Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak again on this matter.
Before I came to this House, I was a member of the Durham Regional Police Services Board. When I was there, I had the opportunity obviously on a regular basis to talk with officers around the changing technologies and the fact that our laws simply had not kept pace. People were committing fraud online or hiding behind anonymity on Internet service providers and performing serious crimes, and the police simply could not follow them.
I was first elected in 2004 and when I came to Parliament, I was pleased to support the work of the then Liberal government to create what was the modernization of investigative techniques act. That bill which was introduced in 2005 is ostensibly what is before the House today in both bills, Bill and Bill , which is now being debated. Unfortunately, in 2005 the Conservatives precipitated an election and that killed the bill.
The member for then reintroduced that as a private member's bill in the next session and again that bill was killed when the walked to the Governor General's office and then killed that legislation.
In this session of Parliament that same Liberal member of Parliament introduced that Liberal legislation yet again. We had to wait until the end of the last session before the Conservatives finally introduced it.
As I said, just before we began question period, it is a little rich to me that the Conservatives would be going on about the imperative need to pass the bill and how much it is needed for police and how critical it is when they in fact have had four years to introduce it and are the ones responsible for killing it in various stages at various moments in time.
When they finally did introduce it, they introduced it in the last week the House was sitting before summer when there was no opportunity to debate it, there was no opportunity to move it forward. Now, it has been left until the end of October before we are finally dealing with the bill.
It shows that the Conservatives' commitment to the bill is fragile at best. In fact, we have seen what they do on criminal justice matters. They introduce bills and let them languish on the order paper. Then they wait for a scandal or a problem to hit and then they seek refuge in those same crime bills, suddenly bringing them back with great urgency saying they need to be dealt with immediately and any opposition party that dares to ask a question on them is somehow soft on crime.
The facts do not measure up. The facts are that they have allowed these things to languish for years and something that should have been dealt with, the Liberal legislation that was introduced so long ago, has meant that those people are committing online fraud and the police officers who need those additional investigative techniques and tools have been left without them as the government has completely failed them.
I think it is important to note as well that this is not the only area where we have seen this problem with the government. I spoke a great deal yesterday about the importance of these new investigative techniques for police. My intention is not today to repeat all of those comments but to make a comment more generally on the direction the Conservatives are heading on crime.
Today, in the public safety and national security committee we had a couple of different witnesses. One of the witnesses was Dr. Craig Jones who is the executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada. His insights into the direction in which the government is heading on crime I think is very telling. I will quote from his comments today. He said at the beginning of his statement:
My second audience is the future. I suffer no illusions that I will be able to alter the course of this government’s crime agenda--which legislative components contradict evidence, logic, effectiveness, justice and humanity. The government has repeatedly signalled that its crime agenda will not be influenced by evidence of what does and does not actually reduce crime and create safer communities.
What we heard as well from Mr. Stewart along with Michael Jackson, who wrote a report about the government's broken direction on corrections and crime, is that we are walking down the same road that the Americans embarked on in the early 1980s, when Republicans came forward and presented the same type of one-type solution for crime, which is incarceration, more incarceration and only incarceration.
If we did not have that example and the example that was in the United Kingdom, perhaps the Conservatives would be forgiven for thinking that would work. The reality of the United States is that this is a catastrophic disaster. In fact, the governor of California is now saying the state is being crushed under the weight of the mistake of these decisions, that the prisons are literally overflowing. The supreme court of California had to release thousands of offenders into the streets because the prisons simply had no room for them.
We also see that these prisons become crime factories. Minor criminals go in often for drug-related crimes, break and enters or smaller but still serious crimes, but instead of getting help for the addiction or mental health issues they face, they get sent into prison environments where they learn to be much worse criminals. We could make the analogy of putting in a butter knife and getting out a machine gun.
In fact, in committee today the director of the John Howard Society quoted an individual who deals with aboriginal inmates and said that our prison systems are turning into “gladiator schools”. He stated:
So our federal prisons have become “gladiator schools” where we train young men in the art of extreme violence or where we warehouse mentally ill people. All of this was foreseeable by anyone who cared to examine the historical experience of alcohol prohibition, but since we refuse to learn from history we are condemned to repeat it.
