Bill C-242 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (proceeds of crime)
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Richard Marceau Bloc
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
September 28th, 2005 / 4 p.m.
Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC
Madam Speaker, I thank my friend from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for his question.
This is, in fact, the kind of situation that we want to avoid. We want to ensure that people who have benefited for years from the proceeds and fruits of criminal activity, such as organized crime, are prevented from continuing to benefit from their property after they are been found guilty and done time in prison. What we want is to prevent them upon release from returning to an outrageous lifestyle in the eyes of the average citizen, who works hard every day to put bread and butter on the family table.
People convicted of serious crimes, like those described in Bill C-53, should not be able to benefit from the proceeds of criminal activity, which, whatever kind of crime it is, victimizes people in our society.
That is precisely why the Bloc Québécois has insisted for years on having such a bill passed. That is why Bill C-242 was introduced by your humble servant a few months ago. That is also why a motion was introduced by the Bloc Québécois on an opposition day asking for a bill like the one we are discussing today. That is also the reason why we support Bill C-53. We hope that it will be passed as soon as possible.
March 10th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to take part in this debate on the Bloc Québécois motion. Our motion seeks to amend the Criminal Code so as to reverse the burden of proof in our legislation.
This motion was moved by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, and seconded by my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. First, it is important to read the motion:
That, in the opinion of the House, in order to better fight crime, the government should introduce a bill by May 31, 2005, to amend the Criminal Code by reversing the burden of proof as regards the proceeds of crime, requiring the accused, once found guilty of a serious offence, to demonstrate on the balance of probabilities that their assets were not obtained using the proceeds of their criminal activities.
First, I want to remind the House that the motion introduced today comes as no surprise. The Bloc Québécois has been working for many years and has led a real crusade since the 2000 election campaign to get the federal government to introduce measures and amend the Criminal Code to include this reversal of the burden of proof.
On this side of the House we thought, and still do, that we needed to provide police officers and crown prosecutors with every possible means to combat organized crime better, since it is has such a social and economic toll on society. As early as the 2000 election campaign, the Bloc Québécois had been calling for amendments to the Criminal Code, thereby providing law enforcement officers with more concrete measures and more suitable provisions to deal with this scourge.
The government did, of course, respond in part to what the Bloc Québécois was calling for by passing Bill C-24 in this House in June 2001. This amended the Criminal Code to enable law enforcement agencies to seize, block and confiscate the proceeds of organized crime.
It is important to keep in mind that organized crime is not restricted to motorcycle gangs. Any group of more than three individuals involved in criminal activity can be considered a criminal organization according to the law. These individuals can therefore be found guilty by virtue of the amendments adopted by the House of Commons in 2001 in the form of Bill C-24.
As I have indicated, however, the Bloc Québécois supported the government's Bill C-24, and as I also said did not deem it to be sufficient. We have several examples proving that the bill has not necessarily achieved its initial objective: attacking organized crime. This is why my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles introduced Bill C-242 in October 2004. This bill basically was a remedy for the government's inaction in connection with the impossibility of including the reversed burden of proof in the Criminal Code.
So, four years later, we have decided to present this motion. The ancestors of that motion were the Bloc and the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, whose major crusade has led to the motion before the House today. As my colleague from Chambly has said, to our great surprise, today the government is supporting our motion.
I recall that when Bill C-242 was introduced by my colleague, it received support from a number of members of the House, in the NDP and the Conservative Party. They all agreed that legislative amendments would be needed in order to include this reversal of the burden of proof in the Criminal Code.
What is interesting is that my colleague was the first one on a path later followed by even the federal and provincial ministers. They expressed their agreement with this approach to reverse the burden of proof in June 2004—that is, quite recently—at a federal-provincial conference where the issue was actually discussed. The provincial ministers gave their support to the approach recommended by the Bloc Québécois, not only during the 2000 election campaign, but also more concretely in Bill C-242, introduced in the House of Commons by the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
Thus, all of Canada is lining up behind the Bloc Québécois. The newspaper Le Devoir had a comment on this recently, in February 2005, and I quote:
The Bloc Québécois, the first political party to propose the reversal of the burden of proof, in Bill C-242, introduced in the Commons last fall, has taken this idea to heart. “It is a suggestion that pleases the Bloc”, confirmed the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles—
In this respect, it is very clear that my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles has been a real trailblazer on this issue.
Why do we have to fight organized crime by adding the reversal of the burden of proof to the Criminal Code? First, because of the huge social and economic impacts.
How can we agree, in this Parliament, that people—whom I dare not describe as ordinary—the citizens of Canada and Quebec who earn their living honourably, who must pay income taxes and other taxes to the federal government and who do so fairly and honestly, see these people, these organized groups, these criminal gangs, finding all sorts of devious ways to practice what amounts to tax avoidance.
It means significant losses for the Canadian government and, in the end, for the social, education and health services that the taxpayers are entitled to receive. Meanwhile, these organized criminal gangs laugh at the world and in the faces of people who earn an honourable living, and meanwhile, we, the elected representatives, look at the situation and refuse to act.
This is nothing new. This comes as no surprise. Many countries have adopted this same approach at various levels. Some countries partially reverse the burden of proof. Others, like Australia, fully reverse it. France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Germany have decided to include this important concept in their legislation.
It is a question of social justice, individual rights and justice. Provided the motion is unanimously passed by this House in the next few days, it should inevitably lead to the tabling by the government of a bill to recognize this issue and to give effect to the motion by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles and the Bloc Québécois.
I can assure you that we will be vigilant over the coming months and weeks, should the government decide to table a bill. We will work at the parliamentary committee and we will make sure that the very spirit of the motion tabled by the Bloc Québécois—that could be passed by this house—is reflected in this bill.
Often the government opposite refuses to keep its word.
What we are hoping for today is for this motion—tabled in the House of Commons and votable—to be reflected in a bill.
Partisanship aside, the Bloc Québécois will be proud to support the bill that is tabled. We must never forget that the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles and the Bloc Québécois were trailblazers in this.
March 10th, 2005 / 3:55 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, I was told I had 20 minutes. I believe that the two other 10-minute speeches were to come a little later on.
