Mr. Speaker, I will try to make myself understood in this cacophony. We know that since 2001, in the wake of September 11, a series of measures has been implemented, in the United States in particular, to improve public safety.
Sometimes these measures infringed and still infringe in a real, tangible or perceived way on the right to privacy. In the aftermath came the implementation of what is commonly referred to in the airline industry as the no-fly list. Being on this list means being prohibited from boarding flights. In order for this list to be fully operational, it is important to know passengers' identity ahead of time. That is why, in 2001, at the request of the United States, the Canadian government introduced Bill , which received the Bloc Québécois' support.
That bill was passed quickly. It authorized airline companies to disclose to local authorities all passenger information prescribed by regulation. The next words I am about to say are important, if not crucial, because they make a distinction between Bill C-44 and the bill currently before us. Bill C-44 allowed all information to be given to authorities in the country of arrival or transit, where the plane touches the ground, whereas Bill C-42 before us covers flying through a given country's airspace. That distinction is of capital importance.
The information requested was name, date of birth, sex, and sometimes, passport number. If, at first glance, access to that information seems innocuous, keep in mind the many problems with the no-fly list.
To show just how ridiculous the United States' no-fly list is, I want to mention two cases where the system went very wrong. One of the people whose name appeared on the no-fly list was Ted Kennedy, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, who died just a few months ago. In 2004, he was apprehended and interrogated five times at the airport, even though his name should not have been on the list. Despite his fame and influence, it took more than three weeks for his team of Congressional aides to get his name off the list. That was one of the mistakes that received the most media coverage, but it was not the only one. There is another example of how ridiculous this list is. Last May in the United States, the Thomas family was apprehended at the airport. Why? Because the name of one of the Thomas girls, who was six years old, was on the no-fly list.
People certainly realized there had been a mistake. It was still very difficult, though, to get on the plane. That is basically what I had to say.
I just want to repeat what I said before the members’ statements and question period, namely that the Bloc Québécois will vote for this bill in principle. We will agree to send it to a committee so that it can be studied seriously and in depth, with witnesses, specialists and experts. I want to thank my colleague, the hon. member for , who is our outstanding public safety critic. She sent me an email suggesting the names of witnesses, groups and individuals who could enlighten the committee with their expertise so that Bill can be subjected to some serious analysis.
I want to be clear. The Bloc Québécois will vote at second reading in favour of the principle of this bill so that it can be sent to a committee. Regarding how we will proceed after that, though, we reserve the right to change our position on this issue if necessary.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill .
Before us we truly have a misleading bill. On its face, Bill seems pretty innocuous, with simple changes to the Aeronautics Act, a word here, a word there, which do not appear to provide much difference. What it really does is implement secret letters and memorandums of understanding, not treaties, to invade the privacy of Canadians by handing over our personal information to secret service agencies in foreign countries. Under the bill, just flying over another country is sufficient reason to hand over detailed personal information.
The government would have us believe that we need the bill to fight terrorism. The truth is the government needs the bill so it and other foreign organizations can compile detailed files on Canadians. It will tell us the information is only name and address, et cetera. In reality, what the government is getting ready to hand over is the passenger name record, which includes such vital pieces of security information such as what one ate on the plane, one's medical condition, among other things.
However, the government will not admit to this. In fact, we have a situation where the government is moving ahead with a variety of secret agreements with other countries that will provide the same information to other countries and not simply to the United States.
The government wants us to believe that it is working hard to protect our privacy. Cynically, with Bill , it is stripping away the privacy protection of Canadians.
Perhaps there is a need for some information sharing on flights between countries. That is something the government has said there is a need for. How can we deal with that and maintain the basic principles of privacy for Canadians?
In 1998 the European Commission put forward six key principles, which must be included in any kind of arrangement that is struck with other countries in terms of sharing information. This was specifically tailored towards the aviation industry.
One of the principles is the purpose limitation principle. Private personal information should be processed for a specific purpose and subsequently used or further communicated only in so far as it is not incompatible with the purpose of the transfer.
Another principle is the information quality and proportionality principle, which is Information should be accurate and, when necessary, kept up to date. The information should be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which it is transferred or further processed.
This is extremely important to Canadians. If we hand over information about Canadians to another country, we need to have the ability to ensure that information is kept correctly and is kept up to date. If that is not the case, then we can come into situations where, in the case of a Canadian getting a pardon for particular offences, those are not included in that record.
There is the transparency principle. Individuals should be provided with information as to the purpose of the processing and the identity of those in control of the information in the third country and other information in so far as this is necessary to ensure fairness. In other words, it is part of the rights of people right to understand who else has information about them, where it is kept, what they are using it for, how long it is going to be kept, all those particular things.
