Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill , the response to the Supreme Court decision in R. v. Tse act.
Bill is essential in maintaining the ability of police to protect Canadians from serious harm. It aims to ensure that the police retain their power to conduct wiretap without prior judicial authorization where it is needed immediately to prevent tragedy from occurring. The exceptional authority under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code allows police to proceed to intercept private communications without prior judicial authorization when an interception is urgently needed to respond to an imminent threat, such as kidnapping, a bomb or a hostage situation.
The Supreme Court of Canada held, in R. v. Tse, that the authority under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional. However, the court suspended its declaration of invalidity until April 13, 2013, in order to allow Parliament to address the constitutional deficiencies of section 184.4. The amendments in the bill would respond to this decision, make 184.4 constitutionally compliant and add some additional limitations and accountability safeguards to use as exceptional authority for situations of imminent harm.
The authority to intercept private communications, under section 184, must be carefully tailored to balance the competing interests of the protection of privacy and the need to act quickly to protect persons and property from serious harm. The amendments to section 184.4 of the Criminal Code proposed in Bill would ensure needed accountability and transparency, while maintaining essential capability for police to respond swiftly in a critical situation.
Bill was studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and has been returned to the House without amendment. I would like to signal that the government greatly appreciates the assistance the House has provided in moving this essential bill forward as quickly as possible, while giving its important proposals due consideration.
To assist in its deliberations, the committee received written submissions from the Canadian Bar Association's national criminal justice section and heard from witnesses representing the Criminal Lawyers' Association and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. I am happy to report that these witnesses expressed support for the main elements of Bill and made very positive comments on the value and importance of the bill.
I would like to take a few minutes to go over the major components of Bill . As indicated by the bill's title, and as I previously mentioned, the amendments proposed in the bill are needed to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Tse. In the decision, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the authority under section 184.4 was unconstitutional, due to the lack of an accountability safeguard such as an after-the-fact notification. Bill C-55 would remedy this constitutional deficiency by adding requirements to the Criminal Code for after-the-fact notification to persons whose private communications have been intercepted under section 184.4. The notice would need to be provided within 90 days, unless an extension was granted by a judge.
In the decision of R. v. Tse, the Supreme Court also suggested that the government might wish to consider adding a reporting requirement, although it was not needed for constitutional compliance. The government is implementing this suggestion in Bill , which proposes to amend the Criminal Code to require detailed annual reporting by the federal minister of public safety and the Attorneys General of the provinces on the use of section 184.4. This requirement essentially mirrors the existing reporting requirement under section 195 of the Criminal Code, which has always been considered an important mechanism to increase transparency in the use of wiretaps. Such annual reports are intended to form the basis for a public evaluation of police use of section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.
Bill also proposes to limit the availability of the authority to wiretap under section 184.4 to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code in place of the broader reference to “any unlawful act”. This limitation was not seen as necessary by the Supreme Court, although it was favoured by the lower court in the Tse decision. The amendment was also commented on favourably by the witnesses who appeared before the committee to discuss the bill. The proposed change to the term “offence” makes for a narrower category of unlawful acts and is consistent with other wiretap authorities in part VI of the Criminal Code, which are also limited to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.
The Supreme Court of Canada also indicated in its decision in R. v. Tse that the government might wish to consider whether the broader category of peace officer under section 2 of the Criminal Code was too broad and whether to restrict the use of section 184.4 to a narrower group of individuals, such as police officers. The Supreme Court observed that this might be beneficial from a constitutional perspective, although it did not rule on this issue. The government agrees with the Supreme Court's suggestion. Accordingly, Bill restricts the use of section 184.4 to police officers instead of peace officers. As the law presently stands, section 184.4 powers can be used by peace officers, which is a broader category of persons that includes officials such as mayors and reeves as well as fishery guardians and customs and excise officers.
I would like to take this opportunity to assure the House that the proposed definition of “police officer” already exists in the Criminal Code in the context of dealing with forfeiture of proceeds of crime. It also exists in other statutes. It has been judicially interpreted as only including those who are statutorily appointed to carry out duties of preservation and maintenance of the public peace.
Privately hired individuals, such as security guards in shopping malls or office buildings, do not fit within this definition, as they are not statutorily appointed. I should also mention that in looking at section 184.4 of the Criminal Code and the additional restrictions on its use proposed in this bill, it is important to remember that section 184.4 already provides a number of important limitations on its use. It can only be used where other powers are not available due to the urgency of the situation. The interception must be immediately necessary to prevent serious harm, and the communications that are to be intercepted must be those of the victim or the perpetrator. These restrictions, together with the amendments proposed in this bill, would ensure that the use of this exceptional authority is appropriately circumscribed.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has carefully reviewed the bill and supports it. The proposed safeguards and requirements in the bill not only meet but exceed the court's directives for constitutional compliance under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.
I encourage all members to support Bill .
Mr. Speaker, with his question, my colleague from put his finger on the problem that resulted in the introduction of Bill . It is very clear; it is obvious. The government can indeed say that Bill was withdrawn as a result of public pressure because that is true. I hope those who are watching us right now are happy realizing that it is possible to take action together when something is as absurd as Bill C-30. The problem was so obvious that it was extremely easy to raise a public reaction.
I cannot repeat it enough: section 184.4, which the government is trying to save following the decision in R. v. Tse, appears in a part entitled “Invasion of Privacy”. This is an exception provided for in the Criminal Code for extremely specific cases.
When the government, through the , introduced Bill , it launched an attack against anyone who would dare say anything against the bill. We were off to a very bad start. That behaviour triggered a popular movement such as we rarely see in matters concerning the federal government.
I said that my colleague from had put his finger on the problem. For several hours now, we have been debating that deficiency, which was reported by a government employee, a Department of Justice lawyer concerned about the orders he was receiving from his superiors and his department. When a compatibility analysis of government or Senate legislation is needed, public servants are asked to cut corners.
This is an allegation. As a lawyer, I take note. Thus far, it is strictly an allegation, not a proven fact. However, it has to raise serious doubts. If we take our role as legislators seriously, this should immediately raise red flags.
Make no mistake about it: the problem with Bill was so obvious that the government decided to reverse course. We are not used to that with a government such as the Conservative government. The government is not very humble when it comes to admitting its mistakes. This is a major admission, and I believe a mea culpa is absolutely in order.
However, this situation raises the question that my colleague from asked. Bill should never have passed the charter compatibility test. Is that clear enough? The government was bent on saying that that bill was the way to solve all surveillance-related problems, pedophilia-related problems and whatever other problems. It had cast a wide net.
It did not take a brilliant legal mind to realize that there were serious problems of invasion of privacy. It did not take a brilliant legal mind to realize that the government had to be stopped and told that Bill would not pass a court test. It did not even solve the problem raised in R. v. Tse. It was very broad. Thank goodness the government reversed course.
However, the question remains: how did this bill pass the compatibility test, which is mandatory? It is not the official opposition, the NDP, that says so, but rather the Department of Justice Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They provide that no legislation shall be introduced in the House where there are serious and reasonable doubts as to its constitutionality or compatibility with the charter. Bill is the most striking evidence that there is a problem somewhere in the Department of Justice in transmitting this analysis which has been conducted for the benefit of the . I am giving him the benefit of the doubt.
I am not saying that his intention is to mislead the House. Telling us that this is the way things have been done since the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force is not a compelling reason to say everything is fine. It is not fine at all, and no one seems very concerned about it. They just coast along, hoping that cases will not wind up in court.
I moved a motion in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to strike a committee that would analyze the question and assess the kind of directives that could be given so that legislators in the House could determine whether their role was being properly fulfilled. The question was discussed for two days, and I have to say that a Conservative colleague considered siding with us because he agreed that this was important. It does not matter whether we are left-leaning or not, everything must be done properly and we must take the time to examine the bill, failing which we may cast doubt on all bills introduced in the House.
Every colleague who sits on a committee must question the minister on the kinds of studies that have been done to ensure compatibility with the charter and the Constitution of Canada. We have some doubts that this is being done properly. Even a Conservative nearly gave in. Probably two days elapsed before he was intercepted by the party's higher powers, who told him not to get involved. The official response was that it had been done like that since the time the Liberals were in power. To me, it is no excuse to say that we can do something wrong because someone else did it just as wrong. I believe there has to be a readjustment, and Bill was a good example of that.
Bill has been introduced. I want this to be clear in people's minds: Bill C-55 is much more limited than Bill , and it caused a shake-up when it comes to wiretapping and invasion of privacy.
