Debates of April 21st, 1997
House of Commons Hansard #160 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.
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Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
Mr. Speaker, I really feel that today we are experiencing the British parliamentary system at its best, with the opposition co-operating and the government taking action.
You will recall that, in August 1995, a tragic and totally unexpected event-there had been no warning sign-happened in the riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve when an 11-year-old boy walking back from the toy library, a very popular place in my community, was killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I must say that since that event, people have been mobilizing, first in my community, and then throughout Quebec and Canada. I am very grateful to the minister; I recognize that when dealing with an issue such as this one, there is no room for partisanship among MPs.
I thank the justice minister and his assistant, David Rodier, as well as Yvan Roy, who bent over backwards to keep the dialogue going on a number of legislative measures we thought had to be looked at in order to come up with concrete solutions to fight organized crime.
Before going any further, I would also like to thank my colleague, the member for Berthier-Montcalm, our justice critic, who has been very active and perceptive in supporting the need for an antigang law.
We must be very clear with our fellow citizens. Nobody in this House claims that Bill C-95 will solve all the problems. None of us believes that passing this piece of legislation will eradicate organized crime. But what we are saying is that today we are sending a very strong message to the community as a whole to the effect that neither the official opposition nor the government will give up on this scourge.
One could ask what is organized crime and how come that phenomenon has grown so much over the past few years. I would like to propose a definition that is commonly used by police forces and to remind viewers that whenever we speak about organized crime, we are referring mainly to four elements.
First, there are the proceeds of crime. Naturally, the purpose of organized crime is to make money. The second element is power, control over a specific territory. Then come fear and intimidation. The fourth and final element is corruption.
You could say that organized crime does not exist in every society and you would be right. Some specific, precise conditions are required for organized crime to thrive in a society. There are at least four conditions which make cities like Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg, and the maritimes, good locations for organized crime.
For organized crime to thrive, it needs a wealthy community where it can make money. That is why we talk about corruption in the third world, but in those countries, organized crime is quite different from its usual manifestations in urban environments.
In order for organized crime to take root somewhere, it needs convenient access to major routes. Since it is an import-export trade, organized crime in Canada is concentrated in major centres
across the country. For organized crime to prosper, it needs a free society, a society without dictatorial powers and oppression.
Fourth, and probably the most important, is that, to prosper, organized crime needs a society where there are rights, charters and bureaucracy. We know full well-that is what police officers told me, and probably told the Minister of Justice also-that the greatest ally of organized crime is the charter of rights and freedoms, which has given it some immunity. It has been a powerful tool for organized crime.
Once these conditions are met, organized crime proceeds in phases. Operations of organized crime and its representatives have three different phases. The first one is control of a territory. Control of a territory is gained by intimidation, by generating fear. Such a territory becomes the exclusive turf of a particular group.
After you control a territory, you get into money laundering. I will come back to the importance of money laundering for organized crime. I should mention that money laundering in Canada accounts for about $20 billion, invested in legal or illegal activities.
Once money has been laundered, it can be invested in legal enterprises. In Montreal, to give you an example that I know very well, organized crime has invested mostly in restaurants, bars and the like, although I do not think this is unique to Montreal. I know it is the same in other communities.
So, we welcome the minister's bill. We agree that, as hon. members and as legislators, we cannot give up, that, we must assume our responsibilities and take action on such an important issue.
Of course, we would have preferred to have this debate much earlier, because, as Bloc members, we have been pleading with the Minister of Justice for two years to look into what is going on in Canada's big cities.
Today, we have a bill and we will co-operate. I say to the Minister of Justice that, if I can be of any help, wherever he wants me to speak or whatever he wants me to do, he can count on my full co-operation, because, once again, partisanship has no place in such an issue.
I would like to mention an extremely troubling fact. We have known for three months now that organized crime has changed the way it operates. Criminal organizations must not be underestimated, they are intelligent, well organized, and they have many means at their disposal to carry out their activities.
In the past, these organizations used to limit their operations to 60 days. They were active in counterfeiting and they could detect wire tapping devices, and they were aware that, when their lines were being tapped, the warrant could not go beyond 60 days.
In that sense, I find the measure the minister is providing in the legislation most appropriate, making it not only easier to get warrants to authorize wire tapping, but also not necessary to prove that it is used as a last resort and the only investigative tool available to the police. It will be a lot simpler and easier to get such a warrant.
However, I must say that the way bombs are made now, the way explosives are handled by both major gangs, and I am referring of course to the Rock Machine or the Hell's Angels, is that these people now put in devices to make sure that the bombs will explode. The police had come to be able to identify which gang the bomb came from by the way it was made, and the way the explosive device was put together, the way the bomb was assembled often gave an indication of which group was responsible for it.
