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House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organized.

Topics

Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Proceeds Of Crime (Money Laundering) ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for St. John's West, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Cardigan P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberalfor Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-24, an act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and law enforcement) and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak on third reading of this very important bill, Bill C-24. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has reported the bill to us with only a few changes. The bill deserves to be sent to the Senate without delay. We know that police and prosecutors need better tools to fight organized crime and criminal gains.

The bill is important because fighting organized crime is a key part of ensuring safer communities and that is why the government tabled the bill.

We know that the actions of organized criminals are felt across the country and around the world. They are at the heart of serious social problems like illegal drug use and organized prostitution. Telemarketing, Internet and credit card fraud cost victims thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, and stolen cars from Canadian communities end up around the world to feed illegal markets. Sometimes the costs are not obvious but the impacts and costs are real and they often can be very significant.

This is why the new definition of a criminal organization in the bill targets those who seek “material benefit, including a financial benefit”, through crime. These new provisions would allow police and prosecutors to target the professional criminal at the heart of so many of the criminal problems that we face. In addition, the three new offences in the bill related to the criminal organizations would further help us to focus on those who lead gangs, those who participate in offences to benefit criminal organizations and those who participate in order to enhance the criminal organization's ability such as recruiting youth or others into gang activities.

These tools are what the RCMP, other police forces and provincial governments have told us that they need to deal with the organized crime problem today and in the future. The provisions on intimidation are very important for Canadians and for the health of our institutions.

Intimidation of witnesses and jurors and criminal justice officials can threaten the integrity of the criminal justice process. Likewise we are all aware that parliamentarians and other legislators can be subject to intimidation. This is unacceptable in this democratic society. The new offence of intimidation of a criminal justice system participant would help us address this threat and take firm action against those who would seek to undermine our institutions.

The standing committee did amend the bill to include journalists in these provisions. This is very appropriate. The media are a very important part of the democratic process and public debate free of intimidation is crucial.

I would like to note the importance of the provisions in the bill regarding proceeds of crime. Right now there are a number of offences in which illegal profits can be seized by police and ordered forfeited by courts, like drug trafficking or murder.

The bill also expands the range of offences to include almost all indictable offences. This would mean that police could take away the proceeds of crime from criminals more effectively.

On the question of protection from criminal liability for law enforcement officers, the bill would put in place important new provisions to provide for limited justification for law enforcement officers. It would allow designated officers, under strict conditions, to perform for the purposes of investigations acts and omissions that would otherwise be offences. The supreme court has recognized that officers operating in good faith may need to have such powers. It also recognized that it is up to parliament to provide for them. That is exactly what we do in Bill C-24.

During the committee hearings on the bill we heard from police and other witnesses on the need for these provisions. Since the supreme court's decision two years ago, many investigations have been affected. It has been felt most strongly in complex undercover operations against organized crimes. A number of the operations have had to be suspended, modified or stopped entirely, but the effect of the decision has not been limited to organized crime investigations. It also has affected other operations such as law enforcement purchases of contraband tobacco and alcohol and counterfeit currency in order to gather evidence.

Few would dispute that enforcement officers should have the power to gather this kind of evidence, but the statutory authority must be put in place. Also, there are serious crimes outside the area of organized crime where these powers are needed. Investigations in areas like murder and kidnapping sometimes require undercover operations where officers must gain the confidence of their targets before making arrests and bringing an operation to an end.

The need for the limited justification for the police has been well established, but the debate on how it should be put in place has been useful and important. One of the main issues has involved the question of judicial authorization. It was rightly pointed out that certain law enforcement powers, like wiretapping and search provisions, require judicial authorization. However, it is not appropriate for this law enforcement justification system. That was made clear during the standing committee proceedings.

Unlike wiretapping and searches, this system does not involve precisely defined police actions that can workably be made subject to prior judicial authorization. As well, the broad nature of decisions about police operations that a judge would be asked to make during the investigations themselves would lead to inappropriate judicial involvement in investigations.

Another important question also raised was whether the limited law enforcement justification should be restricted to investigations of organized crime. The effect of the supreme court decision has not been limited to organized crime investigations. An appropriate system must recognize this and provide for the full scope of activities where the justification is needed.

However, the concern about these powers being used for minor operations is understandable. The concern is addressed in the bill. A fundamental requirement of the bill is that the use of the law enforcement justification must satisfy a condition that the conduct is “reasonable and proportional” in the circumstances. Enforcement officers would weigh matters like the nature of the act or omission that would otherwise be an offence, the nature of the investigation and the reasonable availability of other means for carrying out of duties. Failure to respect this requirement would be serious. The justification would no longer apply and officers may be subject to criminal liability in the courts.

