Mr. Speaker, Bill C-21 is being introduced at a rather interesting time and pertains to a very sensitive subject, specifically, privacy. The bill proposes amendments to the Customs Act to allow the collection and sharing of exit information on anyone who leaves Canada, including Canadian citizens, with American authorities.
We in the NDP have to question the legality of this sharing of personal information on Canadians with American authorities, and we believe that Canadian officials should not be collecting this information for the United States or any other country. This should be the responsibility of the American border officials, who already collect data on travellers who enter the United States.
I agree that security imperatives must be taken into account and we must ensure the strength and effectiveness of the the Canada-U.S. border, but this cannot be done at the expense of the rights and freedoms of Canadians.
Data gathered by the Canada Border Services Agency should never be disclosed to foreign agencies, except in exceptional circumstances. In such cases, police forces, such as the RCMP and CSIS, already have measures and practices in place that they can use.
In recent years, whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke to us about U.S. surveillance programs, in particular NASA's program. U.S. President Donald Trump is a populist politician who is lawless, racist, unstable, and, unfortunately, the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. He wants to increase electronic surveillance and the collection of information about foreigners, whether they are tourists or U.S. residents.
Bill C-21 would increase the exchange of information between Canada and the United States. There has been a system to collect and subsequently share exit and entry information at the Canada-U.S. land border since 2011. In 2013, it was established that this only applied to third-country nationals and permanent residents. Since then, the information exchanged by our two countries has not decreased. Americans are always looking for more information.
After hearing this, should Canadians be concerned about their privacy? We believe that the answer is yes. The giant next door influences our policies. After assuring the international community that Canada is back, our Prime Minister is making our country bend once again to what the U.S. wants.
Are we going to again allow our neighbours to dictate their demands without worrying about the consequences for our lives, our freedoms, and our privacy?
Not content with invading the privacy of its own citizens, the United States now wants to invade the privacy of Canadians crossing the border. Bill C-21 would authorize officials to collect data about every individual leaving Canada, including Canadian citizens, and share it with U.S. authorities.
Why does the government think it has the right to decide that it will collect private information about its own citizens and share that information with foreign governments?
I do not have a problem with Canada sharing information with the United States. These days, we need to strengthen our international bonds. However, authorized law enforcement agencies, such as the RCMP and CSIS, can already exchange information in exceptional cases.
With this bill, the government will make information exchange routine regardless of the consequences and how U.S. authorities will use that information. We do not know how our information will be used or who will get it. I cannot fathom why this government wants to collect and exchange even more personal information absent adequate independent oversight by our national security agencies.
Canadians recently lost the protection that was previously afforded to them under the Privacy Act. In January, President Trump signed an order allowing the U.S. to access information on any individual, including Canadians, to verify their identity.
In other words, anyone crossing the border at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, which we are hearing a lot about these days, or at Stanstead can be asked by American customs agents to turn on their phone and give the agents their password for Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network. That is a complete invasion of our privacy. Our own Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, warned us about this initiative.
He said, and I quote:
The issue is that if you allow greater information-sharing, the legal standards authorizing this activity should be such that law-abiding Canadians, ordinary Canadians who should have nothing to fear from surveillance activities of the state, are not caught by the information-sharing regime.
The bill that is currently before us does exactly the opposite. Although we need to take into account security interests and ensure our safety and the smooth exchange of information at the Canada-U.S. border, as I was saying, we need to be careful and protect our rights and freedoms within Canada. The information that is collected by the Canada Border Services Agency must not be disclosed and shared with foreign authorities.
In addition to all that, it is important to keep in mind the Trump administration's disturbing actions. In light of the discriminatory immigration orders, which, as my colleague from Beloeil—Chambly mentioned, led to the racial profiling of Canadian citizens travelling to the U.S., it comes as no surprise that the right to privacy of non-Americans has been suspended. That is very worrisome. Now, more than ever, this bill poses a threat to the fundamental rights of Canadian travellers.
When will the Liberal government keep its promises and protect its constituents? If it does not set clear limits on the exchange of information and if it does not enhance protections, we will clearly end up in a position of weakness. This affects privacy, but also other areas. The other worrisome thing is how this data will be used. According to The Economist, information is worth more than oil. That says it all. I need not remind the House that many information giants are American, including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, and that our Canadian and Quebec companies are competing in this environment.
Can we believe for a moment that the information shared with the Americans will remain in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security? There is nothing in this bill or in the government's interventions to indicate that the information that will be disclosed will be used for security purposes only. Economic intelligence gathering is nothing new; the practice is used by both our adversaries and our allies. We get the impression that the Liberal government is hoping that the Trump administration will keep its word.
Trump will swear to us, as he often spontaneously does, hand on heart, that his American administration will never allow that information to be misused for economic purposes. If anyone believes that, that would be the very definition of naivety or gullibility. This is something of a recurring theme. The Liberals promised to be more transparent, and yet it is becoming increasingly difficult to access information. These days, there is a lot of talk about access to information regarding the NAFTA negotiations. We have no information about that. Confidentiality agreements have been signed for a four-year period. These negotiations will have repercussions on all Canadian workers.
The Liberals promised to remove from Bill C-51 any excessive transfers of power to security agencies. That has not yet happened. There was a very modest reform that did not correct all the problems in Bill C-51.
The Liberals also promised to respect official languages. We still do not have an official languages commissioner to investigate complaints and ensure that bilingualism in the House of Commons improves. That still has not happened. A number of promises like that have been broken. I could name several more.
In this case, promises were made about accountability and transparency, but Bill C-21 falls short of keeping them. We want to protect Canadians and the bill on the collection and exchange of exit data does not specify how this information will be used or who it will be exchanged with.
How can we trust our legislators if they cannot get their facts straight on the issue of privacy and how this bill will ultimately work?
In conclusion, we will be opposing this bill. The Liberals are going to have to start over.