Hon. Rob Nicholson (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, CPC)
moved that Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-55, a response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the R. v. Tse case. This important piece of legislation would ensure constitutional compliance of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.
The bill we debate today is the government's response to the April 2012 Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the matter of Her Majesty the Queen and Tse.
In this case, the Supreme Court held that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code is conceptually sound but that it is constitutionally invalid in its current form because it does not provide for an after-the-fact notification requirement to persons whose private communications were the object of a wiretap interception pursuant to section 184.4.
The court suspended its finding of constitutional invalidity until April 13, 2013, to provide Parliament with time to remedy the defect of this provision, failing which section 184.4 of the Criminal Code would no longer be available to law enforcement agents. With the introduction of the bill, I hope that its provisions will receive the widespread support of all parliamentarians so that we can move forward with this essential investigative tool.
Before members consider the specific amendments proposed by the bill, I think it would be helpful for them to know the facts of the R. v. Tse case, because they illustrate how important section 184.4 is in practice, and more importantly, they show how critical it is that the police continue to have access to such an essential power in situations where every minute counts.
In the case I refer to, three persons were kidnapped one night in 2006. When the daughter of one of the alleged kidnapping victims began receiving calls from her father stating that he was being held for ransom, the police used the power provided to them under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code to carry out interceptions of the communications without prior judicial authorization. It had become clear to them that the victims were at serious risk of being harmed and that a wiretap was the way to assist in providing critical information about the situation at hand.
Since lives were at risk, the police could not afford to lose time by following the regular process and preparing all of the paperwork required to obtain a regular wiretap judicial authorization beforehand. Neither could they, given the imminent danger involved, obtain an emergency wiretap under section 188 of the Criminal Code. Section 188, which does allow for a more streamlined process to obtain a temporary judicial authorization to intercept private communications, still requires some paperwork and the availability of a designated peace officer and a specially designated superior court judge.
In the Tse case, the police determined that there was no time to go through either the regular elaborate wiretap process or the so-called emergency process to obtain the authorization to intercept the private communications. Accordingly, they relied on section 184.4 of the Criminal Code to perform wiretap interceptions without a judicial authorization.
When the case went to trial, the accused argued that section 184.4 was unconstitutional because it did not offer the usual privacy protections that are provided when a full-blown wiretap authorization is issued by a judge, which is the mechanism that police usually rely on to intercept private communications.
The judge found that in the circumstances at hand, the use of a wiretap without a judicial authorization could be justified; the court also held, however, that more safeguards should be built into section 184.4 to ensure that this exceptional power was used appropriately.
The trial court was particularly concerned about the lack of any requirement for officers to, first, give notice to those persons whose communications had been intercepted and, second, to report their use of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.
As a result, the trial judge in British Columbia declared the provision unconstitutional and gave Parliament a deadline to remedy the constitutional shortcomings. Since then, trial-level courts in Quebec and Ontario have made similar rulings.
The Crown appealed the declaration of unconstitutionality in R. v. Tse directly to the Supreme Court of Canada which, as I mentioned earlier, confirmed the constitutional invalidity of section 184.4 but suspended the effect of that declaration until April 13, 2013.
The Supreme Court of Canada also provided some helpful direction with respect to privacy safeguards that could be added by Parliament to improve the provision.
Bill C-55 therefore proposes to amend section 184.4 of the Criminal Code so that it remains available in life-threatening situations while offering appropriate privacy protections.
It is critical for members to also understand that section 184.4 does not exist in a vacuum. It is part of a broader spectrum of wiretap powers provided for in the Criminal Code.
Part VI of the Criminal Code was created nearly 40 years ago, in 1974. Entitled “Invasion of Privacy”, part VI criminalizes the wilful interception of private communications, subject only to a few exceptions. Part VI contains numerous privacy protections and stringent tests to ensure an appropriate balance between investigative needs in pursuit of criminal justice and the privacy of Canadians.
The provisions contained in part VI of the Criminal Code have evolved from the two originally enacted types of authorizations—regular and emergency wiretaps, sections 186 and 188 respectively—to the five provisions for wiretaps that we have today.
These five different types of wiretaps form a spectrum of police interception powers that range from a high level of judicial oversight for the purpose of obtaining evidence of a crime, which could be described as investigative wiretaps, to no judicial oversight when the purpose is to prevent an imminent harm, or what could be described as preventive wiretaps. Section 184.4 of the Criminal Code falls into that latter category.
Section 184.4, the preventive wiretap, allows peace officers to intercept private communications without any judicial authorization in situations of imminent harm. It is designed to be used in order to prevent an unlawful act which a police officer believes on reasonable grounds would cause serious harm to a person or property.
The peace officer also has to believe, on reasonable grounds, that the person whose communications are to be intercepted is either the person who plans to commit the offence that is likely to cause the harm, or the victim or intended victim of the harm.
Importantly, the peace officer must also rule out the possibility of obtaining any other type of wiretap authorization contained in part VI.
Section 184.4 is designed to allow police to prevent serious harm to persons or property and to save lives in the most extreme cases. In high-stakes situations like bomb threats, every minute lost can be a game changer, and gathering evidence of the crime is a secondary consideration.
However, this does not mean that this power is without any judicial oversight. As was recognized by the Supreme Court, while this provision “allows for extreme measures in extreme circumstances”, the police know that their ability to intercept private communications without judicial authorization in exceptional circumstances under this section diminishes with the passage of time.
