Evidence of meeting #34 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was rcmp.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Stephen Foster  Director, Commercial Crime Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Gisèle Rivest  Officer in Charge, Operations of National Interest and International Corruption, Commercial Crime Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Christopher Dunford  Senior Research Fellow, Freedom from Hunger

April 30th, 2012 / 3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Mr. Foster, for coming today. It's always fun to come to committees and answer the questions. I have three lines of questioning.

This extraction industry transparency initiative, I guess they call it EITI, was already brought up by the NDP. We had a witness here a few weeks ago who stated that one of the biggest problems in development in underdeveloped countries is, “Where's the money?” I think he mentioned $1 trillion is floating around the globe in banks and in the wrong hands and is not going to where it needs to go in the development of countries and to the treasuries where it's needed.

There's a Globe and Mail article that was already mentioned. I think it's recognized that the European Parliament has signed on with this initiative. Norway, Australia, and the Netherlands are following, and Canada is kind of hanging back and not doing that. The United States has the Dodd-Frank initiative.

Is there any reason we're not signing on? Is there any particular reason that our government is probably afraid to get in there and do this? Is there a problem with our transparency here?

3:50 p.m.

Director, Commercial Crime Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Supt Stephen Foster

I don't know that there's a problem with transparency in terms of Canadian companies and how they are operating or why they would be hesitant to join this particular initiative.

A number of organizations are pursuing anti-corruption on a global or regional basis, with international operations in mind. There's the Organization of American States, the OECD, the United Nations, Transparency International, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and a few others I haven't mentioned.

As to whether the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is a good idea for them, I don't know that I would necessarily be able to comment for business.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

You don't see any particular reason why we shouldn't.

It just seems like the right thing to do if all these other countries are doing it. You know, it kind of looks bad on us.

We don't have a law like the United States has that does what this initiative is doing. You would think that it would just be common sense to join up. It's kind of a motherhood thing.

3:50 p.m.

Director, Commercial Crime Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Supt Stephen Foster

I'm not sure how businesses might analyze it. Would they say that on the one hand this is a very good thing to do and we should do it? Or would they, on the other hand, wonder whether, if they're overly transparent, they would still have a competitive edge. Would that be lost in the global marketplace?

What I'm saying is that I don't know, but I can see two sides to it.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Most of your line of work is, of course, investigating wrongdoing or whatever internationally.

Lately we've been getting a lot of groups, especially indigenous groups, from the Philippines and the Peruvian Amazon basin complaining about Canadian mining or extraction companies.

Yes, these are Canadian companies that are doing what the rules are in that country. But we have quite strict rules in our own country. Do you see that we should have more legislation to make sure that Canadian companies are following guidelines from Canada when they do extraction in these other countries? Do you think there should be tougher regulations or some protocol there?

3:50 p.m.

Director, Commercial Crime Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Supt Stephen Foster

I wouldn't be in a good position to comment with respect to unspecified legislation that hasn't been proposed, nor am I in a good position to propose legislation with respect to how Canadian companies are operating abroad.

We are encouraging Canadian companies to have good corporate social responsibility policies, compliance policies, and transparency within those countries.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

You don't have the capacity to investigate them and make sure they're doing that. They have to follow them on their own.

3:50 p.m.

Director, Commercial Crime Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Supt Stephen Foster

If they run afoul of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act in terms of bribing a foreign public official, we have the power to investigate that offence.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

The present government is pushing for development and aid to be kind of handled by companies. That's what our project is all about.

Should there be legislation so that if that is taking place we can monitor these companies and how they're helping with foreign aid? Should there be better oversight? Should your department be involved in making sure that money goes right...?

SNC-Lavelin and how they're spending money is in the news right now, but that's not technically aid money. That being said, if it were aid money, would you have the capacity to follow those dollars?

3:50 p.m.

Director, Commercial Crime Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Supt Stephen Foster

If an offence were related to that, we would be able to attempt, in the context of an investigation, to follow the funding that was, say, removed illicitly or used for a bribe.

What you described sounded like perhaps an ongoing regulatory function. I'm not sure I'd be able to comment with respect to whether that was required for legislation. I would perhaps direct you to ask the minister.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

You probably don't have the legislative tools to deal with that at present.

3:55 p.m.

Director, Commercial Crime Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Supt Stephen Foster

It sounds like they don't exist yet.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

That's right.

If a company had aid money, and they were supposed to help with a water system, for instance, in Africa—I'm just using a hypothetical situation—and a complaint were made, would you have the tools to investigate? For instance, if that village said, “We didn't get our water system,” and they put the complaint to you, do you have the capacity to investigate that?

3:55 p.m.

Director, Commercial Crime Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Supt Stephen Foster

My understanding of your hypothetical is that it isn't something that's covered by the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. It might be something that might be...it depends where the representation is made. If it was a representation made in Canada, with respect to how funds would be used in a foreign country and that caused the Government of Canada to part with that funding, then that could be investigated from here as well as a fraud.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Okay.

There is some grey area or tools that could be used.