Libby speaks up about Canadians’ privacy rights

House of Commons
February 3, 2011

Madam Speaker, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-42, the Aeronautics Act.

I first want to thank my colleague from Western Arctic who is the NDP transport critic. I know the member from Western Arctic and his team, the folks in his office, his researchers, have put together just a wealth of information that when one reads through it leaves one with a very troubling sense as to what the bill is all about.

The bill was before the House before the holiday break. There was a sense of urgency, a deadline and it had to be rushed through. This is such a familiar story in this place that it almost makes the notion of Parliament and the parliamentarians’ work seem redundant. Everything has urgency and must be rushed through.

We are here to dig into legislation, to find out what it’s about, to look at its merits, to give it a sober first thought and second thought, to have it go through committee and then through all the other processes. That is very important, especially in this day and age when everything is so focused on security, technology and the movement of information from government to government. There are huge issues involved here in terms of people’s privacy.

While we have the opportunity and the right to see this legislation, we just think of what it means to the people out there who have not the vaguest notion of how these massive changes are taking place in our society. These days, travelling by air is something that millions of people do. It’s part of daily living, part of business and part of one’s family life.

Something I find deeply troubling is that most people have absolutely no awareness or knowledge of the rules that are being imposed, the secret agreements that are being laid out, which affect how their personal information is being used. When we relate that to a bigger picture about what is taking place with the deep integration with United States’ policies, whether it is trade, security issues or border issues, this is something that I know many Canadians are more and more concerned about.

There is a lot of concern from Canadians about how so much is being eroded in terms of civil liberties and privacy of information by security measures. Certainly Bill C-42 is a very strong case in terms of a further erosion of privacy of Canadians.

There has been a lot of debate about this bill and certainly our critic, the member for Western Arctic, has done an incredible job of bringing forward information, both at committee and in the House, to show just how dangerous this bill will be. As he said in an earlier debate, Bill C-42 really means stripping away the privacy of Canadians and that is something we should be very concerned about.

Out in the broader community, people are very worried about how much government legislation, whether it is so-called anti-terrorism legislation, no-fly lists, or this bill, is impacting the rights and privacy of Canadians. It is all being done in the name of security. Yet there is no evidence to show that these very broad measures that cast such a wide net over every segment of our society actually do improve our security or prevent terrorism from taking place. However, they do create an enormous chill in our society.

As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to examine this kind of legislation in great detail to establish whether or not it is warranted and whether or not the legislation goes too far towards invading the privacy of Canadians. I would say for us in the NDP, we have come to the conclusion that this legislation does go too far. We know it will allow airlines to send personal information of passengers to foreign security services.

The information that will be forwarded is determined by requirements that are laid out in secret agreements with other countries. In and of itself, that is a huge problem. There is no transparency. I would note that in 1998, the European Commission put forward six key principles that must be included for this type of legislation. They had a very thorough examination because this has been a huge issue in Europe as well as around the world. I don’t have time to go into the six principles, but briefly they outline the purpose limitation principle; the information, quality and proportionality principle; the transparency principle; the security principle; the right to access restitution opposition principle; and restriction on onward transfers principle.

The right to access principle says that subjects of the information should have the right to obtain a copy of all the information relating to them that is processed and the right to restitution of the information which is inaccurate. Further, in some situations people should be able to object to the processing of the data that relates to them.

I want to be very clear that this bill we are debating today does not include any of these protections, so that is a very serious matter.

When the bill was examined earlier by committee, there were some very notable witnesses who came forward. One of them was Dr. Mark Salter of the School of Political Studies here in Ottawa who said:

“Governments want this information so that they can build profiles of not just risky passengers but safe passengers as well. Research clearly demonstrates that in the United States and the U.K., government agencies are trying to collect as much data about travellers as possible”.

He went on at some length about what that means.

There was further evidence from Nathalie Des Rosiers who is the general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

In her testimony she said:

“There’s no safeguard that the TSA will not pass information to other government agencies, such as law enforcement or immigration. There is no safeguard that the TSA will not pass this information to third countries. And we know this has been a particularly difficult issue for some Canadians, Maher Arar being a case in point. There’s no guarantee that the TSA will not use the information for profiling Canadians, to put them on their watch list or the no-fly list”.

We have heard many incredible stories about the no-fly list, about people who are on there by mistake, people who are legitimately and in good faith travelling to the United States or elsewhere can’t access information regarding why they are on the no-fly list. It is a grievous error and problem we face.

We can see that, if approved, the legislation will have an enormous impact on our rights, on our privacy. We are not doing our job properly if we allow the bill to go through, so I am proud that members of the NDP are standing in the House to speak out against the bill and make it very clear that we don’t believe it is in the public interest nor in the interest of so-called security. It is simply further integrating us with U.S. policies which people are very concerned about, all in the name of security. There is no transparency and no accountability.

I hope other members will reflect on the bill at this stage and decide that it should not go forward and should not be supported.