IN THE HOUSE ~ Debate ~ Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act

40th Parliament, 3rd Session
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, for many Canadians who are unemployed because of Conservative government's actions, and who are taking a breather from hitting the streets to look for work by watching the House of Commons on CPAC today, what they have seen is a common theme.

Earlier today, the Conservatives were trying to foster the trade bill with Panama, a country that tied for the worst in the world in the laundering of drug money. The government essentially wants to give the regime in Panama a vote of confidence and allow Canadian companies and individuals to launder money in Panama.

Here it has gone one up. Clearly, the Conservative government has jumped the shark. This was the government that was supposed to be strong on privacy, strong on crime issues, and what we are seeing is that it is encouraging money laundering. Now, as my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, said earlier, it is ripping up the rule book on the Privacy Act.

This is not a long bill. This is a bill of exactly one page, but what it says should be of some concern to all Canadians who want their personal information protected.

Regarding section 4.83 of the Aeronautics Act, this bill says, “Despite section 5 of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act”, despite what currently exists, which is personal information protection and electronic document protection, it is throwing all of that out the window. Now when an aircraft leaving Canada either lands in a foreign state or flies over the foreign state, all the information that is on the passenger name record is available to the foreign state.

Let us recap. The government has thrown the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act out the window. If a person is landing in a foreign state or flying over the state going somewhere else, it is open season on that person's information.

It is hard to believe how irresponsible the government is becoming. It is not just the corruption allegations that we are hearing daily. It is not just the incredibly bloated deficit, the inability to control spending, the fake lake, or the inability to deliver any programs that actually improve the lives of Canadians. It has not destroyed health care yet, but it would like to if it were given the opportunity. It is not just that. It is that now it is doing things that are--

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, my comments are relevant, but it is not something Conservative members like to hear. They will be hearing it more and more, however, from the public in their ridings. When we look at the implications of Bill C-42, when we couple it with all of the other inept actions of the current government, Canadians should be really concerned about what is going to happen to their personal information.

This short bill rips up the Privacy Act. This short bill says that if we just fly over a foreign country, never mind whether we land there, all of a sudden our personal information can be passed over to the foreign state, whose laws we do not know.

Who is the current government signing this deal with? It is signing it with the United States. But it is also signing it with Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Panama. These are not countries known for their openness. In fact, Mexico rates very low on the international scale of corruption, the Dominican Republic is not a democracy, and Panama is now tied for worst in the world, according to the IRS, for laundering drug money. Yet, the Conservatives want to give the Panamanian secret service open access to Canadians' private information. That is brilliant, but not at all corresponding to what they said.

Back in 2007, the government, before it jumped ship and decided not to pay any attention to Canadians' wishes, issued a press releasing saying how strongly it opposed doing what it is doing today. It said it opposed handing over the personal information of Canadians to the U.S. It also said that the consent to give access to personal privacy records was central to Canadian privacy standards. A year later, before that first prorogation, when the government was on the ropes, it assured us that this type of program would not apply to Canadians. It said that the U.S. had said that a program of this nature would exempt countries like ours with comparable security systems.

This was in response to planted questions during question period from the government's own members.

At the time, the Minister of Transport said they were not going to go that route. The minister said, “Our government is committed to respecting the safety, security and privacy of each and every Canadian”.

Today, with Bill C-42, the government has thrown that out the window. All of its pretensions, all of its promises, like the promise to have prudent financial management, or the promise to respond to the needs of rural and northern Canadians, have been ripped up. Now we see that the commitments made in 2007, 2008, and 2009 have been ripped up and replaced by this bill, which would do the exact opposite.

What is in the passenger name record that is now being handed over to intelligence agencies in places like Panama and the Dominican Republic, simply for the act of flying over? If we want to fly over those states, the current Conservative government is saying our records are free game.

This is where it gets very interesting and very worrisome for those Canadians who value their privacy.

I know the member for Wetaskiwin will want to jump up on this, but for the government to ditch the long form census, to rip it up because of so-called privacy concerns, when it is willing to do this, is an absolute crock. It is pure hypocrisy. On the one hand, the government says it is going to rip up the long form census. On the other hand, the government says it is going to give people's personal information on the passenger records to the secret service of Panama. There is no problem at all.

For Canadians who are not aware of this, the passenger name record is a file that is created by the travel agent when the ticket is booked. This system was created by the travel industry to facilitate travel. The booking information is passed along. It is considered confidential and private. That is why in this bill the government is ripping up the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, because it is protected information now. It can contain credit card information, who a person is travelling with, where a person is staying, the person's home address and other contact information, any medical conditions the person suffers from, even what the person ate on the plane. That is the passenger name record that is protected by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which would be ripped up by the government.

Now the government is saying that personal information would be shipped to the Dominican Republic's secret service or the Panamanian secret service for the simple act of flying over part of a country to get to somewhere else. Is that absurd and irresponsible? Absolutely, but that is what the government is purporting to do in this bill.