The security principle is another one. Technical and organizational security measures should be taken for those in control of the information that are appropriate to the risk presented by the processing. Any person acting under the authority of those in control of the information, including a processor, must not process information except on instructions from the controllers. In other words, if the person collecting the information is not capable of upholding the security of that information, then that is not something we wish to see for the personal information of Canadians.
There is also the right of access, rectification and opposition principle. The subject of the information should have the right to obtain a copy of all the information relating to him or her that is processed and a right to rectification if the information is inaccurate. Further, in some situations people should be able to object to the processing of the information relating to them. In other words, when we take information from people, they should have an understanding of what that information is and the opportunity and the access to those who control that information if the information is not correct.
Then the final one is the restriction on onward transfers principle. Transfers of the personal information to further countries should be permitted only where the second country is also subject to the same rules as the country originally receiving the information.
We have a situation where, when we pass the information on to the United States, it may use it in one fashion. If it passes it on to another country, we understand how that information will be used in the third country and we accept and control how they use that information in that third country.
Bill does not include any of these protections. It has nothing about the protection of personal privacy in the putting forward of information about Canadians. In other words, under this bill there is an open season on information about Canadians being given to foreign countries.
Two weeks ago, we spent considerable time on an opposition motion talking about the use of the long form consensus. The government was very concerned about the collection of information from Canadians, even though that information was anonymous.
Here we have a situation where, not anonymously, with people's names attached it, we are giving information to another country without any understanding or any control of how that information is going to be used, in a public fashion.
The government may have an agreement behind the scenes about how that information is to be used, but that is not in the legislation. That is not in the law. The government or any further government following it will not be bound to do that with that information.
In defence of this bill, the office of the said it had to do this to ensure Canadians do not face any undue delays in their travel plans. However do we really want to trade off a few minutes' delay for the total loss of our privacy? Is that what is going on here? I do not think so. I do not think that is really a reason at all why we should move ahead with a bill without any controls attached to it.
If we accept this at second reading, there will be no opportunity to insert a major change to this bill, which is required in order to protect Canadians, to make the primary function of this to protect the personal privacy of Canadians. I do not think that is possible. I do not think we will be able to accomplish that in any committee setting.
Not too long ago we went through this with the long form census. I wish the government would bring back the argument it was using then. I wish it would take those arguments and ask, “Does this not mean something to us? Did we not get up and pontificate on this particular issue? Did we not make this a point of principle for us, that the personal information of Canadians is personal, that it belongs to them, that there are privacy aspects to that?”
The government chose not to engage in that principle here with this bill. It chose not to put principles attached to the bill, which would guide the government and ensure that, if we chose and had to put it into a context of giving Canadians' information to another country, if we chose to do that, Canadians would understand how their information was protected.
On November 22, 2007, the government issued a press release saying it strongly opposed handing over to the United States, and one assumes other countries, the personal information of Canadians.
In that release the government said,
|| However, in light of our complementary security systems and the security cooperation of Canada and the United States, and the relative risk, we believe that there are excellent security grounds for the proposed Secure Flight Program to exempt all flights to, from and within Canada that overfly the United States.
Why did the government give in? It certainly would not have said that if it did not think it had some opportunity to negotiate a different arrangement. Remember, the flights that overfly Canada from the United States are considerably more and considerably more important to the United States than the flights from Canada that overfly the United States. That is clearly the case. Clearly Canada had the leverage to do something different with this bill.
My question is: Did the government even want to do that, or has it made a decision along with its secret negotiations with other countries around the world to share information? Has it made the decision that it is okay to share this information, that we want to give up this information, that we do not care about the privacy rights of Canadians, that we are going to leave them wide open?
A year later, just before they prorogued for the first time, the Conservatives assured the House that the secure flight program would not apply to Canadians. The government then told the House that the U.S. had indicated the secure flight program would be exempt for countries with a comparable security system. This was in response to a tame question from the government's own benches. We could not put it down to the minister not understanding the question because he had been given the answer directly. At that time the Minister of Transport said, “Our government is committed to respecting the safety, security and privacy of each and every Canadian”.
With Bill this commitment has gone straight out the window, flushed down the toilet, disposed of. This is the same government that killed the long form census just recently because it was too much of an invasion of privacy. This is the government that feels the long gun registry is too much of an invasion of privacy. The same government brings forward Bill C-42, which will make it possible for the personal and private information of Canadians to be sent out not just to the United States but perhaps to Panama, Mexico, the Dominican Republic or any other country the Canadian government deems appropriate.