Everyone can imagine that as we continually overpopulate these prisons and do not provide the services to rehabilitate people, it has to come out somewhere. Where it comes out is in a system that continually degenerates.
In California the rate of recidivism, the rate at which people reoffend, is now 70%. Imagine that, 7 out of every 10 criminals who go into that system come out and reoffend, and those offences are often more serious than the ones they went in for first. In other words, people are going into the system and then coming out much worse.
We have to remember that even when we increase sentences, over 90% of offenders will get out. We can extend the length of time they are staying in there, but at a certain time they are going to get out, and it is the concern of anybody who wants a safe country or community that when people come out of these facilities, they come out ready to be reintegrated, to contribute to society and not reoffend.
The other fundamental problem with the Conservative approach to crime is that it waits for victims. Conservatives think the only way to deal with crime is to wait until somebody has been victimized and a crime has occurred, and then to punish the person.
Of course, we believe in serious sentences. We have to have serious sentences for serious crimes, but that is not nearly enough. If it were enough, if simply having tough sentences were enough to stop crime, then places like Detroit, Houston and Los Angeles would be the safest cities in North America. We know that is certainly not the case.
What the Conservatives are doing is slashing crime prevention budgets. Actual spending in crime prevention has been slashed by more than 50% since the Conservatives came into power. They have cut programs.
I have gone to communities like Summerside and talked to the Boys and Girls Clubs or the Salvation Army in different communities. They said they have either lost funding for community projects to help youth at risk or, instead of being given the power to decide how to stop crime in their own communities, they are prescribed solutions from on high in Ottawa, which is disconnected and often does not work in those local communities.
The net result is that the community, which has the greatest capacity to stop crime, has its ability removed of stopping that crime from happening in the first place, which means even more people go to these prisons, continually feeding this factory of crime the Conservatives are marching forward with.
When we look at the costs of all of this, not only does it not provide a benefit, not only does it make our communities less safe, as has been proven in the United States, but there is a staggering cost to these policies. Pursuing a failed Republican agenda on crime that not even the Republicans would subscribe to any more in most states and most quarters in the United States comes with a staggering cost.
The Conservatives are refusing to release those figures. The minister has been refusing to tell us what exactly the price tag is for all of these measures they are putting on the table. That is why I have asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer to take a look at all of these measures and their approach on crime, and tell us just what the cost is.
That bears some important questions to be asked. Where are the Conservatives going to get the money to build these new super prisons that they are talking about? Where are they going to get the money to house all of these additional inmates? Presumably, they would provide programs and services to make these inmates better. Where is that money going to come from?
If the example in the United States is any evidence, or if the example of the Conservatives' own action in slashing crime prevention budgets is any example, then we know that they will cut from the very things that stop crime from happening in the first place. Imagine the irony of that. To pay for prisons, they are going to cut the very things that stop people from going to prison. It is a backward philosophy under any logic. Upon examination of more than a minute or two, one would recognize that it is a recipe for disaster.
If that were not bad enough, and I think that it speaks directly to this bill, the Conservatives have also betrayed police. I have talked with the Canadian Police Association about the government's commitment to put 2,500 new officers on the street. That association has called that broken promise a betrayal. However, we also know that, with respect to the RCMP, the went out to Vancouver where he made a solemn commitment to RCMP officers that they would get the same wage as other police officers and that they would receive parity with other police officers.
Right after making that promise and signing a contract, he ripped that contract up and broke the promise. Worse, as if that was not enough of an insult to the men and women who are our national police force, the government then challenged in court the right of RCMP officers to have the choice of whether or not they wanted to have collective bargaining. The government decided to challenge a right that is enjoyed by every other police force in the country.
At the same time, the government has ignored call after call by public inquiry after public inquiry for proper and adequate oversight. The reports and conclusions of Justice Iacobucci and Justice O'Connor made it clear that new oversight mechanisms were critical to ensure that public confidence remained in our national security institutions and our national police force, yet the government ignored it. In this example, it ignored for four years Liberal legislation that had been put forward to give officers the tools that they needed to do the job of keeping our communities safe.
In all of this, the government's response is to skew the Liberal record and be dishonest about what exactly Liberals have done on crime. Here is an inconvenient fact that it does not like to talk about. For every year the Liberal government was in power, crime rates went down. Every single year that we were in power, Canada became a safer place. The communities were safer and that is because we took a balanced approach to crime.
