Debates of Nov. 3rd, 2003
House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.
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- Criminal Code
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- Criminal Code
The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (capital markets fraud and evidence-gathering), as reported (without amendment) from committee.
November 3rd, 2003 / 3:20 p.m.
Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.
(Motion agreed to)
When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?
Some hon. members
Martin Cauchon Outremont, QC
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-46 on capital markets fraud and evidence gathering has now been returned to us by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights without amendment. I am happy to rise to speak to it on this third reading.
Members are well aware of the crisis in investor confidence in capital markets around the world that resulted from the recent major corporate scandals in the United States. Responding to this crisis has engaged governments at all levels and the stakeholders in those markets in Canada as well as in many other countries.
Bill C-46 addresses one aspect of that response: legislative measures to combat the criminal law dimension of market misconduct. It addresses the federal government's and Parliament's responsibility to ensure that police and prosecution authorities have effective legislative tools and the capacity to use those tools to deter and punish fraud and other criminal behaviour that threatens the integrity of our capital markets and investor confidence in those markets.
Bill C-46 is thus part of a package of enforcement measures that includes the creation of the RCMP led integrated market enforcement teams. As members have heard, these IMET units will focus the combined skills of investigators, lawyers, forensic accounting services and other disciplines on major cases of capital markets fraud. They would be located in our four major financial centres, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary and would add new, dedicated resources to the enforcement of fraud cases that threaten the national interest in the integrity of our capital markets.
Budget 2003 committed the funding required for this federal enforcement effort and also made commitments as to the accompanying elements of the legislative arm of this effort. Bill C-46 fulfilled that second commitment. Those elements comprised four separate areas: first, offences; second, sentencing; third, concurrent federal jurisdiction to prosecute; and fourth, enhanced evidence gathering tools.
Bill C-46 targets capital markets fraud with new offences and sentencing enhancements while at the same time enhancing generally the sentencing of fraud, which is a rapidly expanding and ever more damaging criminal problem, as well as facilitating evidence gathering in regard to all criminal offences.
In the wake of the scandals in the United States and the wide-ranging legislative measures taken in response to them at the federal level in the U.S., known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the federal government conducted a thorough examination of the Criminal Code and consulted with federal and provincial enforcement authorities to see if our offences needed to be strengthened to deal with the same problem.
We found that the responsible authorities agreed that we already had strong and effective criminal laws to deal with capital markets fraud. Both police and prosecution authorities emphasized in particular that there was no need to add more specialized market fraud offences to the Criminal Code and that, rather, this indeed could be counterproductive.
The basic fraud offence in the code, section 380, is the offence most often used in capital markets fraud cases. It is comprehensive, well understood and thoroughly tested and interpreted by the courts. The existing market specific offences are in fact relatively rarely used, although the Criminal Code does have a panoply of such offences, including manipulation of stock market transactions, section 382, and filing a false prospectus, section 400. It also has strong offences covering obstruction of justice and other relevant criminal activity that could threaten the integrity of the capital markets.
Two specific gaps were identified. Bill C-46 addresses both of those gaps. The first of these involves improper insider trading. This misuse of personal advantage and responsibility strikes at the core of investor confidence.
It is already covered by all provincial securities legislation and by the Canada Business Corporations Act, but stakeholders strongly advise that a Criminal Code offence will add an additional and powerful weapon against this damaging activity that threatens the integrity of our capital markets. A criminal offence for serious cases of prohibited insider trading adds the social stigma of the criminal law and more severe penalties for this violation of public trust.
The offence that Bill C-46 will add to the Criminal Code in the proposed new section 382.1 is based on the model found most commonly in provincial securities legislation. It is fashioned to capture only that improper trading conduct that is currently prohibited by the legislation, but with the added mental element required for a Criminal Code offence and a criminal law level of penalty.
The other proposed new offence would seek to encourage employees to report unlawful conduct within their companies and cooperate with law enforcement by prohibiting employment related threats or retaliation against them for so doing.
