Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.


Rob Nicholson  Conservative


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to
(a) provide a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for a term of two years for fraud with a value that exceeds one million dollars;
(b) provide additional aggravating factors for sentencing;
(c) create a discretionary prohibition order for offenders convicted of fraud to prevent them from having authority over the money or real property of others;
(d) require consideration of restitution for victims of fraud; and
(e) clarify that the sentencing court may consider community impact statements from a community that has been harmed by the fraud.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
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Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

moved that Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
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Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec


Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud). This bill was first introduced as Bill C-52 during the previous parliamentary session.

The bill contains a number of measures to toughen penalities for those who commit fraud.

The bill sends a message to all those who think they can manipulate and mislead Canadians who have entrusted them with their hard-earned savings. Those who commit serious fraud have to suffer serious consequences.

This bill is also designed to improve intervention measures in the justice system with regard to victims of fraud. Serious fraud can have enormous, devastating effects on victims. We have to consider those effects and how to best deal with them.

The measures proposed in the bill will contribute substantially to boosting Canadians' confidence in the ability of the justice system to punish financial crime.

Bill C-52, the previous version of this bill, was well received by everyone. It passed second reading without difficulty and was supported by a number of witnesses at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Hearings were held for some time on the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code and the committee heard from witnesses, particularly seniors' advocates and groups representing victims and police.

Perhaps it would be helpful to remind the House of the current state of the law on the issue of fraud. The Criminal Code already addresses all known forms of white collar crime, from security-related frauds—such as insider trading and accounting frauds that overstate the value of securities issued to shareholders and investors—to mass marketing fraud, theft, bribery and forgery, to name a few of the offences that may apply to any given set of facts.

The maximum penalties for fraud are already high. In particular, for fraud with a value over $5,000, the maximum term of imprisonment is 14 years. It was increased from 10 years to 14 years about five years ago. This is the highest maximum penalty in the code, short of life imprisonment.

Also, aggravating factors for fraud offences, which can be added to the aggravating factors applicable to all offences, are already in place in the Criminal Code. They require the courts to increase the penalty imposed to reflect certain circumstances, for example, if the value of the fraud exceeds $1 million, if the offence involves a large number of victims or if, in committing the offence, the offender took advantage of the high regard in which he or she was held in the community.

Canadian courts have clearly stated that for large-scale frauds, deterrence and denunciation are the most pressing objectives in the sentencing process. The courts have been clear that a serious penitentiary sentence must be imposed for large-scale fraud. We routinely see sentences in the four to seven year range for large-scale frauds. Most recently, of course, Vincent Lacroix was given a 13-year sentence for the massive security fraud he perpetrated in Quebec just a few years ago.

And of course, we cannot forget the case of Earl Jones, also in Quebec. The major Ponzi scheme he operated for decades in Montreal was uncovered last year and that is one reason the public is so interested in this issue. A few months ago, Earl Jones pleaded guilty; in mid-February, he was sentenced to 11 years in jail for having defrauded his friends and family of $50 million.

When delivering Mr. Jones' sentence, the judge stated that he had not only robbed the victims of their money, he had robbed them of their freedom and self-esteem. She also said that he is responsible for irrevocable changes in all the victims' lives and that this has left them all humiliated.

The courts are taking these frauds seriously, but this government believes that still more can be done to strengthen provisions in the Criminal Code, and that would allow Parliament to have some influence.

Parliament can send a clear message that it agrees with this trend toward tougher sentencing. One way of sending this message is to introduce a new mandatory minimum penalty of two years for large-scale fraud with a value over $1 million. Orchestrating and operating a fraud scheme worth more than $1 million is a serious crime and should carry a minimum two-year prison sentence. However, we know that many frauds cheat Canadians out of significantly more than $1 million. I have already mentioned the example of Earl Jones, who defrauded his family and friends of more than $50 million.