This year is the 100th birthday of Einstein's theory of relativity, so I was wondering whether I was the first human being to experience the effects of that scientific phenomenon.
As I was saying, I was very proud to be part of that group in 2000. Our efforts during the election campaign brought the battle against organized crime to the forefront of the campaign issues. Because of all the other things that were going on, like Shawinagate and the sponsorship scandal, we did not have as much success with the organized crime issue. . As a result, at our request, and with pressure from the public as well, from public opinion as a whole, the government introduced Bill C-24, which amended the provisions of the Criminal Code. It was passed on June 13, 2001, with our support. We had after all indirectly instigated it. It came into effect on February 1, 2002.
Thanks to this bill, amendments to the Criminal Code have given law enforcement additional tools, for example, on the issue of the proceeds of crime. So there have been many more indictable offences that have been covered by the amendments to the Criminal Code.
Previously, only 40 crimes were categorized as organized crime offences. With the new provisions, we will be talking more about designated offences, which will encompass the indictable offences covered by the Labour Code and other federal statutes, apart from a few exceptions established by regulation.
So the broadening of the application of the provisions of the Labour Code to the proceeds of crime now enables law enforcement to seize, block and confiscate the profits that can be derived from possible criminal activity and are connected to and facilitated by organized crime.
Of course this was an important step forward, but we must go further still. That is why we are proposing in this motion another provision which should be added to the Criminal Code to address organized crime specifically. This is true in Quebec as well as, unfortunately, all over the world. So it is time for the Parliament of Canada to acquire this additional tool of reversal of the burden of proof with respect to the proceeds of crime, plus the introduction of the notion of the balance of probabilities.
As was mentioned by the previous hon. member, there was a federal-provincial-territorial meeting last January 23 and 25, at which the justice ministers discussed an amendment to the Criminal Code. There might be reason to make a minor correction to what the Liberal member for Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies said about certain provisions proposed by the Quebec justice minister and not by the federal justice minister, who subsequently endorsed them—I will not get into this—which were intended to reverse the burden of proof.
This proposal of the Quebec justice minister Mr. Jacques Dupuis was endorsed by all the provincial justice ministers as well as the federal minister. At the conclusion of discussions on this proposal, the ministers supported it, considering that it was necessary to facilitate confiscation of the proceeds of crime. The federal justice minister then said that it was necessary to improve the confiscation rules and that he would quickly produce amendments that were in compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This had been mentioned by the previous Liberal member. Therefore, in my view, including this cut-off date of May 31, 2005 in the motion will assure us that the Minister of Justice will take action on what he said in late January.
It may be important to point out also that this proposal stems both from a suggestion made by Quebec's justice minister and from Bill C-242 introduced last October by the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
It is interesting to read the following about the Bloc's position on the issue of reversing the burden of proof in the February 5, 2005, edition of Le Devoir , a newspaper read by few people in English Canada unfortunately:
—The Bloc Québécois, the first political party to propose reversing the burden of proof, with its Bill C-242 introduced in the Commons last fall, has adopted the idea. “This is a proposal that the Bloc likes,” confirmed Richard Marceau, the party's justice critic. We will have to wait and see which offences will be listed in this new bill, which, according to Mr. Marceau, should be introduced in the spring by federal justice minister Irwin Cotler.
Indeed, as everyone knows, May 31, 2005 falls within that timeframe, springtime.
At present, subsection 462.37(1) of the Criminal Code places on the crown prosecutor the burden of proving that the property to be forfeited is proceeds of crime related to the offence committed. This means that the Crown has a double task: first, get the accused convicted, and second, prove that the property in the possession of this person was illegally acquired. Then, of course, steps have to be taken to obtain its forfeiture.
Thus, we see that, with the proposal to reverse the burden of proof, we will greatly facilitate the task of the Crown who, once there is no longer any reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused, will throw back on the accused the onus of demonstrating that they did not obtain the property or the assets with illegal money.
I would like to get back to the initiative of Quebec's justice minister by reading what he wrote in the major Quebec newspapers at the beginning of February. It would be important for people who are listening to take note of this. Concerning subsection 462.37(1), Mr. Dupuis, who is the justice minister and attorney general of Quebec, came to this conclusion:
If the proposed amendment is enacted, an accused who is convicted of an indictable offence will be required to satisfy the court, on a balance of probabilities, that the property in respect of which the Attorney General is seeing forfeiture is not proceeds of crime related to the offence of which the accused has been convicted. Our proposed amendment goes further than the amendment in Bill C-242 recently tabled in the House of Commons in that it applies to all indictable offences, not only criminal organization offences.
Here, the proposal of the Quebec justice minister goes even further than what we have in Bill C-242. The federal justice minister is obviously free to go further than what we have proposed. We will obviously see the proposed provisions after studying the bill, which will be introduced before next May 31.
However, in the case of the Quebec justice minister, he proposes not just crimes related to gangs or organized crime but all criminal acts. He continues:
Despite the expertise Québec has developed and our success in offence-related property forfeiture (since 1996, property worth a total of $32 million has been forfeited)—
That is not chicken-feed, but everyone will agree that it is not very much in comparison with the proceeds of crime.
—it remains difficult to prove that a particular item of property is in fact proceeds of crime. Establishing that proof is a lengthy and painstaking process. Our proposed amendment to reverse the burden of proof will further enhance the claim that crime does not pay
It was the Quebec justice minister who wrote this in the large dailies in Quebec.
So there is evidently a broad consensus now. I can see it in this House as well as in Quebec society. While still complying with the human rights charters, the burden of proof is being reversed for criminals who have been found guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.
The balance of probabilities is also extremely important. Ordinary citizens are not happy that criminals famous for their illegally acquired riches can avoid their responsibilities because no tax is paid on what is not declared.
One of the aberrations to which this has led is the fact that they have been entitled to legal aid in some trials. This leaves the public cynical.
With the adoption of this motion and the introduction of the following bill, we will help to reduce this cynicism and clear up the general climate in Quebec and Canada, and in the end, strengthen democracy—something that is wanted by everyone in this House.