The court also noted that once the police start wiretapping in such circumstances, the speed with which they can obtain the follow-up judicial authorization plays a role in assessing whether this section passes constitutional muster. If the police do not proceed to seek the appropriate authorization when circumstances allow, they risk non-compliance if they continue interception under section 184.4. Thus, even in cases in which the situation allows for an interception under section 184.4, given the imminent harm or danger, steps need to be taken to regularize the process and the police need to start as soon as possible to prepare an application for a judicial authorization under section 188 if there is still urgency, or through the regular process otherwise.
This is exactly what happened in the Tse case. Twenty-four hours after having intercepted private communications in accordance with section 184.4 of the Criminal Code, the police obtained a judicial authorization to continue those interceptions.
Given the broad spectrum of wiretap powers and the parameters within which the police operate in urgent situations, I hope that we can all agree that it is absolutely necessary for police to continue to be able to get these communications without judicial authorization in exceptional circumstances in order to prevent serious harm.
However, the Supreme Court of Canada has clearly said that in order to retain this essential tool in a way that does not contravene the Constitution, the privacy provisions provided in section 184.4 of the Criminal Code need to be improved by requiring the police to notify, after the fact, persons who were the object of the wiretap interception. Therefore, Bill C-55 proposes to do not only this, but to also add other safeguards into section 184.4 consistent with our objective of ensuring the safety and security of Canadians while protecting their right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. This critical balance is reflected in the bill.
Bill C-55 proposes an amendment that would require persons whose private communications have been intercepted to be notified of that interception once the interception is complete. As is currently the case in the Criminal Code for other wiretap authorities, Bill C-55 would require that such a notification be provided in writing within 90 days of the interception unless an extension is granted by a judge. Notification ensures that those whose private communications have been intercepted will be made aware of that fact so that they can exercise important rights, including their right to a fair trial.
Requiring after-the-fact notification for section 184.4 is clearly what is required by the Tse decision to pass constitutional muster. However, our bill goes further by proposing another safeguard to better protect the privacy of Canadians.
Section 195 of the Criminal Code currently requires yearly reports to Parliament on the extent of the use of electronic surveillance. This provision provides a detailed list of information to be included in the annual reports. By adding section 184.4 of the Criminal Code to the list of wiretaps that need to be reported, the bill would require the federal Minister of Public Safety as well as provincial Attorneys General to prepare a report each year on the use of this particular section, consistent with the existing reporting requirements under section 195 of the Criminal Code for other types of wiretaps.
As spelled out in the bill, the reports would include, for example, information about the number of interceptions and notifications, the methods used, and the number of persons arrested whose identity became known to a police officer as a result of the interception.
If Parliament and the public in general know how and how often these powers are used, it will be possible to review their use on an annual basis, thereby assisting to ensure that these powers are only used in appropriate situations. This, in turn, would allow Parliament to make adjustments, if necessary.
Another safeguard proposed by Bill C-55 would limit the use of the Criminal Code to specific offences only. Currently, the law permits section 184.4 to be used in respect of any unlawful act. While the unlawful act has to be one that would cause serious harm to any person or property, the concept of unlawful act could be made clearer. That is why the bill proposes to limit the use of section 184.4 to the offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code. This limit already applies to most other wiretap authorizations. It would create certainty for police so that they could easily determine whether this investigative tool is available in the situation they are dealing with.
Finally, the bill proposes to restrict a class of persons who can use this authority to police officers only. Currently, the authority under section 184.4 is available to peace officers, which is defined in the Criminal Code to include not only police officers but also a wide range of officials, including fishery guardians, mayors and customs officials.
This proposed amendment accepts the Supreme Court of Canada's suggestion in R. v. Tse to consider whether the availability of the provision to peace officers generally might be overly broad. The court declined to address this situation in the absence of a proper record, but that is not to say that it could not come up in the future.
This legislation would not only remedy the constitutional defect of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code but would enhance the safeguards associated with this provision that allow police to intercept communications without judicial authorization in situations where there is an imminent and serious risk of harm to any person or property. The amendments are specifically intended to reduce privacy concerns and to increase accountability and transparency.
I hope the bill can be passed quickly to meet the April 13, 2013 deadline imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada. Passing this legislation would ensure that we continue to have the tools necessary to obtain information required to deal with exceptional situations, such as kidnapping, while at the same time respecting the privacy rights of Canadians.
I urge all members of the House to give this legislation their full support.
Ms. Françoise Boivin (Gatineau, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I would say to the Minister of Justice that when one is seeking support from people, it helps to be nice to them.
Indeed, it is going to take quite a bit of mental gymnastics to ensure that a bill as important as Bill C-55 is given the attention it deserves. I cannot believe that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is asking the 307 other members of this House to simply take a leap of faith and blindly accept this bill because we have an obligation imposed by the Supreme Court.
On this side of the House, we in the official opposition plan to work very hard on this. I can tell the minister that we will support this bill so that it can be sent quickly to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
This will not stop us from doing our job in committee, as we always do, as the minister knows very well. We do not do this in order to systematically oppose the government. I hope I will not hear this from any Conservatives for the next 10 days, which is how long members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will have to examine Bill C-55. I am very serious. The Supreme Court of Canada has set a deadline. We are not the ones asking for a favour here; rather, the government is, if it wants to meet the deadline.
I cannot believe that the brilliant legal minds at the Department of Justice took 11 months to draft Bill C-55. The fact is that the Conservatives made a serious mistake at the outset. They introduced Bill C-30 thinking that it would solve every conceivable problem related to wiretaps. I cannot exactly blame the Minister of Justice, since it was not his file. Rather, it was the Minister of Public Safety's file.
The Conservatives had to backpedal and introduce this bill with just a few weeks' notice. The members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights are meeting today, but they will not be studying this bill. They are meeting on Wednesday, but they will probably not study this bill then either. That leaves two days at most. On this side of the House, we promise to look at this bill closely and we will do our best to finish our study of it in time.