Why did the official opposition go along with the minister and the government, who had to pass Bill at the eleventh hour? The decision in R. v. Tse is like Damocles' sword. The Court gave the government until April 13, 2013, to make the changes required by the ruling in R. v. Tse. As a result of the decision, section 184.4 had to go.
Some people, like me, truly believe in human rights and the importance of privacy and rights that are protected by the charter. I also believe that we must have this kind of provision in a free and democratic society such as ours. At the time, section 184.4 stated:
A peace officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication where
(a) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;
Therefore, he must have reasonable grounds to believe that the urgency of the situation is such that it is impossible for this peace officer to obtain an authorization on the basis provided for in this section.
I will continue reading section 184.4:
(b) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that such an interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and
(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.
This section is very important in the context of police work. In addition, it is applied in exceptional circumstances. However, in R. v. Tse, the Supreme Court of Canada held that there were problems of accountability and that it was very likely, when applying section 184.4, that there was no reference to the fact that the person who has been the subject of a wiretap must be notified. A person could have been wiretapped without ever knowing it because they were never taken to court or charges were never laid against them.
That was the only way individuals would know they had been wiretapped and a communication intercepted.
The Supreme Court said:
In its present form, the provision fails to meet the minimum constitutional standards of section 8 of the Charter.
The Court was referring to minimum standards, minimum constitutional standards to bring section 184.4 into compliance with section 8 of the charter.
The Supreme Court went on to say:
An accountability mechanism is necessary to protect the important privacy interests at stake and a notice provision would adequately meet that need, although Parliament may choose an alternative measure for providing accountability.
The Supreme Court of Canada also considered whether section 184.4 was meant for not only police officers, but also what are known as peace officers.
Once again, I encourage people to read the definition of “peace officers”, which is several pages long. It includes municipal mayors, meter readers, and much more. Pretty much anyone who moves and has an official public service title falls under the definition of “peace officer”.
The Supreme Court reserved judgment on this because it was not the subject of the argument or evidence before the court.
I am glad that the took this matter off the 's hands. That is one good thing because then he spent some time reading and trying to understand what the Supreme Court of Canada said on April 13, 2012, even though there was not much time left for that.
As an aside, when the parliamentary secretary said that they had done a thorough job of ensuring their bill was constitutional, I had to laugh because, up until February 11, the government's response was Bill . That left very little time to come up with Bill . Maybe that is why the government did not want to take any chances. For once, they figured that they could not be too careful, so they limited the definition of “police officer” and even removed the notion of “peace officer”. They also added accountability mechanisms with respect to the people whose communications are intercepted and to reporting to the House of Commons.
Is it perfect? No, as my Green Party colleague said. That is the conclusion we came to in committee. Much more could have been done. If I had been in charge of drafting this bill, I would probably have added a few things.
However, the House will have to answer this fundamental question. Would we rather get rid of section 184.4 and end up with no provision, or do we think that Bill answers the questions and carries out the orders of the Supreme Court of Canada?
To us, the answer was very clear. Some witnesses even came to tell us that they supported the bill. The Canadian Bar Association, the CLA, the groups that sent us briefs: they all agreed. Would they have added some additional provisions regarding the reports? The Supreme Court of Canada never said that Parliament should receive reports regarding the Attorney General of Canada or the provinces. However, we looked into it and examined this issue. It is not easy, because it is difficult to move forward if there is no discussion.
This bill was rushed. Normally, if things were done properly, we would have taken the year that the Supreme Court gave us to consult and see what could have been done better, to see whether the provinces were with us and whether they had a problem with sending us the reports that they will have to provide. All of this was clear to us.
People in committee were clearly asked whether Bill in its current form was a suitable response to R. v. Tse.
The context in which the court only asked the person whose communications were intercepted to provide notice within a certain time, without specifying that time limit, fully meets the criteria established by the Supreme Court of Canada. Furthermore, time limits were specified and the concept of a peace officer dropped.
For once, things were properly anticipated. This does not mean that there will not be any challenges. On the other hand, the witnesses we heard said that these kinds of provisions are not applied often.
Yesterday, the Green Party member said that it would perhaps be necessary to withdraw the proposed amendment. I am relieved to hear this, because we were told the same thing in committee. A 24 hour time limit was suggested. It becomes difficult when you begin to examine these criteria. The danger is the tendency to treat situations that are not dealt with consistently in every part of the country the same.
Here in Gatineau, it is probably much easier to obtain the authorization of a judge than in a more remote part of Canada where a judge may not be present at all times.
Clearly the provision is only applicable if it is impossible to obtain authorization within a reasonable time period. The basic rule in terms of interception of communications will still be to obtain authorization and to have reasonable grounds for the wiretap. Furthermore, the person doing the wiretapping will have to explain why.
As a result of the amendments, there is now an obligation to inform the person under section 184.4. If a person, whether or not that person has been charged, feels that his or her privacy has been completely invaded, recourse is possible and the police agency in question will have to defend its decision.
However, even the experts tell us that this provision is not used frequently. The expert on the committee reported that there had not been any requirement of this kind for almost six years. Sometimes things need to be placed in perspective.
While I do not want to lecture anyone, I am going to do so anyway. I seriously believe that the government should be aware of just how dangerous a game this is. The provisions of section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act and section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which anticipate this exercise, are designed to prevent these situations as much as possible.
All lawyers know very well, as I do, that it is sometimes difficult to tell a client that their case is a sure thing. However, if our priorities include decency, prudence and the public good, then we would be reasonably satisfied that this law met the criteria and principles of the charter and the Constitution. We would not raise a point that had only a 5% chance of meeting our constitutional obligations and tell people, as I was told in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, that if they are not happy they can take legal action. It really bugs me when I hear things like that.
We are here to help the public and yet we tell them that if they are unhappy about our laws, they should take legal action and claim that there was an infringement of human rights. We already have some serious problems with access to justice. Not everybody is in a position to take legal action.
The government is grateful that we worked with it. However, we did not necessarily work with the government. We worked for Canadians, for the people and for the police forces that have to make use of section 184.4, an essential factor in the exercise of a police officer's duties in investigations. This section could not be allowed to simply disappear solely because the government stubbornly decided to introduce Bill .
I am not at all unhappy that the government backtracked on that. We hope that things will work out better with Bill . This will no doubt not be the last time we have to discuss these invasion of privacy provisions.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take this opportunity to speak on Bill , alternatively cited as the response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Tse Act.
My colleague and our public safety critic, the member for , outlined why this bill is necessary in his original remarks in the House. I will not go back and quote those reasons, but he certainly outlined very extensively why the bill was necessary and why we are now supporting Bill to overcome the problems that were actually created by the government itself in bringing in Bill and by the remarks of the minister at the time, which the previous speaker talked about, which created such great controversy in the country.
I might mention as well that about two weeks ago the member for spoke at length on the fact that government bills are not reviewed by legal counsel to see if they meet the test of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He raised raised a point of privilege, in fact. What he was talking about, and I agree with him, was this regime's lack of testing legislation against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We have a Senate made up a majority of senators appointed by this . More senators have been appointed by this than any prime minister in Canadian history. It has become as if the senators who are appointed are loyal to the , and they are not doing their work as a sober second thought. The Senate is almost a rubber stamp to the government.
The next safeguard, as the member for said, is the courts in the country, not only the Supreme Court but other courts as well. Legislation passed in this place, which we as members assume has been tested by Department of Justice legal counsel and others to see if it meets the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in fact has not been. Then legislation is in fact tossed back, and that is in part why we are dealing with this particular bill today.
We know we have a problem with the way the government operates in introducing legislation without first having it tested by legislative counsel on how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to it, and I know, Mr. Speaker, that in your role as speaker you will be coming forward with a decision on what the member for raised in his point of privilege on that matter.
I will get into the specifics of the bill in a moment. This bill, or rather the need for this bill, is symbolic of what is wrong with how this place is now functioning under the guidance of the current regime. I would call it the undermining of our democracy.
There are several areas that I have to mention. First, as noted, the government brings forward legislation that we know now has not been tested, as it is supposed to be tested, in terms of how it applies to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Therefore, without that application, it is definitely going to make more unnecessary work for the courts further down the line.
Second, in this place we see omnibus bills put forward with almost everything in them but the kitchen sink. As a result, parliamentarians are unable to take all the parts of a bill to the appropriate committee where members of Parliament who have taken on the responsibilities for specific issues—and I would not call them experts, but they are knowledgeable in those areas—can test that legislation. Instead, these omnibus bills coming forward cover so many areas that Parliament is not given the proper discourse, discussion and debate to find any problems, as we have seen is needed in this specific bill.
