The House resumed from February 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act, be read the third time and passed.
Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act.
I can sum up Bill C-42 by saying it should be defeated. It is nothing more than data mining by foreign security services, primarily the United States, and is an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of Canadians.
Bill C-42 would amend the Aeronautics Act to allow for an exemption for airlines from the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act; thereby, permitting them to transmit to the United States department of homeland security personal information about airline passengers.
The U.S. department of homeland security could then run this information through a number of databases to determine if the travellers should be prevented from entering U.S. airspace. If the U.S. department of homeland security determines a person may be allowed into United States airspace, then the airline is given permission to issue a boarding pass. This is the process set up under the United States secure flight program which mandates that only those the U.S. department of homeland security allows may enter into U.S. airspace, regardless if those individuals are landing in the United States or not.
While the Conservatives like to point to name, gender and date of birth as being the only items of information required, the secure flight final rules state that airlines must also provide the following information if they possess it: redress number or known traveller number; passport information; itinerary information; reservation control number; record sequence number; record type; passenger update indicator; and traveller reference number.
All of these information elements are part of the air travel system for ensuring passengers move efficiently in their travels. It is information the airline would automatically possess.
Unfortunately, it is sufficient information to allow the department of homeland security to data mine the travel reservation systems used by all airlines as these databases are physically located in the United States and the U.S. patriot act requires that they be available to U.S. security agencies, without a warrant.
Included in this information are known medical conditions of passengers, who is travelling with the specific person, and even what they ate on the airline if they ordered a special meal.
Previous to Bill C-42, this information was passed to the U.S. department of homeland security only for passengers travelling to the United States. Through a non-binding diplomatic note, Canada had secured an exemption from secure flight for domestic flights.
As almost all flights within, to and from Canada pass through United States airspace, Bill C-42 would essentially allow the United States department of homeland security to determine who may enter and leave Canada by air.
Bill C-42 would also allow airlines to send personal information of passengers to foreign security services. What information would be forwarded is determined by requirements laid out in secret agreements with other countries. Details of these agreements have not been released.
However, it is known that Canada has signed or is negotiating agreements with the European Union, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.
Details of the agreement between the European Union and the United States, for the same information transfer, are troubling. That agreement allows the information collected to be retained by the United States for up to 40 years.
Under the secure flight final rule, the retention period for Canadians is seven days if no match is found in the data; seven years for a potential match; and 99 years for confirmed matches.
As I have already indicated, this information may be forwarded to the security service of a third nation without the consent or notification of the other signatory: the passenger.
The secure flight final rule also stipulates that no person may know what information is being held about them by the United States and may not correct that information if there are errors.
The United States already has such an agreement with the European Union. Under that agreement, the United States may unilaterally amend the agreement as long as it advises the EU of the change. There has already been one amendment whereby all documents held by the EU concerning the joint U.S.-EU agreement shall not be publicly released for 10 years.
This would preclude any access to information requests. In essence, Bill C-42 provides too much access to private information without any protection. As I have stated, it will allow data mining of Canadians' personal information by foreign security services.
The Conservative government seems to be inordinately influenced by what it seems to believe is a danger, that unless Canadians agree with the bill, the United States could close its airspace to Canadian aircraft. While this threat may result in pressure to pass the bill, it is very unlikely the United States would carry through with that threat. Still, Bill C-42 is being spun by the government as necessary for fighting terrorism. There is no example of how this data mining has caught a single terrorist or any other criminal.
The bill is an unacceptable invasion of the privacy of Canadians by foreign security forces. I have heard from many constituents who are very concerned that such an intrusion is an unacceptable invasion of their privacy and undermines their sense of personal security.
I believe Maher Arar is an example of how this type of information can be misused. Canadians remember Maher Arar, a 34-year-old Canadian wireless technology consultant who was born in Syria and came to Canada with his family at age 17. Maher became a Canadian citizen in 1991.
On September 26, 2002, while in transit at New York's JFK airport en route to Montreal, Mr. Arar was detained by U.S. officials, and on the basis of information provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, he was interrogated about alleged links to al-Qaeda. Twelve days later, he was chained, shackled, and flown to Syria where he was imprisoned in a tiny cell for 10 months. During his captivity he was beaten, tortured and forced to make a false confession. Due to the unrelenting efforts of his wife, Monia Mazigh, and the help of Alexa McDonough, he was eventually returned to Canada in October 2003.
In January 2004, under pressure from Canadian human rights organizations, the Government of Canada announced a commission of inquiry into the actions of Canadian officials. In 2006, Justice Dennis O'Connor cleared Maher Arar of all terrorism allegations, stating that he was able to state categorically that there was no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar had committed any offence or that his activities constituted a threat to the security of Canada.
The authorities at JFK identified Maher as knowing a person being investigated by the RCMP, but failed to further investigate the degree of this acquaintance. They made assumptions which were unjustified and they took action which would have been unjustified even if Maher Arar had been guilty of serious crimes.
Despite an apology and financial settlement from the Government of Canada in 2007, U.S. authorities refuse to accept Mr. Arar is innocent and he remains on the American no-fly list. Clearly, this is a terrifying example of how information can be skewed, misinterpreted and misused.