However, the government also says that we have blocked its crime bills. That is incredibly disingenuous. Here is the reality. Maybe I will go over a couple of bills just from this session. These are bills that the Liberal Patry not only supported but moved to accelerate and tried to find a way to get passed as expediently as possible in the House.
The government caused an election, so it killed all of its own bill. When it brought back Bill , it included Bill , Bill , Bill , Bill and Bill , all of which we supported. We supported and looked to accelerate Bill , Bill , Bill and .
That is the record of Liberals in this session of Parliament on crime, not to mention the Liberal record of reducing crime every year that we were in office previously.
Today I was doing an Atlantic radio talk show with a Conservative member of Parliament who ascribed the motive to the Liberal Party that we did not care about crime, that we are soft on criminals, and that we like to let people get away with things. I will say one thing about the Conservatives. I think that they believe what they say. I think that they honestly believe that these policies will work, even though they have failed. Even though Republicans have tried them and they have been utter disasters, I do believe that the Conservatives think they will work.
However, to ascribe motive to this side of the House and to say that we somehow care less about the safety of our communities is disingenuous. To say that I care less about the safety of my children, family or community is unacceptable. This debate needs to be about who has the best approach to crime.
I would suggest that we have the best approach to stop crime before it happens, to build safe communities, to ensure we strike the right balance between being tough on those who commit serious crimes, but, most important, working with every ounce of our bodies to ensure those who begin to turn down dark paths have people who step in and intervene to ensure they do not commit those crimes in the first place. That is the type of approach we advocate on crime and it is one that I am proud of.
Mr. Speaker, we have here a bill that complements the one we debated this week, namely Bill . In fact, together, bills C-46 and seem to make up former Bill , introduced by the Liberals in 2004.
This bill is in fact designed to provide police with capabilities to intercept electronic communications, using modern means of communication. As long as there is agreement on the fact that telephone interception greatly contributed to the dismantling of criminal networks and the gathering of evidence with respect to numerous conspiracies, and that it made it possible to apprehend offenders and sentence them for the right amount of time, short of making the argument that all telephone interception ought to be abolished, I do not think that anyone can seriously object to modernizing police capabilities for intercepting communications using modern technologies such as the Internet and electronic means.
People started talking about the Convention on Cybercrime in 1995. Canada met with European nations, Japan and South Africa, among others. These meetings led to an agreement in 2001, which is a significant date. The agreement was signed soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. Long before that, we had seen plenty of evidence here at home that exceptional investigative powers were critical to fighting organized crime.
Just last week, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights met with witnesses in Montreal and Halifax as part of its study of major criminal organizations. In both cities, police officers said much the same thing about how difficult it is for them to conduct electronic surveillance of organized crime groups. Among other things, they said that cell phones are so cheap, people can buy one, make a few calls, and then throw it away, sometimes on the same day it was purchased, then switch to a new one. It takes a long time for police officers to get the legal warrants they need, and in the meantime, they cannot monitor transactions between the gangs and cartels they are trying to catch.
Bloc members support effective measures to fight crime, but they completely disagree with the current government's policies on incarceration because excessive incarceration and mandatory minimum sentences have already been tried in places like the United States. These measures have produced terrible results in the United States, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Some 25% of all prisoners in the world are in American prisons, yet this approach has not put a dent in the crime rate. Naturally, we oppose such measures.
We would not want Canada and Quebec to take the same route, which leads to increasingly violent crime and results in a portion of the population whose lives have been broken by excessive sentences and who are discouraged from getting an education or taking training to get a job. We do not want that in Canada. We know that that is what will happen. That is not what the government is announcing. That is not what it talked about.
We understand from the government's arguments that the only reason it is pursuing its policies is because they are popular with voters. Last week, it was appalling to hear them explain what had been the benefits of conditional sentences, which allowed judges to avoid sending an offender to crime school for a first offence, but instead to let the offender continue holding a job and therefore have stability in order to live an honest life, get an education for that purpose and, in the case of drug problems, go through addiction treatment under threat of serving time in prison if the offender did not attend treatment. Now, the government wants to eliminate this tool that judges had.