Third, another aspect we have seen all the time with this regime in the undermining of democracy is the use of closure. The government only allows a bit of debate and prevents the representatives of the people from doing the proper analysis and research and coming forward with amended legislation. It has introduced more closure motions to limit debate in its short term as a majority government than any government in Canadian history.
Our critic for justice has put forward all kinds of amendments for justice bills, but because they are coming from an opposition party, the government ignores them. It does not accept amendments mainly put forward by opposition parties, even when the amendments make improvements to the bill. That is a problem.
I see the parliamentary secretary for international trade shaking his head over there.
There is another undermining of democracy that does not necessarily show in the bill but that is clearly a problem around this place: at the committee level, when we move motions in committee, whatever they may be, the Conservative regime moves the committee in camera, in secret, so that Canadians cannot even see the simple debate on a motion as simple as asking the minister to come before a committee. What do the Conservatives have to hide? It is another aspect of the undermining of democracy.
The last point I want to make before I get to the specifics of the bill is with respect to the Senate. As I said a moment ago, the Senate has become a rubber stamp for the , because he has appointed most of the senators. I know that my senator is not even a resident of the province and region that he is supposed to be representing, which is a constitutional requirement. However, my key point with respect to the Senate is this: it is no longer the body of sober second thought; it is almost a rubber stamp to what the government does.
I make all those points on the undermining of democracy to point out that for bills such as Bill , it is the undermining of democracy that allows a bill that does not meet the tests of the courts to be passed and become law in this country.
I will now go to the specifics of the bill. I would like to quote from a Library of Parliament report. As the House knows, the Library of Parliament does very good research. I want to quote from its report, because it is the best there is in terms of a summary.
Its report on the bill states:
On November 18, 2011, the SCC heard an appeal in the case of R. v. Tse concerning the constitutionality of the emergency wiretap provisions. In this case, police used s. 184.4 to carry out warrantless wiretaps when the daughter of an alleged kidnapping victim began receiving calls from her father stating he was being held for ransom. Approximately 24 hours later, the police received judicial authorization to carry out the wiretaps. The trial judge in the Supreme Court of British Columbia found that s. 184.4 contravened the Charter right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure.... The decision was appealed by the Crown directly to the SCC.
The Supreme Court then believed in its decision that section 184.4
...strikes a reasonable balance between an individual's right to freedom from unreasonable searches and society's interest in preventing serious harm, insofar as it allows warrantless interceptions to be used only in exigent circumstances. However, the Court found that in its present form, s. 184.4 violates s. 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. It was the lack of any accountability measures, particularly notice to persons whose communications have been intercepted, that proved fatal. The appeal was therefore dismissed, and the SCC suspended its declaration of invalidity for 12 months
—in other words, giving time for this place to deal with it appropriately—
to allow Parliament to make it constitutionally compliant by adding safeguards.
That is the background on what happened. The Government of Canada had previously passed legislation allowing those warrantless wiretaps, and the Supreme Court is basically saying that safeguards need to be put in place.
To summarize what the safeguards in the bill are and why we support it, the safeguards are basically these: the bill requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4. That is a good step.
The bill provides that a person who has been the object of such interception must be notified of the interception within a specified period, and I will get into that in a moment as well.
The bill narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception.
Finally, the bill limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.
Therefore, Bill adds three major safeguards to section 184.4 of the Criminal Code. It first restricts the use. It narrows the offences for which the wiretapping can be used, and they are spelled out in sections in the bill. Second, it names specifically the category of the people who can use those measures. Basically it narrows the category of people who can use it to police officers only. Previously it was debatable as to which people with authority could introduce wiretaps. It might be fisheries guardians or others who do not have formal training in the law or on the seriousness of wiretapping measures. The third point is that wiretapping measures could only be used to prevent an offence as listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.
One of the most important questions for our party, for Liberals, going into committee consideration of this bill was why the use of section 184.4 would be limited to the offences listed in section 183. It was done despite the Supreme Court of Canada's advice to the contrary.
The Supreme Court specifically said:
There may be situations that would justify interceptions under s.184.4 for unlawful acts not enumerated in s.183.
However, the minister, to his credit, and department officials testified that this change was necessary to bring section 184.4 more in line with the rest of part IV. The change was also supported by a witness from the Criminal Lawyers' Association, who said that the narrower any provision of the Criminal Code can be, the better.
The definition of “police officer”, which we had a concern about, was also discussed at committee at length. The term “police officer” is obviously preferable to “peace officer”, for reasons that I think are pretty clear. It is not as broad. It is narrow.
However, committee members sought assurances that the definition of “police officer” in Bill could not be construed to include private security guards or mall cops, as they are called, for example. The minister clarified that this term has been interpreted a number of times by the courts. Therefore, it is not security guards, mall cops or commissionaires; it is Sûreté du Québec, Ontario Provincial Police, RCMP, and provincial law enforcement agents.
We accept the interpretation by the minister. We think, therefore, that the bill should be allowed to pass, because the minister, in his interpretation, is quite narrowly focused on what a police officer is. They are the only ones, in our understanding, who would have the ability to authorize the use of this power.
In the time I have left, it may be important, I think, to go back and review one of the key points, which is why the Supreme Court of Canada made the decision it did and to look at the safeguards put in place as a result of the Supreme Court decision.
Clearly, the Supreme Court, in its original ruling, basically said that there was a serious lack of accountability in the use of the warrantless wiretaps. It recommended that notice be given to the subject of an interception and that the notice be provided after the fact. That is kind of standard procedure. It happens in other areas with wiretaps.
Bill , therefore, would require that either the or the relevant provincial Attorney General provide notice of the interception, in writing, within 90 days of the day the interception occurred.
Extensions could be granted, but those would certainly be, in the case of ongoing interceptions, if it related to organized crime or to terrorism.
The other important point, and I will close on this point, is that reports from ministers at the provincial level or at the Attorney General level within the province, or from the , ultimately—whoever is responsible—on the number of interceptions made under section 184.4, the number of notifications given and a general description of the methods of interception used for each of those interceptions must be tabled in the House and in others if it is their jurisdiction, outlining what those are.
For all those reasons outlined above, we, as a party, will be supporting Bill , which we believe overcomes the concern of the Supreme Court of Canada as it relates to warrantless wiretaps.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today in support of Bill . I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Finally, we have a helpful, useful intervention by the government, a crime bill we can support, not one laced with poison pills. That owes to the circumstances under which the bill comes before the House. It is really the force of circumstances in the form of a Supreme Court imposed deadline operating here, serving in a sense to take the matter out of the government's control.
It is the Supreme Court that has forced this amendment by way of its ruling in R. v. Tse, a case that dates back to April 2012. The case involved the issue of unauthorized wiretapping and, in response to the constitutional challenges raised, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that such a practice could be considered constitutional if the matter were authorized properly by way of legislation. Therefore, the Supreme Court gave the government some time to figure this out, a year in fact, and Bill C-55 is the response. It represents the government's effort to ensure such unauthorized interceptions of private communications be done constitutionally, and it succeeds.
This bill would amend the Criminal Code to provide required clarity, oversight and accountability to the rules with respect to wiretapping in circumstances alleged to be too urgent for prior judicial authorization. Oversight and accountability do not come easily to the government, so it is encouraging to see the bill in Parliament. In fact, it is something just short of a miracle perhaps in light of the progenitor to this bill, Bill .
The history of Bill is interesting and worthy of comment. Indeed, it explains why the bill is before us at the 11th hour, and indeed the last minute thereof, to boot.
The Supreme Court decision that we are discussing today was rendered a year ago, and yet here we are rushing this through before the April 13 deadline, which is looming. I will not be too critical of that because the timing of the bill is very much linked to the content of it and, frankly, what would make it succeed and be worthy of our support. It is the urgency of the circumstances that seem to have rendered the bill uncharacteristically brief and straightforward. It is in a twisted and counterintuitive way that we perhaps owe the some thanks for his tendency to a debating style that is reductionist in the extreme and that very often ends up posing distorted binary options. It is usually some framing of the issue that places sympathy for victims in opposition to a respect for civil liberties and constitutional freedoms. The case in point today was the minister's claim that people were either with the government or with the child pornographers.
That was the framing for the now dead Bill , the so-called “lawful access bill”. I call it the case in point because Bill C-30 was really the government's first crack at responding to the Supreme Court's invitation to put in place a legislative framework that would render constitutional the unauthorized interception of private communications. However, it was both and alarming and cynical overreach that attempted to exploit all of our disgust and abhorrence for terrible crimes against children in an effort to bully Canadians into giving up their right to privacy in online communications.
