Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I'm pleased to be here on , the identity theft bill. It has received widespread support. I've been quite encouraged by the response we have had to the bill, and why not, Mr. Chairman? We are trying to catch up with changes in technology. There have been very many rapid changes, as you know. Our job is to try to stay on top of them.
I was in Montreal a couple of months ago and indicated the government's intention to introduce a bill on identity theft. One reporter said to me, “Is this your attempt to stay ahead of the bad guys?” I said, “Look, I want to make sure we catch up with the bad guys.”
What happens is with changes in technology...you've got wording that's been in the Criminal Code since 1892, in some cases--and it wasn't new in 1892, as I like to point out to people; it was adopted then.
Our challenge as legislators is to try to make sure that the legislation stays up to date. In fairness, we've always had a number of identity-based offences. Those offences that are in the Criminal Code include impersonation, forgery of identity documents, and secondary offences such as fraud. We also have some offences to protect specific forms of identification, such as the Canadian passport.
This bill makes changes to modernize these long-standing offences, but its main focus is the creation of new offences that focus specifically on abuses of identification and identity information. These new offences do not depend on whether other crimes are committed with the information, and they can be applied before the offenders have a chance to misuse it.
We believe this is important for several reasons. First, it recognizes that in the modern era, identity crimes generate a couple of groups of victims. The harm to victims of secondary offences has always been addressed by such offences as fraud, but there is also harm to those whose identity has been misused and misappropriated. Reputations, creditworthiness, and even criminal liability may be affected. False information can spread quickly, and we should realize it's not just across Canada but across international borders as well. These victims suffer harm whether or not other crimes are committed with the identity information. That damage, as I'm sure you're aware, can be very difficult to correct.
The bill recognizes these victims in two ways. The new offences criminalize the actual taking and trafficking in victims' identities, which means the police can investigate and intervene at an earlier stage, without waiting for offenders to actually use those identities for other crimes.
We are also proposing an amendment to allow the cost of repairing or restoring identity to be included in restitution orders.
Second, the proposed new measures will close gaps created by new technologies and new crimes.
Physical documents are property and taking them is theft, but simply copying electronic information is not addressed by traditional property offences. In serious cases, digital identities have been taken en masse and then criminally trafficked as a new form of illicit and valuable commodity. Credit card information is skimmed directly from cards or taken from databases and sold internationally, using e-mail and the Internet.
Criminal groups have also learned to specialize and to cooperate with one another. One may steal or fabricate information; another may produce physical or electronic documents for sale; the end users of the identities then commit other crimes with them. In transnational schemes, offenders can carry out key functions on websites offering the open sale of false identities in countries where legislation or law enforcement is weak.
The proposed amendments respond to both these problems. For the first time in Canada, we are proposing a definition and offences based on the underlying concept of identity information. These will apply to taking or copying the actual information itself and not just documents containing the information.
Adding specific offences also means that every stage of the process is addressed, including obtaining information, making illicit documents, trafficking in both the documents and information, and illicit use of the documents or information. This is the aspect of this bill that I have had law enforcement agencies across this country point out to me as a step in the right direction, because it's a complete package that we have to talk about. We have to get everybody all the way along. This ensures that the criminal law applies, even if only part of the scheme takes place here in Canada. I think that's very important.
Third, from a more practical standpoint, the new offences enable law enforcement agencies to become engaged in earlier aspects of the criminal enterprise, and I think this is what they like so much about it. These new offences will provide additional deterrence focused specifically on identity crime. They will provide an additional tool against criminal activity, including major frauds, crimes related to immigration, smuggling of immigrants, trafficking in persons, money laundering, organized crime, and terrorism.
And fourth, identity-related crime, as you know, is an expanding problem at the international level. Credit cards may be copied or skimmed here in Canada and that information can be transferred abroad in minutes. Long before the cardholder or card issuer is even aware that the information has been compromised, it can be used to commit crimes and fraud in other parts of the world. The government has been actively engaged in raising this issue in international fora for some time. A few other countries have enacted identity crime offences or are considering them.