To counter that, criminal organizations began to equip explosive devices with a timer so that no bomb ever misfire.
The reason I am telling you this is obviously not to scare people but to make them understand that organized crime and its various manifestations are not something transitory that will go away and that we will not have to worry about a few weeks down the road. The justice minister is right to put forward such a bill because organized crime is a permanent fixture.
Even though we passed Bill C-61 on the laundering of the proceeds of crime, organized crime has prospered.
I think the measures being proposed here will be relevant and effective in helping police forces conduct investigations more quickly and produce much stronger evidence. Ultimately, attorney generals will be able to dig up evidence and initiate legal proceedings. Criminals will stand trial and we will be able to dismantle or at least shake up the higher echelons of organized crime.
This bill contains 10 specific provisions I would like to explain to the people listening to us.
First of all, the essence of this bill is that it creates the new offence of participation in a criminal organization. The bill provides that any offence for which the punishment is five years in prison or more will be deemed a criminal organization offence. Indeed the minister has cast a wide net. The bill covers drug offences, possession of stolen goods, influence peddling, and all other criminal organization offences.
This is a judicious bill that defines criminal organizations as any group consisting of five or more persons. I tend to agree with this number. I know that Reform members have suggested that this number be reduced to three. But I think that, given the way organized crime works, we will be able to meet the objectives of this bill while maintaining this number at five.
So a new offence has been created. The minister did not agree to the request made by the Quebec government to add a provision on crime by association. Since the beginning of this debate, the minister has been extremely reluctant to create a crime by association. I do respect the legal arguments behind his position.
I think we could have created a crime by association, which would have been in compliance with both section 1 of the Charter and the legal guarantees in sections 7 to 14 of same. What is important however is not to determine if I was right, if the minister was right, or if the Quebec government was right, but to dismantle any known criminal gangs.
So, a new offence is created. New provisions concerning explosives have also been added. That was also something the Government of Quebec had requested. The bill says that any person who possesses, uses, or handles an explosive substance for the benefit, in total or in part, of a criminal organization is guilty of an offence, under aggravating circumstance, and liable to imprisonment for 14 years.
I think it is very important to understand how crucial this provision is, because as we know, explosives are very often used to commit crime, especially by biker gangs.
This will now constitute an aggravating circumstance. This notion of aggravating circumstance is already included in the Criminal Code, since, a few years back, we had section 718.9 modified to add a number of factors that, taken into consideration by the judges, lead to tougher sentencing.
If a criminal offence is committed by an organized gang, this will be considered an aggravating circumstance, especially when explosives are used. I think this is an extremely positive measure.
Judges will also be given the possibility of deferring or postponing parole, or restricting eligibility to parole. It will be possible for them-and this is quite clear in the bill-when an individual is sentenced for gangsterism, to order that 50 per cent of the sentence must be served before the individual can be eligible to parole.
I think this measure is extremely important because it encourages informers. One of the extremely modern ways to fight organized crime is to encourage informers to come forward. Nobody in organized crime will ever confess, agree to testify or co-operate if he or she knows that three, four or five months down the road, the person he or she informed against will be free to make trouble for them.
Measures like postponing parole or aggravating circumstances are very important measures because they favour informers, which is a key weapon, often used, to track down organized crime.
Another extremely important measure I talked about a little earlier is that it will be easier to obtain a warrant for electronic surveillance. Nowadays, electronic surveillance is a last resort measure. One has to demonstrate to the satisfaction of a judge that this is the ultimate way to conduct investigations.
Thanks to the provisions of this bill, it will be easier to not only get authorization to proceed with electronic surveillance but also to extend the warrant as much as up to one year. This is extremely important.
Another clause will make it easier and faster to obtain search warrants, for which one needs evidence, of course. The judge will always have to be satisfied. The bill contains an extremely interesting and original provision which provides for the forfeiture not only of the proceeds of crime, but also of vehicles used to commit offences. For example, if a truck is used to commit a crime, it could be confiscated. If a building is used-because the bill also applies to buildings-it could be confiscated.
At present, there are provisions in a number of laws which allow for the forfeiture of property, but it is always done by a court order and it always pertains to property deemed to have been used in laundering of proceeds of crime. We will now be able to confiscate not only property used for the laundering of the proceeds of crime, but also property, such as a vehicle, used to commit a crime.
Another extremely interesting provision is that the judge will be able to issue an order to keep the peace, to refrain from seeing certain persons, from leaving the country, a judicial order against a person if there is sufficient evidence that that person will take part in the commission of a crime by a criminal organization. In other words, it is a preventive measure. The price of not keeping the peace could be an offence punishable by fine or imprisonment.