It was dubbed the “protecting children from Internet predators act”. That bill would have allowed law enforcement agencies to access Canadians' personal information without a warrant at virtually any time for virtually any reason. It would have given the minister and the government unprecedented powers to access information and to force telecom, Internet, telephone and wireless providers to allow the government to spy on customers. Bill C-30 would have effectively criminalized all Canadians.
That is the legislation the brought to Parliament a little over a year ago when he thought he had a bit of time to play games with the legislation. That is what the Conservative government thought was reasonable: unlimited and unaccountable access to private communication. Luckily, Canadians, Canadian privacy commissioners and civil society organizations were watching, and they did not like what was being proposed. Also lucky was the minister exceeded even himself with offensive hyperbole and sabotaged his own bill in the process. Yes, it is for that and that alone in a strange way that we owe the minister some thanks.
The lesson of Bill , of course, is not lost on anyone. It is that with time to play and left to its own devices, the government will gladly snatch from Canadians their right to privacy. Therefore, we can be sure that Canadians are watching and guarding that right very closely, as are we. Thankfully, this bill is a far cry from Bill . It stands in contrast and, in fact, is short, simple, direct and straightforward.
The task to be accomplished by way of the bill is to amend the Criminal Code to comply with the Supreme Court's 2012 order to change section 184.4 of the code to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or to lose it. Section 184.4, as it is currently written, allows peace officers to intercept private communications in emergency situations where the officer or officers have reasonable grounds to believe the situation is one of imminent harm to life or property. The urgency of such situations necessitates actions before the proper judicial authorization can be obtained. There are times when this is an appropriate action that can prevent crime and protect Canadians and for this reason section 184.4 exists.
Where it has fallen short up to now is in the area of accountability, largely. Two things have been missing: first, a system of oversight to inform Canadians of when and how this legislation is used; and, second, a requirement to notify individuals whose communications have been intercepted within a period of time defined within the bill. The court found in the R. v. Tse decision that this gap in the legislation constituted a violation of the charter.
Bill would close this gap, perhaps not perfectly but through the use of four mechanisms. First, the bill would require that the and provincial Attorneys General to make public a report on the use of section 184.4 to intercept private communications on an annual basis. Second, the bill would require that persons whose communications had been intercepted must be notified of the interception within a given period of time. Third, the bill would narrow the definition of who could conduct this surveillance and would change it from “peace officers” to “police officers”. Finally, the bill would specify the list of offences for which section 184.4 could be invoked to those offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.
These four will result in an improvement to the section of the code that serves to both limit the use of warrantless wiretapping to certain individuals, circumstances and offences and to increase the accountability in cases where it is invoked. The Supreme Court of Canada has spoken on the issue and Bill is Parliament's answer and, in the our view, the right one. Enhanced accountability and transparency is something the NDP will always support.
We know from experience where a lack of oversight and accountability takes us. We get massive omnibus bills, tax bills and omnibus crime bills passed at the last minute, with no time for parliamentarians to vet legislation, as our constituents rightly expect us to do. We get bills like Bill , which outraged the public, and the minister managed to shame himself in that process.
Bill would revive at least a bit of what the government had run over and left for dead, which is accountability, by requiring the to report annually to Parliament on the use of section 184.4 and the frequency of warrantless wiretaps in emergency situations. It would also require provincial Attorneys General to make this information public as well.
This is the kind of legislation we need, not the kind that gives cabinet ministers or other officials unprecedented powers but one that upholds Canadian law and increases accountability of police to the public. This why my colleagues and I in the NDP will support the bill.
Mr. Speaker, we know this government has very little respect for privacy. We have seen this in the speeches made by my colleagues here, and in the bills this government has introduced. We also see that it has little respect for the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to Canadians. From time to time, it introduces bills that are at odds with the Constitution.
I am very happy that this time, it decided to comply with the provisions of the charter and amend the Criminal Code so that section 184.4 protects individuals’ privacy, as guaranteed by the charter.
We know that section 184.4 applies to the interception of private communications, and the Supreme Court recently ruled on this subject. Bill adds measures that would require persons whose private communications have been intercepted to be so informed at least 90 days after the interception, and reports to be produced annually.
These measures are essential. The fact is that when you take away the need to obtain a warrant in order to intercept private communications in extreme situations where a life is in danger, it is important that there be oversight, with a system in place so that we know what happened and why someone found it so important to intercept those private communications without a warrant.
The NDP understands how important it is for the police to have the tools to respond appropriately in dangerous situations, but at the same time, we cannot neglect the rights entrenched in the charter. Even in cases involving criminals, even in extreme cases, we have to respect the law as it stands. We have to respect the principles of Canadian law, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution. It is essential.
While I am happy that this government is finally respecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in adopting these measures, I should emphasize that this government, given the espionage agenda we saw with Bill and with Bill , amended this bill to make it consistent with the charter only after being compelled to do so by a Supreme Court justice. So this was not something it decided to do on its own; it was an obligation flowing from the Supreme Court decision. If this government truly had the interests of Canadians at heart, it would have done this itself, instead of waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter.
It should also be noted that this bill was introduced as the government was announcing the death of Bill , which enabled designated persons, who were none too clearly defined, to gain access to personal information without a warrant and without judicial oversight.
Once again, this government tried to go after personal information, and to treat all law-abiding Canadians as criminals, with no warrant or judicial oversight. If this government wanted to, it would have said that it is important, when looking for information without a warrant, to have a reporting mechanism or something of the kind, so that people are accountable, that personal information is sought only in extreme cases, and that law-abiding people are not treated as criminals, in contrast to what Bill proposed.
While Bill , following the Supreme Court decision, ensures respect for section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when private communications are intercepted, Bill introduced measures that were inconsistent with the right we are guaranteed under section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be protected against unreasonable search or seizure.
There were two bills. The first was withdrawn, and I am very happy about that. Canadians are also very happy that the government decided not to continue with Bill . The second bill says that Bill C-30 was inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I hope the government will realize to what extent its own bill, its espionage agenda—I am going to call it that because this is not the first time we have seen attempts of this kind—seriously affected the protections Canadians are guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The people of Canada were opposed to the measures contained in Bill . The government accused its opponents of siding with pedophiles. I was myself accused of being a friend to pedophiles because I opposed that bill, like millions of Canadians right across the country. It has nothing to do with being friends to pedophiles, and everything to do with believing in the protection of Charter rights and in the content of our Constitution. It is absolutely essential to protect the provision set out in section 8 of the charter. We cannot go against it, and the Supreme Court judgment demonstrates that.
If Bill had been passed, it would have empowered designated persons, again not specified, and selected by the minister, to require Internet service providers to supply names, IP addresses and email addresses without a warrant and without judicial oversight. The Supreme Court decision demonstrates the necessity at all costs of protecting the privacy of Canadians, and shows that the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the charter are not negotiable, contrary to what this government thinks. I trust it has learned its lesson.
I mentioned this already, and I would like to say it again. It seems that a little more reflection is needed on this. The government introduced Bill , which still has not been debated, but which also contains measures regarding surveillance without a warrant. Instead of explicitly saying that it would allow the collection of personal information without a warrant, this bill expands the definition of people who have access to that information and who can consult Internet service providers, based on a vague, sketchy definition. The Privacy Commissioner even raised some concerns about that clause, which was included in the bill.
The mandate for online spying that the government has given itself is not finished. I hope the government has learned its lesson and that, in light of the Supreme Court decision regarding the proposal in Bill , it will drop any attempts to spy on Canadians online, when they are obeying the law.
I want to emphasize that the government cannot cast such a wide net and treat all Canadians like criminals when they are online. Of course, there are criminals and people who disobey the law, and it is important that police officers have the tools they need to intervene. That said, the government cannot contravene the charter. It must respect all rights and liberties guaranteed in the charter.
Once again, I really hope the government has learned its lesson and that it will scrap its plan to spy on people online.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise today. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for . I know the member well because I serve on two committees with him.
I am very pleased to speak again in the House on the NDP's views on this piece of legislation, Bill . It would amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court ruling referenced several times here this morning in previous speeches.
The point that has to be reiterated is that this is all coming about with a very few days remaining to meet the deadline that was provided to the House by the Supreme Court. It stayed a decision for a year to give the government the opportunity to bring forward an improvement to legislation that is much needed. We have supported this legislation throughout the process, although we found the process daunting because of the delay that took place in getting it here. We supported the government because it is an important tool for our police services in this country.