It does not take much to fly over a country and give the Canadian government the right to hand that information over. Whether the current government does it or the next government, the rights of Canadians are not being protected.
In August 2007, the European Commission released an opinion on an EU-U.S. agreement on the processing and transfer of PNR by air carriers to the United States Department of Homeland Security. The opinion compared the 2007 agreement to others, and remember that the European Union does not fly over the U.S. nearly as much as Canadians do.
The opinion found that safeguards for private information are weaker than other types of agreements. Especially and specifically, the amount of information transferred is increased; the Department of Homeland Security may use sensitive information that has been excluded by previous agreements; transfers of information to foreign agencies were made easier and no longer subject to previous protection safeguards; and information under that EU agreement with the United States would be kept for at least 15 years and, in some cases, for 40 years.
The opinion also found that the new agreement contains an increased number of exemptions. Specifically, safeguards protecting personal information can be waived at the discretion of the United States.
So if we are following in the footsteps of the European Union in its secret agreement that is not public with the United States, we are going in the wrong direction.
The European Commission stated: “...the new agreement does not strike the right balance to uphold the fundamental rights of citizens as regards data protection”.
However, I am not the only one to oppose this bill. Roch Tassé of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group said: “The Americans will have a veto on every passenger that gets on a plane in Canada even if they are not going to set foot on American soil”. Mr. Tassé added, “What will happen if Canada invites the ambassador from a country such as Cuba?”
The Air Transport Association of Canada made its grievances known to America's Department of Homeland Security last December. Chief in ATAC's critique was that “the submission of Canadian passenger’s details by Canadian airlines violates Canada’s laws on the protection of personal information and electronic documents, as well as laws on aeronautics”.
We are changing the law, so this quotation might be a bit out of date, but the purpose of the law would protect information.
Interestingly enough, the government has already been handing over personal information about Canadians to foreign security services for some time, even if it was against the law. Take the case of Teresa Healy.
In June 2007, Ms. Healy, the lead researcher of the Canadian Labour Congress, was the subject of a prolonged interrogation by American customs officers at the Cornwall, Ontario, border crossing when she set off a radiation detector. After it came to light that the radiation was due to medical tests, they switched the subject of her interrogation to her 1991 arrest at a non-violent protest. No charges were filed at the time, but the customs officers had her digitized fingerprints at their disposal nonetheless. She said that they told her, “Do not worry about it; we are just keeping them in case you do anything else”.
That is the truly worrying issue here. This information can be held for years and used for purposes other than what it was first provided for. Now the government will tell Canadians it is taking steps to ensure the information handed over will be only kept for a few days. The reality is that, once this information is handed out, the monkey is out of the bag. That is it for that.
The only way we can ensure the privacy of Canadians is protected is to stop this information grab by the U.S. and other countries, but the government will not protect Canadians' personal privacy.
What should have been done when the Americans and other nations demanded that we violate the privacy of Canadians? If the government had the concerns of Canadians really at heart, it would have clearly said no, but the government cynically plays the game of let us pretend. Let us pretend we are protecting Canadian privacy, while all the time working to erode the very laws protecting our privacy.
What will Canadians get for this gross violation? Not much. Maybe they will get a slightly shorter waiting time to board an aircraft, but they will get an increased risk that they will be arrested or denied boarding, by mistake, by accident or for some unknown purpose.
The no-fly list has a very dismal record, and my colleague in the Bloc referred to a number of very prominent cases that fit under that, such as Maher Arar and the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
The likelihood is that this information is going to be used in an incorrect fashion. This bill, as it stands, is a poor attempt and a miserable little bill that does nothing to protect the personal privacy of Canadians in difficult situations that we face. If the government had come forward with a bill that showed it was serious about protecting personal privacy, I could support it. I could find some way to support it. However this is not a bill that can be supported in this fashion, and there is no opportunity to change the bill in committee to the degree that it needs to be changed. That is not on. So what are we to do here? What can we do with this bill?
My sense is to send it back to the government and get it to come back with a better answer.
Mr. Speaker, I looked at this bill briefly when it was first presented on the last day that the House sat before it recessed for the summer. I would like members to think for a moment about the timing at work here.
The Conservatives entered the election in 2006 saying they would stand up for Canada. I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that meant they were going to stand up for Canadians. Here we are now at second reading of this bill. But it was presented on the last day that the House sat in the middle of June 2010. I asked myself: Who is standing up for Canadians? What would this bill do? It is a very brief bill. It is a paragraph of some 14 lines.
