Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-43. This is the 77th time the government has moved a time allocation motion. This time allocation motion is on a budget bill, which is very important. The government gave us two days to debate the bill at report stage and one day, today, for third reading stage. This is how much time we have had in Parliament to debate a bill that is more than 460 pages long, has more than 400 clauses and will amend a dozen of our country's laws.
We want to hold an intelligent debate on a budget that matters to Canadians. Ten minutes go by quickly, but I cannot ignore the comments made by our Conservative colleague, who said that the NDP wants to introduce a 45-day work year. Every time we ask a question about employment insurance, the government says that the NDP wants everyone to work only 45 days a year.
According to The Globe and Mail, the Minister of Employment and Social Development said that he would have to hire more than 400 employees to answer calls from seniors and workers, as a result of delays in processing employment insurance, old age security and guaranteed income supplement payments.
This same government wants to reduce employers' EI premiums by half a billion dollars, telling us that this will create jobs in Canada. However, Ms. Doucet, who runs a Christmas wreath company in a town in my riding, said that the EI reform was discouraging seasonal workers.
The government says that these cuts are justified. It says it wants to create jobs and help people work instead of being unemployed. The government thinks workers are lazy slackers. This is not the first time that I have criticized the government's actions in the House, and it will not be the last.
People have to wait up to 25 weeks to get their guaranteed income supplement, which helps the most vulnerable members of our society. I am talking about seniors whose only pension is old age security and who need a supplement. Can a person really live on $543 a month? These people are being made to wait 25 weeks.
This week and last week, the Minister of Employment and Social Development had the nerve to say that he had asked some Social Security Tribunal officers who were working on employment insurance files to work on old age security and guaranteed income supplement files. However, the tribunal already has a six-month backlog of employment insurance files.
Yesterday and today, the minister acknowledged this and said that 400 people would be hired. However, it takes 12 to 18 months to train a person on how to process an employment insurance or old age security file.
The government has even admitted that Service Canada offices received 10,000 complaints. The government closed offices and cut front-line staff.
In Pleasantville, Newfoundland and Labrador, 100 to 150 people are visiting the employment insurance office because they cannot reach anyone by telephone. Even if the government hired 400 people tomorrow morning to work at Service Canada, they would not be answering the telephone. The Conservatives have created a mess for Canadians. The government should be ashamed of tampering with a program and a responsibility they have toward seniors and workers, and they should be ashamed of laughing at at them.
Our colleague in the House of Commons from Madawaska—Restigouche said the following in the newspapers. I will not name the MP that he quoted, but it appears he is from Acadie—Bathurst. The member for Madawaska—Restigouche said:
The campaign of terror waged by [the member for Acadie—Bathurst] and company did not achieve the expected results. They scared people, and everyone across the region sees that.
Yes, people in that region clearly see that they cannot get employment insurance benefits. They see that they have to wait six months for the Social Security Tribunal to hear their case. In my riding, seniors see that they cannot get the guaranteed income supplement and they have to live on $553 a month. People see that they need to apply for welfare.
Rather than allowing MPs in the House to express their views, as in a democratic country, on Bill C-43, the Conservatives have imposed a time allocation motion so that we can only debate it for one day. This is shameful.
It is shameful to hear a government tell Canadians that the NDP is proposing, among other things, that people should work only 45 days a year. It is shameful that the government thinks that workers are lazy slackers. In fact, this is what they are actually saying in their speeches.
It is completely unacceptable for men and women who have worked all their lives and who want to retire. This is the same government that increased the retirement age from 65 to 67.
Yes, I am proud of belonging to the NDP and to say that we are going to bring back 65 as the age of eligibility to old age security. Yes, I am proud to say that I am with the NDP and not with the Conservatives who persecute workers, seniors and ordinary Canadians. They are going to cut $36 billion from the health care sector by 2017. Yes, I am proud of the NDP, which has said that this $36 billion is going to be returned to the health care sector.
We hope that Canadians are aware of what the Conservatives will do, if they ever get back into power.
The Conservatives are attacking the poorest and the most vulnerable people in our society. It is a shameful way to treat people who are just reaching retirement age after working all their lives.
This is the kind of thing that this bill does, in addition to decreasing contributions from employers. This is not something that will create 800,000 jobs, as the government would have us believe.
What do our entrepreneurs do when the Conservatives make cuts to employment insurance for seasonal workers? They go west, but that is artificial. Our national economy cannot be based on just one element, that is, only on oil wells.
The price of oil is going down. If there are layoffs in western Canada, what will happen to all the people who take the plane every week to go to jobs out west? The Conservatives boast about creating jobs, but those jobs have only been created in one place because the price of oil was going up. Jobs were created out west, but not here at home, in the Atlantic region, nor in the rural areas of the country. If they want people to stop needing employment insurance, they have to create jobs. This is absolutely not what is in this budget. The Conservatives should be ashamed of how they are leading the country.
It is to be hoped that Canadians will remember this when the next elections are held and that they will kick them out once and for all or for a long time.
The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
Before we resume debate, I would like to let the chamber know that we have surpassed the five-hour limit for the debate on this motion since the first round of speeches on the question. Consequently, we are now at the spot where each of the following interventions will be limited to the 10-minute speech, and then the 5-minute period for questions and comments.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville is rising on a point of order.
Mr. Speaker, that is simply not the case. We are talking about Bill S-4.
