House of Commons Hansard #201 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vehicles.


Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2017 / 5 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly what has been heard from the dealers is that the way it is written is not sufficient, and the way it is working right now already is not sufficient to satisfy the relationship.

As I said, I am not sure the amendment has the exact wording right, but it is clear that people are not satisfied with what the legislation proposes. It is an issue that needs to be addressed and needs to be wrestled with. I think that is an important thing for us to look at, and it is a good reason for this to be evaluated more closely at committee after we adopt it at second reading.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Peace River—Westlock.

As always, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to stand in this great place and debate legislation. In the case of this legislation, we do not think much about this, quite honestly. We purchase a vehicle, regardless of whether it is new or used, and we take it for granted that the vehicle works considering today's technology and expertise, the workmanship, and the professionals that develop, manufacture, and assemble the parts into the vehicle. We take it for granted that when we open the door and push the button or turn the key that the vehicle will run for as long as advertised, for a few thousand miles, and it will come with a warranty covering it for a certain amount of time. In many cases that is the truth, that is how it works.

I think most of us have received at some time a recall notice from a manufacturer or dealership on a particular part of the car or truck that we are driving. Sometimes it is a part that a manufacturer thinks may malfunction and cause an inconvenience, such as sitting on the side of the road. Other times, that recall will have a safety precaution attached to it. It may involve an ignition switch or something to do with the fuel line or a hose that runs fluid to the engine, or it might be some other thing that could cause serious injuries. Tragedies have happened because of faulty mechanisms within a vehicle.

Bill S-2 falls on the heels of Bill C-62 that was brought forward in June 2015 by our then minister of transport and now our deputy leader. This morning in his speech, the Minister of Transport acknowledged the work the House had done but particularly the work done by the deputy leader in bringing forward Bill C-62. Bill S-2 tries to make Bill C-62 better. What we have heard in the discussions today is that we in the Conservative Party of Canada and members of all parties are really concerned about ensuring that these highly mechanized, technological vehicles that we get into every day are safe.

We support Bill S-2. What are some of the reasons we support it? The Senate amendments that have come forward would be significant additions to the bill. They would strengthen the legislation and give more security not only to the purchasers, but also to those who sell vehicles and take the risk of having a recall put on and having to come up with some way to be reimbursed.

Is it the funding that they get reimbursed to replace the parts? I talked to one of my dealers. As it is, if they get a safety recall and that part is not available, because it is a safety recall they obviously cannot nor do they want to turn around and say to me, or to my family member or to anyone else, to just get back in the car and when that part comes in they will replace it. That is not, quite honestly, the way it happens and nor is it the way it should happen. However, it puts an awful financial impact upon that dealer who has the responsibility of a vehicle that the manufacturer made. From my understanding, the dealer then has to do something to accommodate the customer. He or she has to give the customer a loaner or, in some cases, say there is a back order and, because it may have been a large recall, the number of parts across Canada take a while to be produced, so at some point in time the dealer may make a deal so that the customer has a vehicle to be safe in and to drive. Again, now the dealer is left with a vehicle that he or she cannot sell because it has a safety recall on it.

As part of that legislative amendment that is in front of us, I know the minister was looking at it in a bit of a different way: that this is actually about safety and not really about compensation issues. One of the strengths and the opportunity that we have in this bill is to give it the breadth of significance that maybe is allowable with these amendments, and so I would support some of those.

In 2015, for example, five million passenger cars were recalled in Canada. One of the issues is that the government would be able to force the recall. At some point in time, that is going to be an important part of what happens. Right now, it is voluntary. We have been very fortunate in Canada that we have not had serious impacts by not having the manufacturers do the recalls that are required on a voluntary basis. However, at some point in time, the government needs to have some sort of recognition and authority when there is a default, particularly a safety one. As much as I always get concerned when I see government wanting to put a lot of oversight over our businesses, and particularly our small businesses, that eat up those kinds of costs, in terms of safety we have an opportunity in this bill to make things better. I am just going to wrap up with that. I did not get into a lot of details.

However, as one of my colleagues said, we have a number of issues in front of us in terms of innovation technology with driverless vehicles of all kinds. We have issues when we are talking about the safety of vehicles. We are also compounding the issues on the road with the use of alcohol and now, with the proposed legislation that is going to come, with marijuana and the effects it would have on drivers; it is not just with drugs but with drugs and alcohol. I want to emphasize that, if the government is going to move forward with this, the department has to have the resources to make sure it can follow through with the enforcement that would come with this.

With that, I look forward to having the opportunity of supporting this bill, but mainly the support is because I want it to get to the committee. The committee would have the opportunity to look at not just the bill but also the amendments that come with it and make this as strong a bill as we can to protect all of our Canadian people, our friends and our families, on the road.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Whitby Ontario


Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I think we can all agree that this is good legislation and, as the member said, everyone is pretty much in agreement.

When to committee, what sort of things does the hon. member think the committee should focus on, in addition to the legislation and the amendments.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, for those of us who have sat on committee, as my friend across the way has, when we start bringing witnesses in and talking to them, sometimes things that we have not thought about pop up. That is why we go to committee. Sometimes issues we had not thought about or thought were secondary, when they are correlated to something else, they can become a priority.

One issue I had not really considered until I listened to the debate today was the significance of some protection to our small business owners and dealers. In my area of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, these are all family-run car dealers and businesses. Not to be rude, but I am getting calls from many of these people who are really concerned about the small business tax that is being proposed.

