Bill C-468 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (joyriding)
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.
This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.
Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
November 6th, 2003 / 10:55 a.m.
Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-468, an act to amend the Criminal Code (joyriding).
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Dewdney—Alouette for seconding the bill.
In 2001 statistics show that there were 170,000 motor vehicle thefts reported to police in Canada. Car theft now stands 10% higher than a decade ago and costs Canadians $1 billion a year. Yet the average penalty, when someone is convicted of joyriding or car theft, is only $100. The average damage to a vehicle is over $4,000. In my own constituency in the city of Chilliwack, auto theft is up 33% this year alone.
My bill would strengthen the provisions of section 335 of the Criminal Code, a section that deals with motor vehicle theft, prescribe a minimum or maximum sentence in terms of jail, a jail term or restitution to the victim. It also states that parents of young offenders who have contributed to the delinquency of a child can be held responsible for restitution as well.
I hope that all members will take note of this serious problem in Canada, the cost to society as a whole, and give careful consideration and support for my bill which deals with joyriding and car theft before we see greater increases in this most damaging crime.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
October 27th, 2003 / 5:55 p.m.
Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise once again regarding this bill, of which I have already spoken at other stages. It is as industry critic for the Bloc Quebecois that I am taking part in this debate. I used to be human resources development critic and, as such, I may have had more opportunity to deal with issues that have to do with workers, employment insurance and things like that.
In this case, I think that this is a bill that deserves our support. Indeed, it is the result of several years of work as well as the result of the tenacity of certain members of this House. The involvement of members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights was mentioned. The work that led to this bill was initiated by NDP members. They were the ones who were closest to those who went through this terrible experience.
As was mentioned earlier, this bill follows several bills that were brought forward by individual members. Basically we realized, following the explosion at the Westray mine in Nova Scotia, that we did not have the necessary tools to conduct a thorough inquiry.
This could also have a preventive effect so that, in future, people would not engage in more or less acceptable behaviours for which they could not punished previously. Now, with this legislation, before engaging in such behaviours, people will know that there are consequences, and chances are that they will choose not to go in that direction. Indeed, they will have been warned in advance that it is very dangerous to engage in these types of behaviours.
First, let us go back to Bill C-468, which was introduced in February 1999. The purpose of this bill was to establish in certain circumstances the criminal liability of corporations for criminal acts or omissions carried out by their officers or staff and to create a new offence in the Criminal Code for corporations that do not provide a safe workplace.
This bill was also aimed at making it easier to establish the criminal liability of directors and officers, something that was missing from the legislation and the Criminal Code. It was impossible to clearly put the blame on those who were actually responsible for these situations.
After Bill C-468 died on the Order Paper in June 1999, a motion was presented to amend the Criminal Code and other federal legislation to hold corporate managers and administrators responsible for workplace security. At that time, the Bloc was in favour of such an amendment. The members of the Bloc Quebecois took part in the work needed to ensure that the end result would be as good a bill as possible and one that would solve the problem at hand.
The bill was introduced again in October 1999, as Bill C-259. Once again, it died on the Order Paper. In February 2001, the bill was introduced again. At that time, the hon. member for Laurentides spoke in favour of the bill while explaining that Quebec already had such an agency—the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail—that oversees the safety of employees. Thus, in Quebec, we already had a framework for dealing with such situations. Nevertheless, that did not correct the weaknesses of the Canadian Criminal Code. Thus, the Bloc Quebecois thought it relevant to push for the adoption of a satisfactory bill.
For example, in the House on November 11, 2001, the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve expressed his support for such a bill. For him, it was important to pass this bill as a kind of legislative corrective measure, and especially important to strengthen the Criminal Code in order to prevent loss of life among workers.
Finally, it was the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that began to deal with the issue. It held hearings on the issue in the spring of 2002 and tabled its report in June 2002. It recommended that the government introduce legislation in the House on criminal responsibility of corporations, managers and administrators.
That has been the legislative process so far. Beginning with a private member's bill, facing many challenges, we have finally, through sheer tenacity, ended up with a government bill. In the end, the government had almost no choice but to introduce something. We started with a vague private member's bill, and ended up with a recommendation from the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, telling the government that it must act. And that is how Bill C-45 came to be introduced in the House.
The main changes pertain, first, to the use of the term “organization”, rather than “corporation”. This will take in more institutions, including institutions that otherwise would not have been covered and could have continued to engage in inappropriate behaviour.