Again, if my colleague is opposed to the bill, she ought to tell her colleague who is responsible for telecommunications policy, her colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville, who said, “We have been pushing for these measures and I am happy to see them introduced.... Overall, these are good first steps”.
That was the NDP position when we tabled the bill, because the digital privacy act does exactly, in substance, what the NDP asks for us to do rhetorically, which is to protect the privacy of Canadians online and protect their transactions, so that when their information is violated or if their information has been stolen, they are immediately notified, and if they are not, there is punishment. The Privacy Commissioner is empowered.
Bill S-4 goes a great way to protect Canadians online, and the NDP should know that.
Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any myself.
One of the questions I have is for the member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
She mentioned that the NDP had been pushing for these measures, that she was happy to see them introduced and that overall these are good steps.
This is about the legislation that this government has introduced. Why would that member want to support our legislation in the first place, when we hear the NDP opposition across the floor saying no? It is either yes or no. What are they trying to prove?
Mr. Speaker, I am happy for the opportunity to rise today to oppose the motion put forward by the NDP member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
Public awareness of electronic surveillance practices has grown exponentially over the past few years. It is not all surprising that public concern about the balance between privacy and national security in the Internet age has also grown. It is a public policy challenge that all G7 countries must face. Our government certainly understands the concerns that have been raised by the media, by the official opposition, and indeed by the Privacy Commissioner.
We certainly welcome the work of the Privacy Commissioner in this regard, but it is vital that the debate on this issue be an informed one based on facts and grounded in a better understanding of how and when electronic surveillance practices and requests for basic subscriber information are employed. Due to the myths, misinformation, and fallacies put forward by the opposition, this is something that has been sorely lacking in this debate. I view this motion as an opportunity to set the record straight in these areas and to reassure all Canadians that our government always strikes an appropriate balance between giving law enforcement officials the tools they need to do their job and protecting the privacy of law-abiding Canadians.
Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. Robust safeguards exist to ensure that this basic right is followed. Indeed, with respect to domestic laws and policies governing how electronic surveillance and requests for basic subscriber information are used, Canada has a proud tradition of getting the balance between privacy and security right. Nevertheless, the recent debate has highlighted areas of concern among the Canadian public about how government is effectively balancing their security and their safety and whether law enforcement and intelligence agencies are acting responsibly as they carry out their duties.
It is worthwhile for us to step back just a minute and first make a very important distinction between law enforcement and intelligence agencies' requests to telecommunications providers for basic subscriber information and obtaining other types of data that can be used more appropriately considered electronic surveillance, such as intercepted communications or stored emails. I want to assure all members of the House and Canadians alike that these two things should be viewed in a completely different light for they serve very different, yet vital purposes for law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
First, it is worth noting that the vast majority of information that law enforcement agencies seek from telecommunications providers is for basic subscriber information, for example, someone's name, address, phone number, and IP address. To be clear, basic subscriber information is not about tracking people's telephone calls. Absolutely no content of the communication is revealed. Basic subscriber information is also not a request for all telecommunications data, for example, data that would indicate who was contacted, the duration of the communication, and other related information such as the where, when, and how of the communication.
A couple of important points must be made about this. The first is that this information is oftentimes obtained at the beginning of an investigation into serious offences and is crucial to clearing people from wrongdoing or helping police determine viable leads. An example, for an online exploitation case, police may only have the Internet protocol or IP address attached to a picture found on the Internet and would need to determine who the IP address belongs to in order to begin their investigation.
In short, this information is critical to help police establish the identity of the person and it can be sought without a warrant. This is true for other countries as well. In fact, not one G7 country in the world requires a warrant to obtain this information. Imagine the enormous burden this would place on the justice system for the limited, yet often vital information that can be obtained. Vital because warrants generally require police to know the identity of the person, exactly what basic subscriber information is supposed to reveal.
It is only after receiving this initial information that police may seek court authorization to obtain more sensitive information, such as private communications, or to rule out the person from further investigation.
As a former RCMP member with over 18 years' experience, I can say that this information plays a key role in modern investigations of these types of cases. My constituents understand this and are supportive of tools that help us catch criminals. In fact, a poll conducted for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in January 2013 found that three-quarters of Canadians are very comfortable or somewhat comfortable with the idea of law enforcement agencies requiring telecommunications service providers to disclose personal information to gather evidence in the investigation of a serious crime.
Moving on to the ability to intercept communications, which is what we are really referring to when we talk about electronic surveillance, this ability is a critical tool for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to keep Canadians safe, whether it be from credible national security threats or major crimes. Indeed, these agencies cannot intercept communications or obtain transmission data without being authorized to do so by law. These investigative tools can only be used with a warrant, court authorization, or other lawful authority to target specific individuals in the course of a specific investigation. Furthermore, the grounds for such targeting and the rationale for which individuals are to be targeted are subject to vigorous judicial oversight. Such safeguards, enshrined in our laws, are only some of the safeguards of which Canadians should never lose sight.
The judicial authorization is required to· obtain communications because our laws say that this type of information has a high expectation of privacy. For example, a judge's authorization must be obtained for real time interception of communications. The requirement for a judge's authorization also applies to access to stored data, such as texts or email stored on a server. This is all set out in the Criminal Code and other statutes.
I want there to be no doubt, Canadians' communications are not regularly accessed without a warrant. It is simply against the law, both for regular citizens and for our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Also, additional safeguards do exist. Those whose private communications were intercepted in the course of a law enforcement investigation must be notified that interception was done. Further, full disclosure of information that law enforcement gathered is also required for cases that proceed to trial.
