Thank you very much.
The Canadian Bankers Association would like to thank members of the committee for inviting us to participate in the review of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. On behalf of our member banks, we welcome the opportunity to contribute our comments on this important piece of legislation.
From the beginning, the financial industry has taken its responsibility in this area very seriously and has worked co-operatively with the Department of Finance, law enforcement agencies, prudential regulators, and FINTRAC on the development and implementation of the regime. Banks in Canada are fully committed to supporting the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. The banks' central role in the regime gives them hands-on experience and insight into where the regime could be improved to be more effective and efficient in its fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.
Today I will speak to our recommendations with respect to the following three topics: strengthening the regime, information sharing under PIPEDA, and client identification in a digital economy.
With regard to strengthening Canada's AML-ATF regime, we note that new provisions, regulations, and guidance are always being added to the AML-ATF regime in order to keep pace with the changing landscape for financial services. While we fully support ongoing efforts to strengthen the regime, it is becoming increasingly complex, with significant regulatory, resource, and operational costs that continue to grow.
In that regard, the banking industry is a strong supporter of using a more risk-based approach to the regime. Reporting entities should be encouraged to focus on risk typologies and customers who demonstrate significant AML-ATF risk. By focusing on high-risk transactions and patterns, banks would be able to effectively dedicate resources where they can achieve the greatest benefit.
The CBA also recommends that the regime be enhanced through greater collaboration, communication, and information sharing between governments, law enforcement, and financial institutions. This includes, one, using a more aligned and consultative approach to legislation and guidance; two, working jointly to develop typologies and identify high-risk transaction patterns; three, sharing information on individuals or entities under investigation; and four, allowing FINTRAC to request additional information once it has reasonable grounds to suspect money-laundering or terrorist financing activities.
We believe that overall, these changes would help strengthen the regime. Also, in order to ensure the regime is functioning effectively, we support the collection and publication of data with respect to investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.
The next topic I'd like to go over is information sharing under PIPEDA. We believe the ability of banks to help protect against financial crime would be enhanced if PIPEDA were amended to allow financial institutions to share information among themselves to detect and prevent other types of serious criminal activity beyond fraud. Currently, the relevant provision in PIPEDA is limited to where it is reasonable for the purposes of detecting or suppressing fraud, or of preventing fraud.
This makes it challenging for the financial system to effectively restrict a customer who is considered to present higher risk for money laundering or terrorist financing from having access to services. If one financial institution, for instance, believes that one of its customers is involved in one of these activities and accordingly terminates the relationship, there's virtually nothing to stop them from just moving down the street and going to another institution.
We strongly support the recent ethics committee's recommendation that PIPEDA be amended to allow for a broader range of instances where financial institutions can share information. It should go beyond financial fraud to include money laundering and terrorist financing, to strengthen the regime as a whole. At the same time, we recognize that any measures taken to enhance information sharing must be balanced with privacy considerations.
My last topic is related to client identification in a digital economy. It is imperative that the AML-ATF regulations continue to be flexible and adaptive in an environment of rapid development and adoption of emerging technologies. Banks need to harness the ever-changing world of digital technology solutions, including innovative and secure means of performing identification, to meet the consumer demands of banking in a non-face-to-face environment. There is still a reliance on physical viewing of identification documents. We believe the legislation needs to be expanded to allow for the use of advanced technology that has the ability to perform remote identification.
This can be done through mechanisms such as online scanning, data extraction, and document authentication; live video connections; blockchain; biometrics; and other methods as they become available in the near future. Many of these methods have the potential to provide greater security and accuracy for client identification than reliance on the viewing of physical documentation at a branch.
In closing, we would like to reiterate the strong support of the banking industry for the AML-ATF regime. We are pleased to have an opportunity to work co-operatively with the government and parliamentarians to ensure that Canada's system is effective and efficient.
Thank you once again for providing the CBA with this opportunity to offer our views.