obligations they have to fulfill. We felt comfortable with the explanation that those were in line with what we wanted in terms of protecting civil rights and the right to privacy.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to add my remarks to the debate on Bill C-55. As we have seen, the Conservatives are learning a hard lesson about the proper consideration that should be put into drafting a bill. Unfortunately, this is being learned at the expense of the taxpayers.

Hard-working Canadians know that to save time and money, it is important to do things right the first time. As the old saying goes, and my mom was a seamstress, so I heard this a lot, “measure twice and cut once”. That is a phrase I hope the Conservatives will keep in mind when it comes to drafting legislation going forward.

It is important to assure Canadians that this chamber gives proper consideration to any and every bill before the House, especially those that affect some of the rights and freedoms most cherished by the Canadian people. While I am thankful that the judges of the Supreme Court are able to reinforce our charter rights and declare legislation unconstitutional if it violates these rights, I am in agreement with my extremely knowledgeable colleague from Gatineau, who expressed concerns in her speech to this bill at second reading about sending people to court. Again, it is not because I do not have faith in the courts. I have every belief that our courts work to protect Canadians and defend the Constitution. In fact, the need for tabling bills like Bill C-55 reinforces my statement. However, the process of this roundabout way of making legislation is costly, and there are problems accessing justice.

If we do our job properly the first time, if we give a bill the proper consideration when it is drafted and make sure that it complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the concerns of Canadians, we will avoid many of these issues. If we do our job to the best of our ability, then I have no issue with having to redraft legislation at the request of the court. It is the job not being done right the first time that I, along with hard-working Canadians, take issue with.

Before I speak further to the content of Bill C-55, we must reflect on its history. In 2012, the Conservatives introduced Bill C-30 as an attempt to resolve every conceivable problem related to surveillance. Thankfully, Canadians were not afraid to speak up to ensure that their rights and freedoms were protected from a government that sought to unreasonably limit them. Public opposition to this bill erupted in a swarm of online campaigns and a general backlash. To quote the B.C. Civil Liberties Association:

It incorporates many, many people into a web of suspicion that shouldn't be there. The growth of the database nation presents a grave danger to democracy.

It incorporates many, many people into a web of suspicion that shouldn't be there. This is what we are seeing over and over again from the Conservatives. They are basically trying to say that people on EI are criminals, because now they are sending police there. They are treating seniors with disrespect. They are trying to label people as if they were not abiding by the rules, and they are. It is the Conservatives who are not.

A poll conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion demonstrates that the majority of Canadians felt that the bill was too intrusive. The bill was not only very unpopular among members of the Canadian public, but it piled onto elements of the Criminal Code that are unconstitutional, as noted by the Supreme Court. This is reflected in the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Tse. In that decision, the judges of the court ruled that the emergency wiretap provision in section 184.4 of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional. The judges stated that accountability measures must be put in place. The court gave Parliament until April 13, 2013 to amend the provision to make it constitutional.

It is clear that Bill C-55 was drafted to respond to the concerns expressed by the courts, and at the eleventh hour, I must say. Specifically, Bill C-55 would require reporting on the interception of private communications made under section 184.4. It would narrow which individuals can intercept private communications. People who have been wiretapped would have to be notified. It would also limit the use of wiretapping to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

Finally, we would have some consideration given to accountability and notification. Both are necessary to protect the important privacy interests at stake. I am glad that Bill C-55 would consider the concerns expressed by the courts. We have to thank the Canadian public, which voiced its opinion on this.

It is a shame, however, that instead of considering these issues and trying to fix legislation that is already in place, we get bills like Bill C-30 that seek to further limit our rights and freedoms that are protected under the charter. Instead of ensuring that what we already have is working, the Conservatives attempt to pile on legislation that would further limit our rights and freedoms. This is the most ineffective and inefficient way to enact policy.

On this side of the House, New Democrats will continue to hold the Conservatives accountable with respect to the rights and freedoms of Canadians at every stage of the legislative process and will ensure that things are done right the first time. That is why I want to express my concerns about elements of Bill C-55. While the recommendations of the courts are being implemented, we must ensure that the bill is not simply an updated version of the wiretapping provisions the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional or the surveillance bill that the Canadian people so rightly opposed.

When considering this type of legislation, we want to make sure that we are equipping our law enforcement professionals with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. We want to do this in a way that limits the rights and freedoms of Canadians as little as possible. We want to ensure that the voices and concerns of the Canadian people are reflected in the legislation that is ultimately meant to protect them. As discussed by the Supreme Court, it is a matter of striking a reasonable balance between an individual's right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures and society's interest in preventing serious harm. At every stage of the process, we must consider these conditions.