Many people have commented on the agreement being considered by the Government of Canada in regard to the proposed amendments to the Aeronautics Act. Ms. Chantal Bernier, assistant privacy commissioner in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada told the Standing Committee on Transport, Communities and Infrastructure in May 2010:
||--privacy and security do not have to be at odds. In fact, they must be integrated. And they converge. They converge in this fashion: privacy commands that we collect as little information as possible, in a minimal approach, and as well in the effectiveness of security, in the sense that its effectiveness rests upon collecting only the information that is relevant...the right to privacy is a fundamental right that cannot be infringed upon, unless it is demonstrably necessary for the public good. It follows, then, that the collection of personal information can only occur when it is proven necessary, and it must be proportionate to that necessity...that necessity must be assessed on an ongoing basis by verifying that the collection of personal information is indeed effective and necessary in relation to the identified necessity. Finally, it must also be demonstrated that there are no less privacy-intrusive measures available to reach the same goal.
Comments to the transport committee by Edward Hasbrouck of Liberty Coalition, a U.S.-based civil liberties group, are chilling. Mr. Hasbrouck stated:
|| Unlike the case in Canada, where someone denied travel is given formal notice of that decision and has rights to appeal it, those no-fly orders in the U.S. are entirely extrajudicial. No one in the U.S. has yet obtained court review by any U.S. court of a no-fly order. It is U.S. government policy not even to admit that they have issued such an order, and that includes those denying passage on flights overflying the U.S. that were not scheduled to land. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff is on the public record as saying that he believed that no-fly decisions should not be subject to judicial review, and the current U.S. administration has done nothing to repudiate that perspective.
|| While the consequences for anyone are very serious, including for those U.S. citizens trapped abroad who are currently unable to return home because they are not allowed to fly and have no other way to get back to the U.S., they are perhaps most draconian for refugees and asylum seekers. You should be very clear that the enactment of Bill C-42 would grant to the U.S. government de facto veto power over the ability of virtually anyone to obtain sanctuary in Canada--
This sounds very much like the case of Dawood Hepplewhite, a British man stranded in Toronto after being denied permission to fly home. His name is on the U.S. no-fly list. Mr. Hasbrouck went on to talk about how the data collected is used. He indicated:
|| These data are also used for purposes of surveillance of travellers. It is not the case that the information is simply used to make a onetime decision about whether to let you fly. All of your PNRs, even if you are not deemed suspicious and are allowed to fly, will be added to the lifetime travel history and compilation of data already being kept about you as part of the automated targeting system.
Dr. Mark Salter, associate professor, school of political studies at the University of Ottawa, told the committee:
|| Governments want this information so that they can build profiles of not just risky passengers but safe passengers as well. Research clearly demonstrates that in the United States and the U.K., government agencies are trying to collect as much data about travellers as possible. Government agencies such as the U.K. Border Agency try to develop very sophisticated algorithms that predict not which individuals are dangerous, but what kinds of itineraries are dangerous.
|| What worries me about this particular legislation is that the data not only go to the destination country but may go to all states that the airline might fly over. That, I feel, is the significant change that this legislation brings, and it worries me a great deal.
|| Flights that use the polar routes from Vancouver to Hong Kong would have to go over Russia and China. Are we suggesting that they are reasonable destinations for the passenger data of Canadian citizens? Flights that go to Colombia or Brazil must overfly any number of Latin American countries. Flights to Dubai must overfly most European countries and some Middle Eastern countries. Is the Government of Canada confident that the destination for their data can provide adequate protection? Are Air Canada and other air providers confident of that as well?
|| I understand that one of the reasons for this legislation is to get around the requirements of PIPEDA for Air Canada to provide such data. What worries me is that neither the government nor other agencies have put protection in place for data that will now go abroad.
|| I think it is dangerous to sacrifice our privacy and our freedoms for the dream of zero risk or perfect security. This particular measure does not provide additional security for the aviation sector, and it places an additional burden on Canadian citizens who are flying...the use of this commercial data, because it is created by airlines for their use, poses clear risks to privacy and no clear benefit. There is no reciprocity among any of the other countries. We are simply making Canadians more vulnerable to the security services of other nations, and we are doing so for countries that may not have the same robust privacy legislation or commitment that we have in Canada.
|| Canadians' data should not be hostage to the most paranoid regime that an air company chooses to fly over. The proposed change to these data protection regulations to include overflight states dramatically increases the vulnerability of Canadians' data while offering no means of redress or appeal.
|| We can assume that citizens know when they travel to a particular country that they are consenting. They know they go through a visa process and a border process, so they know their data is being evaluated. However, Canadians would have no way of knowing which of the countries they flew over would get their data, what would happen to their data, or how to appeal the use of that data.
The proposed changes to the Aeronautics Act are dangerous indeed without any clear benefit to Canadians.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of Canadian Civil Liberties Association, told the committee that there is an expectation of privacy protection by the charter. This bill would not meet a section 1 challenge because it has no limitations. It does not adequately protect the problems that may arise with the disclosure of information and so on.
