moved that Bill C-203, an act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal organization), be read the second time and referred to a legislative committee.
Mr. Speaker, I will say for starters that this bill goes beyond amending the Criminal Code, as you mentioned, since it is aimed essentially at including in the Criminal Code provisions that would make it possible for Canada to have the tool necessary to fight organized crime, namely antigang legislation.
Allow me to explain why I am tabling such a bill. You will recall that last year, in early August, a car bomb went off in the riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, which I represent here in the House of Commons, killing Daniel Desrochers, an 11 year old boy who had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This incident was the most eloquent, the most perverse, the most revolting example of what can happen when society does not have the necessary tools to fight organized crime. As you know, this car bombing was part of a fratricide struggle between the Hell's Angels and the Rock Machine.
Let us start at the beginning-I hope the pages are going to bring me some water, otherwise I will not last for 20 minutes, I can tell you that. Today we are talking about organized crime. Organized crime is a concern in all major cities in Canada. I gave you an example which occurred in the riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, but the threat from organised crime, the underworld and the mafia is as real in Toronto, York, Vancouver, Halifax as in any other city in Canada.
Organized crime is ubiquitous. Let us see how organized crime works. Not every society is plagued with organized crime. Certain conditions are needed for organized crime to thrive. The first of those conditions is a wealthy environment, one where criminal organizations can make some profits. There must be an open society, one where axes of communication allow these organizations to communicate easily with all continents. I repeat, there is a good reason why organised crime is found mainly in large cities.
When I think about Montreal for example, there is the port, there are the roads, the highways and the airports, so it is simple to understand why it is unusually easy for the underworld to communicate with other continents and to create readily accessible networks. Another condition is a society free from any dictatorship, where there are legal rights and therefore, where human rights are respected, where there are charters and where all individuals have equal rights. Generally it is easier for the underworld to establish itself in a highly bureaucratic society.
That being said, we all remember the car bomb attack which killed the young Daniel Desrochers. Because of my contacts with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, I can easily see that there are other trouble spots, other cities in Canada touched by organized crime, particularly in Ontario. I hope the Ontario members will vote for this bill, because later on I will ask for the House's consent to make it a votable item. Let us be clear, if we do not act right now in order to fight organised crime, we are in for some very troubled times.
How does it happen? Organised crime works in phases. First, they gain control of the territory. When that is done, through fear and intimidation, they go on to the second phase, money laundering. It is estimated that, last year in Canada, a total of $20 billion were laundered. Such an amount means there is an underground economy being set up; that gives us an idea of the magnitude of organized crime.
So organized crime grows by phases. It settles in cities or regions where communications are easy. It takes over control of a territory and starts taking part in money laundering activities. In a third phase, it invests in legal and illegal activities. As I said money laundering activities in Canada have been estimated by police forces at $20 billion.
Organized crime not only deals in money laundering activities it invests in specific ventures. People familiar with the issue, who have studied the underworld and know what it is about, have told
me that at present in Montreal organized crime is investing mostly in two sectors, restaurants and construction.
What is going on? What is the situation? Here are few figures which were given to me by the person probably best informed on organized crime, Mr. Sangollo who works for the Montreal urban community police department where he is responsible for organized crime investigations.
According to Mr. Sangollo, in Canada, drug seizures represent some $1.5 to 4 billion. Keep im mind that the police seizes about 10 per cent of the volume coming into Canada. This gives you an idea of the size of the problem.
I mentioned earlier that each year, in Canada alone, the underworld invests $20 billion in legal and illegal activities. Investments mean there is a connection, an interface if you like, between the underworld and the legal world. If $20 billion are invested in illegal and legal businesses, that means accountants, lawyers and people in high places allow these activities to proceed. Some even believe politicians help smooth the way for such activities, but as you can understand I am not here to name names. I will let those in a position of authority do that.
The underworld is associated with territory control, money laundering and investments in legal and illegal activities. Members understand that we are talking about the reality of drug trafficking, which is the easiest way for the underworld to get rich.
Perhaps I can give some other examples. It is said that 75 to 80 per cent of drug trafficking in bars in Quebec is controlled by organized crime; 75 to 80 per cent, that is something. Since 1988, 90 per cent of the cocaine and hashish that have been seized in Canada were originally intended for Quebec's criminal network. Montreal, where, as I pointed out, there are airports, transcontinental highways and an efficient railway system, has mafia bosses on its territory.
In this context, it is very important that we, as parliamentarians, take our responsibilities. I do not even dare to think that this government will not give me its support to state that this bill may be votable, not only to state that it may be votable, but also to ensure there is a real debate here in Parliament. Do we not have the responsibility to make sure that Daniel Desrochers, who died last August as a result of a car bombing in my neighbourhood, did not die in vain? We have the responsibility to take action to make sure he did not die in vain.
The first thing to do is to take our responsibilities as parliamentarians, by proposing an amendment to the Criminal Code so that it contains the main provisions for an anti-gang legislation.
What am I proposing? I am not saying this is perfect, this is the bottom line. If there is a parliamentarian in this House, whether a government member or an opposition member, who decides one way or the other to improve the bill, any intelligent suggestion, wherever it comes from, will be welcomed.
