House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cpp.

Topics

Privilege

November 27th, 1997 / 10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

I would like to deliver a ruling on the questions of privilege raised by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville on October 21, 1997 and by the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton on November 18, 1997.

The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville objected to an administrative change where House procedural staff were drafting legislative amendments for private members, rather than legislative counsel. The hon. member felt that this change would reduce the quality of service available to him and as such interfered with his ability ot do his job as a member for Parliament.

The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton, on the other hand, objected to his private member's bill being drafted by lawyers enrolled in the legislative drafting program at the University of Ottawa. The hon. member felt that this arrangement breached the confidentiality that applies to such matters and was evidence of inadequate legislative counsel support for members.

Furthermore, the fact that the program is headed by a justice department lawyer caused him to wonder about possible government interference in private members' bills.

I thank the hon. members for their submissions on this matter and the other hon. members who intervened. The legislative work of private members is an important part of what it means to be a member of Parliament. As your Speaker, it concerns me that some private members feel they are not adequately supported in their legislative function.

As I indicated in my ruling on October 23, 1997 on a point of privilege raised by the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton in respect of legislative counsel services, questions pertaining to resources provided to private members should be brought to the attention of the Board of Internal Economy and should not be raised on the floor of the House as a point of order nor as a point of privilege.

The matters raised on that earlier occasion and the matters now raised by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville and the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton involve in my view basic administrative issues. I had however committed to both hon. members that I would ensure this matter would get priority at the board.

With respect to the administrative changes to which the hon. members referred, I have directed that both initiatives, the drafting of amendments by procedural staff and the drafting of private members' bills at the University of Ottawa, be put on hold pending a decision by the board on the mandate and the resourcing of legislative counsel services generally.

I want to reassure the hon. members that amendments and private members' bills shall only be drafted by legislative counsel retained under the authority of the Speaker. For this the board has authorized additional resources for the balance of the current fiscal year which should improve timely delivery of services.

The larger question of legislative counsel services remains on the agenda of the board. It is hoped that a more comprehensive solution will be found in time for the next fiscal year, as the board is currently working on the proposed 1998-99 estimates.

It is my hope, given the nature of this matter and the number of times it has been raised, that the board will resolve this matter.

But I want to close this statement by giving the hon. members for Sarnia—Lambton and for Yorkton—Melville a further commitment, and it is this: If this matter is not resolved in a timely fashion at the board, I will not shy away from my duty and responsibility as the Speaker of this House.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

Organized Crime
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Liberal

Andy Scott Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I rise today to address an issue of grave concern to the Government of Canada and to all Canadians, that being organized crime.

In this the first of what will be annual statements to parliament on organized crime I want to give parliamentarians and Canadians an understanding of the immense challenge our nation faces. I also want to discuss the concrete measures the government and its partners are taking to combat organized crime.

Organized crime is big business and it is bad business. It is a national problem that threatens public safety and erodes the social well-being of all Canadians. Organized crime is a global problem. The United Nations has recognized it as a priority for the next century and has called on all member states to declare it public enemy number one.

Organized criminals and gangs prey on society through a variety of destructive activities: drug trafficking, prostitution, forgery, weapons trafficking, auto theft, liquor and tobacco smuggling, and bank fraud. The economic cost of organized crime in Canada alone is measured in the billions of dollars annually. There also can be losses suffered by legitimate businesses, tax payments evaded and a high law enforcement expenditure, to name only three.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police estimates the total amount of money made from illicit drug sales at $10 billion annually. The smuggling of black market jewellery is estimated to be a $400 million illicit business in Canada, leading to additional tax losses of $30 million.

Untold illegal revenues are being made through the use of new technology colour copiers by counterfeiters. Credit card fraud can run as high as $80 million annually. One illegal lottery scheme alone, operated out of Canada between 1994 and 1995, may have cost elderly American victims $100 million or more. The elderly in Canada are also at risk and we are committed to their protection.

The economic impact of organized crime is only one measurement of harm these activities inflict. Our communities pay dearly to finance organized crime kingpins. One shipment of heroine landed successfully in Canada can lead to numerous deaths and human suffering in cities like Vancouver and Toronto.

Children are hooked by schoolyard pushers. Muggings, robberies, auto thefts and house break-ins increase as addicts scramble to finance their habits. Higher drug use dramatically increases the chances of infection with HIV and other diseases. Families can suffer under domestic violence and child abuse.