The first point is that there is a constitutional vulnerability that should be looked at before we go too much further. There is no requirement in Bill C-42 or in the regulations of the U.S. Transportation Safety Act for safeguards to protect the information. There is no safeguard that the TSA will not pass information to other government agencies, such as law enforcement or immigration. There is no safeguard that the TSA will not pass this information to third countries. We know this has been a particularly difficult issue for some Canadians, Maher Arar being a case in point. There is no guarantee the TSA will not use the information for profiling Canadians to put them on its watch list or no-fly list.
Ms. Des Rosiers also reminded the committee that in the United States the no-fly list is under constitutional review. It has been challenged because there are too many false positives arising. The process has a described Kafkaesque quality in the way it does not allow people to know whether they are on it, how to get off it, and what evidence is on it.
That is the danger. The danger is that Canadian passengers will be put at risk of being stuck somewhere with no possibility of flying home. There is no guarantee that an innocent Canadian could not be mistakenly placed on the list. There is no guarantee that innocent Canadians mistakenly placed on the list will not be prevented from flying to or from or being detained in the U.S. or elsewhere without due process.
I have absolutely no confidence that surrendering information about Canadians to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is either safe or wise. Disclosure to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of personal information on passengers travelling to certain destinations, particularly Cuba, could lead to unpleasant consequences. For example, this information could be used to identify Canadian companies that do business with Cuba or to penalize travellers who have visited Cuba by consequently refusing them entry into the U.S.
How will Canada ensure that the U.S. will not use the secure flight program to apply its Helms–Burton act which imposes penalties on foreign companies doing business with Cuba? Canadians and Canadian companies have had a long-standing and very positive relationship with Cuba. Millions of Canadians have visited Cuba, and I am sure would like to continue to visit Cuba.
Over and over we have heard the warnings from reputable experts and indeed the voices of concerned Canadians. Surely the government will listen to these warnings. We need to defeat Bill C-42. Canadians deserve better than the lacklustre leadership and absence of due diligence from the government. How can anyone trust a government, its ministers and a Prime Minister so willing to jeopardize their privacy and security?
In the words of our Privacy Commissioner, “the Canadian government has a duty to protect the privacy and civil rights of its citizens”. It is time the government understood that and did its duty.
Mr. Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act. This act seeks to create an exception from the application of another statute, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, for operators of aircraft.
In our opinion, this bill should be defeated, as it is nothing more than data mining by foreign security services, primarily of the United States. It is an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of Canadians. This invasion of privacy is backed up with the threat that U.S. airspace will be closed to Canadian aircraft unless this bill is passed.
Currently, the Aeronautics Act exempts airlines from PIPEDA's restrictions on disclosing personal information without consent when the laws of a foreign country require disclosure of information about anyone onboard a flight landing there. Accordingly, passenger information for any Canadian flight that will land in a foreign state, whether or not the flight originates in Canada, can be disclosed to a foreign government without restriction by the air carrier. Such disclosure would not require the consent of the passengers or the triggering of normal exceptions in PIPEDA.
Bill C-42 amends this section to expand its ambit. It would now apply not only with respect to foreign states in which the flight is landing, but also to any foreign states the flight would travel over. Accordingly, whether or not the foreign state that a flight lands in requires the disclosure of any personal information, an air carrier, under this bill, would be able to provide disclosure without consent if the laws of a foreign state on the flight path required it.
The U.S. secure flight program already has Canadian airlines passing on passenger information, including full names, date of birth, gender and, if available, passport numbers and itineraries to the U.S. government 72 hours prior to departure of the flights scheduled to land there.
Now the U.S. government is attempting to expand this approach by making the program international through the implementation of mandatory reporting requirements, which would see the disclosure of sensitive personal information on all flights passing through designated U.S. airspace. Therefore, Bill C-42 is an attempt to placate these American security concerns related to foreign individuals flying over United States airspace.
Let me make this clear. It means that under the new provisions of Bill C-42, Canadian citizens would be subject to the disclosure of their personal information on all flights passing over the U.S. on the way from Canada to a third country, such as a planeload of Canadians heading to Mexico, Cuba or Jamaica. I could rhyme off many places that Canadians fly to in the winter months.
Moreover, according to Roch Tassé of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group:
|| The Americans will have a veto on every passenger that gets on a plane in Canada, even if they are not going to set foot on American soil.
Mr. Tassé added:
|| What will happen if Canada invites the ambassador from a country such as Cuba?
Although the government has apparently negotiated an exemption for domestic Canadian flights that enter U.S. airspace, the expanded disclosure of the personal information of citizens to foreign governments is troubling, especially considering that the creation and maintenance of the U.S. no-fly list has been described overwhelmingly as a disaster.
For instance, reports have indicated that children and even infants have been mistakenly included on the no-fly list. Of course, the most famous case is that of the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, who was declared a terrorist due to incorrect information being included on the no-fly list. In Canada, the Arar case should serve as a warning as to how the sharing of incorrect data can lead to horrifying results.
With this in mind, how are Canadians going to be assured that their personal information will be kept confidential?
Furthermore, how are Canadians going to be assured that this information will be used in the prescribed manner?
