House of Commons Hansard #68 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was opposition.

Topics

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also share the concerns of hon. members with regard to the balance between the need to deal with money laundering and financing of terrorists with the importance of protecting the privacy rights of Canadians.

However, yesterday in debate, during questions and comments, there was a suggestion that somehow, because of the seriousness of the risk associated with terrorism, there should be some kind of a reverse onus and a tougher view on the proceeds of crime. My concern with that is the basic fundamental rights of all Canadians. Even criminals have rights in Canada. We need to protect the presumption of innocence, the rule of law, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution of Canada.

Would the member agree that we have to be extremely careful not only in balancing the need to deal with these crimes with privacy, but also to be absolutely sure that the rights and freedoms of all Canadians are equally protected? As the member well knows, if the rights and freedoms of one Canadian are not protected and defended, then the rights of all Canadians are not protected and defended.

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do think that we must be very careful with the balance we strike and we must respect the rights of all Canadian citizens.

My hon. colleague spoke about the rights of criminals. We often hear people accuse us of protecting criminals. The problem is that, at the time when we protect them, we do not know yet whether they are criminals or not. That is why we have the presumption of innocence in our society to protect everyone, including potential criminals, for the simple reason that we do not know in advance if they are or not.

We must therefore always be very careful in this regard and uphold the basic principles of our democracy.

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to build on the question my colleague, the hon. member Mississauga South, asked. He made reference to an exchange that took place yesterday between he and I about whether we should not expand in Bill C-25 the idea of reverse onus on the seizure of assets purchased from proceeds of crime. Would my colleague not agree that it makes sense in very narrow circumstances?

In the case where a person is a known member of an illegal organization or a criminal organization, for example, the Hell's Angels, and that person has assets such as a luxury mansion, two cars in the garage, the speed boat, all the trappings of luxury, but has had no visible means of income for the last 20 years, why should we not be able to seize those assets and put the onus on him to demonstrate that he did not purchase them with the proceeds of crime? The province of Manitoba introduced legislation like this which would be law had it not been blocked by two Liberal members of the legislature.

Why should we not use this opportunity to give police and law enforcement officers the tools they need to do their jobs? When we see glaring cases of wretched abuse by known criminals, why should the burden of proof be on us to prove beyond a doubt that they bought that luxury home or whatever with the proceeds of crime? Let us put the reverse onus on them and make them prove they did not, that they earned it honestly.

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said previously, I think that at this stage, when we are deciding whether to support the bill in principle, I can say we support it, although I am very aware that a balance must be struck.

This important work should be done in committee. The Bloc Québécois has always absolutely insisted on this. We are not going to sell out our rights as citizens for security reasons, although at the same time, security issues and fighting organized crime are important. They cannot be overlooked. We cannot go entirely in one direction or the other. There has to be a balance, and that is what we want to work on in committee. We will study all the proposals in committee and assess which ones are best for our citizens.

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will narrow down my original question. It was a former member of the Bloc Québécois, Richard Marceau, who promoted the idea that we should be able to seize the assets of a convicted criminal, who is a member of a criminal organization, and put the reverse burden of proof on the individual when it was a proceed of crime.

Would he not agree with his former colleague, Richard Marceau, that we should expand Bill C-25 to do that, while we have this opportunity?

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I have not had an opportunity for a few days to speak with Mr. Marceau. I would have liked him still to be with us here in the House. That would certainly have been good for the people in his riding.

When the proposals are made in committee, we will study them seriously, and if appropriate, we will certainly support them.

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-25 would expand programs that we have already. To some degree, from that experience, we are plugging some loopholes and expanding the use of these programs to deal with money laundering and proceeds of money laundering and with terrorist financing.

As has already been expressed by some of my colleagues from the NDP, we will be supporting the bill at second reading. As opposed to a half dozen or more other crime bills that have come from the government, this bill at least makes sense. It would address some real problems in the country with regard to money laundering by organized crime and terrorist financing from either potential terrorist groups in the country and, as often as not, from outside the country who are using Canada, as we know, mostly as a conduit.

Some of the money is raised in Canada but a great deal of both the money laundering from organized crime and from the terrorist groups outside the country is coming from outside, moving through Canada and on into the United States or back to other countries where it is used to finance terrorism in those countries.

We do have some concerns about the bill and my colleague from British Columbia just raised one of them. We do not seem to be able to figure out a way to accommodate the legal community in terms of the lawyers and the law firms having to report either suspicious transactions or large sums of money passing, mostly through their trust accounts but through their offices. That has been an ongoing problem.