Canadians are also seeing firsthand the problem of organized crime violence.

In Quebec, for example, biker gangs have been tied to dozens of bombings and related violence. Biker gangs are very visible sign of organized crime, but other groups are buried deep, disguising themselves as legitimate enterprises or using today's tehcnology to prey on their victims from afar.

This government will not allow organized criminals to use their ill-gotten gains and threats of violence to intimidate our communities.

Allow me to elaborate on what Canada is doing to deal with this huge crime challenge. My ministry has mounted a combined offensive against organized crime working together with the departments of justice, revenue, finance, citizenship and immigration, foreign affairs and others. To increase the power and effectiveness of that offensive, we have joined forces with our provincial, territorial and international counterparts and police forces across Canada.

This government has consulted closely with law enforcement, business and others affected by organized crime. We had a number of excellent suggestions come out of the national forum on organized crime convened last year, practical suggestions that would hit hard at organized crime. Forum participants also recommended that the solicitor general make an annual statement to the House of Commons to draw attention to this grave problem.

At that forum Canada's police urged governments to give them the tools to do the job. That is what we have done. We renewed the resources for the anti-smuggling initiative.

Early in the first mandate of this government, we took decisive action against organized tobacco, alcohol and firearms smuggling. We quickly and effectively curbed the smuggling and re-established order in the marketplace. Just as important, we restored the sense of safety and security in affected border communities.

We passed the Witness Protection Act to provide police with an effective means of protecting people who help police collect evidence against organized crime groups. We passed the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, establishing a legislative base for police to conduct undercover reverse sting operations. We passed the Criminal Law Improvement Act to provide police with the means to conduct storefront operations.

We listened to the police and passed tough, comprehensive anti-gang legislation. We acted on law enforcement's call to define in our criminal law what constitutes a criminal organization. The law gives new powers to the police, prosecutors and the courts to deal with these newly defined criminal organizations.

The legislation also lets us seize any property used by criminal organizations and the courts can ultimately order the property forfeited.

Anti-gang legislation is being used right now. Arrests and seizures regularly make headlines. We are monitoring its implementation and I will provide a status report in next year's statement on organized crime. We are also attacking organized crime through the existing proceeds of crime laws. The police have also told us that the most effective way to dismantle and disrupt criminal enterprises over the long term is to target the upper levels of criminal organizations and focus on the kingpins.

We have been able to mount a highly successful attack on the illegally obtained assets of criminals.

The joint integrated proceeds of crimes units, where the RCMP worked together with provincial and local police as well as customs officers and Justice Canada counsel, were so successful that we established 10 more units located across Canada. In addition, justice has created a proceeds of crime prosecution team in each region to complement these expanded enforcement activities. We are not finished.

A key recommendation out of the organized crime forum was to continue to improve the ability of the police to investigate money laundering. Therefore the government will introduce legislation in this Parliament to create new financial reporting requirements regarding suspicious transactions and the cross-border movement of currency.

These measures will give the police more information on illegal financial activity and put us in step with our international counterparts.

The heart of our anti-organized crime strategy is bringing all the concerned agencies together from all involved jurisdictions and maximizing the use of our resources, federal, provincial and municipal. Co-operation will be the hallmark of our effort.

Again, law enforcement has urged greater national co-ordination of effort and policy so that organized crime faces a seamless net. We took that suggestion very seriously and that is why we established a national co-ordinating committee of police and other officials, chaired by my department, along with regional counterparts in British Columbia, the prairies and territories, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic region.

As I said earlier, the United Nations has expressed alarm at the rising threat of organized crime internationally. We recognize that global problems demand global solutions. We are working with the United States and other partners in Europe, the Americas and around the world in forums such as the United Nations, Interpol and the Organization of American States.

In early December in Washington I will attend the first ever meeting of G-8 ministers on organized crime to further our work internationally. Co-operation and information sharing only makes sense when criminals can use borders to hide from police. That is why we have to work smarter and more effectively with our neighbours to the south.

In September I hosted the first ever Canada-United States cross-border crime forum here in Ottawa attended by United States Attorney General Janet Reno.

Canadian and United States officials are working together to build on the co-operative relationships between our countries. Ms. Reno and I believe this forum will pay great dividends in the future. Law enforcement of all jurisdictions needs to be networked with each other so that criminals cannot slip through the cracks.