The bill outlines four separate areas that deserve the attention of every member of Parliament who proposes or espouses to defend the interests of Canadians, whether on issues of privacy, sovereignty, commerce, or security.
The first statement in the bill says that, notwithstanding whatever is in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, every Canadian operator of an aircraft is obliged to hand over any information in its control that is required by the laws of a foreign state. The carrier does not have an option. Imagine that.
We have been paying attention to the United States for such a long time in this debate that I have to use it as an example, but this does refer to the U.S. exclusively. The Americans have passed the Patriot Act, and under that act they justify requests for information that go beyond anybody's imagination. This bill says that it does not matter. Whatever protections Canadians think they have under PIPEDA, for example, or the Privacy Act, they have no longer, because the Americans, according to the competent authority that flows from the Patriot Act, have the right to ask for that information and to use it in any way they wish.
I am not paranoid by nature, notwithstanding the profession we are in, but the bill says “any foreign state” over which a Canadian operator of an aircraft flies. The operator does not necessarily have to land in that foreign state.
I want to change the boundaries of the discussion and think for a moment about someone who leaves Ottawa, Montreal, or Toronto to fly to Dubai. If I am not mistaken, if an individual flies on a Canadian aircraft that individual is probably going to fly over the United States, maybe Portugal, probably Spain, or alternatively, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and any of the Emirates. This legislation says that any of those countries can demand information from that Canadian operator. Without that information, any one of those countries can deny our aircraft the opportunity to fly over its airspace.
No one contests that every country has its own right to demand certain conditions be met in its airspace. I think that is called sovereignty, which I will get to in a minute. If we want to respect other countries' sovereignty, we must at least understand that we live in a grown-up world and that a few of the countries that I just cited might have an interest that goes beyond simply trying to find out if Paul Smith or Peter Szabo is actually on that flight. They might actually have an interest in promoting the affairs of their own carriers, and one of the ways to do it is to initiate a series of debilitating actions in law that require our carriers to go through a series of demands that they must satisfy. That would be the business world.
Here we have focused on the United States, forgetting, of course, that there are a lot of other countries over which Canadian carriers must fly in order to maintain a competitive and an economically viable business. We just said, with this piece of legislation, that if any of those carriers want to do business, they can, provided they can convince their passengers that they are up that proverbial creek without that paddle, because the Canadian government will not come to their defence. The Canadian government, under this bill, has completely washed its hands of anybody who boards a plane and flies outside of Canada. If passengers are prepared to expose their entire life, their business practices, whatever private matters they have to a foreign authority, they should not count on the Canadian government coming to their defence.
I know what they would say. They would say so what because that is already the case. The Canadian government is walking away from everybody who runs into trouble, whether they do it deliberately or whether they are caught in a jam abroad, so why should passengers be any different?
According to this bill, if people board a Canadian operated aircraft in Paris and they want to fly to Canada, if the English, the Irish and the Scots demand to have information on them, they cannot get a boarding pass until that aircraft operator provides that information to those three countries, because, of course, that is part of the route to get back into Canada.
We focused on the United States. I understand the problem with the United States. If people come from the interior of Canada, as I do, for example in southern Ontario, they have two options. If they want to travel down south, whether to Cuba, Mexico, Latin America, South America or anywhere else, they can go across the lake into Buffalo and use its airport and they do not need to worry about anything. They maintain their privacy. People could board a plane at Pearson and then have to go through this, because the Canadian government just said that their option is to go down the 401 or the Queen Elizabeth Way and go to a foreign country to board another carrier because the government will not help out its carrier. Why will the government not help them out? Because Canadian carriers are already bending over backwards and breaking the law to provide information for homeland security defence in the United States, otherwise they cannot do business there, or they will increase the costs to their business by taking a circuitous route to a further destination, i.e. they will not be competitive with the other carriers in North America.
What does the Canadian government do? Does it stand up for Canada and Canadians? No, it abandons them completely. This bill is a total abnegation of our sovereignty responsibility. Can anyone imagine letting a foreign authority, not the government, but a competent authority within the government of another country, determine what it must know about whatever passenger boards a plane in Canada to go someplace else or another place in order to come to Canada.
A border security agent is the person making decisions for what happens to Canadians either aboard a Canadian carrier here or abroad to come home. The Canadian government stands up for Canada where? It has given up on Canadians and has said ”to heck with that airline business, let the airlines do something else because we need to ensure that we comply with a foreign state's demands”.
The alternative is that it could negotiate. I heard one of the parliamentary secretaries say that we negotiated exemptions. I do not know who the “we” were. I thought the Conservative government wanted to wash its hands of everything that was Liberal, but the negotiations and that exemption took place under a Liberal government. I think somebody said that it was in 2001. I could have sworn it was a little later, but it does not matter. It certainly was not the Conservative government because it refuses to negotiate. It gave up on negotiation.