The final measure the minister referred to concerns information and provides that the solicitor general will table an annual report on organized crime, on what progress has been made, where organized crime is active and, obviously I hope, on suggestions for fighting it.
It is overall an interesting bill. It combines a number of measures called for by police and the Government of Quebec, particularly with respect to explosives.
We must nevertheless realize today that we as parliamentarians have become aware of what is going on in organized crime because people have taken action. Some of them are fellow residents in my riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, including the mother of young Daniel Desrochers, Josée-Anne, who circulated a petition and who used every public forum to awaken parliamentarians.
I think that whoever we are and wherever we sit in this House we owe a debt of gratitude to Josée-Anne Desrochers. The police also acted and created CAPLA, the Comité d'action politique pour une loi anti-gangs. There was all sorts of pressure. As well, there was my colleague, the member for Berthier-Montcalm, who took the lead in this matter and very early on spoke to the minister on a number of occasions. He was very stubborn, obsessive and persevering, I would say. It helped, because his efforts were not in vain. The proof is that today we have legislative measures.
Here are a few indications of the scope of organized crime, showing how its effects are felt throughout society, and how important it is for us, as legislators, to be extremely vigilant.
In 1992, the underground economy was estimated at 5.2 percent of the gross national product, some $36 billion. That is in 1992 dollars. In today's dollars, those numbers would be a lot higher.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that annual losses associated with unrecovered stolen vehicles-which is also one aspect of organized crime-amount to $293 million; $293 million per year for stolen vehicles. A pretty considerable sum.
In 1994, Canadian chartered banks estimated their losses due to fraud at $143 million. Within organized crime, there is a sort of specialization. Some groups have become expert in what we call counterfeiting bank notes and putting them into circulation. I think this is a specialty of Asian groups, who have become quite expert at it. In 1994, the banks reported they had lost $143 million because of fraud.
The most interesting number comes from very knowledgeable people in the field-the police forces-and concerns the income generated by organized crime, which is estimated at $20 billion. The figures for revenues from crime are close to the figures for the Canadian deficit. How much is the Canadian deficit? My colleague for Berthier-Montcalm, who follows these issues closely, could tell me the exact amount, but I believe it is $19 billion. The Canadian deficit is about $19 billion while revenues from crime total $20 billion per year. Is it possible, as legislators, to remain idle when confronted with this fact? I think not.
However, despite all the good things I said concerning the government-and believe me, this is extremely circumstantial-the fact remains that it could have done much more. We made representations to the government. So did other groups, that is police forces and other people involved. We know perfectly well that the next step will certainly be the laundering of money. We know that. The fact that Canada is a money laundering paradise is very well known. Canada is extremely liberal on that matter. This cannot go on.
I must tell you the police community made a very important demand, that is the obligation for the major chartered banks to report any suspicious transaction over $10,000. This is extremely important for those who investigate to be able to trace back the origin of suspicious transactions. Right now, chartered banks must keep a record of all operations that they think are suspicious, but they are under no obligation to report them.
I think it would have been worthwhile to include a legal provision specifying that failure to report such operations may be a punishable offence. I am convinced that banks would have co-operated, because the Canadian Bankers Association has taken some internal measures to detect dubious transactions, but all this must become an obligation.
Police officers had also asked that $1,000 bills be taken out of circulation. Is there anyone in this House naive enough to think that ordinary people walk on the street with $1,000 bills in their pockets? Mr. Speaker, if I you were to do a survey in this place, I am sure that very few of us-including yourself, the pages, the members of this House and the people in the gallery-would have a $1,000 bill in their pockets.
We know full well that the $1,000 bill makes it possible for some people to carry large amounts in their pockets and we know for sure that the $1,000 bill is a boon to organized crime. The Canadian Police Association has asked that the $1,000 bill be taken out of circulation, and that is something that will have to be considered.
Here is another extremely important demand: I was telling you earlier about the need to have banks divulge dubious transactions of more than $10,000, and I think that must not be restricted to the banks. Casinos could also be included in that list, as well as travel agencies and all those businesses trading in luxury items that may eventually be infiltrated and help us trace the criminal chain of command.
These are some measures we are suggesting. I think the justice minister will welcome them. I want to remind him that the reality of organized crime is not temporary. It is a huge threat. To this day, organized crime has managed to poison the life of entire communities, and I am thinking of course about the eastern part of Montreal with what happened in the riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, but it is not only the eastern part of Montreal that is deeply affected by this reality.
This reality is also a daily concern for the people of Saint-Nicolas, who have mobilized to fight this problem. Is it acceptable that bunkers can be built in urban centres, near residential areas, and that people can openly and publicly make money through illegal means and disturb the peace within our communities? I think not. As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to do everything in
our power to stop these people, to hold them accountable, to send them to prison and to launch investigations.
