Canadian Telecommunications Association President & CEO Robert Ghiz: Opening Statement to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (en anglais seulement)

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Robert Ghiz, Canadian Telecommunications Association President & CEO
Opening Statement to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security

***Check Against Delivery***

Monday, February 12, 2024
4:30 p.m. ET

Good afternoon. My name is Robert Ghiz. I am President and CEO of the Canadian Telecommunications Association. Joining me today is our Senior Vice President, Eric Smith.

L’Association canadienne des télécommunications se consacre à bâtir un avenir meilleur pour les Canadiens grâce à la connectivité. Nos membres comprennent des fournisseurs de services, des fabricants et d’autres organisations qui investissent dans les réseaux de télécommunications de classe mondiale du Canada, les construisent, les entretiennent et les exploitent.

Nous sommes reconnaissants de pouvoir prendre la parole aujourd’hui devant vous pour présenter le point de vue de notre association sur le projet de loi C-26.

The security of Canada’s telecommunications system is of the utmost importance. Our members recognize that their services are critical to the social and economic well-being, as well as the security and safety of Canadians. Accordingly, our members invest significant resources to safeguard their systems and infrastructure from cyber attacks and other threats.

Members also actively participate in the Canadian Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, or CSTAC, which facilitates the exchange of information between the private and public sectors as well as strategic collaboration on current and evolving issues that may affect telecommunications systems, including cyber security threats.

In addition to providing connectivity services, many of our telecommunication service providers also deliver cybersecurity solutions to businesses across the country, helping them protect their operations against cyber attacks.

In other words, our industry takes security seriously and is committed to the security of the Canadian telecommunications system.

As such, we share the Government of Canada’s objective of protecting critical infrastructure from cyber attacks and other threats. However, Bill C-26, in its current form, raises significant concerns.

We have outlined our concerns and proposed amendments to the legislation in a written submission to the Standing Committee. I will just mention a few of them, all of which pertain to Part 1 of Bill C-26, the proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Act.

First, the Bill gives the Minister very broad order making powers that lack appropriate checks and balances. Given their extremely broad scope and potential impact, the proposed legislation should be amended to impose conditions on the exercise of these powers. Specifically, orders should not only be “necessary” in the opinion of the Minister, they should be “reasonably necessary” – in other words, proportionate to the potential harm of the security risk and reasonable in the circumstances.

The legislation should also require orders be made only after the Minister has consulted with prescribed experts to ensure that orders are proportionate to the risks posed, have a limited impact on service availability, and are economically and operationally feasible for affected service providers.

Second, while orders made under the Bill are subject to judicial review, the legislation provides that the judge can base his or her decision on evidence that the applicant is not allowed to see and, therefore, cannot challenge. This process makes no effort to provide for alternate means of testing the government’s evidence, including the appointment of a special advocate with the appropriate level of security clearance.

Third, Bill C-26 does not include a due diligence defence for alleged violations of orders made pursuant to the proposed new sections of the Telecommunications Act, even though a defence of due diligence is available for other violations of the Act, as well as for violations of orders by others under the rest of Bill C-26. This absence of a due diligence defence is even more striking given that the legislation seeks to introduce significant monetary penalties for violations. Telecommunications service providers should have the right afforded to others under Bill C-26 to avail themselves of a due diligence defence in appropriate circumstances by demonstrating that they took all reasonable care in the circumstances to avoid the alleged violation(s).

Lastly, Part 1 of Bill C-26 should be amended to make clear that compensation may, at the discretion of the Government, be awarded for any financial expenditures, losses, and costs resulting from complying with an order.

Nous vous remercions de nous avoir donné l’occasion d’exprimer notre point de vue sur cette importante question et nous serons heureux maintenant de répondre à vos questions.