The government presented this in the middle of the last day that the House sat before it recessed so it would not have the scrutiny of Parliament on running and hiding from its responsibility to protect Canadian sovereignty, Canadian sovereignty, as expressed through commercial interests, through the harassment of the interests of Canadian carriers and through the privacy concerns of every Canadian. Even if Canadians do not understand or do not care about their own privacy, it is integral to what we think is a Canadian.
We have the right to maintain our own decisions regarding the dignity of information that relates to us as individuals unless we give it up. The Conservative Government of Canada just said that it was not worth a tinker's damn. I have it here in 14 lines. It said goodbye. The government does not think it is worthwhile and if there are foreign states that want it, the government will give it to them. If people think they would like to take the aircraft operator to court for giving up their privacy rights, it says here that they should forget it because they will not have a base in court on which to stand.
One of my colleagues from the Bloc was talking about the security issues and the problems of being on a no-fly list. The government made a big deal of having a passenger protect system. That is a no-fly list. People do not know how they got on that list. There are all kinds of ways. Only one person can take someone off that list and that is the . However, let people try to get a hold of him when they are being prevented from boarding a plane. He has to contact people at homeland security and they do not answer the phone.
Is there a way to keep Canadians safe? We should think about that for a moment. When the Americans asked for this, they told everybody in Canada to forget about the nonsense of $11 million to buy 40 full body scanners because they would not make Americans feel any better about the kinds of people who board Canadian planes. That is essentially what they are doing.
Last spring, the said that the government would raise another $3.2 billion so that it could invest a further $1.5 billion in air security. In other words, Canada would make a further investment in ensuring that the Americans think that whenever people board planes in Canada, they will be okay. What did the Americans say? They said, “We don't believe you”. I am being polite. They said, “We just don't believe you”.
What did we do? Did we protest? Did we negotiate? Did we go to them and tell them about all of these things that we were doing? Did we tell them that we had spent $11 million on 40 scanners and that we will be spending another $1.5 billion on securing our borders and ports to ensure that anybody who goes anywhere near American territory will be receiving a stamp of approval for safety and security that only Canada can provide and that America will respect?
Did the government do that? No, it did not stand up for Canada. Its current slogan is here for Canada. I do not know where it thinks Canada is. Is it not in our midst? Is it not to protect the interests of Canadians no matter where they go? Is it not to be there to negotiate with other neighbours here in our hemisphere? Should it not be telling them what we have done to ensure that our backyard is safe so they can feel safe and secure ?
No, it did not do that. The government came up with Bill , which basically says that the government can beat anybody in a 100-yard dash as long as it is moving away from trouble. It is just insane.
I know some of my colleagues from the other parties think this will be remedied and rectified when it goes to committee. That will not happen. The patriot act goes into effect in December. The Americans warned the Canadian government last year that it had one year to comply or to negotiate.
The government said that there was a better tactic. It said that it would go to sleep for six months and then in June it would present the amendment to the Aeronautics Act that washes its hands of any responsibility to Canadians and Canadian businesses, and then it would send the bill off to committee. By that time, of course, the House will either have been prorogued or it will be close to Christmas and it will say that it has already been done and the message has been sent off.
That is not governance and that is not standing up for Canada or for Canadians. That is an abnegation and abdication of responsibility and authority. If the government asks Canadians for the right to govern this country, it is because it wants to do something that protects their interests and advances their progress. This does neither.
When we are so concerned about security issues, economic issues, privacy issues and sovereignty issues, the government, with this legislation, is taking the fastest route available to sell out on all four. I would have been embarrassed to have been the minister who had to present this legislation.
I was not happy then as the critic for transport to look for ways to be supportive. We always try to look for ways to co-operate. I was looking for the proverbial silver lining in this legislation. I wear glasses but I took them off, got a microscope and went through everything with a fine-toothed comb. I could not find that silver lining.
I was a little distressed to hear that everybody thinks that the silver lining will be in committee. Well, one of the people who will be called as a witness just happens to be a great authority on privacy issues. The Assistant Privacy Commissioner, Chantal Bernier, already came to the committee this past spring. She was asked what the Americans or anybody else would do with this information. As my colleague from the will recall, as he was sitting in that committee, she said that they could keep that information for from 7 days to 99 years. For what will they use that information? They could use it for anything they want.