U.S. and Canadian experience has shown that employees can play an important role in disclosing this conduct to the authorities. It was found that threats and actions aimed at such persons' employment are not adequately covered in the existing offences of intimidation or obstruction of justice. This targeted offence will close this gap. It will address the protection of what is often called whistleblowing in those circumstances where such a deterrent measure is appropriate for a Criminal Code offence, where the threatening or retaliatory action in employment situations is akin to intimidation or obstruction of justice. It will have a broad application to any appropriate case but will be particularly helpful to the enforcement of capital markets fraud cases.
The second component of Bill C-46 is the sentencing enhancements directed at fraud, and in particular, capital markets fraud. The bill will raise the maximum prison term for the primary fraud offence, that is, section 380, from 10 to 14 years. Fraud overall, as noted, is becoming an increasingly more serious criminal problem.
This will address both capital markets fraud and such pernicious fraud cases as major telemarketing frauds. It will also raise the maximum sentence for the market specific offence of fraudulent manipulation of stock exchange transactions from 5 to 10 years. I would note that a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years, which the bill would apply to the offence most often used in capital markets fraud cases, section 380, is, next to the maximum term of life imprisonment, the highest maximum sentence in our criminal law. In addition, Bill C-46 will add certain aggravating and non-mitigating sentencing factors that will point judges to those cases of fraud that need greater denunciation and deterrence, whether they are cases of capital markets fraud or other major frauds that do great economic and social damage to our society.
Third, Bill C-46 will also give federal authorities a role in prosecuting these fraud cases in addition to the existing provincial prosecutorial role and responsibility in these cases.
This addition to the concurrent jurisdiction of the Attorney General of Canada to prosecute certain cases under the Criminal Code is an initiative that has been much misunderstood. It is not, for a start, a constitutional issue concerning the division of powers.
The authority of Parliament to confer such jurisdiction on federal prosecution authorities under the Criminal Code has been unequivocally confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, and Parliament has chosen to do so recently in certain criminal organization offences and all terrorism offences.
As in those cases, the new federal prosecutorial role in regard to capital markets fraud cases will respond to an immediate issue of great national concern.
Nevertheless, the definition of attorney general in section 2 of the Criminal Code reflects the traditional role of the provincial prosecuting authorities in dealing with the prosecution of most crime in their provinces. The federal government respects this traditional role.
The new federal prosecutorial role, created by Bill C-46 would, as noted, focus only on major cases of capital markets fraud that threaten the national interest and integrity of our crucial capital markets.
Moreover, this role would be both complementary and supplementary to the existing provincial prosecutorial role in these cases. The federal government would seek only to add its resources and expertise to help to ensure that these cases could be effectively prosecuted in all provinces.
All government in Canada currently face challenges to prosecutorial capacity. This initiative would help to address those challenges in regard to the national problem of capital markets fraud. To achieve this end, federal authorities have already had productive discussions with provincial prosecution authorities on the core principles of proposed prosecution protocols that would coordinate this partnership effort.
These proposed core principles would affirm the existing and primary role of the provinces in this area and would add federal resources only in a supplementary and a backstop role. These protocols would ensure that there is a coordinated and cooperative approach to the vigorous and effective prosecution of major cases of capital markets fraud.
The fourth and last component of Bill C-46 would facilitate evidence gathering. Federal and provincial law enforcement authorities have long argued for the need of additional production order powers to complement the existing investigative powers under the Criminal Code. Existing search warrant powers under the code allow police officers to search places for evidence, but this judicially authorized production order would add a power to require persons to produce existing relevant information, or to prepare and produce documents based on the existence of relevant information.
This requirement would be directed only at those third parties who are themselves not under investigation and would require the production to the police of relevant information, within a specified period of time, which is under their possession or control whether it is stored inside or outside of Canada.
Bill C-46 would create two levels of production order. First, the general production order would be available in the same circumstances in which a search warrant is now available, with all of the same constitutional and procedural safeguards. Second, the more narrowly targeted specific production order would provide a first step investigative tool. It would be placed on an appropriately lower criminal standard where there would be reasonable grounds to suspect that the information would assist in the investigation of an offence, but it would be limited to specific types of threshold information about which there is a relatively low expectation of privacy.
