House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was restitution.

Topics

Standing Up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act
Government Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 5:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud).

Bill C-21 was introduced in the House on May 2, 2010 by the Minister of Justice. In fact, it is identical to Bill C-52 which was introduced during the second session of this Parliament, and did not become law because of prorogation, which we are very familiar with around here, on December 30, 2009.

The intent of the bill is to help crack down on white collar crime and increase justice for victims through measures that include a two-year mandatory minimum sentence for fraud over $1 million, additional specified aggravating factors for the court's consideration in sentencing, a new type of prohibition order, new obligations on the judge with respect to restitution orders, and a new type of impact statement to consider in sentencing.

The fraud provisions of the Criminal Code were most recently amended in 2004 in response to global impact of corporate scandals associated with companies such as Enron, Tyco and WorldCom. These amendments created a new offence of improper insider trading, increased the maximum sentence for the offences of fraud and fraud affecting the market from 10 to 14 years, and established a list of aggravating factors to aid the courts in sentencing.

The federal government also announced it would create a number of integrated market enforcement teams composed of RCMP officers, federal lawyers and other investigators, such as forensic accountants, to deal with capital market fraud cases.

Now the question is, with all of this supposed action on the part of the government, why are we not seeing results? Why are these fraud schemes still being uncovered?

We have to go back a number of years. I think most people have heard of Charles Ponzi and Ponzi schemes, but there are still a lot of people who are not familiar with the concept. A very large percentage of fraud schemes that are uncovered are in fact of this type.

Essentially, it is the use of investors' money that is taken in today to pay off previous investors. What happens is that organizations offer high rates of return and they entice people to give them money. Then, rather than invest the money in proper facilities, they simply use the money to give a promised return to their previous investors. We know that in doing that, eventually things are going to fall apart.

These schemes tend to go along. In some ways they are similar to the chain letter concept that people are familiar with. While the market is expanding, as happened in the 1920s and in the 1990s, these schemes can continue unabated for a number of years before they are found out. Eventually they are all found out because when the market drops, the people who are running the scam do not have the funds available to pay out. It essentially becomes a run on the bank. Everyone wants their money back, and they do not have the liquidity to do it. Basically, they run out of people to invest in their scheme.

In the case of Charles Ponzi, he collected approximately $9.5 million from 10,000 investors by selling promissory notes paying a 50% profit in 45 days. As a matter of interest, Charles Ponzi lived in the United States for a number of years, but there is a Montreal connection. In 1907, Ponzi moved to Montreal and became an assistant teller in a newly opened bank basically servicing new immigrants to the city. The man who owned the bank paid 6% interest on bank deposits, double the going rate at the time.

I emphasize the fact that the success of these schemes is based on people's greed, in that they are offering a very high rate of return. That is something the public should be very aware of. On checking the market and the banks, people will see that the average rate is roughly the same among the banks and institutions. When one institution offers double the rate, then people should be suspicious that something is wrong.

Even today, if one financial institution comes out with an offer that is higher than the others, people should not be lining up to buy that investment. People should be questioning why the institution would offer a higher rate of return. Perhaps it is short of money and may not be able to pay investors back.

In this case, Mr. Ponzi eventually rose to be the manager of that Montreal bank. He found out that the bank was in serious trouble because of bad real estate loans. Does this sound familiar? This was in 1907, in the last century, not in 2007. The bank was funding interest payments not through profit on investments, but by using money deposited in newly opened accounts. The bank eventually failed. The owner ran away to Mexico with a large part of the bank's money. This is how Mr. Ponzi got started. At the end of his career, I believe he died penniless and was not able to hide his ill-gotten gains.

However, that is not the case with the modern versions of the Ponzi scheme, in the sense that the schemes we see now are sophisticated and are planned well enough in advance that the money, as one of the members mentioned earlier, is sent off to tax havens. In 1907, Mr. Ponzi probably did not have the wherewithal to take his ill-gotten gains and get them off to Panama, Switzerland, or other tax havens. Perhaps he even believed that his scheme would never end. Maybe he misunderstood what he was doing.

The same cannot be said for an investor like Bernard Madoff, who essentially stole $65 billion. We are not talking about millions; we are talking about billions, $65 billion. This is a guy who opened the stock exchange on a routine basis. He knew all the players. He was an insider. He was a guy who was approached for advice.