March 10th, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on an issue about which I readily admit I am not an expert, even though, like any law-abiding citizen of course, I abhor having to do with organized crime in its various forms. We know that not only criminal organizations are a threat to public safety and security but they cause social dislocation and disrupt the cohesiveness of a society like that of Quebec.
I also want to think the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. He was described earlier as not only an outstanding lawyer but also a very active parliamentarian. I would like to remind this House that the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles was behind another decision made by this Parliament, a simple decision but one that had to be followed through nonetheless.
We will recall that he was the one who proposed that $1,000 bills be taken out of circulation, because it is well known that organized crime, the mafia, makes extensive use of cash and that large denominations made it relatively easy for such mafia and criminal networks to move significant amounts of money.
Now, with the disappearance of these bills following the initiative by our colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, the criminal gangs have a harder time moving and laundering all this cash, since the largest bank note available from the Bank of Canada is $100. I have seen that more and more, all over, people are refusing $100 bills.
As a result, it is not surprising to see the motion presented today by the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. I shall read it, so that our listeners know what motion we are debating:
That, in the opinion of the House, in order to better fight crime, the government should introduce a bill by May 31, 2005, to amend the Criminal Code by reversing the burden o fproof as regards the proceeds of crime, requiring the accused, once found guilty, to demonstrate on the balance of probabilities that their assets were not obtained using the proceeds of their criminal activities.
Here we see something I think is extremely important. First there is the fact that, obviously, we are proposing a new measure to give additional tools to the forces of order and the courts to fight crime, namely reversing the burden of proof regarding the proceeds of criminal activities.
Obviously, in order to protect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there will be a number of provisions, and I will speak of them later. However, I think it is just as important to point out that in his motion, the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles refers to a date: May 31, 2005. It ensures that the intentions of the Minister of Justice, which have been repeated a number of times, will become reality.
I remind the House that on many issues—and I know I am off topic a little—the Liberals have assured us there will be changes. For example, the Prime Minister of Canada, in front of the entire television audience, millions of men and women—I am sure the hon. member for Chambly remembers this well—announced that he was going to make changes in the employment insurance eligibility threshold. Well, June 28 was a long time ago. We have had an opportunity, with the budget, to see this government's response to its promise, and there has still been no substantial change in the eligibility threshold. As a result, we are continue to wait for a promise that was made in 2000.
It is important, in terms of this motion, to focus on this deadline, which will ensure the tabling of a bill, instead of waiting as we do in so many cases, “Solution to follow. We are considering it. Wait and see”. Earlier, during question period, I heard the Minister of the Environment say, “Wait, in a few weeks we will have the Kyoto action plan”. I know I digress, but I cannot resist the urge to talk about the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who announced the tabling of new foreign policy directions for December. We are March and we still do not have any news about the deadlines.
The reference to April 30, 2005, in the motion by the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles is extremely important.
I was saying that the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles had taken extremely important legislative initiatives to combat organized crime. I talked about the $1,000 bills he stopped from circulating. I also think that Bill C-242, which he tabled on October 28, 2004, was the forerunner of this motion and the debate we are having today. In a way, this bill forced the Minister of Justice to assume his responsibilities.
The purpose of Bill C-242 was to reverse the burden of proof, which we are discussing today, and would require the accused, once found guilty of criminal activity, to demonstrate on the balance of probabilities that their assets were acquired honestly and legitimately.
I am talking about October 28, 2004. We are now March 2005, so there is consistency in the approach by the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. This falls in line with the work the Bloc Québécois has been doing for many years to make sure that not only the Criminal Code, but the entire machinery of government is able to fight this scourge that is organized crime and the mafia networks.
The initiatives by the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles—and I am talking for instance about Bill C-242—have received support from members of all parties. I know that Bill C-242 received strong support from the NDP and the Conservative Party. Today, I am pleased to hear that the government side is preparing to support this motion.
This motion is the result of initiatives by the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles and also of many years of work by the Bloc Québécois to give the government and the Criminal Code the means to fight organized crime.
I very clearly recall running for the first time as a Bloc candidate in Joliette in 2000. Back then, the Bloc Québécois, during and after the election campaign, was extremely virulent about organized crime. The Liberals took this issue rather lightly.
I remember, early in the election campaign, a senseless murder in southern Lanaudière. The only political party candidates with enough courage to take to the streets with the people and condemn such criminal acts causing the death of a completely innocent bystander were members of the Bloc Québécois. I was extremely proud, as a political newcomer, to be associated with a party that was not afraid to speak out against organized crime.
I know that the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot did so too as an individual and he has paid the price in many ways, in terms of his own safety and that of his family. This is the stuff the 54 members of the Bloc Québécois are made of. I could say that this is the stuff the 75 Bloc MPs—the number in 2000 and in the last election—are made of, meaning that they will promote the interests of the public and their constituents, even if, unfortunately, it means paying a price that, as in the case of the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, was perhaps higher in some cases than in others. However, we are happy that his life is no longer in danger.
If the reversal of the burden of proof in connection with the proceeds of crime were added to the Criminal Code, it seems to me that we would be in a position to reassure our fellow citizens, society in general, that they will have less need of to resort to action like the marches of the year 2000 to protest the unsafe conditions they were living in.
I see you telling me I have one minute left. I was told I had 20 minutes to speak. I have never seen 20 minutes go by so fast in my entire life.
March 10th, 2005 / 12:15 p.m.
Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC
Madam Speaker, today it is my great pleasure to speak to the motion put forward by my friend, the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. Before I begin, however, I too would like to pay tribute—unusual in this House, but hon. members from all parties have done so—to the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
This motion appears to have the approval of all parties. That too is unusual in the House of Commons, although not a first, since it happened earlier when there was a motion on the Holocaust. We should also remember that the hon. member who is proposing this bill is the same one who proposed a bill to eliminate $1,000 bills, also intended to thwart the activities of organized crime and prevent money laundering. Moreover, this is the same hon. member who proposed a bill or a motion concerning the appointment of judges. That issue was studied in committee. We can also point out that it was the Bloc Québécois that introduced the forerunner to today's topic, which was Bill C-24, to specifically recognize organized crime in the Criminal Code, through the work of my former colleague, the former member for Berthier, Michel Bellehumeur. Today we have this motion before us.