Who is standing up for Canada? Who says that it is here for Canada? Who is being deceptive? Who is being duplicitous? Who is acting in a fashion that can only be called cowardly? I think Canadians are asking us to point in the direction of the Conservative government.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill today. I would like to start with an analysis of the title: strengthening aviation security act. My question, given that this is how the government has entitled it, is how does this strengthen Canadian aviation security? How does it strengthen Canada? How does it strengthen the safety of Canadians going on such flights? My suggestion is that it does not in any way.
First of all, under the existing law we can already have airlines disclose the information of persons travelling on planes when they are landing in foreign countries. That is perfectly reasonable. Every sovereign state has the right to know who is coming into their country. I would expect no different for Canadians or any other country.
The government is now essentially trying to amend it so that if flights are going over a foreign jurisdiction, and let us be clear that we are talking about the United States and this is why we are having this discussion at all, if flights are going over the United States, even if they are not landing in the United States, private information on Canadians will have to be disclosed. How does it strengthen Canadians or in any way live up to the descriptive “strengthening aviation security act”? How does it strengthen aviation security for the benefit of Canadians to disclose this information when the flights are not landing in a foreign jurisdiction, period, and they are not landing in Canada? How is it even logical to say that this is strengthening protections for Canadians?
I would like to take a particular example in terms of our sovereignty. It is one thing to say in the circumstance of flights going over the United States and landing in some other foreign jurisdiction that information has to be disclosed. It does not strengthen anything for Canadians and it is still problematic, but that example needs to be compared specifically to the example of a flight leaving Toronto and landing in Vancouver. So if a flight goes over the United States to go from one Canadian jurisdiction to another Canadian jurisdiction, there are multiple concerns.
First of all, once again, how does this strengthen the safety of Canadians? It is not logical. It is not reasonable. It just makes no sense. Second, how is it that the Conservative government is willing to give up sovereignty, willing to give up privacy concerns, when there is a flight originating specifically, as this example indicates, in Toronto and landing in Vancouver and never landing in the United States? Please explain how that in any way strengthens the safety of Canadians.
Also, this is not even logical. How does that strengthen the safety of Americans?
Canadians need to know that the Conservatives are willing to give up our sovereignty. A flight from Toronto going to Vancouver never leaves the grasp of Canadian jurisdiction. At all times that flight will be governed by Canadian law. Those passengers will never get onto foreign soil. It is Canada--Canada, going over the United States, yet in those circumstances the Conservative government is willing to give up our sovereignty by giving private information about those passengers to a foreign government when those passengers will never set foot on foreign soil. How is that logical? It is not logical. We all know it is not logical.
The only thing that seems obvious is twofold. One, the Conservatives are not very good negotiators when it comes to foreign relations, and I will give a couple of examples that we have all been speaking about already. But two, for whatever reason, although they can be tough on Canadians and have no problem with not helping people through EI and various benefits, and when it comes to social and economic issues in Canada they have no problem being tough there, how can they not be tough when it comes to a foreign country, and particularly in this instance, the Americans? What are they afraid of?
We are a partner in Afghanistan. We are the Americans' largest trading partner. They trade 25% to one third, depending on the current statistics, to Canada. We trade 80% to the Americans. We are their largest exporter of oil and energy.
The Americans need us just as much as we need them. Why do we have to be afraid of them? If there is a reasonable request, as with any friend, we negotiate, we say yes and we work it out. However, when the request is not reasonable, we say no, we give our reasons and be respectful.
Once again, how does it strengthen and protect Americans to give information when the flights are going from Canada or to Canada or from Canada to a foreign jurisdiction? The only thing I can think of is perhaps, in addition to other concerns, the Americans do not trust the Conservative government, despite the fact that it has spent a lot of money, some people say billions, on screening mechanisms and other initiatives. Does that not work? It is not good enough? Does the government admit that they are not working, that the initiatives are broken, or that it has not spent enough money or it has not drafted legislation or regulations properly?
Why does this have to take place? Why do the Americans not trust the Conservative government to ensure that persons boarding Canadian flights will not be a risk? If the government's position is that the Americans should trust us, then, by definition and logically, its position should be they are overstepping their reach and we should simply say no in these circumstances.
On foreign affairs, I would like to know what specific negotiations have taken place between the Conservative government and the American officials on their request of Canada and Canadians. Why can the Conservative government not convince the Americans that the steps it has taken to increase airline security in Canada are good enough? Why does this private information need to be disclosed? Maybe the Americans cannot be convinced or maybe the steps are not good enough. It is the government's onus to tell us why the security measures in Canada are not good enough that we would need to then disclose to a foreign jurisdiction this private information. Frankly, Canadians deserve better.
