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Oct 25 2012

Telecommunications Industry

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

Adjournment Proceedings
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.
Telecommunications Industry

Mr. Mike Sullivan (York South—Weston, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, cellphone theft is a serious problem in my riding of York South–Weston, across Canada and, indeed, North America. It especially affects high school kids who are being violently mugged for their mobile devices. According to the metro Toronto police, 85% of street robberies in my riding in Toronto are related to cellphone theft. The Toronto chief of police and the Toronto Police Services Board have called for measures to combat what they describe as an epidemic of cellphone thefts.

Earlier this summer I hosted a media conference with representatives from the Toronto police and students from Chaminade College School in my riding where cellphone theft has been prevalent. Fifteen students have been mugged at this school alone for their cellphones.

Alex Escobar, a student from the school who spoke at the event, called for government to take measures to protect against cellphone theft, saying, “We’ve seen our friends robbed”. Students have already begun organizing petitions calling for government action to protect against cellphone theft. Every month of delay in taking action is another serious crime taking place in and around that school and in my riding.

The simple solution to this crime is to make stolen cellphones useless. We must force cellphone companies to refuse to activate phones that are reported stolen.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission tells me that it has the power to do this. The CRTC can, under section 24 of the Telecommunications Act, require cellphone carriers to keep a record of all cellphones reported as stolen, share this information among other cellphone carriers and require cellphone carriers not to activate any stolen cellphone. It is as simple as that.

Carriers have expressed concern about who will pay for it. The good new is that, in their letter to the CRTC, they have identified that the global services for mobile association has already created the database and it is free to use and that the cellphone carriers can use it at no charge.
I have tabled a motion in the House asking the government to direct the CRTC to take action on this matter. When I asked the question in the House earlier this month, “Will the government get smart on crime and direct the CRTC to take action”, unfortunately, the minister gave me a reply about government policies concerning cellphone towers. Perhaps he misunderstood the question. Here is a chance to get it right.

Will the government immediately get smart on crime and direct the CRTC to take action on cellphone theft?

Hon. Mike Lake (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, first I will provide some context regarding the government’s larger telecommunications agenda before turning to the specifics of cellphone theft. This agenda forms part of Canada’s plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Our goal is to strengthen the financial security of Canadian workers and families to help create good jobs and long-term prosperity in every region of the country.

The telecommunications sector is an important part of this prosperous, productive and competitive Canadian economy and society. Our government’s job is to ensure that the appropriate regulatory frameworks are in place to encourage both investment and competition so that Canadians have access to advanced telecommunications services at competitive prices.
Our government is building on our strong record of encouraging greater competition and consumer choice in telecommunications. This is why earlier this year we announced a series of new measures for the telecommunications sector, including the reform of investment restrictions and the release of a framework for the upcoming spectrum auctions.

With the increasing use of cellphones, especially smartphones, by Canadians, the issue of cellphone theft has been identified by chiefs of police as a growing problem. Our government is committed to the reduction of crime in Canada. Within 100 sitting days after the election, we passed the Safe Streets and Communities Act, legislation designed to protect Canadian citizens from harm.

In addition, we have proposed amendments to our privacy laws to enhance consumer confidence in the online marketplace and passed anti-spam legislation to protect both consumers and businesses.

The Minister of Industry is responsible for telecommunications policy under the Telecommunications Act, while the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, is responsible for the regulation of telecommunications and broadcasting services in Canada.

The CRTC is taking the issue of cellphone theft seriously and has said so plainly and publicly. The commission has requested information from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association on what initiatives the wireless industry is undertaking to protect consumers from being victims of mobile device theft.

Most recently, on September 28, the CRTC noted that if it were not satisfied by the response of the CWTA, it would investigate what further regulatory action needed to be taken to provide the necessary tools to help consumers in this regard. Our government is closely monitoring the progress of these efforts.

Our government is taking strong action to make Canada a safer place for our families and to strengthen our country’s prosperity and competitiveness.

Mr. Mike Sullivan:

Mr. Speaker, I did not need a lecture on the industry. What is needed is direction to the CRTC to actually get on with this problem.

No more study is required. The database exists. The cellphone companies have access to the database and they can use it. It is not rocket science to fix the problem.

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission has already directed their cellphone industry to develop the methods required to track cellphone theft and ensure that no stolen cellphone is reactivated.

The CRTC can do this in Canada to protect our own cellphone users. Why will the government not direct the CRTC to get this done, get it done now before any further thefts take place, before any further muggings of high school students take place in my riding, and to protect cellphone users?

Hon. Mike Lake:

Mr. Speaker, this government is taking action against the crime of cellphone theft, just as it is committed to reducing all crime in Canada.

The agency responsible for the regulation of telecommunications in Canada, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, is taking the issue of lost and stolen mobile devices very seriously. The CRTC has requested information from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, CWTA, on what measures the industry is taking to protect consumers.

As I mentioned earlier, most recent, on September 28, not even a month ago, the CRTC noted that if it was not satisfied by the response of the CWTA, it would investigate what further regulatory action was needed to be taken to provide the necessary tools to help consumers in this regard.

We are closely monitoring these efforts, consistent with our strong actions to address crime and protect Canadians.

 

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