Standing up for 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, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Rob Nicholson  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

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;

(b) provide additional aggravating factors for sentencing;

(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;

(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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, this bill is long overdue. The government introduced this bill in the previous session of the 40th Parliament and played political games with it. The government killed this bill with prorogation. Basically, the Prime Minister decided that prorogation would be good for his party and his government.

After the throne speech was read on March 3 and the House resumed sitting, the government waited 60 days before reintroducing the same bill. It was identical to the bill that came before the House in the second session of the 40th Parliament. Not one comma was changed. Every dot on every i was the same. Not a single letter or word was changed. It was identical. This Conservative government nevertheless waited about 60 days after the throne speech before reintroducing the bill. The Conservatives finally reintroduced it at first reading. Those familiar with the House rules know that only the government can introduce a bill at second reading. Neither the official opposition, nor the Bloc Québécois, nor the NDP can do so. Only the government can. So how long did it take the government to propose debate at second reading of Bill C-21on white collar crime? The government boasts that it alone looks after the victims, believes that victims' needs are important, and is working on criminal justice.

The government left Bill C-21 at first reading for over 200 days. During that time, who was asking, praying, urging and begging the government to move debate at second reading? The victims. The official opposition. The Bloc Québécois. The NDP.

I have not heard a single Conservative member publicly ask his or her government to stop dragging its feet with Bill C-21 at first reading and to move forward with a debate at second reading. I have not heard one single Conservative member publicly demand that, but I heard the opposition demand it. I heard the Bloc members calling for it. I heard NDP members calling for it. I also heard many victims wondering why this Conservative government, which claims that victims and Bill C-21 are important, was not following through.

The Minister of Justice used every possible opportunity this weekend to say that there were criminal justice bills that absolutely had to be passed in the House and that he urged the opposition to stop opposing these bills. We just heard the same things from the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, who rose to ask a question of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. He asked the parliamentary secretary to explain why the opposition was opposed to this bill. That is not true. The opposition has always supported the government's desire to act quickly and effectively with respect to white collar crime and fraud. During the other session of the 40th Parliament, we tried to work with this government to ensure that this bill would pass.

However, the government and the Prime Minister decided to kill this bill by proroguing the House and Parliament. Then, when the House resumed, they waited some 60 days before reintroducing it. And once it was introduced, they waited more than 200 days to move debate at second reading.

How many days did the House spend debating Bill C-21 at second reading after having waited more than 200 days to debate it at second reading? The House took only two days to debate this bill because the opposition parties, notably the official opposition, want this bill to become law in our country. The opposition does not oppose this bill, and none of the three opposition parties slowed down the process of passing this bill. It was the government.

I believe it is important to remind the members of these facts because I am not making this up. Anyone who has a calendar can figure this out based on the date that the government prorogued the House in December 2009. The prorogation lasted nearly two and a half months, and the House resumed its work on March 3, 2010, with the Speech from the Throne. But it was not until about 60 days later that the government reintroduced its bill. Then the government waited more than 200 days to debate it at second reading—if my memory serves me correctly, it was 216 days. I know that it was more than 200 days; I am quite certain about that.

And now for the content of the bill. The bill establishes mandatory minimum sentences for those found guilty of fraud. That is what victims were calling for. Victims called for other things as well, but the government, in its wisdom, decided not to include them in this bill.

The victims were asking for two things. One, they wanted to see stiffer sentencing for white collar criminals; and the government, with its mandatory minimum sentencing of two years for criminal offences that are what we would deem white collar crime, responds to the victims' request.

However, the victims had a second request. The victims wanted the government to eliminate accelerated parole review for white collar criminals. The bill does not address that at all. This is something that opposition parties have been asking for, for several years now, and the government has not addressed it. It does not address it in the bill.

Liberals attempted to bring an amendment to the bill that would have amended the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in order to eliminate the accelerated parole review for the criminal offences that are dealt with in Bill C-21. The chair of the committee ruled it out of order because nothing in Bill C-21 dealt with the conditional sentencing and parole legislation.

I challenged the chair's ruling. However, I have to admit that his ruling was correct because my amendment, which would have eliminated the one-sixth accelerated parole review for the offences contained in this particular legislation, was in fact beyond the scope of the bill.

The chair ruled my amendment out of order. I challenged the chair, and unfortunately the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP upheld the chair's ruling.

There is a piece of legislation in front of the public safety committee of the House of Commons that deals with the issue of accelerated parole review. However, that as well is a bill that the government has been playing political games with and has been holding up, not moving second debate reading and letting it sit on the order paper at first reading for days and days.