As members can see from my remarks, the Canadian law enforcement community has been the cornerstone of our anti-organized crime efforts and it will always be.

I would particularly like to recognize the efforts and the commitment of the police community in helping to keep the public informed about the organized crime problem and providing us with advice on how to address it.

In concluding the first report to Parliament on our efforts to combat organized crime in Canada, let me restate this government's commitment to provide national leadership in the fight against this menace and to keep Parliament informed on the progress in the battle.

Organized Crime
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Reform

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to respond to the minister's statement today on behalf of average Canadians from the official opposition.

In his opening remarks the solicitor general stated that organized crime is big business and it is bad business. I agree.

Gang business is far from simply riding around on loud, outrageous motorcycles. It is about the almighty dollar and finding the most direct way of getting lots of it, whether it is being done legally or illegally. In almost every case the fastest way is the illegal way, drugs, theft, prostitution and business scams.

Earlier this month, the 10 month undercover police sting at Edmonton led to 51 drug trafficking, possession and conspiracy charges against 10 gang members. This is what the police seized: $800,000 worth of property including two homes, one worth $350,000 and the other $300,000, four motorcycles, a Lamborghini sports car, several firearms, not registered I suppose, TVs and a great deal of cash, well into the thousands. This is no small town operation.

The minister is also right when he states that this issue is of great concern to all Canadians. Canadians really fear for their safety. Organized crime affects each and every Canadian. It is not something that is untouched or does not affect the local community. With the continued operation of the notorious biker gangs, each and every one of us sitting in the House is at risk. Our families are at risk.

A couple of weeks ago in Quebec a man who was linked to the Hell's Angels was gunned down in a restaurant. Then a couple of days later a gang sympathizer was discovered dead in the trunk of a car. Gang wars in Quebec are out of control. Edmonton is another city that is starting to feel similar pressures. The violence is absolutely unacceptable. Since 1989 there have been well over 65 gang related homicides in Quebec alone.

I was astounded to learn the number of gang members there are in Canada. According to Staff Sergeant Jean-Pierre Levesque who is with the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada there are about 1,200 gang members in total in Canada formally recognized. However, if we count friends, connections, business associates, the number may be as high as 12,000.

In addition, according to Interpol there are close to 95 chapters of the Hell's Angels operating in 16 different countries around the world. To say they are well connected would definitely be an understatement.

Almost daily there are news stories directly related to gangs. Canadians are concerned. They want solutions and, most important, they want solutions that are going to work.

Today the solicitor general trumpeted the government's record. This government has had over four years to correct the flaws of the justice system but all it did was often tinker with it. I do not think the government should be too proud today. It should perhaps apologize to Canadians for not doing enough. It has had enough time.

The power to implement change was there to use. It had complete majority governments, but all it did was sit on its hands and hope that everything would get better, until the cries could not be stemmed anymore.

In the solicitor general's statement he said that his government listened to the police and passed tough, comprehensive gang legislation: “Anti-gang legislation is being used right now. Arrests and seizures regularly make headlines. We are monitoring its implementation. I will provide a status report in the next year's statement on organized crime”.

I can honestly say that I eagerly await next year's statement. I want the minister to stand up and say how gang violence has dramatically dropped from one date to the next. It is the government's administration and its responsibility. I want the minister to say at that time that his new legislation has not been overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada because it infringed on the charter of rights and freedoms.

On November 2 of this year gang member Ettore Sabastiani was apparently the first person to be convicted using the new law. He was sentenced to five years in prison. The solicitor general may be proud of his headlines, but he cannot be proud of what is in the article. Two of the headlines surrounding this story were: “Gang member first convicted under new law” in the Ottawa Sun ; and “Sabastiani sentence believed to be the first convicted under the new anti-gang legislation” from the Kingston Whig Standard . But here is where the minister's happiness perhaps ends. I want to read two clips, first from the Sun article and the second from the Whig Standard :

But Friday, Sabastiani tried to withdraw his plea to the anti-gang charge. He lawyer, Wayne King, argued that the law violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it is too vague, too broad and contradicts the provisions for freedom of association.

The next quote:

If Sabastiani had not plead guilty, a constitutional challenge would have likely been allowed and may still happen in other cases. The legislation has a good chance of being struck down if it is challenged, said King.