Many of the amendments will get a lot of debate because they were brought forward after the original bill was considered. I will leave it at that.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill S-2 is about something that I am somewhat familiar with from the fact that before I came to this place, I worked in a Chrysler dealership and performed many recalls over the years.

The interesting thing about the recalls is that there is no similarity between any two of them. As mechanics tasked with correcting the issue, we often wondered why one thing was recalled and another was not, or why the same part was often recalled several times in a row. That goes to some of the issues the bill is trying to correct. I am not necessarily convinced that the bill will correct them, because in some cases we are truly not able to squeeze blood from a stone. In particular, we have seen this with the recalls of airbags. Many automotive manufacturers use the same supplier of airbags, and so the airbag recall crossed several different companies. It will be interesting to see how this goes forward. I know there is anxiety that comes with that. My own vehicle has had that particular airbag recalled, and people keep getting a notice saying there is problem but no fix or parts for it. That is ongoing.

The recalls are interesting, particularly from the dealership perspective. I see we are talking about the 1% of the price, and things like that. Now, there are games that get played with that 1% of the price. The same part being purchased at retail would be $150. If a recall part that could not be ordered for a retail customer was coming through the dealership, it might only be $10. We get the 1%, but it is 1% of $10, not of $150, or maybe even more if that exact same part was being ordered for a customer. Since it is the percentages that are being put on, that dramatically reduces the price to the dealership.

Parts departments run on percentages. Everything is a percentage. Typically, they have an 18% handling cost. Of every part that comes in to a dealership and gets shipped back out again or is sold, 18% of that sale is the cost of their storing it, the cost of their employees, the cost of keeping the lights on, and all of those kinds of things.

In the amendments we were talking about, there is a good initiative to put the percentage in. It helps the local dealerships. It is always interesting how the games get played. To some degree, the free market will have to work this out. In a lot of cases, the dealers already have these agreements with the manufacturers on how they are going to get paid for recalls. Recalls have been happening for a long time now, and so a lot of these things have been worked out through the free market.

I commend this bill. It is supportable. There is no problem with that. I would just acknowledge that we might be coming late to the party in the fact that most recalls go off without a hitch. There are already vast agreements in place for them. The free market, typically through the court system, will often demand a recall of this or that. Often, these recalls are worldwide or global. If something happens in one jurisdiction, the company gets alerted to the fact there is a particular problem with a particular piece. The entire fleet of that vehicle is then recalled. A problem might be discovered in Mexico and the vehicles in Canada are recalled. The companies themselves do that just to limit their liability from these kinds of things. They are facing a lawsuit in one country and do not want to face it in other countries, and so they will issue the recall.

When it comes to the dealership level, it is always interesting that things get downloaded all the time. The costs of doing business typically end up getting downloaded to the dealership level.

It is relatively easy to announce that there is a recall for something, but it is the dealership that faces the customer. The manufacturer announces there is a recall and says there are no parts. The dealership has to deal with the fact that every time the customer gets a notice, they might come to the dealership and ask what it means. The dealership then has to outline what the notice means. A lot of times there will be one or two notices before they actually get the parts. Each time the customer shows up at the dealership, it takes resources from the dealership. Instead of being able to deal with a customer who brings money in, the service writer has to deal with a customer who is just there for a recall notice. They are not going to be booking an appointment or anything. The customer is going to leave without any cash flow coming to the dealership. There is a significant cost associated with doing that. We need to ensure our network of dealers across the country get paid for the recalls that are put in place.

If it is the minister who puts the recall in and the manufacturer says it is not, that gets really interesting in terms of who pays. They are saying the manufacturer will pay. That is great, but we need to ensure the manufacturer, or someone, continues to pay the dealerships when it comes to a mandated recall by the minister. That is my reading of the amendment, anyway.

The whole system is in place already for when a manufacturer declares a recall, but it gets a little more interesting if the minister is going to declare the recall. Can the manufacturer at that point just say that since it is the minister who is declaring it, the parts will be made available and they will pay for getting the job done, but not necessarily reimburse the dealership's parts department or ensure they can actually make some money on it, particularly in the case of recalls that take a long time to develop the parts or develop the solution.

We have been talking a lot about recalls in the abstract. We just say the word “recall”. I would like to talk about a couple of instances when I performed recalls. One particular issue was on a certain vehicle. On this vehicle, if the window was left open and the rain came in, it would flood the window switch and cause an electrical fire in the window switches. We had to replace thousands of window switches. That is what a recall looks like. A particular piece could get rainwater in it and it could cause a fire, so that piece had to be replaced.

Another recall I did many times was in a windshield wiper system. There was one piece that could fall apart at some point, so we replaced a lot of windshield wiper motors on a particular vehicle. We got really good at it because we did a lot of them in a short period of time. We were replacing windshield wiper motors to prevent the wipers from failing on the highway and causing a driver not to be able to see where he was going.

Another one I can think of was a shifter recall in a particular car. In this case the shifter might not actually go into park. When the vehicle was shut off and the driver pushed the shifter forward, it would say it was in park, but the transmission might not have actually been in park, and could have been in reverse, which could be bad. We had to replace the shifter, or in some cases reprogram the computer in order to prevent that from happening.

Those are some pictures of what recalls look like. No two of them were ever the same. Sometimes it was a really big job, sometimes not. The window switch, for example, literally took minutes. It took longer to drive the vehicle into the shop than it did to replace the part. Other times it was a really big deal. I can think of one particular recall that was issued because the subframe could rust and break, so we were replacing a subframe under a vehicle and doing a wheel alignment afterwards. That was kind of a big deal.