Too often, over the past few years, I heard people say that it was the police's fault, because they did not build good cases. I took part in public debates, open lines and television shows where the easy argument that was used was: "If the police did a better job, it would be easier to fight organized crime".
I think this argument does not withstand scrutiny because each time a police force wants to press charges, there are prosecutors and lawyers who study these cases to see how well the evidence would stand up in court, to determine if it could be challenged or not. It is not just about police resources; it is also about the Criminal Code and giving the courts the interpretation tools they need.
I am not saying that adding police resources is not a good thing. I am thinking of course about the Carcajou squad, in Montreal, and GRICO. It is indeed a good thing. When, in a special squad, you have the means to shadow individuals, the more people you have in your squad, the easier it is not just to build solid cases but to act quickly.
There is something that must never be forgotten. You know how devious the whole field of law is. You know the effect one decision can have on case law and how it can change the course of law. I know that my colleague, the member for Berthier-Montcalm, who is a lawyer, one of the best I would say, but not a criminal lawyer, is aware of the 1992 Stinchcombe ruling. How did this affect case law? It meant that, with respect to disclosure of evidence, the public prosecutor is obliged to file, before the trial, all the elements that contributed to the evidence.
This means that all information regarding a tail, personal notes, videotaped material, everything that contributed to the evidence must be handed over to the defence. This is fraught with consequences, because it forces those building cases to be extremely imaginative, extremely innovative in order to outwit their opponents from one trial or investigation to the next.
On the whole, I think this is a bill that deserves our support. As the opposition, we are going to co-operate. We did so today. We have acted very expeditiously.
I say again to the minister that, whatever we can do, whatever forum he would like to send us to, whatever demonstration we can take part in to ensure that this bill is passed before the imminent election that you know will see us back here as the official opposition, just as we are now, we will co-operate.
If the minister wants us to make representations to the other House to help things along, we are prepared to do so because we have known for several months that partisanship has no place in this issue of organized crime. All my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois agree with me that, when public safety is at stake, when the tranquillity of entire sections of the community are threatened, we have a responsibility to act quickly, not to be complacent.
That is what we have done as the official opposition and that is what we will continue to do in the coming days.
Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, we heard quite a bit about this bill today in committee of the whole. I would like to point to something that was not discussed. Underlying the whole question of the new authorities and powers granted in the bill is the fact that the government and the justice system have failed to deal adequately with the trafficking of drugs. They have failed to deal with it to the point where it is now so lucrative that the biker gangs are warring over who will control it.
What has happened over the last 30 years? Our laws have become too soft. The tools have been taken away from our law enforcement agencies to the point where drug trafficking is so absolutely lucrative that gangs are killing one another over the turf. That is what the turf war is all about, the right to control drug trafficking.
What does that say? That is something that has not been discussed. It is a sure indication of the failure of the justice system to protect our families and our children, to protect every Canadian citizen from that kind of influence.
If we go into any public school in this country, particularly high schools, we can see evidence of what the justice system has failed to do, which is to protect our children against those people who would kill in order to make a profit from drugs. They are turning our society into bedlam.
There is drug trafficking in my little city of Camrose. The children in the high schools are becoming addicted because the government and those before it have eroded the criminal justice system. Laws have been changed. The tools have been denied to law enforcement agencies to the point where we are not fighting what we should be fighting, we are fighting the fact that two groups of criminals are fighting over who is going to control the $20 billion drug industry in Canada.
It is a shame. It is a disgrace. That has not been touched on in this debate. It is something people across the country know about. They are talking about it. They are sending petitions to their members of Parliament about it. They are writing to us about the general climate which allows crime to flourish.
When this bill was introduced we knew it could not be passed with the election looming. We knew it could not be brought before
committee and have witnesses come forward on both sides of the issue so that we could understand if there are flaws and weaknesses in the bill. Those weaknesses are on both sides: weaknesses concerning the police and weaknesses in that it might encroach on the rights of innocent people. We knew that we would not have the time to do that, so we had to agree in order to give the police some degree of enhancement of their operations against criminals. We had to rush the bill through.
I talked to some of the police chiefs and others in criminal justice enforcement. They told me that they need this bill, not because it contains such powerful tools for them, but because for the first time we are introducing into the criminal justice system laws dealing with organized crime.
I asked them if this legislation would enable them to solve the offences which are occurring, the bombings and the murders, they were not sure it would. When I asked that question at least one of them quickly changed the subject and pointed to some of the positive aspects of the bill with which I agree.
The extension of wiretapping could have been done two, three, four or five years ago. It should have been done 10 years ago. Then there could have been investigations into drug trafficking and organized crime. It would have given the police the tools they needed to prevent the spread of drug trafficking.