We believe the government must act to respond to the request of victims, and not just the victims but of a variety of civil shareholders, that the one-sixth accelerated parole be removed, be eliminated, and not just for the white collar criminal offences but for virtually every offence, if not indeed all offences. In fact, one could describe it as being an offence to the sensibilities of Canadians and of our criminal justice system.

There is another point of white collar crime that the bill does not address. That is the issue that it does not in any way, shape or form attach these criminal offences to institutions.

I would like to read an article by Darcy Henton that was published in the Edmonton Journal on May 5, 2010, headlined “Alberta wary of white-crime bill”. It states:

A white-collar crime bill reintroduced by the federal Conservatives this week received a lukewarm reception Tuesday in Alberta from both a financial crime crusader and a fraud victim.

The justice bill, which had to be reintroduced after it died on the order paper when the prime minister prorogued Parliament last winter, sets a mandatory minimum two-year sentence for frauds over $1 million.

The bill also requires judges to look at several aggravating factors that could increase the sentence and to consider victim impact statements and restitution.

Retired investment broker Larry Elford, who advocates on behalf of investors, said the new bill still appears to contain a loophole that exempts it from being applied to investment institutions.

“It's a wonderful gift to the investment industry,” he said. “It would exempt the largest fraudsters in Canada. I can't understand why they would reintroduce the law with the same loophole.”

Elford said the law wouldn't apply to corporations like Goldman Sachs which is currently the subject of a civil fraud suit brought on by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the national securities regulatory authority in the U.S.

“Any Bay Street operator could sell any product in any fraudulent and misleading manner and this bill would not apply,” Elford said.

Edmontonian Jason Cowan has been pressing for tougher white-collar crime laws since he and a partner were allegedly defrauded of more than $2 million in 1996.

“I think it's absolutely necessary that there are some checks and balances,” he said. “These white-collar criminals are getting off all the time.”

[The federal justice minister] said the legislation will make jail mandatory for fraudsters who bilk their victims out of more than $1 million.

“Our government is standing up for victims of white-collar crime,” he said when the bill was reintroduced Monday.

The justice minister then waited over 200 days before moving second reading debate. That is really what I would call standing up for victims of crime: using their misery, using their hardship as a political ball game. It is shameful.

The official opposition supports this bill. We have from the outset. We have never hidden that. Every single member of the Conservative Party and every single member of that Conservative government knows that the official opposition supports the bill. We supported it in the last session of the 40th Parliament. We made it clear. We were very public about our support. So for any member of the Conservative Party to rise in this House, or outside of the House, and claim that the opposition is opposing this bill or holding up this bill is simply an untruth. Pure and simple, it is an untruth, and no Canadian should believe that Conservative MP who rises in this House, or outside of the House, to claim that the official opposition does not support and has not supported Bill C-21, the white-collar crime bill.

Canadians should then ask themselves, if a Conservative, a member of Parliament, is willing to tell an untruth on something that is so clearly not true and easily refuted, what else are they telling untruths about? What other issues are they not telling the truth about? What other issues are they spreading untruths about? Canadians should ask themselves that question, because why would someone tell an untruth on the issue of claiming that the opposition, the official opposition, is opposing or has opposed this bill or attempted to hold up this bill when the facts clearly show that the government has held up its own bill in order to play political games with victims of crimes? That is despicable. It is scurrilous. It is deplorable.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Madam Speaker, you know that it is unparliamentary for a member of this House to accuse another member of lying. The word “untruth” that has been repeated on numerous occasions by this member is the same as the word “lie”, and I would ask you to take her to task for this. That is unparliamentary language.

I know this member is better than that. I work with her at committee on a regular basis and this is something that is beneath her.

So I would ask you, Madam Chair, to rule on that.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, on the same point of order, the use of the term “untruth” is not unparliamentary. It is very factual. I did not accuse that member of lying. Had I done so, that would have been unparliamentary.

What I did say is that the member and any member of the Conservative Party and government who claims, in this House or outside of this House, that the official opposition has in any way opposed, in the past or today, Bill C-21, or in any way delayed Bill C-21, is saying an untruth.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I take note of your statement. I also take note of the fact that you did not declare it to be unparliamentary. You stated that it comes close to the line, but you did not make a statement that using the term untruth, with regard to a member, is unparliamentary. I take note of that.