I thought I would explain to the chamber, from my experience, what a recall actually looks like in terms of the guy who has to do it. Getting paid for it can sometimes be an issue when, as I explained earlier, we are dealing with percentages and the manufacturer just lowers the price. They give the dealership the percentage, but it does not necessarily mean we can get paid.

Those are my comments. I come at it with a little more practical experience, so I look forward to the questions.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Mr. Speaker, it was a pleasure to hear the well-thought-out and articulated response of the member for Peace River—Westlock in response to the bill before us.

The member talked a lot about his past as a mechanic and how he is fighting for his constituents. I was curious to know if he had the same experience I had this past summer, where this was not necessarily the topic that people talked to me about at the doors and in the office. It was all about the tax changes that the government is putting in place.

I am curious if the member had similar conversations, and if this bill should be the priority on which we are focusing. Perhaps we should be focusing on what the rest of Canadians are focusing on, the tax changes the Liberals seem to be jamming down our throats.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, I know that initially, at the beginning of the summer, I had hundreds of farmers coming to me over the cash ticket deferral system. That is how the summer started out. It deteriorated from there, in terms of the outrage over the tax system, particularly when it came to farmers who were looking to sell their farm to their son or daughter. That came out loud and clear.

Then in the last week that I was in the riding, just before I left for Ottawa, we actually had the Slave Lake and District Chamber of Commerce put together an emergency meeting with me to outline their concerns with the new proposed tax changes. There were nearly 100 people in the room, and they were very concerned about where we were going. The number one question was, “Can the government do this? Can it just come in, without listening, and do this?”

It was a very disheartening place to be, in terms of the fact that the government can just come in and do this without listening to what people have to say, changing our lives in northern Alberta significantly, when it comes to tax changes. Farming is probably about a third of the economy where we live. There is a lot of concern right now as what their future looks like.

Farmers have spent a lot of money on their succession planning, which is a big deal. Anyone who comes from northern Alberta knows exactly what succession planning means. They have spent money on it. They have hired consultants to see how to transfer their farm to their children. Basically that entire plan is now up in the air as we go forward with the new tax proposals that have been put forward. There is deep concern in my riding as to where this is going to go. A lot of people feel the carpet has been pulled out from under them.

Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am afraid we are out of time. It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business, as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-231, An Act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code (protection of journalistic sources), as reported without amendment from the committee.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

(Motion agreed to)

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that I have had the privilege of rising in the House, specifically to speak to Bill S-231, but I do it every time with some emotion. Having enjoyed the privilege and good fortune of being a journalist for 20 years, I am fully aware of the perils that lie ahead for the profession if, unfortunately, it cannot be practised with all the freedom bestowed upon us. Bill S-231 allows journalistic practice to be carried out in the noblest, safest, and fairest way for the public.

This is the third reading of this bill, which means that if parliamentarians agree, in a few hours, days, or weeks we will pass this very important piece of legislation that has a fantastic history.

About a year ago, misfortune befell journalists in Quebec, when it was discovered that senior journalists were the subject of police investigations and that their phones, iPhones, for example, their work tools, were being tapped. We learned that people whose job was to inform Canadians had been under surveillance far too regularly.

As soon as word got out about Patrick Lagacé, we learned that many other leading journalists in Quebec had been the subject of investigations either by the Sûreté du Québec, the Montreal police, or the RCMP. They include Patrick Lagacé, Vincent Larouche, Marie-Maude Denis, Alain Gravel, Isabelle Richer, Éric Thibault, Denis Lessard, André Cédilot, Nicolas Saillant, Félix Séguin, Monic Néron, Joël-Denis Bellavance, Gilles Toupin, Daniel Renaud, and Fabrice de Pierrebourg. Those are just some of the seasoned journalists who have been working in Quebec for years and who need to gather information in order to do their jobs properly.

When they learned that all these people were under investigation and were being wiretapped, Quebeckers, particularly journalists, were shocked. That was when Senator Claude Carignan decided to draft a bill that would protect journalistic sources so that journalists would never again be prevented from doing their jobs properly.

The beauty of Bill S-231 is that it sets out clear safeguards and makes the public the primary beneficiaries of a free press.

What we are talking about is one of the cornerstones of our very democracy. We are talking about a free press and freedom of expression here in the House of Commons, but first and foremost, from coast to coast in this country, the protection of journalists' sources. That is why the quality of the bill tabled by the hon. Senator Claude Carignan in the upper House, two months ago months ago, cleared the way and gave a clear mandate and clear signal to all whistleblowers in this country that when they talk to a journalist, they are free to do that and no one will interrupt them in the process.

This is a cornerstone of democracy. This is a cornerstone for whistleblowers. This is a cornerstone of journalism, so that is why I am so proud to be the godfather of the bill here in the House of Commons, thanks to the studious and very well done job by the hon. Senator Claude Carignan in the upper House.

Let us now take a detailed look at the issue to see what is so important about this bill and why it is so good for the future of press freedom in Canada. There are four key parts to this bill. First and foremost, it protects not journalists themselves but journalistic sources, the whistleblowers who uncover wrongdoing and want to tell a journalist about it.

The bill also defines a journalist. Anyone can write the odd blog post and call themselves a journalist, but a real journalist is someone who meets certain criteria, which we will get into later.

If a police officer wants to conduct an investigation—and they are in no way being prevented from doing so—they are given even better tools to do that.

In the future, superior court judges will be able to issue warrants to the police. I will be sharing some examples later that are a little disturbing, to say the least.