I may be getting a little off track. I have already talked quite a bit about Bill . We support this bill. Why is it being introduced now? Certainly not because the opposition obstructed the government. When measures are introduced that help fight crime or will reduce the crime rate, the Bloc supports them. But we oppose measures than will have no effect on the crime rate. In this case, these are necessary measures.
However, these bills still have to be looked at carefully. Some things are needed to combat major criminal organizations. But most of the population, which is made up of honest people, is worried and would not want Canada to become a society where the government can easily look into all aspects of their personal lives. Honest people expect some parts of their private lives to remain confidential.
We need solid guidelines for accessing the information that can be obtained by intercepting all communications that involve modern information technology, such as computers and the Internet.
I believe that most citizens are honest and law abiding, as the Conservatives have said so often. However, I wonder if the falls into that category of law abiding citizens. I know of one law—we are all familiar with it—that he broke, the one concerning fixed election dates. He called the last election.
In my opinion, we must be very careful and realize that the majority of Canadians believe that they have the right to a private life and that the state should not have access to all their communications for frivolous reasons. I believe that the bill was designed with this in mind. However, that does not mean that it is perfect.
We are surprised, and we will certainly want to discuss this, by the complexity of this bill, which must be studied in detail. What is striking is the amount of information that can be obtained without a legal warrant and solely on the basis of suspicions or with a warrant obtained solely on the basis of suspicions. When electronic surveillance was permitted, legal warrants were required and there had to be reasonable grounds for believing that information could be obtained to prove an offence had taken place or even to prevent certain criminal activities from occurring. Furthermore, other means of investigation had to have been attempted without providing results.
We seem to have readily accepted it now that electronic surveillance has proved its worth in police investigations and given many results that have pleased citizens. I can personally say that had we not had the means to conduct electronic surveillance, we would never have broken up the Hells Angels in Quebec, as we did in 2001 after three years of hard work. I think that citizens appreciate what we accomplished.
There no longer seems to be a reluctance to use electronic surveillance. In this regard, I think that police forces that come before the committee should be prepared. I am not saying from the outset, in the four categories of measures to obtain certain warrants, that it is always necessary to prove that other means of investigation would be impossible to undertake or not very useful. However, I am saying that at least once they must shoulder the burden of proof.
It should be noted that can be obtained without a court order is more or less what I would call the telephone book of IP addresses. Furthermore, it took me a while to understand the purpose of these IP addresses, despite the fact that I consider myself rather computer savvy. I was also glad to learn what they do. My understanding is that they help safeguard access to my computer in a way. Of course, I would be very worried to hear that other people can find out these IP numbers without my authorization. Yes, it is more complicated, but really, it is nearly the same as the phone book. However, in the case of the phone book, we can ask for an unlisted number.
I also noted another important point that must definitely stay in the bill. Access to this information is limited to certain people, either police officers or national security officials, and those individuals must answer to someone in their organization. They must keep records regarding requests and the information they are seeking, and they must be able to justify them.
When an individual police officer needs to quickly access this kind of information, he or she must bring it to a superior officer. All of these records are kept in police organizations and security organizations. In addition— something that is very important for us—a copy must be sent to the Privacy Commissioner, which gives me greater confidence. At least there will be one public official whose primary desire is not to unduly increase police powers. Furthermore, based on the positions that these organizations generally take, there is no doubt that they really are dedicated to their duty to protect privacy. I find that reassuring. I also think an in-depth study is needed, which should include the views of two people in particular, Chantal Bernier and Jennifer Stoddart. The name of Ms. Stoddart's organization escapes me at the moment.
Ms. Bernier's agency handles privacy protection. I believe that we should certainly listen to them. We should also certainly listen to volunteer agencies such as the Commission des droits et libertés de la personne du Québec that have done so much to help achieve a balance between investigation methods and the protection of individual rights.
That is the role the Bloc Québécois has taken on in these circumstances. We want to modernize measures that can truly have an impact on crime. We are prepared to support them. However, we believe there needs to be a balance.
The Conservatives keep proposing minimum sentences and are always pushing their tough on crime policy, which, in their case, has become a stupid on crime policy. We agree that something has to be done, but we believe that there has to be a balance in protecting individual freedoms. Protecting individual freedoms is the foundation of the societies we are proud of and want to uphold. It is the foundation of democratic societies.