The bill also says that a company can be held criminally liable for the acts of employees who are not necessarily senior officers in the company. We know that with the multitude of hierarchical levels, under the current Criminal Code there would be no way to ensure that someone who committed a reprehensible act could be prosecuted accordingly and forced to assume the consequences of what he had done. Part of this is corrected in the current bill.
The material aspect—the act of committing a crime—and the moral aspect—the intent to commit a crime—of criminal offences attributed to companies and other organizations no longer need be the work of the same person. It is possible that in an organization where a criminal act has been committed, that someone utters the intent to commit the crime and directs someone else to do it. Now this distinction can be made in charges and in the how the behaviour of people involved in this type of situation is judged.
When it comes to criminal negligence, the moral aspect of the offence could be attributed to the organization insofar as it can be attributed to one of the organization's senior officers. For these aspects, it is essential that fault be attributable to one of the senior officers of the organization.
With regard to mens rea, the organization could be held responsible for the actions of its senior officers if a senior officer is party to the offence or directs other employees to commit an offence or if a senior officer, knowing that an employee is about to be party to an offence, does nothing to stop them.
I would say that this is the crux of the bill. It was truly this side of it that had major flaws and blame could go back and forth without anyone ever having to take responsibility.
The bill also explicitly imposes an obligation on those with the authority to direct the work of other employees to take the necessary steps to prevent bodily harm to those individuals.
The bill also establishes sentencing principles and conditions of probation for organizations. It was important to have clear and specific penalties, so that people would know exactly what the consequences of their actions would be. This did not exist previously in the Criminal Code, which led to the Westray mine situation, where it was impossible to establish liability and to ensure that it was assumed correctly. This gave a very bad example for the future and created legal precedents. This is why it was necessary to legislate.
We know that, in Canada, the conditions under which a corporation can be held criminally liable are essentially based on jurisprudence. Therefore, it was important to have adequate legislation as a basis for jurisprudence.
The bill also amends current legislation so that organizations other than corporations can be held criminally liable. Indeed, under this bill, the term organization includes a public body, body corporate, society,company, firm, partnership, tradeunion or municipality. Let us hope that we did not forget other types of organizations that could be placed in such situations. The definition appears to be broad enough to cover all those who should be covered.
The bill also says that the term organization includes any association of persons thatis created for a common purpose,has an operational structure, andholds itself out to the public as anassociation of persons. We see that the legislator really wanted the definition to be as broad as possible. It is not only the employer that is included but any other type of organization, so as to prevent the same kind of situation from happening again. The government is ensuring that the legislation was not corrected only to cover a certain type of organization or employer, but all the different types of associations.
The bill also deals with the issue of safety in the workplace when it says, with respect to section 217.1, that every one who undertakes, or has theauthority, to direct how another person doeswork or performs a task is under a legal dutyto take reasonable steps to prevent bodilyharm to that person, or any other person,arising from that work or task. This new provision will make it possible to charge people in positions of responsibily who have failed to meet this obligation with criminal negligence.
Again, this measure comes from the impact analysis of the tragedy at the Westray mine. Of course, it will not bring back those who died in that terrible accident and are still mourned by their families.
However, this bill at least gives those families the assurance that legislators have learned their lessons and are trying to ensure that such a tragedy never occurs again.
Sentencing these organizations is another issue on which we put a lot of emphasis. The bill would add new sections and expand existing sections to take into account, during sentencing, factors that are characteristic of organizations. A specific section is also added to regulate the probation conditions applicable to organizations.
Overall, this bill seems to solve one of the problems linked to the tragedy at the Westray mine. For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of Bill C-45.
Given the current state of the law, we believe it is important to establish a regime of criminal responsibility for businesses that is effective and takes into account the differences between an individual and an organization.
However, I would like to voice a concern regarding offences. Indeed, mens rea is required, in other words, to prove that intent is above and beyond that required for criminal negligence. A first look at clause 22(3) leaves questions as to how effective this clause will be when it is applied to a specific situation.
We have reached a level of proof that, in practice, might be difficult to achieve. We made these comments in committee and at other stages. This has not been corrected, but let us hope that with respect to jurisprudence, we will not end up in a situation where we have to amend the legislation because it was not accurate enough in the first place.
