Bill C-52 (Historical)
Retribution on Behalf of Victims of White Collar Crime Act
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.
Rob Nicholson Conservative
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
- Oct. 26, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Response to the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in R. v. Tse Act
February 25th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for that great round of applause as I start my speech.
I am very pleased to rise today to stand up and talk about our points relating Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Criminal Code in response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision.
I know that we are coming to this with 19 days to go before it is supposed to be taken care of. As New Democrats, we recognize the importance of this and will be supporting it at second reading. We are in favour of sending this legislation to committee for review.
This enactment amends the Criminal Code to provide, in response to the Supreme Court's decision, safeguards related to authorization to intercept private communications without prior judicial authorization under section 184.4 of the act.
Notably, the enactment states that it:
(a) requires the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Attorney General of each province to report on the interceptions of private communications made under section 184.4;
(b) provides that a person who has been the object of such an interception must be notified of the interception within a specified period;
(c) narrows the class of individuals who can make such an interception; and
(d) limits those interceptions to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code.
I was talking earlier about how this really has come down to 19 days. I believe my colleague from Winnipeg North asked this question repeatedly today. The Conservatives have had a year to act on this. Why now, in the eleventh hour, are we having to deal with this so quickly? If they are truly looking at what can make great legislation, it is the debate and involvement of all members of Parliament from all sides.
However, once again, we see the Conservatives bringing forward legislation at the eleventh hour so that we all have to come together very quickly to try to pass something that we, of course, want to give due diligence and a good once over. Unfortunately, we have seen from the Conservatives time and time again the lack of opportunity for debate.
How many times is it now that the Conservatives have used time allocation to shut down debate when it comes to important bills? I believe that we are up into the 20s if not the 30s. We have seen budget bills and other legislation affecting the services Canadians rely on shut down at every opportunity. It is unfortunate that we once again have to come to an eleventh hour conversation to ensure that we can get legislation to committee.
This new legislation is simply an updated version of the wiretapping provisions the Supreme Court deemed to be unconstitutional. The court has established new parameters for the protection of privacy, and we expect this legislation to be in compliance with those standards.
Canadians have a good reason to be concerned about the Conservatives' privacy legislation. Their record in this area is not very encouraging. We need to continue working for the public to uphold the rule of law, the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
If we go back, not too long ago, we had the inception of Bill C-30. Back in February of 2012, the Conservative government tabled Bill C-30, which would give authorities the power to access the personal information of Canadians without a warrant. That bill raised serious concerns about personal privacy and fundamental rights and freedoms. Bill C-30 was a compilation of three bills that made up lawful access in the last parliamentary session: Bill C-50, Bill C-51 and Bill C-52. The Conservatives were then building on legislation first spearheaded to propose providing public safety authorities with surveillance powers over digital information in 1999. This led to a huge uproar from people from coast to coast to coast who were concerned about this legislation and how it would enable law enforcement to access a citizen's personal information without a warrant.
Right now, we have seen the Conservatives quickly change their tune in this new bill they have brought forward. With the government trying desperately to comply with the Supreme Court ruling within the prescribed time frame, which is April 13, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the authorization of the emergency power to intercept without authorization by the court in situations of imminent harm could be justified under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Supreme Court held that section 184.4 of the Criminal Code, interception in exceptional circumstances, enacted in 1993, was unconstitutional because it did not include any accountability measures. The court gave Parliament until April 13, 2013, to amend the provision and make it constitutional.
The Conservatives have proposed amendments that appear to be a direct response to that decision in that they add safeguards to constitute notification and reporting under section 184.4 of the Criminal Code. The legislation would require giving a person 90 days' notice, subject to an extension granted by a judge after his or her private communications had been intercepted in situations of imminent harm.
These amendments would limit the authority of the police to use this provision. All peace officers can avail themselves of it at present and would restrict its use to offences listed in section 183 of the Criminal Code. The proposed amendments appear to be a direct response to the court's instruction.
If we are to look at those in a little more detail, 184.4 outlines:
A peace officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication where
(a) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds—
Reasonable grounds is very important.
—that the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;
(b) the peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that such an interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and
(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.
If we look at R. v. Tse, this appeal concerned the constitutionality of the emergency wiretap provision in section 184.4 of the Criminal Code.
In this case, the police used section 184.4 to carry out unauthorized, warrantless interceptions of private communications when the daughter of an alleged kidnapping victim began receiving calls from her father, stating that he was being held for ransom. Approximately 24 hours later, the police obtained a judicial authorization for continued interceptions pursuant to Standing Order 186 of the code.
The trial judge found that section 184.4 contravened the right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure under section 8 of the charter and that it was not a reasonable limit under section 1. The Crown appealed the declaration of unconstitutionality directly to this court. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.
Section 184.4 permits a peace officer to intercept certain private communications without prior judicial authorization if the officer believes, on reasonable grounds, that the interception is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm, provided judicial authorization could not be obtained with reasonable diligence.
In principle, Parliament may craft such a narrow emergency wiretap authority for exigent circumstances. The more difficult question is whether the particular power enacted in section 184.4 strikes a reasonable balance between an individual's right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures and society's interest in preventing serious harm. To the extent that the power to intercept private communications without judicial authorization would be available only in circumstances to prevent serious harm, this section strikes an appropriate balance. However, section 184.4 violates section 8 of the charter, as it does not provide a mechanism for oversight and, more particularly, notice to persons whose private communications have been intercepted. This breach cannot be saved under section 1 of the charter.
When we look at all of those details, what do we truly want as New Democrats? What should we all want as parliamentarians? To start off, we are in favour of the legislation as presented being sent to committee for review. It is essential that we play our role as members of Parliament. It is essential for us to investigate measures that include oversight and accountability, which is also the court's opinion, and we expect nothing less. We will work for the public to uphold the rule of law, the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Members do not have to take my or the NDP's word for it, as there are many others out there who validate it. Michael Geist in OpenMedia said:
—Bill C-30 may be dead, but lawful access surely is not. On the same day the government put the bill out its misery, it introduced Bill C-55 on warrantless wiretapping. Although the bill is ostensibly a response to last year's R v. Tse decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, much of the bill is lifted directly from Bill C-30.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-30, an act to enact the investigating and preventing criminal electronic communications act and to amend the Criminal Code and other acts, which was also referred to as the protecting children from Internet predators act, did many things. There was a lot to be said from coast to coast to coast about many of things presented in that bill.
At the time, we supported making changes to ensure that the police would have powers to address the emerging threats posed by cybercrime, and we supported efforts to bring policing into the digital age. However, a number of that legislation's provisions unnecessarily eroded the privacy rights of ordinary citizens. We believed that we could aggressively go after criminals at the time of Bill C-30 and punish them to the full extent of the law without making false comparisons to child pornographers and treating law-abiding Canadians like criminals.
To reiterate, Mr. Geist has mentioned some of his concerns with Bill C-30 that are emerging again with Bill C-55. If people like Mr. Geist are thinking this, then of course we need to get Bill C-55 to committee to review all of the things that were previously in Bill C-30 and that may now be in Bill C-55 and that Canadians from coast to coast to coast may be upset with.
To mention others' views on Bill C-55, Chris Parsons from the blog “Technology, Thoughts, and Trinkets” states:
—the Canadian government struggled to explain the legislation—and the need for all of its elements—to the public. In the face of public dispute over the legislation’s need the government sent the legislation to Committee before Second Reading. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police strongly supported the government, as did individual police chiefs from around the country. This extended to calls for examples of where the legislation would have helped to resolve criminal cases; to date, though, few substantive examples were found.
That sums it up right there.
Political pressure recently, in our opinion, led to the failure of Bill C-30. However, some of its measures have been reiterated in other federal legislative proposals. Civil libertarians have succeeded in their fight against lawful access, but it is important to note that some aspects of Bill C-30 were transferred outside the parliamentary process a few months ago, but the failure of Bill C-30 does not mean the non-parliamentary processes will be stopped as well.
Parliament is generally informed of the use of wiretapping so it can be aware of the frequency and the circumstances of its use. However, when 184.4 is invoked, there is no disclosure obligation. There is no need to let anyone know. The court stated that a requirement to keep records of the use of wiretapping, under 184.4, would also increase accountability, but would not be necessary if there was an obligation to provide prior notice.
In summary, we will support the bill at this time. We are in favour of the legislation getting to committee for review. However, it makes us want to ask some questions. It makes us wonder what precautions the government has taken to ensure the legislation is truly in compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling. We truly need more than 19 days to understand if this will be in compliance. Yes, we want to act quickly on this, but not at the eleventh hour.