However, I would ask the government to be more open than it has been since we arrived in this House, since the 2011 election.
The official opposition makes some very good suggestions sometimes that would prevent the government from looking bad and ending up yet again with a case like R. v. Tse. In its ruling on that case, the Supreme Court said that there was a problem with the legislation. The government can keep saying, and rightly so, that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code already existed, that this provision has been around since 1993, before it came to power.
I am not really interested in knowing who to blame. I just want us to settle this issue. The Supreme Court was very clear. It pointed to the problem and to the aspects that were inconsistent with the charter. It set its findings aside for one year to give the government a chance to deal with this major legal void.
Often, that is why I ask the minister or his officials whether any serious, in-depth studies have been done before certain bills are introduced. From a distance, these bills may be well-meaning, but up close they create more problems because they are drafted so quickly. This will come back to haunt the Conservatives maybe not tomorrow, next month or in the next six months, but someday.
When I was a lawyer, I tried to prevent any future problems by anticipating problems that could come out of any document I wrote. As legislators, we should do the same.
We should not believe, as a Conservative colleague told the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, that the courts will set things right if we make a mistake. I found that really ironic coming from a member of the Conservative government, which does not really have the greatest respect for what is known as judicial authority. When it suits them, the Conservatives rely on judicial authority to fix everything and set things straight.
However, I do not want to send people to court. This is not because I do not have faith in the courts. Quite the contrary. However, I know that it is very expensive, that the situation is not clear-cut and that there are problems accessing justice.
In this context, if we do our job properly in the House, if we draft bills that comply with our charter and our Constitution, we will solve many of the problems. After that, the courts will do their job, based on the circumstances.
The Supreme Court handed down its decision in R v. Tse. I urge all my colleagues in the House to read the decision before voting on Bill C-55. There is no need to read all 50 pages of the decision, whether in French or in English, but at least read the summary. It gives a good explanation of the problem arising from the section on invasion of privacy. Believe it or not, that is what it is called. In the Criminal Code, the section concerns invasion of privacy. However, according to the Supreme Court of Canada, this section is justified in the very specific context of certain offences. Section 183 of the Criminal Code explains in what context this section applies.
I would point out to my colleagues and to those watching that we are not referring to minor offences. We are talking about extremely serious situations such as sabotage, terrorism, hijacking, endangering safety of aircraft or airport and possessing explosives. I could repeat them all, but there is a good list in section 183.
This section on invasion of privacy pertains to very specific cases that must be considered within the context of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The authorities must ensure that the circumstances in question actually constitute an invasion of privacy. Most of the sections provide for some checks and require the crown and the police to obtain certain authorizations. Section 184.4 has proven to be problematic in this regard because it is rather unclear about wiretapping. Unless an indictment was filed against the people in question, they would never know that they were being wiretapped. This problem therefore needed to be resolved. The Supreme Court gave directives to follow in such cases.
The Supreme Court often has more respect for the government than the government has for the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court still provides very general solutions and leaves it up to the government to draft bills.
Some clauses require more reflection and debate. I am not sure that the definition of “police officer” set out in clause 3 of Bill C-55 responds to the question that the Supreme Court of Canada will have to consider. The Supreme Court refused to rule on this specific issue because it had not been discussed before the court. Since the Supreme Court is very respectful of its role, it said that it did not have enough information to make recommendations to the government regarding this definition.
This will be examined in committee. The members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will be able to ask representatives of the Department of Justice and the minister questions about how the definition was developed and what the basis for the definition was. The bill is not really clear on that. We will certainly have some good discussions in this regard.
I would also like to draw hon. members' attention to the provision that sets out the possibility of renewing certain authorizations for three months to three years. I am no longer talking about section 184.4.
I would like to reiterate that I am talking about the section that pertains to invasion of privacy. Is it reasonable to renew such authority for three years? These things should be discussed.
These bills sometimes appear to be straightforward at first glance, but prove to be more complicated when we really get into specifics.
And since the devil is in the details, I think that as legislators we have a duty to at least do our job seriously. If we do not, in six months or a year, the Supreme Court of Canada will render a decision that shows we did not do our job. It will take a look at what we did so it can determine what the legislator's intent was. It sometimes uses the debates from the House or the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
The legislator here refers to us. We must stop thinking that the legislator is some separate person within the confines of Parliament. The legislators are all of us, here in the House of Commons. If the Supreme Court wants to know the legislator's intent, it will look at what was said during the debates.
If the records show that there was no debate because the government waited until the very last minute to push a bill that has huge repercussions in terms of invasion of privacy—we are talking about invasion of privacy here—we must all, as good legislators, do our due diligence.
The bill will not be needlessly stalled, but I repeat to my colleagues opposite that they are the ones who need to get this bill passed as quickly as possible. They do not even have enough time to move the closure motions they love to use to prevent us from debating the bill, because in the time it will take to debate those motions, the bill will not even have had the time to get to committee or back to the House.
The Conservatives need the official opposition to help ensure that this bill passes. On behalf of the official opposition caucus, I can say that we are not in the habit of blocking something simply for enjoyment. We leave that kind of attitude to the members opposite. However, my colleagues and I will not sit back and listen to them say that the NDP supports criminals. If I hear anyone say that, I swear, I will talk so long at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that the Supreme Court will have time to replace seven out of nine justices before I am done.
Let us all do the work that we were sent here to do and let us be serious about it, so we can assure people that the Criminal Code has a section on the invasion of privacy. In the R. v. Tse case, all the necessary safeguards were in place to say that this is acceptable in a free and democratic society, considering the seriousness of the offences covered by section 183.