I want to reiterate that Bill C-284, which had been presented by the NDP, proposed a solution to this difficulty by including the possibility of reversing the burden of proof for corporations. Reversing the burden of proof would work as follows: once it has been established that the employees of an organization have committed an act or made an omission leading to the commission of a crime, that organization would have to prove that it neither authorized nor tolerated such behaviour.
Thus, it would be a kind of preventive measure to avoid that kind of situation. We also should note that the bill does not in any way make it possible to impute criminal responsibility to administrators of corporations, unless the corporation itself has committed a criminal act.
Perhaps this amendment was not included in Bill C-45 for constitutional reasons. Still, it remains open to interpretation, which I hope will not leave an opportunity for people with bad intentions to commit a criminal act without being subject to the appropriate sanctions.
Certainly, the entire bill must be examined very carefully to ensure that it is effective; still, its objective remains valid and necessary in order to make organizations answer for their acts.
I believe that this is the kind of law on which we will look back in 10, 15 or 20 years and say that it brought in real improvements to prevent unacceptable behaviour. It will have corrected something that had caused a great deal of pain in the past, particularly to the families of the victims of this accident.
Nevertheless, it will be clear that the measures that legislators in this field have taken will have helped correct the situation. We can hope that this kind of situation will never happen again and that there will be no need to intervene before the courts to obtain convictions. The way the bill has been written and the information that will be provided to various organizations are intended to make people in all kinds of organizations aware of the fact that they will be held responsible for the consequences of their actions. Thus, we hope to avoid a repetition of the terrible accident at the Westray mine.
In conclusion, I want to express my wishes, and those of many members of this House, that we will be able to pass this bill and that it will come into effect as soon as possible.
September 19th, 2003 / 12:35 p.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC
Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I take part in this debate today on Bill C-45, which deals, among other things and most importantly, with the criminal liability of organizations.
It is with great pleasure that I do so, because I had the opportunity, over a year ago, to attend the convention of the Canadian Labour Congress, the CLC, in Montreal. The CLC had made a number of parliamentarians aware of the problem. I remember this convention in Montreal quite well. Some parliamentarians were present. I was there, but there were also representatives from the NDP. Unfortunately, the Liberal Party had refused to attend, as had the Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance.
The delegates made us aware of the importance of making legislative changes to better protect workers. They gave as an example, of course, the explosion at the Westray mine, in Nova Scotia. The explosion inside the mine had caused the death of more than 26 men. After a rather extensive public inquiry, it was concluded that, most likely, if some prevention or safety measures had been taken to protect workers, the tragedy would not have occurred. The public inquiry into the Westray mine showed that there had been negligence on the part of company directors, with respect to safety.
The delegates had made us aware of the importance of enacting legislation. Essentially, Bill C-45 is merely the expression of a willingness to react to this problem and to make the necessary legislative changes.
I must remind the House that we had studied this issue many times before, through private members' bills such as Bill C-468, Bill C-259 and, more recently, Bill C-284, containing similar provisions. Of course, some aspects have been omitted from Bill C-45. We know that some provisions of Bill C-284, particularly with regard to penalties, have not been included in Bill C-45. Consequently, we would like to amend it.
First of all, the bill uses the word “organization” instead of “corporation”. As a result, it applies to a larger number of institutions. We must raise the awareness of firms regarding the need for prevention and protection of workers in the workplace. However, we must realize that some workplaces are more dangerous than others.
As the Westray mine disaster taught us, it is essential to make the organization, in other words the institution or the firm, responsible for the protection of workers.
Another aspect of the bill is that from now on a firm will be criminally liable for the actions of employees who are not necessarily very high in the hierarchy. What does this mean? It means that in the case of bosses who are not necessarily executives but foremen or third or second level bosses, the firm would have organizational liability insofar as these bosses are responsible for the enforcement of stringent security standards.
Negligence is no longer acceptable, it is now a criminal offence. This is not a trivial issue when we know that some workplaces are more dangerous than others, especially for human health. Moreover, in some workplaces, negligence relating to safety can result in the loss of human life. The Westray mine is a case in point.
Offences of negligence are another important aspect. Let us take criminal negligence as an example. The moral element of the offence will be attributable to the organization insofar as the moral element of the offence can be attributed to one of the senior officers of the organization.
So, as I mentioned earlier, there is now criminal liability for offences of negligence. In reality, the whole issue of prevention in the workplace is at the heart of these provisions.
Another aspect of the bill is that it explicitly makes it a duty for those who have the authority to direct how employees do work, to take the necessary steps to prevent bodily harm to the employees. In other words, this is about the responsibility of foremen and managers and the need to have stringent prevention standards in dangerous workplaces. That is another important aspect.