We have the recent example of losing Camp Mirage. We have the case of the security council seat. When I was in my riding of over the break week, I received a lot of calls from people who were both upset and embarrassed that we had lost that security council seat because of, as many commentators have written, the foreign policy of Canada was no longer Canadian. Our foreign policy is not what the world expects and has become used to, a progressive and involved one. What we have is a American republican foreign policy, which does not bode us well in the international scene.
In addition to the weakened sovereignty and to the fact that the amendment to the statute is not logical, we have other concerns.
At the transport committee on May 11, as has been mentioned earlier, the assistant privacy commissioner, Chantal Bernier, stated that, the United States would retain this information for as long as 7 days to 99 years. She also added:
||—our understanding is that information collected can be disclosed and used for purposes other than aviation security, such as for law enforcement and immigration purposes.
Once the Americans have the information, they will use it for whatever they so choose.
Let us look at why this is a concern. What if the Americans decide they are providing information to other countries? Not all countries are equal, but the Americans are our good friends, and that is fine. However, what about other countries across the world to which Canadians would not want their personal information disclosed? What if we have Canadians who have been naturalized, who have come from foreign countries, who were refugees, who were persecuted, who were in some way hurt, whose families were hurt, who have families remaining in those countries that could be subject to blackmail or harm?
Once this information is out and the Americans have it and they choose to disclose it to a third country, Canadians could be at risk and for no logical or rational purpose. The fact that the Conservative government wishes to disclose this personal information in those circumstances could be harmful to Canadians who have come from other countries, specifically refugees who have been naturalized. This is a serious concern.
What about the precedent that this would create? The Americans are our good friends, but if we give them everything they want just because they ask—
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill .
I do not think we can trace this one back a number of years with different bill numbers because this bill was introduced on June 17, the last day of the spring sitting, as the member for said.
To wit, the new transport critic for the opposition, the member for , made his presentation this morning. He said that he had only seen this bill two days ago. I believe he said he thought it looked okay and was good enough to be sent to committee where we would have to study it and improve it. Then the Bloc critic, who I believe is also new to the transport committee, also made a speech. He seemed to think the bill was ready for committee, as well.
Now after question period we have a new round of speakers. We had two very good speeches from members of the official opposition who seemed to be on the other side of the bill.
Given that we only have another 45 minutes of debate today and given that all the parties will be having their caucus meetings tomorrow, it might be a good idea for members of the Liberal Party to revisit their position on this bill. If the critic is seemingly in favour of the bill and two other learned speakers for the Liberal Party are against it, clearly they have an issue to resolve within their caucus.
I would also say that the government might take heed here and look at taking a second look at this bill before it is defeated. Perhaps they could withdraw it and come back with a better solution.
Earlier today I asked the parliamentary secretary whether or not any efforts had been made in the area of reciprocity. On a world basis we only have to look at the drama which has been unfolding over the last week in the fight with the United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates have said that it is going to kick Camp Mirage, our staging base, out of the country in the next 30 days or so because Canada will not let Emirates airlines land any more flights in Toronto than are landing now.
Clearly there is a linkage in this discussion between Canada and the United Arab Emirates. This issue has now become public. There is a tie-in between the base and whether the United Arab Emirates is allowed to fly more flights to Canada. Let us not kid ourselves, every international issue has similar aspects to it. This issue would be no different.
The member for , our long-time critic on transport, told me this morning that roughly 2,000 flights originating in the United States fly over Canada per day, in Canadian airspace. If we multiply that number by the average number of passengers per plane, that is a lot of people on flights in Canadian airspace every day, going to Europe and other places around the world. In contrast, the number of Canadian flights flying in American airspace per day, according to the member for , is only in the 100 range.
The question we have to ask is would a government that was on the ball, looking out for Canadian passengers and Canadian airline interests not try to drive a harder bargain and try to negotiate? It could say that if we are going to provide the information on a 100 flights per day, which would add extra costs to our airlines and to our government, then we want the United States to reciprocate and provide us with the information on that country's 2,000 flights per day. After all, our airspace is sovereign, too. Quite frankly, we also want to know who is flying in our airspace. That is what it really boils down to.
For a number of years the United States, and I think other countries too, have demanded a list of passengers prior to their boarding an airplane. Even before 9/11, I remember when I was going to Australia, before boarding the plane in Vancouver, the passport information had to be processed.
I believe a lot of that had to do with the whole issue of refugees getting on a plane, flushing their documents down the toilet and arriving in a new country without any documentation. It is the airline that is responsible for the costs of flying the people back. That has been an issue with the airline industry for a number of years. The airlines resent that they have to pay the costs of transporting people back when the new country refuses to take them. They want to make sure they have all the information and get what is known as pre-clearance for passengers.