Lastly, it reverses the burden of proof. Police officers will have to prove that wiretapping is absolutely vital to the investigation. That reverses the burden of proof. Those are the four key parts of this bill: protecting sources, defining who is a journalist, enabling superior court judges to issue warrants, and placing the burden of proof on the police. We must take the time to look at all four of these closely.

I will begin by talking about protecting sources. I mentioned it briefly earlier, but it is fundamental. In plying their trade, journalists are not immune to making mistakes, but when journalists want to do a thorough investigation, they must have the freedom to do so and, more importantly, the ability to speak openly to someone who wants to share information. They also need to have assurances that that individual will not be targeted by a few people with bad intentions. Sources are therefore protected, but journalists themselves are not. Why? Because journalists are still seen as vectors in all this. One of the key components of this exercise is based on the source, and that is why we want to protect sources. This is why we also realize that the only way journalists can do their jobs properly is if their sources are protected.

Some people may call themselves or see themselves as journalists, which can be problematic. I would like to read the definition of “journalist” as it appears in the second paragraph of subsection 39.1(1) of the bill:

Journalist means a person whose main occupation is to contribute directly, either regularly or occasionally, for consideration, to the collection, writing or production of information for dissemination by the media, or anyone who assists such a person.

Clearly, no one can suddenly begin calling themselves a journalist overnight. They must practise that trade for a media outlet or in a serious, recognized, and established sector. It must be their livelihood. The definition clearly indicates that not just anyone can call themselves a journalist. This is crucial because, as a journalist myself for 20 years, I remember being angry and annoyed at times when people claimed to be journalists, when in the end, apart from some friends who saw their scribbles, they definitely were not journalists. With the amazing and spectacular evolution of the media and the means of communicating information, anyone can quickly publish something online, but that does not mean they have the serious and rigorous fundamental skills needed to practise the profession correctly and responsibly.

I mentioned earlier that warrants authorizing police to investigate will now be issued by superior court judges. That is the third key part of the bill. Again, the police will never be prevented from doing their job properly or from stopping evildoers from doing bad things.

We are protecting whistleblowers, but at the same time, we are also protecting police officers, who need to do their due diligence. The difference is that the police will have even greater moral authority whenever they need to intervene, because they will have received authorization from a superior court judge.

Let us take the example of the Montreal police, better known as the SPVM. Does the House know how often the SPVM was given permission to investigate when it was asking so-called justices of the peace? Fully 98% of the SPVM's applications for warrants to investigate were granted. Is there even any point asking a justice, if they are going to say yes 98% of the time? I do not mean to put down those serving as justices of the peace, as their work is important and essential, but when it is a question of listening in on conversations between a journalist and a source, we need to make sure the decision lies with an experienced superior court judge.

In fact, this will give the police even more authority to do their job. Bill S-231, introduced by Senator Claude Carignan, strikes just the right balance. Yes, this bill protects the source, but on the off chance that a police officer needs to conduct an investigation into potential wrongdoing, then the officer will also have the moral authority to do so, because he or she will be armed with a warrant issued by a superior court judge.

We believe that strikes the right balance.

The last point I want to address is the reverse onus. Again I will cite the bill, specifically clause (9) on page 3, regarding the burden of proof:

A person who requests the disclosure has the burden of proving that the conditions set out in subsection (8) are fulfilled.

The idea behind this is to ensure that everything is legitimate. People cannot just pretend to be journalists, nor can people expect investigations to always be conducted right away or granted by lower court judges 98% of the time. These things have to be done properly. In the end, the police officer has the burden of proof to ensure that the entire process is done correctly and legitimately.

When the bill was introduced in the Senate it obviously caught the attention of journalists, but also of observers. I will quote a few people who were enthusiastic about the initiative, including the editor of Le Devoir, Brian Myles, who commended the senator “for achieving a miracle by generating an all-but-consensus among media owners and editors in Quebec and Canada”.

Tom Henheffer is the executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. In an article on April 12, 2017, he said, “Senator Carignan’s bill is the beginning of full legal recognition for the role that journalists play in serving the public and protecting democracy. The Liberal government must offer its complete support”.

So far that has been the case, and may it continue to be for the remaining hours of this debate.

The Globe and Mail's David Walmsley said, “We’re here because [we] are facing enormous threats”.

They are facing enormous threats when it comes to protecting sources. The Globe and Mail has spent up to $1 million in the past few months protecting journalistic sources. Today we are witnessing the culmination of a very important exercise that is of great value to Canadian democracy, since we are at third reading stage of the bill.

In the last few months, we have seen a threat to many journalists who have to work correctly and protect the whistle-blowers. These people all across this country, in the public service or elsewhere, can see bad things happening and want to call the shots, want to blow the whistle like we used to say, but they must say that to journalists with the clear protection that belongs to them. This is why this bill is good. This bill is correct for journalists, but first and foremost this bill is great for Canadian democracy.

For that reason, we hope to have the support and co-operation of the entire House of Commons at this third reading stage. To date, the work has been done in a rigorous, positive, and constructive manner. There was the study in parliamentary committee where people with different views were able to provide input. I was even asked to appear before a parliamentary committee for the first time, which I enjoyed. I was accompanied by Senator Claude Carignan, the sponsor of the bill, and by another senator, the Hon. André Pratt, who was in the noble profession of journalism for decades, and had a stint as the editor-in-chief of La Presse. At the end of his career, he was a distinguished columnist at that newspaper.