I would like to digress for a moment to go over the three or four points I have just mentioned. People listening to us, and our colleagues here in the House, if they have a somewhat open mind, can see that even if an idea comes from the Bloc Québécois, it may be quite sensible. Too often, the Canadian public and our Liberal and Conservative colleagues cover their ears and say that if it comes from the Bloc it is no good.
Today, happily, there is none of that attitude. And so I hope that this will get our colleagues thinking about other topics we might bring forward, and how even if the sovereignists introduce these topics and they are not related to sovereignty, but to society, they may be of interest to the entire community. That is another reason I want to pay tribute to my friend and colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
The motion he proposed to the House this morning reads as follows, since I believe it is important to refer to the wording of the motion before debating and discussing it:
That, in the opinion of the House, in order to betterfight crime, the government should introduce a bill by May 31, 2005, to amend the Criminal Code by reversing the burden ofproof as regards the proceeds of crime, requiring the accused,once found guilty of a serious offence, to demonstrate on the balance ofprobabilities that their assets were not obtained using theproceeds of their criminal activities.
The Bloc Québécois has been pressuring the federal government for a number of years to bring in effective legislative measures against organized crime. As I have already said, Bill C-24, which was passed in 2001 with the support of the Bloc, and came into force in February 2002, is one of the bills we supported in the battle against organized crime. Thanks to Bill C-24, the provisions relating to the proceeds of crime set out in part XII.2 of the Criminal Code are applicable to virtually all criminal acts.
That was one step in the right direction in the battle against organized crime. But during the election campaign the Bloc Québécois continued to reflect on ways to move further in the battle against organized crime and on behalf of safer communities. It therefore felt that another amendment was required to specifically target organized crime in Quebec and Canada. As a result, on October 28, 2004 our colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles introduced Bill C-242, to reverse the burden of proof, requiring a person found guilty of an offence related to organized crime—and that point is important—to prove on the balance of probabilities that his assets were lawfully and legitimately acquired.
Following this reflection process and the introduction of this private members' bill, Le Devoir wrote the following about the Bloc Québécois and its position:
—the Bloc Québécois, the first political party to propose reversing the burden of proof, with its Bill C-242 introduced in the Commons last fall, has adopted the idea.
At the federal-provincial-territorial ministers' meeting, other stakeholders got behind the idea. The other parties eventually came around.
“This is a proposal that the Bloc likes,” confirmed the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
The Bloc was recognized as the first political party to have put this idea forward in the House of Commons. The idea was discussed at a federal-provincial-territorial meeting at which the justice ministers agreed in principle with the idea presented to them.
When we take a closer look at the motion from the point of view of organization and procedures—the idea has been put out there—we can see that it is relatively detailed. Nevertheless, it will be refined in committee to eliminate any concerns or irritants with respect to protecting the presumption of innocence as well as the safety of the accused. The idea is definitely not to have everybody go before a court and tell the judges and defence lawyers how their assets were acquired. So, in committee, we will refine the proposal and make sure that it will be respectful of the rights and freedoms of the individuals to whom this bill does not apply.
Let us get into a little more detail. Since it is important to respect the presumption of innocence of the accused under the Charter, it is essential that, before any reversal of onus take place, the Crown first prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. This means that the accused has to be found guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
Here are the main points that the Bloc Québécois would like to see in a future government bill on the reversal of the burden of proof. The Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that, first, the accused is guilty of an indictable offence and, second, that he benefited directly or indirectly from an asset, benefit or advantage because he committed the offence for which he is found guilty. We could add that, with a few exceptions, the accused must belong to a criminal organization. Once these three conditions have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused would have to demonstrate on the balance of probabilities that the assets which the Crown wants to forfeit were obtained in a legitimate fashion.
Currently, here is how things work: an accused—as the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel so aptly showed—can file a tax return which indicates that his annual income is around $19,000, but he can still own a lavish property along a lake, a condominium in Florida and another one in the West Indies, a Corvette and a boat, and everything is just fine.
If the accused is found guilty, the courts must prove that he got his assets illegally. Under the motion now before us, which reverses the burden of proof, the contrary would happen, in that once the accused is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing a crime and, with a few exceptions, of being a member of a criminal organization, he will be the one who has to prove that his assets were obtained legally and legitimately.
This suggestion by the Bloc Québécois which, as I said, seems to enjoy the support of the House, is a precedent in Canada, but not in the world. A number of countries, including Australia, Austria, France, New Zealand, Germany and the United Kingdom have already legislated in that sense, to various degrees, and included in their legislation the reversal of the burden of proof as regards the proceeds of crime. The financial action task force on money laundering, which is an international organization, proposed a similar measure in 2003.
In conclusion, this is a motion on which there is a consensus and one which would benefit Canadian society by making our communities safer and by impeding even more the activities of criminal organizations.
The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles deserves to be praised for his motion and so does the House which, I hope, will support this initiative and act quickly, so that it can be implemented without delay.
March 10th, 2005 / 11:40 a.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to have this opportunity to speak to this motion that has been presented to the House by the member for Charlesbourg--Haute-Saint-Charles. I would like to thank the member for bringing forward this motion. It is a very good motion. There was some discussion about the motion and the amendment that was put forward this morning that was agreed to by all parties in the House. It actually improves the motion. The NDP is pleased to be supporting this motion today.
I have been sitting in the House this morning listening to the debate. I know that one of the Conservative members who spoke a little earlier professed some skepticism as to whether or not this motion would ever go anywhere. I wanted to actually be a bit optimistic and say that this motion and the work that has been done in regard to it is as a result of the good work that can happen when people work together in a constructive way in a minority Parliament.
It appears that this motion will be passed by Parliament a week or so from now, and that will be good, but certainly, it will then be the responsibility of all of us, and I am sure the Bloc Québécois will take the lead in ensuring that the government is then held responsible, to ensure that the motion is not lost and that indeed the legislation that is contemplated in the motion before us today does in fact come back to the House.