I believe that Kofi Annan was thinking along the same lines when he said that the terrorists will have won if they force democratic societies to unduly increase the powers of the state. That is what I noticed when we studied the Anti-terrorism Act in detail. I am not saying the Act was not justified, on the contrary, but there was no way to show the government, not even with concrete examples, that some of the provisions of that legislation were unjustified.
Fortunately, we managed to convince the person who was Liberal leader for a short period of time, the hon. member for . When he refused to renew the sunset clauses, I heard him repeating the same arguments we used to show that these measures were not necessary.
The purpose of Bill is to allow police forces to adapt their investigative techniques to contemporary technological realities such as the widespread use of cellphones or the Internet. Making police work easier without unduly infringing on fundamental rights is one of the routes the Bloc Québécois has always preferred for fighting crime.
The government can count on us not to obstruct this bill. We hope it will pass, but that it will be improved by the criticism we will make and that it will strike a better balance between the tools police need to fight modern criminal organizations and the privacy Quebeckers and Canadians are entitled to and want to enjoy for a long time to come.
Mr. Speaker, I rise with pride to speak on behalf of the New Democrats in Parliament in the debate on Bill , the technical assistance for law enforcement in the 21st century act.
A number of people in the House have commented, as I did this morning when I spoke to Bill , that Bill C-46 and Bill represent a combined legislative measure that purports to deal with the modernization of our laws with respect to Internet and digital activity of crimes in those areas, as well as to deal with telecommunication companies and the challenges that those new providers present in enforcing the laws of our country. It is critically important to understand that these bills do different things.
People in the House and all Canadians may know that the New Democrats spoke strongly in support of Bill this morning and in the days previous for the simple reason that New Democrats believe it is important to modernize our laws to deal with the digital age. We also think it is important to send a strong message that crimes committed over the Internet, whether they be commercial or fraud related or whether they be sexual in nature or the most heinous of all, targeted at children, are dealt with adequately by Parliament.
Having said that, there are also very important privacy interests at stake in these areas. New Democrats are scrutinizing these pieces of legislation to ensure that Canadians' privacy rights are respected.
Bill which we spoke about earlier, in the New Democrats' view, maintains that balance, by and large. We had some serious reservations about some of the tests that are being proposed by that legislation with respect to the getting of warrants, but every piece of private information that is to be turned over to police forces of whatever type in Bill C-46 is subject to judicial oversight and requires that police get a search warrant prior to that information being turned over.
Bill is different. The purpose of the bill in colloquial terms is lawful access. This bill deals with very specific aspects of the rules governing lawful access. Lawful access is an investigative technique used by law enforcement agencies and national security agencies that involves intercepting communications and seizing information where authorized by law. Rules related to lawful access are set out in a number of federal statutes, including the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the National Defence Act.
The bill complements the current lawful access regime and it addresses the same two issues as former Bill , technical interception capabilities of telecommunications service providers and request for subscriber information. I will put that in terms that are easy to understand.
The bill does two things. It essentially requires telecommunications companies to install equipment that would allow it to preserve digital data in all of its forms so that the data may be obtainable by the police in a criminal investigation. It also does a second thing. It provides law enforcement agencies with access, under an administrative process without a warrant or court order, to basic information about telecommunications service subscribers. As will be seen a little later, that basic information about Canadian subscribers is quite a long list and one that is causing great concern among a lot of Canadians.
Bill is a key step in the harmonization of legislation at the international level, according to the government, particularly concerning requirements regarding interception capabilities of telecommunications service providers. This type of requirement in general form is already found in other countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia. Canada signed on to the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime in November 2001 as well as additional protocols. This makes it an offence to commit certain crimes using computer systems, and it creates legal tools adapted to new technologies, such as orders to produce subscriber information to which I just referred. However, there is one key difference. There is no international consensus on whether or not that basic subscriber information has to be obtained through judicial order, in other words, a warrant. As I will describe further in my remarks later on, that is a key deficiency in this bill.
I want to state clearly what New Democrats support when we talk about combatting crimes committed over the digital media and the need to modernize our systems. The NDP supports efforts to combat cybercrime completely. We support efforts to combat child pornographers, others who use the Internet to exploit children or anybody in any manner. New Democrats support efforts to crack down on gangs and organized criminals, including white collar criminals who use technology to organize their activities. New Democrats support modernizing laws to ensure that police can keep up with criminals who use technology.