This would extend only to such general financial information concerning account holders as the name, address, account number, the date an account was opened and its active status. It would not, however, extend to such personal information as the transactions or amounts in those accounts.
While these production order powers would be available in regard to the enforcement of all criminal offences, they would be particularly helpful in the timely and effective gathering of financial information that is the core element in the investigation of capital markets fraud cases.
In conclusion, Bill C-46 has been welcomed and has received the solid overall endorsement of stakeholders in law enforcement, representatives of provincial security regulatory agencies, the securities industry, and from members from all sides of this House.
Together with the commitment of additional enforcement resources through the integrated market enforcement teams, this criminal law enforcement initiative would help to deter and punish fraudulent activity that threatens the integrity of the capital markets that are vital to Canadian economic life. It would help to ensure that those who engage in this socially and economically damaging criminal activity are detected, charged, convicted and appropriately punished.
I would urge all members of the House to support the passage of Bill C-46.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and I note after some 10 years now that I have had to endure speeches such as that, it seems to me that the less the government does with a piece of legislation, the more puffed up it becomes in pronouncing all the great good it will do.
Nevertheless, I want to ask the parliamentary secretary questions relating to the changes that would be brought in by Bill C-46. He referred to them during his remarks, such as this new five year maximum prison sentence for those convicted of employment related threats or retaliation against employees, the so-called whistleblower protection. He also mentioned the 10 year maximum for those convicted of insider trading and the maximum sentence for fraud to be raised from 10 to 14 years.
Presumably, these types of initiatives that the government is undertaking with Bill C-46 would be to deter individuals from resorting to those types of activities, at least that would be my assumption. However, I note that all too often in cases involving white collar crime and in indeed even criminal activity, it is not the maximum or anywhere near the maximum sentence that is imposed by the courts. It is quite the opposite.
In fact all too often--ever since the government, back in the mid-1990s, brought in conditional sentencing, which is a guise and a fancy term for house arrest--individuals who should be sent to jail to at least deter others from those types of activities are instead sent home under house arrest or conditional sentencing.
What assurances can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice offer the House and Canadians that by putting in these maximums that they will provide the anticipated deterrents for these types of criminal activity in the corporate world? What assurance can he give that we will not see merely minimum sentences, or in some cases no sentence at all if we consider house arrest a sentence, being imposed for serious white collar crime?
Paul MacKlin Northumberland, ON
Mr. Speaker, when we look at crime and punishment, it is always a question of trying to get the punishment to fit the crime.
I know that each and every member is caught up by the concept of market fraud and the effect on our country. Overall, it is an incredible problem. In effect, it can destroy our underlying economic fabric if it is not protected, if that integrity is not there, and if the public cannot rely upon that as being so.
In terms of looking at sentencing, not only are we sending in this particular bill a message about sentencing that is indicating how severe we view such activity, but we have learned from the United States experience that we had to do other things to gain the evidence that was necessary. In some cases, if we look at the history of prosecuting crimes of this nature, it has been very difficult to collect the evidence that was necessary and it has occasionally led to plea bargaining situations.
What we have initiated is something very special, in particular dealing with the whistleblowing concept. What we have done here is we have given the employees the protection. If they are prepared to go and meet with regulatory authorities or those who are in law enforcement to deal with this crime, and provide the proper evidence that is necessary, there will be a much more effective process in place to allow the evidence to be properly gathered. The evidence would then be brought properly before a judge to avoid the frequent concept of plea bargaining.
Therefore, sending the collective message of protecting those who will bring the evidence, getting that evidence before the courts and demanding from those courts--by suggesting that we view this type of activity as one that we will not accept--a high maximum fine or imprisonment, then, in fact, the message will get through.
It is vitally important for all Canadians that we make the message very clear that this type of activity of corporate market fraud will not be tolerated in this country.