Clause 3 of Bill C-45 is even more interesting and it is the key element of the bill. It reads as follows, and I quote:
Every one who undertakes...to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person or any other person, arising from that work or task.
This will make it possible to charge those who fail to comply with this requirement with criminal negligence.
With clause 3 of the bill, occupational safety is improved. This is fundamental.
We agree with certain aspects relating to the principle of the bill. But we can only condemn the fact that between the time when we studied Bill C-284, during the first session of this Parliament, and Bill C-45 now before us, some substance was lost, with respect to the criminal liability of directors and officers, for example.
With respect to the penalties that could be imposed on organizations, I should point out that they would have no effect in cases of bankruptcy. Given the very principle that underlies it, Bill C-45 should therefore not be allowed to provide loopholes to businesses which are in a difficult fiscal situation or have declared bankruptcy.
In our opinion, there should be full liability, not only for businesses which are operating but also for those that have declared bankruptcy. It seems clear to us that this bill bears some resemblance to Bill C-284, but there are significant omissions as well. The danger is that this could lead to loopholes with respect to criminal liability.
Another significant omission is that, contrary to Bill C-284, Bill C-45 contains no provisions for making directors and officers of corporations criminally liable if they are not the ones who, materially, committed a criminal act.
Once again, there are significant omissions in this bill and, in some respects, Bill C-284 was more comprehensive than the one before us today.
I will point out in closing that, with a vote in favour of this bill today, we are telling those working in conditions hazardous to their health and safety that the message from the Westray mine workers has come through loud and clear: negligence must be punished.
We have also understood that prevention is the most fundamental action, the cornerstone of worker protection. We believe nothing like this must ever be allowed to happen again. We believe that imposing penalties and taking stringent measures, up to and including punishment of negligence under the Criminal Code, cannot help but improve workers' lives, as well as their working conditions.
The message we are sending out today is that we have understood the Westray mine workers, and intend to make the necessary legislative changes to protect them better. Workers have the right to protection, particularly when they work in a dangerous environment.
September 15th, 2003 / 5:50 p.m.
Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-45 concerning the criminal liability of corporations. Before getting into the pith and substance of the legislation, I would like to say that I examined this bill as my party's industry critic to see what impact it would have on the industry sector, while recognizing the fundamental merit of plugging a loophole in the Criminal Code that absolutely had to be plugged.
Unfortunately, a terrible situation existed where it was later realized that liability could not be correctly assigned and that measures had to be taken accordingly.
I am also speaking as a former director of personnel. In a previous life, before I was elected to this place, I was the director of personnel and secretary general of the CEGEP in La Pocatière. I have lived though various labour relations situations. Organizations obviously have a major moral responsibility to take. The absence of any clear indication of how to deal with these things in the future created a loophole that absolutely had to be plugged.
The last aspect I wanted to raise was the process for improving the legislation. People often wonder whether the efforts made by lawmakers, that is the hon. members, ever pay off. In this case, the result has been a government bill, which was introduced on June 12 by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
The purpose of the bill is to review the principles of law concerning the criminal liability of corporations and other organizations. But to get there required sustained efforts. I want to acknowledge in particular the efforts of the members of the NDP.
If we look briefly at the history of this bill, it was based on Bill C-468 and Bill C-259, put forward by the NDP in the thirty-sixth Parliament, and on Bill C-284, put forward by the same party in the first session of the thirty-seventh Parliament.
This goes to show that the NDP kept up the pressure following the public inquiry into the causes of the explosion at the Westray mine in Nova Scotia. We all remember this tragic accident. Without going into the evidence of the case, it was realized that, basically, this accident was caused by neglect. Efforts were made to clearly identify who was responsible. Under the current code, it was impossible to really hold responsible those who ought to have been held responsible.
From that point, steps were taken to establish, under certain circumstances, the criminal liability of companies for omissions or criminal acts by their directors or employees and to add a new offence to the Criminal Code for companies that fail to ensure a safe workplace.
In the mining industry, this was more evident than ever. It is an industry where all problems absolutely have to be eliminated from the outset. Negligence has very significant direct consequences. This aspect needed to be corrected and broadened to incorporate all employers and organizations that, until then, could slip through the cracks. This aspect of liability needed to be defined.