I understand the skepticism that is there, but we have to do our job and ensure that we do not let the government off the hook. There has been a willingness and a positiveness expressed today by the government that this legislation will indeed come back. We will certainly follow that up. We will do our bit and I am sure every other party, including the member who brought forward the motion, will be working very hard to ensure that this happens.
In fact, as has been pointed out, this motion partly results from work that has been done by attorneys general across the country in provinces and territories. It is partly their work, but it is also the work of the member for Charlesbourg--Haute-Saint-Charles working with other justice critics from other opposition parties that has brought us to this point.
I want to recognize the earlier work that was done in developing Bill C-242 by the member from the Bloc. In October of last year, three members, the justice critics from the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, actually held a press conference and together supported this bill and this initiative coming forward. I want to recognize the work that our justice critic, the member for Windsor--Tecumseh, has also done. He has worked on the justice committee and with other members of the House to bring forward this idea. Clearly, it is a good indication of people working together. It gives me a sense of hope of what can be done when people work together constructively.
The motion before us today is actually very intriguing. The essence of the motion is to reverse the burden of proof by seeking an amendment to the Criminal Code so that a prosecutor and the court system can put the onus of the burden of proof on individuals who have been convicted of a serious offence to demonstrate that their assets were not obtained using the proceeds of their criminal activities.
This is a very important principle and, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice pointed out, it may be a complex issue to develop and bring forward. I believe that in doing so, it must be done in the context and with respect to the charter. I would certainly agree with the government on that point. In fact, another Conservative member said earlier in the debate today that this has nothing to do with the charter or respecting the charter. I would disagree with that point.
Any legislation that comes forward, particularly this legislation that is contemplated in the motion, must be done through the lens of the charter. We must ensure that we also respect people's individual rights and liberties.
The principle that is contained in the motion is actually an important one. It reminded me of a similar process that exists at the municipal level. I am a former member of Vancouver City Council and within the city of Vancouver charter, there is a provision that allows the city of Vancouver to do what is called a show-cause hearing. It is exactly the same principle that is put forward in this motion. It reverses the burden of proof. In a show-cause hearing the city of Vancouver has a very significant power to require business operators or people who hold business licences to show-cause as to why their licences should not be removed.
In fact, this provision has been used on a number of occasions against businesses and stores in the downtown east side that, for example, were selling substances to alcoholics and making huge profits, things like rubbing alcohol or glue for the purpose of sniffing, and was being done deliberately.
It was also being used against businesses that were believed to be over-serving people and operating beer parlours in a manner that was completely contrary to any basic practices of good management. This power the city of Vancouver had to demand a show-cause hearing on those operators was, in effect, the same principle that we are debating today, of reversing the burden of proof. It was a fair process.
There may be concerns expressed about what we would be engaging in, but I know from the work we did at city hall, these show-cause hearings still go on today from time to time. It is a very fair, democratic and open process, and has been a very effective tool for the city of Vancouver. Maybe it is used by other municipalities, I do not know, as a way of ensuring there are good practices and management.
In doing some research on this motion before us today, in actual fact, the province of Manitoba, in 2003, introduced legislation called the criminal property forfeiture act. It would allow police to apply to the court for orders to seize property either bought with profits from unlawful acts or used to commit crimes. Clearly, the provincial government in Manitoba has already gone to some lengths to establish the same kind of procedure.
I know the member for Winnipeg Centre, who will be speaking for the NDP later today, will give further details as evidence that this kind of proposal can actually work and is indeed in operation in other jurisdictions. We want to recognize the work that is being done in the province of Manitoba by the NDP government in bringing forward a very similar initiative because of the concerns it had about the proceeds from crime and how organized crime was vastly profiting from illegal activities.
I want to speak about some related matters that have come up in the debate today. The motion before us today is very important. Hopefully, when the legislation comes back, it will provide an additional tool for law enforcement agencies and the courts to deal with organized crime, and the proceeds and profits that are gained unlawfully.
It is very important that we not only look at the consequences of those illegal efforts but also at the causes. A number of members who have spoken today have used as examples issues around organized crime and grow ops, particularly in British Columbia but not exclusively.
The member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, stated earlier that 85% of grow ops in B.C. are related in some way to organized crime. I do not know whether he is right but that was the figure he used. Whether or not 85% is absolutely correct, certainly the numbers are very high. There is obviously a correlation between this motion and what takes place in organized crime.
It behooves us to examine some of the causes and the problems we are facing. The Bloc member and I were part of the Special Committee on the Non-medical Use of Drugs which was reconvened to deal with the drug bill which is now back before the justice committee. Testimony in the earlier version of the decriminalization of marijuana bill clearly showed us the very strong links between our drug laws and prohibition and organized crime.
Mr. Eugene Oscapella, who is from the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy and teaches at the University of Ottawa, provided some fascinating insight into the real world of the illicit drug trade. He produced information for the committee. For example, to buy a kilo of heroin at a farm in Afghanistan would cost about $90 U.S. After that same product goes through its circuitous route through organized crime and finally hits the street, its value has increased by 32,000%. That same kilo would sell for possibly $290,000.
We need to recognize and come to terms with the reality that our laws are actually fuelling organized crime in terms of prohibitionist policies. This is an incredibly lucrative business. Whether it is grow ops, trafficking on an international scale, or financing terrorist organizations, there is absolutely no question that the illicit drug trade is a huge market and a lucrative proposition for organized crime. It is the primary source of its vast amount of profits, its influence and its power. We have to recognize that fact.
We can look at the law as it is and ask ourselves what kind of changes we need to bring in. A motion such as the one before us today resulting at some point in legislation would be an important tool in looking at the proceeds of criminal activity and organized crime. It is also important that we examine the impact of the law itself and how it fuels organized crime.
I often think of the whole regime of prohibition as being akin to a regime that equals a chaotic situation. It is an environment with no rules. It is an environment where violence is the method by which disputes are resolved. The member from the Bloc spoke earlier this morning about the deaths that have been caused by organized crime; I think he mentioned 160 deaths in Quebec alone. On TV we have seen those horrendous situations and the communities that have been impacted and the innocent people who have been killed as a result of the activities of organized crime.