Although there appears to be an agreement in place with the U.S. stipulating that any information collected that is unrelated to terrorism will be erased after seven days, what assurances do we have that these measures will be taken in a timely and efficient manner? If the maintenance of the no-fly list is any indication, there is a significant chance of the confidential personal information of Canadians being mismanaged.
That is the truly worrying issue here. This information has the potential of being held for years and being used for purposes other than what it was first provided for.
The government will tell Canadians that it is taking steps to ensure that the information handed over will only be kept for a few days. The reality is that once this information is handed over, we will have no control over it. The only way that we can ensure that the privacy of Canadians is protected is to stop this information grab by the U.S. and other countries. We must strongly assert our conviction that although security is a primary concern when regulating the aviation industry and those who have access to flights, this does not mean that security concerns trump the privacy rights of Canadians.
The New Democrats understand the need to balance privacy and security concerns in order to protect individuals from security threats while ensuring that individual liberties are not infringed in the process. However, the broadening in scope of the disclosure of personal information fails to properly meet this balance.
Why should Canadians believe that this expansion of information sharing with foreign governments is in the best interests of Canada and Canadians, especially considering the mismanagement of the collected information that has been prevalent under the U.S. no-fly list?
What will Canadians get in exchange for this gross violation of their privacy? Not much. They may get a slightly shorter waiting time to board an aircraft. However, there will also be an increased risk that their confidential personal information will be mismanaged, which, in the past, has often been the reality.
Why is the government willing to engage in the collection and dissemination of personal information in this instance when it was more than willing to dismantle the mandatory long form census on the basis of its supposedly intrusive collection of personal information?
The reality gap posed by the government needs to be exposed. Why are there grossly different standards for the collection and dissemination of personal information? The government cannot have its cake and eat it too in this case. Either it agrees with the collection and dissemination of confidential personal information or it does not. Which is it?
I would like to quote my colleague from the Western Arctic, our critic for transport and infrastructure, who stated:
|| On the face of it, this bill seems pretty simple. It seems it is just changing a couple of lines in the Aeronautics Act. However, this bill has many more ramifications. What we have seen from the government is a failure to address the ramifications prior to putting the bill forward....
|| Canadians will give up their information, but they will give up more than their information....
|| We heard testimony about the passenger name record. Most of the information accessible to Canadians will be transferred. It will not simply be names and passport numbers and dates of birth; we will be giving the United States the opportunity to examine the full passenger name record. This is a very serious business, because it brings in much more information. We have heard many examples in the media over the past months of individuals whose information has been used in a manner that has caused them to have difficulty when trying to enter the United States. We have set up a system that can create much discord among passengers who are travelling over the United States.
In August 2007 the European Commission released an opinion on the EU and U.S. agreement for the processing and transferring of personal information by air carriers to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The opinion compared the 2007 agreement with others. The opinion found that the agreement's safeguards for private information were weaker than in other types of agreements and, specifically, that the amount of information transferred was increasing and that the DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, might use sensitive information that had been excluded by previous agreements. It also found that the transfer of information to foreign agencies was made easier and was no longer subject to the previous protection safeguards. Information would be kept for at least 15 years in some cases. In other cases, it was found that information was kept for 40 years.
This opinion also found that the new agreement contained an increased number of exemptions from the safeguarding and protecting of personal information, safeguards that could be waived at the discretion of the United States. The European commission stated, “—the new agreement does not strike the right balance to uphold the fundamental rights of citizens as regards data protection”.
As I mentioned earlier, Roch Tassé of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group has said, “The Americans will have a veto on every passenger that gets on a plane in Canada, even if they are not going to set foot—” on any state or any part of the United States.
The Air Transport Association of Canada, ATAC, made its grievances known to the American Department of Homeland Security last December. Its critique was that the submission of Canadian passenger details by Canadian airlines violated Canada's laws on the protection of personal information and electronic documentation, as well as the aeronautics laws.
With the passage of Bill C-42, the handing over of this private information will no longer violate Canadian law. The only way to ensure that we can protect Canadians' personal information is to stop this information grab by the United States.
It is the opinion of New Democrats that this bill should be defeated, as it is nothing more than data mining by security services, primarily of the United States, and is an unwarranted invasion of Canadians' privacy. This invasion of privacy is backed up with the threat that U.S. airspace will be closed to Canadians who want to travel abroad by simply passing over, not going into, the United States.
Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add some comments on Bill C-42. I think there is some information which would have been clarified by the committee had members looked at the committee testimony dealing with international rights and the rights of countries to protect their sovereign airspace and land.
Substantively, this is a furtherance of the wish of the Americans to respond to the terrorist threats upon the U.S. They are our neighbour and our largest trading partner. However, the intent of the U.S. clearly is not directed at Canada in terms of interfering with Canada, but rather protecting their sovereign space.
It is easy to give a speech in this place on privacy rights. One speaker just said that the Americans would have our health card and health care information. That is not actually the case. In fact, the Privacy Commissioner was before committee and laid out the disclosure, and it is basic disclosure.
We have had evidence that this kind of information is provided when we cross the border in automobiles. We have to provide our passports. That opens up any file on times of travel. The Americans keep records. There is probably a fair bit of information on people who travel to the United States, much more than people who fly over it.
