House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was banks.

Topics

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9 p.m.

NDP

Peter Mancini Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do see the need for more prosecutors. I also see the need for more resources to legal aid, as the Canadian Bar Association has called for. I know my hon. friend agrees with me on that.

To go directly to his question, I do think that we need to look at expanding police powers. I do not often agree with the attorney general of Ontario but on some of these comments—

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9 p.m.

An hon. member

He is a Tory, isn't he?

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

September 18th, 2000 / 9 p.m.

NDP

Peter Mancini Sydney—Victoria, NS

I think he is a Canadian Alliance member but I am not sure.

I seriously think that on these issues we have to look at expanding police powers.

The member will know that we have already talked about ways to allow police to sometimes contravene the law in terms of infiltrating gangs. We may have to look at that. Expanding police powers to search, but with the necessary safeguards of judicial warrants, may be a way to go. I am prepared to explore those options.

I hope the Minister of Justice, when she says she is prepared to re-examine the legislation, is being sincere with us. There is no reason to think that she is not and I expect I and my colleague will work together on this as we have on many other issues.

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:05 p.m.

Waterloo—Wellington
Ontario

Liberal

Lynn Myers Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I will begin my remarks by saying that organized crime is a very serious situation. I want to emphasize not only to the House but to all Canadians that the Government of Canada, the justice minister, the solicitor general, the Prime Minister and all members of our caucus take this, as I am sure all members of parliament do, in a very serious fashion.

I can tell the House that with my police background I have attended many conferences and was involved in many situations where this was discussed. We looked at this in a very concerted way trying to determine what exactly should be done in this area. We wanted to bring together partners from across Canada and from all levels of government: provincial, federal, territorial, municipal, regional and others, so we could operate effectively and ensure that the kind of policing, policies and laws that we put in place would work in concert to ensure that the scourge of organized crime would be diminished if not eradicated.

I take this very seriously. I, along with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, was in the Ukraine and Russia not so long ago where they have huge problems with respect to organized crime and the criminal element. It is of grave concern, especially as it relates to Canada in terms of people trying to get into our country and trying to contaminate the very fine country we have.

We need to redouble our efforts in terms of making sure that our borders in that sense are safe and secure so that our Canadians, no matter where they live in this country, are safe and secure, not only themselves but their families as well.

I will take a moment to recap some of things that have been said in the Chamber tonight. We of course heard the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough lead off with respect to this motion. He made some very interesting comments.

However, the one thing that I take a little exception to is the fact that he said we should look to the United States for a template in terms of how to manage this problem. That really is outrageous when we think about it. The Americans have high crime rates, high murder rates and whole inner cities that have given up as result of criminal activity. People are now living in suburbs with walls around them. The Americans, I say with all due respect to the member, are hardly an example for us to emulate. In fact, they are the worst example.

I also want to point out that during the 1997 election the Progressive Conservative Party actually campaigned, and members of his party were elected as a result of campaigning, on reducing the budget by $83 million in this all important area. I think it is fair to say that it is a little disingenuous for him to get up tonight and say that we should be putting in more money when he campaigned on quite the opposite.

We were also treated to the justice critic for the Alliance getting up and talking about things like not having laws in place to keep criminals out of Canada. I want to again make reference to the Ukraine and Russia where I was not so long ago with the minister. I can tell the member that he, as are all those Alliance members, is point blank wrong. There are in fact laws in place. The minister has made it very clear that people who are undesirable coming to this country will not be admitted. Those directions and operations were given concertedly and with great and due diligence.

The members of the Alliance who keep perpetuating these myths should really take a look in the mirror and give their heads a shake and try to determine why they keep perpetuating this kind of nonsense. What they should do is read the laws. They should understand what the laws stand for and how best to implement them instead of the fearmongering that they are so good at doing. Those extremists opposite with their right wing agenda are always trying to stir up Canadians and pit people against—

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

On a point of order, the hon. member for Elk Island.

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:10 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have sat here while the member has been speaking and our debate is not assisted at all by him name calling and saying things about us which, frankly, are not true. I think that you should call him on a point of order. He should be relevant to what we are talking about today, and that is criminal gangs and how to deal with them.

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

As always in a debate there are two points of view, generally speaking, one from one side of the aisle and the other from the other side of the aisle. I too was listening and in my opinion there was not a problem with relevance.

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure which part of my speech the member took umbrage with. I assume it was when I called them extremist right wingers. I suppose that is where he was most upset, but if the shoe fits I suppose he can wear it and I am sure he does.