Ten years before Bernie Madoff was arrested, there were attempts to gain the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States with information. It was well documented before the House of Representatives in the United States last year when Harry Markopolos detailed the whole sordid history. Ten years prior to that he had worked for Rampart Investment Management in Boston and his boss asked him whether he could duplicate Madoff's strategy. He said that the funds police each other. In the competitive world of business, competitors watch each other. It was not a surprise to other competitors in his field that he could produce returns because it is to be expected that some funds will out-perform others, but to do it on a consistent basis, month after month, year after year, raised red flags.

Somewhere along the line, Bernie Madoff's fund should have had a loss. At least once over a 10 year period, he should have shown a loss. Even the best of funds that go up on a routine basis do not go up forever. If the sector the funds are invested in does well, it will do well for maybe six months or a year, but it will not do well each and every month, year after year. Bernie Madoff's fund raised a red flag.

Harry Markopolos figured this out very quickly. He gave information to the SEC, but it did not listen to him. The SEC on several occasions checked Bernie out. It investigated his funds annually and stated that his returns were on the level. The SEC, the cop that was supposed to police the fund, did not do its job. It did not do a proper report, and this allowed this ponzi scheme to continue unabated year after year. Meanwhile, more people and organizations bought into the fund. This shows that deregulation has created a big problem in the United States.

Members will know that in the 1920s, after the stock market crashed, the president of the day was looking for somebody who could regulate the financial institutions and the stock market on Wall Street. Many members will know that he recruited none other than Joseph P. Kennedy, who had made large amounts of money in the wild and woolly unregulated markets of the 1920s. Justifying his appointment of Mr. Kennedy, the president said something to the effect that it took a thief to catch a thief. A lot of the rules put in place under Mr. Kennedy stayed in place for many years.

The system operated fairly well under those rules until, during the Bush years, Republicans adopted a philosophy of deregulation. The whole idea was to deregulate world markets. All financial institutions had to go global, and the way to do that was to have super financial institutions.

We saw this happen more or less in Canada when the current Conservative government was in opposition and the Liberals were in power. Canadian banks were trying to get the government to deregulate, which would have allowed them to swallow each other up and get bigger.

To the Liberal government's credit, it did not do go this way. That is why the current Conservative government is not in the mess that it could be in right now. I am sure the Liberals were all for deregulation, but had they had their way we could be in as big a mess as Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, or any of the other countries that opted for a deregulated environment.

A big part of the puzzle is to deal with this deregulated environment and try to pull the whole system back under some kind of control. The United States is doing that. It is starting to re-regulate huge sectors of the investment industry, the banking industry, in an effort to combat this type of activity. In spite of that, the American system over the last 10 years had a much better track record than the Canadian system. All we have to do is look at the number of bad guys that the Americans put in prison over the last few years and compare it to how many the Canadian system put in prison. We would have to look long and hard to find anybody who ever went to jail in Canada for white collar crime and fraud. There may be one or two, but that is about it. We are talking about single digits.

In the United States, several hundred people were put in jail for their white collar crimes, including the people who ran WorldCom and the people who ran Enron. Conrad Black, a Canadian who committed his white collar crimes in Canada, was not touched by Canadian authorities. In fact, he was eventually prosecuted and put in jail by the American system, the same system that spawned Bernie Madoff and the Ponzi scheme and the same system that is now attempting to re-regulate itself.

In Canada, a parallel country, we were not very aggressive on enforcement and the prosecution of these white collar criminals, judging by our record, and we are not looking at re-regulating. So I would say we have a long way to go. The government is bringing in this bill, which we will be supporting to get to committee as we did the last time before the bill died after the House was prorogued, but remember that this is just a small part of the whole puzzle that the government should be dealing with. The government should be looking at setting up some sort of task force to look at re-regulation. No doubt it will, in view of what is happening in the United States.

We also have to look at tax havens. We had a very comical situation here last week. We were debating the implementation of a free trade deal with Panama, which is on the tax haven list of the OECD and a list in France indicating that it is a tax haven; 350,000 private companies are hiding money in Panama and the government is talking about getting a free trade deal in place with Panama when even the Americans will not do it because Panama will not sign on to the OECD protocols about exchange of financial and banking information. On the very day that this was happening, The Globe and Mail carried an article about an employee of a Swiss bank who left the bank and went to France with computer disks containing several thousand accounts. But 1,800 Canadians are on that list. The government was somewhat embarrassed, because there were these 1,800 people who, by the way, had to invest a minimum of $500,000 in the Swiss bank.