I am very proud to have sat with these two parliamentary colleagues, Senators Pratte and Carignan, to push for the bill and especially for the protection of working journalists' sources. This bill is the embodiment of what must be done to protect what is very precious in our democracy, freedom of the press.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak in support of Bill S-231, an act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code regarding the protection of journalistic sources, otherwise known as the journalistic sources protection act.

I would like to begin by thanking the Senate sponsor for his diligence and hard work on this very important bill, which aims to ensure that the protection of journalistic sources is given due consideration whenever they are at issue in Canadian courts. I would also like to thank my colleague opposite, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, for shepherding the bill through the House and his commitment to journalistic freedom. The bill has moved swiftly through the House, thanks to the broad support from all parties.

As we all know, this issue was brought to the forefront a little less than a year ago following events involving the use of investigative tools targeting journalists, in particular revelations that police in Quebec had obtained warrants to monitor the cellphones of several journalists. Following this incident, the Quebec government reacted swiftly and amended its guidelines and safeguards for obtaining warrants that target journalists. As a result, journalists are now listed alongside lawyers, judges, and members of the National Assembly for whom added safeguards and special protocols are in place in relation to warrant applications.

In November 2016, the Quebec government also launched the Chamberland commission to study the issue of the protection of journalists' confidential sources. The commission's hearings have recently concluded and the commission's final report is expected by next March. lt is in this context that Bill S-231 was introduced last November.

In essence, Bill S-231 proposes changes to the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code to enact special regimes to protect confidential journalistic sources. The Canada Evidence Act proposals would create a unique regime applicable any time the media wished to protect a journalistic source. This new regime would codify the common law developed and interpreted through several Supreme Court of Canada cases, while introducing some added protections. For example, the bill would place the onus on the person who seeks disclosure of the information instead of the person seeking to protect the information, as is currently the case.

The Criminal Code proposals relate to how investigative tools, such as search warrants and protection orders, can be issued and executed when they target journalists. Although the goal of these proposals is to protect journalistic sources, the procedure will apply any time a journalist is targeted by an investigative tool. The bill also proposes a triage procedure that requires the sealing of evidence collected and a review by a court before the information is disclosed to the police. Finally, the bill proposes that only Superior Court judges can issue an investigative tool in relation to a journalist.

When the merits of the bill were debated in this chamber at second reading, members expressed support for the bill's laudable objective and solid foundation. Members also expressed the view that the bill could be further improved, bearing in mind the complexity of the law in this area.

This bill is being reported back to the House today with amendments adopted by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. It was a pleasure to study this bill at committee. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank my committee colleagues from this side, as well as across the aisle, for their collaboration during the bill's study. The bill, as amended, truly reflects a multi-partisan initiative.

I will focus the remainder of my remarks on the substantive amendments made to Bill S-231 by the committee.

With respect to the amendment to the Canada Evidence Act provisions, the public safety committee deleted the override provision found in proposed subsection 39.1(2) from the Canada Evidence Act portion of the bill. The override provision was problematic because it could conflict with other federal legislation, including matters of privacy and national security. We also did not think it was necessary to give effect to the protections for journalistic sources contained in the bill.

The committee also amended the test found in proposed subsection 39.1(8) of the Canada Evidence Act portion of the bill for the disclosure of information or a document that identified or was likely to identify a journalistic source.

In essence, Bill S-231 has been amended to replace the reference to “the essential role of the information or document in the proceeding” with “the importance of the information or document to a central issue in the proceeding”, as this more accurately reflects the common law as confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The committee also improved the bill by moving the condition added by the Senate at committee at proposed paragraph 39.1(8)(c), which relates to whether “due consideration was given to all means of disclosure that would preserve the identity of the journalistic source”, to a new proposed subsection 8.1, separate and apart from the test for authorizing disclosure. I think this should strengthen the protection, since it ensures that the source's identity is protected as a separate step, even when the document in question is admissible.

The public safety committee also made a few, and in my view, important improvements to the bill's proposed changes to the Criminal Code. First, the committee amended proposed subsection 488.01(2) so that it would not apply, despite any other act of Parliament. As I mentioned earlier, such an override provision is not necessary to give effect to the protections for journalistic sources contained in the bill and could conflict with other federal legislation, including in matters of national security. Proposed section 488.03 was also removed from the Criminal Code portion of the bill, for the same reason. These are sensible amendments, and I agree with them.

The committee also added a knowledge element to proposed subsection 488.01(2). As originally drafted, this subsection would have required that a warrant, authorization, or order relating to a journalist only be issued by a judge of a superior court, regardless of whether police were aware that their investigation related to a journalist. This is problematic, because in practice, for example in relation to online crime, police may not know the identity of the person they are investigating. If police do not know that they are investigating a journalist, they cannot be expected to follow these new requirements that would have been imposed by Bill S-231, as introduced, when obtaining a warrant, authorization, or order. I therefore agree with the amendment of proposed subsection 488.01(2) to ensure that it only applies if police know that they are seeking a warrant, authorization, or order in relation to a journalist.

Importantly, the committee also amended the bill to add a new process to confirm the validity of a warrant, authorization, or order issued outside of Bill S-231's new regime—in other words, obtained in good faith under the regular process—in the event that an officer subsequently discovered that the target of the investigative tool was a journalist. According to this new process, once they became aware that the warrant related to a journalist, police would be required to, first, inform a judge of the superior court; second, refrain from examining or reproducing the evidence; and finally, seal it until the superior court judge disposed of the application. The superior court judge would have the ability to confirm the existing warrant, vary it, and impose appropriate conditions to safeguard journalistic sources or revoke the order if the judge was of the opinion that the officer knew, or reasonably ought to have known, that the application related to a journalist.