By bringing forward these amendments, Canada will be sending a strong signal to other countries that we take the problem seriously and that we are committed to doing something about it. The proposed maximum sentences for the major offences also ensure that the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which Canada ratified in 2002, will allow us to seek mutual legal assistance, extradition, and other forms of international cooperation in cases where an offence is transnational in nature and involves a criminal organization.
I would propose to leave some of the more technical amendments for your questions, of course, but let me now turn to what I believe are the key amendments in this package.
The first of these would form a new section 56.1 and would criminalize the procurement, possession, transfer and sale or offering for sale of specific physical identity documents. At present, simply possessing or trafficking in another person's identity documents is not a crime, and we believe it should be, subject to the appropriate exceptions. We have thought very carefully about those exceptions, and you'll see them listed in the bill. I think they all make sense.
As an added safeguard, the offence also allows for other lawful excuses of a more general nature. For example, a person caught trying to enter Canada with a collection of different passports might trigger an investigation, but obviously a parent in possession of a child's passport would have a lawful and reasonable excuse.
The second key amendment expands the existing offence of uttering forged documents. This would now include trafficking in forged documents and the possession of forged documents with the intent to traffic or use them. This is subject to the definition of document, which includes both physical and electronic documents.
The third key amendment and a most important change in this package is composed of three elements: the establishment of a new definition of identity information; a new offence of identity theft; and the modernization and expansion of the old offence of personation, resulting in a new offence of identity fraud.
Existing criminal law does not extend to merely taking or copying personal information or trafficking in it as an illicit commodity unless other offences are committed with it. The proposed new identity theft offence deals primarily with obtaining or possessing identity information in circumstances that show intent to commit one of a series of other related offences.
A similar offence will be established to cover trafficking in such information, knowing or believing it will be used for one of those same offences. To address the problem of false identity information being used to deceive others, the proposed offence of identity fraud focuses on the misuse of identity information for an improper purpose, such as evading criminal liability or to gain some advantage for the offender or to disadvantage the victim. This is an expansion of the existing personation offence, adding scenarios related to the offender's misuse of the information in ways other than actual impersonation.
Finally, in proposing these amendments the government realizes that officials from legitimate investigative agencies often must conceal their identities or impersonate others in the course of undercover investigations. To address this, legitimate investigative agencies are excluded from the new offences for otherwise unlawful conduct undertaken in the course of their duties or employment.
The proposed exemptions do not change the status quo or extend new investigative powers. I want to be clear about that. They merely ensure that our capacity to ensure the law and protect Canadians is not adversely affected by the changes we are proposing.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my summary of the legislation.
I am here with the officials to respond to any questions or comments you may have.
Let me just take your last question first, Mr. Komarnicki. There were three parts to it.
I didn't have the name right in front of me. It was the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime. That was what the Government of Canada ratified in 2002. That will allow us to seek mutual legal assistance from other like-minded countries that have signed on to this. Part of our object in drafting this is to make sure we comply with the convention, and by complying with the convention, it puts us in a position where we can ask for extradition assistance from other countries, because we're talking about the same thing. I think there has been certainly a greater recognition in recent years that to the extent that we can harmonize our laws with the laws of other like-minded countries, we're moving in the right direction.
That leads me to the second part of your question. You'll find that when you deal with the Criminal Code, first of all, you're dealing with a document that is 116 years of age. It wasn't new in 1892; it was a collection of a number of statutes that were put together. Making sure it's updated has been a constant challenge. When I was here back in the eighties, one of my colleagues, Blaine Thacker, talked about completely revising it, redoing the whole Criminal Code, and modernizing it. That's a daunting task. It would be a huge undertaking, but it made a lot of sense at the time.
The approach we are taking, of course, is to look at the sections, try to keep up with the technological changes, and come forward with those amendments. We tried to be as broad as we could with respect to the inclusions. We listed a lot of examples. You'll see a couple of grocery lists in a couple of sections of the bill where we try to capture what is used today as information.