Now that I have provided some accurate context and information about the safeguards that are in place, I would like to conclude by acknowledging the calls we have heard about public transparency and reporting. Indeed, we are already disclosing some figures through Public Safety Canada's annual report on the use of electronic surveillance.
Our Conservative government will always work to give police the tools they need to do their job and ensure that our streets and communities are kept safe. That is why we have passed over 30 measures to keep criminals behind bars where they belong. We will not apologize for that and we will take no lessons on this matter from the opposition.
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to promoting the interests of Canadian consumers and the protection of their private information.
In an increasingly digital world, it is important that we have strong privacy protections in place to ensure organizations are treating the private information of Canadians appropriately. Many of these protections are already found in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, commonly known as PIPEDA.
However, a lot has changed in the more than 13 years since PIPEDA came into effect. Our government is taking important steps to ensure organizations are accountable for how they handle the personal information of their clients and customers in today's digital world.
That is why on April 8, we tabled Bill S-4, the digital privacy act. The bill introduces new measures to update our private sector privacy legislation, which sets out specific rules that businesses and organizations must follow whenever Canadians' personal information is lost or stolen.
Recently, we have seen a disturbing example of this problem south of the border with Target Corporation. Just before Christmas last year, Target learned that malicious software had been installed on the company's computer systems, allowing the personal information of some 70 million customers to be stolen, including 40 million payment card records.
It is because of situations like these that we must continue to ensure Canadians' personal information is safe. Data breaches can happen in many different ways and to any type of organization, large or small. Data breaches can result from improper disposal, for example, of paper documents sent for recycling instead of shredding or computers resold without scrubbing hard drives clean, or it can be stolen through sophisticated cyber attacks like those experienced by Target.
Unfortunately, this is a growing problem. Last year saw an all-time high for the number of data records lost or stolen worldwide. The Verizon data breach investigations report estimated that in 2012 between 575 million and 822 million records were compromised in data breaches.
We know that cybercrime is a growing problem in Canada. Last October a study reported that cybercrime cost Canadians some $3 billion over 12 months, up from $1.4 billion the previous year.
That is why our government has already put a number of significant measures in place to combat cybercrime and protect our digital infrastructure, such as Canada's cyber security strategy. In addition to this, Canada's anti-spam law will begin to come into force July 1, later this year. This law will help Canadians deal with unwanted commercial emails, and will also protect Canadians from cyber threats, like malware and fraudulent websites that seek to steal their personal information.
These measures are significant, but more is needed. We must ensure organizations have strong incentives in place to implement strong data security. Currently in PIPEDA there is no obligation for businesses and organizations to inform customers and clients when their personal information has been lost or stolen. This means if a company loses people's credit card information, that company is not obligated to tell them. With the digital privacy act, our government is proposing to correct this.
Stolen data can be used to create false identities that are used in criminal activities. They can be used to hack onto online banking services. In the wrong hands, lost or stolen health information, employee records, even criminal records can create countless problems to those who have had their personal information compromised.
I also want to state, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.
We believe it is up to all organizations to put in place the safeguards to protect the personal data they have collected from their clients and customers. This is a responsibility that most take very seriously. However, with the changes we have proposed, if a company has its computer systems hacked and believes personal information has been stolen or if that information has been lost inadvertently, the company will need to take a number of steps.
If the company determines that the breach poses a risk or harm to individuals, it will need to notify the Canadians affected and make a report to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Organizations will also be required to document and keep a record of the event, including the result of its risk assessment. This would be required for every breach, even if the company did not think the breach was harmful. The organization would have to provide these records to the commissioner upon request, providing oversight and holding organizations accountable.
Let me provide an example. Say that an organization determines that a laptop containing customer personal information has been lost. It will be required to make a record of this loss. If the breach involves unencrypted sensitive personal information such as credit card numbers, other financial or health information, for example, it would pose a real risk and potential significant harm to those involved. As a result, the organization would be required by law to notify the customers who were impacted.
The company would be not only required to tell customers when it lost information, it would also be required to report the loss to the Privacy Commissioner. The commissioner may then request a copy of the company's records to see if there is a history of similar losses that would be a cause for concern. The Privacy Commissioner would then have the option of opening an investigation into the matter.
It should be clear to all members in the House that implementing a requirement for mandatory data breach notification is a significant improvement to our private sector privacy laws. Our government believes there needs to be serious consequences for any organization that deliberately breaks the rules and intentionally attempts to cover up data breach. The changes that our government has proposed will also make covering up a data breach an offence. In cases of deliberate wrongdoing, an organization could face fines of up to $100,000. To be clear, it will be a separate offence for every person and organization that is deliberately not notified of a potential harmful data breach and each offence will be subject to a maximum $100,000 fine.
The digital privacy act would address the concerns posed by data breaches and has received good reception so far. In fact, the Privacy Commissioner commented that she welcomed the proposals in this bill. She said that it contained very positive developments for the privacy rights of Canadians. Even the member opposite for Terrebonne—Blainville said, “We have been pushing for these measures and I'm happy to see them introduced. Overall, these are good...steps”.
Our government has taken a balanced approach to the responsibilities placed on businesses and organizations, while protecting Canadian consumers by giving individuals the information they need to protect themselves when their information has been lost or stolen. The digital privacy act demonstrates our government's commitment to providing Canadians with the confidence that their privacy and personal information are protected.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in support of the official opposition New Democratic motion introduced by our superb colleague, the member for Terrebonne—Blainville. I should point out that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague, the equally commendable member for Beaches—East York.
