Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand before the House today to address Bill C-13, the witness protection program act.
My understanding is this bill would establish for the first time a legislative base for the RCMP's witness protection program, a program which has been in place as a series of internal guidelines and policies since 1984.
The Reform Party recognizes there is a need for this type of legislation. Witnesses need the protection from potential harm, particularly when their testimonies relate to organized criminal activity such as illicit drug, tobacco and alcohol smuggling, firearms peddling, trafficking or other conspiracies to commit capital crimes.
The decision to turn in criminals can be difficult. If justice is to be served we must take strong measures to protect from any potential harm those witnesses who step forward. Simply put, without the testimony of the person who comes forward to present their knowledge or experience of a criminal activity or conspiracy to a police officer and eventually a court of law there would be no charges and ultimately no convictions.
Since 1962 violent and organized crimes have exploded in Canada. No longer can politicians live in denial of this reality. Wherever there is a dollar to be made illegally the criminal element will organize to beat the law. A prime example of this organized criminal activity is motor cycle gang violence and the resulting turf war spilling out on the streets in our country.
It is no secret in law enforcement circles that the Hell's Angels are in an all out war with the Outlaws over control of the lucrative drug trade, the prostitution industry and the massive contraband smuggling and distribution industry. A recent spat of bombings in Montreal and elsewhere continue as crime kingpins make money. Meanwhile people die. The carnage must stop if law and order are to be restored on Canadian streets.
The Reform Party is committed to restoring law and order. We have critically examined Bill C-13 with this objective in mind. We see some problems and we have proposed some amendments which would strengthen the bill. I trust our observations and proposals will not fall on deaf ears.
Consider that the budget for the witness protection program in Canada will accommodate approximately 70 to 80 protectees in any given year. The budget established by the solicitor general, a paltry $3.4 million, is fundamentally inadequate given the resources required to penetrate the culture of organized crime and to properly identify and recruit criminals willing to inform on their own kind. The RCMP would intensify its efforts in this regard if more resources were available.
Reform's chief concern is not only the deficiency of the witness protection funding program but also the lack of vision on the part of the solicitor general's office and the whole of the Liberal government's administration of Canada's affairs, in particular on crime.
Instead of funding special interest lobbies advocating criminals' rights, the solicitor general would be well advised to consider public safety and channel resources into law enforcement programs and victims' rights for a change.
Bill C-13 is a step toward strengthening the RCMP witness protection program. However, there are certain problems which must also receive the consideration of the House. In effect, Bill C-13 would continue the convention of past internal guidelines and policies of the RCMP's witness protection program, whereby the RCMP commissioner is granted the absolute power and authority for the following issues.
He is granted the absolute power and authority to determine whether a witness should be admitted to the program, clause 5 of Bill C-13. He is granted absolute power and authority to terminate the protection of a witness if in the opinion of the commissioner it is warranted, clause 9; or to disclose the identity and location of a witness or protectee, clause 11; to make agreements with other law enforcement agencies, attorneys general of provinces or any provincial agencies, clause 14.
I urge all members of the House to consider these powers and the necessity to continue such broad authority granted to the commissioner of the RCMP. In addition, with respect to agreements struck between the parties involved in the witness protection program, as it stands with this bill there is no resolution mechanism or appeal procedures for agencies, agents or protectees to air their concerns.
It is crucial that a resolution mechanism become part of this bill. Take, for example, the concerns expressed by the two witnesses who came before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. One was a serving police officer representing dozens of police agencies and officers cross the country.
As it stands, the individual witness under protection is restricted in taking up matters of concern regarding the conditions of protection to the public complaints commission but not to the office of the solicitor general. This process is totally inadequate.
Most police departments have an informant control officer, an ICO, who regulates the handling of an informant for the appropriate department. This type of arrangement allows the process of appeal in the event of an unsatisfactory decision on the part of the
commissioner and would be available to disagreements between individual police agencies and the RCMP via the ICO.
I urge members to support the motion of November 20, 1995, at report stage, that Bill C-13 in clause 5 be amended (a) by replacing line 32 on page 2 with the following: "Subject to this act, the commissioner", and also (b) by adding after line 36, on page 2, the following: "Any decision made by the commissioner, or by a member of the force on behalf of the commissioner, under sections 5, 9, 11 or 14 of this act may be reviewed by the minister on application by a law enforcement agency". This amendment would make the program much more effective, thus enabling these agencies greater flexibility in their investigation of organized crime.
Now for Reform's second proposed amendment which deals with the submission of the annual report on the operation of the program as it applies to the preceding year. We are without any provision for having the report sent before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs and it does not mention the content of what the report should include. This approach is ridiculous.
How many times have my Liberal friends across the way stood in the House and railed against past administrations on matters of accountability and responsibility? How many times has the government, acting as-