Clearly, the two-year mandatory jail term for fraud of at least $1 million must be considered a floor, not a ceiling. That is already the case, and the government agrees that higher-value fraud will certainly result in even higher sentences. Members will recall that Earl Jones was sentenced to 11 years, which is an appropriate sentence.

The two-year mandatory minimum sentence would not have had an impact in the Jones case because that was an outrageous case of fraud. The government wants to send the message that fraud in excess of $1 million, even though not as great as other cases, must also be treated seriously. Establishing this threshold brings a new perspective to fraud that does not greatly exceed $1 million.

The bill would add several more aggravating factors, such as: first, if the fraud had a particularly significant impact on the victims, taking into account their personal characteristics such as age, financial situation and health; second, if the fraud was significant in its complexity or duration; third, if the offender failed to comply with applicable licensing rules; and fourth, if the offender tried to conceal or destroy documents which recorded the fraud or the disbursements of the proceeds.

These aggravating factors reflect various aspects of fraud that are deeply troubling. The clearer Parliament can be with the courts about what these factors are, the more accurately sentences will reflect the true culpability of the offender and the serious nature of the crime.

The bill also includes a new sentencing measure to limit the possibility that a person convicted of fraud could have access to or control over another person's assets. This prohibition order can be for any duration the court considers appropriate. Violating a prohibition order will be an offence. This measure will help prevent future crime, which is better than just punishing the guilty party after the fact.

This bill also contains measures that address the specific concerns of victims of fraud. Restitution is defined as the return or restoration of some specific thing to its rightful owner. It can be a stand-alone measure in an offender's sentence or part of a prohibition order or a conditional sentence.

Restitution orders are particularly appropriate in the case of fraud offences. That is why Bill C-21 states that the sentencing judge in a fraud case must consider an order of restitution as part of the overall sentence for the offender. The court must inquire of the Crown if reasonable steps have been taken to provide victims with the opportunity to seek restitution. This step will ensure that sentencing cannot happen without victims having had the opportunity to speak to representatives of the Crown and establish their losses.

The bill would also amend the Criminal Code to ensure that the effects of fraud on victims have greater bearing on the sentencing. Addressing the needs and concerns of victims of crime has always been a priority for the government. Victims of fraud suffer major consequences, particularly financial, emotional, psychological and social ones. The sentences handed out by a court ruling on a fraud case must reflect the harm caused by the crime.

The bill contains two sets of measures that focus specifically on victims of fraud, one on community impact statements and one on restitution.

In order for the judges to be able to truly measure the terrible impact fraud has had, not only on each victim, but also on the community, the bill proposes amendments to specifically allow community impact statements to be taken into consideration as part of the sentencing hearing.

The current Criminal Code allows the judge to consider previously submitted victim impact statements during the sentencing hearing. The victims prepare a statement that describes the harm done to or loss suffered by them. The statement must be written but can also be read out before the court by the victim during the sentencing hearing. It may also be presented in any other manner that the judge considers appropriate.

In addition to the victim's official statement, the Criminal Code allows the court to consider any evidence concerning the victim when determining the sentence. Judges have given the term “victim” a broad interpretation, so that people other than the direct victim, including communities, can provide victim impact statements. For example, a victim impact statement was made by a synagogue on behalf of all members of the congregation in an arson case. In other cases, first nations bands have made statements describing the impact of a crime on their community.

I think we can all agree that communities, like individuals, feel the effects of crime. The proposals in the bill will make this more fully recognized in the laws.

We are proposing that when a court is determining the sentence for an offender charged with fraud, it should be able to take into consideration a statement by the community that describes the harm done or the loss suffered. The statement must be in writing, must identify the members of the community, must state that the person may speak on behalf of the community and must be shared with both the Crown and the defence.

Jurisprudence has indicated that victim impact statements serve three purposes. First of all, they provide sentencing judges with information on the impact or effect of the offence. Second, they help educate the offender on the consequences of her or his actions, which may have some rehabilitative effect. Third, they provide a sense of catharsis for victims. The provisions in this bill to create a community impact statement for fraud offences share these three purposes.