The motion before the House today reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should follow the advice of the Privacy Commissioner and make public the number of warrantless disclosures made by telecommunications companies at the request of federal departments and agencies; and immediately close the loophole that has allowed the indiscriminate disclosure of the personal information of law-abiding Canadians without a warrant.
If we think about those words, and I know Canadians will think about the text of the motion, who could possibly not support this? Who could possibly oppose a motion of the House of Commons in Canada that the government should simply tell the public how many warrantless disclosures are made by telecommunications companies at the federal government's request and close a loophole that allows the indiscriminate disclosure, meaning the improper disclosure, of personal information of law-abiding Canadians without a warrant?
I would have thought that every member of the House would stand in support of such a motion, a motion that preserves and protects the very elementary privacy rights and expectations of Canadians everywhere, but that is not the case, because Conservatives in the House do not support the motion.
I am going to talk about how the motion came to be.
In summary, the motion addresses what we now have learned are rampant requests to telecommunications companies in Canada by various government agencies for Canadians' private information, often—in fact, normally and mostly—without a warrant.
We are calling on the government to listen to the Privacy Commissioner, an independent officer of the House, to make public the number of requests disclosed by these companies, and to tighten the rules that allow it to happen.
This came out of an access to information request that determined that at least one Canadian telecom was giving the government unrestricted access to communications on its network, according to documents from Canada's Privacy Commissioner. The documents were obtained by University of Ottawa digital law Professor Michael Geist. He cited at that time an unnamed telecom firm as saying that it had allowed the government to essentially copy the communications data moving on its networks.
I quote Mr. Geist:
Interception of communications over data networks is accomplished by sending what is essentially a mirror image of the packet data as it transits to network of data nodes.
Then the Privacy Commissioner's document states:
This packet data is then sent directly to the agency who has obtained lawful access to the information. Deep packet inspection is then performed by the law enforcement agency for their purposes.
“Deep packet inspection” is a method of analyzing Internet traffic to determine the exact type of content. It can distinguish between emails, file-sharing and other types of internet communication, and can be used to build statistics about an internet user.
This statement appears in the document prepared by the law firm Gowling Lafleur Henderson for the Privacy Commissioner. It summarizes nine telecom firms' responses to questions about law enforcement access posed by the commissioner.
Mr. Geist called this “an incredible admission”.
Are there legal grounds for these disclosures? Who is doing this?
He goes on to say later:
Given the uncertainty of the enormous privacy implications, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is surely entitled to investigate this admission using her current powers under PIPEDA.
Documents subsequently released by the interim Privacy Commissioner, Chantal Bernier, revealed that the government made about 1.2 million requests for subscriber data about Canadians from Canadian telecoms in 2011 alone. Mr. Geist calculates that it works out to one request every 27 seconds, and the Privacy Commissioner's report showed that telecom firms complied with the requests at least 784,000 times.
This issue engages one of the most important values that mark our nation. It is a value that marks our democracy. It is cherished by Canadians, valued by Canadians, and expected by Canadians. That is the value of privacy.
The government exists to protect its citizens. It exists to safeguard our rights, our interests, and our opportunities, so when the government is actually found to be the source of secret requests to private firms to try to get private information about Canadians without their knowledge and without ever appearing before a judge in a court to demonstrate that the government has any lawful interest in that information, in my view that is a violation of the most fundamental precept and obligation of the government. That is what is happening under the watch of the Conservative government.
I want to go through a few facts here. Canadian telecommunications providers collect massive amounts of data about their subscribers. These are the firms that have been asked by the government's agencies to disclose that information to law enforcement agencies. In 2011, providers responded to almost 1.2 million requests, but the actual total is likely even greater, since only three of nine telecom companies told the commissioner's office how many times they granted the government's request for customer data.
In 2010, RCMP data showed that 94% of requests involving customer name and address information was provided voluntarily, without a warrant. The Canada Border Services Agency obtained customer data from telecom companies 19,000 times in one year, and it obtained a warrant in fewer than 200 of those cases. Significantly, one Canadian company has told officials that it has installed “what is essentially a mirror” on its network so that it can send raw data traffic directly to “federal authorities”.
The Privacy Act, which is meant to protect Canadians' privacy and keep the government accountable, has not been updated since 1983, before the Internet, Google, email, Facebook, and Twitter were even invented. PIPEDA, which protects Canadians' privacy in the private sector, has not been updated since 2000. Once again, that is before Facebook, Twitter, and social media had really taken off in our country.
I would think that if the government is really concerned about the values of privacy and protecting Canadians' rights, it would spend time in this place modernizing those acts and doing so in a way that is consistent with Canadians' expectations. Instead, it is doing the opposite. It has introduced Bill C-13, a bill that is expressed to be aimed at attacking cyberbullying, but which is expected to expand warrantless disclosures of Internet or cellular subscriber information to law enforcement.
Bill S-4, the digital privacy act, has been introduced in the Senate. It would also extend the authority to disclose subscriber information without a warrant to private organizations, and not just law enforcement agencies. It would also allow telecom companies to disclose the personal information of consumers without their consent and without a court order to any organization investigating a contractual breach or possible violation of a law.