The Kingston Whig Standard had similar words:

Queen's law professor Don Stewart agrees with King. He said in an interview yesterday that it's a bad piece of legislation because it is so loose that it is ripe for misuse and ineffective against organized crime. It was drafted in great haste—to get votes in Quebec where there was concern of the Rock Machine and the Hell's Angels—it's a very bad piece of legislation. The law is likely to be challenged under the charter as too vague, too broad.

Bringing forward legislation should never be done just for short term political purposes. It should be done for the well-being of all Canadians, for the long term vision of a great society.

Reform supported the organized crime bill in the last Parliament because there was need for something to take place. The bill was a start in providing the necessary tools for law enforcement. But the questions we asked then are the same as we are asking today. Is the law constitutionally sound? Ten months ago was the time to make the changes. It may now be too late.

So, like the minister, I want to see an immediate stop to organized crime. I also want to see laws that will withstand the supreme court challenges. When is the government going to understand that a major overhaul of the justice system is needed?

Ministerial statements are fine, but ministerial action is preferred. The longer the government waits to act, the worse our streets will become.

The solicitor general has made his statement. He is directly responsible for the administration of federal prisons. Yet organized crime flourishes in our prisons and he has been unable to respond to it. We hope that on this score he will clean up the backlog of union grievances and fully support his staff to rid us of organized crime in federal jails.

Since the second world war we have had many years of Liberal governments. With that backdrop of a history of administration, the government must more fully accept its responsibility for where we are today in society.

There are broad sociological reasons for the success of organized crime. Some of it has to do with the general legal and economic culture which the government is creating.

When economic prospects are dim, young people are more easily preyed upon to become involved in street level crime supervised by the organized crime bosses. When tax policy kills the spirit, the sinister elements can more easily get a foothold. When governments in the past have erected unreasonably high differentials between the U.S. and Canada, unnecessary economic incentives are created for the perverse to arise. Capacity creates its own demand.

Historically the Liberals have been very soft on crime. We are pleased when we can get the government to move substantively rather than just in a cosmetic fashion. If the government can gather courage and do what is right rather than just what is politically convenient, we will certainly support those efforts. Sadly, how many times in the House has the general debate gone on about some crime measure?

On our side after looking at the bill, we are calling for more substance, a more comprehensive approach, a more thorough job than just tentative measures.

The most recent example was the DNA evidence collection bill. It is good as far as it goes, but here again it stops far short of what is needed.

These are the broad societal reasons for the success of organized crime. The government has to accept a share of the blame for the context of the culture it has created for organized crime to flourish. If it could learn those lessons, then the courses of action would become evident.

Everything that we have brought to this House on the economy was helpful in fighting organized crime. One of the biggest crime prevention strategies is low unemployment.

I applaud the minister for anything he can do on this file. He is now committed to an annual statement. It is hoped that he will be able to measure how the government's rather haphazard administration of public affairs is successfully responding to this challenge which will be measured from year to year.

The vision for the national voyage must be based upon honesty, competence and real leadership. May the legislation that flows from the government statement be honestly presented. May the government administer with the highest of standards guided by real accountability measures. The annual statement may form a bit of an accountability measure.

May the government gather some courage to legislate against crime and to lead, for whatever increases hope will also exalt courage. If the government faints from these principles, the nation knows that we on this side of the House are more than ready.

Organized Crime
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC

Madam Speaker, organized crime is a major problem in Quebec and Canada, but particularly in the Quebec City area, where my riding of Charlesbourg is located.

As my hon. colleague from the Reform Party mentioned earlier, there was another murder in my riding last week, in a family restaurant. As families were enjoying a quiet evening meal at the restaurant, they witnessed the cold-blooded murder of a man. This dramatic incident is but one example of the kind of violence biker gangs are responsible for in Quebec. It has reached such proportions that recently—two weeks ago I think—the Lloyds Insurance Company of London announced its intention to no longer insure bars in the Quebec City area. This shows how bad the situation is.

The party that has been asking this government to do something about biker gangs since 1995 is our party, the Bloc Quebecois. After the Bloc Quebecois put a great deal of pressure on the government in Ottawa on behalf of Quebeckers, the government started to act in April 1996, but that was not enough, because too many unfortunate incidents have occurred in the past year.

As I referred to a while ago, there is a very heavy concentration of biker gangs in Quebec. There are, of course, the Hell's Angels, but there is also the Rock Machine, which is apparently about to join forces with another biker gang, an international one this time, called the Bandidos.