They were flat-footed because they do not have the answers. They have not done anything on cutting down tax havens and trying to stop tax evasion. They have a moratorium. Two years ago when a similar bank employee from a Liechtenstein bank walked away with computer disks and went to Germany and sold them to the German government, Canada found that there were 100 people from Vancouver on the list. What happened? They were given amnesty.

The Conservatives say that if anybody wants to come in and admit they have money in Panama or someplace they should not have it, they are free to do a voluntary reporting and the government will not do anything to them. It will not even tap them on the wrist. If they pay the back taxes, they are home free. Is this any kind of message to be giving people out there, telling them that they will have an amnesty if we catch them?

Now we have 1,800 people whom we have uncovered, not because of all this police activity, but because of a bank employee.

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6 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will have to stop the hon. member there, as his time has expired, and open the floor for questions and comments. The hon. member for Kitchener Centre.

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6 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the comments of my colleague across the way. I have some interest in the subject. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and we have been studying organized crime for quite some time.

Interestingly, we have discovered that white-collar crime, including a whole host of fraudulent schemes, is being carried out by organized crime from within Canada. People have described our existing laws as too lax to deal with this development.

We have also discovered that organized crime, ironically, is committed by organized criminals, sophisticated people who are driven by the profit motive, and who are not just drug-addled unfortunates.

I am wondering if my friend would agree that, when dealing with organized, profit-driven, sophisticated criminals, deterrence is effective, and that we should therefore be increasing the penalties for such crimes.

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6 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Manitoba government recently cracked down on the Hell's Angels, a criminal gang in Winnipeg, and seized the clubhouse and their assets under the proceeds of crime laws. Certainly, in the last 20, 25 years we have seen marginal steps by provincial and federal governments to start dealing with the proceeds of crime. We have always argued that taking away the money supply from the criminals, from the drug dealers, removes the incentive to commit crimes. That is the way to do it.

It was not until the RICO laws took effect in the United States that the government started to make real progress against organized crime families. Had the United States not taken the initiative to step up the law enforcement and prosecutions and put these gangsters in jail where they belonged, it would still have the problem it had before.

Some big improvements have been made, and I think the government should be looking at that whole area. It is not just one bill today, dealing with this area. There is a whole bunch of other areas, including re-regulating the whole financial services industry, perhaps in cooperation with the Americans.

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6 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I want to invite my colleague from Winnipeg to talk again about this important issue of the tax evaders, but I want to ask him about a larger subject. It is my premise that we have to change our thinking. The change has to start right in Parliament in the way we deal with these tax evaders. It goes to the underpinnings of our justice system, our rule of law. It goes right to the heart of democracy.

This is the fourth or fifth list of tax evaders we have received. Last week's list named 1,800 tax evaders who had accounts in Switzerland. Basically, they will walk into the nearest CRA office and get amnesty, the same as everyone else did. No one will be charged.

On the other side of the coin, last night a couple of teenagers were caught stealing a carton of cigarettes from a service station, and they will get 18 months in jail. We have to think. What are we doing as a society? The multimillionaires who steal from the taxpayers will be at cocktail parties tonight. There is no sentence. There is nothing at all. Then we get a couple of kids who steal a carton of cigarettes and they each get nine months in jail.

We have to have a discussion about this. I think this crime is just as heinous as most other crimes, but there is no punishment. If they are caught, they report to the CRA office and they get amnesty. Nobody is in jail for setting up these accounts in foreign countries.

I ask my colleague to talk about it from a larger perspective. What does our society think about, and how does it treat these criminals? I will call them criminals as opposed to people who do other things. What is the difference?

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6:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, there clearly is a double standard here. A half a million dollars is the minimum amount of money that one must put into this Swiss bank, so we are not talking about hundreds of thousands of people here. We should not be giving them the signal that they can have amnesty by walking into any Revenue Canada office in the country, volunteer their information and somehow they will be free and clear. How is that giving anybody the right signal here?

If people are rich, they can simply invest their money in Panama, in Barbados, in Liechtenstein or Switzerland and, if they get caught, they can simply walk in to a Revenue Canada office and they get amnesty. That is a terrible way for the government to be approaching the problem.

The government pretends it is tough on crime. I would like to see some of it because it certainly is not being very tough on crime when it comes to these white collar criminals. I would like to see some changes in the way it operates in this area.

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6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a relatively easy question for my NDP colleague. I just heard our Conservative and Liberal colleagues act as though it were really important to make some headway in the fight against white collar crime. But we get the impression that both of these parties are dragging their feet on this issue, as they are on others.

