Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in response to the solicitor general's statement on national security.
I am also pleased that this forum is being utilized by the government and that we had the opportunity to hear a ministerial statement on such an important area. It is a very timely appearance by the solicitor general.
As has been mentioned by previous members, there has been a great deal of talk in this area. The solicitor general has repeated his pledge from last summer and again last fall to introduce new legislation on money laundering and cross-border currency controls. The fact remains that to date we have not seen that. There has been a great deal of consultation, which again I believe is a very important part of the process, but I would encourage the solicitor general to act on these initiatives.
Canadians are concerned about justice and security issues. They require more than just rhetoric. They require concrete action.
We have heard a great deal about the intention to crack down on money laundering and cross-border currency controls since September of this year. To the government's credit it did pass anti-organized crime legislation in the spring of 1997. However, like many of these initiatives, I would suggest it was not a full effort. There continue to be huge loopholes in the federal legislation, particularly when we look at what Canada has done compared to other countries.
As an example I would cite the U.S. State Department's report, “International Narcotics Control Strategy”, which singled out Canada as an easy target for drug related and other types of money laundering. The report goes on to compare Canada to countries like Columbia, Brazil and the Cayman Islands as countries which are open to money laundering and places to hide illegal money.
That report identified the fact that Canada's international position is not glowing. Lack of federal legislation leaves our country open to this type of illegal activity.
This, in light of some of the other developments that have happened in this country, in particular the government's decision to disband the ports police, causes grave concern for opposition members as well as the Canadian public at large.
The problem remains. In the 10 months since the solicitor general has taken this post there have been many promises made, but we have yet to see the delivery of those promises. Canada continues to be open for business as far as organized crime is concerned.
The solicitor general did assure Canadians on Monday that he was on the job with respect to organized crime.
He also told us that he was going to bring biker gangs to their knees and eradicate organized crime. This is again a lot of tough talk, but we are waiting patiently and encouraging the solicitor general to act on these initiatives.
I would also put before the House the opinion of Scott Newark, the executive director of the Canadian Police Association. He offered this statement very recently to the solicitor general: “Anyone can talk tough. Let's see some action. Here is a guy who has some power, but I have not seen him exercise it yet”.
We have to be concerned when members of the policing community say those things. Mr. Newark went on to say “We are not interested in what the government says any more. We have had some very constructive and doable things that have run into a wall of indifference”. I am very concerned about the confidence in the policing community when those sorts of comments are being made publicly by a gentleman like Mr. Newark.
The solicitor general outlined specifically some of the positive measures of his department and the initiatives to improve national security that would result in changes to our Immigration Act, the Extradition Act and the Official Secrets Act, among other statutes. I would certainly hope that these measures do not have a long shelf life.
I commend the solicitor general for identifying the priority area of CSIS. When this organization began a decade ago many assumed that the end of the cold war would result in a decrease in the need for international security. Sadly, this has not been the case.
Certainly in Canada we have seen a rise in the area of organized crime. This perhaps poses one of the biggest threats to national security at this time.
Page 9 of the 1997 CSIS public report states: “There are many activities in addition to the traditional threat activities which cause or have the potential to cause threats to the public safety of Canadians and the national security of Canada”. Therefore, our focus may have to shift on the internal threats posed by organized crime.
In conclusion, I applaud the engagements of the solicitor general on behalf of CSIS to form intelligence activities, to enhance the protection of computer infrastructure, to review our counter-terrorism strategies and to apprise the government of foreign and domestic activities which may compromise public security. However, with that said, I am still concerned about the lack of resources to effectively implement these very laudable plans. Since the government took office in 1993 there have been more than 700 employees cut from CSIS, more than one-quarter of the total workforce.
I urge the solicitor general to engage his cabinet, in particular the finance minister, to see that this is not just talk and that these plans are going to be implemented. Like my colleagues, I look forward to working on the justice committee with the solicitor general.