Can the government explain how the Department of Justice's assessment of the legislation's compliance with the charter and the Constitution was carried out? Why has the government waited so long to address a relatively simple matter relating to freedom and public safety? We are pleased that the government listened to the public on Bill C-30 , and Bill C-55 seems to be a step in the right direction. However, why did the government dig its heels in for so long rather than admit it was wrong and work with the opposition to resolve the problem? As members of Parliament, we are here to work together to resolve problems. What measures from Bill C-30 has the government brought back and are now outside the scope of the House of Commons?
Those are some of the things we truly need to have addressed, now in this debate, the debate that we will carry on and the debate that we will have when the bill gets to the committee stage. Many of those questions will need to be answered. We hope we can get the answers from the government for those questions when we get to committee. Unfortunately, what we have seen time and time again is that is not the case. I can talk about committees that I have sat on where we have brought forward legitimate amendments, ideas and propositions and every one of them has been denied. The Conservatives do not accept amendments, they will not listen to reason and for some reason, they just do not get that we are all trying to do this together. We are in this together to try to make laws and legislation better from coast to coast to coast for Canadians.
At the end of the day, I hope this time—and we are always hoping that a glass is half full—that when it gets to committee, if we have amendments, if we recognize that something was missed in trying to deal in such a quick fashion on the Supreme Court's ruling, that we can work together to resolve it and get this done quickly.
Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act
February 14th, 2011 / 6:55 p.m.
Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to participate in the debate on the motion to prevent debate on the content and substance of Bill C-59. I find it rather odd that the Bloc has supported the government's attempt to stifle any attempt at debate on the substance of this bill.
No one in the House can accuse the Liberals of not supporting the idea of eliminating parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served for economic crimes. Two years ago, my colleague from Bourassa, our candidate in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and our member for Lac-Saint-Louis participated in a press conference with several of Earl Jones' victims to call on the government to quickly bring forward a bill to eliminate parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served, especially for criminals who commit major fraud and have multiple victims.
No one can accuse the Liberals of not supporting that idea. I think it is really dishonest of the government to make that kind of accusation when it knows very well what the Liberals' position is. This was pointed out by my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
Now I would like to talk about the debate and the fact that the Conservatives and the Bloc members want to limit the scope of the debate. Just seven months ago the members of the Bloc rose in the House to criticize the government for doing the exact same thing it is doing now with Bill C-59. The government moved a motion to block debate.
Last June, the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain rose in the House to criticize the government for moving a motion to block debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. The Bloc member for Hochelaga also rose to oppose a government motion to block debate on Bill C-9, the Jobs and Economic Growth Act, by imposing time allocation.
We are opposed to this time allocation motion because we believe that Bill C-59 addresses a very important issue. Furthermore, for two years now, the Liberals have been calling on the government to eliminate parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served for economic crimes like those committed by Earl Jones, Vincent Lacroix and others.
I think it is a shame that some would have people believe that the Liberals do not want to protect victims. That is simply not true. When the government introduced Bill C-21 on economic crimes and it was referred to committee, the Liberal justice critic proposed an amendment to the bill to eliminate eligibility for parole after one-sixth of the sentence in cases of economic crime. The Conservatives and the Bloc defeated the motion.
Every MP is entitled to his or her opinion on bills that we are called on to debate in the House. It is a fundamental aspect of the democratic process. The operative word here is “debate”, and the collusion between the Conservatives and the Bloc is preventing us from acting as responsible parliamentarians.
We would like to hear from experts. We want to know how this bill will truly address a gap in the law, how it will do justice to victims, how this bill will improve the chances of rehabilitation for those who once lost control of their lives.
Perhaps we should indeed eliminate parole after one-sixth of a sentence for offenders who have committed serious economic crimes and left a number of victims.
However, for non-violent criminal acts that are not fraud, we believe that evidence has shown that parole after one-sixth of a sentence has been very effective and that the rate of recidivism is much lower.
We will never know what the experts might have said since this closure motion eliminates any chance to consult experts. With this government so eager to control everything, it has become somewhat of a tradition to just pass a bill without any idea of the facts that might call it into question.
The Liberals are against this closure motion. It is not justified, and we regret that the Bloc has decided to join the Conservatives to limit the debate on this bill. As far as the substance of the bill is concerned, in the past and still today, no one could accuse the Liberals of not showing their support for eliminating parole after one-sixth of the sentence for economic crimes.
In order to illustrate the government's intellectual dishonesty, I would like to present a chronology of the Conservatives' failures in their so-called fight against crime.
I am referring here to the various bills that have died on the order paper for all sorts of reasons or that have remained in the House or at committee indefinitely.
Here they are. Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued; Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), died on the order paper before the House had a chance to vote on it; Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), also died on the order paper. It is certainly not the opposition that forced the government to prorogue Parliament.
Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, died on the order paper, and Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, on the faint hope clause, died on the order paper before being brought back this session. One committee meeting was held on Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, before it died on the order paper. Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), which is related to Bill C-59, the bill we are dealing with today, died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued. Bill C-58, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, died on the order paper. The prorogation of Parliament killed many bills.
Among the bills introduced by the Minister of Public Safety was Bill C-34, the Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act, which also died on the order paper. The bill to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act died on the order paper. Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code, died on the order paper. Bill C-47, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations, died on the order paper. Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, died on the order paper. Bill C-60, An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America, died on the order paper.
To date, no meetings have been held to discuss Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code. Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), was given first reading 51 days after Parliament was prorogued, and the committee still has not met to discuss that bill.
Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), was fast-tracked at committee in just one meeting and still has not reached second reading. Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, was given first reading 64 days after Parliament was prorogued, and the government delayed it for 26 days at report stage because of the debate on the short title.
Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act, was given first reading 89 days after Parliament was prorogued, and we are still waiting for the next step. Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (interception of private communications and related warrants and orders), was given first reading after 94 days, and we are still waiting. First reading of An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act took place 243 days after Parliament was prorogued. Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials), was given first reading and nothing more.
Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children) only made it to first reading. Bill C-5, An Act to amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act was introduced at first reading by the Minister of Public Safety 15 days after prorogation. Two committee meetings were held and nothing has happened since. As for Bill C-23B, An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, we are still waiting. After a few meetings on the subject, the minister was supposed to come back with amendments that he felt were necessary in order to make the bill more comprehensive and definitely more respectful. Bill C-39, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts was introduced for first reading 104 days after prorogation and we still have not met in committee to discuss it. Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act was introduced for first reading 232 days after prorogation and there it remains. Bill C-52, An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to support investigations was also introduced for first reading 243 days after prorogation and we are waiting for the next step. The Senate introduced Bill S-7, An Act to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act for first reading 49 days after prorogation and we are still waiting for the next step. Bill S-10, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts was introduced for first reading in the Senate 60 days after prorogation. Bill S-13, An Act to implement the Framework Agreement on Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America was introduced for first reading 237 days after prorogation.
I am pointing this out to prove that it is not the opposition parties that are slowing the process down. For all sorts of unknown reasons, the government introduces these bill and then goes no further with them.
To conclude, I would like to question the justification for Bill C-59 and the fact that the Conservatives and the Bloc felt this was urgent enough to warrant this closure motion, which is an affront to parliamentary dialogue.
Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
December 15th, 2010 / 5:05 p.m.
Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-21. While it has been a bit of time since we talked about the bill, perhaps I will give an overview.
Bill C-21 has been put together to address the issues of white-collar crime. It behooves us to reflect a little on how white-collar crime has changed since generations of our constituents and, in fact, generations in Parliament.
The nature of white-collar crimes then were equated with the proverbial jokes associated with the door-to-door vacuum salesmen or whatever. I say that in a manner of juxtaposing, not in levity. The nature of Ponzi schemes are quite different. They involve the manipulation of shares and pyramid type sales. They victimize citizens of all ages, in particular those citizens who are not familiar with up-to-date technologies.
I am reminded of this. In my constituency, even as late as yesterday, calls were coming into my office with respect to seniors being met at the door by people who wanted to look at their water heaters. Then they tried to get them to enter into agreements to replace the heaters. Some people signed on the dotted line only to find the scheme dramatically raised their charges. There are legal implications involved and very serious things happen.
We need to look at our constituencies and ensure we have a legislated regime in place that is understandable. They need to know the kinds of technology and the victimization used. Only a few months ago the government brought forward legislation aimed at looking at the kind of technology used and the type and extent of victimization, where seniors, in particular, were robbed of the ownership to their homes. They had been tracked for months through the interception of their mail. Their accounts were skewed and the banks were unfortunately transferring ownership of their properties. They were duped and victimized in a manner that we could never really understand perhaps 20 or 30 years ago. However, with the kind of technology and the criminal insights used, victims of all age categories are subjected to these kinds of things.
With that background, I am pleased to respond to Bill C-21. I will give an overview of the bill and then I will look at perhaps some of the shortcomings where the bill could have been firmed up even a little more. Perhaps in the future it will be.