I will simply conclude my speech on Bill C-21 by stating again that the official opposition supported it. We demanded, asked, requested and begged the government to bring it forward in the last session of the 40th Parliament. We attempted to work with the government to get it through the House of Commons quickly. The government and the Prime Minister, in their wisdom, decided to kill the bill through prorogation. They waited, after the throne speech, over 60 days before reintroducing the exact bill, now under the label of Bill C-21, and then let the bill sit at first reading for over 200 days before finally proposing second reading debate.

It is clear. The official opposition supports this bill. We will be voting in favour of this bill.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to put it on the record here, without apology, that we believe that the Liberal Party is opposing or delaying this legislation for partisan purposes.

In fact, she as much as admitted that she challenged the ruling of the chair at committee, when she knew that the ruling of the chair was correct. I cannot think of a better example of delay than introducing amendments that she knew were out of order, then challenging the chair when he correctly ruled that the amendment was out of order. This has been the process at committee.

I also refer back to the discussions at committee on Bill C-4, where essentially the Liberal Party, in regard to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, where we are trying to introduce the protection of the public as a key and primary sentencing principle, is using the tactic of death by witness.They stack the witness lists and keep introducing witnesses in order to delay and obstruct the legislation.

I want to challenge her. Why is it that today in this House, when she and her party were given the opportunity to allow this bill to pass immediately--

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, the member is creating fantasies. Yes, I challenged his ruling in committee at clause by clause, and it took literally between 30 seconds and 90 seconds to dispose of it.

Compare that Liberal delay to the Prime Minister proroguing Parliament, and suspending and paralyzing all of the work of Parliament for two and a half months.

It is laughable. It is risible that the member would get up and use that as an example of Liberals delaying this bill, with 30 to 90 seconds compared to two and a half months of prorogation, over 60 days before reintroducing the bill and then over 200 days before moving second reading debate.

I rest my case.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I asked the parliamentary secretary this but did not get an answer.

Although all parties are supporting the bill, and I will go into that in my speech as to why, I think there are concerns in terms of honesty and truthfulness. Would my colleague from the justice committee agree with me that the evidence we received at the committee was that the bill in its application would be applied in very narrow circumstances and that a great deal of the white collar crime we have identified will not be dealt with by this legislation? Would she agree that the portrayal of this legislation that it is the be all and end all, which is the role the Conservatives are trying to place on the bill, is not accurate, that the Canadian people are being misled if they were to understand the bill would do a lot to combat white collar crime when, in fact, it is not. I just ask if she agrees with that analysis.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague, the justice critic for the New Democratic Party.

My colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh is entirely right. The bill addresses a very small, teeny-weeny aspect of white collar crime.

Witness after witness came before the committee and said that in order for the government to really tackle white collar crime, it has to work with the provinces in order to establish real, coordinated, integrated teams with proper resources. As long as our court system and our prosecutorial core is overtaxed and overburdened because of a lack of financial resources and human resources, then they will continue to be put in a difficult position, as were the prosecutors in Ontario, in Toronto, with that major fraud case recently where they dropped the criminal charges against alleged fraudster because they said they simply do not have the resources. They had some major rape cases and they had to make the choice, either they prosecute the alleged offender, the perpetrator of the rape, or they go after the alleged fraudster. They had no choice but to put their resources behind the rape case at trial.

That is untenable. We do not hear Conservative members of Parliament speaking up and calling on their government to bring new resources to our court system, to the prosecutorial core. We are not hearing that.

When we look at what the government has done in terms of victims, the government, with the House, adopted a budget. In the budget there was $10 million annually for programs and services to be given directly to victims of crime. The government did not spend all of the money. I believe it was $4.9 million or $5.9 million that the government actually spent in services and programs given to victims. It turned the rest of the money back to the consolidated revenue fund, but then turned around and spent over $6 million, I think it was maybe $10 million or something, more money on advertising that victims matter. How cynical is that?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I was amazed earlier to hear some of the comments from across the way about how dare someone delay the proceedings by challenging the chair juxtaposed to that two and a half to three month break that we were under. I remember one of the Conservative MPs saying, we need to shut down the House, take all the bills over the side because we need to focus on the Olympics. I have no doubt in my mind that the four-man bobsleigh were warmed and tickled to death that their MP was at home cheering them on. My goodness, and they get paid $156,000 for that.

Maybe Conservative members should debate a bit more. Maybe they should challenge the chair more often. I am tired of being in the House, as my hon. colleague from the NDP from Manitoba would also agree with me, in that in every debate that we engage in here I seldom hear from the government side. Members must raise the bar, push this debate beyond what it is in the public discourse, beyond the ads, beyond the newsletter. They should come into the House and make their money and actually say something that they believe in.