The other point I wanted to make with respect to the justice critic from the Alliance—

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

At least for the moment, we are not going to bring in through the back door that which we will not bring in through the front door. I would ask the hon. member for Waterloo—Wellington to withdraw the last comment, which had to do with shoes fitting and being worn.

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

I certainly withdraw the shoe from the member's foot.

What I want to say has to do with gun control. We actually listened to the justice critic say—and my head was spinning at this point thinking he could actually believe this—that if the gun control legislation was as good as it was purported to be—and I am paraphrasing here—Mr. Auger might have been spared the danger and the five bullets. I had to think about that for a minute because that really is twisted logic. If one really comes down to the brass tacks of it all, it is twisted logic.

What I would say instead is that what we have in place with respect to gun control is something that the vast majority of Canadians support. The reason they support it is because they know it is an effective tool for the police, for CPIC and for Canadians wherever they live in the country in terms of the reduction of crime. It is a Canadian value. It defines us differently than our neighbours, for example, to the south.

Along with their NRA friends, Mr. Heston, the Michigan Militia Corps, the minutemen and those right wing nutbars that exist in the states, the Alliance members actually counsel people to break the law and not register.

If we had the reverse where people had registered their guns, if we had the Alliance members helping in this regard as opposed to hindering it and dragging their feet as they have been doing over the last number of years, we would have had in place a system that would have worked.

I reverse that and say shame on them for not bringing safety and security to something that not only the police chiefs of the nation endorse but the association of police as well. They should know and recognize that as being something fundamental to the country. They should be proud to do that as opposed to the shameful way they have conducted themselves with respect to this whole gun control issue.

We also heard the leader of the Bloc, with great sarcasm and great mockery, take on the whole business of the constitution and the charter of rights and freedoms that all Canadians enjoy. I had to absolutely wonder where he was coming from. Is that in keeping with the wishes of the people of Quebec? Is that in keeping with the wishes of the people of Canada in terms of our great charter of rights and freedoms, that great document that helps define us as a people and unite us as a nation?

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:15 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Hogwash.

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Listen to the member of the Alliance saying “Hogwash”. Imagine. He does not understand the charter. He would not know diddly-squat about the charter and the rights and freedoms of individuals if he fell over them. He does not understand any of that. The Alliance people have no regard for the individual rights and freedoms of people. They would have us all become monoliths just like they are. We will have no part of that.

For the Bloc leader to go on at length and talk about destroying the rights of individuals was astounding to hear. One would have thought that party would have had a better position when it comes to something as fundamental as our great charter of rights and freedoms, something that is envied around the world, something of which we should be proud, something we should stand up for and defend at every opportunity, and something we all can hold near and dear to our hearts.

We heard the justice minister today and repeat again tonight that she will do everything that is required to ensure that we do not succumb to the scourge of criminal activity and organized crime. She said categorically that we on the government side will ensure that the kinds of measures will be in place that are required in this all important area. The reason she did that is because that is what Canadians want. They want a government to act when required. They want rights protected. They want criminals brought to justice and victims in that sense helped and assisted.

We on the government side are prepared to do that unlike members opposite. If we listen very carefully to their speeches they offered not one solution. All they did was go on about problems, circumstances and situations. They offered not one solution, unlike those of us on the government side.

We have added money to CPIC. We have beefed up the airports in terms of security. We have added a great deal of resources to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We have continued on our immigration track in terms of making sure that we have the money in place and the resources necessary to ensure that we keep criminals out of this great country of ours as best we can in a fashion that is in keeping with what the Canadian people want. We have produced the tangible evidence required by the government to ensure that safety and security are in place.

Is this perfect? Absolutely not. Is it all we can do? Absolutely not. Is there more to do? Absolutely yes. We need to carry on doing the kinds of things required to ensure that organized crime as we know it is eradicated as best we can, given the circumstances in which we find ourselves. That we will continue to do.

We heard the Minister of Justice along with the Solicitor General of Canada say that those efforts will be taken in a meaningful and consistent way in recognition of the charter and the fundamental rights and freedoms all Canadians enjoy. That seems to escape some members opposite. It seems to escape them that it is not always a world of black and white as they would like to portray. Rather, there are nuances and things that have to be considered and weighed. As a government that is precisely and exactly what we are doing. I would argue, given my experience, my background and my knowledge in this area, that is the appropriate way to proceed. I commend the government. I am proud to be part of a government that does so in that kind of concerted and proper way.

If through legislation we require additional tools to assist our police to stop money laundering or to bring into place agreements to pool enforcement agencies between local, regional, provincial and federal—in this case the Royal Canadian Mounted Police—then we should get on with it. We know those are the kinds of things that may need to be done and we are prepared to do them.