I'm keenly aware, as you are, as implied by your question, that you must constantly revisit these things to make sure. You have Criminal Code sections that talk about telegrams and telegraphs. This is very outmoded, and again, we have to stay on top of these.
Again, one of the things we most welcome about this is that you are getting those people who are at the preparatory stage. As I indicated, I think to Madam Freeman, in talking, for instance, with the Montreal police force, they're saying they uncover these schemes, but the people who are in Canada many times are not subject to the present Criminal Code. They get rid of this information outside the country, and this information is used for improper and illegal purposes outside of Canada. It makes it very difficult then to deal with this. This is why I think this will be very welcome.
In terms of your comments with respect to international cooperation, if part of the offence is being committed in Canada and part of it's in the United States or Europe or another place, it will be welcome because we'll be able to take action against those individuals who are part of this, just as they will, rather than the present situation, where many times the police have to throw up their hands because the present Criminal Code doesn't cover those provisions.
So you're right, it's a comprehensive approach to a very specific issue, and it will be most welcome.
I would be glad to, Mr. Dykstra, and you being a member from the Niagara area, with four border crossings, are particularly attuned to all issues in terms of identity documents and passports in light of the western hemisphere initiative south of the border.
That being said, Canada, unlike the United States, Britain, and a number of countries, has continued for many years to issue passports for a period of five years. It creates a number of challenges. It creates a number of opportunities. By having passports that will expire fairly quickly, it allows the government to get new technology into the system a little quicker than if they had to wait 10 years to get rid of an older passport. So that indeed is what the government has done.
With the five-year passport, while there were some advantages in the sense of the technology changes, it was challenging for some individuals. It takes you a while to get the passport issued. You really don't have it for five years; it's four years plus. Even in my own constituency of Niagara Falls, I've had a number of senior citizens who have indicated to me that they'd like to have had that for 10 years. They're away; they're travelling, and to be constantly having to update it presents some challenges to them.
That being said, this is a security measure, and you'll see that the provisions recently announced in Parliament make specific reference to increasing the security provisions of those passports. That goes hand in hand with increasing the period of time from five years to 10 years. I'm sure you advise your constituents, as we all do, that whether we like it or not, this is becoming an important document that people have to have. People who travel by planes know this, but increasingly now those who cross international borders by car are coming to the realization that they have to have this. This has been something that's been in process for quite some time, and it's an important document.
There are specific provisions within this legislation that I was very pleased to have in it. There are different provisions that call upon you to come up with an explanation for what you're doing with other people's passports or other government-issued documentation. And why shouldn't the onus be on you? We're careful. In fact, in the example I gave in my opening remarks, I said, as we all have done, a parent might be handling three or four or five passports if they have all their children with them. Well, they have a legitimate reason to be crossing an international border with a number of passports in their possession because of course they have their family with them. But quite apart from something obvious like that, we do want to put an onus on you to explain what you're doing with government-issued identification. So as I say, there are slightly different provisions and tests with respect to government documentation than with other information. But I think that is as it should be.
So I appreciate your comments and your question on that. I hope my comments underscore how important that document is for a number of reasons.
I'd be pleased to do that. I didn't want to take up Mr. Bagnell's time because he had other issues.
A lawyer friend of mine suggested that when people get calls about anything they're uncomfortable with, just say, “No, thank you, I'm not interested.” You never deviate from the script. No matter what the person says to you afterward, you say, “No, thank you, I'm not interested.”
My experience is that about 80% to 90% of people give up after you've said the same thing twice, and almost 100% of them give up after you've said it the third time.
I used to give them a little card and say put this beside your telephone, and if somebody calls you and you're uncomfortable talking about it on the phone, you keep repeating the same lines: “No, thank you, I'm not interested. No, thank you, I'm not interested.” And that's good enough.
That's the suggestion I always make to people, Mr. Moore.
People are entitled to make their own decisions about where they spend their money or what information they give. They should never be put in a position where they're uncomfortable or compromised.