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
Mr. Speaker, I have one question. What I find amazing is that the government is willing to battle and get tough on corporate crime and that is good news. There is nothing wrong with that.
However, in the meantime, we are putting up with the Liberal government's abuse of tax dollars left and right. When will the government learn to clean up its own house before it goes after corporate businesses?
Paul MacKlin Northumberland, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the government is a responsible government. We have taken a number of approaches to that responsibility. We have a bill that has gone through the House dealing with ethics. It is now in the Senate.
Quite frankly, when we look at corporate market issues, we are taking the same approach. We are making corporations stand up and be accounted for, and be reliable in the eyes of the public. In fact, the security of the capital markets is there because in our longer economic term we need to ensure that our economic base is reliable, secure and does have the public confidence.
Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC
Mr. Speaker, when going over the bill and section 425.1, the so-called whistleblower protection, I find the bill lacking in a number of areas.
If the government wants people to come forward, then it must start protecting those people. This does not protect these people at all. There is no incentive for them to come forward. I am not saying that an indictable offence would interfere with any people coming forward.
When whistleblowers come forward, particularly in the corporate sector and also in the government sector, they need far better protection than what is in this bill. We know of many cases of financial ruin where people came forward with no compensation at all.
Under this bill, why should people have any incentive to come forward when in all likelihood they could be threatened not only with financial and family ruin, but also death? There is nothing in the bill at all that serves to protect these people on the financial scale or even on the physical scale. A five year sentence to an individual who tries to intimidate someone is unrealistic for this person to even come forward unless something is put in there.
Paul MacKlin Northumberland, ON
Mr. Speaker, this is only one aspect of what we have as a tool within the Criminal Code to deal with intimidation. However, the intimidation at which we are trying to direct ourselves here is the intimidation within the corporate structure.
There seemed to be a gap where we did not have any ways or means of properly prosecuting those who would intimidate. From an enforcement point of view it is extraordinarily important that we have this additional means of obtaining evidence for these cases. Without the evidence gathering this provides to us, some of the cases will not be prosecuted to the fullest extent that they would be in this case. We are protecting their jobs. We are protecting them from intimidation from their employer.
Respectfully, the hon. member may not be satisfied with that answer, but when we look at the United States situation where there was not whistleblower protection, people still came forward but they came forward at great personal risk. At least in this situation we are making certain that those people who come forward will not do so at their own economic peril. I think that is what the member was really driving at.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to make some brief remarks today on Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code specifically as it deals with capital markets fraud and evidence gathering. I would like to say a couple of things at the outset of my remarks.
The Canadian Alliance as the official opposition will support the legislation, although that does not mean we do not have some concerns about it. I would direct anyone interested in exactly what those concerns are to read them as laid out very eloquently by the hon. member for Provencher, the official opposition's justice critic, in the House during the debate on Bill C-46 on September 29. He highlighted a number of concerns with the legislation. I will not go over them in great detail today.
While we support the bill, it is not without some reservation. I tried to draw the attention of the chamber and indeed the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice just moments ago about one of those concerns. I can say quite honestly that he did not provide any further clarification that would convince me and convince Canadians that by making these changes in Bill C-46 and bringing forward additional maximum sentences it somehow would deter individuals from this type of corporate crime.
As my colleague from Okanagan just said, there are even some concerns about the aspect of trying to bring about some protection for whistleblowers, to try to protect those who would voluntarily come forward and reveal where fraudulent activities are taking place. All we see is a five year maximum sentence deterrent in Bill C-46. It is quite questionable whether that would be sufficient to encourage individuals to come forward or whether more would need to be done to provide adequate protection for individuals so that they would feel confident in coming forward, that their jobs would be protected and their personal safety would be protected.