There are many validators of the New Democratic position. New Democrats think privacy laws should be modernized and strengthened to better protect Canadians' personal information, not weakened. New Democrats believe that we can and should aggressively pursue criminals and punish them to the full extent of the law without treating law-abiding Canadians like criminals and violating their rights.
Privacy is something that must be judiciously and carefully guarded by every generation. We have people as diverse as Benjamin Franklin, who said that those who would give up liberty for a little security deserve neither. We have organizations as diverse as the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, who are joining together in their concern about the issue of violations of privacy and surveillance of Canadians' private interests on the Internet by the government.
I say that what Canadians want of their federal government is for it to protect their privacy interests, not be complicit in violating them.
For the Conservative government to allow 1.2 million requests to go to telecoms for Canadians' personal information without their consent, without their knowledge, and without a court order is something that every Canadian in this land would disapprove of.
I ask all of my colleagues in the House to vote for this well-thought-out motion.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I will indicate that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia. With his experience as a former police officer, I certainly look forward to hearing his perspective on this issue. Of course, I also welcome this opportunity to add my own voice to the debate today surrounding electronic surveillance and privacy. I will indicate, as well, that I will be opposing the motion put forward by the NDP member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
When Canadians hear that law enforcement and intelligence agencies are asking telecommunications service providers for customer data, a reasonable question to ask is what these agencies are looking for. How can we know that the government is balancing the need for tools for law enforcement with the rights of citizens to not have their privacy unduly interfered with by the state? That is a reasonable question. The answer, of course, is that oversight mechanisms are in place to ensure that both telecommunications service providers and law enforcement and intelligence agencies stay within the boundaries of the law in that regard. In my time today, I will look at two excellent examples of how accountability and transparency sit at the very forefront of our government's activities.
First and foremost, every year the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness tables the annual report on the use of electronic surveillance That is tabled in Parliament so that all Canadians can read for themselves how law enforcement agencies are using interception, one of the key electronic surveillance tools, to assist in criminal investigations.
This annual report is an important accountability tool. It paints a clear picture of when and why law enforcement and intelligence agencies are requesting authorization from a judge for a warrant in order to intercept communications. It includes information, such as the number of applications made for authorizations, how many are granted and refused, and a general description of the methods of interception used, along with plenty of other information. This is a transparent and fully accessible reporting function that our government fulfills under Canadian law.
Another example of transparent action is the comprehensive response that Public Safety Canada provided to written Question No. 233, which was tabled on March 24 of this year. The member for Terrebonne—Blainville requested that Public Safety Canada and its portfolio agencies provide thorough data on when and why law enforcement and intelligence agencies are requesting information from telecommunications service providers. Again, with this response being tabled here in Parliament, it is open and accessible to all Canadians to better understand how these agencies are requesting and using electronic data.
In fact, the government's response to Question No. 233 provides a comprehensive look at how law enforcement and intelligence agencies work and why they need to request information from telecommunications service providers. The response provides clarity on what has unfortunately become a clouded debate about what is happening with the personal information of Canadians. In his response, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness was clear: public safety agencies work within the strict confines of Canadian law to strike an appropriate balance between privacy rights and public safety.
It is helpful to look at the information provided by these agencies, as it helps to further clear up any misconceptions that are being put forward by the opposition parties and the media.
First, let us look at the Canada Border Services Agency. For the year ending March 31, 2013, the CBSA made 18,729 requests for basic subscriber information from service providers. Again, to be clear, this basic subscriber information only identifies who the individuals are, including things like their name, address, phone number, email address, or IP address, and nothing more. The CBSA is authorized to make these requests when border services officers believe that the information is necessary to support an investigation into contraventions of legislation that the agency is responsible for enforcing.
Next is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS. CSIS carries out a complex and serious mandate. Its job is to investigate and advise the government about suspected threats to our national security.
Because today's world functions online, our intelligence agencies must also function online in their investigative work. Usually that means that CSIS would make requests to the telecommunications service providers for basic subscriber information. In some instances, this basic information is not enough. In the face of a serious national security threat, the service can go to a judge to request a warrant for electronic surveillance or intercepting private communications.
However, no matter what the situation, CSIS conducts its activities in full accordance with the law. Indeed, it is subject to a number of checks and balances when doing its work. This includes full and independent review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, as well as a review by the Privacy Commissioner, the Auditor General, and other officers of Parliament.
Finally, I would like to turn to the RCMP. Police, of course, must have the proper tools at their disposal to investigate criminal activities. Those criminal activities are increasingly taking place online. These activities run the full gambit, whether they are trying to bust a drug gang or human smuggling ring, investigating a threat of physical violence, or trying to identify anonymous child predators who are distributing child abuse images on the Internet. That is to name just a few examples. Police need access to basic subscriber information to do this critical work, to keep Canadians safe from these criminal activities. In some cases, this is the only avenue to advance a criminal investigation.
For the most serious cases, the RCMP may make application before a judge for an interception authorization under part 6 of the Criminal Code, to access real-time content of private communications, such as emails and phone calls. However, in doing so, the RCMP must first demonstrate that it has exhausted all other investigative avenues. Furthermore, the RCMP reports on its use of interception authorizations through the aforementioned annual report on the use of electronic surveillance in Canada.
The RCMP's collection and use of information gathered during investigations, including basic subscriber information, is scrutinized for compliance with the Constitution during the trial stage. If the information is not collected in a lawful manner, the trial judge could exclude the evidence.
