Mr. Speaker, perhaps my colleague from Hull—Aylmer wanted to ensure that I had a good audience for my speech. Then again, perhaps he asked for a quorum call because I was talking about the Liberal Party, which claimed to be the great defender of citizens' interests because of its fight to protect personal information even though it failed at the task when it was in power.
Under that party's mandate, more personal information than ever ended up in foreign hands, largely because Canadian banks were allowed to do business with affiliates in the United States. Laws protecting personal information are not the same in the United States as they are in Canada.
Honest citizens were sometimes harassed by foreign parties trying to sell them all kinds of products, especially banking services. Canadian banks allowed their American affiliates to make personal information available. This all happened on the Liberals' watch. I hope that the member for Hull—Aylmer wanted more people to hear my speech. I hope it was not because of the part where I said how poorly the Liberal government performed when it was in power.
The Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-25 in order to protect personal information and privacy. Quebeckers and Canadians can count on members of the Bloc Québécois to defend and protect their interests in committee by having the Privacy Commissioner and the Access to Information Commissioner appear before the committee to explain what is good about the bill and what should be added in order to protect personal information. It is all very well to take action against money laundering, terrorist activities and organized crime, but we must also protect honest citizens who could end up under investigation for nothing.
I will provide some background, since Bill C-25 did not come out of nowhere. Despite the Conservative government's good faith, it did not invent the wheel. One thing is for certain, the Conservatives did not invent Kyoto. Everyone agrees on that.
Bill C-25 is a successor to Bill C-22, which was introduced by the Liberal government and broadened the coverage of the act. Bill C-25 amends Bill C-22. In other words, Bill C-22 made it mandatory for federally regulated financial institutions, currency exchange businesses, casinos and other intermediaries to report suspicious financial transactions. Suspicious financial transactions are cash deposits exceeding $7,500.
The former government's Bill C-22 applied to financial institutions, currency exchange businesses, casinos and other financial intermediaries. The Conservative government is broadening this coverage and therefore increasing the responsibility of all agencies which, in addition to dealing in securities, also deal in other financial instruments, and of all persons and entities engaged in the business of remitting funds or transmitting funds by any means or through any person, entity or electronic funds transfer network, or of issuing or redeeming money orders, traveller’s cheques or other similar negotiable instruments.
We can offer our congratulations to the Conservative government for having extended monitoring activities to include not only banks and institutions that transfer money regularly, but also to other entities that are often not openly included. This applies to electronic funds transfers and businesses that sell or purchase money orders, travellers' cheques and other negotiable items. Thus, monitoring activities have been extended. We do not want these organizations used for money laundering. I think we can support this.
It also extends to government departments and agents that sell precious metals under regulation. Members of the Bloc Québécois pointed out that there is some degree of illegal trade in diamonds and gold, among others, which are not necessarily liquid assets, but are precious metals that can be used as currency in money laundering.
I believe that the Conservative government listened closely and covered these potential complaints from various stakeholders.
Previously, all the entities targeted by the legislation had to contact the centre, under section 83(1) of the Criminal Code, which sets out the obligation to inform the RCMP or CSIS of any property that belongs to a terrorist group. The new bill adds section 8 of the United Nations Suppression of Terrorism Regulations. Those entities must therefore contact the RCMP and CSIS.
The new bill prohibits all entities from opening an account for an individual if that person's identity cannot be established. Not only is there no obligation, entities are in fact prohibited from opening a bank account. The bank must then contact the RCMP or CSIS directly to launch an investigation.
Furthermore, the bill states that prior to doing business with a politically exposed foreign person—a judge, head of state, minister or other individual who has held a specific office—the institution must obtain the approval of senior management before entering into any transaction with the individual.
Thus, one cannot do business with exposed persons from another country or who would be likely to carry out types of transfers or financing for terrorist activities. They are required to obtain specific authorizations from senior management of banks.