The peace bond is a good idea. That could have been brought in years ago as well. It could have been brought in to deal with organized crime for the very purpose for which it is being brought in now. It was not brought in. Why? I do not know.
The access to income tax records could have been brought in years ago for the specific area of organized crime.
Then we have offence related property. In other words, we are enhancing the powers of the police and the state to seize the avails of crime, but that will only come after an accused has been convicted of a criminal organization offence. Let us look at the possibility of anyone ever being convicted under this new offence that will allow the police and the state to seize the avails of crime. How easy is it going to be?
First, someone has to be convicted of an indictable offence carrying at least a maximum five year penalty. Then the crown has to establish that the individual was part of a crime organization. Four others will have to be brought into the picture to show that they were associating and one of their primary objectives was to commit this kind of crime and that there had been a series of crimes committed by one or more of the group.
Mr. Speaker, you understand the law. You are a lawyer. You understand exactly what I am talking about when I say to Canadians: Do not hold your breath expecting reams of convictions under this new offence. It is not going to happen.
I hope my prediction is wrong. It reminds me a little of Bill C-27 where we passed this wonderful law that is going to discourage pedophiles from going to other countries to have sex with young children. How is the child sex tourism bill going to be enforced?
We had legal minds appear before the committee on Bill C-27 and they told us that it is a wonderful looking bill and that part of it sounds good and might make people feel safer and more assured that the state is doing something about what is happening in other countries by the pedophiles from Canada, but how is it to be enforced?
When I look at the enforceability of this new section, I have grave concerns. Those concerns were not alleviated as a result of my discussion with the police chiefs to whom I spoke. They pointed to other aspects of the bill and the fact that for the first time legislation was being introduced into the Criminal Code dealing with organized crime and they hoped in the years to come it would be expanded on.
The fact of the matter is former governments were supposed to stand on guard for this country. Every Wednesday we sing our national anthem. We promise in that anthem that we stand on guard for thee, Canada and for the citizens who live in this country.
But have they stood on guard? No, they have not. As I said earlier, drug trafficking is so widespread and the police so unable to deal with it, now we are hoping for laws that will be able to deal with the consequences of our laxness in this area. Murders are being committed, innocent people are dying, the criminals are killing one another off in order to gain control over an illicit traffic that should never have developed to the extent that it has. It has and we are facing that now.
I listened to the debates, as short as they were, on this bill. No one, neither the justice minister nor anyone on the government side nor from the Bloc side addressed the underlying cause of the situation that has brought about Bill C-95. Why not?
Have we embraced it? Have we given up? Is the next step to legalize hard drugs? Is that the next step? We see some people advocating the decriminalization of soft drugs. Is that what we are coming to? We have taken powers away from the police over the years, lightened the offences. Why? People say too many people are incarcerated. The jails are full.
The justice minister attacks us and criticizes us for not supporting some of his bills. We support this bill. We do not know everything about the bill that we should know but we are
supporting it. We support good, sound initiatives by this government.
We support it today and we have in the past. The justice minister has attacked us and criticized us for not supporting some of his bills such as Bill C-41.
We are going to go across the country telling the people in the forthcoming election why we did not support Bill C-41. That is because of the alternative measures that are being extended to violent offenders, the conditional sentencing that is now being used by some judges to allow rapists and violent offenders to walk free.
That is why we did not support Bill C-41 and will not support it. We have asked over and over again for the justice minister to bring in a simple amendment that would deny the courts the power, the tools, to allow violent offenders to walk free through this conditional sentencing clause. He refuses to do it.
Therefore we will not be taking this to the people in this forthcoming election, we are taking it to them now and we are showing very clearly that we are prepared to support good legislation but will not support legislation like the Bloc does that allows violent offenders to walk free. We will not support that.
A Reform government will repeal that bill and we will plug the hole that allows the courts in this land to send rapists back on the street after they destroyed the lives of their victims. When we look at this bill and we look at the whole gamut of the justice system and where we have arrived, the justice minister has become so partisan in his answers today that I saw no reason to go any further.
In the forthcoming election the people will be examining his laws. They will be examining his attitude. They will be examining his response to victims and they will vote accordingly.
This government will be weighed and it is going to be found wanting. Certainly anyone who examines the bills that have come through this House over the last 25 or 30 years knows that something has gone wrong. They do not have to examine the bills at all, they simply have to see the consequences of what has happened to our society where two gangs of thugs are fighting over the turf of the illicit drug trafficking that has occurred in this country.
Our criminal justice system has allowed that to happen. If it did not happen, we would not be asking for this kind of a bill. We should have had these tools in the hands of the police years ago. We brought in a charter of rights and freedoms that now can be used as a shield by many of these people in this illicit trafficking that is destroying the lives of our children, destroying the undergirdings of society.