A community impact statement will allow a community to express publicly and directly to the offender the loss or harm that has been suffered. It will show that the community disapproves of the offender's behaviour. Having the opportunity to describe the impact of the crime will allow the community to begin a rebuilding and healing process. A community impact statement will also help offenders understand the consequences of their actions, which may help their reintegration process.

I would now like to address the provisions of the bill dealing with restitution.

Restitution is made when the offender pays the victim an amount established by the court. The Criminal Code currently provides for restitution for expenses incurred because of the loss or destruction of property, or damage caused to property, as well as pecuniary damages—in relation to a loss of revenue—for bodily or psychological harm. Furthermore, in the case of bodily harm or threat of bodily harm to someone living with the offender, such as a spouse or child, or other family member, the Criminal Code provides for damages for any reasonable expenses incurred by that person for temporary housing elsewhere.

An order for restitution is established during the sentencing hearing of a convicted offender.

It may consist of a stand-alone measure, or be part of a probation order or conditional sentence. It may only be made when the amount is readily ascertainable, and the offender's ability to pay, although not a determining factor, must be taken into account by the judge. Restitution orders are particularly appropriate in cases of fraud, which often entail significant losses for victims.

Our proposals provide that in cases of fraud the sentencing judge must consider an order of restitution as part of the overall sentence for the offender. The judge must give reasons when such an order is not included. Furthermore, the court shall inquire of the Crown if reasonable steps have been taken to provide victims with the opportunity to seek restitution. This step will ensure that sentencing cannot take place until victims have had an opportunity to speak to the Crown about restitution and establishing their losses.

Our proposals also include the addition to the Criminal Code of an optional form to assist victims in setting out their losses. The losses must be readily ascertainable and victims must provide supporting documents for their claims. The courts may continue to accept other forms of information regarding restitution. The form would not be mandatory. It would simply be available to facilitate the process for victims, the prosecutors and the judges.

These proposals should make restitution for victims a part of all fraud cases. These measures, along with the proposed changes regarding community impact statements, are intended to include the perspective of victims of fraud in the sentencing process in a more exhaustive and efficient manner. In that way, we hope that the proposals will improve the victims' experience and trust in the justice system.

This bill will go a long way toward improving the justice system's current procedures in cases of serious fraud. By creating a mandatory minimum sentence for fraud exceeding $1 million, by providing additional aggravating factors in sentencing, by creating a discretionary prohibition order with regard to sentencing and requiring consideration of restitution for victims, this bill represents comprehensive measures that take into account how serious fraud offences are to communities and individuals.

For that reason, I urge all hon. members to support this bill. It gives hon. members an opportunity to show their unequivocal support to victims of fraud. Victims of crime deserve respect from this House. I urge all hon. members to support this bill and to send it to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of which I am a member.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:30 p.m.
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Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his explanation of the features of Bill C-21. I did want to make an observation, a comment, about the value of $1 million. I am not sure why the government has picked $1 million as the threshold. I would like to know how MPs will explain that to their constituents who have been the victims of a fraud, perhaps elderly people living in their ridings who have been victims of a fraud of maybe only $30,000. To that person, that could be his or her whole life savings and could have as big a psychological effect as a case where bigger frauds are involved.

Also, are we supposed to now ensure that the frauds continue until they hit $1 million? If we are trying to investigate a ring of fraudsters, do we have to now ensure they get over the $1 million mark so that they get a minimum two-year sentence?

I would like to ask the minister why the government chose the $1 million mark in the first place and whether it would reconsider it and perhaps make it a little lower.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
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Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the NDP member for his question. As I said in my speech, any fraud over $5,000 is already subject to what we call the maximum penalty, one of the harshest penalties, which is 14 years in prison. The only penalty that is harsher would be a life sentence, as we see in other cases.