This has to do with the criminal liability of companies for omissions or criminal acts perpetrated by their managers or employees. We are trying to have a new offence added to the Criminal Code for companies that fail to ensure a safe workplace.
In addition, there is everything that is not criminal in nature, but results in accidents. However, in this case, we are truly talking about situations where an act can be recognized as being criminal.
Initially, the bill that was introduced by the NDP was designed to facilitate establishing the criminal liability of company administrators and directors. The bill died on the Order Paper at the end of the first session of the 36th Parliament, in September 1999.
The NDP raised the issue once again. In June 1999, a motion was moved to review the Criminal Code and other federal legislation so that company executives and administrators could be held responsible for workplace safety.
At that time, the Bloc Quebecois, which was in favour of such a review, supported the motion. This motion was moved in 2000 and the Bloc Quebecois voted in favour of it. There were also motions brought forward in 2001 and 2002 on the same subject.
In October 1999, the NDP reintroduced its bill, which also died on the Order Paper.
There has therefore been continuity in the desire to regularize this situation, not only because of the difficulties identified in the Criminal Code in connection with past situations, but also and particularly for future situations, in order to ensure that a dissuasive effect is created and that employers and organizations are well aware of the potential consequences if they do not fulfill their responsibilities properly.
In the same vein, the fact that these past actions are today culminating in Bill C-45 is very good news indeed.
Obviously, the bill needs to be examined carefully. Perhaps some corrections will have to be made in committee, as my colleague suggested earlier. Basically, however, this is a positive bill.
On November 11, 2001, the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve indicated his support for a similar bill. He felt that it was important to pass such a bill in order to improve the legislation and particularly in order to tighten up the Criminal Code to prevent any workers from losing their lives. As I was saying, through prevention and increasing employers' awareness of their responsibilities, there is more likelihood that the approaches adopted will be what they need to be.
Most employers, like most members of the public, are honest. Unfortunately, the Criminal Code is there for those who are not. That is the purpose pf this bill.
The member for Laurentides also spoke out in favour of this bill. In expressing her support, she indicated that Quebec already has in place a body, the CSST, or Commission de la santé et de la sécurité au travail, to ensure worker safety.
We wanted to ensure that the bill did not interfere with the responsibilities of the CSST. In this case, this being an amendment to the Criminal Code, it can be considered that this is really a federal responsibility. As a result, we feel it is appropriate to move ahead with this bill.
What is also significant is that Bill C-284, the previous version tabled, was withdrawn before Bill C-45 was arrived at. There had been an agreement to examine the matter in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human RIghts in February 2002.
The committee held hearings and presented a report. It asked, and I quote:
that the Government table in the House legislation to deal with the criminal liability of corporations, directors, and officers.
Bill C-45 is the result of all these actions. I think there is still room to make improvements as we study the bill, so that we end up with legislation that is exactly what is requested to eliminate the shortcomings in the Criminal Code.
Quickly looking at the main issues addressed by Bill C-45, we first notice the use of the term “organization” instead of “corporate body.” This is a way to truly include all possibilities. For example, the definition of “organization” is:
(a) a public body, body corporate, society, company, firm, partnership, trade union or municipality, or (b) an association of persons that (i) is created for a common purpose, (ii) has an operational structure, and (iii) holds itself out to the public as an association of persons;
This very broad definition, will cover all situations that might arise. Of course, when the bill is passed, all associations and organizations must be informed about the implications of the law, in order to ensure they are aware of it.
A company can also, according to the bill, be criminally liable for acts carried out by employees who are not necessarily highly placed in the company. Previously, it was absolutely necessary to have a manager who was in an untenable situation. That concept is now being extended to ensure that no one can slip through the safety net. The organization could consider that these people were not really under its control. The safety net will be tightened up, so that organizations will feel more responsible for all of their employees and so that employees will act with propriety.
The bill also mentions the categories of persons whose actions may actually constitute a criminal act for which a corporate body or any other organization is liable. This has been broadened to include all employees, representatives or contractors.
When it comes to criminal negligence, the moral aspect of the offence could be attributed to the organization insofar as it can be attributed to one of the organization's senior officers.
Therefore, this section ensures that, in the case of criminal negligence, someone is responsible and that liability is tied to one of the organization's senior officers.
With regard to mens rea , the organization could be held responsible for the actions of its senior officers if a senior officer is party to the offence or directs other employees to commit an offence or if a senior officer, knowing that an employee is about to be party to an offence, does nothing to stop them.