The bill is very straightforward. It requires Canada to provide information about people flying either to the United States or over the United States.
The testimony at committee was not 100% onside. Some people argued on the privacy issue. However, when it got down to it, there was no disagreement whatsoever on a sovereign country protecting itself and prescribing certain conditions and requirements to enter its airspace. That is not in dispute. The question really becomes this. To what extent is the information necessary for that sovereign country, whatever it be, to protect itself?
In reviewing some of the discussion at committee, I heard and read that they were looking for an appropriate balance between protecting our security, while protecting the civil liberties and privacy rights of Canadians. I think that is where the committee landed.
As I said, the international law recognizes a state's right to regulate aircraft entering its territory. The United States has the Chicago convention to which Canada is a signatory. It requires our compliance with the regulation that states that the laws and regulations of each contracting state is related to the admission, or departure from its territory, of aircraft engage in international air navigation or to the operation and navigation of such aircraft while within its territory. We are already signatories to that agreement.
The issue now is to the point where there is kind of an understanding and acceptance of the sovereign right of Canada to have certain information requirements for people visiting Canada in a variety of situations, whether it be people arriving without documents or some problem like that. There are all kinds of examples where Canada requires information from those wanting to get into this country and, without it, they are detained and work is be done to establish why they are here.
Some of the other discussions at committee had to do with such things as if we did not pass this bill and in fact we refuse to provide the information then aircraft flying from Canada to some country other than the United States, but travelling over it, would not be able to do that. It would not be given permission to enter U.S. airspace. The consequences of that could be enormous. The number of aircraft that fly over U.S. airspace but do not land in the U.S. is enormous. The economic cost and impact of something as simplistic as fuel costs, the time involved and inconvenience would be devastating not only to an airline but certainly to its customers and the country.
These arguments and the bogeyman approach to legislation regarding the protection of privacy rights of Canadians because secret information about them will be provided and it will be used for nasty things really cannot be taken seriously. We are a signatory. We have a responsibility to support the requirements of the U.S., which has a very significant and legitimate reason to protect its airspace, its country and its people. We expect nothing less from Canada.
I believe early in February the Minister of Public Safety said:
|| For our part, we have worked closely with the Americans to ensure this is implemented in a way that recognizes our security interests and the privacy concerns of Canadians.
|| Now it is up to the Liberal-led coalition to stop playing politics and support this needed bill.
That is the political part of it, but the operational part is working with and having a balanced approach to respecting sovereignty rights. If anybody votes against this, it had better not be because he or she wants to ignore the sovereign rights of any country. That is not a starter. The only argument there could be is with regard to what information is there.
When appearing before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Privacy Commissioner made it very clear that although it is an issue of concern this in fact is not a violation of Canadian privacy rights under PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
I believe there is an understanding. I must admit that Canadians obviously would respond to the issue of perhaps disclosing certain information. However, in the normal course they are told that if they want to go to Mexico and fly over the U.S. they have to give their name, address, passport number, et cetera. That is something that we do. In fact, the disclosure that Canadians make in the normal course in terms of transacting their day-to-day lives is much more broad. Many people have given their Visa number to a supplier to buy something over the Internet. What protection do they have if that supplier continues to process charges against their cards until they are caught? It can happen.
Having been the former chair of the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee, I have heard many of these arguments. The Privacy Commissioner has a stellar record of acting swiftly and strongly with regard to the privacy rights of Canadians, most recently with regard to the lax provisions under Facebook, and has worked collaboratively internationally to ensure that we protect those rights.
However, when we have someone with the experience, the expertise and the earned respect of our Privacy Commissioner saying that the disclosure required under Bill C-42, and considering the sovereign right of the United States to protect its property, it is not unreasonable disclosure. In fact, it is disclosure that is necessary.
I heard the debate at second reading. I looked at some of the testimony at committee and although I have heard both sides of the story, it is not enough for members to use simple rhetoric to say that they have to protect the privacy rights of Canadians and therefore they are voting against the bill. What they are really saying is that they will not pass the bill. They want Canadians to say, “Let us stand up to the United States, not give it the information, and we are prepared to spend the extra money to fly around the United States. By the way, if we ever want to go to the United States, we will not give them that information either”.
The airlines will not stand for it. It cannot happen. It is not economical to operate an airline if it has to basically fly around continents. It is not a starter.
With regard to entering the United States, we have been looking for a range of opportunities to enhance greater cross-border activity and travel with the United States, not only for the general vacationing public or visiting for brief periods, but more important, for the economic impact. It is the economic side of the argument that is very important.
We cannot ignore the fact that this would have some serious economic implications. That was brought out very clearly at the committee hearings. Our transport critic tried to make the case that there are issues we can negotiate and deal with. I do not think anyone has provided the comprehensive list because I do not believe it exists as to the specific disclosures that will be required, but I would say that it would be minimal, compared to what some members have suggested. There is absolutely no security information in knowing somebody's health card number. It really is astounding that people say the Americans will get this.