The bill includes a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for two years for fraud valued at more than $1 million. It provides additional aggravating factors for sentencing. It requires consideration of restitution for victims, allows sentencing courts to consider community impact statements, to issue prohibition orders, preventing convicted persons from transacting property and money of others.
We are in favour of the bill, but it does not go far enough and I will try to elaborate a little on that.
We believe the amendments put forward by our party, which were not accepted by the combined opposition, the government and the other two parties, would have strengthened the legislation. As illustrations of that, the Liberals proposed that mandatory minimum sentences of two years should apply to practices such as market manipulation of shares and Ponzi schemes.
The bill does not do enough to eliminate accelerated parole review for white-collar criminals. Canadians investors, especially seniors, do not deserve to be victimized by white-collar criminals. They deserve better than what the government has presented through this bill.
The principles behind the stricter sentencing rules are important, but they are not enough to prevent frauds from happening. Sentencing is important, but prevention, as has been said many times with respect to the criminal justice system, is equally as important in white-collar crime. We would like the government to consider why it has not used this opportunity, as it has in the past, to do more with respect to prevention.
Finally, although we are glad to see the legislation, we also call on the government to act on white-collar crime, as it has been overdue for years.
I will go through a few of the shortcomings of the bill.
While we support the bill on stricter sentencing guidelines, we are concerned it is too narrow in scope to truly be effective in the full spectrum of fraud with which it attempts to deal. The bill does not limit early parole for those crimes and it does not address the lack of police resources currently allocated for white-collar fraud. As I said before, we put forward amendments that were aimed at strengthening the bill by extending the two-year minimum sentence provisions to practices such as market manipulation of shares and Ponzi schemes. The amendments were rejected by the other parties.
The legislation was introduced in response to high profile white-collar crimes, including Norbourg Financial Group and the Earl Jones issue in Quebec. In the wake of the Madoff Ponzi scheme's revelations in the United States, many Canadian investors have grown increasingly concerned about this type of white-collar fraud.
Other than the title, the bill is the same as Bill C-52, which was introduced during the previous session, but died at prorogation.
What are the major components of the bill?
The bill introduces mandatory minimum sentences of two years for fraud involving over $1 million, regardless of the number of victims. It specifies aggravating factors to be considered at sentencing, including the psychological and financial impacts of victims, the age and health of victims, as well as the magnitude and duration of the fraud. It requires the court to indicate what mitigating and aggravating factors were considered relating to the sentence.
It allows the court to prohibit an offender from assuming any other position, volunteer or paid, that involves handling other people's money. It goes without saying that is highly desirable. It requires the judge to consider the whole manner of restitution, which is the repayment to victims where possible, and it requires judges to consider community impact statements.
Generally speaking, it is interesting to juxtapose a cross-section of stakeholder reaction with respect to this bill. It has been mixed. Victim groups have been lobbying the government to strengthen white collar criminal provisions. Some have expressed the view that the bill falls short because it fails to address the accelerated parole review rule.
The Canadian Bar Association has expressed its opposition to the bill, citing that it would increase pressures on an already taxed criminal justice system and does not improve on what is already available in the Criminal Code. It also opposes the mandatory minimum sentences in favour of judicial discretion at sentencing.
From a policing perspective, however, the RCMP has expressed its support for the bill, indicating a mandatory sentence for such crimes has the potential to be used as a deterrent. In spite of what I said earlier, the RCMP takes that position.
In terms of amendments, as I mentioned rather obliquely before, the Liberal justice critic introduced an amendment in committee that would add market manipulation of stock prices, shares, merchandise, or anything that is offered for sale to the public to the definition of what could be punishable by a two-year minimum sentence. The amendment failed in committee as the government, Bloc and NDP voted against it.
The Liberal justice critic also recommended that an amendment be introduced to modify the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in order to eliminate the one-sixth accelerated parole review rule for white collar criminals. This amendment was ruled out of order by the committee chair and was subsequently upheld on a challenge with the support of the Bloc.
A technical amendment, however, was adopted with support by all the parties. The amendment would require the court to issue an explanation of a restitution order only when a victim seeks restitution and the court decides not to make such an order. The amendment addresses concerns by the Canadian Bar Association to relieve some pressures on an already taxed system.
In my overview of the legislation, I indicated the type of victimization that occurs. I also talked about enforcement and what the government has in place in response to the issue that was raised. In terms of integrated market enforcement teams, these IMETs under the program have been put in place, funded through the RCMP. They are operational in four of Canada's major financial centres and their mandate is to investigate and lay charges for serious Criminal Code offences involving capital markets.
While the legislation does not, in the Liberal Party's view, go far enough with respect to that kind of victimization that takes place under the Criminal Code with respect to shares and Ponzi schemes, there actually is an enforcement regime in place called the IMET program. According to the 2007-08 IMET annual report, the program's total budget increased from $13 million in fiscal 2005 to $18 million in fiscal 2008 and is approximately $30 million today.
The investigations indicate how important it is that we deal with this particular issue.
In 2008-09, 17 individuals were charged with almost 1,000 counts and 5 individuals were convicted. Their sentences ranged from 39 months to 13 years.
According to the RCMP's 2009-10 Report on Plans and Priorities, it is anticipated that annual funding of $30 million will be allocated in the fiscal year to support the investigation and prosecution of fraud offences.
I posit that the investigative processes and the teams are in place.
According to the statistics, a compelling case could be made for focusing additional attention, which the bill does not, on this kind of crime involving shares and Ponzi schemes and so on.
An adult criminal court survey, which collects information on appearances, charges laid and so on with respect to this kind of fraud, found that a prison sentence was imposed in almost 4,000 cases in 2008. In the same year a conditional sentence was imposed in nearly 1,000 cases. Probation was given in 6,000 cases. Fines were levied in 1,200 cases. Restitution was granted in nearly 2,000 cases. Other sentences were imposed.
These statistics do not provide details on the monetary value of the fraud or the type of fraud, which can include securities-related fraud, such as Ponzi schemes, insider trading, accounting frauds that overstate the value of securities, as well as mass marketing fraud, mortgage and real estate fraud and many other deceptive practices.
I only include these statistics to indicate that as the bill was going through committee, the statistics were available and the issue with respect to share manipulation was not addressed and is not addressed in the bill. The bill could have been improved had the opposition's amendments been accepted.
Despite the lack of statistics, in the bill, sentences are imposed on fraud over $1 million. Before and after Parliament's introduction of conditional sentences, a case of large scale fraud by persons in a position of trust have typically resulted in substantial jail sentences. The range has been estimated at between 4 to 15 years for large scale fraud although a sentence of less than two years and conditional sentences have been imposed where there have been important mitigating factors.
Clause 3 of the bill adds four aggravating circumstances which we believe improve the situation that I have referred to. Those circumstances are: the magnitude, complexity, duration and degree of the fraud; the offence had a significant impact on the victims; the offender did not comply with licensing requirements or professional standards; and, the offender concealed or destroyed records related to the fraud or the disbursement of the proceeds of the fraud. That will substantially improve the legislation that presently exists.
For that reason we are in favour of the legislation. We do however rest our case on the fact that an expansion of the bill could have dealt better with share and stock manipulation and the kind of Ponzi schemes that have victimized thousands of people.
Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
December 14th, 2010 / 3:45 p.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Madam Speaker, Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud) is a bill we have seen before.
In fact it was with us in the last session of Parliament as Bill C-52. We went through some process on it, but as members are probably aware the House was prorogued. When prorogation occurs, all the bills die and have to start again unless the government chooses to reinstate them at the same position they were when prorogation took place.
As a consequence to that prorogation we have this bill. It is an interesting bill. It has an interesting short title, Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act. If people heard that, they would have an image of what they think this bill might do, but in fact this particular bill does not deal with all white collar crimes. It deals with fraud over $1 million, and whether or not there is going to be a mandatory minimum sentence. It is somewhat misnamed. I will comment more on the short title later.
When the bill came back in the current session, it took another 60 days before the government brought it forward for second reading. Second reading occurred on October 4 and 5. I had a look at the debate. It was the same bill and pretty well the same speeches as were given in the last session.
It then went to committee and it was another 60 days before the committee got around to it. That is an indication of another problem, and it is that the justice committee is a very busy committee. There are an awful lot of justice bills, which arguably could have been combined with other bills and put in an omnibus bill. There are going to be the same witnesses if we are dealing with the Criminal Code or sentencing provisions. Chances are it is going to be the same interveners, the same witnesses and the same government officials.
The government has this thought that possibly if it takes every little change that it wants to make to the Criminal Code and gives it its very own bill, and the number of bills gets up high, people will say “My goodness, look at all the wonderful criminal justice bills we have here. Are we not tough on crime?”