In addition, if a Canadian organization does business with a foreign bank, it is required to take measures to ensure that the foreign bank is not a shell bank, to obtain senior management approval, and to set out in writing all transactions.
In short, there is an obligation not only to know with whom one is doing business but also to scrutinize the banks with which one is doing business. Consequently, when a client wants to conduct transactions with foreign financial institutions, the bank is obliged to verify the credentials and to ensure that the sales, transactions or other operations are not fictitious. Its responsibility has been increased.
In the case of electronic funds transfers, the bank or other business must include the name, address, and the client's account number or other reference number, whether sending or receiving such transfers.
Electronic funds transfers are very popular now. The old bill was implemented in 2001 by the former government, which, once again, did not do its job. The new bill has been introduced for a reason. The Liberal government did nothing for five years. It did not manage to bring a bill into being. Obviously, things have changed since then, and significant numbers of financial transactions take place through electronic funds transfers. That is why the government introduced this new bill, which covers electronic funds transfers.
This new bill follows the United States' lead by requiring entities to establish a program to evaluate their ability to detect transactions that involve laundering the proceeds of crime and financing terrorist activities.
That is what the Bloc Québécois has trouble accepting. If we want to do what the Americans do, we should not only do what they do right, but avoid doing what they do wrong. That is why the Bloc Québécois is being so careful. This is about the ability to detect transactions that involve laundering the proceeds of crime. It would be nice to have that ability and to intervene, but we have to make sure we protect personal information.
Obviously, we will not be investigating. As we saw with the Maher Arar affair, we have to be careful with our investigations. Even with bank investigations, we have to be sure we have a situation that requires it. We cannot investigate just for the fun of it. We would risk arresting honest citizens who might find themselves under the microscope because we want to be just like the Americans, who figure that while they are at it, they might as well investigate a whole bunch of people. We must also avoid American-style mistakes, like casting too wide a net. They often proceed on the basis of race, religion, gender and so on. We are better off using a case-by-case approach and having really good reasons for investigating. Otherwise it is too easy to make mistakes.
The members of the Bloc Québécois will continue to defend the interests of Quebeckers and ensure that the Canadian government does not make the same mistakes as the American government. Any investigations with respect to detection must be justified, not conducted without good reason. Any evaluation of certain bank transactions cannot be done carelessly, because this could lead to honest citizens being investigated without cause.
Furthermore, we must ensure that no information on citizens who should not even have been investigated is shared with the United States, or any other country. In short, we must ensure that the Canadian government does not make the same mistakes as the Americans. Once again, only the Bloc Québécois can guarantee this to Quebeckers.
Bill C-25 subjects Canadian banks' foreign subsidiaries to the same rules as the Canadian banks themselves. It was high time, because the Liberals made the mistake of allowing our Canadian banks with foreign subsidiaries to share information, even though foreign laws often do not have the same respect for privacy. This is true of American laws.
To that end, Revenue Canada agents will now have the authority to give the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre any information they receive from another agent, under the Charities Registration (Security Information) Act. The aim of this new authority is to better fight against the financing of terrorist groups through charitable organizations and through businesses that perform electronic funds transfers. Once again, I would like to point out that the registration of charities must be carefully monitored, although charities are normally made up of honest citizens.
That is why the Bloc Québécois will fight tooth and nail for privacy and personal information protection. One may be open to the idea of all categories of organizations being monitored for money laundering, but efforts have to be made to ensure that charities, which bring together law-abiding citizens, not be subject, as they are in the United States, to a systematic analysis of their data bases or have their members subjected to money laundering analyses.
The Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-25, as long as honest citizens, honest Quebeckers are free from undue monitoring by government organizations eager to copy the Americans, who seem to think that, while they are at it, they might as well monitor or investigate just about everyone. We do not want that. That is not consistent with the philosophy of life and values that the citizens of Quebec have chosen for themselves. We want the privacy and personal information of honest citizens to be protected. Once again, they can count on the Bloc Québécois.