I heard the argument in one of the speeches that if the United States is to have this information, it could go to a database to get it and there are linkages. People do business abroad and also have medical treatment there. There are computer records with people's information and that is why it is very important that we be part of the solution, not part of the problem. But in this regard, it is very clear that the appropriate step is to continue to work for a balanced approach to providing the information necessary, to respect the sovereign right of the United States to restrict travel over its airspace without having an opportunity to vet who might be on the plane.
That is a security issue. It is not matter that security trumps privacy rights, but it is a legal obligation that we have pursuant to agreements that we have already signed with the United States. Virtually every country around the world has the same requirements that airlines will not be able to travel in their airspace without having the authorization to satisfy whatever conditions are required.
It is not easy. It would be so simple to explain how our privacy rights have to be protected, but at what cost? Are we talking about privacy rights in the extreme or are we talking about a person's name, address, telephone number and passport number, all of which are generally available. When people enter the United States, they have to fill out a card which asks if they are taking large sums of money, if they have any fruits or vegetables, if they have any firearms, what hotel they are staying at and the phone number where they can be reached. We already do that naturally, yet that is a lot of information. It is a lot more than is being asked for with regard to Bill C-42.
Where is the discussion about all that disclosure? It is because if we want to land in the United States that is the information it requires. We understand that because it is its right to ask for it, otherwise, we are not getting in. I appreciate the comments of some members, but to somehow argue that privacy rights are being infringed upon is a false conclusion and it is sustained by the testimony of the Privacy Commissioner, Ms. Stoddart, before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities that this not a breach of the privacy privileges and rights of Canadians.
Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to make some comments on Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act.
I want to begin by paying tribute to our transport critic, the member for Western Arctic, for bringing to the attention of this House the slippery slope represented in this bill and the potential for the erosion of some of the most fundamental rights and freedoms by which we define ourselves as Canadians.
Let me begin my remarks with two points. Canadians have a right to know what their government is doing with their money. They have a right to know about the government's policies and programs. Every step of the way Canadians have an absolute right to know. In fact, the right to know, freedom of information, is the very oxygen that democracy breathes. However, the inverse is not true.
The government does not have a right to know everything that its citizens are doing. That is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. That is one of the fundamental freedoms we enjoy in a western society and a western democracy. It is a slippery slope and I caution members of Parliament that we must be ever vigilant to ensure that even a subtle erosion of those fundamental rights and freedoms does not take place.
Any time there is legislation put before the House of Commons that threatens to erode those fundamental freedoms or threatens to fail to augment and expand other freedoms, such as the right to know, we have to stand up and denounce it. That is what I rise to do here today.
This government bill, Bill C-42, should be defeated. It should be denounced. It should be condemned. In fact, Canadians who care about our national sovereignty should gather together and protest the very introduction of this bill because representatives of the Government of Canada are negotiating away the very fundamental rights and freedoms by which we define ourselves as Canadians.
This bill should be defeated. It is nothing more than data-mining by foreign security services, primarily those of the United States. It is an unwarranted intrusion into the privacy of Canadians. Believe me, I am not overstating things when I say that the Government of the United States has no right to know when Canadians board an aircraft in this country, which is one of the things contemplated by this bill. It is an expansion of a great affront to Canadian sovereignty, that is, the American do-not-fly list.
I have some personal experience with that atrocious do-not-fly list in the United States. For a long time, even though I am a Canadian member of Parliament, I was unable to get a boarding pass to get on an airplane in this country to travel on a domestic flight from my home city of Winnipeg to my place of work, the House of Commons in Ottawa, even though the flight does not even go through American airspace.
This list is created, maintained and housed entirely in the United States. Canadians, like myself, even an elected member of Parliament, have no right to know how they got on that list. There is no avenue of recourse for grievances. There is no methodology to get off that list.
Yet, when I go to the airport in my home city of Winnipeg and check in with Air Canada to get on a domestic flight, the women who work at the check-in counter know me by name and when they enter my name into the registry of passengers for that flight, a big red flag comes up on their computer. They say, “I am sorry”, member for the riding of Winnipeg Centre, “I cannot issue a boarding pass for you, because you are on this do-not-fly list.”
Forty-five minutes passes while we phone the Department of Foreign Affairs. The people there cannot help. Then we have to phone this magic number in the United States, and the Americans do some research to see if this individual, me, is the same individual who is on their do-not-fly list.
I cannot board a plane in my own country. Canadians should be furious at that intrusion into our Canadian sovereignty. It is absurd.
This went on for years. I must have been stopped 30 or 40 times from getting on domestic flights until finally we had to misspell my name deliberately, which is fraudulent. That was the big recommendation, that I should book my flights under a different name and there would be no problem. That is the solution to the problem because there is no mechanism to convince the Americans to get the heck out of our business.
This is an extension of that absurd situation, except in this case the Aeronautics Act would be amended to allow airlines to send personal information of passengers to foreign security services, primarily in the United States. That information is laid out in secret agreements with other countries. We cannot find out what the secret agreements say, but we know the details of the agreement that exists between the United States and the European Union. We can assume that the details being negotiated in agreements with other countries, including Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Panama, the Dominican Republic and the United States, are similar to the framework agreement between the United States and the European Union.