These are just a few key examples of how our government is responding to the concerns of Canadians on why and when law enforcement and intelligence agencies are requesting information. Canadians can rest assured that our Conservative government will continue to work to ensure an appropriate balance between giving police the tools they need to do their job and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians.
We will also work to ensure that we keep criminals behind bars, where they belong. That is why we have introduced more than 30 tough-on-crime measures since coming to office. Unfortunately, the NDP has obstructed and opposed virtually all of these important measures. Canadians know that when it comes to important issues of public safety, only our Conservative government can be trusted.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to highlight the measures that our government has taken to protect the privacy of individual Canadians.
First and foremost, I would like to discuss Bill S-4, the digital privacy act. The bill would make important amendments to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, otherwise known as PIPEDA, with the express purpose of providing new protection for Canadians when they surf the web and shop online. PIPEDA was passed in the House of Commons in 1999 and implemented in 2001. There is nothing new about it, and there has been no mention from the opposition on amendments since that time. With Bill S-4, the government would implement new measures to better protect the personal information of Canadians.
Let me speak a little about PIPEDA in general. PIPEDA is our primary piece of legislation that lays out the ground rules for how private sector businesses collect, use, and share personal information. What kind of personal information are we speaking about? It includes name, age, banking records, shopping history, et cetera.
We know that this kind of information is gathered by many companies and organizations in the course of their day-to-day transactions. The fear, of course, is that in the wrong hands this kind of information can be exploited. In the worst cases, it is used to commit fraud, identity theft, or other harmful acts. To combat these kinds of malicious deeds, the digital privacy act would implement tougher rules to protect the privacy of Canadians.
Protecting Canadians is a major pillar of digital Canada 150, which the Minister of Industry launched last month, to help our country take full advantage of the economic opportunities of the digital age. Under the pillar of protecting Canadians, the digital privacy act would protect consumers online, simplify rules for businesses, and increase overall compliance with our privacy laws.
Before we tabled Bill S-4, the government consulted the Privacy Commissioner and got her views on how to best move forward with modernizing Canada's intellectual property laws. The minister spoke to her again before tabling the legislation. In fact, here is what she said about our digital privacy act and our efforts to best protect Canadians online. She said she welcomed the proposals in the bill. She said this bill contains “very positive developments for the privacy rights of Canadians”.
In addition, the NDP digital critic, the member for Terrebonne—Blainville, said this about our government's digital privacy act: “Overall, these are good steps. We have been pushing for these measures and I'm happy to see them introduced”.
The first element I would like to touch on is a familiar one to Canadians in this digital age, data breaches. New rules in the digital privacy act would require organizations to tell Canadians if their personal information has been lost or stolen. As part of this notification, organizations would also have to tell individuals what steps they can take to protect themselves from potential harm, actions that could be as simple as changing their credit card PIN or email password. At the same time, the bill would require organizations to report these data breaches to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. With the passage of the bill, organizations that deliberately break the rules would face significant penalties, of up to $100,000 for every individual they fail to notify.
In keeping with the motion before us and its reference to the Privacy Commissioner, I would like to address the changes in the digital privacy act that would ensure that the Privacy Commissioner has the right tools to help protect Canadians' privacy. Bill S-4 would give the Privacy Commissioner the ability to negotiate voluntary compliance agreements with organizations. Under these agreements, organizations would make binding commitments to ensure the privacy of Canadians. This would allow organizations to be proactive and work collaboratively with the Privacy Commissioner to quickly correct any privacy violations that may have been discovered. In exchange, those organizations can avoid costly legal action. At the same time, the agreements would be binding and would give the Privacy Commissioner more power to hold organizations accountable in court and make sure that they follow through on promises to fix privacy problems.
The digital privacy act will also provide the commissioner with more power to name and shame companies that do not play by the rules. This will ensure that Canadians are informed and aware of issues that affect their privacy.
Finally, the digital privacy act will extend the timeframe, to one year, for Canadians as well as the Privacy Commissioner to take a company to court. Under the current rules, the Privacy Commissioner has only 45 days. In many cases, this is not enough time for an organization to either voluntarily fix the problem or for the Privacy Commissioner to prepare a proper application.
At all times an individual's right to privacy, as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, must be respected. Despite any exception provided for in PIPEDA, law enforcement agencies must respect the charter and have a warrant or other justification to obtain private information.
Equally important in any of these circumstances, nothing in PIPEDA forces a company to turn over private information to police, government agencies, other private companies, or anyone. PIPEDA protects privacy; it does not force companies to violate it.
Bill S-4 makes sure that organizations can share information with appropriate authorities in situations that would involve providing information that will allow police to contact and communicate with the family of an injured or deceased person, sharing information in order to detect and prevent fraud, or allowing organizations to report suspected cases of financial abuse to appropriate authorities. All of these exceptions are clearly defined, and limited to circumstances where sharing this information is in the best interests of the persons involved.
Here is an example. Let us say that a bank teller notices a regular customer, a senior citizen, has been coming in lately with another person who is unfamiliar to the teller. They are making more frequent withdrawals, for more money than usual. The teller witnesses the senior handing over the withdrawn cash to the unfamiliar person. Most tellers or financial institutions would like to have the power to inform appropriate parties of this situation, such as the police, public trustees, or the client's next of kin. At the moment, our privacy law prevents the bank from informing those people who could help. The digital privacy act will remove this barrier and make sure that suspected cases of financial abuse can be reported, and the interest of seniors protected.