But we tried, I tried, to make a contribution to the development of an anti-gang law.
I have four proposals. I spent a great deal of time consulting with lawyers, criminologists and other people who are familiar with criminal law. My first proposal is to define "criminal organization" as follows: "a group of individuals-who habitually engage in activities that bring them into serious conflict with society or with the police". I stress the words "that bring them into serious conflict". If at least five members of this group have in the past committed enterprise crime offences, the courts will have the authority to regard it as a criminal organization.
Enterprise crime offences have been in the Criminal Code since 1987. These offences are theft, possession of stolen goods, forgery and breach of trust. There are some 30 offences already on the books.
What is missing is a definition of "criminal organization". The advantage of this bill is that it introduces three presumptions allowing public prosecutors to bring crime bosses before the courts. The great paradox we face is that these crime bosses in Montreal and elsewhere are known to the police but cannot be prosecuted because, under the existing provisions of the Criminal Code, they must be caught red-handed. We know full well that those who planted the bomb that killed little Daniel Desrochers are obviously not the same people who planned the killing.
In the fight against organized crime, we are trying to give ourselves the means to bring crime bosses before the courts. To that end, my bill not only gives a legal definition of "criminal organization" but also introduces three presumptions. First, that an individual who keeps company with a criminal organization is presumed to be living off it. This, I think, is very clear. A link could be made with prostitution.
Under existing provisions in the Criminal Code, an individual who is habitually in the company of prostitutes is presumed to be living off the avails of prostitution. So the first presumption making it possible to prosecute crime bosses would be that an individual who keeps company with a criminal organization is presumed to be living off its proceeds.
The second, but just as important, presumption is that an individual who frequents places linked to organized crime is presumed to be living off the proceeds of a criminal organization.
The third presumption allowing public prosecutors to bring crime bosses before the courts is that an individual whose worth increases disproportionately between the time of the offence and the beginning of the trial is presumed to be living off the proceeds of a criminal organization. It is not normal for an individual whose
net worth was estimated at $10,000 for income security purposes, who was known as a welfare recipient by the police, to have a personal fortune estimated at $3 million three weeks, three months or one year later. You will not convince me that this individual was a three time winner of the Quebec lottery; that is not what we are talking about. What we are talking about is the illicit way these individuals are getting rich.
That is why we need a legal definition of "criminal organization". We will create a new criminal offence-living off the proceeds of a criminal organization-and give public prosecutors three presumptions allowing them to bring crime bosses before the courts.
The existence of these presumptions does not mean that defence lawyers cannot refute them or that the principles of natural justice do not apply, but that it is up to the individual to demonstrate, for example, how he got richer.
Another provision of this bill that police forces had been requesting for many years to fight organized crime is the one addressing the need for those sentenced to imprisonment to serve three-fourths of their sentence. If this bill is passed, there will be no remission of sentence and, after sentencing, access to parole will become possible only when three-fourths of the sentence has been served. Why is it necessary to hold firm on having people serve three-fourths of their sentence? Because that is how networks are dismantled, how the chain of command is broken in the underworld and organized crime.
I would like to conclude by saying something important about my bill. Of course, in preparing this bill, I had to consult extensively and I had mixed feelings about going through with it. I concluded that it is important for any bill that comes before us to make sense and be valid, legally speaking. That is why I provided for the use of the notwithstanding clause: section 33 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Why did I chose to do so? Because I realize that, if this bill is passed and then challenged in any ordinary court of law in this country, it could be argued that it interferes with freedom of speech, freedom of association and the legal rights set out in section 7 of the charter, namely the presumption of innocence.
I am convinced that each of us in our various ridings represent people who would be very pleased to see this Parliament take its responsibilities, even if we determine that, in order to fight effectively against organized crime, we may have to restrict certain rights by limiting the scope of the charter.
As you know, in February, I tabled a petition signed by 65,000 people from all over Quebec, calling for the adoption of antigang legislation. I have yet to meet one person saying: "But it is important not to restrict in any way the movement of the most
criminalized segment of our society because we have this charter, you see". That is not what the charter is about. I am sure my fellow citizens of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, like all Canadians and Quebecers, would have no objection to sacrificing some degree of freedom to the higher interest, which is fighting organized crime.
That is why my bill provides for the possibility of resorting to the notwithstanding clause, which, indeed, has been used very seldom. The truth is, as one government member or another will no doubt mention, the notwithstanding clause has never been used by the Canadian Parliament. Two provinces did: Quebec, between 1982 and 1985 and again in 1989, after the Brown decision was handed down, and Saskatchewan, in a labour dispute. If the legislator included a notwithstanding clause, it is because it needs to be used in some cases, and the threat posed by organized crime across the countries of Quebec and Canada is so serious that we have a duty, as parliamentarians, to point out that, without a notwithstanding clause, no antigang legislation can be brought forward.
We cannot allow what happened in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Montreal to happen elsewhere. I ask for consent to see if it would be possible to have this bill declared a votable item and not only voted on but also debated for two extra hours, because the situation is so serious that parliamentarians will agree with my diagnostic.