Obviously, it must be noted that the actions of this senior officer must seek to benefit the organization.
The bill explicitly imposes a duty on those with the authority to direct the work of other employees to take steps to prevent bodily harm to those individuals.
The bill also adopts sentencing principles and probation conditions for organizations, because, in fact, persons cannot be sentenced, when an organization is sentenced, in the same way as if it were a person.
Currently in Canada, it is essentially jurisprudence that determines the conditions under which a company can be held responsible for a criminal offence.
In the case of criminal offences that require mens rea or the intent to commit a crime, companies are only responsible for acts or omissions by persons who may be said to constitute the directing mind of the company. In fact, according to the identification theory, persons who constitute the directing mind of a company personify its intentions.
The bill also amends, in different sections, the types of institutions, and establishes an organization's criminal liability. It integrates the notion of who can be a “representative”. Earlier, it was mentioned that liability was being extended not only to senior officers, but in many cases to other employees. For example, a “representative” essentially includes any person working for or affiliated with the company. This could be a director, an employee or a member, agent or contractor. A “senior officer” is any representative who plays an important role in the establishmentof the organization’s policies or is responsiblefor managing an important aspect of theorganization’s activities.
This bill, specifically clauses 22.1 to 22.3, contributes to changing the current state of the law by introducing new elements to the identification theory. In terms of what are essentially acts of criminal negligence, we could, under clause 22.2, hold an organization criminally liable in cases where the physical offence—the act of committing a crime—is perpetrated by a representative in the scope of tht person's authority, and fault lies in the hands of a senior executive.
To prove that a senior executive acted at least partially to benefit an organization, it would have to be confirmed that they participated in an offence in the scope of their authority by having someone else knowingly commit an offence or by knowing that someone else was committing or was about to participate in an offence and the executive failed to take the necessary actions to prevent it.
There is nonetheless a framework that would prevent peculiar situations from being subject to the prosecution under the Criminal Code based on new sections resulting from Bill C-45.
In terms of sentencing an organization, the bill suggests adding new sections and completing existing sections to take into account, during sentencing, factors that are characteristic of organizations. Therefore, a specific section was added for organizations to regulate the probation conditions applicable to organizations, which are not of the same nature as those for individuals.
The bill increases the maximum fine for an organization when a guilty plea is entered by summary conviction or for a less serious offence, increasing it from $25,000 to $100,000. This provides a very clear incentive not to repeat a situation whereby the organization's liability could be determined and the organization could be convicted.
Currently there are no limits for fines for criminal acts or more serious offences, and this is not being changed by the proposed legislation. If there is a very serious situation, the sum could be determined based on the seriousness. This will continue to be the practice.
This bill is the result of a series of steps taken by several parliamentarians in this House. The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of the principle of this bill.
Given the current state of the law, it is important that a criminal liability regime be established for businesses that is effective and takes into account the differences between an individual and an organization.
We will see in committee if the bill could not be improved where it deals with offences, and it is said that an intent must exist which goes beyond criminal negligence. The suggestion was made to reverse the burden of proof, that is to say that when it has been established that an act or omission was committed by the personnel of an organization, resulting in a criminal act taking place, the onus will be on the organization to prove that it did not authorize or condone such behaviour. When we hear witnesses in committee, we will be able to see if this would not be a better approach than the one put forward in the bill as it now stands.
Note also that this bill does not allow directors, executives or a corporation to be held liable if they did not physically and personally commit a criminal act. This may tie in with the constitutional issue, but it deserves nonetheless to be examined further to ensure there are no loopholes which, we will find out in a few months or years, ought to have been plugged when Bill C-45 was passed.
I should point out also that the penalties that may be imposed would have no effect on a business that has declared bankruptcy. This touches on the whole issue of a big organization taking some action which results in its going bankrupt because it has lost its business name and can no longer sell its product. In this case, when penalties are paid, it will be too late, and the fact of the matter will be such that the business will not be able to assume the costs.
While particular attention must be paid to a number of things in Bill C-45, as this was explained, for the system to be effective, the fact remains that the purpose of this bill is valid and necessary to ensure that organizations are held accountable for what they do.
I believe we are making an addition here that does not fix what happened at the Westray mine, but at least for the families of those who died in the mine, for the entire community that was affected and for the future also, I think that we are taking an appropriate, responsible step, as parliamentarians, in proposing that this bill introduced by the government be passed.