These are just a few of the points that need to be seriously examined in committee—but with good questions and good answers, and not by playing silly games or being secretive and pretending that everything was carefully considered. We must look for solutions.
Bill C-55 will probably pass by the deadline set by the Supreme Court, but I repeat that the government waited until the last minute. It should be ashamed of playing games with something as serious as this. I will not hold it against the Minister of Justice, since he had been steered in the wrong direction. The Conservatives started out on the wrong track with Bill C-30, and it took time for them to admit that and to withdraw that bill.
It is like finding out that a bad TV show was pulled from the lineup. Bill C-30 was finally pulled from the lineup. Thank goodness. It was replaced to a very small extent by Bill C-55. I do not want the people listening at home to think that Bill C-55 is a carbon copy of Bill C-30. That is absolutely not the case. It does what needed to be done. It amends a very specific section of the Criminal Code—section 183 and following—to answer the questions and carry out the orders of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Some of my colleagues will likely talk about the various provisions, but I want to speak to section 184.4, which is amended by clause 3.
That is quite possibly the most critical section in the decision in R. v. Tse, because it is exactly what the Supreme Court was referring to.
I would also like to draw the members' attention to something else that bothers me, and that is the clause about reporting authorized interceptions. Clause 5 of the bill covers authorizations and extensions for up to three years. Extensions are set out in clause 6 of the bill, specifically in the amendment to section 196.1. The clause mentions the initial 90-day period and states that an extension can be granted under subsection x, y or z for up to three years.
We should be looking into those aspects because they could have some serious implications. The definition of “police officer” should also be addressed. It is somewhat worrying, given what the Supreme Court said:
|| In the absence of a proper record, the issue of whether the use of the section by peace officers, other than police officers, renders this section overbroad is not addressed.
The Supreme Court is always careful to respond only to issues that are before it. Since the issue of who has the right to wiretap—in this case, peace officers—did not come before the Supreme Court, much to its credit, the court said that it would not rule on the issue. Generally speaking, the Supreme Court is not there to provide legal opinions, except when the government, regardless of which party is in power, lacks political courage and decides to go through the Supreme Court to be told what it has the right to do, whether it be with regard to the Senate, same-sex civil marriage or even Quebec's right to secede. These are some examples that come to mind.
This is often the strategy used by governments that do not want to stick their necks out. They hope that the Supreme Court of Canada will wave its magic wand and solve all of our country's political problems, which does not often happen, because the Supreme Court is actually very respectful of political power, our power to enact legislation. That is exactly what the Supreme Court did in this case.
The wording of the new definition of “police officer” seems a bit odd to me. It does not seem to be written in a typical fashion. It says:
||“police officer” means any officer, constable or other person employed for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace
As I lawyer, I must say that the expression “[any] other person” is vague, and I never like to see this type of expression in provisions of the Criminal Code pertaining to invasion of privacy. Does this refer to security guards? This brings up so many questions for me.
What I would like to show my colleagues is that a bill that seems so benign and that is described by the minister as being “very straightforward” can be more complicated than we think. It is our job to point that out, particularly since this bill responds to a request from the Supreme Court of Canada that we go back to the drawing board. In my opinion, if we do not want the Supreme Court of Canada to give us another “F” for “fail”, we should at least take the time needed to do that.
I am ready to answer questions.
Mr. Francis Scarpaleggia (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-55, the bill we are debating today, needs to be seen against the backdrop of Bill C-30, the government's Internet surveillance bill introduced in February 2012. When Bill C-30 was tabled it crashed and burned, largely because the government failed to do its homework. Mainly, the government did not charter-proof the bill or listen to telecommunications service providers about the impracticality of some of Bill C-30's key provisions, nor did the government properly gauge Canadians' views about such a bill in advance of introducing it.
Finally, the Minister of Public Safety's mishandling of the beginnings of the debate in the House on Bill C-30, namely his hyperpartisan reaction to anyone who raised reservations about the controversial and likely unconstitutional aspects of the bill, added oil to the fire and de facto shut down the public conversation, thus foreclosing the possibility that the bill's problems might be remedied through amendment in committee; though many people doubt that the bill could have been salvaged even that way. In short, the minister's rhetoric killed the bill in its legislative tracks. One wonders also if the bill's fatal flaw, its inconsistency with charter principles, was tied to the rumour that the government no longer vets legislation against charter requirements in the drafting phase prior to tabling in Parliament.
The government's decision to withdraw Bill C-30 raises a series of questions.
First, was Bill C-30 needed in the first place? Second, if it really was necessary for public safety, why did the government withdraw the bill, given it has a majority in Parliament? As we have seen with budget legislation, the so-called stable majority Conservative government can and will do what it wants with its majority. To the government, the word “majority” means never having to say “compromise”.
Third, given its decision to withdraw Bill C-30, does the government have the courage of its convictions, whatever their merits?
The fourth question is related to the first. Does the current Criminal Code provision, namely section 184.4, provide law enforcement agencies with sufficient means to investigate and apprehend those who seek to exploit children on the Internet? By withdrawing Bill C-30, the government's answer to that question seems to be “yes”. I will come back to section 184.4 in more detail in a moment.
Another related question that comes to mind, in light of the government's new focus on the costs of policing, is whether the Conservative government is in fact investing enough to give police the resources it needs to fight cybercrime. This may be the real crux of the issue: money for policing. By not sitting down with the provinces to discuss extending and replenishing the police recruitment fund, is the government undermining the current capacity of the police to fight cybercrime? Is the government abandoning communities and leaving them more vulnerable? For example, the police recruitment fund was used in Quebec to beef up the cybercrime division of the Montreal police department. What will happen when federal funds dry up? Is the RCMP spending enough on cybercrime, or are fiscal constraints being imposed on it by the Conservative government, hurting its valuable work patrolling cyberspace, not to mention fighting the ever-complex problem of white-collar crime?