The importance of this amendment cannot be overstated, because it would allow appropriate measures to be taken to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources, even in cases where a warrant was issued in good faith outside of Bill S-231's regime.

Finally, the last key amendment made by the public safety committee is the addition of proposed subsections (4.1) and (4.2) to proposed section 488.01 of the Criminal Code to ensure that the new test for the issuance of warrants, authorizations, or orders relating to journalists would not apply when the application relates to a journalist's criminal activity. This amendment recognizes that it should not be more difficult for police to obtain a warrant against a journalist if that journalist is engaged in criminal activity.

I believe that these targeted but important amendments are perfectly in keeping with the spirit and important objectives of Bill S-231. I hope that all members support this bill, as amended, with bipartisan support, by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to this situation, because it is in the context of events that occurred in Quebec.

Last spring, Quebec media revealed that journalists had been under police surveillance, meaning that their telephone conversations had been tapped. Of course, people were shocked to learn about it. It was reported that journalist Patrick Lagacé was not the only one who had been under surveillance, and that other journalists had been under police surveillance, not just for a few weeks, but for periods of four to five years. They included journalists from Enquête, even Alain Gravel. This was clearly a serious situation.

Many people were shocked, and after some hesitation, the Quebec government decided to launch an inquiry into the protection of journalistic sources on November 11, 2016. Other measures were also adopted by the National Assembly of Quebec, including a unanimous motion stressing the importance it attaches to the protection of journalistic sources.

Quebec Minister of Justice Stéphanie Vallée stated:

The new disclosures are extremely serious, and as mentioned, it is essential that the public trust in its public institutions, in all institutions.

Thus, it is important to remember the principle behind the protection of journalistic sources. It has to do with public trust in its institutions. A number of scandals have been uncovered by journalists who did a tremendous amount of investigative work, and by sources who never would have spoken up without the anonymity provided by the protection of journalistic sources. Without it, some of those stories might never have come to light.

It is really important that those kinds of things be made public, because it helps us move forward and create a healthy democracy. Without the work of journalists, there might even be more wrongdoing. Thanks to journalists, who do rigorous investigations and often get information from sources who could face serious consequences if their names ever got out, we have access to that information. Since people know that some oversight exists, perhaps this keeps them more honest in their work.

Given that the commission of inquiry is mandated to make recommendations on police practices and ways to protect sources, I think this could produce very positive results. Since the bill before us addresses only about 75% of the problem, it will be important to follow up on it, especially after what we have learned from Quebec, in order to settle things for good and address other protections that could prove necessary.

After what happened in Quebec, something needed to be done. People realized the magnitude of the problem, and since the federal government did not want to create its own commission of inquiry to protect journalistic sources, claiming that these problems did not exist at the federal level, it was important to find a solution. That is why Bill S-231 was introduced in the Senate.

This bill is based on another bill from 10 years ago. There was an attempt to solve this problem 10 years ago, but unfortunately, thanks to our sometimes inefficient parliamentary process, it was not successful, because bills died on the Order Paper, work stopped and started, and there were back-to-back minority governments.

Back in 2007, all political parties were unanimously in favour of taking action. Unfortunately, no action was taken. Then we learned that journalists had been spied on for years. That is terrible, but I applaud Mr. Ménard for the work he did 10 years ago to protect journalistic sources.

Bill S-231 resurrects most of the measures in Bill C-426, which was introduced 10 years ago, and it adds other measures to keep it current because new laws have been passed, so some additions were necessary to keep journalistic source protection up to date.

Let us consider the true ramifications of these revelations. In light of the revelations about the police surveillance of journalists, Canada's international ranking in terms of freedom of the press dropped 14 spots to 22nd. This had an extremely negative impact on Canada's image, a country considered to be rather free. It came to light that behind the image, the police were allowed to spy on journalistic sources.

The thing that really got me in all of this was how long it went on for. The spying did not just go on for a short period of time, for a week or two because the police thought that the journalists were in contact with certain people. The police were listening in on the telephone conversations of renowned journalists in Canada for four or five years. They listened to all the details of the journalists' lives. It makes no sense. There was no specific timeframe involved. It was truly an ongoing wiretap to try to gain some information. When we look at this mess, the first thing that comes to mind is that we should have gone further to solve this problem 10 years ago.

Now, 10 years later, it is vital that we pass the bill. It will not solve the problem in its entirety, but I estimate that it will address at least 75% of it. That is why we cannot allow parliamentary procedure to again prevent us from taking action on this problem.

It would have been good for the present government to introduce its own bill to resolve this issue. This is a members' bill. However, for the sake of Canada's public image, we can no longer afford to not act on this issue. Freedom of the press is a fundamental principle in Canada and Quebec. Our journalists deserve to know that they can do their job without being spied on with impunity. Furthermore, Quebeckers and Canadians deserve to know that they are protected when they speak to a journalist, and that there will be no fallout.

With respect to employment insurance, we remember that in 2013 we learned that investigators had quotas for recovering payments from the unemployed. Had the journalist not investigated this story and had there been no guarantees to protect the source, we perhaps would never have learned about this. For that reason, it is important to protect our sources. Otherwise, people will not dare blow the whistle on such situations. When people no longer report such situations out of fear that they will not be able to remain anonymous, and when this has consequences, we stop making progress and democracy suffers.