In the bill we are proposing, even if the fraud is under $1 million, all of the aggravating factors of the fraud are taken into consideration. Let us take my colleague's example: a 62-year-old woman is defrauded of $50,000. This does not fall into the same category as fraud in the amount of $1 million. However, the aggravating factors are the same. The judge will have to consider the possibility of restitution, the age of the victim and all other factors that caused this person to lose everything. A two-year minimum sentence is not enough for an outrageous case of fraud, so the judge may hand down a sentence of four or seven years, as we can see in the existing jurisprudence.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
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France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague spoke about penalties for the criminal. He spoke about victims. I would like to know what his government plans on doing about tax havens. Everyone knows that fraudsters put all of the money they swindle from young people and everyone into tax havens.

It is all well and good to sentence fraudsters, but what about the money from the tax havens that could be given back to those who were swindled? What do the Conservatives plan on doing about tax havens?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
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Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, my response to my Bloc colleague is as follows.

She may be referring to recent reports suggesting that some 2,000 Canadians, 1,700 of them Quebeckers, maintain Swiss bank accounts in order to evade taxes. How will Revenu Québec recover this money? How will the Canada Revenue Agency recover this money? International agreements—I am not familiar with them all—have been signed. Tax evasion is actually fraud. When a complaint is filed in Canada about a citizen attempting to evade taxes, whether a Quebecker or a Canadian, restitution may come into play. Sometimes, these people have assets in Canada or Quebec that can be seized to compensate the victims of these crimes.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
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Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the bill, section 380.3 deals with the innovation regarding possible restitution. I wonder whether the member or the originators of the bill had given any thought to the possible difficulty in setting up this restitution mechanism, which actually involves a victim filling out a form, submitting it and requiring the court, if it does not proceed with a restitution mechanism, to give reasons why it is not.

I see in it the possible loss of managerial control by the prosecutor. The victims will say they are going to file a claim and the judge will make a decision. This will be inserted into a criminal process and not a civil process. It is unclear what the role of the prosecutor is.

Has the hon. member given any thought to the complexities that might be there for the court, for the judge, in a situation such as this where there does not appear to be a controlling mechanism?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
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Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague who is a fellow member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We work very well together when it comes to fighting white-collar criminals.

I would point out to him that restitution orders already exist. The new element is that victims will have the opportunity to set out or explain their losses. We must not forget that, in some fraud cases, 500 or 600 people have lost money. Thus, they need to be as specific as possible. The judge, as well as the Crown, may use the questionnaire, which will be optional. If it is difficult to quantify the losses, the judge may propose the easiest solution.

What is important is that the judge will be required to state why he or she does not want an order or why there will not be a restitution order.That is the important thing. It is an important change.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
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Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to provide a partial answer to the member for Compton—Stanstead, who got no answer from the government when she asked what the government was doing about tax havens. The fact of the matter is that it is not doing anything.

On the very day that the recent stories appeared about the tax moneys being hidden in Switzerland, the government was trying to implement a free trade deal with Panama, which is a famous tax haven with 350,000 companies hiding money there.

In fact, the government is offering a tax amnesty. Two years ago, when one of the employees of a Liechtenstein bank turned over computer records to the German government, the Canadian government found out that there were 100 Canadians storing money in the Liechtenstein bank. What has it done? It has simply allowed people to declare and pay the taxes voluntarily. Basically, it has given them a tax holiday. It has now found another 2,000. The government got the information from a bank employee. That is where the information came from.

The point is that the government is not actively pursuing money in tax havens.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
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Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would say to my colleague that when there is tax evasion there is also fraud, in some cases, or intent to commit fraud. Therefore, the Canadian government has the authority to charge these citizens, in Canada or in the provinces, including the Province of Quebec, with fraud. At that point, they will suffer the consequences of their actions, of the fraud they have committed. If they are involved in fraud of more than $5,000 or more than $1 million, they will suffer the consequences set out in the law.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
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Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this bill today, Bill C-21. I should have thought more clearly this morning when I got up. It seems that every speaker who has risen on this topic is wearing a white collar. I wish I had the good sense of the member for Yukon, who is sporting a lovely burgundy shirt.