We know that there needs to be an effective sharing of information and intelligence among all levels of police across Canada. We need to provide it in a seamless way where instead of jurisdictional tugs and pulls there would be a concerted effort to make sure that knowledge is shared and people act as one when it comes to this all important area.

I will take a little time to briefly outline some of the arrangements that are in place right as we speak to ensure that there is enforcement, co-ordination and intelligence sharing and to make sure that takes place among all partners in the fight against organized crime.

Intelligence and information on crime groups and their activities are the foundation of effective enforcement. We know that and we know that exists. We need that kind of intelligence and information sharing. That is what is used by police to determine what groups or activities impose threats to Canadians and to the Canadian system, the Canadian economic way of life, and indeed the morality of the country for that matter.

Police use this information to set priorities and target their resources so that they have the greatest impact given the resources at hand. Intelligence and this information are together the primary building block in anti-organized crime enforcement.

The Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada was formed in 1966. It is a national organization that links the criminal intelligence units and the Canadian law enforcement agencies in fighting the spread of organized crime. CISC is comprised of a central bureau located in Ottawa in the RCMP and a network of nine counterpart bureaux in the provinces, again in keeping with that kind of co-ordination fanning out into various regions and provinces across this great country.

Currently more than 120 police forces contribute intelligence information to the CISC network. The structure and the computer network help police and other enforcement agencies to share information and co-ordinate action on organized crime across the country. This is important because it ensures that we work together and we work co-operatively.

There is another point I want to make and that is co-ordinated enforcement. Individual agencies cannot expect to tackle organized groups by themselves. That is impossible. It is much better to bring in a number of jurisdictions at any point in time. By bringing together agencies from a number of jurisdictions, police widen and strengthen the enforcement net. It also allows diverse skills, talents, expertise and knowledge to be brought to bear at once to mutual benefit for all.

A good example of co-ordinated enforcement can be found in the 13 integrated proceeds of crime units established in the RCMP in 1997 as a result of legislation, I might point out, and the good judgment of this government. These units combine the resources and expertise of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; local, regional and provincial police officers; Canada Customs and Revenue officers; crown counsel; and forensic accountants to target and seize the proceeds of crime of organized criminal groups.

The units have seized more than $140 million in criminal assets so far. That is important because it underscores the commitment of the Government of Canada in this all important area.

In the greater Toronto area the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Toronto, Peel and York regional services work together in a number of joint force initiatives aimed at combating national and international organized crime groups. These include a combined forces Asian investigative unit, a combined forces special enforcement unit and a combined forces Toronto integrated intelligence unit.

The units are co-ordinated by the RCMP and have had some very major successes against national and international crime groups. The bust of a multimillion dollar international debit and credit card fraud ring in Toronto last year is one example.

A number of other important joint force initiatives have been developed and led by provincial governments and police as well. The Quebec government has created an anti-biker gang squad based in major cities throughout the province. These squads are currently operating in Montreal, Quebec City and the Outaouais region. They are comprised of provincial and municipal officers and the RCMP.

In Ontario there is a special squad of the Ontario Provincial Police that cracks down on biker gangs. This OPP squad works with the RCMP, the criminal intelligence service in Ontario and 16 local police services. It gathers intelligence and executes enforcement actions aimed at larger and growing outlaw biker gangs.

I could go on in this area in terms of what the government is doing and what our police services across this great country are doing. Do we need to do more? Absolutely. Must we do more? We absolutely must and we will.

At the end of the day we will work co-operatively together. We will ensure that we work in partnership in a seamless way to ensure the safety and security which Canadians repeatedly over the history of this great country have taken for granted. We will do so in an effective way that underscores the commitment not only of the justice minister and the solicitor general but of all members of the government who ensure and want to ensure that Canadians feel safe and secure in their homes. We will ensure that we do not take for granted the kind of law and order system that we have, but rather that we work concertively along with everyone in the House to ensure that Canadians have the best enforcement system possible, given the resources at hand and the priorities underlined, to ensure that we do the right thing and to ensure that we have safety and security not only for individual Canadians but for their families and for the country.

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member opposite on his remarks. He outlined very clearly, in my estimation, that he has a grasp of the scope of the problem, as I think have most members who have risen in the House and participated in the debate. What is prevalent throughout his remarks unfortunately when he talks of co-operative approach is a very partisan approach. He never hesitates to point the finger and to point the blame elsewhere.