This is no easy task and is not one we can simply glance over. The Canadian public expressed its concerns about the former Bill C-30, and we are committed to having those concerns reflected in Bill C-55. As stated by the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law, Dr. Michael Geist:

Bill C-30 may be dead, but lawful access surely is not. On the same day the government put the bill out of its misery, it introduced Bill C-55 on warrantless wiretapping. Although the bill is ostensibly a response to last year's...decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, much of the bill is lifted directly from Bill C-30.

Of course, all members are aware of the campaign that helped Canadians share these concerns with their MPs and challenged members to defend privacy.

My office is always receiving inquiries regarding the protection of privacy. Canadians jealously guard section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under which everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.

However, no voter has ever come to the office to request that unreasonable limits be imposed on Canadians' right to privacy. With a government that is trying to pass laws that would allow it to spy on its citizens, Canadians have the right to be concerned.

On this side of the House, we will continue to oppose unreasonable search and seizure. The Conservatives must respect the reasonable limits that have been set out by the courts.

It is ironic that the Conservatives, who claim to want to reduce government intervention, are seeking to pass a legislative measure that will turn Canada into a country that is monitored in a Big-Brother-like fashion. Canadians are right to be wary of any legislative measure put forward by the Conservatives that limits the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the charter.

As we saw during the uproar in response to Bill C-30, Canadians are paying close attention on this front. Now it is time for the government to listen to Canadians as well as to the courts.

The NDP will continue to fight to uphold the rights and freedoms of Canadians. It is important that these rights and freedoms are given proper consideration before drafting and tabling legislation to ensure that things are done right the first time. We must ensure that the guidelines set out by the courts regarding this new bill are followed. We must ensure that it strikes a reasonable balance between an individual's right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures and society's interest in preventing serious harm.

Finally, we must ensure that all of this is done right the first time. We owe it to Canadians to ensure that anything that goes through the House is given proper consideration, especially when it involves the rights and freedoms of the Canadian people. Given the history of Bill C-30 and the Supreme Court decision in Tse, we believe that the current bill, Bill C-55, strikes a balance between personal freedoms and public safety. We expect that consideration of this sort be implemented in all bills passed before the House so that we do not get more bills like Bill C-30.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her excellent speech and the comments that she made about Bill C-55.

Throughout this early afternoon, I listened to what the other members had to say about the importance of this bill, which will remedy a flaw or close a loophole that the Conservatives left in Bill C-30, which is truly an aberration. The Conservatives ended up abandoning this bill because public pressure put them in their place.

The Conservatives are in the bad habit of doing things too quickly, without worrying about respecting the charter and the Constitution, for example. This is a problem that we do not mention often enough and a Conservative shortcoming.

I would like the hon. member to comment on omnibus bills such as Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, two bills that are nearly 800 pages long and that were examined very quickly. The government does not take the time to check whether it is abiding by Canada's key pieces of legislation, namely, the charter and the Constitution.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He is absolutely right. The charter and the right to privacy must be protected, something the government seems to forget. The government prefers to introduce legislation that quite often ends up before the courts. This does not protect Canadians, nor does it put to good use the taxes Canadians pay in order to receive services that help us to manage Canada.

Chris Parsons, from Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets, said, and I quote: “the Canadian government struggled to explain [Bill C-30]—and the need for all of its elements—to the public. In the face of public dispute over the legislation’s need the government sent the legislation to committee before second reading. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police strongly supported the government, as did individual police chiefs from around the country. This extended to calls for examples of where the legislation would have helped to resolve criminal cases.”

However, Canadians saw what this bill was really about. We are very glad that they managed to be heard.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, since we are talking about Bill C-55, I would like to add something important. In Bill C-30, and in the former act, the problem was the imbalance. We support Bill C-55 because it helps to restore balance. In the past, people were able to intercept telephone conversations without having to be accountable or needing to warn the person being spied on, which was inconsistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is why it is important to do things properly. It is also why the NDP will always take these matters seriously and respect the charter and the Constitution.

I would like my honourable colleague to comment on the fact that the balance between the charter and justice is being restored.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, we do not know why the government has waited so long to address a relatively simple issue of freedom and public safety. We should be asking the government—and I am certain that my colleague would agree—to tell us whether, after this debate, its priorities when it comes to justice will be more in keeping with the charter and the Constitution, rather than the Conservative political agenda. That is the question we should be asking the government, as I am sure that the answer would be quite telling.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to take part in the debate on C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, in response to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Tse.