My own community of east Vancouver has seen many deaths, whether they are from overdoses or whether they are from the whole regime of prohibition. It has had an incredible impact on individual lives as well as on the health and well-being of the community as a whole.
I have done a lot of work on this in my local community. There is a strong sense that we need to have a realistic examination of our laws and the impact of drug enforcement. We have to question whether or not at the end of the day it can be realistic.
It is such a lucrative business. We could put more cops on the street. We could do a lot of things, but the fact is, as many members have spoken about this today, this business is still growing.
As the member for Langley mentioned earlier, I do not think it is a matter that somehow we have all gone soft on crime. That is too easy an analysis. It is too simple a solution to say that. It may respond to the fears that people have about what is happening in their local community, but it is a very simplistic analysis to say that somehow all of us, except presumably the Conservative Party members, have gone soft on crime.
These are very complex issues. There is a growing recognition that law enforcement alone cannot deal with this problem. If we truly want to deal with organized crime, if we want to deal with the violence that flows from organized crime, if we want to deal with the drug trade, then we have to look at the illicit nature of that trade and recognize why organized crime is involved in that business.
The NDP is very pleased to support this motion. We did have some concerns originally that the motion was a little too broad. The way it was written it was like a blanket. With the amendment that has been put forward it is much more satisfactory.
It is very important when the bill comes back that it has a close examination. I heard the member from the Bloc question the government as to whether or not there might be some speedy process. It is something that all parties will have to discuss, but it does require an examination obviously. I would certainly encourage the Liberal government, in the spirit of this minority Parliament and the work that has been undertaken by individual members of this House who have put in a lot of effort to bring this motion to the House today, particularly the member from the Bloc, to ensure that this does not slip off the political agenda.
There is an expectation, assuming that this motion is approved, that it will come back, that there will be legislation and we will examine it. Hopefully, we will be able to pass something. It is a rare day that all sides of the House agree on something. We may have some slightly different perspectives on how we approach this, but I think there is a sense of unity here.
There is a deep concern about the impact of some of these incredibly violent crimes on people and communities. There is obviously a demonstrated willingness to take up this motion and to translate it into some workable legislation. Certainly within the NDP we will wholeheartedly support that effort and work both in the House and at committee to ensure that happens.
I hope also that we recognize some of the broader aspects of the issue that we are dealing with here in terms of organized crime. We need to have other debates, not on this day but on other days.
I would like to thank the member for bringing this motion forward. I congratulate him on his work. It is a good motion and we are pleased to support it.
March 10th, 2005 / 10:15 a.m.
Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure as well as an honour for me to start the debate on this Bloc Québécois motion to reverse the burden of proof as regards the proceeds of crime for individuals convicted of specific offences.
For the benefit of my colleagues and those listening today, I want to clarify that the motion before the House today reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, in order to better fight crime, the government should introduce a bill by May 31, 2005, to amend the Criminal Code by reversing the burden of proof as regards the proceeds of crime, requiring the accused, once found guilty of a serious offence, to demonstrate on the balance of probabilities that their assets were not obtained using the proceeds of their criminal activities.
Organized crime is one of the most serious social issues facing our society, and this is even more so given that, since 1994, there has been a bloody war in Quebec among the rival criminal motorcycle gangs. Over 160 people have died as a result of this war, including innocent bystanders who had the misfortune of getting in the way of these criminals.
There is a direct link between this motion and the deadly circumstances surrounding this motorcycle gang war in Quebec, as elsewhere in Canada. In the name of public safety, but also and above all to support police efforts to fight organized crime, substantive changes to the legal framework must be made to better equip the Crown.
Amending the Criminal Code as proposed in this Bloc Québécois motion would constitute a very big step forward and I know already that our efforts are welcome, both by police forces and crown prosecutors in general.
For a number of years, the Bloc Québécois has lobbied the federal government to put forward effective legislation to fight organized crime. During the 2000 election campaign, the Bloc Québécois continued such efforts and called for Ottawa to amend the Criminal Code to give police and crown prosecutors more effective tools with which to fight and stamp out organized crime.
The Canadian government eventually responded to some of our demands by introducing the antigang legislation, which amended the Criminal Code provisions applicable to organized crime. The Bloc believes, however, that further reform is needed to tighten the noose currently around organized crime in Quebec and Canada.
Hon. members will remember that, on October 28, I tabled in the House of Commons, with the support of the Conservative member for Provencher and the NDP member for Windsor—Tecumseh, Bill C-242, to reverse the burden of proof and require an accused, once convicted of an offence in association with a criminal organization, to demonstrate that the goods that he owns were obtained in an honest and legitimate fashion. I suggested then that we should use what is called the balance of probabilities.
The media coverage on this legislation—which, everyone will agree, is as bold as it is tough—revived the whole debate on the conviction of individuals associated with the underworld, particularly in the case of the megatrials that were held in Quebec following opération printemps 2001.
In that context, I am very pleased to see that a strong consensus is being achieved on the issue, from coast to coast. The repeated pressures exerted by the Bloc Québécois over the years have convinced several governments of the merits of this amendment to the Criminal Code.
In this regard, it is important to note that, at the recent federal-provincial-territorial meeting of justice ministers, held here in Ottawa on January 24 and 25, the justice ministers agreed on a series of measures that should be taken to improve Canada's justice system.
As regards these measures, the news release issued at the conclusion of the meeting read as follows:
Ministers discussed proposals to change the Criminal Code to create a reverse onus for the proceeds of crime regime. Offenders would have to prove on a balance of probabilities that their property is not the proceeds of crime. All ministers agreed that the ability to obtain the forfeiture of proceeds of crime is needed and the federal justice minister said he intends to move forward as quickly as possible with changes that meet charter requirements.
In addition, in an open letter sent to the Quebec major newspapers at the beginning of February, while he was still Quebec's attorney general and minister of justice, Jacques Dupuis spoke out on behalf of his counterparts and embraced the principle of Bill C-242, which I introduced last fall.