These are the tough questions that the government needs to honestly ask itself. The safety of our communities and families depends on the answers to those questions.
Bill C-55, which the Liberals support, is a response to the Supreme Court's decision in Regina v. Tse, rendered by the court last April. The Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code came shortly after the government's controversial tabling of Bill C-30 in the House. In other words, the court was deliberating on some of the issues at the core of Bill C-30 at the time the government introduced the bill. This raises the question of why the government did not wait for the Supreme Court's decision before rushing to table Bill C-30. The government could have benefited from the wisdom of the court in its final drafting of the bill. Furthermore, given that the Supreme Court, in April 2012, gave the government a full 12 months to rectify problems with section 184.4 that made the section unconstitutional, why did the government wait until the very last minute, namely two weeks ago, to deal with this matter?
As mentioned, the Tse case was a test of the constitutionality of section 184.4 in its existing form. Section 184 of the Criminal Code deals with emergency wiretapping or wiretapping in an emergency situation.
Section 184.4 is about the interception, without the normally required warrant, of private communications, including computer communications, in exigent circumstances—that is, in circumstances where interception is immediately necessary to prevent serious harm to a person or property, and a warrant cannot be obtained quickly enough to prevent the imminent harm; in other words, in situations where every minute counts.
In the Tse case the police in B.C. used section 184.4 to carry out unauthorized interceptions of private communications when the daughter of an alleged kidnapping victim began receiving calls from her father stating that he was being held for ransom. The case brought before the Supreme Court was an appeal by the crown of a trial judge's finding that section 184.4 in its current form violates the charter.
The question the Supreme Court was asked to address was whether section 184.4, as currently written, contravenes the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure pursuant to section 8 of the charter relating to privacy rights and, if so, whether this section's constitutionality is salvaged by section 1 of the charter, which allows a charter right to be circumscribed if it is deemed reasonable to do so in a free and democratic society.
In the earlier landmark decision Hunter v. Southam Inc., the Supreme Court determined that a warrantless search is presumptively unreasonable. In other words, the presumed constitutional standard for searches or seizures in the criminal sphere is judicial pre-authorization—that is, obtaining a warrant.
In Regina v. Duarte, the Supreme Court found that:
||...as a general proposition, surreptitious electronic surveillance of the individual by an agency of the state constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure under s. 8 of the Charter.
However, as the court said in its decision in Tse:
|| Exigent circumstances are factors that inform the reasonableness of the search or authorizing law and may justify the absence of prior judicial authorization.
|| Thus, in principle, it would seem that Parliament may craft a narrow emergency wiretap authority for exigent circumstances to prevent serious harm if judicial authorization is not available through the exercise of reasonable diligence.
Thus, section 184.4 is based on the accepted principle that, to quote the court:
||...the privacy interests of some may have to yield temporarily for the greater good of society—here, the protection of lives and property from harm that is both serious and imminent.
To further quote the court in the Tse decision:
|| Section 184.4 contains a number of legislative conditions. Properly construed, these conditions are designed to ensure that the power to intercept private communications without judicial authorization is available only in exigent circumstances to prevent serious harm. To that extent, the section strikes an appropriate balance between an individual's s. 8 Charter rights and society's interests in preventing serious harm.
This reasoning is consistent with Justice Lamer's observation in Godoy, which states that “dignity, integrity and autonomy” are values underlying the privacy interest; however, the interests of a person in need of police assistance are “closer to the core of the values of dignity, integrity and autonomy than the interest of the person who seeks to deny entry to police who arrive in response to a call for help”.
The court's main finding in Tse is that section 184.4 is unconstitutional because of the absence of a requirement to notify the person whose communications have been intercepted of the fact of that interception. This is in contrast to judicial authorizations obtained under sections 186 and 188 where the subject of the interception must be notified within 90 days.
While the court refused to rule on the need to tighten the definition of “peace officer” under section 184.4, arguing it lacked “a proper evidentiary foundation to determine the matter”, it did express “reservations about the wide range of people who, by virtue of the broad definition of 'peace officer', can invoke the extraordinary measures under s. 184.4”.
The term “peace officer” currently includes mayors, bailiffs, prison guards et cetera.
The Liberals nonetheless support the government's initiative in Bill C-55 to narrow the class of individuals who can make an interception under section 184.4. to mean police officers only, meaning an officer, constable or other person employed for the preservation and maintenance of the public peace. However, we wish to know if this narrowed class also includes private security guards of the type contracted more and more by municipalities to fill the reduction in their regular police coverage, for example, when regional municipalities cut police budgets or reassign police to other geographic areas.
Similarly, while the court ruled that there is no constitutional imperative for the government to report to Parliament on the use of section 184.4, we believe the requirement in Bill C-55 that this be done is a positive step, obviously, as it provides an important safeguard needed to balance the interests of the state in preventing harm and prosecuting crime with the obligation to protect section 8 charter rights.
Finally, we are a bit puzzled, however, as to why Bill C-55 limits section 184.4 interceptions to the large number of offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code. True, it was the opinion of Justice Davies, the trial judge in Tse, that section 184.4 should be limited to offences enumerated in section 183. However, the Supreme Court disagreed, in the appeal:
|| There may be situations that would justify interceptions under s. 184.4 for unlawful acts not enumerated in s. 183. We prefer the conclusion of Dambrot J. in Riley...that the scope of the unlawful act requirement is sufficiently, if not more, circumscribed for constitutional purposes, by the requirement that the unlawful act must be one that would cause serious harm to persons or property.... No meaningful additional protection of privacy would be gained by listing the unlawful acts that could give rise to such serious harm. The list of offences in s. 183 is itself very broad; however, Parliament chose to focus upon an unlawful act that would cause serious harm. We see no reason to interfere with that choice....
||...the serious harm threshold is a meaningful and significant legal restriction on s. 184.4 and is part of this Court’s jurisprudence in a number of different contexts....
||...this threshold is also consistent with the police practice surrounding s. 184.4.