In all too many cases as we recognize following the disastrous operations of Enron, WorldCom and others in the United States, we are dealing not with millions, tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars, but in some cases we are dealing with billions of dollars of potential fraud. When it gets to that extent, the profitability of that fraudulent activity becomes so huge we could imagine there would be a lot of incentive for those who were committing that type of fraud to keep people quiet. If they could not do it by buying people off, if the people who saw that activity going on inside a corporation had enormous personal integrity and resisted the brown envelope or whatever it was to try to buy their support for those activities, when dealing in those kinds of numbers, there certainly would be the means for people to resort to physical intimidation. In some cases they may even use the threat of death not only to those individuals but to their loved ones.
We want to ensure that whatever steps are necessary to protect those individuals are taken. We want to send a clear message to the corporate sector that where that type of activity is taking place, we as law makers and the justice system in Canada will take extraordinary measures to protect those individuals. Those individuals need to have some assurance that if they come forward with evidence, they and their families will be protected and as my colleague from Okanagan said, not only from financial ruin but that they will be protected from any potential physical harm as well.
As the parliamentary secretary laid out, Bill C-46 does a number of things. It would bring in maximum sentences to deal with those convicted of employment related threats or retaliation, the so-called whistleblower protection. It would increase the maximum to 10 years for those convicted of insider trading. It would also increase the maximum from 10 years to 14 years in cases of fraudulent activity.
As I pointed out, one of our big concerns is that all too often maximum sentences are never imposed. There are innumerable examples that I could give both within white collar crime and other criminal activity in Canada. In response to my question on this, the parliamentary secretary left the impression that by increasing maximum sentences in Bill C-46, we collectively as lawmakers in the highest court in the country would be sending the message to the courts that they should get tough and impose harsher sentences when they convict individuals of this kind of activity.
That is all fine and good, but we have tried that in other cases in the past. Certainly in the 10 years that I have been here, I have seen it time and time again. We in good conscience have believed the government when it has brought forward either new maximum sentences or has increased the maximum sentence allowable for certain crimes. In practical terms however in the real world outside this chamber, those sentences are never used. Because there is no minimum sentence, all too often the judges will award conditional sentences or house arrest for those individuals.
That does not deter criminal activity. People tend to believe it is sending the opposite message. It sends the message that the court system does not believe that the crime is terrible. When we go to the expense of catching the individuals, dragging them through court, gathering and presenting the evidence which sometimes takes years, and the individuals are finally convicted, what happens is they get sent home on house arrest.
That does not provide much of a deterrent especially in those cases which deal with a potential profit of billions of dollars. Individuals will not be deterred from resorting to fraudulent activity and the potential to make billions of dollars by suggesting that if they get caught they will be sent home with an electronic anklet and told to stay inside their homes for a year or two. That will not provide much of a deterrent.
As well intentioned as the bill is, and we will be supporting it, without minimum sentences, I am not convinced that the bill will achieve the goal that all of us are collectively hoping to achieve which is to deter this type of criminal activity. I am not convinced of that. That is one of my concerns.
The second concern that really jumps out at me is the part of the bill that deals with setting up the integrated market enforcement teams led by the RCMP and the funding that will be provided for that. The bill states that the funding will be up to $120 million over five years. As I alluded to moments ago, the problem is that we are dealing with very complex cases of fraud in many cases. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice indicated during his remarks, some of these cases take a long time and a lot of effort. A huge team is involved in gathering the evidence. We are going to move ahead with putting together these integrated market enforcement teams led by the RCMP and we are going to set aside $120 million over five years.
Even a cursory examination of some of the white collar criminal fraud cases in Canada would indicate that some of these individual cases take tens of millions of dollars of resources to investigate. It costs a pile of money for one case.
Again, while I applaud the initiative in setting up these teams, trying to bring the people together, the best people in the country to go after these corporate criminals and to ensure that they are brought to justice, I am not convinced we are going to do it with such a small amount of financial resources. That is the second concern I have.
Perhaps I will wind up my brief remarks on Bill C-46 by suggesting there is great disappointment I think not only for many people in the opposition benches in this chamber over the last number of years, but I would argue for a great many Canadians who are concerned for their personal safety of their families and children. We cannot pick up a newspaper without seeing cases.