The bill originated, I would say, at least two years ago and maybe three, and has been held up all that time because of the ongoing dispute between the law societies across the country and the federal government. The law society, in a previous piece of legislation, actually challenged the government in court and was successful in having itself excluded under the terminology and provisions of that particular law. We were hoping that this bill, which we hope will eventually become law, would have included at least some meaningful reporting from the legal community.

We will explore this more at the committee to see if there is some possibility of that happening and, if not, an explanation as to why not and also what types of negotiations have gone on between the federal government and the legal community, the law societies in particular, to try to resolve this issue.

One of the very good points about the bill is that it does include the foreign exchange shop. We know from a number of reports that we have had from police sources and our intelligence sources that repeatedly, because they are not covered by the existing law, people have gone to foreign exchange shops, exchanged large amounts of money from one currency into Canadian currency and oftentimes go to another shop to exchange that into another currency, oftentimes U.S. currency, and the money moves on out of the country without any formal recording. This will cease with this legislation coming into effect. It is one of the major holes that we have in our system of protections, both against organized crime and potential terrorist groups, and it badly needs to be plugged.

There is also a concern about the cost of the administration of this program as it is now, and that will become somewhat more onerous, because again, we are bringing in more private sector companies which will be responsible for additional reporting.

I know from my colleague from Winnipeg that there has been some expression of concern from small credit unions about their ability to provide sufficient resources, both in terms of technology and in terms of personnel to meet the requirements of this reporting.

That is another matter that needs to be explored at committee, and in particular, to see if the federal government could be doing something to assist smaller operators who are affected by this legislation. It may be by providing them with a software package that would let them track the funds or it may be suggestions on how small financial institutions can streamline their process and still meet the requirements of the act without making it too onerous for them to perform their responsibilities.

I want to raise one additional problem, which concerns how this information is used, and I will do it in two contexts. The Auditor General, Ms. Fraser, issued a report on the central agency, FINTRAC, which is the intelligence gathering organization in this country that sifts all this information and helps identify whether in fact it is coming from organized crime or from some terrorist activity.

In her report, which I believe was for the 2003-04 period of time, she found that although a number of transactions had been identified and had been, as permitted under the legislation, reported to both the RCMP and CSIS, neither of those agencies appeared to have used the information, either for investigation purposes or for laying charges. That appears to be an ongoing problem and it is of concern. FINTRAC was running in that year on a budget of about $31 million annually. If we are spending that amount of money on this intelligence gathering program, we should be seeing some results.

In the two subsequent years of 2004-05 and 2005-06, again there appears to have been limited use made of this. This is something that will need to be explored at committee to ensure Canadian taxpayers receive good results from their tax dollars that go into these services.

The other context where I would like to address the use of this is the issue of privacy and, in particular, the risk that some of this information will find its way into the United States and, under the patriot act, be disclosed to a number of agencies in the U.S. I have not been convinced that we have closed all the loopholes so that this information, the intelligence and results of the investigation which are badly needed in Canada, does not go into the United States.

Volunteerism
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute and give thanks to the many volunteers in my constituency of Brandon—Souris.

This past summer I attended and participated in numerous festivals, reunions and anniversaries throughout Brandon—Souris and found, each and every time, a core of people who tirelessly give of themselves to promote and showcase their communities.

A recent gathering at the Communities in Bloom awards ceremony reinforces this sense of pride and accomplishment. Winning entries, such as the international honour earned by the town of Boissevain, recognized the meaningful contribution of volunteers.

The city of Brandon hosted the National Special Olympics this past summer and the outpouring of volunteers and the dedication of the local organization committee made this a special time for all participants and made this event one to be envied by all Canadians.

I salute the volunteers in Brandon—Souris who continue to give of themselves for the success and prosperity of their communities and regions. When people across Canada ask me to tell them a bit about my community, this is the example I use to show the greatness of our communities.

Diwali and Eid ul-Fitr
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was truly an honour for me to attend Diwali celebrations with Hindu and Sikh communities.

It was also a great honour to be part of the various Eid ul-Fitr celebrations with Muslims in the Mosques and homes throughout our community. The dedication to faith, family and community is truly inspirational.

It is during the time of Eid that we should all celebrate the positive contribution of the Muslim community to our great country.

I am sure that everyone had a happy Diwali.

I send my best wishes on this joyous occasion to my Muslim brothers and sisters who celebrated Eid yesterday and who are celebrating today.