However, on the counter side of that, it is very important for the official opposition to look cautiously at any legislation that authorizes people to look into people's lives in the manner that this would. This enactment seeks to amend Canada's Criminal Code, and the Supreme Court ruling talked about the need for safeguards for Canadians, because this allows for authorized, and I want to stress the word “authorized”, interception of private communications, done prior to judicial authorization as foreseen in section 184.4 of the act.
It is worth noting that the enactment states that it:
requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4;
provides that a person who has been the object of such interception must be notified...within a specified period;...
The assumption is that those persons have not been found to be taking part in any criminal activity, and thus they have every right to be informed; and if they were involved with criminal activity and are part of an ongoing investigation, there could be an extension.
It narrowed the class of individuals who could actually make such interceptions, and those limited interceptions to particular offences are listed.
I was speaking a few moments ago about the fact that we are within three weeks of a deadline supplied to us by the Supreme Court. There was the benefit of a year from the Supreme Court to act on this, and the government has not done so until the very last minute. I have to question what the delay is. Why did it take close to a year for the government to respond to this? This was not a great difficulty, from the standpoint that the Supreme Court identified the areas in which the government had to make changes.
I would go so far as to say that when any government or any party in government looks to put forward legislation, a significant part of the process is debate in this place. Another significant part is the opportunity for all parties to come together, which we did in the instance of Bill at committee, to look at it, to hear witness testimony, to do those things necessary to offer any piece of legislation the due diligence necessary to make it as good as we possibly could. That is the concern over the timeframe, the concern over the fact that we had a couple of days to try to do things that could have well extended beyond, had we brought in more witnesses. It is troubling because that impedes the due diligence we have to administer on behalf of those people who sent us to this place.
I tend to repeat myself in my remarks, because that troubled me to the degree that I felt it was worth repeating.
There have been other times in this place that the opportunity to debate and to consider various bills has been impeded. I would ask how many times the Conservative government has moved time allocation on bills. It is not the delay just in this particular bill, but in other bills. We must be closing in on 30 times that it has occurred in this Parliament. It has to be close to that by now. I hear other members agreeing.
We have seen budget bills and other legislation affecting services, which Canadians rely on, shut down or extremely limited by the Conservatives, at what appears to be almost every opportunity. It stifles the opportunity for us to make those bills better. It stifles the opportunity we have as members to point out what they have done well and what they have done not up to the standards Canadians expect. We get to do that in this public forum. That has been curtailed too many times.
Once again, that is part of my concern with this bill, Bill , and how it got to committee after such a delay. It has the potential of impacting ordinary Canadians in a very negative way if the protections of which the Supreme Court has spoken to us were not put into place.
Bill is simply an updated version of wiretapping provisions the Supreme Court previously deemed unconstitutional. That is quite a statement when we think about it. Fortunately again for the House, the Supreme Court set the parameters of what it saw as the need to protect Canadians' rights.
I have to say that Canadians have good reason to be concerned about privacy legislation that comes out of the government. To date the government has not had what I see as a good record in that area. It is not encouraging at all.
There is an obligation on the official opposition to work for the public good in upholding the rule of law, our Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was in February 2012 that the Conservative government tabled Bill . Members will recall that gave authorities the power to access personal information in a way to which the Supreme Court responded.
It raised very serious concerns across the country, as I recall, about personal privacy and fundamental rights. That was due to the manner in which it was constructed and the powers it was seeking to give out. I will add that it was kind of a compilation of previous bills that have been before this House, Bill , Bill and Bill from a previous parliamentary session. The Conservatives were attempting to build on the original legislation from 1999 to provide public safety authorities with extensive surveillance powers over digital information. As I said a moment ago, there was a significant backlash from the people of Canada in regard to this.
Now we have the government with these much-needed changes, I will commend the government. It reached across to us in the committee. We did work better on that bill than we did on some others in the past. If we did not meet the deadline or the provisions required by the Supreme Court, then these emergency powers would be thrown out.
I began my remarks talking about the need for police officials of our country to apply these. In this particular case, these provisions are intended to happen at the worst possible time, when somebody is under physical threat of injury or harm. It was important for us to go a little deeper into it.
I am looking for what really needs to be summarized here, and that is the fact that our role is to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadians are balanced with the police officials' needs to investigate, particularly in a time where someone is under the threat of physical harm. I have to say that, working together, I believe we accomplished that. Thus, we will be supporting this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the debate on Bill .
First of all, I want to thank my colleague, the member for and official opposition justice critic, as well as all of my colleagues, in particular the members for and , who have been working diligently to bring these matters forward.
I want to start by saying that we support this bill because we have the public good at heart. Respect for privacy, accountability, proper oversight, the rule of law and respect for the Constitution and the charter are extremely important to us.
The member for noted that the government has moved time allocation close to 30 times. Time allocation is not used in committee, but causes that we espouse are systematically rejected along with many amendments that we bring forward. A climate of co-operation does not usually prevail.
Things were different this time as far as co-operation goes. However, the government had a knife to its throat, so to speak, because of the looming April 13 deadline. In R. v. Tse, the Supreme Court directed the government to provide safeguards related to the authority to intercept communications. The Court declared that interceptions made under section 184.4 without a prior court authorization were unconstitutional.
The bill requires the and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4. It furthers provides that any person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified of the interception within a specified period. It narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception and limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.
I would remind the House that this new Bill is simply an updated version of wiretapping provisions that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional. New privacy safeguards have been put in place. We believe the bill meets the standards in this area.
The Conservatives have a less-than-stellar record when it comes to privacy. That is why we took steps to ensure that this bill respected as much as possible the rule of law, the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This bill comes on the heels of the Conservatives’ abject failure with Bill . This piece of legislation failed to meet the charter test because it was not properly crafted.
The Conservative government is making a desperate attempt to comply by the April 13, 2013 deadline with the Supreme Court decision in R. v. Tse.
Section 184.4 of the Criminal Code provides for safeguards, notifications and reports. Firstly it would require that a person whose private communications have been intercepted in situations of imminent harm be notified within 90 days. Secondly, it would require that annual reports be produced on the use of wiretapping under section 184.4. These amendments would limit the authority of police officers to use these provisions and would limit interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.
The problem is that the current section 184.4 violates section 8 of the charter. Not enough thought went into it. It does not contain accountability measures to ensure proper oversight of police officers as they exercise the authority conferred upon them.
The court therefore called for some accountability measures which were introduced in Bill . Among other things, this is the reason why we support this legislation.
I would now like to turn my attention to the prior notification requirement. The bill also requires that persons who are the object of interceptions be notified. Section 195 also makes it a requirement to report to Parliament, including producing reports on the use of interceptions under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.
For all of these reasons, we will be voting in favour of the bill because it attempts to strike a balance between personal freedoms and public safety considerations. However, the question is why it took the government so long to act. Bill is a step in the right direction, but why is the government not working together with the opposition at all times to resolve problems and improve proposed legislation?
Where justice is concerned, our priority is ensuring respect for the rule of law, for Canada’s Constitution and for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not for any political agenda.
Michael Spratt from the Criminal Lawyers' Association testified in committee in March 2011. He supported this bill. He felt that it was fair and constitutional and did an admirable job of incorporating the Supreme Court of Canada's comments from R. v. Tse. Mr. Spratt confirmed that the recurring theme is the balance between the protection of the public and the protection of privacy.
The Canadian Bar Association submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights also indicated that, overall, the CBA is in favour of the amendments the bill proposes to comply with the ruling in R. v. Tse.
A representative of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Raji Mangat, also said that this is a sensible and necessary privacy bill. She is pleased that Bill limits the application of warrantless wiretapping to circumstances in which the goal is to prevent the commission of an offence.
The notice requirement provides transparency and serves as an essential check on this extraordinary power to intercept communications without judicial authorization. This bill also includes reporting requirements in order to increase oversight in the use of warrantless wiretapping by police.
For all of these reasons, we agree with the committee witnesses that this remedies the problem. The government missed the mark with Bill , but has made the necessary changes.
I am wondering about something and I will end on that note. Why does the government not work with our committee to improve other bills? The government should not just work with the opposition only when the Supreme Court puts a knife to its throat. The government must work with the opposition in the months and years to come. This would be a win-win situation for Canadians, as well as in terms of the rule of law and respect for the Canadian Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues for their moral support. I hope that my comments on Bill will stay on point. I would also have liked to hear my Conservative colleagues speak out about this important bill that their government has brought forward. Their silence today is deafening, aside from a few points of order that can be construed as attempts at badgering.
