Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for being here.
Following up on Mr. O'Toole's point, we heard the opposite point being made by our own officials, that funding for this level of departmental investigation was cut under the previous government and is only now being restored with new funding. I find the sudden concern over siloing quite interesting, when the previous government specifically cut the department that led to these types of investigations. That's in testimony that I'm sure will be included in the report. I'm sure a recommendation will be coming that will talk about the reinvestment after the previous government's lack of commitment to dealing with money laundering and anti-terrorism financing.
I don't have specific questions on some of the things we've heard, because this committee still has work to do in formulating our recommendations, but one of the areas we heard about that was of some concern to me—and it was brought up by Mr. Fergus earlier—was information sharing among banks or the information of FINTRAC and the flow-through process. In the U.S., FinCEN seemed to have a very interesting program that any law enforcement agencies or prosecutors could access in certain states. One of the benefits was there seemed to be a real sense of value in that information.
My concern in some of the information sharing among banks is that banks aren't technically allowed to do that right now, but the enforcement side is a very small community and they're sharing that information informally among colleagues anyway. The worry that I have—and I think we have to have this conversation—is banks taking the approach of de-risking. They're so afraid of regulation or penalties that they would rather maybe de-risk or de-bank some clients among themselves.
In this country, do we need to have that conversation around people being entitled to a bank account. Banks, being so afraid of penalty, de-bank someone, and a Canadian who has done nothing wrong now has no access to a bank account. Quality reporting from banks is an area where we need to do some thinking. Yes, they should be afraid of penalties, but not so afraid they just get people out of the system who have never done anything wrong. Among themselves, through informal channels, they are deciding it's not worth the risk, and they de-bank some individuals.
I don't know if this is a discussion you've had, but it's an area where I think we need to do some serious thinking. Do you have any initial thoughts, or not? I can go to another area as well.