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Ladies and gentlemen, I see a quorum. We are under some time pressures, so I'm going to call the meeting to order.
Before we get started, I want to note that votes are scheduled at 10:40. Under the Standing Orders, I'm obligated to suspend proceedings when the bells start ringing, which will be at 10:10. I'm sure colleagues would like to finish with clause-by-clause consideration today. I, possibly, will ask for unanimous consent to extend. If we don't have unanimous consent to extend, then we'll have to come back to this on Tuesday. When colleagues are debating amendments, and points have been made, they don't need to be made again.
We've raised concerns about the number of regulatory changes that can be made subject to this legislation. In an effort to seek a compromise, we are seeking to amend the legislation so that the Governor in Council must consult first nations, after the testimony we heard, and the Privacy Commissioner before proceeding with regulatory changes. That way, having the involvement of the Privacy Commissioner in particular, we can make sure that even in these vast regulatory powers, there is some kind of safeguard for Canadians.
I will not support this amendment because the reference to a single group of persons limits consultation. The Commissioner already consults not only the first nations, but the entire business community. It would therefore be pointless to limit his obligation to consult.
We would like the Privacy Commissioner to have the legal duty to consult before making any regulatory changes. This seems entirely appropriate to me, especially in view of the range of regulatory powers set forth in the act. The government apparently does not share that opinion.
I maintain my objection to limiting consultation, since that is already part of the Commissioner's role. As an independent body, the office of the Commissioner consults a wider range of stakeholders than a single group.
This amendment is designed to limit the retention of information to 99 years. In the United States, the limit is 76 years. In Canada, there is no limit at this time. The idea is to retain the data so that, if an offence is committed in 15 or 20 years, information is available to determine whether a specific person crossed the border at a specific time on a specific date. We suggest a limit of 99 years because that is roughly a person's life span.
After 90 years, we might as well not do anything. That is such a long time to retain data that it serves absolutely no purpose. So I will oppose this amendment. I will present our own amendment later on, which suggests a data retention period that protects privacy.
Chair, this is our attempt to create some kind of accountability for CBSA when it comes to redress. We heard from witnesses from the different departments that would be using this information, whether it's with regard to EI claims or OAS, that Canadians caught up in this net would have to address their concerns or their justification through that department and not through CBSA to determine the accuracy of the information.
We also heard from Professor Wark about the lack of review and accountability for CBSA generally speaking, so we feel this amendment seeks to correct that issue with the bill somewhat.
Chair, this is our retention schedule, which at 15 years we feel is much more in line with some of the concerns we heard, notably from the Privacy Commissioner, when it comes to how long this information will be kept, particularly with regard to CBSA. Different departments seem to have different policies as to how long they will retain the information. We feel it's important to have it specifically outlined in the bill.
As I mentioned in an earlier comment, at 15 years we're dealing with something that makes much more sense when it comes to protecting Canadians' privacy as opposed to paying lip service to it.
I think it would be reasonable that we would extend the time actually from 15 years. There are circumstances in law enforcement history as well as in terrorism tracking where 15 years of data could be not a sufficient amount of time to track a person's movements. I know there's a reasonableness to it and I would hope that in this legislation we can arrive at something that allows for a bit of an extended time. I would agree that 99 years may be excessive, and zero is certainly not acceptable. Fifteen years still allows someone to be able to lose the record of their movement back and forth. I would propose that it be extended by at least double that. Thirty years would give someone—
An hon. member: [Inaudible—Editor]
Mr. Glen Motz: I know, but it's something that.... I can't support 15 years. I just think it's unreasonable. People can certainly have activities going on here that cannot be tracked beyond 15 years back. I know from experience that we lose a lot of information on retention schedules that we have already.
Well, to be honest with you, we do need some retention years in here, obviously. I think 15 years is unreasonable. It's a start, but it's too low. I think if as a group we can live with 50 or 35, somewhere in that range, that allows for.... When you look at terrorist activity or criminal activity—and I'm just looking at this—they come into the country at 16, 18, 20 years old, and they hibernate, if you will, for some time. We can track—
That could be an arbitrary number, obviously, but the reason I suggest that is there are individuals who might enter this country and disappear for a time, with no activities and no travel back and forth or whatever, and their activities and their movements would be great to have because they could become involved in criminal activity, terrorist activity, in subsequent years and we could lose it. I do know from experience on criminal matters that in even some of our minor files we have record retention schedules of 10 or 15 years, and individuals may be silent in those years and we lose them permanently. They're gone and you can't ever access them again and it's critical that sometimes that information comes up.