Could the member speak to us about that?

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6:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line here is that we are dealing with the second reading of a bill that was killed because the House prorogued last year. Suffice it to say that if we have taken it this far, we should at least get the bill into committee and see if we can make some changes to it.

I have been very clear in saying that just passing this bill is not the only answer to the problem. It is a much more complicated area that involves re-regulation, having the regulatory authorities stop hiring their friends in the companies for which they used to work. These regulators are regulating their peers. There should be law enforcement type people running the regulatory authorities with the proper authority to proceed against these white collar criminals.

I mentioned that Conrad Black was not prosecuted and jailed in Canada for his crimes. His deal with CanWest of Winnipeg on the non-competition fees was all a Canadian act. The reality was that it took the Americans to prosecute him on those non-competition fees and put him in jail where he belonged, and should have stayed, by the way.

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6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member has indicated some tentative support for this legislation. I would like to ask him a question about a specific situation.

A few years ago, we had a case of white collar crime involving the Liberal Party and the former Liberal government. It was known as the sponsorship scandal and it was white collar crime. It was fraud. There were some successful prosecutions but very little consequence.

In the member's view, if this legislation had been in place after that crime was committed, would the number of people held accountable and to the extent to which they were held accountable have been more meaningful than actually was the case with the laws that were in place at that time?

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6:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is quite a leading question. I am sure that if we get this bill to committee, the member can ask those questions of the committee members and the experts who will appear at committee as to whether or not, had the law been in place during the sponsorship scandal, the participants would have received harsher sentences than they got at the end of the day.

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6:10 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-21, the purpose of which is to impose harsher sentences for economic crimes.

Since I will probably be the last speaker to rise on this bill this evening, I will give a brief overview and remind everyone that the bill contains the following measures: two-year minimum sentences for acts of fraud exceeding $1 million, and the addition of aggravating factors including financial and psychological impact on victims; failure to comply with professional or licence-based rules; and, the scope and complexity of the fraud, including the time and level of planning that went into it.

The bill also sets out a broader definition of victims. The court may entertain a written statement outlining any impact on the community including losses resulting from the fraud. The term "victims" may therefore denote more than any one individual, or individuals, directly affected, and may include an entire community or particular group that has suffered at the hands of fraudsters.

Other measures are also included in the bill: an option for the courts to make an order for the restitution of property and, failing this, an obligation on the court to explain its decision; and, lastly, the option for the courts to prohibit fraudsters from certain activities.

We agree with the principle of this bill. The Bloc Québécois would like to improve the bill in committee and address a number of major shortcomings. Over the next few minutes, I will speak to a number of these shortcomings.

It can be a lot better. In September 2009, we called for the implementation of concrete measures to fight fraud. Americans are not the only ones to be affected by major fraud; it is happening the world over. Unfortunately, we have our own examples of this in Quebec.

During today’s debate on Bill C-21, several members have given examples of cases of fraud that have occurred in almost all corners of the world. There have been financial scandals in Quebec including the Cinar affair, Norbourg— a sadly notorious case—and Earl Jones, whose acts have laid bare weaknesses in the current system’s ability to monitor and fight crime. When we broached the subject, instead of rallying behind us, the Conservatives immediately decided to put forward their own measures. We are of course in favour of some of these measures, but we do not understand why it seems as if the job was botched and done in a panic for the purpose of looking after their own interests, while the victims are simply asking the government to act, and to act quickly.

We will probably never be successful in completely eradicating fraud, which never stops. While listening to the news earlier on Radio-Canada, I heard that the Insurance Bureau of Canada just issued a warning about a fresh wave of fraud affecting auto insurers, and that the IBC decided to warn its insurers. An investigation had shown a spike in the number of completely staged car accidents. People are deliberately having car accidents in order to make fraudulent insurance claims. It is probably not brand new, but there is apparently a wave of this hitting the industry right now.

When I was a journalist, I covered an event based on information obtained by the police. In fact, after noticing that the water level of a lake had risen—it was an abandoned pit—cranes regularly went and dragged out cars from the bottom of that lake. People had pushed their cars in there in order to claim insurance. Thus, there is nothing new under the sun.

It will be tough to completely stop these acts of fraud. At least if we manage to put concrete measures in place—and I believe that some of my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois have referred to such measures here over the course of the day—that that will have a dampening effect on these financial scandals.