We, in this country, are very, very polite. We don't want to cut people off who are intruding, in many cases, into personal information. I encourage people to say the same thing over again, and that generally works.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I certainly appreciate the insights we've had here.
I have a few questions in regard to this legislation. I'm just wondering about this. The way the Criminal Code is currently laid out, we have an offence for murder, but we have another offence for attempted murder.
When I'm reading through this documentation, I don't see anything here that.... I see a few words about attempt, but it's attempt after they've already procured or garnered some personal information. I don't see anything in here that actually would result in investigators being able to lay a charge if someone is even attempting to procure or steal or collect personal identification. All the offences seem to deal with the information once it's already in their possession--for example, “Every person who, fraudulently and without colour of right, possesses, uses, traffics in or permits”. But there is nothing in that subsection 130(3). And as I go through, there are a few other clauses in here where it talks about nefarious activities once the information is actually collected, but there doesn't seem to be anything that addresses an attempt.
I'm very, very much concerned, coming from a bit of an IT background, about the ability to hack into information systems or the attempt of hacking into information systems to collect information. I know there have been several cases in recent months where large retail stores have lost large amounts of credit card information or have had large amounts of credit card information taken from their databases.
That brings up another whole can of fish I really don't want to get into right now, which is whether or not it's ethical for companies to keep credit card information they don't really need, because the transaction can happen without them keeping the credit card.
But on the attempted part, is there anything in the changes that are proposed here, or is there anything else in the Criminal Code that would allow an attempt at garnering this information to be considered an offence?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, colleagues.
I'm conscious of the fact that the bell is going to ring for a vote soon; therefore, I'll be very brief.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to move the following motion, notice of which was given last week to the committee. The motion, of which the committee has a copy in English et en français évidemment, would read as follows:
||That, in order to determine whether Section 119 of the Criminal Code and Section 41 of the Parliament of Canada Act currently serve as effective deterrents in preventing attempts to bribe Members of Parliament, this committee hold additional meetings specifically for the purpose of conducting an immediate study into allegations that Chuck Cadman was offered financial inducements in exchange for voting with the Conservatives in the House of Commons.
Mr. Chair, that would be the text of the motion. I understand a colleague may wish to make a friendly amendment in a second.
Mr. Chairman, you'll notice that we've asked for additional meetings. Many colleagues have been at this table longer than I have, and I respect that this committee has, up until now, and certainly from my experience at the committee, worked in a collegial, non-partisan way, with a very heavy agenda because of the legislation that ultimately is referred to this committee. In no way are we seeking to disrupt that process. We're not seeking, I hope, to make the committee more partisan than necessary. That's why we'd like additional meetings.
Mr. Chairman, in our view, there should be three or four additional meetings. That would probably conclude the matter. And if this motion passes, we would then hope the steering committee could quickly look at a list of witnesses and schedule perhaps our first meeting for the beginning of April.
Merci, monsieur le président.
Thank you, Mr. LeBlanc.
I have had an opportunity to look at your motion and I do have a judgment, which I would like to put forward.
I would first begin by saying that I am going to rule the motion out of order, but I do have an explanation.
I rule along two points, the first being that this motion falls outside the mandate of this committee. Second, this motion requires the committee to act in a manner contrary to the purpose it was created for.
On the first point, in relation to the mandate of this committee, it is clear that the procedure and House affairs committee is where this study should be taking place. I will save members from reading the entire Standing Order related to mandates for committees, but I will draw your attention to Standing Order 108(2) which reads:
||The standing committees, except those set out in sections (3)(a), (3)(f), 3(h) and (4) of this Standing Order, shall, in addition to the powers granted to them pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order and pursuant to Standing Order 81, be empowered to study and report on all matters relating to the mandate, management and operation of the department or departments of government which are assigned to them from time to time by the House. In general, the committees shall be severally empowered to review and report on:
||(a) the statute law relating to the department assigned to them;
||(b) the program and policy objectives of the department and its effectiveness in the implementation of same;
|| (c) the immediate, medium and long-term expenditure plans and the effectiveness of implementation of same by the department;
|| (d) an analysis of the relative success of the department, as measured by the results obtained as compared with its stated objectives; and
||(e) other matters, relating to the mandate, management, organization or operation of the department, as the committee deems fit.
