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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was chairman.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Dufferin—Caledon (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House June 14th, 2005

You have corrected me twice, Mr. Speaker, and I do apologize for that.

The Minister of Justice then said that he will introduce a bill in the fall on this subject.

We know we are going to have new legislation and it appears that we will have an election in the very near future. We know the whole issue of access to information is a mess. The member for Winnipeg Centre gave statistics on the federal record for access to information. We know that the Canadian Newspaper Association gave the federal government an F on access to information as far as a grade.

My question to the member for Winnipeg Centre is: Do we have any choice? We have a most competent commissioner, we have a messy situation, we have an election coming and we have a bill that appears will be introduced by the government. I do not see how we have any choice.

Committees of the House June 14th, 2005

I apologize, Mr. Speaker.

The leader of the official opposition then came out with the Conservative Party's policy on the topic of information. What happens then is that the Minister of Justice comes out and says that the government will introduce a bill in the fall. One minute he says that he will introduce the bill, the next minute he says that he will study it and then, in response to the leader of the official opposition, he says that he will introduce a bill in the fall.

I do not often compliment the Liberal government and I certainly do not compliment past Liberal members, but I will compliment Mr. Reid, a former Liberal minister, who has done an outstanding job. He has been on the commission for about a third of its life and has done an admirable job and is most competent.

It appears we will be having an election sometime in the near future. It appears that unless Minister Cotler changes his mind again, we will have a bill. It appears--

Committees of the House June 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I must congratulate the member on bringing forth the Bryden bill again and I understand his frustration with the Minister of Justice. However he did not tell the rest of the story.

I also happen to be on the privacy and ethics committee and I heard the minister say that the government would not be introducing the bill, that it would study the issue first and who knows what. I then heard the leader of the Conservative Party, Stephen Harper, come out and say that it would be its--

Statistics Act June 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am here to debate the bill. I am not here to debate whether a bill should originate in the House of Commons or the Senate. The fact of the matter is that it is here in the House of Commons and we are debating it. There are pros and cons. I expect that the majority of the members of the House will support the bill. I believe that it should go to committee and some of the items should be looked at.

Whether questions arise in the Senate or in the House of Commons, we are concerned about our genealogy and the history of this country. We want to make sure it is not lost forever. We want accuracy. We want information. People are always trying to find out about themselves personally, about their backgrounds and the backgrounds of their families.

At the same time, we need to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens. This is the balance that my friend has talked about. This issue has been debated over many years. I forget how long he has been here, but it has been a long time, I gather. I understand that, but the bill is here today and we are going to proceed. This bill will carry overwhelmingly. Members from my party support the legislation, with some reservations.

Statistics Act June 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I will note for the member for Wellington--Halton Hills that I have asked a similar question, as have other colleagues, about the information. I quoted the 1911 census, I believe, and the 2006 proposed census, as the member for Edmonton--Leduc has commented.

I think the Conservative Party takes this position. There is a whole slew of information, whether it be from 1911 or 2006, that I do not think is any of the government's business. The Conservative Party has made it clear that Statistics Canada should review the type of information that it collects in both the long form and short form census questions.

As I said in my comments before the House, Canadians should not be forced to divulge information that is of such a personal nature it would be embarrassing to a citizen or a family not only after 92 years but after one year.

Statistics Act June 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to be speaking to Bill S-18, an act to amend the Statistics Act, which was passed by the Senate.

As a member of the access to information, privacy and ethics committee, it is important that I speak to this bill, in particular on its relation to the privacy rights that exist in Canada.

For the most part I am in support of this bill as it currently stands. The bill will allow, as has been said throughout the debate, for the immediate release of the 1911 census records currently in its 94th year with Statistics Canada. It provides unrestricted access to personal census records after 92 years for each of the censuses between 1911 and 2001 inclusive. It will create a new confidentiality clause. Canadians for the first time will be asked to decide whether or not they will permit the public to view their records 92 years after the census date.

I have reviewed the concerns with my colleague in the Senate, Senator Comeau, who has opposed this bill in the Senate. As a member of a committee that has been reviewing privacy legislation, I share his concerns and want to express these concerns today.

I will begin by speaking about the census forms as they currently are written and have been for years. On the census forms themselves is written:

Also by law, Statistics Canada must protect the confidentiality of the personal information you provide. Our employees, including census takers, are personally liable to fines or imprisonment should they fail to protect the confidentiality of your information.

This is signed by the chief statistician. By stating this, the chief statistician is ensuring that the information Canadians provide on census forms will never be released to the public and the privacy of the information given is ultimately protected.