I think someone actually did a little analysis and found out that 15 of the bills could have been handled in 3 bills alone. It gives the idea that there might be something to look at here, and maybe not to be too quick to judge a bill as to its scope or the ambit that it covers because it is a mirage.
The committee finished on November 30, and now a couple of weeks later we have third reading. Now we are going through this. The first thing that happens is that the government gets up and says that all the parties are supporting it, so why do we not just forget debating; we will just vote and pass the bill. It says we are delaying it and we should not be delaying the bill.
If we look back at the prorogation, the recalibration of the government, it was kind of an interesting excuse for doing things. If the truth be known, if the government wanted to say the truth, it was on its heels and in great difficulty, and the only way it could get out of it was to shut this place down, let things cool down and have some thinking time so we could come back and have a better start. I do not want to be too cynical about it, but the evidence sure does speak for itself.
The bill itself, as I indicated, has to do with sentencing for fraud. This is what this bill is about. It has a few elements, and they are included in the summary. It says that:
This enactment amends the Criminal Code to
(a) provide a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for a term of two years for fraud with a value that exceeds one million dollars;
This is only relevant to fraud where the aggregate value exceeds $1 million. Obviously that is not all white collar crime. There are certainly some big name cases.
Part (b) of the summary says that the bill would:
provide additional aggravating factors for sentencing;
Although there is a proposed mandatory minimum, the sentencing for fraud at this level is usually significantly more than two years. But the number of years, which I think could go up to 14 years, is actually the longest term of sentencing currently, second only to life imprisonment. This already has penalties as high as one can get. That is a ceiling. We are talking about a floor in this bill.
The next part says it would:
(c) create a discretionary prohibition order for offenders convicted of fraud to prevent them from having authority over the money or real property of others;
That makes some sense and there are some provisions here.
It also would:
(d) require consideration of restitution for victims of fraud; and
(e) clarify that the sentencing court may consider community impact statements from a community that has been harmed by the fraud.
In a number of cases, there are some very interesting people who are involved and they hurt a lot of people. The victims were in fact their friends and family.
When this bill went to committee, and this is a bill that the members of the justice committee are well familiar with, they reviewed it and the bill had to be reprinted as a consequence of their work. But the only change they made was to add the words “a victim seeks restitution and”. Those are the words that are added to this bill that was originally tabled at second reading.
To put that in context, this has to do with restitution. The full section, subsection 380.3(5), will read in total now, in this amended bill from the committee:
If a victim seeks restitution and the court decides not to make a restitution order, it shall give reasons for its decision and shall cause those reasons to be stated in the record.
Earlier today I asked a question about this and it actually revealed something really interesting to me. I am not a member of the committee, but I followed the debate very closely.
This basically says that if a victim wants restitution and the court decides not to do a restitution order, the court has to give reasons. I asked, why should the court not give reasons in all cases of fraud as to why it is not ordering a restitution order?
It would make some sense to me that people have to know why the courts do what they do and why they have made certain decisions. It may mean that it is very clear that there are no assets, but the fact that a victim has decided for whatever reason that he or she is not going to seek it does not mean that he or she is not entitled to it and should not get it. In this particular case, it is simply a matter that if the court is going to decide that it is not going to make a restitution order, I thought in all cases it should give reasons for its decision.
I raise this because the chairman of the justice committee spoke earlier, and has asked a number of questions, basically encouraging people to stop talking and just vote and pass this bill because we are delaying it, after the Conservatives wasted over a year with all their shenanigans and here we are finally getting a chance to talk about this bill.
It was one of those moments when somebody says that there is a reason it is there. I had to find out and I went and asked somebody.
The parliamentary secretary did not indicate, but as it turns out, the reason this is here is that one of the intervenors was the Canadian Bar Association, which said we needed to put this in. Effectively what this does is relieve the courts from a requirement to do a restitution order and to write up the reasons for its decision if the victim seeks restitution.
Now we are talking about money. We are talking about the Canadian Bar Association saying this will bog down the system if all of a sudden the courts have to explain their decisions in cases where they said it would not affect the victim so they would just move forward.
It does raise the point, and I know a number of members have raised it in debate already, that we have cases where the Government of Canada, the federal government, passes legislation and then it gets promulgated, it becomes part of the law, part of the Criminal Code or other legislation, and then it is up to other jurisdictions to enforce the laws. We have cases now where even the smallest thing about saving some time for the courts, so they do not have to write up reasons for decisions on restitution orders, will save them money and it is worth doing and it is worth changing the bill to make sure that they can save a little bit of money. That pales in comparison to what is happening out there in the real world.
We have heard a lot about Ponzi schemes, basically pyramid schemes of a sort, and about Bernie Madoff. It is in the news every day and I do not have to say anything more there. Earl Jones is another one, where 150 clients were defrauded of some $50 million; he was sentenced in February of this year to 11 years.
One person who has not been mentioned is a Canadian case, Tzvi Erez, who is a very renowned pianist. He got involved in a so-called Ponzi scheme and he defrauded 76 investors out of $27 million. This is not insignificant and this is precisely what the bill is supposed to deal with, right? Wrong. The charges were dropped in this Ponzi scheme of $27 million, the reason being that the police made the argument that either we want them to deal with the rape case or the homicide case or we want them to deal with the Ponzi case. We made the decision that it was more important for us to deal with a rape or a homicide. It would take far too long. It was a very complicated scheme. It would take years to do and would be very costly. It would drain the courts and so many cases would not be dealt with. Does that not tell us something?
The Canadian Bar Association says it does not want the courts to have to give reasons for a decision, because it will save them a little bit of money. The police in Ontario and Attorney General Chris Bentley are basically saying they do not have the resources to deal with someone who defrauds Canadians of $27 million.
How can we say that we are being tough on crime and those criminals when, within the system, in a case such as that, the magnitude of that, the charges will not be pursued?
I am not sure that the people who were defrauded are very happy about that. I am not sure of their personal economic circumstances, but obviously there are only 76 of them representing $27 million, so they are significant investors. But we do not discriminate against people in their financial situation. People who are in good shape versus those who are living from paycheque to paycheque are covered by the law equally and things should be done, but the fact is that this was a matter of the courts in the provinces not having the resources to be able to enforce the law. How is that possible? How is it possible that we get to those situations?
We have now in the Criminal Code that fraud over $5,000 is actually subject to a maximum term of 14 years. But in this case, Bill C-21, the only difference between that and dealing with it under existing law is that Bill C-21 provides for a mandatory minimum of two years. If that is the only difference and we have cases that are being thrown out because the provincial courts cannot enforce the law, how can government members say this is their bill, Bill C-21, and they are very proud of it?
The short title, which happens to be much longer than the actual title, is the “Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act”. It is not. In fact, it is a sentencing bill and it amends the sentencing.
It says that if it is over $1 million in terms of aggregate value of which people were defrauded, a mandatory minimum may be applicable. But time after time, members of the justice committee got up and said that the penalties being given out in the courts now when those cases are heard are well over two years and that this mandatory minimum is really not going to achieve very much. So how can they boast that they are taking care of victims of white collar crime when this bill, with all the work and all the time and all the complaints about delay, in fact does very little and is going to affect very few cases? Even if there is not a mandatory minimum, using the court's discretion they can get up to 14 years anyway.
People should be a little disappointed that the government doth protest too much about delay of this bill, because any delay that has occurred in this bill has been the government's doing by various things such as prorogation and by stacking up bills, and I want to talk a bit about that.
As I said, someone did an analysis and found out that 15 justice bills could have been done in three omnibus bills, because bills that relate to the same sections of the Criminal Code or other justice matters can be combined, when they have the same or similar elements and we are going to be dealing with the same witnesses, the same intervenors and public interventions as well.
If that is the case and if the government really wants to show that it has the public interest at heart and that people who commit wrongdoings, who commit serious fraud, are going to be dealt with on a timely basis, it would say that will be shown when legislation actually passes. But we have not had very many of these bills even pass, because of all the delays and the lumpiness of the parliamentary calendar. We just seem to have these breaks, and now there are rumours of a spring election and maybe most of these bills are going to die. There will be another Parliament and these will be back again with the same slogan: “We are getting tough on crime”.
They cannot be tough on crime if they cannot pass legislation that is going to be effective. They cannot be tough on crime if the provinces that are responsible for enforcing it do not have the resources to apply the law and they allow people to get away because they cannot lay those charges.
If one is not part of the solution, one must be part of the problem, and what I heard today from a number of members was that we need a strategy.
I thought one of them was fairly comprehensive. I am not going to repeat it, but one of the critical elements of a strategy is to have these kinds of cases dealt with by a joint task force such as the RCMP and other agencies that have experience and expertise in dealing with serious fraud and complicated schemes. To go through the regular process has been a problem and that is where the money goes, but if we have an efficient system of processing and we have this expertise built up, these laws can be enforced. But we need to work with the provinces and other jurisdictions that are involved, because there is no point in passing laws that will never be enforced or in fact never passed because a government is really only interested in recycling them for the same purpose of having a political slogan about being tough on crime.