It is very clear that the government does not have the desire to put all of the law enforcement resources necessary in place to deal with this problem.

In his speech, the minister claims that he has restored security in the border communities where the goods were crossing. As recently as this fall we witnessed the aborted raid at Kahnawake, where there were sizeable stocks of arms brought in from outside, and it was not the Quebec Minister of Public Security who was responsible for aborting the raid, either. This one very recent example can make us doubt the desire of this government to fight organized crime effectively.

One can also ask oneself the following question: Is the antigang legislation the government across the floor wants to see passed sufficient? Is it stringent enough? According to the Bloc Quebecois, even the definition of a criminal organization, referred to a moment ago by my hon. colleague from the Reform Party, still does not go far enough. Vagueness remains, and this could lead to challenges of the constitutional validity of this legislation.

The act also authorizes the seizure of goods that have been used by criminal organizations. Although it is a nice initiative, a look at the concrete facts points to some shortcomings. Consider the cases where the police moves in to make a seizure. Two weeks ago there was a raid at the Hell's Angels hideout in Saint-Nicolas, near Quebec City. When the police arrived at the bunker, they took it over, but there was almost nothing left.

Is there not a way to ensure that the police can act more quickly so that these seizure operations can really be effective against organized crime? This is a legitimate question.

Concerning Bill C-95, the Minister of Justice at the time said that the object was to hit the master minds behind these criminal organizations. But at that time, the bill was not at all that clear, and I remember a discussion between my colleague for Berthier—Montcalm and the minister. My colleague had difficulty finding in the bill what was meant by a master mind, and these people were not mentioned anywhere in the bill. So this is another weakness in the bill.

The minister also wants to give the police more flexibility to carry out investigations on money laundering. This is an excellent initiative, but we have to go further than that. We should also consider parole because, beyond these gang problems, there is for instance the Lagana case, where the lawyer succeeded in getting him paroled after he had served one sixth of the sentence. The minister will have to tighten up the law generally and also the Parole Act so as to prevent this type of criminal from going on parole so soon.

In this regard, I will be introducing in a few minutes a bill to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act so as to make it clearer. Its purpose will be to amend section 103 of that act so that appointments to the National Parole Board will stop being subject to the political patronage they are exposed to nowadays and will instead be made under supervision by the people, and through the people under the supervision of the elected members of this House. In this way, impartial people will be appointed and they will have the necessary background to deal with this type of problem.

In conclusion, many other efforts have to be made in the fight against organized crime. The government must act and it must act quickly to reassure the public, which is frightened. They have reasons to be frightened when violence reaches people in a family restaurant in a quiet and prosperous suburb. The government must come to realize that its laws and its commitment to deal with this issue are not clear.

One reality that the government does not seem to recognize is the fact that biker gangs, to take only this example of organized criminal groups, are growing, and that every day there are more and more people joining these gangs.

The Bloc Quebecois doubts that the government is willing to commit the necessary resources to the fight against organized crime, and we expect initiatives that are much more concrete than those that the minister is proposing today.

Organized Crime
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, the annual statement on organized crime stems from Bill C-95, an act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal organizations), passed in the last session of Parliament.

The bill was tabled in response to biker gang violence in Quebec and involved a package of measures targeting criminal activity and organized crime. It created a new offence of participation in a criminal organization and gave law enforcement agencies new powers to combat criminal activity and to confiscate the proceeds of organized crime.

Our caucus supported passage of the bill and measures to combat organized crime in gang related activity. There is nothing new in the minister's statement. In fact, the bulk of the statement merely quotes the former solicitor general's speech in the House at the time of the introduction of Bill C-95 at second reading last April.

The statement talks about the government's commitment to provide leadership in the fight against organized crime, while in fact in at least one important area the actions of this government have had the opposite effect. It would appear that the government's privatization of our national ports and the disbandment of the Canada ports police has been a serious blow to the fight against organized crime in this country.

The government's actions have resulted in a serious setback in the efforts to control and stop organized crime activities. It is a well-known fact in the law enforcement community that organized crime and gang activity are thriving in our ports. Is it possible that the federal government's disbandment of the ports police and the privatization of the ports has been to open the doors for an increase in the very destructive activities such as drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, auto theft and liquor and tobacco smuggling that the minister referred to in his statement?