My hon. colleague actually did that and here is the point. She wants to make the bill tougher. She wants to make this right by making it tougher, and instead all we get is, “You are just delaying”. Maybe the Conservatives should answer this question. Criminal offences of institutions exempt the larger offender. That is a very valid point. Would the member please comment on that?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, clearly there is a loophole. There is an issue that the bill does not address and we have not heard from the government as to whether or not it intends to bring forth legislation that would address the issue and that is of financial institutions that commit fraud, that clearly, intentionally develop products and services with the intent to defraud individuals of their hard-earned and hard saved money. The bill does not deal with that.

That is the point that was raised by the retired investment broker in the article that I read out where he talked about how there is a loophole. In the United States there is the case of Goldman Sachs, which is currently being sued by the U.S. national securities regulatory body. Here in Canada the criminal offences would not cover any of that.

My question for the government would be why is it not bringing--

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, the bill is going to pass. It is going to have support from all parties.

However, this debate is important because of the usual manner in which the government, in a more partisan manner than the Conservative Party, is presenting this bill to the Canadian public. When we look at the bill, we can ask whether it accomplishes what the Conservatives would like the Canadian people to believe it accomplishes. The answer to that is an absolute no.

This is a very narrow bill in its ability to fight white collar crime because of the different natures of white collar crime. One might ask: If that is the case, why are the opposition parties supporting it? It is because it does a little. The more important question would be: Why are the Conservatives so reluctant to go after white collar criminals when they do not seem to have any problem going after criminals of any other nature?

We have heard this comparison. In one of my questions earlier today I mentioned the Ponzi scheme in Toronto, Ontario that occurred in the period of 2007-08. Just a few weeks ago, prosecutors in the justice ministry in Ontario decided not to proceed with the charges that they had laid. The amount of money taken in that Ponzi scheme was somewhere between $23 million and $27 million and they opted not to proceed.

At the same time, if we look at any number of other cases, such as a corner store being robbed or an elderly woman having her purse ripped off on the street, those charges would be proceeded with. In both cases, the amounts of money that would be taken would be minimal by comparison to the $23 million to $27 million. However, those charges would be proceeded with and, if either one of those involved violence or a weapon, the people who committed those crimes would certainly be incarcerated and, in some cases, especially if it were a repeat offence, for lengthy periods of time.

If we take that same elderly woman who had her purse stolen and lost $100 or $200 and she, instead, had been ripped off by a fraud artist for hundreds of thousands of dollars, all too often that person would get away with it. The charges that were withdrawn in that Ponzi scheme was not an isolated case.

This is part of the delay that the Conservatives accused the opposition of, but we heard evidence from lawyers who acted for those victims. In the situation where charges are not proceeded with, in some cases charges not even being laid, people will complain that they have just been ripped off for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Sometimes they are individuals and sometimes they are corporations. They will go to the police and talk to prosecutors and be told that is more of a civil case and that they will not even investigate. That is quite common, not just in Ontario but right across the country. The reason is that these cases are complex. They require a good deal of attention by investigators, the front-line police, who do this work and there are very lengthy trials in most cases, unless the individual pleads guilty.

That is the situation in the country and this bill would not address those problems at all. It would not make it easier, for instance, for the prosecutor to lay charges and get convictions. It would not make it at all easier for the investigators, the police, the forensic accountants and all the rest. There is no provision in this bill that would make their job easier.

Therefore, we have the same problem, in what is arguably the vast majority of cases, in white collar crime. If they are at all complex, we will continue to see this embarrassing process of victims not being cared for by our criminal justice system. They will be told that the crime will not be investigated or, if it is investigated, that charges may not be laid and that if charges are laid that they may be withdrawn because the prosecution cannot afford a one month, two month or three month trial.

The prosecutor estimated that the Ponzi scheme in Toronto, which I mentioned earlier, would take somewhere between three to six months. The prosecutor opted to spend the money on other crimes. This bill would do nothing about that. We are being dishonest with the Canadian people if we lead them to believe otherwise.

This goes back to begging the question: Why are we supporting the bill? This bill would do a couple of things that are worth moving forward on. Perhaps, if we start down this road, the Conservatives will see their way at some point to introducing more meaningful amendments to the code and to other legislation.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

As my colleague from Manitoba suggested, they might seriously get tough on crime. It is worth starting down this path.