After many years of allowing airlines to fly over our territory, things are being taken to a whole new level in saying that we are not satisfied with the airport screening devices, the locked cockpits and the air marshalls on board and we now want to know at any given time who is actually sitting in those planes in our airspace. That is what I believe is behind this situation.
What do the Americans think is going to happen? Do they think that somebody is going to blow up an airplane while flying in American airspace? Is that what they are thinking? I am not really sure what the rationale is. The fact of the matter is that regardless what the demands are from the Americans, the Canadian government has a responsibility to the Canadian public to reciprocate, to say that if the Americans want our information, we will take their information, and to negotiate what types of information we want to collect and whether it is worthwhile collecting.
For some time we have been talking about the value of keeping the no-fly list. Senator Ted Kennedy was on the no-fly list. I know the member for would be very motivated to stand and speak to this topic because his name was on a no-fly list and he had to sort it out. He was sorting it out with a government that has a series of rules that do not allow him to sort out the problem. That is my point.
People get tied up in knots. Senator Kennedy got tied up in knots trying to get his name off the no-fly list. The member for tried to get his name off the no-fly list when his name should not have been on it in the first place.
Then there is the situation where a person gets on an airplane and literally breezes through all the security measures that have been put in place.
I think we all remember on December 25, 2009 there was the situation of a 23-year-old, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, everyone knows that name, who got on an airplane in Lagos, Nigeria and flew to Amsterdam and then Detroit. He committed all the sins that are supposed to be picked up.
This is what he did. He bought a round-trip ticket with cash. In the old days it used to be one way, but the geniuses running our security services finally figured out that people should not be buying one-way tickets with cash. That was a sure sign something could go wrong. He bought a round-trip ticket with cash.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was flying to Detroit at Christmas where there was a lot of snow but he had no carry-on baggage at all. He flew from Lagos into Amsterdam Schiphol which is the ultimate in secure airports. It has every type of screening device that one could imagine and this guy boarded a plane without a passport. This is yet another big breach.
We have spent untold billions of dollars developing a system to ensure the member for cannot get on a plane, to ensure Senator Kennedy cannot get on a plane, to ensure a six-year-olds cannot get on a plane and tied ourselves up in knots, and yet this young 23-year-old makes fools of us all and walks right through the system. Had it not been for his own incompetence, he would have killed several hundred people.
We clearly need to start looking at security in a smarter fashion than we do right now. I go to a number of cross-border meetings with American politicians and the whole issue of toughening the border is always raised. We hear how we are torturing ourselves and torturing our own citizens because the bad guys are not lining up at the border. When crossing the Manitoba border at Emerson or a Saskatchewan border point, the people who are smuggling marijuana and drugs across the border are not lined up in their car taking this stuff across the border. They are walking the drugs or driving snowmobiles across the border.
If all the local politicians and residents in South Dakota and North Dakota know that and Manitoba and Saskatchewan know that, why are we continually trying to toughen the border? That is the thinking in Washington. The unfair misrepresentation of Canada for several years has been that the terrorists came through Canada. I know the government has had to fight that, as we all have when we are down there on trips. We need to make it clear to the Americans that none of the 9/11 terrorists came through Canada. I know it is a hard battle.
If the government is going to involve itself in negotiations with the Americans, it should at least stand up for the Canadian side of the arguments and try to argue at least reciprocity. The government should not introduce a bill in the House and somehow unilaterally say that it will start providing this information or that information to third countries. We do not even know how much information will be transferred. There is some discussion that somehow information on the PNRs will be transferred. I do not know if that is the case and I do not know what the information is in total on the PNR.
I can say that if a name is misspelled by one letter on a ticket, it is possible for the agent to correct that by simply putting a note on the PNR. There are all kinds of notes on customers' PNRs on a whole range of things. Therefore, if that is the information that is being passed on, then all of these notes are presumably being passed along with the information already there.
In addition to that, we presume that the Americans have access to passport information. I know that when Manitoba brought in the new drivers' licence-like passports, there was a big argument about how private the information would be and how much information would be provided to the American authorities.
I think the public wants to be safe and, if they understand that the information being provided is safe and they know there is a good reason for the information, they probably would be willing to give up that privacy issue in favour of being safe on the airplane. However, the history so far has not proven that to be the case.
It is almost like the Keystone Kops. We read stories about six-year-olds and eight-year-olds being on the no-fly list and then we have the Abdulmutallab situation where the guy walks through all our defences. After what he did last December, we had to put in fu