The digital privacy act also creates new rules whenever an organization asks an individual for their approval to collect, use, or share their personal information. This new measure will establish stronger protection for the privacy of more vulnerable Canadians, such as children. As children and adolescents spend an increasingly large amount of time online, it is important that they clearly understand the choices in front of them before they hand over private information about themselves.
The digital privacy act strengthens informed consent. Informed consent means that individuals are not just told of what is being done with their information, but that they understand the potential consequences of clicking on yes or no.
This change will require organizations to clearly and plainly communicate with their target audience when asking for their consent to collect personal information. They will have to consider whether their target audience is able to understand the consequences of sharing their personal information.
I am very proud of this aspect of Bill S-4. Given the proliferation of iPads, laptops, and BlackBerrys among our youth, the stronger rules included in this bill will make sure that individual Canadians, in particular children and adolescents, can understand the potential consequences of the choices they make.
In conclusion, the elements of the digital privacy act that I have laid out today have been carefully thought out, with the best interests of all stakeholders in mind. Our government is confident that by better protecting consumers, streamlining rules for business, and increasing compliance, the digital privacy act will make Canadians safer and more secure.
The digital privacy act will strengthen Canada's privacy laws by making sure that Canadians are informed if their privacy has been put at risk, and by holding to account those organizations that deliberately break the rules.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville for giving me the opportunity to remind her that a warrant must be obtained if more specific information is required. That is the difference here because, as I indicated in my speech, this information is provided voluntarily in accordance with the law.
What I find surprising is that the New Democrats agreed with this 14 years ago. All of a sudden, they are changing their tune. I am disappointed because this has consequences. The Canada Border Services Agency is responsible for enforcing the law, and every year, some 250,000 people from all over the world want to come live in Canada because we have created the conditions for prosperity here. People can have a job, achieve their potential, raise a family. Unfortunately, some people take advantage of Canadians' generosity. That is why nearly 115,000 illegal immigrants have been deported since 2006.
I would like to congratulate the Canada Border Services Agency on its hard work. It has used the information we are talking about today perfectly legally to ensure the integrity of our immigration system.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud and pleased to rise in the House today to speak on the important topic of the privacy of Canadians and public safety.
I will be sharing my time with the hard-working member for Chatham-Kent—Essex.
All governments are responsible for enforcing the laws and protecting national security, and they are also responsible for enabling law-abiding Canadians to live their lives without government interference. The government's role is to protect Canadians and ensure that their privacy is not violated.
It is always important to be mindful of this balance by ensuring that law enforcement has the tools it needs to do its job while law-abiding citizens continue to be free from any form of government harassment. It is with that in mind that I can assure the House that our government and I will strongly oppose the motion put forward by the NDP member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
I will strongly oppose the motion moved today since it does not provide any means of securing Canadians' information and it affects public safety.
Our Conservative government believes that protecting the privacy of law-abiding Canadians is very important. All government agencies, including those responsible for enforcing the law and for protecting national security, are always required to abide by Canadians laws, and that is what they do.
In fact, these agencies are subject to robust, independent oversight and review.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is subject to thorough review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee. SIRC is keeping an eye on CSIS. This committee has significant powers to review decisions and compel documents.
Additionally, it is made up of many eminent Canadians, including a former provincial NDP member, and it boasts as a former member the new premier of Quebec.
The new premier of Quebec was a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Just like former members of the NDP, these members are Canadian citizens who are responsible for ensuring that the agency giving information to the government is complying with the law.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is also subject to review by the RCMP Public Complaints Commission. These are independent agencies created by Parliament to ensure that public complaints about the conduct of RCMP members are reviewed fairly and impartially.
These two agencies ensure that everyone complies with the law. We even increased the powers of this RCMP oversight agency. Unfortunately we did not have the support of the New Democrats. People can count on our Conservative government to protect the privacy of Canadians and ensure their safety.
Now let us examine the type of information that the motion and the NDP are opposed to allowing law enforcement to access.
Only the most basic information, such as the name and phone number, may be released.
In all cases, this is done voluntarily, meaning that a company could decide not to co-operate at any time if it did not feel a certain request met the expectations of its customers.
This information is essential for compensating victims of wrongdoing and finding viable leads in an investigation. I am proud to be responsible for Canada's public safety. Every year, our department releases its annual report on the use of electronic surveillance.
Let me take this opportunity to clear up a misconception being advanced by members opposite. Any form of invasive surveillance, such as a wiretapping interception or looking at the content of any communication, requires a warrant. That is not what we are talking about today. We are talking about phone numbers, names, and addresses.
Let me be clear. What we are talking about today is voluntary disclosure by private businesses to law enforcement. That is the way this model works. This is a Canadian way, but it is also a standard practice that has taken place for many years. Indeed, it was implemented under the previous Liberal government, supported by the NDP, and we find it in G7 countries.
While we need to make sure the privacy of Canadians is protected, we must also ensure that those who break the law face the law, and face it with its full force.
That is why, since 2006, we have implemented over 30 measures to crack down on criminals, often without the opposition's support and even despite its interference. We want criminals to stay behind bars.
Unfortunately, the NDP has voted against such common sense measures. Let me provide examples of these measures: giving victims more information about convicted criminals, ending early parole for white collar fraudsters and drug dealers, cracking down on drug dealers who target our children. This is the law of the land, and I am proud to have supported those measures along with my Conservative colleagues. That is why Canadians know that only the Conservative government can be trusted to keep them safe.
