Speaking Notes for the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada for the Announcement of Intent to Introduce Legislation Dealing with Identity Theft
October 2, 2007
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Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
I am pleased to be here with my colleague Minister Blackburn to announce another step in our Government’s plan toward safer communities.
Our Government was elected to build a strong, safer, better Canada. We said we would tackle crime, and we remain committed to that goal – targeting crimes that affect Canadians most.
Identity theft has been identified as one of the fastest growing problems in North America, and one that easily crosses borders. Every day, the issue of identity theft affects or threatens more Canadian families, seniors and businesses.
Identity theft is costly to banks, retailers and consumers alike. The Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus estimates that identity theft may cost Canadian consumers, banks and credit card firms, stores and other businesses more than $2 billion annually.
Technology has made it possible for individuals, governments and companies to collect and store huge quantities of personal information more efficiently. Consequently, technology has also made it easier, quicker and more lucrative for organized criminals to access and steal that information.
Identity theft has an impact on the daily lives of Canadians. It can affect our families, our businesses, our homes, our health and our bank accounts. And that is quite apart from the enormous emotional impact it has on its victims.
As it stands now, the misuse of another person’s identity information is covered by current offences in the Criminal Code, such as identity fraud, personation and forgery. But the preliminary steps of collecting, possessing and trafficking identity information are generally not captured by existing offences.
This is why today, along with my colleague the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec , I am here to announce our Government’s intention to introduce legislation to amend the Criminal Code in the area of identity theft when Parliament resumes.
This new legislation will have one goal: to protect Canadians from identity theft by giving police the tools they need to stop this activity before the damage is done .
For any government, there is no greater duty than the protection of its citizens.
Our Government remains unwavering in its determination to keep Canadians safe. This new legislation is but one part of our tackling-community-crime agenda.
Thank you. Now my colleague Minister Blackburn will now say a few words…
Canada's New Government to Tackle Identity Theft
MONTREAL, October 2, 2007 – Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, together with the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, today announced that Canada's New Government has developed a strategy to help combat identity theft, which is a serious criminal activity that has become more lucrative than ever before.
“ Canada's New Government understands that new and rapidly-evolving technologies have made identity theft a widespread criminal activity, especially involving organized crime. This growing issue is harming Canada's families, seniors and businesses, and we are committed to addressing it,” said Minister Nicholson. “By introducing Criminal Code amendments, our government will be giving police the tools to better protect Canadians by stopping identity theft activity before the damage is done .”
When Parliament resumes, Canada's New Government will introduce new legislation proposing Criminal Code amendments that will permit police to intervene at an earlier stage of criminal operations, before identity fraud or other crimes which actually cause financial or other harms are attempted or committed.
The Criminal Code currently covers offences involving the misuse of another person's identity information (such as personation and forgery), which are generally referred to as identity fraud. But the preparatory steps of collecting, possessing and trafficking in identity information are generally not captured by existing offences.
“Canadians are entitled to have their identities and personal information protected to the highest degree possible,” said Minister Blackburn. “That is why our Government will move quickly when Parliament returns to introduce legislation that targets identity theft.”
Canadians are concerned about becoming victims of identity theft, which has been identified as one of the fastest growing problems in North America and one that easily crosses borders. In 2006, almost 8000 victims reported losses of $16 million to PhoneBusters, the Canadian Anti-fraud Call Centre. Many more cases are thought to go unreported. The Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus has estimated that identity theft may cost Canadian consumers, banks and credit card firms, stores and other businesses more than $2 billion annually.
Backgrounder: Identity Theft
Distinction between Identity Theft and Identity Fraud
While the term “identity theft” has no universal definition, it typically refers to the preliminary steps of collecting, possessing, and trafficking in identity information for the purpose of eventual use in crimes such as personation, fraud or misuse of debit card or credit card data. Identity theft can be contrasted with “identity fraud”, i.e., the subsequent actual deceptive use of the identity information of another person in connection with various crimes. Identity theft therefore takes place in advance of and in preparation for identity fraud, and constitutes the criminal use of information.
New Model of Crime
Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies have seen a growing trend in both countries towards greater use of identity theft as a means of furthering or facilitating other types of crime, from fraud to organized criminal activity to terrorism.
Also, instead of one person committing an offence, there may be a complex operation involving a number of different people. No one person may be individually responsible for committing an offence, but each may contribute a small part to the larger criminal operation. New legislation on identity theft will give police and prosecutors additional tools to address such complex criminal activities.
Scale of the problem
One incident of identity fraud may have many victims, from the person whose identity is stolen and whose credit rating and reputation may be damaged, to the commercial and financial institutions that may cover losses resulting from use of stolen information, to the Canadian taxpayer, who may be harmed when false identities are used to obtain government documents or benefits.
It is difficult to determine an accurate number of victims of identity theft or identity fraud because they are not always reported, and when they are, they may be reported to a number of different authorities or organizations. However, a November 2006 Ipsos-Reid survey indicated that 73 per cent of Canadians are concerned about becoming victims of identity theft, and 28 per cent say they or someone they know has already been a victim of identity theft.
Useful Tips on Identity Theft for Canadians
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada: http://www.privcom.gc.ca/keyIssues/ki-qc/mc-ki-idt_e.asp
Royal Canadian Mounted Police: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/scams/identity_theft_e.htm
Canada 's Office of Consumer Affairs: http://consumer.ic.gc.ca/epic/site/oca-bc.nsf/en/h_ca02226e.html
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada thinks the initiative is lacking:
News Release: Privacy Commissioner Welcomes Government Action on Identity Theft (October 2, 2007) - Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Privacy Commissioner Welcomes Government Action on Identity Theft Ottawa, October 2, 2007 – The federal government’s plan to amend the Criminal Code to better address identity theft is a welcome first step towards stopping the explosion of a costly and emotionally devastating fraud, says Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
“Canadians have reason to fear being the victim of identity theft,” says Commissioner Stoddart. “The financial repercussions of losing their personal information can be crippling, and can affect victims for years to follow. The problem of identity theft highlights the value of personal information and the need to protect it.”
“Today’s announcement is encouraging. It promises to provide law enforcement officers with the tools to pursue identity thieves or fraudsters before Canadians suffer actual financial harm,” says the Commissioner, who will be closely reviewing details of the government’s plan in the coming days.
While this is a welcome step, the Commissioner still believes that the federal government must develop a broad-based strategy for tackling this type of fraud.
A comprehensive strategy should also include, for example:
- Measures to halt the dramatic proliferation of spam, which ID thieves often use to trick people into revealing personal information. Canada is the only G-8 country without anti-spam legislation.
- A plan to address “pretexting” – where a fraudster tries to obtain personal information about an individual, such as financial or telephone records, by posing as that person or someone else authorized to have the information.
- Reform of the badly out-of-date Privacy Act to ensure that personal information collected by federal departments and agencies is adequately protected.
- More extensive public education campaigns aimed at helping Canadians better protect their personal information.
Past efforts to combat identity theft and fraud using personal information have been hampered by a lack of coordination among various government departments and agencies, the provinces, law enforcement agencies and private-sector organizations.
As the Commissioner told the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in May 2007: “We need better information about identity theft. One reason for the lack of information is the lack of a centre of responsibility. Everyone is interested in preventing identity theft, but no one has overall responsibility for doing anything about it,” said the Commissioner.
The Privacy Commissioner’s submission to the committee is available at http://www.privcom.gc.ca/parl/2007/sub_070508_e.asp.
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman, advocate and guardian of privacy and the protection of personal information rights of Canadians.