Given that the protection of sources is closely linked to democracy, it is vital that we address this issue now. I hope that we will do so once and for all and that it will not take another 10 years.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, there are a few thoughts that come to mind right away when we are debating Bill C-231, and one of those thoughts is reflecting on Arnold Chan, and some of the things he advocated for were to bring people and parties together in terms of how we can improve things if we work together. The bill going through the committee process demonstrated just that, where we were able to take a piece of legislation and improve it, with individuals from different parties working together and ultimately seeing amendments brought forward, which has improved the legislation we are debating here today.

Freedom of the press is something we should never ever take for granted. We understand it is a fundamental pillar to good governance, to the whole issue of democracy. When I was first elected in 1988, I quickly found out the important relationship between the media and politicians. I will not go over the stories, but there were some embarrassing moments. At that time I may have had some different thoughts about the media, but I can honestly say today—with the experience I have gained over the years as a parliamentarian, whether inside the Manitoba legislature or here in the House of Commons—how important it is that we have an independent press, a press that feels it has the freedom to do what is necessary to ensure that there is a higher sense of accountability through the media on a wide variety of issues, whether it is within the political realm or any other realm on which media representatives will report.

I know when the issue first surfaced—if we were to narrow it down, and it has already been referred to—it was an incident where police officers in Quebec obtained warrants to monitor the cell phones of a fairly well known and respected journalist and a number of others. The journalist who garnered a great deal of attention was Patrick Lagacé. There was an instant reaction from coast to coast to coast that something was wrong. It did not take long for things to come together, whether it was inside the House of Commons or outside in different communities that realized this action was a serious offence against a profession that we need to ensure has a sense of independence and the ability to protect its sources.

My colleague across the way said he was a journalist for 20 years, and I am sure he speaks from experience in terms of how important those sources are. I cannot say how many times I have had a journalist come to me and ask what I would share off the record. Sometimes it is important to have those off-the-record discussions to give some depth on the issue at hand, whatever it might be. We should always be careful if we go off the record, but we find incredibly good reporters who want to be better informed and have a better sense of what is taking place behind the story.

Equally, when we look at some of the issues that are so critically important for the public to become aware of, the sources of information that make the public aware do need to be protected.

A vast majority of Canadians recognize the value of a free press. We should never take it for granted, and the Prime Minister makes sure that direction comes from the government through the different ministries and that direction is given in the mandate letters that are issued to the ministers. In the mandate letter issued to the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister tasked the minister with ensuring that the rights of Canadians are protected and that the guarantees set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are respected. The minister recognizes that freedom of the press is fundamental, that it is a Canadian value as stated in the charter. Moreover, in the spring of this year, during question period here in the House, the Prime Minister himself made a fairly clear statement indicating that the government strongly believes in the protection of journalistic sources. It should surprise no one that our government understands the importance of this issue.

We saw good work done by the standing committee. It reflected on the previous debate, reviewed some of the incidents that have occurred, including the one that I cited earlier, and came up with ways to improve the system. That is the way I look at Bill S-231.

I applaud the actions of those individuals whom I have named and the many whom I have not named, because as I have indicated, we should never take those fundamental issues for granted. We do need to stand guard and protect our democracy, our free press, those fundamental pillars that ultimately made Canada the great country that it is.

Journalism and the way the media reports events have greatly changed. I make reference to the days when I was first elected. I can remember sitting in the Manitoba legislature and looking into the press gallery, where I could see representatives from all the different mainstream media. There were three reporters from the Winnipeg Free Press and two from the CBC. CTV had a reporter there. Even Global had a permanent reporter there. There was also a reporter from the Winnipeg Sun. Other media outlets were also there. Back then there was no blogging, no Internet, and no social media.

I appreciate the member's discussion about what a lot of people question: what is a journalist? Today, with issues like fake news and so forth, there is a great deal of concern about that. I appreciate the member across the way recognizing that. We recognize that journalism is an honourable profession in this legislation, a profession with high standards, a profession that is the main source of income for its practitioners. To me it is also important for a journalist to be employed by a main media outlet. These are important things. We need to recognize that there is a difference between CTV National News and Joe Blow on some blog claiming to be a journalist.

I appreciate the debate that we have had here today and I look forward to an ongoing debate on the issue.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to speak to Bill S-231 to protect the confidentiality of journalist sources. I wish to commend the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, who I know is very passionate about this. It was good to see that he had the opportunity to speak today and to express his passion.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental Canadian value that is protected by the charter. Our government supports this and will defend charter rights. We know that journalists play a key role in ensuring that Canada remains a free and democratic society. Therefore, as my colleagues have said, we will be supporting the bill with the amendments made at committee.

The bill would protect journalists and their sources. That is the distinguishing factor here. We know journalists are protected under section 2(b) of the charter. However, case law has demonstrated that their sources are not protected. That is part of the reason why the need for this has come forward.

It is important to protect the sources of journalists for a number of reasons, the main one being that it enables us to get closer to the truth. We know journalists have sources who are reliable and who would hesitate to come forward if they knew their names would be disclosed. It is important to know that is not sneaky or inappropriate. We have to recognize that certain risks and costs that are taken are not fair and that people are coming forward in the interests of truth. They need to have that assurance.

I relate this to my own life because I, unlike the member, I am not a journalist and have never taken on that role. However, I was a chaplain in a high school and had students come to see me. Over the years, we formed beautiful relationships of trust, friendship, and those sorts of things. If there were any issues or anything that students thought needed attention, they could come to me. The importance for them when they were going to share certain things with me was that it would be in the interest of the community. They would tell me things like a fight was going to break out after school and that it would happen in the park a half mile away. However, they would only tell me that if I promised I would not say where my source came from. Was what they were telling me important? Absolutely. Did I then notify the authorities so the police would be there and there would not be a brutal fight? That is exactly what I did. Did it prevent that fight from happening? Yes.