I speak as a lawyer, as a member of Parliament, as a Canadian citizen, as a person who has known victims, organizations, and individuals who have been robbed by white collar criminals. White collar crime costs the Canadian economy dearly, and it costs the good, hard-working citizens who fall prey to fraudsters much more than members may know. They are common, everyday occurrences.

Bill C-21 sends the right message. There is no debate here in the House about this : to crack down on white collar crime is the right thing to do, and it sends the right message. This House and we parliamentarians within it are serious about keeping Canadians safe from fraud. That is perhaps where the non-partisan enjoyment and harmony ends. For fraud is not harmless. Nor is it victimless. It disproportionately preys upon the weak in our society and Canadians will not stand for it.

Bill C-21 recognizes the harm that fraud causes to innocent victims. This bill adds aggravating factors to the list of the judge's considerations during sentencing. In addition to the provisions regarding planning crimes and destroying documents, the provisions in this bill allow a judge to consider the personal circumstances of the victims, namely their age, health and financial situation. The bill includes a measure enabling communities to provide victim impact statements that can then be taken into consideration by judges. It is important to leave this to the consideration and discretion of the judges. Impact statements can include a description of how the fraud has devastated the entire community. For example, a church that has had its savings stolen or an after-school program that was defrauded can make its situation known to parishioners or students in the community. These are some of the good things in this bill.

The bill makes mandatory the consideration of an order for restitution, a chance for victims of fraud to recover some of their lost savings, a chance for reparations to be made. It permits a judge to prohibit offenders from taking any employment or volunteering services in any way that provides them access to, or authority over, the property, money, or financial security of others. In that world, there is no re-victimization by the same perpetrator. These are all good measures.

It is why the bill will go to committee for study. We hope that the committee will improve the bill, for these are good measures that will strengthen the Criminal Code and provide some comfort for the cheated and maligned. But, like many bills in the House, we would not want to leave the Canadian public, or those who have been victimized before by fraudsters, with the impressio that the bill will cure all the evils of the past, the present, and the future. It is woefully inadequate in that regard, and it raises some hopes that may not come to fruition.

I have a couple of categories that came up during some of the question and answer sessions. One of these has to do with restitution. It seems like a good step to provide for restitution. There are provisions in the Criminal Code that allow for victim impact statements. There are provisions in various parts of the country being enmeshed in the Criminal Code that give the authority to take over the assets of someone who has performed an economic crime. These things happen. But the provisions in this act do not, as the member for Scarborough—Rouge River mentioned, make it clear whose role it is, who will be driving the prosecution, and whether the prosecution's goal will be getting the wrongdoer to repay the money. It is unclear. We will hear testimony on this; perhaps it is something that can be worked on.

As has also been brought up, there is the continuing and lurking question of tax havens. We live in an Internet age, a digital age, an age where we cannot find addresses. We used to know what an address was. If they did not have an emergency response number on their box, at least we knew it was farmer Joe, next to farmer Bill, next to the fish market, in our case in eastern Canada. But addresses now may be static Internet addresses. They may be people in ether, people who do not really have a place where we can go and knock on their virtual or other door and get the money they have taken from other people. So tax havens follow that digital reality where fraudsters can hide money away, hard-earned money from Canadian citizens that now rests in foreign jurisdictions.

The bill is a step forward. But there is a question that is very much out there: in almost five years, what has the government done, what has this country done, about tax havens, about people who defraud other Canadians of money, packing it away in other jurisdictions from which it cannot be accessed and returned to its rightful owners?

What the bill lacks is a mechanism for prevention. As a country, as a Parliament, as a government, we are all in the same boat with respect to aims. How common is it that we all have the same aim? We want to prevent white-collar crime, prevent fraud perpetrated on the weakest in our society. The churches, the after-school kindergartens, the minor hockey associations, the women's institute groups, the Catholic Women's League, seniors, handicapped people: these groups are defrauded of millions of dollars every year. How can we as a Parliament strike together to prevent this?

