For crying out loud. The member behind me said that because it is true. For crying out loud. They would have us believe that they can use this back door to ask Internet service providers for personal information, such as a person's IP address, but that they cannot track this stuff.
The government is saying that it cannot go back to determine, for example, how many requests were made and how many of those cases had to do with cyberbullying, child exploitation, national security or anti-terrorism. It claims that it does not have that data. How are we supposed to make sure that this is not being abused? Exploiting loopholes has become the norm, and that poses tremendous problems.
This bill grants legal immunity to Internet service providers that choose to share their clients' personal information when requested to do so by any government agency or on their own initiative. However, most of the time, it is government agencies that make a request.
A parallel system ensured that an Internet service provider that shared data it had no right sharing could be sued if it abused the process. That is the one and only aspect that gave people any sense of security.
In certain cases, Internet service providers refused to respond to a request because they did not want to take the risk of being sued. Bill C-13 takes away this one thing that made Internet service providers think twice. That is a major problem.
When the Conservative and Liberal members—since they voted together—say they want to ensure that there is balance and a warrant system, that is false, for they seem to be forgetting that they gave Internet service providers legal immunity in this bill.
Furthermore, the IP address reveals a great deal of information about users, including their conversations and where they go. Contrary to what the Conservatives like to say, it is not the same information that can be found in the phone book.
I talked a lot about the shortcomings created by PIPEDA. Rather than correcting the situation, the provisions in Bill C-13 make matters worse. In addition to providing legal immunity, Bill C-13 also reduces the threshold for intercepting communications—that is, the content of an email or text message—to reasonable suspicion.
There already was a threshold for obtaining a warrant, which was good. We should respect existing thresholds for being able to access personal information or communications. However, that threshold has been reduced to “reasonable suspicion”, which opens the door to abuse.
I would like to point out another very specific aspect of this bill. If government agencies can ask Internet service providers to hand over personal information, public servants will have access to that information with a simple phone call. Here is how “public officer” is defined in Bill C-13:
“Public officer” means a public officer who is appointed or designated to administer or enforce a federal or provincial law and whose duties include the enforcement of this or any other Act of Parliament.
I can think of many positions that would be included in this definition, including mayors. There are good mayors and bad mayors. Can they all be trusted? Are there any provisions to prevent abuse? No. This just opens the door wider.
When this bill was examined in committee, the NDP proposed 37 amendments, which were all rejected. We heard from a number of witnesses, and contrary to what the parliamentary secretary just said, the witnesses did not all agree.
Here is what Carol Todd, Amanda Todd's mother, had to say:
I do not want my privacy invaded. I do not want young people's privacy compromised. I do not want personal information being exploited without a protection order that would support individuals. I do not want any Canadian hurt in my daughter's name. I want her legacy to continue to promote hope, celebrate our differences, and give strength to other young people everywhere.
I think she would have been pleased to see us split this bill. She does not want anyone's privacy to be invaded, or the threshold for obtaining communications to be lowered, or for government agencies to be given access to personal information without a warrant. That is what she wants for her daughter's legacy. It is really quite clear.
There is another aspect that the committee was unable to assess because it happened after review in committee and that is the Supreme Court ruling in Spencer. It is an extremely important ruling that brought certainty to something that may have been rather vague before. In Spencer, the Supreme Court ruled that no one could have access to clients' names, addresses, telephone numbers and IP addresses without a warrant. Nonetheless, in Bill C-13 we just included statutory immunity for Internet service providers who share information without a warrant.
There is some serious and legitimate uncertainty as to whether these parts of the bill are constitutional and whether they will be blocked.
That being said, why could we not have sat down together and sorted this out? We know that the Conservative government seems to be short on respect for the Constitution and the Supreme Court's rulings, as we saw during the process for appointing a new justice to the Supreme Court. It is the government's responsibility to ensure that every bill, every law it wants to enforce respects the Canadian Constitution. It is the government's fundamental duty. When the Conservatives say that there was a review, that legal experts assessed the bill to ensure it was consistent with the Constitution, that is great, but the Spencer ruling was handed down after the bill was drafted.
I am puzzled by something else. As we know, the government is refusing to respond to this decision. It claims that everything is in order and that the bill is constitutional even though many experts doubt that it will pass the test of the Constitution in light of the Spencer ruling. What is interesting is that we expected the government to respond, but it was actually the Internet service providers that did so. Now Rogers and TELUS will no longer respond to requests for information about their clients made by government agencies. Why is the government not taking its responsibilities seriously by declining to make these requests? That would be the responsible thing for the government to do. Instead, it is the other side doing this. That really bothers me.
I agree completely that we must amend the law. It must keep pace with new technologies and the new problems that society faces. Many new things are happening, and we have to keep up to date. However, we cannot and should not put the protection of people ahead of the protection of privacy. We can find a balance. No matter what the Conservative MPs would like to think, this is not a balanced bill. Furthermore, there is a high probability that it is unconstitutional. It is therefore very problematic.
The government says that it is opening the door, that it is all right in certain situations. Yes, there are exceptional cases. However, I am afraid that the government is violating privacy and that once it opens the door, it will open it wider. Where will that take our society?