It appears that Bill C-55 is an admission by the government that police forces already dispose of necessary legal powers to act to intercept incidents of cybercrime involving children or terrorism for that matter. We are thus a bit puzzled as to why the government went ahead and introduced Bill C-30 only to withdraw it.
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the excellent, elegant, hard-working and resourceful member for Halifax. She will be using the second half of the time allotted for this speech, so we will have the opportunity to hear from her.
I am rising after the member for Gatineau, who gave a wonderful speech about this issue.
We will be supporting this bill at second reading. However, it is unbelievable that the government is introducing a bill now, even though it knew for a year that changes were needed.
The Conservatives did nothing for a year. They introduced Bill C-30, which the public clearly rejected. The government even tried to denounce those who were opposed to their ill-conceived bill. The government reacted, but luckily, pressure from the Canadian people eventually forced it to abandon the bill.
Now the Conservatives have introduced Bill C-55, only 19 days before the deadline of April 13, 2013, which was imposed by the Supreme Court.
We have 19 days in total to debate it at second reading and to examine it in committee. We have 19 days to hear from witnesses from all over and to do the clause-by-clause study in order to avoid problems and ensure that the Supreme Court does not have to deal with another botched bill from this government. We have 19 days to get to third reading, to consider proposed amendments and to have a final debate and vote. That is completely ridiculous, when we have known for a full year that the government had work to do on this.
Once again, the government did not do its job. This is not the first time. We on this side of the House see this as a real problem.
As the hon. member for Gatineau put it so well, this government's bills are botched, improvised, flawed and nonsensical.
When our work is not done in the House, when witnesses do not have time to come and share their expertise, and when members do not have time to do the clause-by-clause and amend a bill based on what witnesses tell us, what happens?
True to form, the government moves a closure motion, and the bill passes, even if it is a bad, improvised bill. Canadian taxpayers are then forced to pay judges to examine the merits of the bill.
When the government does not do its job and disrespects the opposition members, Canada as a whole pays the price. Now the Supreme Court has to examine several Conservative bills that are botched, flawed and improvised. In fact, the Conservatives introduced yet another botched bill here today.
The Conservatives continue to have an attitude of entitlement. They think that they can introduce any bill in the House and that it does not matter if it is flawed. As a result, we end up spending a lot more time and tax dollars to fix these botched bills than we would if the Conservatives were disciplined and did their homework properly from the start. I think that Canadians are fed up with this.
That is one of the many reasons why more and more Canadians are saying that they look forward to 2015, when they will be able to get rid of this government and bring in a government that will introduce well-written bills, listen to witnesses and amend its bills accordingly.
In a democracy, it takes time to listen to the opinions of people across this diverse country and to fine-tune bills.
The government is being irresponsible and taking that time away from us. Even if we could work together since the deadline is 19 days away, the reality is that, if the government refuses to co-operate and tries to impose its opinion, then we will once again end up with a Conservative bill that is likely to be challenged in the courts.
If the government refuses to co-operate and tries to impose its opinion, we will once again end up with a Conservative bill that will be challenged in the courts, as we heard this morning and as we have been seeing for months. That is not what Canadians want. They want us to take the time to do things right here in Parliament.
We now have 19 days to put forward this piece of legislation. We have 19 days to get through every single level of speaking, hear from witnesses and get through all of this work. All of this could have been avoided if the government had simply done its work a year ago. After the judgment came forward from the Supreme Court, the government could have moved forward in a responsible way. It chose not to.
Yet again, we have the Conservatives basically asking the NDP to fix the mistakes they have made. Very many Canadians are looking forward to the day when we will not have to have Conservative mistakes fixed, when we will have an NDP government that can bring forward legislation that actually meets that test and receives the consent of the population.
I want to talk about the broader justice agenda. Bill C-55 is part of it. It is symptomatic of just how bad the Conservatives are on justice issues. We had crime prevention programs in the country that were doing a remarkable job. Crime prevention programs are a good investment for Canadians. When we put $1 into crime prevention, we save $6 later on in policing costs, court costs and prison costs. For every buck put into crime prevention, we see a $6 return. More importantly, we do not see victims, because the crime is never committed in the first place. That has always been the foundation of how the NDP has approached justice issues.
What did the Conservatives do? They gutted crime prevention programs. They destroyed them across the country. In my area and elsewhere, Conservatives have gutted the funding that would allow crime prevention programs to stop the crime before it is even committed, to stop having victims because the crime is not committed, saving $6 in policing costs, court costs and prison costs for every $1 spent on crime prevention.
The Conservatives have done far more in a negative way for Canada. The whole issue of putting more front-line police officers in place was a commitment made by our former leader, Jack Layton, and by the Conservatives before the last election. What have the Conservatives done? Nothing. They have failed on that front-line policing duty.
Most egregious, and there is only one way to put this, is the Conservatives' complete lack of respect for our nation's police officers and firefighters in terms of the public safety officer compensation fund. Members will recall that six years ago, before the Conservatives were elected, they voted for and committed to putting in place a public safety officer compensation program so that when our nation's police officers or firefighters are killed in the line of duty, killed protecting the Canadian public, their families are taken care of.