Eid Mubarek!

Séjournelle Shelter
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, spousal abuse is a major problem and protecting victims is a serious issue. Between 1991 and 2004, 66 women were killed by their former spouses in Quebec. In 2004, there have been nearly 6,000 complaints involving threats, harassment, forcible confinement, assault or attempted murder.

This is why a unique, innovative cross-sectoral project was launched in Shawinigan in the Mauricie region. It is a pilot project to allow better communication between the various stakeholders in the area of spousal abuse. The Séjournelle shelter initiated and now leads the project. It was recently featured on a public affairs program and has even been copied in Europe.

We are still having difficulty protecting the victims of spousal abuse, which is why I cannot understand how the Conservative government can make such significant cuts to women's assistance and alternative justice programs. This is unacceptable.

Arts and Culture
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to honour Bonnie Sherr Klein.

Bonnie has worked as a filmmaker and activist for over four decades. Bonnie's films examine important and controversial topics, including war, the Holocaust and pornography.

In 1987, her career was interrupted by a catastrophic stroke.

Bonnie has returned to filmmaking with her new documentary, SHAMELESS: the ART of Disability, which will screen tonight in the auditorium of the Library and Archives of Canada. This film, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, is her examination of the disabled art community and its attempts to dispel misconceptions about the disabled.

This is part of the reason the New Democratic Party will be bringing forward a Canadians with disabilities act which would produce the sea change required.

I thank Bonnie for making this film and sharing it with all of Canada.

Railways
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, members of the Railway Association of Canada, comprising close to 60 railway companies and their 500 supplier industry supporters, are on Parliament Hill today as part of their annual industry advocacy day, “On Track for the Future”.

Representatives will be meeting with MPs to discuss rail's contribution to our economic prosperity, environment and quality of life.

Canada's railways do 65% of total surface freight activity measured in tonne-kilometres and yet produce only 3% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.

I am sure my colleagues in the House will agree that with the right public policies, freight and passenger railways can do more to de-stress our highways, unclog our borders and ports and improve the air we breathe.

Biotechnology Industry
Statements By Members

October 24th, 2006 / 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, 38% of Canadian women and 44% of Canadian men will be afflicted by cancer. Today, one out of four Canadians die from it and even more so later on as our population ages.

The good news is that great strides are being made in the treatment of cancer, especially through biologic medicines. Canada's biotechnology industry is world class, second only in the number of companies to the United States.

We must nurture an environment in which it will continue to flourish. This means a comprehensive biotechnology strategy stressing innovation, R and D, better intellectual property rules, smarter regulation, effective partnerships, real market access across borders, and most importantly, much greater patient access to new biologics here in Canada.

Cancer and other diseases can be beaten. Let us ensure that Canada's biotech companies remain global leaders in the ongoing battle to alleviate suffering and save lives.

Justice
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, over my time as the member of Parliament for the tri-cities, no issue has been more frequently raised by my constituents than the frustration over the seeming injustice in our justice system.

I and this Conservative government have heard those concerns and we are taking action to make our streets safer.

For example, we have introduced tough new legislation. Bill C-9 will limit or eliminate house arrest for dangerous violent criminals. Bill C-10 will establish a mandatory minimum amount of jail time for gun violence. Bill C-19 will create a new Criminal Code offence for street racing. Bill C-22 will raise the age of protection to 16 and protect tens of thousands of children from sexual abuse.

In our budget we committed millions toward tougher border security and millions more toward hiring new police officers from coast to coast.

The first responsibility of the state, before all else, is to protect law-abiding citizens from those who would do them harm. For 13 years the Liberals did nothing and for 13 years the NDP encouraged the Liberals to soften our already soft laws on crime.

This Conservative government is getting tough on crime and protecting Canadian families.

Saint-Amable Farmers
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 12, 2006, a large delegation of federal officials told farmers, horticultural growers and nursery owners in Saint-Amable that their land, contaminated by golden nematode, would henceforth be part of a regulated zone. The lives of these producers and their families, who have, for the most part, been without any income for months, have been turned upside down. Forced to destroy their crops and abandon their farming activities for an indeterminate period, these people cannot even count on emergency funding.

Today, during a House committee meeting, these producers conveyed their distress and condemned the lack of empathy of this government, which even had the gall to try to postpone their appearance. Instead of silencing these people whose lives are crumbling around them, the Conservatives should provide them with concrete and immediate assistance, as resolved by the delegates of the Bloc Québécois who met in Quebec City last Saturday.