Fundamentally, the debate on Bill takes us back to the history of Bill . Finally we have a Conservative government that has backed down and admitted the error of its ways, a government that has been forced to go back to the drawing board. This is not the first time the Conservative government has been taken to task, but it should happen more often. Unfortunately, we have a government that delights in improvising most of the time. It is guided by its ideology and completely blinded by certain libertarian or conservative principles, so much so that its actions are not guided by the facts, by science or by reality, but rather by personal views, as the pointed out.
Members may recall that Quebec’s justice minister had asked the federal some questions about a bill on minimum sentences for young offenders and in that instance, personal views had specifically come into play. In my opinion, Bill was also based on personal whims. It is a shame, really, because the privacy of our country’s citizens was threatened by the Conservative government, which adopted a very hostile attitude toward all those who dared call its bill into question.
Members may recall that the Conservative minister accused the opposition parties of siding with pedophiles simply because they criticized and opposed Bill . Highly ideological stances like this adversely affect debate in Parliament as well as in our democracy.
It is important that I mention the employment insurance reform, which should have been based on impact studies illustrating the impact of the reform on a number of regions, on workers, and their families. It came to our attention that no impact studies were conducted. All’s well that ends well, however, when it comes to Bill because the bill was scrapped. This proves that when there is public outcry, and when people mobilize, the government can be forced to backtrack, even the Conservative government.
Let me come back to Bill . It is fortunate that we still have courts in this country. It is fortunate that we have a Supreme Court of Canada to tell us which provisions need to be amended, because the Conservatives do not respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I said this in my previous remarks. I also know full well that the private member's bill, Bill , which is a direct attack on unions and workers’ associations, also appears likely to end up in court.
It is good that the courts are reviewing these Conservative bills as they are probably unconstitutional, invade privacy and violate the right to organize. It is fortunate that we still have courts in our society that force the government to amend legislation that is unconstitutional so that it complies with section 8 of the charter, for example, which is the case currently with Bill .
We need to remember that the reason the bill is before us today is because a judge determined at trial that section 184.4—which is the section that is being amended—violated the right, guaranteed under section 8 of the charter, to be protected against frisking, searches, abusive seizure, and that it is not a reasonable limit under the first section.
Today, the situation is being addressed and our legislation is being amended to ensure that it is consistent with our values and principles as a society, which not only seeks to ensure the safety of its citizens, but also to protect their privacy.
In this debate, it is important to remember what section 184.4 of the Criminal Code is about. It reads:
A peace officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication where
(a) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;
(b) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that such an interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and
(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.
It is important to know exactly what we are talking about but, for members of the NDP and most people of good faith, oversight and accountability mechanisms are also important. That is why the official opposition finds the provisions of section 195 and Bill acceptable; they give police officers less arbitrary power in certain situations.
In terms of public safety needs, we are aware that police officers must have these tools and access to them. However, such interception should not then be forgotten about. There must be follow up. That is why we are pleased to have these oversight mechanisms. We understand the concerns of those who were upset about the Conservative government's Bill . This bill was a real attack on privacy given the authority it gave police to intrude on people's private lives.
We also must find a balance between the protection of privacy and the police forces' ability to do their work and maintain public safety. This balance has to exist even when the police are wiretapping and intercepting communications in order to protect the physical integrity of our constituents and prevent people from committing wrongdoings that could endanger the lives and safety of Quebeckers and Canadians.
It is all a balancing act. For once, we must admit that the bill before us is reasonable and balanced. I do want to reiterate that it was the court that twisted the government's arm and forced it to make changes. There is a deadline. Today we are debating this bill because we no longer have the choice. The court said that we had to resolve this issue by the beginning of April. We are lucky to even have this.
I would like to quote some testimony from committee. It demonstrates how the New Democratic Party feels. On March 6, 2013, Raji Mangat, the counsel for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said the following at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights:
...the BCCLA [her organization] is pleased to see that Bill C-55 will limit the use of section 184.4 to police officers. This is in our view a sensible and necessary amendment that supports the rationale behind the provision, to provide a means by which law enforcement can prevent serious and imminent harm on an urgent basis.
On that note, the BCCLA is also pleased that Bill C-55 limits the application of warrantless wiretapping to circumstances in which the goal is to prevent the commission of an offence. The addition of a notice requirement to individuals who have been subjected to warrrantless wiretapping brings section 184.4 in line with other provisions in the Criminal Code. The notice requirement provides transparency and serves as an essential check on this extraordinary power to intercept communications without judicial authorization.
The reporting requirement in Bill C-55 is also a welcome amendment, as it will enhance police accountability. Together, the notice and reporting requirements bolster accountability and oversight in the use of warrantless wiretapping, and the BCCLA [her organization] supports amendments to gather more data.
If I may, I would like to digress and speak about safety, particularly the safety of people in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie when it comes to the railways and pedestrian crosswalks. It is important to have measures that encourage active transportation so that people can safely cross the railways we have in Montreal. I support all the groups and elected officials who are lobbying for this. It is important for improving the quality of life of the people of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to address Bill . It is important right from the beginning to mention why we are debating the bill today. On April 13, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada sent a very strong message to the House of Commons, in particular to the , that section 184.4 needed to be amended. It made a sunset by saying that the Government of Canada would have one year to pass the necessary legislation to validate the Criminal Code.
What is section 184.4? It talks about a police officer's ability to intercept a private conversation in some fashion without having to get a warrant. That is what this is all about. The government has been aware of it for a number of years. The Supreme Court of Canada having made its decision on April 13, 2012, and having put a time limit on it has now forced the government to act on it.
I will talk about the lack of the timely fashion in which the government has made the decision to bring in the bill. However, prior to doing that, I would like to reflect on what I believe is very important to all Canadians.
All Canadians believe in private rights and want to ensure their rights are protected. At times we might get a little spooked. We see cameras popping up all over the place, whether it is photo radar cameras, speed cameras, cameras at high density intersections, or even nowadays on sidewalks or public buildings and public areas where people gather. Every so often I hear from constituents who want to talk about private rights. It is important for us to recognize that as individuals we do have private rights that need to be protected at all times.
I was a very strong advocate for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for many years. This year we celebrated 30 years of having the charter, which has stood the test of time. A vast majority, 90%-plus of Canadians, have grown to respect and believe in the charter as something that protects them.
I remember when my girlfriend, now my wife, and I watched the signing ceremony between Pierre Trudeau and the Queen in 1982. It was a special moment and it was something my girlfriend appreciated. It was important to me and I believe it was important to her. It is because we recognized how important it was that individuals had rights. That is why Bill is very important legislation.
I have had the opportunity to speak about it at second reading. Unfortunately, I was unable to be at committee, but I did to get to speak very briefly yesterday because we were limited to 10 minutes to the amendments brought forward. However, it is important legislation that needs to be addressed.
If we look at it from a historical point of view, whether it was Pierre Elliott Trudeau, or Jean Chrétien or one of Canada's best Attorneys General, the member for , it speaks so well on individual rights and the need to protect them. Quite often when individuals of that calibre stand and talk about individual rights, we need to listen because it is a very important aspect of being Canadian.
We turn on the news and we watch throughout the world where individual rights are virtually walked all over. There is a general lack of respect for individual rights throughout the world. I believe Canada has a leadership role in demonstrating to the world that we value the Charter of Rights.
A number of years ago I had the privilege and the opportunity to travel to Israel. When I met with one of the politicians there, he made reference to Canada's Charter of Rights and how he thought it was an important thing that Canada did in 1982. What we are doing here has an impact that goes beyond our own borders. That is why there is an onus and a responsibility for us to be very careful in behaving and acting on important legislation in a more timely manner.
Before going into some of the details of the bill, I will talk about why we have the bill. I made mention of the Supreme Court of Canada and also that the government knew about it well before that. The Supreme Court of Canada has in essence said to the government that it really has messed up. It did not have to go to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Conservatives had an opportunity to deal with the issue previously. Many parliamentarians here today will recall Bill . I was not here at that time. That bill was an attempt to deal with what the Supreme Court of Canada was forced to deal with, but because the Conservatives prorogued the session, in essence killing all legislation before the House, that attempt was defeated.
That was not the first or second time. The most recent time would have been Bill from last year. That bill came with a great deal of fanfare. A lot of allegations were made and the overwhelming reaction was quite significant, to the degree that we saw the Government of Canada push the hold button, and that bill has never seen the light of day.