Some of the details of the agreement between the United States and the EU would make one's hair curl. For instance, the information forwarded would be the passenger name record, which would include the name of the travel agent used to book the vacation, credit card information, who the person is travelling with, the hotel the person will be staying at, other booking information such as tours or car rental and any medical conditions of the passenger. It is basic personal information up to and including a person's credit card information and personal health records.
We are not talking about people on flights landing in the United States. We are talking about domestic Canadian flights that may pass over the United States for about two minutes. There are little extensions of the Canada-U.S. border that dip down so that when flying from Montreal to Winnipeg a plane may fly over a bit of the United States en route.
Any of that information would be in the hands of the United States government, a foreign national government. Get this: It can keep that information for 40 years and, I suppose, use it against someone, possibly put the person's name on its infamous do-not-fly list. The information may be forwarded to the security services of a third nation without the consent or notification of the other signatory. The information could be traded like party favours among partner nations in the war on terrorism. A person's personal credit card information, who the person travels with and personal health records could be passed around. It is an abrogation of the duty of the Government of Canada to protect the right to privacy of its citizens.
Let me repeat the remarks I opened with. We, as Canadian citizens, have an absolute right to know what our government is doing with our money, policy, programs, et cetera. The government does not have an absolute right to know everything about Canadian citizens. We have an absolute fundamental right to privacy. It is in the Constitution. We have an officer of Parliament dedicated to protecting those rights. They cannot be negotiated away. One cannot negotiate one's way out of the Constitution and no one has a mandate to do it on our behalf.
The government enters into these arrangements and then tries to have them codified and ratified by Parliament through a bill such as this one. It has no right or mandate to trade away our constitutional rights to privacy, but this is what it has done. Why the other opposition parties cannot see this is beyond me.
We owe a debt of gratitude to my colleague, the member for Western Arctic, for blowing the whistle on this otherwise seemingly innocuous bill as it worked its way through the House of Commons and the transport committee. Fortunately, witnesses appeared before the transport committee on this bill and testified in no uncertain terms that this bill erodes and undermines the fundamental rights to privacy of Canadians.
The agreement signed between the United States and the EU, which we believe is the template model for agreements that will be signed with the other partner countries, goes on to say that no person may know what information is being held about them by the United States and may not correct that information if there are any errors. In other words, there is no avenue of recourse.
Again, it is a principle of natural justice that there should be a grievance procedure. There should be an avenue of recourse if mistakes are made about a person and where the veracity of the information being held could be challenged. However, the whole thing is done with such privacy and secrecy that individuals would have no way of knowing what their dossier says about them and what information is being handed around from nation to nation.
This is how horror stories like the Maher Arar situation came to light. This is the kind of nightmare experience that Canadians know all too well from the front pages of the national news of our country year after year as we struggled to understand how such a thing could happen to a Canadian citizen when travelling innocuously within the secure zones of those who seek to make our world safer.
Terrible mistakes are and can be made. It gets to be a runaway freight train without the restraints of reason and logic. Without the underpinning of those fundamental freedoms upon which we built our country, then the war on terrorism does infringe on basic rights.
The other point of the agreement made between the European Union and the United States that we think may find its way into the international agreements with other partner countries, if it has not already, is that the United States may unilaterally amend the agreement as long as it advises the EU of the change. There has already been one amendment whereby all documents held by the EU concerning the agreement shall not be publicly released for 10 years. In other words, there is no access to information requests. That basic fundamental freedom that I introduced in the opening of my remarks of the absolute right to know what your government is doing does not apply apparently. This is a rights-free zone.
What we are contemplating in Bill C-42 ignores our right to know. It ignores what I argue is the very oxygen that democracy breathes. It ignores the fact that the sunlight is a disinfectant and when we shine the light of day on the behaviour and actions of government it automatically elevates its ethical standards. All those things are torn up and thrown out the window and with it Canadians' expectation of the right to privacy.
I just heard a member from the Liberal Party say that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is not concerned with Bill C-42. He obviously was not at the transport committee meetings when it heard testimony on Bill C-42.
Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner, the officer of Parliament charged with the responsibility of upholding Canadians' fundamental right to privacy, in fact, said that Bill C-42 raises important questions about sovereignty. She said that the Canadian government has a duty to protect the privacy and civil rights of its citizens and it may not go to international forums and barter away those rights. The government cannot negotiate its way out of constitutional rights and privilege.
It is up to us. This House of Commons is the check and balance where we ensure that these erosions do not take place, that we do not embark down that slippery slope, that this is not the thin edge of the wedge in a wholesale abrogation of the duty of the government to uphold our constitutional rights in terms of privacy and freedoms.
It concerns us greatly that we are being asked to buy a pig in the poke to lay the framework for the implementation of this agreement without even knowing the details of the information trading regime that will be agreed to. For all we know it has already been signed off because the details have not been released.
As I did my research into this bill, I was reminded of how we are following the Americans down this dangerous road. We all know that the Americans were attacked. We all know that they have a legitimate right to make their nation more secure. Nobody is arguing that.