Those are the reasons we supported Bill earlier today, because that is what Bill C-46 did. However, New Democrats do not support violating the privacy rights of law-abiding Canadians.
When this bill was introduced in the House in June of this year by the , there was a groundswell of concern raised by ordinary Canadians across the country about the idea of Internet service providers having to deliver to police basic information about them without any kind of warrant or judicial oversight.
A very great thinker who was steeped in western democracy some decades ago said that those who would sacrifice liberty in the name of security deserve neither. That is a particularly appropriate comment in the context of this bill because this bill does not strike that balance and it does sacrifice liberty in the name of security. New Democrats cannot support a bill that provides for warrantless access to Canadians' private information.
We have consulted broadly with a number of experts. I will talk about their input later. They told us that no compelling evidence has been provided by any police force in this country when directly asked on numerous occasions for a single instance where a police investigation somehow had been interfered with or truncated because they could not get information from an Internet service provider. No compelling evidence has been presented that the current provisions in the Criminal Code and other pieces of legislation are insufficient for police to do their jobs. I will pause here.
This is not a hole in the Criminal Code. There are currently provisions in the Criminal Code that allow police, the RCMP, CSIS, any policing agencies, municipal or otherwise, in this country to obtain warrants when they want to either wiretap or seize information or material that is in the custody of anyone. I will speak more about this later.
There is the concept of telewarrants. If there is an urgency to a matter, police can get a judge on the phone 24 hours a day and usually obtain a warrant within 30 minutes. We heard nothing from any police forces as to any problem in that regard. There is the concept of hot pursuit. If any police officer believes that a crime is being committed currently, in real time, they do not have to obtain a warrant from anybody. They are able to interfere and investigate that matter immediately.
Since the government introduced this bill, experts in the field of digital law, privacy advocates, media commentators and ordinary law-abiding Canadians have spoken out against the provisions contained in the bill.
Bill , as I have said, would provide police with access to a substantial array of private information. This information goes well beyond an individual's name and address. Police would be given access to Canadians' phone numbers, email addresses and a vast array of unique digital serial numbers.
This legislation, if passed, would compel telecommunications companies to provide the following information to the police upon request with no judicial oversight: IP addresses, mobile identification numbers, electronic serial numbers, local service provider identifiers, international mobile equipment identity numbers, international mobile subscriber identity numbers, and subscriber identity module card numbers, commonly known as SIM card numbers which are in cellphones.
These digital identifiers are considered to be private information for good reason. When someone's Internet protocol address falls into the wrong hands, great damage can be done to his or her online identity and personal privacy. In fact, someone with the right skills and the right combination of the above information could perpetrate serious identity crimes and even take remote control of a person's computer.
The government, it is fair to say, has demonstrated what can fairly be described as a consistent disregard and disrespect for both the rule of law and for our judicial system.
We have Omar Khadr, a person who has been the subject of torture down in Cuba, whom the government does not deem fit to bring back here. It does not care about his international rights.
We have the 's comments about left-wing judges and how they interfere, in his view, with the administration of justice.
We have CSIS misleading the courts in the Harkat case on multiple occasions, failing to disclose information after being ordered by the court to do so with no reaction from the . And as my colleague from the Bloc said, we had the spectre of our government breaking its very own fixed election law, that the crowed about when it was brought in. It violated its own law with absolute impunity and had the audacity to not even be embarrassed about it.
It is unsurprising then that the government would seek to cast aside a fundamental tenet of our justice system, which is this. Canadians have the right to privacy, except to be deprived of that through due process of law. We do not have to justify to the government why we have the right to be private, why we have the right to be safe and secure in our information, why we do not have to let the government read our mail or read our emails or seize our property or kick down our door. We do not have to justify that to anybody. Those are the rights of Canadians.
What the government has to do, what the state has to do, is justify when it seeks to abrogate those rights, not the other way around.
It is 2009 and I am absolutely aghast that I have to stand in this chamber, hundreds of years after these rights had been fought for, where people died for these rights, and actually explain, as the only person in this chamber whom I have heard speak so far, that the state has to justify and go before a judge, and at least put forward some reasonable evidence, some compelling reason, before any private information is turned over to the state. This bill does not do that and that is a shame.