The bill was introduced almost a year ago, and it would have dealt with this issue, at least in part. It also would have dealt with other things, which raised the ire of hundreds of thousands of Canadians and opposition parties, definitely the Liberal Party of Canada. However, we saw the Conservatives failing to address what was a very important issue, and I will comment on that issue very shortly. Instead of doing the right thing, which would have been recognizing that Bill C-30 was going nowhere back in June, the Conservatives could have introduced this bill last fall, in September or October, and reviewed some of the other legislation that we were talking about then.
There were opportunities for the government members to deal with this legislation. It is not like there is overwhelming opposition to Bill . In fact, the members of the Liberal Party have been very clear that we support the passage of the bill. We have done nothing to slow down its passage. We recognize that the bill has to be passed through Parliament by April 12 or 13 of this year. We have committed to working to do that.
However, we also believe the legislation needs to go through due diligence and through the process in a timely fashion.
What does that mean? It means the government and, in particular, the government House leader. This is another wake-up call for him. He needs to get his legislative agenda in order. He needs to perhaps meet with the and some of his other ministers and get a sense in what kind of legislation is coming down the pike into the House of Commons. If he did his homework, then at the very least the legislation we have today could have been, and should have been, introduced back in October last year, give or take a month. Had the Conservatives done that, there would not be this sense of urgency we have today to pass the legislation.
That decision, many of my caucus colleagues would say, was intentional. The government continued to hold back on introducing this legislation. I cannot blame them for thinking that. All we have to do is take a look at all the legislation that has been brought forward and the record number of time allocations on a wide variety of legislation. Remember those huge budget bills containing dozens of pieces of legislation amended through the backdoor of a budget. We can understand why members of the Liberal Party are a little skeptical in how the government chooses to bring in legislation.
The timing is a very important issue.
We have Bill today. It is expected the bill will pass. As I say, it does have the support of the Liberal Party and we will assist the government allowing the bill, ultimately, to pass.
However, we ask the government to take responsibility when it brings forward legislation, to take into consideration that the House of Commons has a very important role to play. When it brings a bill in for second reading, members of Parliament of all political stripes are should be afforded the opportunity to provide their contributions, whatever they might be. Even if it is a sense of repetition speaker after speaker, it has to provide for that and then allow for it to go to committee in a timely fashion where we can bring in different stakeholders.
I would like to think that under Bill , in a normal process, there might have been a higher level of interest from the different stakeholders from coast to coast to coast with respect to what type of legislation they wanted to see. That would have been very productive.
There was an attempt. It could be very discouraging to move amendments inside the House since there has been a Conservative majority, a different type of Conservative Reform Party going back to the old Reform roots, possibly. However, there has been a different attitude. Even I have detected that. It can be a challenge to move amendments inside the House. I have seen amendments stonewalled. I remember when the member for attempted to move amendments in committee and, ultimately, at third reading and the government turned them down. It took the Senate in order to pass it.
If Bill were provided the opportunity that it should have been in allowing for not only that fulsome debate within the chamber but equally an opportunity to have stakeholders from across Canada contribute to the debate, I believe we would have had more of a contribution at that point in time.
It is important to allow for that. We are talking about are private communications that can be interrupted or listened to by the police without any warrant. That is very serious. I think many Canadians could have made presentations if it was felt that we had the time to listen thoroughly to our stakeholders or even affording opposition parties or individual members to consult on the legislation in advance.
From committee, we come now to third reading. The bill has been here for a couple of days. We in the Liberal Party want to see the bill pass. I suspect that the New Democrats will support us. However, the timing is a huge concern.
The bill requires appropriate ministers in Canada to report whenever they have an intercept. That means that a minister of justice in a province, such as Manitoba, Ontario, or wherever it might be in Canada, would be notified when an interception occurred in their jurisdiction. Those provincial entities would then be obligated to report to the House of Commons, through the Minister of Public Safety, and ideally, to have it tabled it in some form in the House. It is a very important measure.
We would like to think that the frequency of any police agency having to use clause 184.4 without a warrant would be very low. There is nothing wrong with trying to find and accumulate information that allows us to make valued opinions regarding its usage. We should be reviewing that, because we are talking about individual rights.
Where a person's rights have been overlooked because it is believed that it is in the public interest, that individual has the right to know that a wiretap was done without a warrant. We are not saying that we should give a person a call to say that the telephone is going to be tapped. Once it has been done, there is an obligation to let that individual know that it has taken place. From what I understand, that is being done within this legislation.
The bill would provide more accountability and oversight. It would narrow the number of individuals or offices that could actually use clause 184.4. Today, one could be a mayor of a municipality and have the authority to listen to a private conversation without a warrant. The legislation is saying that this is too wide. We need to narrow the number of individuals who can do that. Bill narrows it down to police officers.
It also limits the types of interceptions. It should be used very rarely. For example, in a situation where someone's life is at risk or a child has been kidnapped, we need to ensure that police officers have the ability to save that life or ensure that a child is not molested. Bill moves in that direction.
Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to rise in this House on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay, who have put their trust in me to work on the issues of legislation before the House.
I am going to speak today on why the New Democratic Party is supporting Bill and what works about this bill, but also on the issues we need to look at and the prism that needs to be applied in terms of how the legislation was crafted, what it was in response to and how it ties into two other key pieces of legislation that this House has been asked to deal with.
One is Bill and the other is Bill . Within each of the bills are key issues that reflect on the ability of the government to move forward with legislation and on how legislation is actually brought forward.
What is striking already, off the top of Bill , is that it is a very narrow bill. It is simply addressing a section of the Criminal Code, section 184.4, that the Supreme Court struck down.
What we find is that legislation that is limited is usually more effective than legislation that is broad. Legislation is a very a blunt tool. Unfortunately, we have seen that the government likes to throw in all manner of legislation, often without thinking of the consequences or with very little regard for the consequences. We have seen one omnibus bill after another brought before the House without proper review and without a proper understanding of how they related to basic issues like charter rights.
I would like to say that I think the government is doing the right thing with Bill by having very narrowly defined legislation that addresses a major problem. I would like to think that the government thought this approach up on its own and that this is how it is going to start dealing with criminal matters and the reform of the criminal justice system, but that is not really what has happened here.
The government is responding to the fact that the Supreme Court struck down section 184.4 of the Criminal Code and gave it a deadline of April 13, which is only two weeks away, to address the problem.
I am going to speak a little about Bill and then explain how the implications of the Supreme Court legislation tie in to Bill and Bill .
Under section 184.4, the Supreme Court ruled in R. v. Tse that police use of a warrantless wiretap to secure the safety of an individual is a correct step to take. If a life is at stake, law officers have the ability within Canadian jurisprudence to go in, get the evidence and secure a life. That is a long-standing practice within the Canadian law system.
However, the problem with section 184.4 is that there are no accountability mechanisms. What I find very interesting about the Supreme Court decision is that it says that even in the case of criminal activities—and what we were dealing with in this case was a kidnapping, a very horrendous attack against a citizen—basic charter rights still remain and have to be balanced.
The Supreme Court took the larger view and recognized that the spectre of criminality cannot be used to undermine the basic rights of citizens in this country. This is a concept that seems absolutely foreign to the Conservative Party, whose backbenchers jump up whistling and dancing every time they can come up with some extreme case of a criminal activity as a cover to allow them to undermine all manner of privacy rights, all manner of basic citizen rights. They have done it time and time again.
The Supreme Court has said no. The test of law in this country is what is reasonable versus unreasonable. What is reasonable is that if law officers know someone is at risk and need to get that information immediately, it is reasonable to go for the warrantless wiretap to gather that information without the judge's warrant, which can then be obtained later. What is unreasonable is to do that without any oversight mechanism.
Section 184.4 will clarify this, because it defines—and this is a very important thing again in dealing with Bill and Bill —who is eligible, the police; how it is to be used, under specific circumstances; and why it is to be used, to protect the rights of citizens balanced against the right to bring safety to people who are perhaps under threat of criminal activity. The definition of how this breach of law would be allowed is crucial to Bill .
When we look at Bill , which was the bill that this was supposed to be a part of, we see that none of these definitions of the who, the how and the why are there. In fact, it is so broad that the privacy commissioners from across Canada, in an unprecedented response to the government, wrote against the government's attempt to undermine the basic civil rights of Canadian citizens.
Whenever the Conservative government attempts to do something that it knows will not pass a charter challenge or attempts to pull something that it knows the Canadian public will not stand for, it uses a bogeyman. The minister used perhaps the most baseless attack that has ever been uttered in the House of Commons when he said that anybody who was concerned about privacy rights or the individual rights of citizens in this country or who dared raise a question to him was on the side of child pornographers.