It is not honest to tell Canadians that, and if Canadians would look at the transcript of the debate today, they would see significant examples and testimonials from members of Parliament that in fact the government has been using these bills for political purposes rather than for the best interest of Canadians.
Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
December 14th, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
Mr. Speaker, I think my friend, as the neutral arbiter as chair of the committee, does not get enough occasions to be raucous as he just was and I will let it slip like water off my back the fact that I was disingenuous or that I am misleading Canadians.
We support the bill. I said that at the beginning. It is too little and too late. Sorry for the criticism, but the member should get used to it.
His community of Abbotsford has not been at the bottom of crime statistics in Canada. Whether it was auto theft or murder, it has been at the top. So I would think he has a very deep interest in doing something more quickly than five years to get to a white collar crime bill that does very little.
I said that very clearly. It does very little about getting money back to victims of white collar crime, about resourcing police officials to detect white collar crime; and how about dealing with federal prosecutors who are under contract and cannot get enough money to staff the courts? How about that to fight white collar crime?
The parts that are good in the bill talk about section 380.1, which allow more sentencing principles that already exist but give a very clear direction to the judges that they should take into account the amount and degree of trust, fiduciary-wise, that an investor, or an embezzler or a fraudster has, when sentencing
As I said, it is mild and it is good, and we can support it. We are voting for it wholeheartedly. We would have voted for Bill C-52 had the government not prorogued. I just wish the member would not say that I was disingenuous. I have always been too blunt for my own good.
Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
December 14th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-21. Following on the remarkable comments of my friend and colleague from the justice committee and the Bloc member's comments, it is a good theme to continue.
Much of the Conservatives' anti-crime agenda purports to help victims. It purports to take victims' rights over those of offenders, over those of politicians, over those of many other groups in the community. However, much of what they actually do in terms of the legislation has little positive impact on the victims at all.
I think in the area of white collar crime more than anything where what was taken away, in terms of assets or wealth, is sought to be restored, this is the most apt example of how not seizing on the goal of anti-white collar crime, which is the restoration, restitution, recovery of wealth lost, the government is doing a disservice.
In other forms of crimes, I suppose one could argue very cogently that that which was taken away, whether it was life, liberty, or sense of security, cannot be easily returned. They are not things that are in the marketplace. It is very difficult in the case of a violent crime to return the victim's sense of security. It is not a market commodity.
In this case, however, we are talking about the victims of white collar crime whose wealth, nest eggs and futures have been stolen through deceitful and fraudulent means by someone else. It would seem to me that in addition to increasing penalties, which is really all this bill would do, the government, which has now been in power for five years, even administratively without having to come to this place, which it really does not like to do very often anyway as its record on prorogation shows, might have administratively notched up its game on the recovery of assets.
Instead, as I will show in my speech, it has been left to the devices of the provinces with respect to their powers under property and civil rights.
I want to apologize in advance if my speech seems a little familiar, but there is a recurring theme on these bills in justice. I sit on the committee; I have for five years. All the time we see bills, and this case is no different, that seem to the other side to be strong electorally and politically, but not so strong on policy.
We have seen bills on auto theft, on the reporting of child Internet pornography, and now this one on white collar crime, all of which have pithy and exciting titles which, on a quick reading of the short title, would lead people to believe that the problem is solved, that we have a cure and there will be no more white collar crime, no more child pornography, no more auto theft.
That is not at all the case. The government's steps are baby steps toward those evils in our community and, as with all Conservative government agendas, the sound bite of the short title is more important than the pith and substance of the legislative tool.
The government's publicity machine will go to work and tell everyone that Bill C-21 emphasizes standing up for the victims of white collar crime and that Canadians will feel a lot safer about their nest eggs.
Electorally it is a gamble. There is the saying that one can fool all of the people some of the time, or one can fool some of the people all the time, but the message to the government today on these legislative bills toward crime with their very sexy short titles is that the government cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
It has been five years. We have to start thinking in the Parliament of Canada that the Conservatives have driven the government's legislative agenda for five years. I would love to see a survey as to whether people feel safer in all areas, but let us concentrate on white collar crime. I would love to know whether people feel they are less likely to be made the victims of losing their nest eggs and fortunes than five years ago when many of the tools that the Conservatives possess as government could have been used.
Let us take a quick look at the history. It has been a very prolific period these last five years for embezzlers and fraudsters. Today, Madoff and Earl Jones are household names, but they were not 5 or 10 years ago. There has been a real run on fraud, Ponzi schemes, investment schemes, direct mailing and direct investment schemes. These have taken a lot of wealth out of communities in Canada, largely from people who have saved all their lives for retirement, which in some cases now they cannot afford.
If we look at the title of this bill, it is obvious the bill falls short of the expectations. It does not make Canadians safer. The Earl Joneses and Vincent Lacroixs of this world are still around. Last month, in fact, Carole Morinville was arrested in Montreal in another Ponzi scheme investigation. These investigations are not carried out solely by the Conservative Party or the government; they are all conducted by police forces.
What do we hear from police forces? They are under-resourced. What do we hear from the government? The government says that it has added 1,000 more RCMP members. It has not. It is a shell game. The government does not deliver on what it promises with respect to manning police forces across the country. Ask any police force that question.
Ask the people of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe whether they are happy that the government has not moved on giving the 10% subsidy it gives to every other RCMP force in Canada, except the one in Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe. That is the same as saying that one out of ten crimes will not be investigated or prosecuted. That may be okay for the nine cases where the criminals are prosecuted, but what about that other case? There will never be the chance to have an investigation and prosecution in that other case because the government will not stand up for its principles with respect to prosecuting criminals.
The government has been in power for five years and gives lip service with short titles and publicity bills. It is not enough. Over five years, as I have mentioned, serious things have happened. White collar crime is far more serious than it was when I was first elected.
White collar crimes and tax fraud are very serious problems. These crimes wreak havoc on the lives of victims. People can lose an entire lifetime's worth of savings overnight. When people lose their entire life savings, they lose faith in the idea that if they are doing their part, if they work, they will get their fair share.
This nation-wide loss of faith is dangerous because it can be passed on from one person to the next. The government is thus called upon to take action to protect the victims of these financial crimes and to protect people's faith in the integrity of the financial system. We all saw the damage that a pyramid scheme or Ponzi scheme can cause to the victims and to a country's reputation when Bernard Madoff was caught in the United States. We cannot allow such a thing to happen again.
We cannot stand by idly. The bill simply does not follow up on its promise to protect victims of white collar crime entirely. What does a mandatory minimum sentence of two years do for the victims of Earl Jones when he is already in jail under sentence for 11 years?
The lessons of the Madoff affair in the United States tell us that the damage to the victims would have been far less if the financial authorities had been better empowered by regulation and better equipped in resources and staff to apprehend and stop the carnage.
Why is the government peddling its minimum sentences into this area? Is this comforting to the victims of Earl Jones? He is in jail for 11 years. There may be a requirement to reconsider a restitution order, but the money is usually gone. The money is gone and the person is usually locked away for more time than the mandatory minimum set out in the bill.
I really think the government should take the next step outside of an amendment to the Criminal Code and review the financial regulatory system and the funding of our financial regulation enforcement, because it is what Canadians need to protect their investments.
The response from the finance minister might be that the Conservatives have a financial regulation overhaul, review and reform under way, that they are proposing a single regulatory agency, which will be voluntary, and will be located in Toronto. I assume that is the plan; it is where the finance minister is from. I have not heard a lot of people against that in the government, but if it was suggested it be moved to Moncton, they might have a different song to sing. I have nothing against Toronto. There is no question that the TSX is the largest index in the country.
It is an issue of provincial regulation. We have seen the government step into areas of provincial domain on many occasions before. Occasionally it takes a first ministers conference on these issues to decide what are the real ills in society with respect to white collar crime and what are the tools best suited to combat them.
People whose life savings have been taken away by a scheme will not be comforted by a Criminal Code amendment. They might be comforted by a federal-provincial announcement that a joint task force, which applies throughout the country, will concentrate on cracking down on Ponzi schemes and fraud in the general sense. They might, at that press conference, say that they are quite comfortable with the Criminal Code and with what has existed before.
If the justice minister had a TV show, it might be called “PJ”, pure justice. The Conservatives march in here before the evening news with a bill to protect Canadians from white collar crime, and the government indicates that is the cure. What Canadians will not know, and maybe it is our job to let them know, is that part X of the Criminal Code between sections 380 and 432, and on pages 280 to 304 of the short version of the code, those 25 pages in the compact pocket Criminal Code cover fraud.