There are many other examples. Some of these examples were very serious, such as mental health issues, where self-harm was happening. Students would come to me in the interest of protecting another student, in the interest of saving that other student's life. However, they would tell me that I could not reveal where I got the information. I could give them that assurance, and I could follow up and reach out. At the end of the day, justice was served and help was offered. It was a good thing because I had that right.

The goal of journalists is a bit different, but they are after truth and they want accountability. They want Canadians to be informed. This is very important for a free and democratic society. We want Canadians to be informed as well. We, as a government, want to be accountable. For those constituents who have said that they want members to make a difference, to be honest, and they want to be able to trust us, that is exactly what I want to deliver. I want to restore their faith. That is why I am here today.

We, as a government, want to ensure that journalists get the information they need in order to keep us accountable. We want to be held to account. If an investigation is required, we want to ensure we have the information to lead us to that investigation. We do not want that information to be held back. At the end of the day, we know all Canadians will benefit from it.

The bill does many things, but what I want to focus on next is the test that is used. The common law would apply in a situation where we are talking about journalist source confidentiality privilege. The common law uses the Wigmore test. That test has four criteria: one, the communications must originate in a confidence that they will not be disclosed; two, this element of confidentiality must be essential to the full and satisfactory maintenance of the relationship between the parties; three, the relationship must be one that in the opinion of the community ought to be diligently, deliberately, and consciously fostered; and, four, the public interest served by protecting the identity of the source in this particular case must outweigh that of the public interest in getting the truth.

Bill S-231 codifies and simplifies that legislation so that we are not involved in conflicts and wondering what test to use. The test here is simple: the administration of justice outweighs the public interest in preserving confidentiality. It is simplified and codified so that we do not have to go back to the Wigmore test.

This also applies to warrants. The bill includes conditions that allow any material seized by a warrant to be held until a decision is made. This ability to build conditions into a warrant is important because the warrant can be issued and the conditions can be set.

The other thing I would like to talk about, which is very important and very different, is that the burden of proof now shifts to the person who wants the information disclosed. I know that journalists will appreciate and value that very much.

At the end of the day, the bill puts in place a robust and unprecedented protection of journalists' sources by clarifying the test, by preventing conflict of interest law issues, and by ensuring that new safeguards will only apply in appropriate places. I am pleased about this change for journalists. I want to encourage journalists and impress upon them today how important we, as representatives, as members of Parliament, believe their job is. They are doing a very important job. We want to help them do their job well. We think this legislation will help them do that.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Resuming debate. Before I acknowledge the next speaker, I want to advise him that he will unfortunately not be able to complete his full allotment.

The hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak again on Bill S-231. I recall that the last time I spoke in the House, I think at second reading in May, my time was also truncated. Perhaps I will be able to say what I need to say in the short period of time we have.

This bill came to the House by way of its sponsorship by my good friend from Louis-Saint-Laurent in the other place. It is being debated here in the last few minutes of private members' business on our second day back after we have been in our constituencies for the summer. These facts should not belie the importance of this bill. This is a fundamental bill. This will fundamentally underline what we see as important to Canadians and as Canadians.

Fundamentally, this bill is about democracy. It has been said that democracy is the worst government, except for all of the other types. We need to hold what we have dear. We must cherish our democracy. Our democracy is not going to remain strong and robust if the good people in this place and throughout Canada stand idly by. Democracy, like all that we love and cherish, must always be nourished. It must always be improved. At its essence, this bill would improve our democracy.

Why is that so? It is for many reasons, but let me take the brief time I have to elaborate on one or two of them. I believe it was the British member of Parliament Lord Macaulay who first said that the media is the fourth pillar of democracy, after the executive, Parliament, and the judiciary. The media plays just as important a role. None of us here today would imagine that democracy could exist without Parliament. None of us here today could possibly fathom democracy without an effective judiciary. None of us here would even dare to dream of government or democracy existing without an executive answerable to Parliament.

I suggest that a robust media is as important as these other three branches of government. Without the protection of journalists and journalistic sources, there can be no free media. Make no mistake about it, that is how democracies die in this world: it is when journalists cannot do their job, cannot speak truth to the people who send us here, are afraid of the state, or fear for their safety and that of their families. This is what we are talking about here. We need to make no mistake about this.

Bill S-231, in its essence, is at the foundation of democracy. I urge every member to support it. It is a fantastic piece of legislation. It has been amended in committee. This is what we need to support. This bill highlights where democracy, the law, and journalism meet, all of which are important and fundamental principles of our free society.

Professionally, I am a lawyer, and I am entitled to privileges. Lawyer-client privilege is one of the most sacred tenets of our law. I could not possibly have done my job as a lawyer without my client having the full and utmost confidence in knowing that whatever they said to me, I could never tell another soul. That fosters truth. That is how people can be confident in this system and how they can be free to say what they need to say.

As a lawyer, I do not think that that privilege is any more important than the same privilege a journalist has they are speaking to their sources. How will the wrongs of the world be righted if good people do not have other people to speak to and explain the wrongs. Those journalists take those stories of woe, corruption, and fraud and bring them to the people. Without journalism, these stories do not see the light of day. Not only will these stories or the people who want to tell the stories potentially die, but I also suggest that democracy itself will die.

I for one will not stand by and let democracy die. I urge all members to support Bill S-231.

Journalistic Sources Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.