There is the penalty phase. But let us be clear: the bill is mostly about the penalty phase. I don't want to strain the analogy, but if we want to stop violence in hockey we might start with the young, the minor groups. We might talk about how it is not the right thing to do. Things are not always effected in the penalty phase. In the criminal justice world, it is the same.

This bill speaks only about the penalty phase of fraud being perpetrated. Are we going to prevent fraud from happening by a shell game of penalties for people who have already socked the money away? In other words, we are going to penalize people from whom we are not likely to get the money.

In this society of ours, we have a hierarchy of offences. It is recognized in the Criminal Code, which sets out crimes against the person, crimes against property, and even crimes against the state. We consider, and rightly so, that crimes against a person are of a higher magnitude than crimes against property. Crimes against property came from the old west days, when stealing a horse meant stealing someone's livelihood, and if they were stealing someone's livelihood, they were hurting a family. Horse thievery was a very important offence. It is right there in the modern Criminal Code. It came down to us from 1892. It is a very high-ranking offence.

However, people do not go around stealing horses as much anymore. Instead, they go around stealing nest eggs, people's lifelong hard-earned savings, through fraudulent means. How are we to give this offence more importance?

We should look at the whole Criminal Code and consider prevention, as we would with any other crime. How do we stop violent crime? We look at early childhood intervention, the social causes of crime, and the socio-economic milieu in which recidivism is rampant.

How do we get at the prevention of economic crimes? It seems to me that people who commit sophisticated economic crimes through fraud are people who are using electronic and social media as well as means of communication controlled by the Government of Canada through agencies.

Why does the government not come forward with modern methods to prevent the use of regulated tools of fraud? This would go a long way towards stopping fraud from happening in the first place.

The fourth general point in my remarks has to do with something I heard a lot about from this side of the House and in the communities across this country. At one time, I was a mayor, and I know what it is like to have a police force doing important work in a community. Police forces across this country are asking for more resources.

What has the government actually done to help the police? I don't mean on paper, in a speech, or on the five o'clock news. What are the police chiefs saying? What is the Canadian Police Association saying about actual boots on the street? They are saying they do not have enough resources. If we prioritize, however, they will take crimes against the person more seriously than economic crimes against the household income.

With more resources, the police who serve our communities will do more than they can now. The blame for failing to confront the growing elements of fraud lies with the government. After five years of talking about making Canada safe, they have done very little about it. Ask any policeperson who has not been bullied into saying nothing by the threat of withdrawing funds from the local force, city, community, region, or MP.

We are here as opposition members to stand up for good, hard-working policemen across this country who tell us they need more resources to combat fraud. That is what we would like to see.

As to Bill C-21, it has been said many times in this House, and by many members of every party, that there is no greater fraud than a promise not kept. This may sound like just another pithy phrase, but it rings true in the hearts of Canadians, and it has been said many times outside this House.

This bill is an example of a promise not kept. The promise was not kept because it had a different number, and we were prorogued and sent home. We could not do our work. The bill that was just the same as this one did not see the light of day, because the Conservatives prorogued Parliament and sent us home.

That is a fraud because it is a promise not kept. The Conservatives said that they would do something about fraud and white collar crime and then they pulled the plug on the bathtub of Parliament and we went home. This bill is not law because the House was prorogued and it died on the order paper. That was last year. We are talking about the bill as if it is something new.

Canadians who have fallen victim to fraud since prorogation should look across the way and ask this question. If the bill was not contentious and if the guys on the other side were going to let it go through, why did the government prorogue? Then maybe their aunt or daughter's hockey team would not have been defrauded of all that money because the bill would have been perfected, approved in committee and passed. It would be law now. That is the biggest fraud so far in the speech today. The Conservatives did not keep their promise. They did not do anything about white collar crime.