On September 2, 2009, the Bloc Québécois introduced a series of measures to improve the system and make crimes harder to commit, easier to detect, and subject to tougher penalties. A comprehensive approach is needed in order to understand, and effectively fight, this type of crime. In response, a couple of days later ,on September 16, the government came up with a bill which was supposed to include minimum sentences, aggravating factors and the option for the courts to make an order for the restitution of property. That was Bill C-52, which is now Bill C-21.

This bill contains very few measures and will be only minimally effective. I will speak a bit later about the measures favoured by the Bloc Québécois. In this the bill in its current form, the Conservative’s primary measures include minimum sentences. They have no deterrent effect, just as in other areas. Acts of fraud over $1 million are rare. The Minister was unable to cite a single case of major fraud for which the sentence handed down was less than the suggested two years. In fact, 6- to 7-year sentences were generally handed down in these cases.

The courts already took into account the aggravating circumstances that have been included here. So this addition does not change much. Almost all, if not all, the aggravating circumstances listed in this bill were included in the Vincent Lacroix decision, which sadly is a well-known example. It makes you wonder whether the Conservatives just copied and pasted the decision because they told themselves that was what they needed to do.

Therefore, the judge in this case had the tools at his disposal. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We must improve the situation and put an end to such financial scandals instead of redoing what has already been done. It would not change much. A bill that contains the same measures that judges are already using will not help fraud victims.

Restitution orders already exist. They are broader in scope in Bill C-21, but experts have raised concerns about the feasibility of these measures in practice. I am not an expert, but I know that committee members from all of the parties will be able to question these experts about all of the proposed measures.

The part of the bill that restricts the activities of convicted offenders is interesting. But that, too, is at best an existing practice whose scope has been broadened.

Thus, Bill C-21 is missing the most important measure, that is, abolishing parole after only one-sixth of the sentence has been served. We have been calling for that for quite some time. When I say “we”, I mean that is what the people of Quebec want. I am not deaf and blind to what is happening in the rest of Canada, where people have also been calling for that, but especially in Quebec, because of the cases mentioned earlier—Norbourg, Earl Jones, Cinar—people are particularly aware of and angry about the fact that, although the sentence might appear harsh, someone can be released after serving just one-sixth of the sentence. That is the main source of frustration.

Despite Bill C-21, Earl Jones and Vincent Lacroix will be able to benefit from this mechanism to get out of prison before having served a sufficient amount of their sentence. We know that minimum sentences do not solve this problem. We limit any room to manoeuvre for the judge who has to examine all the circumstances of the crime. Just because someone appears before a judge for committing a crime does not mean there are no extenuating circumstances. The judge needs enough room to manoeuvre to give an accused who is eventually found guilty four years in prison for precisely what happened and the role he played. Another person involved in the same crime might end up with 7, 8 or 10 years because the circumstances were not necessarily the same. We have to give the judge this room to manoeuvre so that he or she can use a balanced approach.

When we impose minimum sentences, there is no room for second thoughts. Regardless of the extenuating circumstances, a person who commits a crime and is found guilty will be given two years in prison, while under the current system he might have done a bit better than that. Depending on the case, we might be too strict or not strict enough, especially when minimum sentences are involved.

We are not addressing tax havens either. We heard that a few times in the speech before mine. That is where the fraudsters hide their loot. What point is there in ordering restitution of the hidden money when we are not addressing the issue of tax havens?

The Bloc Québécois has prepared a six-point plan to deal specifically with white-collar crime. They are effective measures. We also want to restore the confidence of victims and citizens in general. This confidence has been clearly undermined for two main reasons. I spoke earlier about release after serving one-sixth of a sentence. There is also the notorious two-for-one credit for time served before sentencing, which makes it possible for someone convicted of a crime to have double the amount of his time spent in preventive custody deducted from his sentence. He will obviously get out more quickly.

On September 2, 2009, to make life difficult for fraudsters and to prevent other investors from losing their life savings, the Bloc Québécois presented a plan to fight white-collar crime. This balanced plan consists of six measures: three of them target crime prevention in particular, two ensure that justice prevails when a guilty verdict is handed down, and one helps victims.

First, we are calling for the complete elimination of release after serving one-sixth of a sentence. If I remember correctly, when this session of parliament began, it was the first thing we asked for because we were right in the middle of the scandal of Vincent Lacroix from Norbourg. We expected all parties in this House to allow us to fast track this legislation. Unfortunately, the Conservatives did not agree.