I want to spend more of my time on what we should be doing as opposed to what the bill would do.

The bill introduces a mandatory minimum sentence. However, the committee did some research on this and a mandatory minimum sentence would be under some circumstances. Fraud, for example, would have to be more than $1 million. There are also provisions for aggravating factors.

We had our researchers pull recent cases and it was found that the mandatory minimum sentence of two years has been, in the last three to five years, generally applied already, even though under the existing Criminal Code sections there is no mandatory minimum for this type of crime.

However, our judges have been imposing harsher sentences and, in most cases, sentences of more than two years. I acknowledge that there have been exceptions to that, and we will probably hear that from members on the other side, but if we do an analysis of the cases that have come down in the last three to five years, we would find that a significant majority of them have had sentences imposed of more than two years.

Members of the House know that I am far from being a supporter of mandatory minimums. They do work in very narrow cases and white collar crime is one of the areas where they do have some impact. To understand the reason that they have some impact, we would need to go back and analyze the nature of the crime.

I am losing my voice because I have spoken so much in the last 10 days on crime bills in order to meet the agenda that the Conservatives have set. I will use that as an excuse to move away from what I was going to say on this bill and argue that I would use my voice less and we would have less debate in this House if the Conservatives simply used omnibus bills rather than introducing a bill for every section of the Criminal Code.

I will now get back to the point of this bill. With regard to the mandatory minimums and the nature of white collar crime, it is not a spontaneous crime. It is planned, generally speaking, over a lengthy period of time. Much like the senior level of organized crime, the majority of individuals who commit these crimes do know the potential penalties. They know at this point that we do not have mandatory minimums with regard to fraud charges in this country, in the white collar area in particular. I am convinced that it is one of the few areas where it may have a beneficial impact on reducing white collar crime. I am not a big proponent of it but it is worth trying if it will have even a minor impact.

The other provisions in the bill that we support would provide some additional guidelines and authority for our judges to take into account aggravating factors. Those are important in terms of the judges' being able to exercise discretion in determining aggravating factors, and we actually list those for them. It is hard to say that most judges would not see them there but it now formally authorizes them, which is a worthwhile step in terms of giving the judges greater jurisdiction.

I must admit that I had mixed feelings about having introduced, for the first time in the Criminal Code, the concept of a community being able to come forward and say that, overall, as a community, it has been a victim of this particular white collar crime. Up until this point, the only provisions for victims' statements were those from individuals. That could be a corporation but an individual corporation.

This would allow a whole group of people to have a representative speak on their behalf. I do have some concerns about this section because it is the first time we have tried it. The provisions within the bill, in terms of how this will be conducted, for instance , will more than one representative be allowed to speak for the community that has been so negatively impacted by this type of crime, are not clear. That will be left to the judges to sort out. The bill does not define, in any way adequately, what a community of interest is, and I think that will pose some problems for our judges.

Having said that, I am still supportive of experimenting with this but I thought it would have been much better for the government to have come forward with clearer guidelines for our judiciary when they are allowing community statements to come forward. I cannot forecast whether this will be a worthwhile experiment and a successful one or whether it will not be used.

What is certain, and this goes back again to resources, is that it would make trials longer on the sentencing side. I do not think there is any doubt that would produce some additional hours, if not days, added on to these trials. If the individual is convicted, the sentencing process will be much more extensive. That is a worthwhile risk to take because, if it works, it would allow victims to have meaningful representation. I have heard this from my clients when I was practising and I have certainly heard it from victims' groups that game before committee at various times, that the criminal justice system is intimating to them as individuals.

If they can afford to hire their own counsel, and the vast majority of them cannot, especially since they have suffered large wealth losses in these cases, this process would make it easier for them to have a representative for both themselves and the rest of the group that has been affected. It would also allow the judge to hear better evidence of how extensive the fraud was and how damaging it was.

There would be better evidence going in than we get at the present time because individuals would do this or a prosecutor, who is way overburdened, would need to attempt to get that kind of evidence in front of a judge in order for the judge to understand just how severe the impact was of the white collar crime.

For those reasons, I think this is a very worthwhile step to take. Hopefully it will work and hopefully this government will see its way. As opposed to spending billions of dollars on prisons, it would put more money into the transfer of dollars from the federal government to the provinces so that the numbers of our prosecutors, police and judges could be expanded to deal with this problem. So we would not have the situations we do now.