The Canada ports police were created in 1968 and represented a highly specialized and dedicated police force with skills and powers specifically designed to combat organized crime, smuggling and gang activities in the ports. Local police and private security companies have neither the resources nor the expertise to effectively combat crime in our ports. When I spoke on Bill C-9 in relation to the ports police, I expressed my disgust at the suggestion that low price security should have their lives devalued by placing them in a highly criminal and violent atmosphere.

The minister in his statement noted that Canada's police urge governments to give them the tools to do the job. It would appear that in the case of the ports police the opposite is taking place. Other jurisdictions in the United States and elsewhere which have experimented with similar privatization schemes for the ports and ports police have had to re-evaluate their actions in the face of increases in criminal activity and have reinstated specialized ports police to take back control of their ports.

The minister speculates about how one shipment of heroin landed successfully in Canada can lead to numerous deaths and human suffering in cities like Vancouver. In fact we know that the drug trade in Vancouver is flourishing and has widespread impact in that city and across Canada.

Vancouver has experienced a serious increase in crime, gang activities and increased drug trafficking in the ports which many believe is a direct result of the privatization of the ports and ports police. Numerous case files and ongoing investigations into organized crime and gang activity were halted or compromised with the removal of the Canada ports police from the Vancouver port.

On the opposite coast in Halifax, in a few weeks the ports police will be disbanded. We can be sure that organized crime is just waiting to fill the void. The Hell's Angels biker gang is known to be active in the Halifax-Dartmouth area. It is rumoured that the notorious Rock Machine bikers have recently purchased a bar in the area. It is also rumoured that a California bike gang is currently looking for property in the area and we can be sure they are not coming for the balmy weather.

With the privatization of our national ports this government has put out the welcome signs for gangs and organized crime. It is putting our communities and citizens at risk. The minister talks about creating a seamless net against organized crime. It is clear that this net has some very large holes.

The minister has indicated in the House that we should be proud of and support the workers in the justice system. Yet this minister and this government are doing the opposite. I would suggest that the minister practice what he preaches, that he work to ensure that the concerns of the ports police and the employees in the penitentiary systems are addressed.

We encourage and support this government in its fight against organized crime. Yet there appears to be contradictions in its actions.

It is our hope that when the minister reports to Parliament again there will be some concrete news of success in the fight against organized crime and that we do not once again hear the same speech from the year before.

Organized Crime
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise today as well in response to the Solicitor General's first annual statement on organized crime in Canada.

I would like to take this occasion to congratulate all the men and women of this country who are on the front lines of law enforcement in Canada. We know them as police officers, peace officers, customs agents, crown prosecutors.

We must address and recognize the need and responsibility that we as parliamentarians have to those individuals in charging them with this important task of fighting crime in Canada. They are the thin blue line, these men and women who walk the beat and patrol the neighbourhoods of Canada, and they are tasked with enforcing the laws that we make in this House.

Without the active support of these hard working Canadians, many of whom put their lives at risk time and time again, any government's anti-crime measures will fail and fall flat on their face.

The self-congratulatory tone of this report is fine but it is early in the game. I remind the government that as far as this initiative goes, the true test will be time.

I feel it is important to put on the record that the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada also had a key role in kick-starting the government's action against organized crime. Contrary to the implications of the Solicitor General, this government's fight against organized crime did not simply begin under the Liberal government. In fact between 1989 and 1993 the former Progressive Conservative government passed four major pieces of legislation to assist our law enforcement community.

In 1989 the Conservative government passed proceeds of crime legislation for the first time in Canadian criminal law history, making money laundering a distinct crime. This was done to help police officers trace the flow of money derived from criminal activities. The former Progressive Conservative government then passed new proceeds of crime legislation in 1991 which required financial institutions to maintain detailed records of transactions relating to crime.

The former government also passed legislation in 1993 with the passage of the Seizure of Property Management Act. This act created the office of an administrator to seize and retain forfeited property. More important, this legislation provided an incentive to organizations participating in criminal investigations by developing new provisions for the disposal of property obtained by crime.

The final initiative I would mention by the Progressive Conservative government was an act to modify the Customs Act and the Criminal Code. It was a far reaching omnibus bill and made many positive changes to the Criminal Code, in particular in the area of contraband products such as tobacco and alcohol.

I do not want to inject partisanship into the debate, but it is important that everyone realize that this government is picking up where previous governments left off. I mention these legislative initiatives not to dwell on the past but to put in perspective what is going on in this process today.