The evidence is clearly before us. Although there have been initiatives taken by this government and previous governments to attack this problem, the problem persists. The problem expands. It is a testament to the scope and the magnitude of the problem that we are here. In spite of all of these initiatives and in light of scarce resources the problem is getting worse.

Dialling up the rhetoric, pointing the finger or engaging in polluting the air during this debate with this poisoned partisan attitude does not further the debate at all. In fact it exaggerates the problem. If the hon. member is sincere about this co-operative approach perhaps he could address his remarks in a less partisan way.

I must admit it was very refreshing to hear the Minister of Justice acknowledge that there are times, certainly pivotal points in the country's history, when the legislative branch has to exercise its superiority with respect to its obligation to the citizenry in using the notwithstanding clause. The one that immediately springs to mind would be an issue pertaining to child pornography. That certainly would be something that would warrant that type of legislative response and the invoking of the notwithstanding clause.

Organized crime, I would suggest, is certainly in the same category of seriousness and of a problem that has such magnitude. Does the hon. member attach himself to the remarks of the Minister of Justice in saying that there are occasions when perhaps they will find the inner fortitude and the strength of conviction to actually use the notwithstanding clause in light of the situation before us? Does the hon. member agree that there are such occasions? I know as a former police officer that he sincerely believes in the rule of law and the need for a strong justice system, but does he believe that there are occasions when the notwithstanding clause is the last possible option? I am not suggesting that it ever be used lightly or with unfettered and unchecked regard, but are there times when his government would be justified in using the notwithstanding clause in our constitution?

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take the justice system of the country very seriously. I know that around the world it is regarded as second to none in terms of what it represents not only for jurisprudence in this country but on international levels as well.

I also take the charter of rights and freedoms, what was signed into law in April 1982, very seriously. I know that all Canadians do as well because it is a defining value which underscores the very essence of what it means to be a Canadian.

I also know that due process of law is fundamental. For Canadians it is something that they not only want but something that Canadians from coast to coast to coast expect us as a parliament and as a government to ensure is in place in a manner consistent with the values and the foundations of the country.

What I do know is that last week the justice minister and the solicitor general were in Iqaluit. They have met with provincial and territorial partners to ensure that we look at this very important program and this very important situation vis-à-vis organized crime. They will be meeting in the next little while in Quebec to ensure that there are ongoing discussions because unlike the Bloc leader who tried to paint it simply as a federal jurisdiction, that is the criminal code, it really is a shared responsibility between the jurisdictions. I was quite astounded frankly at his naivety.

That aside, it is important that we work together with our provincial and territorial counterparts and that we do so in a manner consistent with what Canadians expect from their government, in a manner consistent with the underlying values of freedom, the charter, due process of law and justice for all Canadians.

Organized Crime
Emergency Debate

9:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the hon. member who will be sitting on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

I know he was a member of the Standing Committee on Health. Perhaps he was used to hearing some things about health, but I would invite him to be more realistic, to wake up and to see that the problem is extremely serious.

In particular, I would invite him to read the Canadian Constitution. The hon. member will realize that the criminal code is not a matter of shared jurisdiction. All the sections that are found in the criminal code were passed by the federal legislator, here in this House. This is not a matter of shared jurisdiction. However, the administration of justice is the jurisdiction of provincial legislatures.

We are asking the government to wake up, to look properly at the issue of organized crime and to amend the criminal code to provide real tools to the judiciary, the police and the prosecutors.

This is not an issue of shared jurisdiction. There is only one entity that can amend the criminal code, and it is the federal parliament, all of us here.

I would invite the hon. member to wake up and to take an upgrading course in constitution 101 to learn the difference between a matter of federal jurisdiction and a matter of provincial jurisdiction. Only then will we be able to talk and listen to the member. Right now, all he can do is smile and strut about the House, but his understanding of the issue of organized crime is nil. It is rather scary and frightening to see what kind of parliamentary secretary the solicitor general has.

Nothing much will happen at the justice committee if the member opposite keeps on talking through his hat, if he knows nothing about the foundation of the Canadian Constitution.

When the constitution was signed—he might even have forgotten his history—who was the Minister of Justice? It was the current Prime Minister, who was then the Minister of Justice.

The then Minister of Justice included section 33 in the Canadian charter, which allows us as legislators in Ottawa to use the notwithstanding clause if we want to deprive a group or an individual of certain rights under the charter. If the legislator included this section in the charter, it was to use it at some point.

That is all we want, and only if necessary. There might be other things to do before using it, but we should not be shutting our eyes and covering our ears like the member opposite is doing.