In the majority of cases of white collar crime, there are significant complexities and charges are being dropped or plea bargaining done so that the penalties are either minimal or certainly not in keeping with the severity of the crime itself. Resources have to be put in place. Rather than spending an estimated $9 billion or $11 billion over the next few years for expanding our prisons, we need to be using a good deal of that money to transfer to the provinces to give them the opportunity to have more judges appointed, more prosecutors in place and certainly more investigators, so that these cases can be effectively prosecuted.

It is very clear that if we are going to combat any type of crime, the individuals who are contemplating committing those crimes will have second thoughts. We know this, and all of the evidence we have tells us this. It is almost a certainty that if they think they are going to get caught, they have second thoughts about committing the crime.

We need to show that we have a meaningful system in place to fight white collar crime: investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence. That message needs to be out there for the perpetrators, who are generally fairly sophisticated people. If they understand that system is in place, that they will be caught, prosecuted and receive harsh penalties for the crimes they have committed, the amount of white collar crime will be reduced. I firmly believe that. However, we do not have that system in place now, and this bill does not do anything to put it in place.

I would also like to raise some of the alternatives. As I have said repeatedly, this bill does not go far enough. Some of the evidence we got in committee, called by the opposition parties and not by the government, showed other legislative mechanisms that we could put in place. I will point to one that we heard on the final day of evidence before we went clause by clause on this bill.

We had two lawyers come before us. One was a former prosecutor for the Ontario Securities Commission and the other was a lawyer who, for almost his entire practice at a large Toronto firm, worked with victims of a variety of natures of white collar crime.

The prosecutor, who had spent a good deal of his professional career working for the Ontario Securities Commission, pointed to one of the things that was occurring in the United States that they had found to be fairly effective. This was on the stereotypical Ponzi scheme.

The way a Ponzi scheme works is that those people who first buy into it tend to get paid with money from the subsequent victims of the scheme. The initial so-called victims of the scheme, in a lot of cases, make a lot of money. The rates of return are not the 1% or 2% that we currently get at banks and financial institutions. They get returns of 40%, 50%, 100% to 200% in the first few years of the scheme. Of course, the people coming in at the end, before the Ponzi scheme is identified and the person is caught, so it stops, end up losing all of their money.

A number of states, New York being the leading one, have begun to lift the veil on all of those transactions. They go back to the initial “victims” who have, in many cases, made huge profits as part of the Ponzi scheme, even if they did not know it was a Ponzi scheme; or they might have known. They are required to put the money back into a central pool and whatever money is left is distributed throughout.

We need to put in place regulations that would allow us to do the same thing in Canada.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague on the justice committee for his intervention. I do appreciate the thoughtful manner in which he articulates his views at the committee, although we often profoundly disagree, the NDP emphasis of course being on the rights of offenders, whereas our Conservative government focuses on the voices of victims and protecting the public against crime.

That said, as he knows, the Liberal Party has made it very clear that it wants to continue debate on this bill, even though on the face of it, it says that it supports it, but it wants to continue debate and continue to delay.

I would ask my colleague from the NDP whether he and his party would be prepared to pass this bill now so that we can move on to some of the other bills that are awaiting debate in this House. As he knows, our government does not want to delay criminal justice bills. We want to get them passed to ensure that the safety of Canadians is protected.

My question for him is this. Would he be prepared to co-operate with us, move this bill into the other place so that we can get it passed, give it royal assent and put the protection of Canadians at the forefront?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
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NDP

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?”

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, you are doing an excellent job as always.

Of course there are always thoughtful interventions by the member, with his deep knowledge in this area, but I have to say that I disagree with him, as do some of my colleagues actually, on the point he made about suggesting that all these Conservative justice initiatives, albeit that is all they have, should go into an omnibus bill, because then they could pass a number of bad initiatives all at once.

As he knows, the justice agenda of the Conservatives has been basically a disaster. That is evidenced of course by the fact that they are going to have to build more prisons because they have not dealt with the things that reduce crime, the root causes of crime, which are rehabilitation and alternative sentencing, all things that are proven to reduce crime. They have been a failure at that.

However with the bills they have brought forward, as the member also knows, being on the justice committee, not only has the government stalled them by proroguing and calling illegal elections, but the bills have had to have many amendments because they are so poorly written, because they did not accept the advice of the justice department, the experts. It bulldozed ahead and brought forward bills that are totally contrary to what the experts said would reduce crime and that need a whole bunch of improvements.

Why would we want to pass all these bills quickly, this poor legislation, in an omnibus bill without taking the time to at least correct them and make them better legislation?