A government's first obligation is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. We wish the Americans well with that and we want to co-operate with that. But we do not believe that the sharing of this information will lead to a safer world. We are also concerned when we throw those fundamental rights and freedoms over the side for the sake of expediency to implement security measures, that will become less secure in an environment without those basic freedoms.
Researching this bill reminded me of another national trend initiative. For 30 years, in their war on getting tough on crime, the Americans were deluded into thinking that longer prison sentences, tougher punishments, mandatory minimum sentences, and locking up a whole generation would make their streets safer. The reason I raise this in the context of Bill C-42 is because we now know, and the Americans have now realized, that they were wrong.
Leaders like Newt Gingrich, of the right wing Republican tough on crime movement, have published lead editorials in The Washington Post acknowledging that they were dead wrong. The Americans are spending billions of dollars on more prisons. They are stacking up prisoners like cordwood with longer prison sentences and their streets are no safer. They are bankrupting the coffers of their state legislatures and their federal government trying to house all of these prisoners.
The Americans have turned a corner. They are now saying that their money should be reinvested in crime prevention, drug rehabilitation, counselling, and services to keep people out of the criminal justice system. They are now saying that they should not be building more prisons to stack prisoners up.
At the same time, at this very same juncture, the Government of Canada is embarking down the road that has just been abandoned by its neo-conservative mentors in the United States.
The same reasoning applies to this bill. We do not have to go blithely down the road of the United States in what some believe is an over-reaction to its national security issues because it is not always right. The United States is our closest neighbour and our biggest trading partner. Sometimes friends have to tell friends when they are wrong.
In their zeal and their enthusiasm over national security the Americans are dead wrong in thinking they are making their country safer by undermining fundamental rights and freedoms of a western democracy. Democracy is a fragile and tenuous construct. It is held together by thin fabrics of rights and freedoms. As one by one those fabrics are strained and stressed, and worn, or even broken, that valuable construct of democracy is very vulnerable.
It is no surprise that there are only 20 federations in the world because democracy is such a difficult form of government to hold together. We have to be especially vigilant in a federation like Canada. We need to ensure that we never allow the fundamental freedoms of the right to know what government is doing and the right to privacy for its citizens to be taken away. If anything, those fundamental elements of our democracy should be enhanced and strengthened by this House of Commons, not eroded and undermined by a reactionary piece of legislation that we believe will have adverse and contrary effects that are the polar opposite of the spirit and the intent of this legislation, which is to combat terrorism.
This bill should be defeated for a number of fundamental reasons.
Mr. Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay—Superior North, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-42 today. I am the tourism critic for the NDP. More important, I am a Canadian citizen who is concerned about this tremendous erosion of Canadian privacy and sovereignty. The bill has serious implications on Canadian travellers taking international flights over but not into the United States.
The bill should be defeated. It is quite clearly nothing but data mining by the United States. I can understand why it would ask. I cannot understand why we would say yes, especially when it is not reciprocal. It is an unwarranted invasion of Canadians' privacy in many ways.
It is disturbing, but unfortunately not surprising, that the Conservative government would introduce such a bill. It might be reasonable to assume that foreign governments would want carriers to provide names and personal details for flights that would be landing on their soil. Unfortunately, Bill C-42 goes a ridiculous amount further. It would have airlines provide personal information. We heard the member from Winnipeg list many of the kinds of personal information that would be given to a country that travellers were just flying over.
Let us explore some of the implications of the bill. Apparently, a passenger leaving Canada on a vacation to Cuba, which many Canadians do although the Americans do not like it because they do not like Cuba and do not like us going to Cuba, could have their name, birthdate and over 30 other pieces of personal information subject to screening by the Department of U.S. Homeland Security. It would also be checking that information against various databases, including the infamous U.S. no-fly list. If people's names are on the American no-fly list, they will not get on that flight nor will they know the reason why. As well, it may not be just a one-time occurrence. Effectively, they may never be able to get off that U.S. no-fly list and may be banned from all flights leaving from Canada but flying over U.S. airspace for a very long time.
There are already examples of misuse. For example, there is the story of Hernando Ospina. He is a journalist for Le Monde diplomatique, whose Air France flight from Paris to Mexico was diverted to Martinique just because he wrote an article that was critical of U.S. foreign policy.
Another example is Paul-Émile Dupret. He is a Belgian researcher with the European Parliament. His flight from Europe to the World Social Forum in Brazil was diverted, not because he was a security threat but because he campaigned against the transfer of European travellers' information to U.S. authorities.
Who will be on the no-fly list after our speeches here today? Will members of the House of Commons end up on the U.S. no-fly list?
How can the government assure Canadians that this type of political misuse will not occur if Bill C-42 is passed? Apparently, the U.S. has told our government that it needs everyone's personal information so it can check it with its various lists of people who it does not want flying so there are less false matches and less problems. It is saying, “Let us clear your passengers for you.” Our government is going along with this. Is this laziness? Are we really that desirous of letting someone else take over the security checks of our citizens flying to a third country via U.S. airspace? We will simply have to accept that they do not get to fly internationally anymore because we have given a foreign government a veto over Canadians travelling abroad.
I hope all the members of all the parties in the House come to their senses, vote against Bill C-42 and preserve Canadian rights and Canadian sovereignty.