So on the idea that someone looking at a newscast would think the government is enacting new legislation, legislation that did not exist before, that is just misleading.
We ought to say, yes, there are some amendments here that we can certainly stand behind, no question. But our response is three-fold.
First, these are minor amendments to the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code already has provisions in place to combat fraud.
Secondly, there is so much more that the government could have done in five years in office, working with the provinces to surgically crack down on the sources of fraud through the regulatory reforms that might be proposed.
Finally, if the government really cared about moving legislation along, especially legislation such as this that is not going to be opposed, why did it prorogue? Why did the government limit debate? Why did it shut down Parliament if it really wanted bills passed?
It is a good question, but we have never heard a real good answer. We did hear the word “recalibration”. Tell that to the victims of white collar crime. We could tell them that we are waiting to crack down on white collar crime, so could they recalibrate their losses? That one would not really fly.
There were fake fears about the governance of the country. People who have lost their savings want a government that will respond.
They might be shocked to know that, five years after the government took power, there was a bill that moved the yardsticks a little bit, a bill that no one would really object to, that could have been passed a long time ago, but the Prime Minister and his gang decided to pull the plug on Parliament, so it could not be passed. People should know that every time the plug is pulled on Parliament by prorogation, bills that are on the order paper, bills such as this, are killed. Prorogation stops everything.
Ironically, sometimes the new incarnation is better. Because they have let it go so long, there are changes in the communities and in law enforcement techniques that have been incorporated into the new bills. So the argument that it is exactly the same bill and we are just bringing it back in every case does not fly. We want to hear the evidence to date about what is going on, in order to get the best bill on the books to combat white collar crime.
What was the reason for prorogation? Did the government think opposition parties were for white collar crime? Has anyone ever seen in a pamphlet, on the news, on the airwaves, in the blogisphere, in Twitter, Facebook or otherwise, that any Liberal, NDP or Bloc member is for white collar crime? Has anybody ever stood up and said that? I do not think so. It is preposterous. So why did the government not come forward earlier with this legislation?
The chairman of the justice committee asks, why do we not fast-track the 80 bills, or whatever number there are now? Why can we not get the job done? Why do we not stand up for Canada? It is a tired speech. The Conservatives are the ones who pulled the plug on their own bills, cutting off their nose to spite their face, and when they do come forward with legislation, it only effects change in the most minor of ways.
Carole Morinville is the case that I mentioned a minute ago. She was an unlicensed security adviser who was arrested for what financial authorities believed to be another Ponzi scheme. That case might have been better dealt with by a task force, by people knowledgeable in the financial regulation industry. It might have been something that the government would oversee and help with, rather than saying that opposition parties are against bills with Criminal Code amendments that really do not affect what is going on out there.
I have gone on at some length about the government attitude of not really helping victims. The provinces have really leap-frogged the federal government. We have seen it with respect to auto theft and many other areas, such as white collar crime.
Since the government came to office, a number of provinces have ratcheted up the provisions they have under the property and civil rights sections of the Constitution to enhance their powers of seizure and forfeiture for crimes committed, and not just in the white collar crime area. The provinces did that pretty much on their own, because they were not getting a lot of legislative resources through funding of policing or joint task force help from the federal government.
Then the other end of it is, what could the government have done with respect to the proceeds of white collar crime? It does not all just disappear into ether; it does not just disappear into thin air.
There is no way Bernie Madoff could have spent all the money he took, nor Earl Jones, so it went somewhere. The usual suspects are the international banking community. What has the government done with respect to international banking reform?
When we bring up the government and the international stage, we could be here for days talking about how it has embarrassed Canada, whether it is a seat on the United Nations, whether it is Copenhagen, whether it is the environment, and so on. But what has it done with respect to reforming the international banking system? What pronouncement has come forward from the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and others with respect to saying, “We want to crack down on white collar crime because we know where some of this money may be going; we have looked into it; we are doing our job; we are getting the job done”? They are not getting the job done. We have heard of no serious reforms in this regard.
What Canada needs, much as every other country, is an overarching national scheme of financial regulation with international components. We cannot wait for these crimes to happen and then say that we will be tough on crime with mandatory minimums. This approach is proven not to work. It will not keep Ponzi schemes from happening and it will not bring the money back to our church programs, our school programs, the family nest eggs and investment funds and community funds in general that have disappeared. We need to stop these funds from being defrauded in the first place, before it is too late.
The case I come back to in conclusion is that of Carole Morinville, who was not even an accredited investor. She should never have got her hands on the honest citizens' investments. At the very least there should have been officials with some authority tracking her activity to stop her before it was too late.
What it comes down to is resources and support beyond tinkering with the Criminal Code. The government has not shown its trust in police officials by funding them adequately. It has not shown its co-operation with provincial and territorial partners by having adequate and frequent meetings on this topic. It has not stuck its head out of the foxhole of its own parochialism on the international stage to be even a follower, let alone a leader, on reforming the international banking system to find the money that has left so many Canadians destitute and without hope.
As parliamentarians, we must restore hope in the system. I hope the government will get to work on these needed reforms.
Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
December 14th, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Madam Speaker, I was really hoping that somebody from that side was going to ask me this question. I have two answers.
First, on the NDP's role in protecting victims, I always remember the session we had with Gord Mackintosh, who was the attorney general at that time for Manitoba. We were having a debate on how we deal with crime, and in particular the victims, and he said that there is not a political movement or political party in this country that has greater claim to protecting members of society, in all of the work that it has done, not just in crime areas but in all areas. That is our responsibility in the crime area, in the criminal justice system area, as it is in protecting people, to see that they have adequate housing, that our foreign affairs protect them, and we could just go down the list. That has been a guiding principle for me since I have had that discussion with him, because it is true. As a political movement and as a political party, as social democrats, our primary responsibility has always been to take care of people in our constituency base.
I want to answer the question about whether we want more debate on this by responding with a question. Did the member, did the Minister of Justice and the parliamentary secretaries for justice and public safety go to the Prime Minister and say to him, “How come you keep proroguing? How come you keep having elections when you promised to work at fixed dates?"
Did those members on that side, who claim to be concerned about victims, say to the Prime Minister, “We have had Bill C-52. That was the predecessor to Bill C-21. It sat on the order paper. It got knocked off the order paper because you prorogued. How can you keep doing this? We have 15 or 16 crime bills, public safety bills”.
Did they go to the Prime Minister and say, “Stop doing this. If you are really concerned about victims of crime in this country, and we believe that these bills are going to make a difference, why do you keep putting them off?”
October 19th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC
Very well, I thank you for those points of clarification.
I am sure you know that when the government tabled Bill C-52, which is the previous version of Bill C-36, a number of consumers were concerned that the law could apply to natural health products. An addition, clarification or change was brought. In subsection 4(3), which deals with the application, the following is clearly stated:
4.(3) For greater certainty, this act does not apply to natural health products as defined in subsection 1(1) of the Natural Health Products Regulations made under the Food and Drugs Act.
Can you tell me why, in this case, people today are still concerned by the fact that Bill C-36, the latest version of the act respecting the safety of consumer products, might affect natural health products?
Standing Up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
October 4th, 2010 / 6:10 p.m.
André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-21, the purpose of which is to impose harsher sentences for economic crimes.
Since I will probably be the last speaker to rise on this bill this evening, I will give a brief overview and remind everyone that the bill contains the following measures: two-year minimum sentences for acts of fraud exceeding $1 million, and the addition of aggravating factors including financial and psychological impact on victims; failure to comply with professional or licence-based rules; and, the scope and complexity of the fraud, including the time and level of planning that went into it.
The bill also sets out a broader definition of victims. The court may entertain a written statement outlining any impact on the community including losses resulting from the fraud. The term "victims" may therefore denote more than any one individual, or individuals, directly affected, and may include an entire community or particular group that has suffered at the hands of fraudsters.
Other measures are also included in the bill: an option for the courts to make an order for the restitution of property and, failing this, an obligation on the court to explain its decision; and, lastly, the option for the courts to prohibit fraudsters from certain activities.
We agree with the principle of this bill. The Bloc Québécois would like to improve the bill in committee and address a number of major shortcomings. Over the next few minutes, I will speak to a number of these shortcomings.
It can be a lot better. In September 2009, we called for the implementation of concrete measures to fight fraud. Americans are not the only ones to be affected by major fraud; it is happening the world over. Unfortunately, we have our own examples of this in Quebec.
During today’s debate on Bill C-21, several members have given examples of cases of fraud that have occurred in almost all corners of the world. There have been financial scandals in Quebec including the Cinar affair, Norbourg— a sadly notorious case—and Earl Jones, whose acts have laid bare weaknesses in the current system’s ability to monitor and fight crime. When we broached the subject, instead of rallying behind us, the Conservatives immediately decided to put forward their own measures. We are of course in favour of some of these measures, but we do not understand why it seems as if the job was botched and done in a panic for the purpose of looking after their own interests, while the victims are simply asking the government to act, and to act quickly.