In this regard, he made a further commitment by saying that:
The current subsection 462.37(1) of the Criminal Code places on the Crown prosecutor the burden of proving that the property to be forfeited is proceeds of crime related to the offence committed. Once an accused person has been convicted, the Crown must prove that the property was illegally acquired in order to obtain its forfeiture. My colleague Attorneys General in the other provinces and territories have supported the proposal we have put forward to shift the burden of proof onto the accused after a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. We have therefore asked the Minister of Justice of Canada to amend the Criminal Code accordingly.
If the proposed amendment is enacted, an accused who is convicted of an indictable offence will be required to satisfy the court, on a balance of probabilities, that the property in respect of which the Attorney General is seeking forfeiture is not proceeds of crime related to the offence of which the accused has been convicted.
Our proposed amendment goes further than the amendment in Billin the House of C 242 recently tabled Commons in that it applies to all indictable offences, not only criminal organization offences.
Despite the expertise Québec has developed and our success in offence-related property forfeiture (since 1996, property worth a total of $32 million has been forfeited), it remains difficult to prove that a particular item of property is in fact proceeds of crime. Establishing that proof is a lengthy and painstaking process. Our proposed amendment to reverse the burden of proof will further enhance the claim that crime does not pay.
So what Jacques Dupuis was calling for, with the agreement of the Bloc Québécois, was a kind of Bill C-242 plus.
The motion we are debating today is along the same lines and has as its main objective to remind the government of its commitment to this and primarily to accelerate the process by which it plans to act. With the May 31 deadline for the government to being in a bill with such a commitment, the Bloc Québécois is stepping up the pressure on the government to do more than talk, finally.
I would also point out to my hon. colleagues that adoption of such a measure is central to the Bloc Québécois' commitments to Quebeckers, and particular focus was placed on it in the Bloc Québécois election platform. That platform became a kind of plebiscite, as can be seen by the exceptional results of the June 28, 2004 election.
I want to mention the contribution by my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot to the drafting of that platform. This colleague's work on the platform, and his whole battle against organized crime, deserves our recognition. His position , which we share, was reflected in the last campaign platform for which he was responsible.
This idea is certainly not a Bloc original. No Canadian political party has ever dared take it as far before, however. The motion is in large part inspired by certain international legislative precedents.
In its 40 recommendations relating to property laundering, the OECD financial action task force, generally called FATF, proposes the adoption of measures to permit property to be confiscated.
It could not make its stand on this any clearer. It says the following in connection with improvements to justice systems:
Countries should adopt measures similar to those set forth in the Vienna and Palermo Conventions, including legislative measures, to enable their competent authorities to confiscate property laundered, proceeds from money laundering or predicate offences, instrumentalities used in or intended for use in the commission of these offences, instrumentalities used in or intended for use in the commission of these offences, or property of corresponding value, without prejudicing the rights of bona fide third parties.
The quote continues:
Such measures should include the authority to: (a) identify, trace and evaluate property which is subject to confiscation; (b) carry out provisional measures, such as freeing and seizing, to prevent any dealing, transfer or disposal of such property; (c) take steps that will prevent or void actions that prejudice that State's ability to recover property that is subject to confiscation; and (d) take any appropriate investigative measures.
FATF goes still further by suggesting that:
Countries may consider adopting measures that allow such proceeds or instrumentalities to be confiscated without requiring a criminal conviction, or which require an offender to demonstrate the lawful origin of the property alleged to be liable to confiscation, to the extent that such a requirement is consistent with the principles of their domestic law.
Since it is important to put the international legal situation clearly on the table, FATF recommendation 27 states clearly that:
Countries should consider taking measures, including legislative ones, at the national level, to allow their competent authorities investigating money laundering cases to postpone or waive the arrest of suspected persons and/or the seizure of the money for the purpose of identifying persons involved in such activities or for evidence gathering. Without such measures the use of procedures such as controlled deliveries and undercover operations are precluded.
Simply put, the financial action task force suggests strongly that countries adopt measures that would create an obligation for the presumed perpetrator of an organized crime offence to prove the legitimate origin of goods subject to confiscation, insofar as such an obligation is consistent with their domestic laws.
A number of countries, including Australia, Austria, France, Italy, New Zealand, Switzerland and Great Britain have already passed legislation and made statutory provision that the burden of proof may be reversed when it concerns the proceeds of crime.
In order to facilitate proof that certain goods are indeed the proceeds of illegal activities, reversing the burden of proof must therefore be considered, as is currently the case in many countries. Thus, once someone's criminal activities are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the offender must explain the legitimate source of his property to the court.
Simply put, members of a criminal organization or any other offender would have to justify their lifestyle and explain how they acquired so many luxury goods, totally legitimately. I would be willing to bet that the tax authorities would also be grateful to Parliament for the opportunity to fight the scourges of tax evasion and money laundering more effectively.
Certainly, members will agree that this is an audacious legislative step and some will certainly point out—and loudly so—that this proposal would be contrary to the spirit and the letter of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But we firmly believe that this is not true. We already see at least two key elements in our Criminal Code based on the same reasoning. One of them is section 515(6) and the other is 351(1), which says:
Every one who, without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on him, has in his possession any instrument suitable for the purpose of breaking into any place, motor vehicle, vault or safe under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the instrument has been used or is or was intended to be used for any such purpose, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
With respect to the offence referred to in the latter section, it is interesting to note, first, that the burden of proof is reversed even before the offender is convicted, which is clearly not what we are proposing, and second, that this reversal of the burden of proof was declared legal by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988, in the case of R. v. Holmes  1 S.C.R. 914. In this case, the court ruled that this presumption does not violate the presumption of innocence under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The reversal of the burden of proof following conviction, as proposed in this motion and in Bill C-242, will no doubt be considered constitutionally valid.
Given the many negative effects of organized crime, both in its social and economic aspects, there is ample justification for strengthening the legislation to fight crime. Economically, organized crime generates huge revenues, which often need to be reinvested in the legitimate world, but without making a positive contribution to it.
The resulting tax evasion deprives governments from considerable revenues, and gangsters refine every day their techniques to avoid having their assets reviewed judicially. Very simply, it is becoming particularly frustrating for ordinary taxpayers to see notorious criminals display ostentatiously and condescendingly the proceeds of their illegal activities.