Bill S-18 would amend section 18.1 by allowing for the information in each of the censuses between 1910 and 2005 to be no longer subject to the protection from the public 92 years after the census was taken. Thus, as I have suggested in questions to my colleagues, I foresee a problem with this amendment.

The chief statistician has promised to Canadians on census forms that all data will be protected. Canadians believed that when they were giving this sensitive data that it would be kept confidential and their privacy would be protected. By allowing this part of the amendment to be passed as is, Canadians would see this as a breaking of the promise.

There is also the problem of having census records released after the 92 year mark. Why this magical number? Why 92 years?

In Great Britain, census records are kept confidential for 100 years. In the United States, census records are kept confidential for 72 years. In 1910, I can understand that most Canadians were not living into their nineties, in which case the release of sensitive data would not be a problem. Yet today many are living well into their nineties and some live to be well over 100 years. I understand why my colleague, Senator Comeau, has had a hard time with allowing information to be released after 92 years when first, those who took part in the census were promised that it would not be released, and second, that many of those who took part in the 1918 census are still alive.

In the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, both the chief statistician and the Privacy Commissioner spoke to the committee members regarding the bill. It was made clear from the evidence given that neither had a problem with Bill S-18 and that they were both in favour of its quick passage.

When asked by Senator Comeau if a promise made on the census form would be broken by passing this bill, the chief statistician explained that in good conscience, he signed his name to that promise with a full understanding of the law as he understood it and as all his predecessors were advised to understand it at the time. He went further to say that ambiguity existed that they were not aware of at the time.

Without this bill bringing forward the amendment to add section 18.1, there would be a high probability that this case would go before the courts.

The Privacy Commissioner also had an opportunity to speak to this bill before the Senate. The Privacy Commissioner shares in my colleague's concerns with respect to the privacy rights of Canadians, yet she believes there is a series of public issues that outweigh this concern. The commissioner stated:

The legislators at the time did not foresee this, and so all of a sudden we came into this grey area in which, through a series of different legislative initiatives, the issue of what date any ultimate release would be contemplated and the information it would give to Canadians was not addressed.

With regard to the second part of Bill S-18, which allows for Canadians to consent to the release of information 92 years after the census, the Privacy Commissioner feels Canada has gone one step further to ensure the rights of its citizens by giving an option on the census forms to the release of the data. Only if one marks yes to the question will personal information be made public 92 years after the next census, which would be in 2006.

We have undertaken in Canada to ensure that the rights of all Canadians are protected. We have gone even further to guarantee that Canadians enjoy their right to privacy. We have a Privacy Act and a Privacy Commissioner in place to oversee these rights. I understand the Privacy Commissioner approved this bill as is and believes that the privacy rights of all will be protected. It is my belief, however, that this bill, the way it is currently written, goes against the protection of Canadians' privacy by allowing the release of previous census information.

In 1991 an expert panel was convened by the federal government to examine access to historical records. The panel concluded that no perpetual guarantee of confidentiality rested with the census records and that the passage of time diminished concerns about individual privacy. In 2004 a Federal Court ruled the care of control of the 1911 census records rested with the chief statistician.

Thus, there is a range of opinions regarding the legality of confidentiality with respect to census records. Even the Department of Justice has changed its stance on the matter over the last six years. Bill S-18 attempts to find a balance between the public good of releasing records and the private right to confidentiality.

The chief statistician believes this bill strikes an effective balance in ensuring the effective protection of the interests of the three major groups involved in this issue, statisticians, genealogists and historians, and those for whom privacy issues are the primary concern.

I recognize that there has been and will continue to be an intense lobbying effort by genealogists to get this legislation passed quickly. With the 2006 census quickly approaching, Statistics Canada would like to have this bill passed quickly so that it can begin to educate Canadians about their confidentiality options. In addition, the chief statistician will not release the 1911 census records until the bill is passed.

Although I support the release of the 1911 census as soon as possible, I only support the release of the basic tombstone information, such as the name, age and date of birth, from Canadian census records from 1911 to 2001, inclusive, after 92 years. Thus, Bill S-18 would need to be amended to reflect this.

It is also important that both the chief statistician and the Privacy Commissioner appear before the committee that will be examining this bill to further delve into the assurance that those rights of Canadians will ultimately be protected.

I understand the importance for family historians and genealogists to have historical information, but I must also stand up for the privacy rights of those who have taken part in past censuses. When completing the census over the past 100 years, many Canadians were left with the impression that their answers were going to be held by Statistics Canada in absolute confidence, never to be publicly released. This promise must somehow be protected.

With respect to the new confidentiality clause outlined in this bill that will be included in all future censuses allowing Canadians to decide whether or not to make their information public after 92 years, I will support that. I believe, however, that Statistics Canada should review the type of information it collects in both the long and the short form questionnaires. It is important that Canadians not feel forced to disclose information that is of a personal nature that would be embarrassing to a family after 92 years.