We will probably never be successful in completely eradicating fraud, which never stops. While listening to the news earlier on Radio-Canada, I heard that the Insurance Bureau of Canada just issued a warning about a fresh wave of fraud affecting auto insurers, and that the IBC decided to warn its insurers. An investigation had shown a spike in the number of completely staged car accidents. People are deliberately having car accidents in order to make fraudulent insurance claims. It is probably not brand new, but there is apparently a wave of this hitting the industry right now.
When I was a journalist, I covered an event based on information obtained by the police. In fact, after noticing that the water level of a lake had risen—it was an abandoned pit—cranes regularly went and dragged out cars from the bottom of that lake. People had pushed their cars in there in order to claim insurance. Thus, there is nothing new under the sun.
It will be tough to completely stop these acts of fraud. At least if we manage to put concrete measures in place—and I believe that some of my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois have referred to such measures here over the course of the day—that that will have a dampening effect on these financial scandals.
On September 2, 2009, the Bloc Québécois introduced a series of measures to improve the system and make crimes harder to commit, easier to detect, and subject to tougher penalties. A comprehensive approach is needed in order to understand, and effectively fight, this type of crime. In response, a couple of days later ,on September 16, the government came up with a bill which was supposed to include minimum sentences, aggravating factors and the option for the courts to make an order for the restitution of property. That was Bill C-52, which is now Bill C-21.
This bill contains very few measures and will be only minimally effective. I will speak a bit later about the measures favoured by the Bloc Québécois. In this the bill in its current form, the Conservative’s primary measures include minimum sentences. They have no deterrent effect, just as in other areas. Acts of fraud over $1 million are rare. The Minister was unable to cite a single case of major fraud for which the sentence handed down was less than the suggested two years. In fact, 6- to 7-year sentences were generally handed down in these cases.
The courts already took into account the aggravating circumstances that have been included here. So this addition does not change much. Almost all, if not all, the aggravating circumstances listed in this bill were included in the Vincent Lacroix decision, which sadly is a well-known example. It makes you wonder whether the Conservatives just copied and pasted the decision because they told themselves that was what they needed to do.
Therefore, the judge in this case had the tools at his disposal. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We must improve the situation and put an end to such financial scandals instead of redoing what has already been done. It would not change much. A bill that contains the same measures that judges are already using will not help fraud victims.
Restitution orders already exist. They are broader in scope in Bill C-21, but experts have raised concerns about the feasibility of these measures in practice. I am not an expert, but I know that committee members from all of the parties will be able to question these experts about all of the proposed measures.
The part of the bill that restricts the activities of convicted offenders is interesting. But that, too, is at best an existing practice whose scope has been broadened.
Thus, Bill C-21 is missing the most important measure, that is, abolishing parole after only one-sixth of the sentence has been served. We have been calling for that for quite some time. When I say “we”, I mean that is what the people of Quebec want. I am not deaf and blind to what is happening in the rest of Canada, where people have also been calling for that, but especially in Quebec, because of the cases mentioned earlier—Norbourg, Earl Jones, Cinar—people are particularly aware of and angry about the fact that, although the sentence might appear harsh, someone can be released after serving just one-sixth of the sentence. That is the main source of frustration.
Despite Bill C-21, Earl Jones and Vincent Lacroix will be able to benefit from this mechanism to get out of prison before having served a sufficient amount of their sentence. We know that minimum sentences do not solve this problem. We limit any room to manoeuvre for the judge who has to examine all the circumstances of the crime. Just because someone appears before a judge for committing a crime does not mean there are no extenuating circumstances. The judge needs enough room to manoeuvre to give an accused who is eventually found guilty four years in prison for precisely what happened and the role he played. Another person involved in the same crime might end up with 7, 8 or 10 years because the circumstances were not necessarily the same. We have to give the judge this room to manoeuvre so that he or she can use a balanced approach.
When we impose minimum sentences, there is no room for second thoughts. Regardless of the extenuating circumstances, a person who commits a crime and is found guilty will be given two years in prison, while under the current system he might have done a bit better than that. Depending on the case, we might be too strict or not strict enough, especially when minimum sentences are involved.
We are not addressing tax havens either. We heard that a few times in the speech before mine. That is where the fraudsters hide their loot. What point is there in ordering restitution of the hidden money when we are not addressing the issue of tax havens?
The Bloc Québécois has prepared a six-point plan to deal specifically with white-collar crime. They are effective measures. We also want to restore the confidence of victims and citizens in general. This confidence has been clearly undermined for two main reasons. I spoke earlier about release after serving one-sixth of a sentence. There is also the notorious two-for-one credit for time served before sentencing, which makes it possible for someone convicted of a crime to have double the amount of his time spent in preventive custody deducted from his sentence. He will obviously get out more quickly.
On September 2, 2009, to make life difficult for fraudsters and to prevent other investors from losing their life savings, the Bloc Québécois presented a plan to fight white-collar crime. This balanced plan consists of six measures: three of them target crime prevention in particular, two ensure that justice prevails when a guilty verdict is handed down, and one helps victims.
First, we are calling for the complete elimination of release after serving one-sixth of a sentence. If I remember correctly, when this session of parliament began, it was the first thing we asked for because we were right in the middle of the scandal of Vincent Lacroix from Norbourg. We expected all parties in this House to allow us to fast track this legislation. Unfortunately, the Conservatives did not agree.
We are also asking that the Criminal Code provisions on confiscating proceeds of crime be amended to include fraud of more than $5,000.
Next, we are calling for police forces to be reorganized, what concerns us here in the House of Commons and at the federal level being the RCMP, to create multidisciplinary squads specializing in economic crime. At present, the police are extremely competent, but we need to expand the range of skills, including for tax fraud cases, which are now significant and which very often exceed the basic skills of a police force. We have to have experienced accountants and lawyers who are well versed in all the tricks developed by these big fraud artists, particularly given that the fraud is often committed at the international level, using tax havens. The work of a mere investigator is not going to uncover all the ins and outs of these. When fraud artists, criminals, on this scale are discovered, we realize everything they have managed to do with sleight of hand and shell games to defraud thousands of people, often out of millions of dollars. And then we realize that we need to have multidisciplinary squads composed of people with a variety of skills, to be able to explain properly to the investigators exactly how these people have managed to operate. We would not have those people just to uncover things, but also to combat fraud artists who might be tempted to continue in that vein.
We are also calling for banks to have an obligation to report irregularities in trust accounts to the Autorité des marchés financiers and the user’s professional body. We recently had an example of this, and investigators are still trying to wade through this scandal: people used a bank to commit tax fraud, it seems, and to evade taxes, by investing the money in Switzerland. Obviously, we will know more as the investigation progresses.
We are also calling for a review of the amendments that could be made to the Income Tax Act to assist the victims, in particular by introducing a provision to allow victims of fraud to deduct the stolen money from their income, instead of those amounts being considered to be capital losses. Often what we try to do in these situations, as is to be expected, is either to combat the fraud or to arrest the people who committed it. Sometimes, however, we may unfortunately forget the victims. Well, in the measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois, the victims are not being forgotten. And so when we study Bill C-21 in committee, we will ask that we be able to make that amendment to the Income Tax Act.
We are also asking that the Income Tax Act be amended to put an end to the use of tax havens. This practice allows individuals and companies to hide money and avoid paying taxes. Many examples of this have been mentioned here in the House today.
I have a few minutes left to go into detail about my first point. Since 2007, we have been proposing that the chance of parole after serving one-sixth of the sentence be abolished. This idea is not new. It is not that we have just now realized what needs to be fixed. For three years, we have been asking that this measure be abolished as it undermines the credibility of the justice system. Abolishing it would allow us to extend prison sentences for those who commit fraud, even for those who have already been arrested and who are awaiting their criminal trial. It would contribute to restoring—
Standing Up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
October 4th, 2010 / 5:40 p.m.
Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud).
Bill C-21 was introduced in the House on May 2, 2010 by the Minister of Justice. In fact, it is identical to Bill C-52 which was introduced during the second session of this Parliament, and did not become law because of prorogation, which we are very familiar with around here, on December 30, 2009.
The intent of the bill is to help crack down on white collar crime and increase justice for victims through measures that include a two-year mandatory minimum sentence for fraud over $1 million, additional specified aggravating factors for the court's consideration in sentencing, a new type of prohibition order, new obligations on the judge with respect to restitution orders, and a new type of impact statement to consider in sentencing.