Therefore we have asked the justice minister and we have asked this government to protect the rights of victims, to protect the lives of our children by bringing in reasonable, common sense laws, by giving back to the police the powers and the discretion to use those powers in a manner they think is in the best interests of society.
I do not know why we do not see a proper response or a better response by the Liberal government and this justice minister. I cannot understand that. We came to the House in 1993 with a promise from the government that it was going to work more co-operatively, it was going to change the way we did business here, more free votes and that kind of thing. We were willing to give it a chance and we have supported every measure we thought was for the benefit of society. Yet the justice minister will stand in this place and accuse us of not supporting a bill like Bill C-41 which allows rapists to walk free.
I do not understand that. It seems the only thing some of the people on the other side understand is a message in neither of the official languages; it is an X on a ballot at election time. We will see.
We will let the people judge whether they feel society is safer than it was before, whether they are better off economically than they were before and whether this government deserves another mandate. Will we see. It will be up to the people.
I heard today from the Prime Minister on television, from the justice minister, and it bothers me so much, the pretence that they do not know when the election is going to be called.
If an election were not evident or imminent we would not be rushing this bill through without having witnesses. All the people the justice minister suggested to us he has consulted we should have heard from. We should have had their opinions. The members of the House, through our committee, should have had those opinions placed on the record so we could determine whether this bill should have been amended and if so in what areas. We should have had that opportunity.
The justice minister pretends that he does not know when the election is going to be called. When they have their war rooms all rented and up and running, when they have everything on the move and he says to this House, as the Prime Minister said on TV two days ago, he does not know when the election will be called, it sounds to me like their GST promise again.
We will be asking the people of this country in the election that will be called within a week or so to weigh the legislation and weigh their own circumstances as to whether they feel safer in society, whether their economic situation has improved or deteriorated. If they feel that the government has done a good job, it deserves another mandate. If they do not then we are asking them very clearly to look at an alternative that will listen and will be guided by the will of the majority so that our Minister of Justice can go to Saskatchewan and can talk to the gun owners, the
law-abiding, hardworking taxpayers, stand in front of a crowd and not be concerned.
He can come to Dauphin, Manitoba where I was last Saturday, where 450 people turned up to learn what? More about Bill C-68. Imagine that, after two years. They are still punching holes in the air out there over what they consider to be a horrible injustice. It is a piece of legislation directed at them rather than at the criminal use of firearms.
We will support this bill. I am hoping that we are not missing anything. The justice minister heard from people on both sides of this issue. I am hoping there is nothing that has been held back from us in terms of their cares, their worries or their concerns. I am hoping that this bill will do the job we all want it to do.
It is really unfortunate that we would allow the drug trafficking situation to get so well entrenched in this country and so expansive. We feel it now in every school. We feel it in every community across this country. The absolute proof of that fact is we now have two bands of thugs fighting over the turf to control this.
I lay the responsibility clearly on the shoulders of past justice ministers, past Liberal and Tory governments that had an opportunity to do something about it but did nothing. Now the wolf is at our door and we think this bill is going to solve it. I hope it does but I am not holding my breath in the expectation that reams of convictions under this new bill will occur.
Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to speak at this stage on Bill C-95. As my hon. colleague for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve has just said, we have co-operated throughout the day and the Bloc Quebecois proposals are what accelerated the process of getting Bill C-95, an aAct to amend the Criminal Code (criminal organizations) and to amend other Acts in consequence, passed as quickly as possible.
For us in the Bloc Quebecois, this is not just a matter that has been debated here for the past week. It is a very important subject. From the start, the Bloc Quebecois has been highly aware of the problem, because it is very much present in Quebec. As far back as 1995, we tried to convince the minister of the importance of legislation on gangs, of anti-biker gang legislation, of legislation to fight the scourge of organized crime.
You will recall that the Bloc Quebecois had to question the government on several occasions sine 1995, that we in the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, had to make speeches in this House in order to convince the minister. Press conferences had to be held.
On several occasions, the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve met with the police chiefs. He even played a lead role in a pressure group lobbying for action to finally be taken in this area, for the passage of legislation against the biker gangs.
You will recall, as well, that we even applied to the Speaker of the House for an emergency debate to be held on the whole matter of motorcycle gangs, organized crime and money laundering. You will recall that we were told there was no emergency. In 1993, the Bloc Quebecois promised its electors to give them real power and to defend their interests and it kept asking the federal government to take action, to do something that would put an end to this scourge.
Though we are not responsible for introducing legislation, because we do not have the millions of dollars and the hundreds of lawyers who work in the Department of Justice-our means are very limited-we proposed in 1995 and later in private bills some definitions and means that would allow us to really go after organized crime and gang leaders. We proposed that in good faith to the government. We tried to force it to do what it is expected to do, and that is to legislate in its own jurisdiction.
