Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion by the Bloc Quebecois to the effect that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights should study organized crime in Canada, an issue I am deeply interested in, and which the Bloc Quebecois has entrusted to my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm and myself.
It seems obvious to us that organized crime is on the rise in Canada and the rest of the world. These organizations are said to be octopus-like for good reason. With tentacles extending into all segments of society, they have no problem finding people to carry out their dirty jobs.
We know that many are lured into crime by the temptation of easy money. To maximize their efficiency, criminal organizations impose the law of silence, and any transgression means death, immediately and unconditionally, for the informers.
We should acknowledge that the various levels of government have taken steps to deal with organized crime. The Carcajou squad in Quebec comes to mind, as well as the new sections in our criminal law that make it illegal for five people and more to associate when two of them have already been convicted for crimes that are punishable by five years in prison or more. These initiatives have some merit, but the question that begged to be asked when they were taken and still today is whether they are enough. The only possible answer is no.
The problems remain, and I will mention some hurdles that still exist: gang leaders often have only minor offences on their record. The judge has then to be convinced of the danger that these people represent for society.
The effectiveness of orders issued under Bill C-95 to prevent a gang member from associating with other gang members is questionable.
Belonging to a bikers group is not a criminal offence per se. Also, it is not easy to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused has accumulated his fortune through a series of very specific and identified criminal offences.
There is also the law of silence governing all relationships in the underworld; search warrants that are restrictive because of the courts interpretation of the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights; small police budgets compared to resources available to criminal groups; the difficulty to assert that, simply by associating with them, a person is really involved with other individuals for a criminal purpose, since organized crime is not considered a crime, and only individual actions are; the banking secret of tax havens, which protects against the laundering of proceeds of crime. All in all, organized crime does not know any boundaries.
The necessary measures should be taken by our economic and commercial partners, otherwise all attempts made to solve the organized crime problem will fail.
Moreover, all legislative or other measures should have an impact on every organized crime group, from the Russian mafia to the Chinese triads, the Italian mafia and biker gangs. All measures taken against any of these groups would only create a vacuum that would immediately be filled by the other criminalized groups.
This is why our recommendations must take into account what is done outside Canada.
Generally, anti-gang laws seek to improve the tools law enforcement and judicial authorities are provided with to fight organized crime. I will give a few examples.
In Hong Kong and Russia, access to proof is made easier. In the United States, laws were enacted on specific infractions committed by organized crime. It should be noted that, in the case of the recycling of products of crime, the Canadian law is more efficient than the American law since it allows confiscation after the first designated offence instead of two, as is the case in the United States.
It is important, in comparing Canadians laws to those of other countries, to remember that Canada draws inspiration largely from the British common law, which makes its judiciary system quite different from those of other countries.
We can question the effectiveness of the legislation passed by all these countries in light of the fact that organized crime continues to operate.
Little data is available on the actual impact of such legislation on organized crime. In any event, I want to talk briefly about a legislation whose effectiveness and limits have been demonstrated, namely the “Racketeer Influences and Corrupt Act”, also called RICO, which was passed in 1970 and which creates four offences covered under two definitions.
The first offence, called “racketeering activity”, is a criminal offence that covers 50 crimes, such as extortion, robbery, arson, kidnapping, fraud, counterfeiting, and so on.
The second one is the “pattern of racketeering activity”, which consists of at least two of the criminal offences covered, one having been committed after the enactment of the RICO, and the other one over the preceding 10 years.
Here is a short description of the four offences I previously mentioned and whose purpose is to prevent the infiltration of companies by criminal groups. It has to do with the investment or the acquisition of an interest in a company that is doing business in another country or another American state, through capital derived directly or indirectly from criminal activities or from the collection of an illegal debt.
It could also be the participation in or the management of, through a series of criminal activities or the collection of an illegal debt, of a company doing business overseas or in more than one American state by an individual who is either employed by or associated with the company, or a conspiracy to commit one or the other of these offences.
The maximum jail sentence for these offences is from 20 years to life and there are also monetary fines.
There is no need for a criminal conviction to launch legal proceedings under RICO. The state needs only prove that crimes were committed. Once the suspect has been convicted, he or she can be sued under RICO's provisions.
RICO allows for the confiscation of goods obtained through the illegal activity and of all interests in the business concerned. There is also a protection and redress mechanism for third parties affected by the confiscation of goods.
RICO also allows for two types of civil remedy: one for the government and the other for individuals. It enables the US District Courts to issue orders at the request of the Attorney General. For the government, these remedies are: dispossession of all direct or indirect interests of the individual in a business; restriction of future activities or investments by the individual; dissolution or reorganization of the business, except that in that case, the court must take into account the interests of third parties.
The Racketeer Influences and Corrupt Act provides individuals with the following redresses: damages amounting to three times the victim's loss and the right to be reimbursed for all the court and lawyers' fees.
In spite of its huge shortcomings and of the fact that it is far from perfect, the RICO Act is an illustration of a jurisdiction that used exceptional means to achieve its aims. The committee members could build on the positives results of the RICO Act and avoid its drawbacks and shortcomings to give Canada the appropriate legal instruments.
To conclude, I want to mention that it is important to make the public in Quebec and Canada, the lobbies and the government aware of this problem so that nobody can slip through the dragnet and the fight against organised crime can be effective. This is why I ask all members of this House to support this motion today so that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and parliament can contribute in a constructive way to the debate and give the government a clear indication of the way to fight this scourge in our society.
Finally I move:
That the motion be amended by inserting before the word “combat”, the following: “effectively”.