As committee members can see, there is no fodder here for an investigation into specific events outside the management and effectiveness of the justice department. The justice department is responsible for drafting legislation, not the implementation or application of that legislation. That would be a matter for the public safety committee, which oversees law enforcement agencies.
On the same point, members are quite aware that the central figure in this business was Mr. Chuck Cadman. As a member of Parliament, Mr. Cadman was subject to the conflict of interest code, which members know is part of the mandate of the procedure and House affairs committee. Under Standing Order 108(3)(a)(viii), the procedure and House affairs committee is mandated to review and report on all matters relating to the conflict of interest code for members of the House of Commons.
This motion also explicitly names section 41 of the Parliament of Canada Act. As the department assigned to procedure and House affairs is Parliament itself, the provisions of 108(2)(a), which delegates the statute law relating to the department assigned to them, clearly relegate the Parliament of Canada Act to the procedure and House affairs committee.
While there is no specific mention of this fact in the motion, it has clearly been alleged in the House of Commons in relation to events named in this motion that the then leader of the opposition had a role to play in these events. While there has yet to be any definitive proof of the member's involvement, and the claims made thus far are more defamatory than they are substantive, that member would also have to be investigated under both the Parliament of Canada Act and the conflict of interest code for a member of Parliament, again putting this study under the mandate of procedure and House affairs.
With regard to my second reason, it is my ruling that this motion requires the justice committee to do something beyond what the committee was created to do. This motion would require our committee to act as a trier of fact, which is the role of the judiciary and should be respected as such. As we all know, the courts are charged with applying and interpreting the law and not with creating the law. In response, the House of Commons and the membership thereof is expected to create laws and to review the findings of the courts to see if those laws are adequate.
It is a well-established principle that neither parliamentary committees nor the Speaker of the House is in a position to determine questions of fact. Indeed, when disputes as to questions of fact have arisen in the House, the Speaker has consistently taken the position that he is simply not prepared to rule in favour of one member against another. Similarly, this committee is not a trier of fact and should not be expected to make such determinations.
A parliamentary committee can hardly be expected to be an unbiased, impartial body. Further, the rules of its operation and the limited questioning opportunities inherent in our rules of order simply do not allow for proper cross-examination or fact-finding as is customarily found within a judicial or quasi-judicial entity. I'd suggest that we would all be in agreement with the statement that we are neither properly trained on this committee nor in a position to make any such determinations as to matters of fact. It's one of the basic tenets of parliamentary law that the Speaker, and by extension parliamentary committees, does not engage in such matters that would require him, them, or us to make such determinations of fact.
I think it would be self-evident that this committee is not in a position to make any kind of legal ruling to consider issues of legalities or to make pronouncements as to operational intricacies of legislation and regulations. The committee isn't a court. It's not a tribunal. Its personnel and its membership are not legally trained. I don't think we could be described as being entirely unbiased or non-partisan. Therefore, this matter is a matter for the courts to decide. As no judicial or quasi-judicial body has made a finding on this topic, this committee cannot commence with a review of the effectiveness of this clause until such a finding is made. This motion is deficient and out of order.
On a personal note, I would like to make the observation that this committee has worked well in the past despite the various partisan positions that members have brought to this committee. We have always agreed to debate legislation when it was handed to us. I would hate to see this committee descend into political gamesmanship, which has ground so many of the other committees to a halt.
Our committee is responsible for a significant load of both government and private members legislation. That is what our committee is tasked with and this is what Canadians sent us to Ottawa to accomplish. I would be very disappointed if our committee was turned into a partisan witch hunt that went down the road of unsubstantiated scandal for the sake of electoral grandstanding.
For these reasons, I find this motion out of order.