But that was not enough. We had to have bombs. How many bombs went off in Quebec before the minister decided to take action? There had to be murder attempts. We had to find dynamite across Quebec. There had to be murders. There were marches in Saint-Nicolas, demonstrations by mayors and public pressure. Some innocent people were injured. Members will also recall that young Daniel Desrochers was killed in that gang war.
I remember very well that one day I asked the minister what he was waiting for to legislate. He kept saying there was no rush and that no legislation was necessary. The same day, we had six incidents connected with the biker war. Bombs exploded, someone was killed, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into a restaurant in Quebec City. Dynamite was found in Longeuil. There was a shooting in Saint-Nicolas. And the minister said there was no rush.
Do you know what convinced the minister that perhaps he should do something? It was when we threatened to amend Bill C-17 which been languishing in the House for at least two or three years, to amend it and include anti-biker provisions. The minister decided to act.
More than that, after repeated questioning in the House, the minister decided to go and see for himself the problems they had in Quebec City. Fortunately, the air in Quebec City had a very salutary effect on the Minister of Justice, since he came back saying there was some urgency. There are those who fell from their horse on the road to Damascus and there are others who went to Quebec City to realize that action was urgently needed on the whole issue of the biker gang war in Quebec.
So the minister came back from Quebec City saying this could not go on, a situation where people stayed home because they were afraid of being shot, because they were afraid of the biker war that was going on in a number of municipalities in Quebec.
The problem is not recent. Back in 1982, a municipality, I think it was Sorel or Tracy, asked both levels of government to intervene, to pass legislation to help them fight what was starting to come to a head, in other words, all the bunkers being built and all the organized crime connected with all this.
The government of the day failed to act, and today's government, the Liberal government opposite, was not doing anything either. It took the members of the Bloc Quebecois, who are here solely to look after Quebec's interests, to make them understand that there was a problem and that immediate action was required.
As I said earlier, we worked together to help the government get the bill passed as quickly as possible, in view of the fact that everyone knows elections are in the wings. We need only listen to the Prime Minister and his wife if we have any doubt at all. However, what surprises me today is that the Minister of Justice says this is just a first step.
We are delighted the Minister of Justice has taken this course, as we have been pointing it out since 1995. We would have liked a bill that went further in fighting crime, but we accept the bill as it is. We will pass it in the hope that we can someday amend it as we would like in order to reach the goal we set ourselves.
The Minister of Justice says it is a first step, a first stage. I asked the minister why, since he said that it was a first stage, a first step, he did not decide to go further. Quite candidly he told me that he will continue to look into this matter and see what he can do. Finally, he does not know what to do as the second, third and fourth stages.
I encourage him to reread the entire private member's bill my colleague from Hochelaga-Maisonneuve introduced. I also suggest he reread the letters I wrote him in 1995 providing certain definitions in order to get to the leaders. Perhaps then the Minister of Justice will include a second stage, which we will soon have in another legislature. I hope that the Bloc Quebecois will be as strong then in order to defend Quebec's interests. I expect the minister will continue to move in the direction of the claims we made in this matter.
I can tell you right off two points the minister should consider for the second stage: the leaders and money laundering. On three occasions today, I asked the justice minister, who says that his bill goes directly after gang leaders, to show me where in Bill C-95 I could find something that dealt directly with gang leader. On three occasions he answered that it did so in a global way, that the bill had to be looked at in a global way. The minister never told me precisely where to look, and I will tell you why. It is because there is nothing in this bill which really deals with gang leaders. True, it is a step forward; true, it gives greater powers to the police; true, these are things the Bloc Quebecois had been demanding; true, we are satisfied and happy, but this bill does not go as far as we would have liked it to go.
I would invite the minister not to misinform the public, but to tell what is truly in the bill; one thing that is definitely not in it is provisions dealing directly with gang leaders.
Among the definitions that the minister has put in this bill, there are certainly good ones. This is the first time that a criminal organization and an association have been defined. These are things that we have been asking for in the House since 1995, and we were told that it was not appropriate, that it could not be done.
Of course, we are very happy to find that in a bill. This is a step forward. The Bloc Quebecois has helped the government, has contributed to the drafting of a new provision that had never been seen in Canada. Thanks to the Bloc Quebecois and its repeated representations, the government was convinced to proceed. We are very happy about that.
However, although a gang and an association have been defined, the provision is drafted in such a way that it is still related to an individual, to the committing of a crime. We know full well that it is not the gang leaders who do the heavy work. It is not the leaders who set the bombs that exploded. It is not the leaders who gunned down an individual. It is not the leaders who threw a Molotov cocktail in the restaurant in Quebec City or who hid the dynamite sticks in Longueuil. It is not the leaders, but people who work for them and who get orders from them. How can we catch the leaders if the bill only helps us catch those who do the work and not those who order it?