I was reading over the weekend about another case of swarming here. A young lad on a bus was attacked by a group of other youngsters. These types of activities are happening all too often.
I have three young children who are all in their 20s now. Regardless of political stripe, I think all members of Parliament, if they are parents, and some are grandparents, would share this concern. I cannot imagine anything worse than to lose a child. I cannot imagine anything worse than to find on any given day that one's child has been threatened or has been physically assaulted.
Yet the government is moving ahead with Bill C-46 to crack down on corporate crime and fraud, which is a worthwhile objective. No one is disputing that. However, it has failed in so many other instances, dealing with the Criminal Code of Canada. It has failed Canadians and their children. It has failed all of us, I am afraid.
I mentioned conditional sentencing as it applies to these crimes. All too often the courts in Canada are applying conditional sentencing, basically house arrest, in some cases for manslaughter, rape, crimes for which conditional sentencing was never intended to be used. Yet we see the courts applying that. It is shameful
As a parent I cannot imagine, if I were to lose one of my children to criminals. Were they to be killed, to me it is semantics whether we call it manslaughter or murder. I know there is a difference. One is supposed to be to prove intent, but the net result is that someone died, someone was murdered whether the intent was there or not.
I hear all the time from my constituents in northern British Columbia that they are sick and tired of a justice system where people are not held accountable or responsible for their actions.
We heard it again in an instance that was brought forth in question period an hour ago by my colleague from Langley—Abbotsford. An individual was drunk, and that was his defence for murdering his daughter. It appalls me that people who commit horrendous crimes are not held accountable or responsible. The punishment does not fit the crime. Despite the assurances of the justice minister, parliamentary secretary and other Liberals, criminals all too often are not held accountable and the punishment does not fit the crime.
I draw the attention of the House to the use of conditional sentencing and that it should not be used for violent crime. I have been fighting against this ever since this administration brought in conditional sentencing six or seven years ago.
Another area where the government could be moving and bringing in changes is to restrict the use of concurrent sentences and plea bargaining. The government could restrict that use and bring in consecutive sentencing where people who are convicted of multiple murders or multiple crimes get sentences tacked on to their prison term for each additional crime. That would provide a deterrent for criminal activity. Concurrent sentencing versus consecutive sentencing would provide a deterrent.
Finally, I cannot resist the urge to mention my colleague's raison d'être these days, the issue of child pornography. My colleague from Wild Rose is in the chamber today. He has fought tirelessly to force the government and urge the government and the Minister of Justice to bring in a law that will prevent any illegal possession and distribution of child pornography.
Simply put, there is no defending the indefensible. It is indefensible that individuals should possess and distribute child pornography. We should have laws in Canada that send a clear message to those who would do so and to the court system that we will not tolerate that. Our society will not tolerate individuals possessing, distributing, making money or exploiting our children, period. Yet we have seen the government fail to bring in that legislation.
I have been in the chamber now for 10 years. If the government wants to be serious about cracking down on criminal activity in Canada, then these are some of the areas in which it could move. We do not see it happening.
I will tell the House that my constituents in Prince George—Peace River are becoming very frustrated waiting for the government to protect our children and protect the most vulnerable in Canadian society.
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's speech. I also appreciate his question about the legislation, which has been asked several times: will it achieve its intent? That is a question we have to ask ourselves every time any kind of legislation comes forward. Will it achieve the intent? Like Bill C-46, will it achieve the intent with whistleblowers? Will it achieve the intent with corporate criminals?
Will we clean up our own house when we deal with corrupt activities within our government? We cannot send corporate vice-executives who are guilty of fraud, or whatever the corporate crime might be, to other parts of Europe to be ambassadors. We just cannot continue down that path. That achieves nothing.
Nothing is achieved when Liberals come up with a bill like Bill C-20, but they will not incorporate a clause in it that eliminates all defences that exploit children, like the illegal use of pornography. The minister continually wants to talk about how the doctors have it, psychologists have it and the police have it in their possession, that it is for a good intent, for the public good, and that we need to have that defence in there. That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about defending children.
