Mr. Chairman, I have some questions for the minister. I have been listening to try to not cover the same ground the hon. member for Crowfoot has covered.
I am concerned about a number of issues. It is from that perspective that I approach this legislation. I am concerned, as the minister is, about the impact of this legislation on law-abiding groups. I am also concerned about the importance of us passing a law recognizing there is an immediate problem in the province of Quebec with this issue. It is a serious issue. The police are asking for more powers to deal with group criminal activity.
I still feel that if it goes too fast, if a bad law is passed, it will be worse than no law. I have heard the minister say this on occasion, especially with reference to the victims bill of rights when answering the hon. member for Fraser Valley West. The minister explained why he would not proceed forward with that issue. There is that point of view.
The minister would like to avoid legislation that would allow for the following situation: Somebody from one of these groups commits a crime, the case goes before the courts and then either the person gets off scot-free on a technicality or the supreme court nullifies the court decision in six months or so. Time spent now is time well spent versus wasting taxpayers' dollars and a horrendous and embarrassing situation before a court somewhere down the road after this law goes through.
Starting with clause 1, the major issue the minister and the justice department want to cover is the definition of a criminal organization. That is a huge starting point. Personally I feel the definition is too restrictive and will avoid capturing those groups that sometimes tend to start criminal activities and then grow to huge numbers.
The minister may be addressing the problem from the wrong point of view. If we argue for larger numbers, by that time the groups have already committed a lot of crimes. It might be better to look at it from the point of view of the smaller number with the knowledge that a group has the intent to commit criminal activities. The group is associated for that purpose. I have no problem with the word association in this first definition.
I have a problem with the term group. I know that group means three or more. The minister said today in testimony to the member for Crowfoot that it is the ordinary meaning. The ordinary meaning of group is three or more, not five or more. If a group of four or more commits a crime this law does not apply. Therefore, the surveillance, the wiretapping and the income tax investigation cannot be done. That is restrictive if the purpose is to nip things in the bud.
I am submitting this argument for consideration for the amendment that may come later from the member for Crowfoot. He talked about lowering the number to three. I would argue and support three.