As many of my colleagues pointed out during the previous debate, Bill C-55 is, I believe, a fair legislative measure that strikes a balance between protecting people’s privacy and preserving public safety.

The bill now before us at report stage amends the Criminal Code to provide safeguards related to the authority to intercept private communications without prior judicial authorization under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.

Among other things, the bill would require the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the attorney general of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4. It also provides that a person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified within 90 days. Lastly, it narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception and limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.

In the decision in R. v. Tse, the Supreme Court of Canada found that a wiretap authority without a court authorization in situations of imminent harm could be justified under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the court declared that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code, which was enacted in 1993, was unconstitutional because it contained no accountability measures.

Specifically, the court found that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code violated section 8 of the charter because it did not contain a safeguard such as the requirement to notify persons whose private communications had been intercepted. The court therefore asked Parliament to adopt the necessary legislative measures to make this provision constitutionally compliant. The court gave Parliament until April 13, 2013 to amend the provision in question.

Therefore, I am delighted to attest to the government’s efforts to comply with the court’s decision by bringing forward the requested safeguards within the prescribed time frame. The Criminal Code amendments that are being debated today will therefore directly respond to the guidance from the court by adding the safeguards of “notification” and “reporting” for section 184.4.

As I mentioned earlier, this amendment appears to achieve a reasonable balance between respect for Canadians' privacy and the security that the state must provide through its laws.

The bill proposes giving notice within 90 days to a person whose private communications were intercepted in a situation of imminent harm. It also requires the preparation of annual reports on the use of wiretaps under section 184.4. These amendments will also limit police authority to use this provision.

Like the experts who shared their views with the committee, I am of the opinion that the bill strengthens public safety while clearly limiting invasions of privacy. It also sets out a very strict framework for the use of wiretapping methods under section 184.4 and the related accountability.

The NDP believes it is absolutely essential that these investigation measures include oversight and accountability mechanisms that are clear and specific. We also have deep faith in our judicial institutions. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the interests of all Canadians, and it goes without saying that Parliament must comply with the ruling that was made according to our Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These are the very foundations of our democracy and we must respect them.

I join with my hon. colleagues in supporting this bill, responding as it does to a need in our society. In light of all the evidence heard in the House and in committee, there is no doubt that the proposed text is a fair compromise that reflects the expert opinions heard during the drafting and consideration of the bill.

Canadians have the right to be protected in extremely serious situations, such as abductions, bombings or other similar incidents. They also have the right to be protected from abuse by a poorly thought-out legal system, which may cause them harm.

The only thing I would like to point out is the fact that the government waited until the last minute to comply with the court's decision, when the official opposition has been calling for these changes for some time.

We all know that certain provisions were proposed in the now-defunct Bill C-30, but it was obvious that the government was going much too far in its desire to impose a law and order agenda on Canadians.

The opposition strongly criticized the flaws in Bill C-30 and its potential to create abuse when it was introduced in the House, and Canadians did not take kindly to this invasion of privacy in the name of Conservative ideology that panders to the Conservatives' electoral base.

As a result of political, media and public pressure, the Conservatives had no choice but to retreat and go back to the drawing board, consulting the players concerned. They came back with Bill C-55, a bill that is more thoughtful, more balanced and more likely to find consensus among the public.

However, it would have been more judicious and quicker to propose legislation like Bill C-55 from the start, in order to comply as quickly as possible with the court's decision.

Bill C-55 is proof that consensus, compromise, consultation and healthy debate in our institutions are not enemies of our democracy or of progress in Canada.

To conclude my remarks, I would like to invite the government to take the same action in all the bills it proposes and listen to the people, our fellow Canadians.

Motions in AmendmentResponse to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciated my colleague’s speech and her wish that the government would change its way of doing things.

It is important to realize, and I wonder whether she is aware, as I am, that it took a Supreme Court decision. The court simply put the repercussions of its decision of nearly a year ago on the back burner to force the government to take balanced action.

I also share her desire to see the government show somewhat more respect for the compatibility of these acts and regulations with the charter and the Constitution. I will not hold my breath, but at least we can salute the fact that the government did not really have a choice: it either had to come to this decision or lose the benefit of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.

I would like my colleague to say more about this part of her intervention.