How many times have we heard comments from citizens disgusted with the administration of justice when they see individuals with a plainly criminal past or present get convicted of a crime and then resume their jet-set lifestyles as if nothing had happened, because they know full well that these people have not earned an honest living for a single day in their life?
As lawmakers, we have to act to restore the public's confidence in its justice system. It has become imperative that criminal organizations be sent a clear signal that the days are over when they could shamelessly make a fast buck without facing punishment. From now on, criminals will have to face the consequences of their actions and, in that sense, they will no longer be able to benefit from their criminal and illegal activities.
Let us not be fooled. There is nothing wrong with calling for the seizure of goods constituting the proceeds of crime. It is common sense. Period.
By amending the Criminal Code to reverse the burden of proof as regards the acquisition of luxury items by an individual found guilty of gangsterism, we are giving police and the Crown another means to eradicate this problem. An individual found guilty and sentenced accordingly will still, at the end of the sentence, have to demonstrate that their assets were acquired using legitimate means.
It will become particularly difficult for a criminal to show that his luxurious home, his chalet in the north, his condo in Florida, his shiny motorcycle, his sports cars, and his entire lifestyle correspond to declared income more often than not so low it hovers around the poverty line.
Such a legal initiative could also complicate the widespread practice by criminals of using front men. We know that individuals register their assets in the name of their spouse, parents or friends in order to avoid having major financial assets in their own name that could be confiscated by the government. The bill to be tabled must take into account this particular reality whereby these front men are often forced to obey the criminals.
In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois initiative is highly courageous and expresses a true political will to curb organized crime and a deep social consideration to reiterate the adage crime does not pay.
In light of the megatrials held in Quebec over the past few years, it is high time to take concrete action to deal a fatal blow to criminal organizations.
In our opinion, this is a matter of common sense.
November 2nd, 2004 / 5:10 p.m.
Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC
Mr. Speaker, I think that any death or loss of life is in and of itself a tragedy, especially if the tragedy could have been avoided, or the death or accident prevented.
That is why we in the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-16. Let us give credit where credit is due. In the previous Parliament, the issue of decriminalization of marijuana, which we support, was debated. Incidentally, I would point out to the NDP House leader that the NDP is not the only party to have passed at a congress a resolution in favour of the decriminalization of marijuana. The Bloc Québécois passed one also, at the instigation of its youth wing. I wish to salute its diligent and efficient work as well as its thorough job on an issue as important as this one.
When the bill on the decriminalization of marijuana was introduced during the previous Parliament, several stakeholders expressed concern about this bill's not having a companion bill on drug-impaired driving. This point was raised a few times in committee. The hon. parliamentary secretary will no doubt remember. Naturally, the Bloc Québécois always welcomes good ideas from witnesses, contrary to the Liberal Party while under the command of the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, who, when he was the government House leader, did not always listen to us. Much to his displeasure, he is left with only 21 members from Quebec, but that is another story.
Witnesses came before the committee to suggest that and, during consideration in committee, I put forward an amendment to the bill on the decriminalization of marijuana. The NDP House leader must recall, because there are similarities between that bill and Bill C-16. At the time, the chair, on the probably wise advice of the clerk, rejected my amendment on the grounds that it did not fit in with the decriminalization bill per se.
As a result, instead of the committee tabling a single report, two reports were tabled: one on the bill on decriminalization and the other calling on the government to quickly present a bill on drug-impaired driving.
Thus, it is thanks to the Bloc, with inspiration from numerous witnesses—I thank them—that the government, having listened to us for once, decided to present Bill C-16. We support this bill. We also agree with referring it to committee for full consideration before second reading.
An aspect of interest to me is the one mentioned by the member for Provencher regarding technology and the possibility of properly screening people under the influence of drugs. This is something that has been pointed out to us many times. I look forward to hearing the witnesses, experts, and police officers who will present their views on this. It would be irresponsible for us to present or support a bill without knowing at second or third reading what its full consequences could be.
Another aspect is the matter of the funding announced by the federal government. If I remember correctly, the figure is $6.9 million. And if I also remember correctly, there are 52,000 police officers in Canada. As well, I believe I recall that we were told in committee that, for a bill like this to be enforced properly, for it to be workable, about 40% of those 52,000—some 20,00 to 25,000—would have to be trained to administer the standard sobriety tests we are talking about today.
Is that $6.9 million sufficient to train this number of officers? I rather doubt it, particularly since—as I said in my speech on Bill C-17—this government has decided to close several RCMP detachments throughout Quebec, if I remember correctly, at Drummondville, Saint-Hyacinthe, and Joliette. My colleague from Provencher has also referred to this.
Yet the mayors, municipal councillors and reeves are asking the government not to close these down. They are in at least some of the regions of Quebec where there is large-scale marijuana cultivation. So, just as the police forces start working together to deal properly with organized crime, this government decides to close down some RCMP detachments.
That government is the same one claiming to be so serious about dealing with organized crime. To paraphrase Yves Boisvert from La Presse , the government will have a test of political will concerning the bill introduced by the Bloc Quebecois and supported by my colleague from Provencher and my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh, the NDP justice critic. This bill involves the reversal of the burden of proof when it comes to those guilty of involvement in organized crime.
If the government is so serious about its desire to fight organized crime. if it wants to show its goodwill, I invite it to do two simple things, and with these I will end my speech.
The first is to tell us in the very near future that it will be supporting Bill C-242 on the reversed burden of proof for persons guilty of involvement in organized crime, and the second is to reverse its decision to close down RCMP detachments all over Quebec. These would be two good ways of proving that it really does have the desire to fight this social, political, economic and societal scourge: organized crime.
October 28th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-242, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (proceeds of crime).
Madam Speaker, I have the honour to introduce a bill that is a joint initiative of the Bloc Québécois, the Conservative Party and the NDP, to reverse the burden of proof.
As you know, currently, if a person is convicted of involvement in organized crime, it is incumbent upon the Crown to prove that this person's assets come from an illegitimate source. Under the bill introduced today the person convicted will have to prove that the assets come from a legal source, otherwise they will be confiscated.
This is an important measure, which will give even more powerful tools to the police and the Crown to fight the social plague of organized crime.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)