I know we need a reasonableness balance here, but 15 years doesn't really allow us enough time and I see at the other end it's too much time. If someone comes into the country at age 20 years or 16 years, and we have a 40-year span, we hope that by the time they're 60 or 70 they're going to have demonstrated themselves already to be a risk to our country.
Yes, Chair, I won't be supporting the amendment. I feel that even in the justice system, when it comes to life in prison, you're talking about 25 years, so I think that already demonstrates the length of time that this represents. It doesn't seem like a long time, but as soon as you're arguably close to a lifetime span, it again becomes a moot point.
It's also important to note that we already collect entry information anyway, which is exactly what Mr. Motz is talking about. This doesn't change that. This is specifically about the exit information that's being retained. We do have records of who enters the country. That's already something that exists, regardless of whether this bill is adopted or not.
Again, I feel 15 years allows the legislative objectives to be accomplished. I'm certainly also glad to see that the government sees that the same way, and I'll be voting against this amendment.
To reassure my colleague, I do share the concern that we don't want to lose information. Having worked on databases covering 10 years of data, the behaviour, the pattern you want to look at is pretty much covered in this period of time. Where we feared losing some information at the beginning of the period, more than 10 years, we have the challenge of stretching that to the trial and justice system and what you can prove is quite limited because of time to give all the evidence you need. I think 15 years takes a good shot at expanding what exists already on the 10-year limitation of keeping data in the system, but long enough at least to give us a good idea of the pattern, the substance we're looking for, and gives us substance to work with. I'll remain at 15 years.
Mr. Dubé, you're right about the exit information. We know that many of the threats posed to our country are because they're radicalized somewhere else. Monitoring the exit information and the number of times they leave this country to maybe have that exposure elsewhere in our world would be important to track for longer than 15 years.
My colleague referred to terrorism, but terrorism is not the only concern. We are talking about all kinds of crimes, property crimes and many other things. That is why retaining the information for a long time can be crucial to Canadian security. Terrorism is one concern, of course, but there are many others as well.
Mr. Chair, it's been raised but I'll raise it again, with respect to the argument about leaving and being radicalized elsewhere, if they're leaving and if your concern is that they're coming back, we still have the entry information on file.
Once again, this amendment is in line with one of Professor Wark's recommendations, namely, that an annual report on the data collected be tabled in Parliament. I consider this entirely appropriate. This will provide accountability and also protect the privacy of Canadians.
Liberal members are opposed to the amendment because it's essentially creating an obligation to report very specifically on sections 92 to 94. This is redundant in the context of the minister's broader practice to table an annual departmental report but cover the activities of the entire agency and that would include those impacted by Bill C-21.
Chair, this is a concern that was raised by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association with regard to solicitor-client privilege. The amendment seeks to protect that and also specifies the specificity of the Quebec situation in that sense.
Our amendment seeks to require that, before the end of the 270th day after the day on which this act receives royal assent, a committee of the Senate or of the House of Commons conduct a study to verify the proper application and smooth operation of the act, and to evaluate its financial impact.
We heard testimony from the Canadian Civil Liberties folks when they were here about adding a preamble that is similar to other legislation we have. While all of us recognize that all of our laws are governed by the safeguards provided and the rights and freedoms that we have as Canadians in the charter, adding this as a preamble just reinforces that fact. We would suggest adding a preamble that is present in other bills to just emphasize the fact that everything will be carried out with the rule of law and consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I regret to inform you, Ms. Damoff, that this is inadmissible. The bill comes to us without a preamble, and it is not within the purview of a committee to introduce a preamble. Unfortunately therefore, it is inadmissible, and therefore we are not required to vote on it.
I want to thank each and every one of you for your extensive co-operation over the course of the hearings on this bill. You've comported yourselves in an exemplary fashion. I particularly appreciate the help you've given the Chair.
I also want to thank the officials for their availability. I'm sure they're quite disappointed they weren't called upon to settle our keen arguments.
Unless we have other business committee members wish to discuss, I'm going to bring this meeting to an end.