Mr. Speaker, one cannot help but look to the past to see how we got here today with this bill, Bill C-59, because it really comes from the framework of Bill C-51. It is one of the reasons New Democrats will be opposing this bill, just as we opposed Bill C-51. At least we had an honest debate with the Conservatives about our position on Bill C-51, whereas the Liberals said they had concerns but then voted for Bill C-51, then later ran on a platform to get rid of Bill C-51.
Now we are stuck with Bill C-59. Their objective is clearly to muddy the waters so much that nobody will be able to follow this outside of the House of Commons, aside from experts in security intelligence. People are having to follow House of Commons debates on a regular basis, which is very difficult to do when there are so many things happening.
There still is interest out there. The bottom line is whether the privacy of Canadians will become unhinged by national security issues that undermine our civil liberties. When I look at some of the perspectives of Conservative members on civil liberties, I am, quite frankly, surprised that in this case, with Bill C-59, they do not have more backbone to raise issues about that balance, especially given the fact that one of their members, who very much has a strong civil libertarian background, nearly became leader of their party.
I can say this much about Bill C-51. Civil liberties and privacy are essential for a modern and functioning democracy. One of the continuing concerns with Bill C-59 is the assembly and distribution of personal data. It is real. There are people, such as Maher Arar and others, whose lives have been turned upside down because their personal information was used in a way that exposed them, their families, their business and personal contacts, and the people in their lives. It was an organized decision by our government agencies, the RCMP and CSIS, to exchange information with foreign powers related to that personal, private information. As Bill C-59 goes to committee, the Privacy Commissioner has expressed those concerns.
There are several cases in Canadian history where this has been germane to the concern people have about their privacy. I would argue that it has become even more difficult for individuals because of the use of electronic information for everything from taxes, to banking, to social exchanges, to employment. It is not as if this information is captured and stored in a vault somewhere that has very little exposure to third parties. The reality is that there are breaches. Other governments are actively attempting to break through Canadian databases on a regular basis, even countries we supposedly have decent relationships with in terms of trade, commerce, and discourse. There are attempts to abuse Canadian privacy.
Numerous mistakes have been made, over decades, when Canadians' personal information has been released by accident. I point to one of the more interesting cases we have been successful in. It showed the malaise in government. It was when the Paul Martin administration of the Liberals outsourced data collection for our census to Lockheed Martin through a public-private partnership. Basically, the Canadian census data collection component was outsourced to an arms manufacturer, which was compiling our data at public expense, because we were paying for it. When we did the investigation, we found that the information was going to be compiled in the United States. That would have made that information susceptible to the USA Patriot Act, back in 2004 or 2006. That would have exposed all our Canadian data, if it was going to be leaving the country.
Thankfully, a lot of Canadians spoke out against that. First, they had personal issues related to an arms manufacturing company collecting their personal information, especially when that company was producing the Hellfire missile and landmine munitions, when Canada had signed international agreements on restricting the distribution of those things. They also felt that the privacy component became a practical element with it moving out of the country. Thankfully, that stopped, and we amended it at that time.
The Government of Canada had to pay more money to assemble that data and information in Canada, so it cost us more. What the Liberals were trying to do was export the jobs, ironically, outside the country. The vulnerability of the Canadian data we were paying for was out of the country, then we had to pay a premium to bring it back and keep it in the country. That practice has ceased. We recently had the innovation committee confirm that, when the census committee came before us.
With Bill C-59, I still have grave concerns about the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act. It appears that most of the changes are going to be cosmetic. The Privacy Commissioner has alluded to that as well. When CSIS and other government agencies have that information, when is it scrubbed when it is provided? When is it no longer used? When is it no longer stored? When can it potentially be exposed by accident or for a reason?
Bill C-59 would put several laws in place. I want to note that there was extensive public consultation on it. The reality is that Bill C-51 was criticized by civil liberty advocates in “Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016”. The public feedback we had from that review was related to people's personal privacy and how it would be used.
I want to make sure we are clear that this is not a mythological issue. It has actually been noted. On November 26, the Federal Court issued a ruling on CSIS bulk data collection. The electronic data of people over a 10-year period was clearly something that concerned Canadians.
Unfortunately, we have not come to the realization that Bill C-51 was a flawed bill from the get-go. It was not a bill New Democrats could support, and Bill C-59 would just put a mask over that bill.