I realize the justice minister is a lawyer. I sometimes get the impression that the Liberals want to create more court cases to keep all the lawyers busy. I cannot imagine where they are coming from on all this, but it is just one example after another, as the member mentioned in his speech. He brought up several different issues.
Why can we not be specific about what we want to achieve, so there is no question about the intent?
The intent about child pornography was made here last Tuesday when 100% of the members who were present voted for the motion that favoured developing legislation, which would say that there would be no defence for child pornography when it exploited children, for possession, distribution, or anything. I do not have trouble understanding that. I understand that to mean exactly what it says, and that is the kind of legislation for which we are looking.
Would the member comment on why the minister and the government cannot be more specific and put it in words where most people would understand our intentions loud and clear? We will protect our children. We will protect our corporations. We will protect our taxpayers. We will do the right thing by getting it done without all this legislation that never clearly indicates whether the intent will be met.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I see the Minister of Justice is in the chamber. Perhaps with the unanimous consent of the House he would get up and answer that question. It would be much more appropriate for him to answer the question than for me to try to answer the question.
As I referred to in my remarks to Bill C-46 a few moments ago, a question was posed to the Minister of Justice this very day about this by the member for Wild Rose during question period. All of us, unfortunately, have come to learn that the 45 minutes every day in what is referred to as question period, is referred to as question period and not answer period for a reason. All too often the case is that we are left waiting for answers.
The hon. Minister of Human Resources Development says that except for her. I would have to concur I guess since occasionally she does make some effort to actually address the question and provide an answer. A few of her colleagues do likewise on any given day, and actually do make some effort at answering the questions that the opposition poses. However all too often the opposite is the case.
It happened again today when the Minister of Justice, when asked in question period by the member for Wild Rose about removing any potential defence of the indefensible, any potential defence for the possession and distribution of child pornography, started referring to psychiatrists and psychologists and members of the medical profession and police during their investigations. He did not want to remove any defence because then the police officer who conducted the investigation could be convicted of possessing that child pornography. That is absolutely ridiculous.
I think the Minister of Justice, even though he is a lawyer, has to know that is a ridiculous statement to make. What we and what Canadians are referring to and what parents are referring to is the illegal possession and distribution of child pornography and the exploitation of children.
There has to be a way that we can bring forward laws, as the member for Wild Rose is constantly saying. He has been on this issue for years now. There must be a way that we can draft laws that send a message to the courts that there is no defence for such a thing. There is no artistic merit in exploiting young children, none.
What we are seeing here once again today is an example of the frustration on the opposition benches in dealing with these types of emotional issues. However imagine that we are just mirroring the frustration that we witness every time we go back to our ridings. I know the Liberal members of Parliament in the government must be hearing the same things. The people in Ontario are not that different from the people in Wild Rose or the people in northern British Columbia, where I come from. Today during petitions Liberal members stood and presented petitions on behalf of some of these issues, so it is not that different.
Our country is huge. Yes, Canadians in Atlantic Canada have different opinions from those in British Columbia, as do Canadians in Alberta from those in Quebec, and as do Canadians in the Northwest Territories from those in Ontario, but some things bind us together. The things that bind us together, the values that Canadians hold the dearest and clutch to their breasts, are things like an absolute detest for child pornography. It is something that runs from coast to coast to coast. No one can tell me that someone in rural Ontario, in urban Toronto, in Vancouver or in Fort St. John, where I come from, is going to think any differently about child pornography.
What the member has been asking me, and what I cannot give him an answer to, is why the government will not move in that regard, even when the member brings forward a motion stating that we remove all defence for the possession and distribution of child pornography. The House voted on it and it was unanimously approved but nothing happened.
The government wonders why Canadians cease to vote after a while. It wonders why people are opting out of the political process. It is that frustration that we are hearing being echoed in every corner of the country on so many of these issues.
Nothing is more fundamental than protecting our children. My God, what else is there in the end? Without them our society is not worth living in.