There are other aspects of the bill that hopefully will be tightened up in committee. However, there is an overriding element to the bill that surely we have debated this long enough and the government must see that it must question the insertion of mandatory minimums in the bill as well. The bill provides nothing for the prevention of crime, as I said, only punishments after the fact.

No jail sentence or restitution can make up for the sense of betrayal and hurt that follows a fraud perpetrated. No jail sentence or restitution can restore the confidence or livelihood of a Canadian cleaned out by someone the victim has grown to trust, a new parent without a nest egg, a dying grandparent without a bequest. Prevention keeps Canadians safe. Nothing is more important to the livelihoods of Canadians and nothing in the bill even gives a hint about it.

On the question of mandatory minimums, it is an experiment that has failed in the United States and will not have an effect on white collar crime in our country. The bill provides for a mandatory minimum sentence for a commission of a fraud over $1 million.

One of the early criticisms of Bill C-52, the predecessor, and this bill was that it did not hit the financial institutions hard enough. It seemed to be cherry picking over the smaller crimes that were committed on a smaller basis. We all know in our country already, dare I mention Earl Jones in the province of Quebec, that there are large-scale crimes occurring that take people for more than $1 million either individually or cumulatively. It is not clear to us on this side, and we will see in committee, whether this is cumulative, large enough or why the Department of Justice came up with this amount, but we shall see. We do not want to exclude the larger frauds from a bill that is purported to stop white collar crime.

We will do our best on this side to ensure the bill is wider in scope, more effective and pushes the government to key in on aspects of prevention and tax havens. We on this side, by doing so responsibly, will keep a promise that the people on the other side, known now as the government, failed to keep, which has been the biggest fraud committed in the area of white collar crime in the last five years.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2010 / 1:55 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The member's questions and comments will resume when the House returns to this matter.

Statements by members, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.

The House resumed from October 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 5th, 2010 / 10:10 a.m.
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Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, today I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Newton—North Delta.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-21, particularly given the importance of white collar crime in this country. Over the last few years we have seen more and more of these cases. The Canadian securities administrators note that at least 5% of adult Canadians have been affected in one way or another by this white collar crime situation and that over one-third of these large numbers of victims of fraud are seniors who have invested money and who have obviously been misled. These people take the money and often it is not recoverable.

We also note with interest that corporations have estimated that between 2% and 6% of their annual profits are affected by white collar crime. Over the last few decades this has totalled billions and billions of dollars, so both the average individual in this country and corporations are affected by the activities of these fraudsters who clearly prey, in many cases as I have indicated, on seniors and the most vulnerable in our society.

We welcome the government's legislation, finally, on this and obviously support it going to committee to be reviewed. This legislation has a minimum mandatory sentence of imprisonment for two years for fraud valued at over $1 million. We could get into the issue of where people stand on mandatory minimums, but the reality is that the courts need to be much tougher on these individuals who prey on the most vulnerable and who clearly take people's life savings.

There have been cases recently where these situations have occurred and have caused great personal trauma for people, the Jones case in Quebec, for example. People believe that the individual before them is a reputable individual who tells them they will be able to invest their hard-earned money in certain investments for their retirement. Yet it turns out that they are victimized, and the penalties are not tough enough.

Not only do we have to look at the penalties but we have to look at prevention. How do we stop the fact that 2% to 6% of corporation profits are lost? How do we stop the fact that 5% of Canadians have been victimized? The committee will have to examine it, but it is not simply about the penalties; it has to be about how we can do better in terms of dealing with these kinds of individuals who are preying on our society.

Prevention is obviously important. The bill does not address the issue of the end of the one-sixth accelerated parole provisions for these offenders, which the opposition has called for and certainly the public has called for. There is absolutely no reason why this provision should still be there, and we hope the committee will deal with that issue. That is one of the shortcomings we see in this proposed legislation.

There is no question that the legislation has been a long time coming. It would have been dealt with earlier by the previous legislation that was introduced before Parliament was prorogued. Now we have new legislation, Bill C-21.

