Madam Speaker, I have a few comments to make on this bill.
We support the positive aspects of the bill and it does have positive aspects. We have concerns and we will be examining those concerns as the bill proceeds through committee of the whole.
I would like to point out the new tools that have been presented to the police. The wire tap laws have been extended. That is very positive in dealing with this type of criminal activity.
One of the most powerful aspects of this bill may very well be the breakthrough that has been made with regard to accessibility to income tax records that this bill provides in tracing the paper trail of criminal activities. Also something that may prove to be exceedingly important is the peace bond. Individual members of a criminal organization can be forced into a peace bond where they will be ordered not to communicate or associate with members of a criminal organization. If they do, no further evidence is required other than the fact that they have broken the bond in order to bring them into court. In the long term this could break up criminal organizations. Those are three of the very significant aspects of this bill.
I will turn quickly to two areas in the bill that concern me. One is the creation of the definition of a criminal organization. How will this be done? Is it going to be possible to do it?
We have seen bills come through the House before, and I think of Bill C-27, which dealt with child sex tourism where it looks good but it may be unenforceable. How is a criminal organization defined in this new bill? A criminal organization means any group, association or other body consisting of five or more persons, whether formally or informally organized, having as one of its primary activities the commission of an indictable offence under this act or any other act of Parliament for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for five years or more.
That is what the crown will have to prove in order to have an organization declared a criminal organization. How will that be done? There have to be at least five people in a group, association or other body and the crown will have to prove that one of the primary activities of members of that group is the commission of an indictable offence. What does that mean? Does it mean that the crown will have to have proof of a conviction of an indictable offence or just evidence that they are engaged in activities that could lead to the commission of an indictable offence that has a punishment of five years or more? There are an awful lot of questions I would like to have cleared up.
Once the organization is defined as a criminal organization, we have to look at this new penalty. Section 467.1 reads: "Everyone who participates in or substantially contributes to the activities of a criminal organization, knowing that any or all of the members of the organization engage in or have within the preceding five years engaged in the commission of a series of indictable offences under this act or any other act of Parliament, for each of which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for five years or more and is a party to the commission of an indictable offence for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with the criminal organization for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for five years or more".
What is the crown faced with if it is able to prove a person is a member of a criminal organization? What evidence has to be gathered in order to convict? It has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused participates in or substantially contributes to a criminal organization with the knowledge that members of that organization have in the last five years engaged in an indictable offence that carries with it a punishment of five years or more.
I hope that the government can explain to us and to the people of the country in a clear manner that the section of the bill that creates the new offence is not just simply creating false hope in the minds of the people, that this is enforceable, that this can be done by the crown.
I mentioned earlier other parts of the bill which will be of great benefit to the police and will lead to greater intervention into organized crime. I am not going to hold my breath at this stage in the hope that we are going to see reams and reams of convictions under this new offence.
The final point that concerns me is the subject of youth gangs. Does this bill apply to youth gangs? If it does, do the consecutive sentences apply to youth gangs? If they do, then how do we overcome the fact that an indictable offence committed by a youth under the YOA carries only a three year maximum penalty? What are we going to do there? Can it only apply if the youth is transferred to adult court?
I hope in the next few days and hours before we enter the election period that those questions will be answered, not only for members of the House but for the people of the country who are hoping that this bill will move in a very positive direction, with positive force, to give the police the tools they need to break up organized crime in the country.
We have reservations about this bill, but we support its direction because we think it is right. We know the police chiefs and police forces want it. They have been asking for it.
I close on this dour note. I wonder why it has taken so long to bring this bill forward. It has to be rushed through the House and we do not have enough time to really establish its constitutionality and enforceability by hearing witnesses who would give us their viewpoints from both the defence and prosecution sides. I wonder why the government waited for two years after that little boy was killed as a result of organized criminal activity before the bill was brought in. Now it has to be rushed through the House.
We have seen that happen too often over the last three and a half years. It is wrong and I do not think it is needed. Nevertheless, we will support the direction of bill. I am hoping the questions that I and other members will raise can be answered for the good of the people of this country.