That was about as ugly as it can get. Of course, now we see who is on the side of child pornographers: Mr. Tom Flanagan, who said that it is a victimless crime. We see the right-wing media is concerned about Mr. Tom Flanagan, a very famous and very rich right-wing white man. It was his rights, we are now being told, that were somehow trampled upon. One reporter said that he thought it showed the fundamental shallowness of Canadians that they were outraged that Mr. Flanagan was defending the rights of child pornographers.
However, that was the kind of language being used by this minister to cover up the fact that there were major flaws in Bill . If we tie it back to Bill in terms of the Supreme Court, the government must have known that none of its provisions would have passed the charter challenge because they did not meet the basic standards of jurisprudence.
Let us look at the lack of the who, the how and the why in terms of Bill as compared to Bill . Bill may be brought back by the government; we are not yet sure. Under clause 33, the government would be allowed to designate an inspector to go into a telecom to demand information for being in compliance with Bill .
The minister may designate inspectors, that is his choice, but there is no definition of what those inspectors are. Are they police? Are they private security? Are they political staffers? We do not know. Bill would allow the extraordinary ability of the minister to appoint inspectors. Under clause 34, these inspectors would be allowed to go into public telecoms to gather information on private citizens. That is clearly something that would never pass the charter challenge.
In contrast, in Bill we see that they have defined the right to ask for warrantless information to just the police, which is the proper place it should be. We should know who is able to gather that information on us.
What they wanted to do under Bill was allow warrantless access to subscriber information on the data use of anybody with a cellphone or an ISP address, which would pretty much mean 95% or 96% of the Canadian public. Unspecified persons could gather that information.
The privacy commissioners of Canada spoke out against this. They said that contrary to the Conservative Party's claims, it had nothing to do with being just like a phone book. Ann Cavoukian said that this was “one of the most invasive threats to our privacy and freedom that I have ever encountered”. About being able to demand and being forced to turn over this information, she said:
...customer name and address information ties us to our entire digital life, unlike a stationary street address. Therefore, “subscriber information” is far from the modern day equivalent of a publicly available “phone book”. Rather, it is the key to a much wider, sensitive subset of information.
That is what the Conservatives wanted to be able to gather.
The abuse of privacy rights did not end there. Under Bill , they also wanted to force telecoms to basically build in back-channel spy communication, so that as they expanded their networks, they would have to build in the monitoring system to keep track of any citizen the government felt it should be able to look at at any time, again without any oversight and without citizens knowing they would be spied upon.
Ann Cavoukian, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, said that what they were in fact doing, although they perhaps did not realize it, was creating a hacker's paradise. If we allow wormholes throughout the telecom system to allow police to spy on it, then certainly the hackers, who are usually about three steps ahead of everybody else on this—and we see massive international gangs using sophisticated cyberhacking—would be able to benefit much more than the police or security services.
In terms of the how, Bill limits the ability to get a warrantless wiretap based on the possibility of a threat to a person. Afterwards there would have to be oversight mechanisms and reports would have to be published and reported to Parliament so that we would know how these warrantless wiretaps are being used. Bill defines and protects this breach of the private rights of citizens, whereas under Bill , the door was kicked down and all the basic rights of citizens were thrown out.
Of course we know that Bill was responded to in a massive and very exciting and positive response from the public, a backlash that said that we demand that our privacy rights be protected and defined under the rule of law in this country. It was an unprecedented backlash against the government. The has been pretty much hiding under his desk publicly ever since. It is a good sign that we have a engaged citizenry here that knows the difference between what is reasonable and unreasonable.
In Bill , the government is limited to gathering information under the reasonableness of protecting an individual who is facing threat compared to the unreasonableness of doing away with all manner of privacy rights whatsoever. In this manner, I would say that the Canadian public are foremost across the world in standing up for their rights, much more than the government, which has very little respect for the privacy rights of Canadians. In other democracies with privacy rights in the digital age and the age of big data and CCTV cameras, other citizens are steadily having those rights eroded, whereas in Canada we want to maintain those rights.
In Bill , which is the other piece of legislation to compare Bill to, again we see the government showing no respect for the privacy rights of Canadians. There is no understanding of the importance of privacy rights. We certainly saw that with the massive data losses of private financial information on over 500,000 Canadians at HRSDC. We have seen other data breaches. We saw the government's cavalier attitude when, rather than warning citizens that their personal financial data may have been breached, its only desire was to protect the minister, and it kept the breach quiet for two months. Any manner of international gangs could have had that data, gone after people's credit and created massive widespread fraud, because that is what can happen if the public is not alerted.
Under Bill , the government wants to change the reporting threshold for private business when these privacy breaches happen. This is very important in terms of defining how we protect the rights of citizens. Under the changes the government is bringing in Bill , private companies that have our data, whether a bank, a Sony PlayStation, or all manner of online transactions, would only have to report the breach to the Privacy Commissioner if they thought there was a significant risk of harm. “Significant” is an extremely high bar to set. Meanwhile, all manner of abuse could happen underneath it.
Also, private businesses would be very wary about the idea of going public with the fact that they may have lost Visa card information or personal data information for 100,000 or 200,000 or 500,000 people, because it affects their basic online business model. Everything is now done online. However, we see the government telling private businesses that they only have to report a privacy breach if it might cause significant harm. That completely fails the basic test and the understanding of the importance of privacy rights in this country.
We believe that there has to be a very clear rule that if companies fear they have been hacked and that privacy data has been breached, it has to be reported to the Privacy Commissioner, who has such an extraordinary role to play in protecting and reviewing the evidence and deciding whether action must be taken.
However, we see that again the government is undermining the role of the Privacy Commissioner and we have to ask why. As more and more Canadians operate their businesses online and as our financial transactions occur online, the last thing we want to do is create a hackers' paradise in Canada, while the rest of the world moves further ahead of us. Ann Cavoukian has spoken about this.
It is extraordinary that Canada was once seen as the world leader in privacy data. Our Privacy Commissioner is definitely seen as a world leader, but our legislation is falling further and further behind where the Europeans and the Americans are going. As our Privacy Commissioner is asking for the tools to update, to deal with the cyberthreats and to deal with the protection of personal information in the age of big data, the current government is undermining the legislation.
How does that relate to Bill ? There are direct connections in the language among Bill , Bill and what we have seen in Bill . Bill C-12 would allow organizations and companies, including telecommunications companies, to disclose personal information to government institutions, perhaps the police or perhaps not, without the knowledge and consent of the individual when performing policing services. This is under subclause 6(6), but there is no definition of what “policing services” are.
Again, it is the language of Bill , the lawful access and online snooping language, that would allow some undefined security person or force to obtain information on private individuals from telecommunications without defining who would be eligible to gather that information, whereas Bill would limit it to the police so that is very clear.
I agree with my colleague on the Conservative side and I am telling him that they are going to need to bring Bill to the same standard, where we define who is eligible to ask for that information. Without doing that, we will end up going before the courts again. If we define that it is the right of the police to ask for that information, then that would meet the test that would be laid out in Bill , but Bill C-12 would not meet that test right now. The issue is that there is no oversight mechanism in Bill C-12. If they did ask for this ISP information on individual users, there are no mechanisms under Bill C-12 for reporting what was happening, and that would fail the test of Bill .
It is clear that what the Conservatives had been attempting to do was to take Bill , which was their desire to be able to snoop on as many people as they wanted as often as they wanted and however they wanted, and build in a number of other subsets in other legislation to make that operable. Bill , which includes changes to the Privacy Protection Act, would certainly allow them to do that. However, being that we have had the public backlash on Bill C-30 and being that we now have defined Bill very clearly regarding the who, the how and the why of this being allowed, we would need to clarify the same mechanisms under Bill C-12.
We see that the Conservatives are on the straight and narrow right now. They did not want to come. They were dragged, kicking and screaming, and it is our job to ensure they stay on the straight and narrow. We want to work with them. It is hard for them and we will do our part to keep them on the straight and narrow. We will do that 12-step program of accountability and I want to work with my colleagues on that, but they just keep sliding off that wagon. They want to go after personal freedoms. They want to go after individuals. They want to do that spying thing. However, they cannot do it because we have the rule of law in this country.
We are asking them to come work with us and learn from some of their colleagues who might have a little more experience in some of these matters. Certainly the Supreme Court has laid down the test that has to be met. Now that Bill is in place, the problems with Bill are too clear to ignore. Then, what we need to do with Bill C-12 is to ensure that Bill will never come back and that the online snooping provisions of the current government will not come back.