The Earl Jones case in Quebec and the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme in the United States are examples of the kind of individuals out there who prey on people and why we need to have tougher legislation. We need to have legislation, in my view, that not only includes the mandatory minimum but also deals with the sentencing issue and the psychological and financial impact on individuals.

The legislation permits victim impact statements after sentencing, but just as it is with an individual who is a victim of a mugging or an offence of that nature, the psychological impacts and the financial impacts in this case are quite significant, which is important. It is important that the courts look at those victim impact statements as well, to see obviously what mitigating factors were involved, but these things have a very long-term effect.

Constituents in my riding of Richmond Hill have been victims of white collar crime, and some of these people are still feeling the effects 10 years later. They should not, but they blame themselves in many cases and ask how they could have been taken in by this individual, how they could have been so gullible. Therefore, they ask what the penalties are, and often it is simply a slap on the wrist, and this is why the mandatory minimum is obviously important. But, it is also important to look at those community impact statements as well.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has indicated its support for this. The Canadian Bar Association has concerns about the mandatory minimum issue, but again we need to deal with the reasons for white collar crimes. We need to deal with what the regulations are. One of the issues the House has been dealing with as well is the issue of the securities commissions, the fact that we have 13 across Canada and the issue of a national regulator. When I was parliamentary secretary to two ministers of finance, we promoted the idea of a national regulator. The government is again talking about a national regulator. It is important because, in trying to keep track of investments and the fact that if people overseas are looking at investing in Canada, it does not make a lot of sense that we have 13 bodies. But there are other issues. There are about 50 entities as well that are also involved in the issue of regulations, as well as dealing with the issues of enforcement, investigation, coordination, et cetera. We have a very bureaucratic system, which is often why these kinds of cases slip through the cracks and why these people are able to advance their particular agenda on individuals who unwittingly fall victim to this.

On the issue of recouping of dollars, when people have taken the money how do we get the money back, if any of it is recoupable? How do we get that in terms of where they have put it? Have they put it offshore? Have they simply spent it? What are the tough penalties to deal with individuals who do this?

In my riding there was an elderly lady who had invested $10,000 with someone she thought was a reliable individual, and unfortunately she never recouped that $10,000. When people are elderly and that kind of savings is gone, it has a tremendous impact. The question again is, what are we doing as legislators not only to deal with the proponents who are involved in this kind of white collar crime activity but as well to prevent it? How can we be tougher in terms of the regulations? How can we be tougher in terms of monitoring? Those are the kinds of things that people want to see. The bill deals with part of that, but it does not deal enough on the prevention side. I hope the committee will do more with that.

The victim restitution issue is obviously going to be extremely important because again that is something that at the end result people are most concerned about, in terms of how that impacted on individuals and their families and their community. How do we get the word out of what happens to these people? Some would argue that a minimum of two years is not strong enough, but from the Liberals' standpoint we do believe that there need to be strong provisions put in place, and if we had not prorogued we probably would have had this a lot earlier. But we have to move quickly on a bill of this nature because this addresses an issue in our society, which is becoming more rampant. When we think of 5% of Canadian adults who have been in one way victimized by white collar crime, that is quite significant. I look forward to future deliberations on this.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 5th, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.
See context


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, obviously Canadians welcome greater measures in our laws, policies and programs to protect them from shysters, but one area the bill does not address is one of the largest categories of fraud, which impacts on the public market and the public, and that is environmental fraud.

When I worked in Bangladesh, I discovered that in Asia the government regularly brings fraud charges under its criminal code against major polluters. There have been recent serious cases in my own province of industry filing false reports on pollution. This is not a minor blip or technical matter. Our entire environmental regulatory system is based on self-reporting and if companies do not self-report, there can be significant harm to human health and the environment.

I am wondering if the member could speak to whether the bill should cover a much broader area, including environmental crimes, and in that case, who would speak on behalf of the community in the court.