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Access to Information Act—Privacy Act

Motion in Amendment Negatived

June 19, 2019


Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu
[16:40]

Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That the motion be not now adopted, but that it be amended by replacing all of the words after paragraph (a) with the following:

“(b)insist on its amendment 12, to which the House of Commons has disagreed; and

(c)do not insist on its other amendments to which the House of Commons disagrees; and

That, pursuant to rule 16-3, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs be charged with drawing up the reasons for the Senate’s insistence on its amendments and present its report, with the reasons for the insistence, on or before June 20, 2019; and

That, once the reasons for the insistence have been agreed to by the Senate, a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that house accordingly.”.

The Hon. the Speaker
[16:45]

In amendment, the Honourable Senator Boisvenu moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Ngo, that the motion be not now adopted, but that it be amended —

Hon. Pierrette Ringuette
[16:45]

Honourable senators, I would add some qualifications to the speech we just heard. To my mind, the assumption that military officers use codes to conceal information is too outlandish for words. It sounds like something out of Star Trek.

Military operations involve all kinds of codes and operating frameworks. When military or police operations are being carried out, it is normal to use codes, code names or other words.

Even though this use of codes is not intended to hide information, Senator Boisvenu is determined to make it a criminal offence. Nonsense. We need to realize and accept that certain organizations, especially in the field of national security, need to use codes.

Honourable senators, we even use codes here in the Senate. For instance, under the amendment proposed by Senator Boisvenu, “CIBA” would become a code word, and if the Senate failed to comply, it would be committing a criminal offence.

You can see why I’m not in favour of Senator Boisvenu’s amendment. This isn’t about transparency or credibility. When we use abbreviations as part of our work on the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs or the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, for instance, it’s not because we lack transparency or credibility.

That’s why I strongly advise honourable senators to vote against Senator Boisvenu’s amendment.

Senator Boisvenu
[16:48]

I’d like to ask a question. First of all, Senator Ringuette, I would have expected less simplistic competing arguments than the ones you presented. On the one hand, you know the bill talks about voluntary intent and criminal intent. We know the use of codes is pretty common.

If you read my amendment properly, it says nothing about hiding information, but rather preventing access to information. I’d first like to ask whether you are quite familiar with the Access to Information Act.

Senator Ringuette
[16:49]

Yes, Your Honour, I’m very familiar with it.

[16:49]

Would the honourable senator take a question?

Senator Ringuette
[16:49]

I would.

[16:49]

Is it your opinion, Senator Ringuette, that were we to accept this amendment, it would have the effect of the bill dying on the Order Paper?

Senator Ringuette
[16:49]

Everything is relative, especially in the time frame under which we are operating. We are hearing that the House of Commons might rise and we still have a lot of work to do.

The government has committed in its platform to review the Access to Information Act. The act has not received a considerable overhaul in more than 30 years. We finally have a modern act and upon Royal Assent, there will be a one-year mandatory review and then every five years after that first year.

For myself, in regard to access to information for all Canadians, in this act there is the proactive disclosure, which is a major element and a desperately needed one. I do not wish this bill to die on the Order Paper — after all the work that has been done so that we can have a modern access to information for all of Canadians — based on someone not liking acronyms.

The Hon. the Speaker
[16:51]

Are senators ready for the question?

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

The Hon. the Speaker
[16:51]

All those in favour of the motion, please say “yea.”

The Hon. the Speaker
[16:51]

All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”

The Hon. the Speaker
[16:51]

In my opinion, the “nays” have it.

The Hon. the Speaker
[16:52]

I see two honourable senators rising. Is there agreement on a bell? The vote will take place at 5:07 p.m.

Call in the senators.