The government would have us believe that judicial oversight is some sort of outdated luxury or some sort of impediment that it cannot move quickly enough. Let me tell members something. Rights do not depend upon speed. Rights do not depend upon exigencies. Rights do not depend upon convenience. Rights are rights, and as I said earlier, it has not even been demonstrated by a single person in this country that the present telewarrant system or hot pursuit concept has proved insufficient in any manner.
Let me stop and say that the New Democrats agree, as we did in Bill , that there should be preservation orders of data and production orders of telecommunications companies so that the data is preserved and can be the subject of warrants and seizure. That is very important and we support the modernization of our laws to make that possible.
What we do not and will not agree with, however, is that that is a decision only of a police officer. That is a decision that must always be subject to judicial oversight.
Last week I was in this chamber when I saw the spectre of the Liberals and the Conservatives joining together to gut climate change action. Now I see the Liberals and the Conservatives joining together this week to gut privacy rights and civil liberties, and that is not a pretty thing to see.
The government, in this legislation, would have us believe that requiring police officers to get warrants before accessing deeply private digital data is hindering their ability to investigate crimes. The fact is that our current system provides a number of tools to give police officers swift access to help them combat crime.
It is extremely important that the police forces of this country demonstrate the requirement to get a warrant before accessing this data. That judicial oversight of police actions is an important, critical aspect of our cherished western democratic legal system, and only in that regard will Canadians be willing to surrender their valued rights to privacy.
I want to mention, as well, that just today we received a letter from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart. I just want to quote a bit from this letter. She states:
--we recognize the concerns of law enforcement and national security authorities with the speed of developments in information technology and the anonymity they afford. Bills C-46 and C-47 seek to address the consequent public safety challenges and that objective is valid. [New Democrats agree] That said, whenever new surveillance powers or programs are proposed, it is my view that there must be demonstrated necessity, proportionality and effectiveness...It is a matter of protecting human rights and assuring public trust.
Ms. Stoddart goes on, over a five-page letter, to say that, in her view, these bills are seriously flawed; at least Bill is.
Now, the minister was asked a little while ago about examples in the real world as to why this bill is necessary.
I have spoken with a number of experts in the field of digital law and privacy, for instance, Professor Michael Geist, professor of law at University of Ottawa and Vince Gogolek, from the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. I spoke this morning with David Fewer and other academics. They documented a very disturbing fact with regard to the government's attempt to convince Canadians that police need these powers; that is, the government comes up with examples that are not actually true.
The, on numerous occasions, in the media and elsewhere, has used the example of a high-profile Vancouver kidnapping case as an instance where police were hindered by the existing laws. In a number of interviews, the minister has claimed that he witnessed this emergency situation and that Vancouver police officers had to wait 36 hours to get the information they needed in order to obtain a warrant for a customer name and address information.
What is troubling about this is that it is not true. Professor Geist filed access to information requests with the Department of Public Safety, the RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department. A legal adviser to the Vancouver Police Department disclosed to Professor Geist that no Internet service provider records were ever sought, at all, during the investigation of this terrible crime.
If the only example that our own minister can put forward to this House as to why he thinks it is necessary to trample Canadians' privacy rights in the name of security is one which due diligence shows never even occurred, that is somewhat troubling.
Now, one other thing. The previous minister of public safety, the current , has made comments in this area before. This idea of floating a warrantless search has come up before. I think the Liberals keep boasting that they brought forward this legislation before. I wonder if they also thought that it was necessary for Canadians to give up their rights to digital privacy without a warrant. If that is the case, then I think they have been wrong for years.
The response from the digital community, from privacy experts and from ordinary law-abiding Canadians, was overwhelming. The government, the previous minister, was forced to back off when it tried to introduced this legislation. What the previous minister said was that the government would never bring in any kind of disclosure requirements without a warrant. He made that comment publicly.
I do not know what has changed in the government. We heard some interesting comments from my colleagues in the Bloc, and even in the Liberal Party, about the way the government uses crime as a weapon to prey on people's fears and to dodge weighty important political issues that are going on when it throws out hastily conceived, poorly thought out and rights-violating legislation, and then it pretends that anybody who is not in favour of it is not against crime.
What a simplistic argu