It will be interesting to see over the course of the next few hours whether any Conservative members are going to have the guts to stand up and try to defend this action. This is in direct contradiction to the promises they made prior to the election campaign and in direct contradiction to the promises they made subsequently, even in response to Conservative members' own questions.

Does this bill that rips up the privacy act correspond in any way to the prudent collection and protection of personal information? It does not. It would be worthwhile to take a few minutes to talk about what the government should be doing and what it has not done.

For example, the European Commission has established principles for data collection that must be observed. These principles include, first, a purpose limitation. Private personal information has to be processed for a specific purpose and subsequently used or further communicated only in so far as it is not incompatible with the purpose of the transfer, in other words, one purpose. That is not contained in this bill in any way.

Second is the information quality and proportionality principle. The information should be accurate and kept up to date. The information should be adequate, relevant, and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which it is transferred and further processed.

That is not in this bill at all. There are no safeguards at all. There is one paragraph on ripping up the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act with respect to air travellers, but there is nothing that replaces or puts into place any protections subsequent to that.

Third is the transparency principle. Individuals should be provided with information as to the purpose of the processing and the identity of those in control of the information in the third country.

This bill does nothing of the sort. It is transferred wholesale and the individual would not even be aware that if he or she flew over Panama his or her personal credit card information may be given to the Panamanian secret service.

Fourth is the security principle. Technical and organizational security measures have to be taken by those in control of the information appropriate to the risk presented by the processing.

Again, there is not a single word of protection and security of that information in this bill.

Fifth is the right to access rectification and opposition principle. The subject of the information should have the right to obtain a copy of all the information relating to him or her that is processed and a right of rectification of the information that is inaccurate.

There again, there is not a single word regarding that European Commission principle on data transfer and personal information in the bill.

Sixth is the restriction on outward transfers. Transfers of personal information to further countries should be permitted only where the second country is also subject to the same rules as the country originally receiving the information. That is perhaps the most important.

Here we have a bill that rips up protections offered to Canadians and does not provide any of the principles that are best practices worldwide. I mentioned the European Commission. These are best practices in any industrialized first country. Yet the transfers of the personal information is given over to the Panamanian government, or to the Panamanian secret service, or to the Dominican Republic and its secret service. As we know, that country is not a democracy and yet it is included in this bill and there are no protections at all.

All six of the principles of personal information protection, security and data management are violated in the bill. It is not as if the Conservatives missed by a few words, that they almost got it right, that they really tried to protect Canadians' personal privacy and just missed one of those principles because they did it too quickly, as they do with many of their crime bills on the back of a napkin. They mess up and then the bill goes to committee and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh endeavours to fix the errors. Sometimes we are able to fix them, but sometimes the Conservatives do not co-operate. But we are not talking about missing it by an inch, or a foot, or a metre, we are talking about missing it by a country mile. The Conservatives did not include a single one of the six principles of personal information protection, not a single one. They ripped up the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and did not replace it with anything. It is open season.

If people fly over Panama, their information is gone and there is not a single element of protection in this two clause bill. The Conservatives did not seem to understand the problem, except when we go back to the commitments made over the last three years. They obviously understood in 2007 when they committed not to do this. They obviously understood in 2008 and 2009 when they said they would not do this. Now it is 2010 and they toss this bomb on the floor of the House of Commons for all Canadians who are concerned about their personal information being spread far and wide and there is not even an explanation.

The Conservatives have not stood up in the House and tried to defend or explain this bill. Maybe it is because the Prime Minister's Office has not issued its one page of speaking notes. Still, one has to wonder when they do something so irresponsibly, not ineptly in this case, because they have not responded to any of the data management protection, any of the personal information protection. They have not responded at all. They have just acted as if people can hand over their credit card information and it is okay if a Panamanian secret service agent has it. It is no problem at all, say the Conservatives.

In this corner of the House we tend to review legislation very critically. We go through it word by word. In this corner of the House we are not standing for that kind of irresponsible behaviour.

There is a wide range of people who have spoken against the bill and have raised concerns about it. I want to mention two.

Roch Tassé of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group said about this bill that the Americans will have a veto on every passenger who gets on a plane in Canada even if they passengers are not going to set foot on American soil. Mr. Tassé asked what would happen if Canada invited the ambassador from a country such as Cuba, if we now have to share that personal information even if the plane is just flying over the United States. What could the consequences be?

More important, the Air Transport Association of Canada has said:
The submission of Canadian passengers' details by Canadian airlines violates Canada's laws on the protection of personal information and electronic documents, as well as laws on aeronautics.

That is why we are seeing this bill today. Because it violates Canada's laws, the government through some subterfuge is trying to get this through the House of Commons hoping that opposition members will not be concerned about what is a wholesale handover of Canadians' personal information.

In this corner of the House, NDP members always stand up for ordinary Canadian families. We are the ones who stand up. We are the ones who have read through this document. We are saying that this is irresponsible, inappropriate and we are not going to stand for it.