We are also asking that the Criminal Code provisions on confiscating proceeds of crime be amended to include fraud of more than $5,000.

Next, we are calling for police forces to be reorganized, what concerns us here in the House of Commons and at the federal level being the RCMP, to create multidisciplinary squads specializing in economic crime. At present, the police are extremely competent, but we need to expand the range of skills, including for tax fraud cases, which are now significant and which very often exceed the basic skills of a police force. We have to have experienced accountants and lawyers who are well versed in all the tricks developed by these big fraud artists, particularly given that the fraud is often committed at the international level, using tax havens. The work of a mere investigator is not going to uncover all the ins and outs of these. When fraud artists, criminals, on this scale are discovered, we realize everything they have managed to do with sleight of hand and shell games to defraud thousands of people, often out of millions of dollars. And then we realize that we need to have multidisciplinary squads composed of people with a variety of skills, to be able to explain properly to the investigators exactly how these people have managed to operate. We would not have those people just to uncover things, but also to combat fraud artists who might be tempted to continue in that vein.

We are also calling for banks to have an obligation to report irregularities in trust accounts to the Autorité des marchés financiers and the user’s professional body. We recently had an example of this, and investigators are still trying to wade through this scandal: people used a bank to commit tax fraud, it seems, and to evade taxes, by investing the money in Switzerland. Obviously, we will know more as the investigation progresses.

We are also calling for a review of the amendments that could be made to the Income Tax Act to assist the victims, in particular by introducing a provision to allow victims of fraud to deduct the stolen money from their income, instead of those amounts being considered to be capital losses. Often what we try to do in these situations, as is to be expected, is either to combat the fraud or to arrest the people who committed it. Sometimes, however, we may unfortunately forget the victims. Well, in the measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois, the victims are not being forgotten. And so when we study Bill C-21 in committee, we will ask that we be able to make that amendment to the Income Tax Act.

We are also asking that the Income Tax Act be amended to put an end to the use of tax havens. This practice allows individuals and companies to hide money and avoid paying taxes. Many examples of this have been mentioned here in the House today.

I have a few minutes left to go into detail about my first point. Since 2007, we have been proposing that the chance of parole after serving one-sixth of the sentence be abolished. This idea is not new. It is not that we have just now realized what needs to be fixed. For three years, we have been asking that this measure be abolished as it undermines the credibility of the justice system. Abolishing it would allow us to extend prison sentences for those who commit fraud, even for those who have already been arrested and who are awaiting their criminal trial. It would contribute to restoring—

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6:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

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6:20 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

I was just interrupted by one of my colleagues.

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6:20 p.m.

An hon. member

A Liberal, at that.

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6:20 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Excuse me, Mr. Speaker. This element would allow us to restore our justice system's reputation.

All too often, convictions, even serious ones, lead to only a couple of months of jail time. That was the case with Vincent Lacroix. Although he was given the maximum sentence under the Quebec Securities Act, the Court of Appeal recently determined that the maximum sentence that can be imposed under the act is five years less a day. Mr. Lacroix was therefore able to leave prison after having served only one-sixth of his sentence. And that is when the justice system's reputation went out the window.

What is regrettable in the current parole system in Canada is that it undercuts the assessment the judge made in determining the sentence and tends to discredit the administration of justice in the eyes of the general public, which thinks, often quite rightly, that most sentences are not tough enough.

The Bloc Québécois therefore introduced a simple bill on September 14 for this sole purpose and with no surprises in it. The goal was to get it fast-tracked and give us some good tools to work with. Unfortunately, although the victims wanted the bill and there was a consensus around it in Quebec, the government explicitly refused to fast-track it, preferring to announce instead that it would introduce a bill at some unspecified date and to some unspecified end. So it is vague intention, a wish. We will see what comes of it, but as of September 14 we could have already fast-tracked legislation on parole after one-sixth of the sentence has been served.

Since June 2007, the Bloc Québécois has also been proposing amendments to the Criminal Code provisions on confiscating the proceeds of crime in order to include measures covering fraud over $5,000. Fraudsters who had been found guilty would be required to prove that their property was legally acquired, failing which proof, it would be seized. This would amount more or less to a reversal of the burden of proof. A measure like that would make life much more difficult for criminals of all kinds.

Third, there is the reorganization of the police.

We have a lot of measures, therefore, that could easily be implemented and that have been discussed for a long time. I think that when Bill C-21 is studied in committee, it would be good to put these measures back on the table to ensure that we have a bill with a bit more substance.