I am nevertheless willing to extend credit where credit is due. The Liberal government and the Solicitor General in particular have taken positive steps in this area. I commend the Solicitor General for recognizing that more can be done. The Solicitor today used his statement to renew a commitment first made in response to last year's national forum on organized crime. That commitment, although somewhat more vague today, was used to create a new financial reporting requirement regarding suspicious financial transactions and cross-border movement of currency.

To be successful, these requirements must include a very clear principle. Canada must adopt the current U.S. policy that requires financial institutions to report all transactions which exceed $10,000.

With the largest undefended border in the world, Canada and the United States share one of the largest bilateral legal trading relationships in the world. Unfortunately, because of this border, we also share the largest bilateral illegal trading practice in the world.

Because Canada lacks the same tough reporting requirements of the United States, we are allowing our country to serve as a safe haven for these large criminal organizations for ill-gotten gains.

A $10,000 reporting rule is not only my position but that of the party and it is the position of the solicitor general himself who just less than two months ago made a speech to the U.S.-Canada cross-border crime forum. I would therefore urge the solicitor general to live up to his earlier commitments. Instead of being timid and vague on the question of mandatory requirements, the solicitor general should be bold and straightforward and set clear financial transaction requirements in this legislation.

I would recommend that the solicitor general review the definition of participation in organized crime. The new criminal offence and anti-gang legislation approved by the previous Parliament in April of this year leaves that definition very vague in my opinion.

According to this definition, participation in criminal organizations occurs when “a person participates in or substantially contributes to the activity of a criminal organization and knows that all the members engaged or have engaged in an indictable offence within the preceding five years and when the person is a party to the commission of an offence indictable for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with criminal organizations”.

What a mouthful. The problem with this particular wording, I would suggest, is that it lacks specific intent. There is a huge vague definition that leaves open the issue of intent which makes it very difficult to prosecute. I would suggest that this particular definition could be reworked and the solicitor general has an opportunity to do so in his upcoming round of legislation.

The solicitor general also commented that arrests and seizures under the new anti-gang legislation are regularly making headlines. Headlines are nice, but law-abiding Canadians are seeking concrete results and, as has been referred to earlier by some of my colleagues in the opposition, this is what Canadians are looking for the most from government and from Parliament, concrete results not empty rhetoric.

There was also a very telling comment made by my colleague from the New Democratic Party about the government's apparent contradiction in fighting crime. On the one hand, it has taken the initiative to introduce anti-gang legislation but, at the same time, it has taken away one of the frontline abilities that law enforcement officers have in this country and that is by disbanding the ports police. This, by all intents and purposes, opens up many of Canada's ports for business in terms of illegal drug and gun trade. The port of Halifax was mentioned by the hon. member from the New Democratic Party.

I must say that people in the province of Nova Scotia are extremely concerned, particularly in and around metro Halifax, that these new organized crime organizations are going to be setting up shop. With these ports now falling under the jurisdiction of the RCMP or metro police in the coming months, it is going to be very difficult for them to combat crime in a substantive way when we already have a specialized force in the ports police who are charged solely with that task.

Again I would reiterate my earlier remarks. Laws are not the only answer. In fact, creating laws without accounting for adequate resources to properly implement and enforce these laws can be very dangerous. I would cross reference again the fact that there has been legislation introduced that is going to charge customs officers with more onerous tasks and a more proactive attempt to have them fight crime at the border. However, we do not yet know if adequate resources and training are going to be put in place as well to help them implement and enforce these new pieces of legislation.

Throughout the solicitor general's statement, we heard that the government has been creating partnerships between local, provincial, national and international law enforcement agencies. We have also heard about existing resources to fight crime. I am very much aware of the situation that is going on in New Brunswick presently between the Moncton municipal police and the RCMP who are imposing their particular services in place of the municipal police. This is a situation that I suggest the government has been very lax in addressing.

I support the government's efforts in bringing about various elements of our criminal justice system to fight organized crime. I do so wholeheartedly, but the government must not, however, use the co-operative partnerships as an excuse to withhold the necessary resources. That is not just my opinion. It is the opinion of many local police officers across the country.

The police chief in London, Ontario summed this up perfectly when he stated last month “Just because we now have a law, that does not realize anything unless we have the programs which mean resources for police and enhanced training. Laws for the sake of laws mean nothing. They are just more paper”.