On three occasions, the minister has been unable to answer this question, simply because the Bloc Quebecois is right. This bill does not reach all the way up to the leaders, and something will have to be done about that very soon. If we are to put an end to this plague, we must deal not only with the ordinary members, but also with the leaders.
Another issue that would have been very easy for the Minister of Justice to address in the bill, as we repeatedly asked him, is money laundering. As you know, Canada has the dubious honour of being the G-7 country where the most money is laundered every year.
According to the statistics and to judges and law enforcement officers, it is estimated that between $30 billion and $60 billion is laundered in Canada every year. Some judges say $60 billion, while law enforcement officers say between $30 billion and $40 billion, based on how much they have seized, which represents about10 per cent of all the money laundered in Canada. Given that they seize approximately $3.5 billion, $4 billion or $5 billion per year,
they estimate money laundering to represent approximately $30 billion, $40 billion or $50 billion.
But regardless of the exact amount, even it were only $20 billion per year, as my hon. colleague said earlier, this is about as much as Canada's annual deficit. It is a awful lot of money.
To cover all the bases and provide a comprehensive solution to the problem of biker gangs, organized crime and money laundering, provisions dealing with these specific issues could have been included in Bill C-95. For instance, the production and distribution of $1,000 bills could have been prohibited. Canada may be the only country in the world where such large denominations are used. According to our information, no country in the world has banknotes worth as much as $1,000. As we know it is not every John Doe that walks around with a wad of $1,000 notes in his pocket.
My notebook, here, has less than 30 pages, but if it were a wad of $1,000 notes, I would have $30,000 in my hand. It is easy to carry, to pass from hand to hand. Money laundering is easy. We could simply prohibit that. It would have been very easy to include in Bill C-95 a provision about that. It would have been easy also to include in Bill C-95 provisions requiring financial institutions to report any dubious transaction of $10,000 and more. It would have been easy also to require casinos, travel agencies or any other groups which are paid or see carried about huge sums of money of $10,000 and more, to report such facts.
One judge told me that, because of the current state of the legislation, he was unable, despite the bank's co-operation, to find guilty of fraud an individual who went to the bank to deposit a hockey bag full of money. He came in with the bag which he put on the counter saying he wanted to deposit some money. The bag held about $1 million in $50, $100 and $1,000 notes.
Even if the bank did co-operate and even if the police did its work, there are so many loopholes in the Canadian legislation that the judge was not in a position to convict this man. Everybody goes around with bags full of dollars. Everybody does that in Canada. Oh, sure.
It is total nonsense. It makes so little sense that on the very day when we are dealing with Bill C-95, we read this headline in a newspaper: Thanks to the weakness of our legislation, Canada is a paradise for traffickers. This news report says exactly what we have been repeating for two or three years: our legislation is ineffective.
The report says that the Canadian legislation on the laundering of money has so many loopholes that it is extremely difficult to enforce. The Canadian police, and even those the justice minister brags about meeting a couple times, are dreaming of the day when they will have half or even only the quarter of the provisions existing in the United States.
In Canada, we have to prove beyond any doubt that the money is the proceeds of criminal activities. In the United States, the onus is on the accused. Why did the minister not take the opportunity, with Bill C-95, to amend this legislation, when the government can count on the co-operation of all parties in the House to have legislation with teeth, and legislation that would meet the demands of many groups and political parties, like the Bloc Quebecois or the police association?
I will conclude by saying that this is a step in the right direction, but I would have liked the minister to listen more to the official opposition, the Bloc Quebecois. He did not agree 100 per cent with the Bloc, which would have been hard for him to do in this election period. However, I think the Bloc Quebecois made some remarkable progress here and will continue to fight and will still be here, after the next election, to ask the government for some amendments to this legislation, in order to meet the needs and the demands of Quebecers in this area.
The Deputy Speaker
Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members
The Deputy Speaker
Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members
Some hon. members
The Deputy Speaker
I declare the motion carried on division.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed.)
The House resumed from April 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-92, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Application Rules and another act related to the Income Tax Act, be read the third time and passed.
Income Tax Budget Amendments Act, 1996
April 21st, 1997 / 6:25 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker
It being 6.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-92.
Call in the members.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
Income Tax Budget Amendments Act, 1996
The Deputy Speaker
I declare the motion carried.
(Bill read the third time and passed.)
The House resumed consideration of the motion.
Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON
Mr. Speaker, I believe you will find consent to apply the results of the vote just taken to report stage and second reading of Bill C-93.
Budget Implementation Act, 1997
The Deputy Speaker
Is there unanimous consent?