The fraud provisions of the Criminal Code were most recently amended in 2004 in response to global impact of corporate scandals associated with companies such as Enron, Tyco and WorldCom. These amendments created a new offence of improper insider trading, increased the maximum sentence for the offences of fraud and fraud affecting the market from 10 to 14 years, and established a list of aggravating factors to aid the courts in sentencing.
The federal government also announced it would create a number of integrated market enforcement teams composed of RCMP officers, federal lawyers and other investigators, such as forensic accountants, to deal with capital market fraud cases.
Now the question is, with all of this supposed action on the part of the government, why are we not seeing results? Why are these fraud schemes still being uncovered?
We have to go back a number of years. I think most people have heard of Charles Ponzi and Ponzi schemes, but there are still a lot of people who are not familiar with the concept. A very large percentage of fraud schemes that are uncovered are in fact of this type.
Essentially, it is the use of investors' money that is taken in today to pay off previous investors. What happens is that organizations offer high rates of return and they entice people to give them money. Then, rather than invest the money in proper facilities, they simply use the money to give a promised return to their previous investors. We know that in doing that, eventually things are going to fall apart.
These schemes tend to go along. In some ways they are similar to the chain letter concept that people are familiar with. While the market is expanding, as happened in the 1920s and in the 1990s, these schemes can continue unabated for a number of years before they are found out. Eventually they are all found out because when the market drops, the people who are running the scam do not have the funds available to pay out. It essentially becomes a run on the bank. Everyone wants their money back, and they do not have the liquidity to do it. Basically, they run out of people to invest in their scheme.
In the case of Charles Ponzi, he collected approximately $9.5 million from 10,000 investors by selling promissory notes paying a 50% profit in 45 days. As a matter of interest, Charles Ponzi lived in the United States for a number of years, but there is a Montreal connection. In 1907, Ponzi moved to Montreal and became an assistant teller in a newly opened bank basically servicing new immigrants to the city. The man who owned the bank paid 6% interest on bank deposits, double the going rate at the time.
I emphasize the fact that the success of these schemes is based on people's greed, in that they are offering a very high rate of return. That is something the public should be very aware of. On checking the market and the banks, people will see that the average rate is roughly the same among the banks and institutions. When one institution offers double the rate, then people should be suspicious that something is wrong.
Even today, if one financial institution comes out with an offer that is higher than the others, people should not be lining up to buy that investment. People should be questioning why the institution would offer a higher rate of return. Perhaps it is short of money and may not be able to pay investors back.
In this case, Mr. Ponzi eventually rose to be the manager of that Montreal bank. He found out that the bank was in serious trouble because of bad real estate loans. Does this sound familiar? This was in 1907, in the last century, not in 2007. The bank was funding interest payments not through profit on investments, but by using money deposited in newly opened accounts. The bank eventually failed. The owner ran away to Mexico with a large part of the bank's money. This is how Mr. Ponzi got started. At the end of his career, I believe he died penniless and was not able to hide his ill-gotten gains.
However, that is not the case with the modern versions of the Ponzi scheme, in the sense that the schemes we see now are sophisticated and are planned well enough in advance that the money, as one of the members mentioned earlier, is sent off to tax havens. In 1907, Mr. Ponzi probably did not have the wherewithal to take his ill-gotten gains and get them off to Panama, Switzerland, or other tax havens. Perhaps he even believed that his scheme would never end. Maybe he misunderstood what he was doing.
The same cannot be said for an investor like Bernard Madoff, who essentially stole $65 billion. We are not talking about millions; we are talking about billions, $65 billion. This is a guy who opened the stock exchange on a routine basis. He knew all the players. He was an insider. He was a guy who was approached for advice.
Ten years before Bernie Madoff was arrested, there were attempts to gain the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States with information. It was well documented before the House of Representatives in the United States last year when Harry Markopolos detailed the whole sordid history. Ten years prior to that he had worked for Rampart Investment Management in Boston and his boss asked him whether he could duplicate Madoff's strategy. He said that the funds police each other. In the competitive world of business, competitors watch each other. It was not a surprise to other competitors in his field that he could produce returns because it is to be expected that some funds will out-perform others, but to do it on a consistent basis, month after month, year after year, raised red flags.
Somewhere along the line, Bernie Madoff's fund should have had a loss. At least once over a 10 year period, he should have shown a loss. Even the best of funds that go up on a routine basis do not go up forever. If the sector the funds are invested in does well, it will do well for maybe six months or a year, but it will not do well each and every month, year after year. Bernie Madoff's fund raised a red flag.
Harry Markopolos figured this out very quickly. He gave information to the SEC, but it did not listen to him. The SEC on several occasions checked Bernie out. It investigated his funds annually and stated that his returns were on the level. The SEC, the cop that was supposed to police the fund, did not do its job. It did not do a proper report, and this allowed this ponzi scheme to continue unabated year after year. Meanwhile, more people and organizations bought into the fund. This shows that deregulation has created a big problem in the United States.
Members will know that in the 1920s, after the stock market crashed, the president of the day was looking for somebody who could regulate the financial institutions and the stock market on Wall Street. Many members will know that he recruited none other than Joseph P. Kennedy, who had made large amounts of money in the wild and woolly unregulated markets of the 1920s. Justifying his appointment of Mr. Kennedy, the president said something to the effect that it took a thief to catch a thief. A lot of the rules put in place under Mr. Kennedy stayed in place for many years.
The system operated fairly well under those rules until, during the Bush years, Republicans adopted a philosophy of deregulation. The whole idea was to deregulate world markets. All financial institutions had to go global, and the way to do that was to have super financial institutions.
We saw this happen more or less in Canada when the current Conservative government was in opposition and the Liberals were in power. Canadian banks were trying to get the government to deregulate, which would have allowed them to swallow each other up and get bigger.
To the Liberal government's credit, it did not do go this way. That is why the current Conservative government is not in the mess that it could be in right now. I am sure the Liberals were all for deregulation, but had they had their way we could be in as big a mess as Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, or any of the other countries that opted for a deregulated environment.
A big part of the puzzle is to deal with this deregulated environment and try to pull the whole system back under some kind of control. The United States is doing that. It is starting to re-regulate huge sectors of the investment industry, the banking industry, in an effort to combat this type of activity. In spite of that, the American system over the last 10 years had a much better track record than the Canadian system. All we have to do is look at the number of bad guys that the Americans put in prison over the last few years and compare it to how many the Canadian system put in prison. We would have to look long and hard to find anybody who ever went to jail in Canada for white collar crime and fraud. There may be one or two, but that is about it. We are talking about single digits.
In the United States, several hundred people were put in jail for their white collar crimes, including the people who ran WorldCom and the people who ran Enron. Conrad Black, a Canadian who committed his white collar crimes in Canada, was not touched by Canadian authorities. In fact, he was eventually prosecuted and put in jail by the American system, the same system that spawned Bernie Madoff and the Ponzi scheme and the same system that is now attempting to re-regulate itself.
In Canada, a parallel country, we were not very aggressive on enforcement and the prosecution of these white collar criminals, judging by our record, and we are not looking at re-regulating. So I would say we have a long way to go. The government is bringing in this bill, which we will be supporting to get to committee as we did the last time before the bill died after the House was prorogued, but remember that this is just a small part of the whole puzzle that the government should be dealing with. The government should be looking at setting up some sort of task force to look at re-regulation. No doubt it will, in view of what is happening in the United States.
We also have to look at tax havens. We had a very comical situation here last week. We were debating the implementation of a free trade deal with Panama, which is on the tax haven list of the OECD and a list in France indicating that it is a tax haven; 350,000 private companies are hiding money in Panama and the government is talking about getting a free trade deal in place with Panama when even the Americans will not do it because Panama will not sign on to the OECD protocols about exchange of financial and banking information. On the very day that this was happening, The Globe and Mail carried an article about an employee of a Swiss bank who left the bank and went to France with computer disks containing several thousand accounts. But 1,800 Canadians are on that list. The government was somewhat embarrassed, because there were these 1,800 people who, by the way, had to invest a minimum of $500,000 in the Swiss bank.
They were flat-footed because they do not have the answers. They have not done anything on cutting down tax havens and trying to stop tax evasion. They have a moratorium. Two years ago when a similar bank employee from a Liechtenstein bank walked away with computer disks and went to Germany and sold them to the German government, Canada found that there were 100 people from Vancouver on the list. What happened? They were given amnesty.
The Conservatives say that if anybody wants to come in and admit they have money in Panama or someplace they should not have it, they are free to do a voluntary reporting and the government will not do anything to them. It will not even tap them on the wrist. If they pay the back taxes, they are home free. Is this any kind of message to be giving people out there, telling them that they will have an amnesty if we catch them?
Now we have 1,800 people whom we have uncovered, not because of all this police activity, but because of a bank employee.