Since that time, I have talked to families who have lost their homes, kids who have had to quit university, and spouses who have had to try to put something together to keep the family together, because the Conservatives broke their promise to the nation's police officers and firefighters. For six long years now, firefighters and police officers have been coming to Parliament Hill. For six long years, the Conservatives have given them nothing more than the back of their hands. That is deplorable.
In 2015, when an NDP government is elected, what we are going to see is respect for the nation's police officers and firefighters. We are going to see in place a public safety officer compensation fund. We will never again see the families of our nation's police officers and firefighters left to fend for themselves because the federal government does not respect them and does not care about them.
We in the NDP take a different approach on these issues. We actually believe that bills should be brought forward in the House of Commons in a respectful way. We should hear from witnesses, improve the legislation, and make sure that it is not the type of legislation that is then subject to court challenges just to fix the mistakes the government has made.
We would take a more mature and more professional approach to justice issues. Like so many other Canadians, I can hardly wait for 2015.
Ms. Megan Leslie (Halifax, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I want to note the heckling from the other side about “hug-a-thug” and that kind of nonsense. It is pretty depressing to be here and to hear that kind of talk, when it is very clear that the hecklers on the other side have not actually read this legislation and do not really know what it is about. This is a serious issue in front of us. This is a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, which has instructed Parliament to change the Criminal Code of Canada.
Let us do a legal analysis of the bill. We will start with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Specifically, let us start with section 8, which provides that everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure. There are very few words, but there is a lot packed into that section.
The courts have held that a search without a warrant is unreasonable. The standard for determining whether a search is reasonable is to have it brought before a judge. There must be a neutral and impartial party, such as a judge, who can determine if a search is unreasonable. However, the courts have noted, in particular Justice Dickson in Hunter v. Southam that:
|| [I]t may not be reasonable in every instance to insist on prior authorization in order to validate governmental intrusions upon individuals' expectations of privacy. Nevertheless, where it is feasible to obtain prior authorization, I would hold that such authorization is a precondition for a valid search and seizure.
However, there is also a long line of case law that states that judicial authorization can actually be waived if there is potential for serious and immediate harm or exigent circumstances. I use those words purposely: serious and immediate harm. For example, when a person calls 911, the police are actually permitted to enter the home without a warrant. Why? It is because it has been held that the police duty to protect life warrants and justifies a forced entry into the home in order to figure out if the person is safe. Section 184 of the code says that violations of privacy are against the law, but then we say that this can be violated or waived with judicial authority. However, judicial authority can be waived if there is potential for serious and immediate harm. That is the chain of thinking.
Bill C-55 is an attempt to update the wiretapping provisions in section 184.4 of the Criminal Code. Why? The government is making an attempt to update the code after the Supreme Court of Canada's decision R. v. Tse struck down the wiretapping provisions in the Criminal Code because they violated section 8 of the charter, which I described, which is the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.
It is worth noting that the court gave us the deadline of April 13, 2013 to correct the decision, but here we are in February 2013 debating this legislation.
I will move on to the analysis. Before we can analyze Bill C-55 and the government's proposal, we need to take a close look at what the Supreme Court said about section 184.4. We need to understand the problems with section 184.4 and why it was struck down if we are going to be able to understand whether this attempt by the government actually fixes those problems or whether we are going to have the same constitutional problems.
The court stated that:
|| [I]n principle, it would seem that Parliament may craft a narrow emergency wiretap authority for exigent circumstances to prevent serious harm if judicial authorization is not available through the exercise of reasonable diligence.
These are lots of words, but let us unpack them.
When section 184.4 made its way through Parliament in 1993, there was testimony at committee about the need for this kind of emergency power for situations such as hostage takings, bomb threats and armed standoffs. These are pretty serious situations. There was also testimony that this was necessary for very short periods of time during which it might be possible to actually stop that threat and prevent harm from occurring.
I will return later to the phrase “peace officers” in the wording of section 184.4.
Peace officers may only use the power to wiretap without judicial authority if they believe, on reasonable grounds, that the urgency of the situation is such that authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision in the part, so there are four key concepts there.
What happened? The Supreme Court of Canada found that section 184.4 does not meet accountability standards because it does not provide any accountability measures. If we think about it, wiretapping is not at all like a 911 emergency call.
I want to quote something important from the decision.
The Supreme Court of Canada quoted Justice Davies who, I believe, wrote the court of appeal decision:
|| The interception of private communications in exigent circumstances is not like situations of hot pursuit, entry into a dwelling place to respond to a 9-1-1 call, or searches incidental to arrest when public safety is engaged. In those circumstances, the person who has been the subject of a search will immediately be aware of both the circumstances and consequences of police action. The invasion of privacy by interception of private communications will, however, be undetectable, unknown and undiscoverable by those targeted unless the state seeks to rely on the results of its intentionally secretive activities in a subsequent prosecution.
In other words, it would actually come out in court. In this case, however, a person could actually be wiretapped and never know it. There is no accountability here.
Another piece that the Supreme Court quoted was the intervener, the Criminal Lawyers Association, and I think this is really interesting:
||...notice is neither irrelevant to section 8 protection, nor is it a “weak” way of protecting section 8 rights, simply because it occurs after the invasion of privacy. A requirement of after-the-fact notice casts a constitutionally important light back on the statutorily authorised intrusion. The right to privacy implies not just freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, but also the ability to identify and challenge such invasions, and to seek a meaningful remedy. Notice would enhance all these interests. In the case of a secret warrantless wiretap, notice to intercepted person stands almost alone as an external safeguard.