We put a high priority on ensuring law enforcement can do its work, but this is not free-for-all information.
A spokesperson for Bell Canada recently said that Bell will provide law enforcement and other authorized agencies only with basic 411-style customer information such as name and address, which is defined as non-confidential and regulated by the CRTC. Any further information, or anything related to an unlisted number, requires a court order.
My colleagues are also going to talk about a measure that we put forward, a bill that seeks to ensure that Canada enters the digital era and that Canadians' privacy is protected while making sure that our security agencies are able to get the information they need to thwart plots and protect Canadians' lives.
It is a bit ironic that, today, we are debating a motion that seeks to restrict agencies' power and ability to protect Canadians, given that they have to follow the law.
I am proud to say that Canada is safer, more prosperous, and a better place to raise a family than it was prior to our government being elected in 2006. Over these years, it has been clear that this government is committed to protecting victims. It is committed to keeping criminals behind bars, but it is also committed to making the privacy of Canadians a target. That is why I will support our bill bringing Canada into the digital era, but I will oppose this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate the member for Terrebonne—Blainville, who does a lot for her constituents. I witnessed that on a few occasions when I went to her riding. She is also responsible for some major files in the House. This is another example of her wonderful work.
We can see that the Conservatives do not really want to ask questions. Members will recall that, in the last election, the Conservatives complained about a census question and said that asking how many washrooms Canadians had in their homes was an invasion of privacy. The Conservatives said that it was not appropriate.
Since coming to power, they have submitted more than one hundred thousand, actually more than one million, requests for personal information to telecommunications companies. We do not even know what kind of questions were asked.
Today, when we are simply asking for a process and a mandate to be outlined, why does the member think that the Conservatives seem to be rather reluctant to prevent the type of abuse that has been taking place for some months?
The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
Mr. Speaker, I have four points I would like to make, but ultimately, as you know, this is something that is in your hands and for you to judge.
Mr. Speaker, I want to cite a number of items from House of Commons Procedure and Practice to help round off the decision that you will have to make in this. It is fair to say that all of us, all parties here, all members of Parliament, share the concern about the human rights abuses that are taking place in Russia, and an unprovoked military invasion of the Crimea. It is fair to say that we all have great concerns about the response from the Russian government, which was entirely inappropriate. Rather than wanting to sit down, discuss, and resolve the issues, it seems to be notching up hostilities.
As far as the question of privilege is concerned, as you know, Mr. Speaker, it is your responsibility to act as the guardian of the rights and privileges of the members, and the House as an institution. When we look at House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, it is quite clear, on page 111, about the obstruction and intimidation of members of Parliament. I will quote this for your records, as part of your decision process:
A Member may also be obstructed or interfered with in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions by non-physical means. In ruling on such matters, the Speaker examines the effect the incident or event had on the Member's ability to fulfill his or her parliamentary responsibilities. If, in the Speaker's view, the Member was not obstructed in the performance of his or her parliamentary duties and functions, then a prima facie breach of privilege cannot be found.
Speakers have consistently upheld the right of the House to the services of its members free from intimidation, obstruction, and interference. Speaker Lamoureux, one of your predecessors, Mr. Speaker, stated in a 1973 ruling that he had “no hesitation in reaffirming the principle that parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the House free from threats or attempts at intimidation”.
Speaker Bosley, another predecessor, noted the following in a ruling on May 1, 1986:
If an Hon. Member is impeded or obstructed in the performance of his or her parliamentary duties through threats, intimidation, bribery attempts or other improper behaviour, such a case would fall within the limits of parliamentary privilege. Should an Hon. Member be able to say that something has happened which prevented him or her from performing functions, that he or she has been threatened, intimidated, or in any way unduly influenced, there would be a case for the Chair to consider.
Ruling on another question of privilege, again, Speaker Bosley further stated, “the threat or attempt at intimidation cannot be hypothetical, but must be real or have occurred”.
If we agree that the motivation and intention behind the sanctions of the Russian Federation were indeed to intimidate all parliamentarians, then I believe this would be something that should be considered by the Speaker, but the link then needs to be made between the sanctions and the discharge of MPs' duties
Finally, a ruling was handed down earlier this year under your auspices, Mr. Speaker, on January 28, 2014, regarding the way in which Senator Dagenais rather maliciously lashed out against the member for Terrebonne—Blainville. The Speaker did not find a prima facie beach of privilege had occurred because the direct link could not be established between the disrespectful and hostile letter that Senator Dagenais had sent publicly to the member for Terrebonne—Blainville on her parliamentary functions.
You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that you referenced page 109 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which states:
In order to find a prima facie breach of privilege, the Speaker must be satisfied that there is evidence to support the Member's claim that he or she has been impeded in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions and that the matter is directly related to a proceeding in Parliament. In some cases where prima facie privilege has not been found, the rulings have focused on whether or not the parliamentary functions of the Member were directly involved.
In conclusion, we all are concerned about the actions of the Russian Federation. We support the members of Parliament and members of the civil society who are the targets of these sanctions. We give only cautious support to the notion that this is a question of privilege because that is in your hands, Mr. Speaker. You have heard from the various sides of the House as to whether this does indeed constitute a question of privilege.
We have time for a quick question and answer. The hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
The electoral district of Terrebonne--Blainville (Quebec) has a population of 107,694 with 83,300 registered voters and 200 polling divisions.
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