Unfortunately, this is the impression that many law enforcement officers and I would suggest many Canadians have when we have legislation put through Parliament and the resources to see that it is enforced are not there to support it.

In conclusion, I thank the solicitor general for his statement. I would reinforce my comments with four main points. One, let us not forget the foundation upon which this present government is acting by developing policies and legislation with respect to organized crime. Let us work to build upon it.

Second, the solicitor general needs to commit to a straightforward, mandatory reporting requirement for financial transactions which will correspond with our biggest trading partner, the United States.

Third, the solicitor general needs to clarify the definition of a criminal organization to better establish the principle of intent so that prosecutions can be successful.

Fourth, the government should provide necessary programs and training through additional funds if necessary to help police and all law enforcement officers to properly implement and enforce this legislation.

I am hoping that we are not going to hear more self-congratulatory statements from the solicitor general. We must work toward concrete examples of crime reduction so that Canadians will be satisfied that this Parliament and our enforcement officers are doing their job.

I am very supportive of the government in its efforts, but let us not just give lip service to this serious matter. Let us see that the right thing happens and that we can actually report back in a year's time that these initiatives have been successful.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present the first report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

The report by and large calls for reports four, five, six, seven and nine that were presented in the last Parliament and there was not the opportunity to respond because of the dissolution of Parliament. I am asking for these reports to be tabled in this Parliament.

Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the committee requests the government to table comprehensive responses to all the reports mentioned in this report.

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present the second report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

This report deals with the preparedness for the year 2000 as far as technology and computers are concerned where the committee heard testimony toward the situation that could cause some difficulties at that time.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the committee asks the government to table a comprehensive response to the report.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure on behalf of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Government Operations and an honour for me to present the first report of the Standing Committee on Climate Change as we prepare for the Kyoto conference in Japan.

Our committee undertook several weeks of hearings with representatives of industry, NGOs and private citizens to hear their concerns as we prepare for discussions in Kyoto.

In presenting this report, I want to thank all committee members, our very capable clerk and researcher for their efforts to support the committee's work.

In tabling this, I want to point out that the title of the report is “Let's get the Ball Rolling.” The main point is that we have to get started on dealing with climate change, regardless of our views on science or how we get there. We have to agree on getting started.

I am proud of this report and I recommend it to all hon. members.

Corrections And Conditional Release Act
Routine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-292, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Madam Speaker, the bill I am introducing with pride today is very simple. The aim is to take appointments to the National Parole Board out of the hands of the Prime Minister and his patronage and put them under the responsibility of the House of Commons so that they will be non partisan and better reflect a concern for impartiality and ability.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act
Routine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-293, an act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act (Review Committee).

Madam Speaker, along the same lines as the preceding bill, this bill aims to ensure that the members of the security intelligence review committee are appointed by the government, obviously, but with the approval of each of the leaders of the parties with more than 12 members in this House and by resolution of the House of Commons.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a petition to present today which comes from my riding of Mississauga South.

The petitioners draw to the attention of the House that managing the family home and caring for preschool children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its value to our society.

The petitioners also point out, in agreement with the report of the national forum on health, that the Income Tax Act does not take into account the cost of raising children for those families that choose to stay at home and provide direct parental care to their preschool children.

The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to pursue initiatives to eliminate tax discrimination against families that choose to provide care in the home for preschool children.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, Question No. 24 will be answered today. .[Text]

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

11 a.m.

NDP

Peter Mancini Sydney—Victoria, NS

With regard to Unemployment Insurance Act paragraph 3(2)( c ), the “Arm's Length Provision”: ( a ) how many appeals have been filed in the last two years in Cape Breton; ( b ) how many appeals have been rejected, resulting in cases beofre the Tax Committee of Canada; and ( c ) how many of those cases involved “family entreprises”?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby
B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal Minister of National Revenue

The dpartment does not capture information solely for Cape Breton. The data collected are based on the cases hadled by the Sydney tax services office which has jurisdiction for the Cape Breton area. In the last 2 years, 223 requests for determination or appeal had been filed with the Sydney office. Of those 223 cases, 179 decisions were issued. In 124 of the issued decisions, it was determined that the employment was not insurable as the parties were dealing at non-arms's length. During the same 2 year period, 28 of these 124 decisions were appealed to the Tax Court of Canada. The department does not keep statistical information on those cases involving non-arm's length situations that are family enterprises.