The fact is that the government has put forward a bill that removes personal information protection, removes that key component and yet in no way replaces it with any of the principles of data management, of personal information protection. The fact that the government is doing this is highly irresponsible. It is something that the NDP will oppose.

As our critic, the member for Western Arctic, has said so eloquently in this House, we are not going to allow information, such as credit card information, whom people are travelling with, where they are staying, their home and other contact information, medical conditions, even such details as what people ate on the plane to be dispatched wholesale, left, right and centre, without any due regard to protection of personal privacy or protection of personal information. We are simply not going to stand for that.

Finally, I am going to cite a comment from a United Kingdom House of Lords' European Union Select Committee report on the passenger name record:

We believe that the use of PNR data for general law enforcement purposes...is undesirable and unacceptable.

We have had comment after comment from people who are concerned about protection of privacy rights and people who are concerned about personal information protection. We have had very eloquent comments from a number of members of Parliament, particularly from this caucus. There has been a very strong reaction. What the government should be doing with this bill is it should be taking a step back. This is a violation of its promise and commitment to Canadians, and it should withdraw this bill. We certainly hope it will do that having heard the comments about this atrocious bit of legislation.

Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I want to praise the member for Western Arctic for the work he does on the transport committee and in the House. He has been first and foremost in fighting for transportation safety in this Parliament. In the previous Parliament, he fought to stop the government's irresponsible plans around self-managed safety systems, or basically self-serve safety, the famous SMS systems, in the airline industry. He managed to stop the government cold from doing to the airline industry what it irresponsibly did to the railway industry. We certainly saw an increase in accidents and derailments in the railway industry.

His work there and now his work on Bill C-42 shows that he has the concerns of Canadian families from coast to coast to coast, since he represents the Arctic in mind. It is because of his incredible efforts in the House that more and more Canadians are becoming aware of what the government is intending to do with Bill C-42. It is ripping up personal information protection and allowing personal confidential information, in an unprotected way, to be given to other countries, like the Dominican Republic, which is an authoritarian government, or Panama, which ranks among the world's worst in terms of dirty money laundering and tax havens.

What the government could have done, to answer the member for Western Arctic's question, is put in place the principles around confidentiality and protection of private information, which include, most notable among the six principles that the European Commission has adopted, the restriction on aberrant transfers, that we can only transfer information to third parties or third countries when it is protected.

In this case, as we know, and as the member for Western Arctic has very eloquently raised in the House, the government did not do it. It did not get the job done. It did not even try to get the job done. It did not even try to apply any of those principles of protection of confidential and private information, not even one. That is why the bill is so bad. It did not even make the attempt to provide some protection of Canadians personal private information, including credit cards. It is clear that the government did not understand what it was doing, that it did not understand the implications and that now the current government really has to withdraw this bad bill.

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I like the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, even though he takes licence with the facts. We saw this with SMS and we heard the same promises. The government said that the bill was bad but it would fix it later in the regulations. That is apparently what he is doing now. He is saying that the bill is egregiously bad. In fact, any Canadian can go on the House of Commons website, look up Bill C-42, and find out what the government has concocted. It is a matter of real concern that the government is making some promises to try to fix what it did not do in the bill.

He raised the issue of domestic flights. This one paragraph bill rips up the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. It says that “an operator of an aircraft departing from Canada that is due to land in a foreign state or fly over a foreign state and land outside Canada” is subject to providing Canadians' private, personal information.

He has raised this red herring that flying from Vancouver to Winnipeg is exempt, and he is trying to say that this is some kind of victory. This is a bit disingenuous, just a bit. The Air Transport Association of Canada has clearly said that “the submission of Canadian passengers' details by Canadian airlines violates Canada's laws on the protection of personal information and electronic documents, as well as laws on aeronautics”.

We rest our case. The Air Transport Association of Canada agrees with us, not with him, and I think most Canadians agree with us, not with him.

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has raised an appropriate question.

It is not just that this personal information can now go to the United States, Mexico, or Panama, the drug haven that the Conservatives seem to love. We had a Panama trade bill earlier. Now we have disclosure of personal information going through to Panama. According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Panama is tied for worst in the world in the laundering of drug money. The Hells Angels just love this Conservative initiative to build these relationships with Panama, but most Canadians should be concerned.

The member for Yukon is absolutely right to ask how this might be expanded. This is unclear, but we know the Conservatives' obsession with laundering drug money. This is something they will have to explain when they speak to the bill. They have not said a word about it in the House. I think they are ashamed, either that or the Prime Minister's Office has not sent the line that they are all supposed to read. But Conservatives will have to explain what is going on over there, why they are doing this, why they are obsessed with giving Canadians' personal information up to third countries, and why they want to give this information to the Dominican Republic and Panama.

It is all irresponsible. It is all inappropriate. That is why we are saying, in this corner of the House, that they should withdraw this bad bill. There is simply no justification for what the government is doing.