As we can see, it is not at all like a 911 call, and we need to have notice. As was pointed out, notice after the fact is still notice. There needs to be an accountability provision, and the Supreme Court of Canada found that Parliament actually failed to provide adequate safeguards to address the issue of accountability in relation to unwarranted wiretaps and went on to outline why this charter breach was not saved by section 1 of the charter.
Parliament was tasked with drafting a constitutionally compliant provision. How has the government attempted to deal with these accountability provisions?
It did introduce a new provision that the authorization should be reported back to Parliament by the Minister of Public Safety.
Like any law student, I took criminal law, but I am far from a criminal law expert. However, it strikes me that this might actually be a creative way of addressing this issue, the issue of accountability.
Offhand, I cannot think of any similar accountability provisions whereby the accountability problem is solved through annual reports to Parliament. In a way it reminds me a bit of a sunset clause, when legislation is debated and is brought back to the House for debate again, but at the same time, it is really quite different. Through this way of dealing with the report, quite a number of details would be introduced in section 195 of the Criminal Code.
It is interesting, it is potentially very creative, and I am curious about how it would work. My first instinct is to think that it just might work, but then I remember where I am. I am in the House of Commons in the 41st Parliament, with a Conservative government that refuses to accept amendments to legislation, that invokes closure or time allocation to stifle debate, that buries important legislative policies and changes in omnibus legislation.
I would like to see the bill go to committee not just to find out if this is a creative and interesting accountability solution that might work but also to find out if it would work in the context of a government that has such disdain for parliamentary oversight.
I cannot say I have the answer to those questions right now, but I really do think Canadians have good reason to be concerned about the legislation, because the government's record on privacy is not very encouraging.
I very much look forward to the testimony at committee.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to rise and indicate that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.
I appreciated and enjoyed the presentation from the member for Halifax, who has the constituency adjacent to mine. I know that she and her constituents enjoy looking across at the wonderful constituency of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
We were provided some wonderful information about the Supreme Court decision that led to Bill C-55. I do not have the capacity to engage in the type of legal analysis my colleague did. However, on the question of legislative procedure, there is a need for all members of this House to understand what their responsibilities are and to ensure that they follow through on those responsibilities, so that each and every piece of legislation tabled in this House does not leave the House unless it has been fully examined and vetted and until we have ensured that it is the best possible piece of legislation that it can be.
These are the laws of our country. These are the laws that affect all of our constituents. These are the laws that will continue to exist long after we have left here. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that we dot the is and cross the ts so that a piece of legislation does not leave here and immediately get struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada, for example, because we did not show due diligence.
Members should understand that this bill, which is a direct response to a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, is being introduced in this House with a time limit of 19 sitting days to deal with it. It is absurd that the government, in all seriousness, would expect members of this House to deal with a piece of legislation of this magnitude—one as detailed and specific as this is, and one with such serious ramifications for privacy and for the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Canada—in 19 sitting days. That means the justice committee will have about two days to examine this important piece of legislation.
Let us not forget that the current government does not have a very good record when it comes to issues of privacy or when it comes to introducing legislation and trying to ram it through this House.
We have already seen provisions in some of its justice legislation struck down and seriously questioned by some of the courts in this land. We know what happened to the bill that was supposed to take care of this, the bill that preceded this, Bill C-30, which was tabled approximately a year ago in this House. It was torqued up by the minister, who tabled it in such a partisan, mean and ugly manner that Canadians from one end of this country to the other responded with outrage at the manner in which the government and that minister were dealing with such a sensitive and important issue to all Canadians.
They spoke with one voice. They said that it was simply unacceptable that the Government of Canada would deal with a very important issue in such a partisan and irresponsible manner. It was later determined, as people sifted through the details of the legislation, that the government did not do what it said it would do, that it was flawed in so many ways that finally the minister and the government tried to kick it under the carpet, pretend they had never tabled it and that they did not know what people were talking about when discussing the infamous Bill C-30.
What I remember, and I suggest what many members on this side and many Canadians remember, was the second attempt, in part to deal with something that Bill C-30 was supposedly to deal with. The government tells us not to worry, that it has been dealt with it, that it has responded to what the Supreme Court of Canada has said, that it has been very specific, that it has limited it to the particular provision as it relates to section 184.4 and that it has it covered. Therefore, there is no need for members to be concerned or engage in a great deal of debate, so we do not need a lot of time.
The NDP critic, who gave such an eloquent and informative speech at the beginning of this debate, suggested that the government often introduced legislation with a sense of arrogance and knowing what was best: regardless of the members opposite and the constituents they represented had to say, the Conservatives were the ones who had all the answers, so when they brought in legislation that they said was good to go, we should say “fine” and let it go. However, that is not what we were sent here to do.
The government has shown that we have to be on our toes because it does not do its job. It has been raised in the House by members on this side on a number of occasions. They wonder why the government does not properly vet legislation. We understand that the demands of the Supreme Court are such that we are not, with completely certainty, able to say that a piece of drafted legislation will pass muster in the Supreme Court of Canada. Surely the government takes the time, and we have not had the answer, to ensure there has been some examination and sense of proportionality that any particular piece of legislation will pass muster in the Supreme Court of Canada, but it has not given us that assurance.
In terms of the legislation the government has presented to the House since May of 2011, much of it has been flawed in detail and substance. It sometimes seems that when the government produces legislation, it is more concerned with the title and politics of the legislation than it is with the details, the substance, the implications and the impact that changing the laws of our country will have on Canadians. That is very much a case of the government thumbing its nose at members of the chamber.
On initial review of this bill, we hope it will do what the government says it will in relation to the Supreme Court decision. There will be an examination of the bill at the justice committee. Let us hope we get the opportunity to examine the bill to ensure that when it heads out of the House, we have made sure it is in fact the best piece of legislation it can be.