Statistics Act June 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on an excellent speech outlining the position of the New Democratic caucus. I am going to ask him a question that I have asked other members and that is with respect to the proposal in the legislation that all information from 1911 to 2001 or 2002 will be released without any restrictions.

I want to read for him what the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said to the expert panel on access to historical census records back in 2000. The commissioner said:

If we jump through the years to the 1996 census and to proposals for the 2001 census, we see, for every member of a household, questions concerning marital status (including same-sex partnerships), birthplace, citizenship, ethnic identity, religion, and source of income, including social assistance. Respondents are asked to indicate limitations on activities, at home or at work, from physical or mental conditions or health problems. Women are to indicate how many children they have had. The number of hours doing unpaid domestic work has to be estimated. Labour market activities, including efforts to find work, must be indicated. Information about housing includes a question about who pays the rent or the mortgage. Again, it does not take a great deal of imagination to see how such information could be deemed extremely personal, and not just by the individual respondent

That pretty well sums up what some of the concerns are about that block of very personal information for about 90 or 91 years. There are no restrictions, none whatsoever, on releasing that information and a number of those people who lived back in that time are still alive. People are living longer.

Does the New Democratic caucus support the general release of all of that information that has been acquired through time right up until the early part of 2000?

Statistics Act June 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the member from the Bloc Québécois gave an outstanding speech in support of the bill, which he has indicated that he is prepared to do.

The bill has been in debate for a long time, in different areas. It has been very controversial and divisive. The member talked about a number of arguments that the research people gave with respect to the support of the bill. Could he comment on the arguments that we made by I assume the same research people with respect to opposing the bill or on arguments against the release of these records? There are six of them and he can pick any one he likes.

First, Canadians are obligated under the law to answer the census and to do so with an assurance that the information will remain protected. A desire to study history should not take precedence over this guarantee of confidentiality.

Second, the use of information for purposes other than those for which it was collected should be subject to consent.

Third, census information could be extremely personal, for example, religion, marital status, health problems, and a decision should not be made for other people as to what constitutes acceptable disclosure of such information.

Fourth, privacy rights should not end with an individual's death.

Fifth, the public may perceive the release of census information as retroactively revising a government guarantee.

Finally, a collection of future census data could be adversely affected if respondents are concerned about the privacy of the information provided.

I expect some of the questions will be answered by saying that from 2006 on, for information to be released, there has to be a consent signed by the person giving the information.

My concern is with respect to the comments made by the member for Brant, the government member who talked about the bill. He said that all the information from 1911 would be released without any restrictions. Unless someone corrects me, I believe that is what the government said with respect to the bill.

Does the member have any concerns with respect to those objections to the bill, specifically from 1911 to the present time?

Statistics Act June 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the member for Edmonton—Leduc made some comments regarding the legislation in that there are many questions that we do not even need to ask. From the proposed 2006 census, one of the questions asks: “Who pays the rent or mortgage, taxes or electricity for this dwelling?” What business is it of the government to know that? “How many rooms are in the dwelling? Does the dwelling need any repairs?” What in the world would the government want with that?

If we were to look at the 1911 census which is more relevant, all of the information from 1911 would simply be released with no restrictions. In the 1911 census, there were certainly interesting questions such as: “Can you read? Can you write? Are you deaf and dumb?” Those are remarkable questions.

The member for Edmonton—Leduc talked about having meetings with the chief statistician. Is he obliged to release this information? I am speaking from 1911 to the future. Is it in his general ability to keep it secret, notwithstanding what the legislation would say?

Statistics Act June 13th, 2005

Madam Speaker, the member's speech was obviously well researched. It deals with a very difficult issue that has been going on for some time, that is, trying to find the balance between privacy and the seeking of genealogical or historical information. It is a very difficult topic.

There is an issue I would raise with my colleague. I look at the details of the fifth census of Canada, the 1911 census, and I look at the questions that are now going to be asked in the 2006 census. They are very personal questions. We are all concerned about our privacy. Now with this legislation, and I am talking about the period of time after 1911, there are no restrictions. This legislation will have absolutely no restrictions. That information will all be released. Some people want that, but if we look at the 1911 census and the questions that were asked, the information was not as detailed as it is now but it is still very personal information.

There is a whole group of people who are still alive, who filled out those forms in 1911. The problem is the promise by the chief statistician that all the information at that time would be protected is being broken. That promise to keep that information confidential is being broken by the government.

I would like the member to comment on the discrepancy between the time after 2006, when there will have to be consent to release the information, and simply from 1911 to I believe 2002, when it is just going to be released.