There are many other safeguards in the bill. First and foremost is the role of ministers responsible for policing in designating those who are eligible for the law enforcement justification.

As solicitor general, I will be responsible for designating members of the RCMP. This role would provide an important measure of control and accountability. The designations will be based on the advice of senior law enforcement officials and reviewed with them before they are made. They may be subject to specific conditions. If designations are misused, they will be taken away. I should also stress that the bill is clear that this role would not involve ministers in individual investigations.

Still more safeguards under the bill include: the exclusion of certain types of conduct such as causing bodily harm, sexual offences, or the obstruction of justice; the provision for a public annual report; and the requirement to notify persons whose property may be lost or seriously damaged.

As I said, if the enforcement officers step outside the condition of the provisions, they would be subject to criminal liability in the courts. Officers would remain subject to internal discipline for unprofessional behaviour or other misconduct and public complaint mechanisms would continue to apply.

New provisions added by the committee include: specific examples of conditions that ministers might apply; clarification of the requirements on the police agents under the system; and the requirement for a parliamentary review after three years. The government supports these changes.

The law enforcement justification under Bill C-24 is not a blank cheque for law enforcement officers, far from it. It is a balanced system with strict limits and conditions. It responds to very real and substantial law enforcement needs. Together with the other provisions on criminal organizations, intimidation and proceeds of crime, the bill represents a major step forward in the public safety agenda.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to do something that does not happen very often, at least for me, and that is to praise a government bill. I am actually surprised that Liberals would do the right thing on this issue. I know it was very difficult for them given the fact that in committee most of the Liberals had trouble supporting the bill. In fact, in committee the Canadian Alliance had to encourage them to do the right thing.

I am pleased to see that the Solicitor General of Canada and the Minister of Justice have brought the bill forward and have, I think, moved in the right direction. I would like to thank the minister for bringing forward this bill as well as the members who have worked so hard to get this vital legislation before the House.

Both government and opposition members have taken the proposed legislation very seriously during the course of debate in committee work and I am relatively satisfied with what has been accomplished here to date. At long last we have legislation that gives the police many of the tools they have been asking for and, I might add, not simply because the police have been asking for it. I believe that they have been asking for these tools for solid public policy reasons.

We have known for years now that our law enforcement officials are at a severe disadvantage in their efforts to combat organized crime. We know that sophisticated criminal organizations have access to virtually unlimited resources, state of the art technology and unlimited funds, all derived from their illegal activities, while our police forces are barely getting by.

When the solicitor general indicated that this was not a blank cheque for the police, it would have been nice of him to say at least that it would have been a bigger cheque in order to fund some of these operations. I do not think the police forces expect a blank cheque in terms of either the legislation or the funding, but I think an increase in the amount of money available to conduct this very worthwhile endeavour is of course necessary. Frontline officers feel that they are fighting a battle without ammunition.

Bill C-24 is in many ways a long overdue response to a number of concerns raised over the years by federal, provincial and municipal law enforcement officials.

My praise is not entirely unqualified. Bill C-24 is a great step forward but we must not close the book on this issue. We must continue to ask ourselves as elected representatives what we can do to ensure that our law enforcement officials have the necessary tools for keeping Canadians safe and secure in an ever changing world.

We must recognize that police power must be exercised for the common good of the public. Police power is certainly a very important one not simply for itself but for of us to enable society to proceed and to develop in an orderly fashion.

I echo the comments of RCMP Commissioner Zaccardelli who said that Bill C-24 was a work in progress. He said that many of the amendments in Bill C-24 were absolutely critical, but he hoped for more work in this area. He hoped that we as parliamentarians would keep the radar screen alive. The commissioner is all too aware of the ever changing nature of organized crime and that these kinds of criminals always seem to be two or three steps ahead of the law.

Beyond the very real need to continue our legislative work in the area of our justice system I have to say, as I alluded to earlier, that I continue to be disappointed with the level of funding that the government has provided to fight organized crime. Given the fact that a relatively simple prosecution under legislation like this could cost up to $10 million or more, the $200 million over five years the minister has announced is really a small amount of money.

It seems strange to say that $200 million is a small amount of money, but when we look at each individual case and the costs involved, it is a staggering amount. I have had experience in the provincial sphere of being responsible for the costs and the administration of those types of cases.

We must make the money available for our police. If we do not, it does not matter how good the legislation is or how good our intentions are. If organized crime realizes that frontline police officers do not have the necessary funding in place, all of this is for naught, and that would be a disappointment.

During committee testimony on May 10, Toronto city police Chief Fantino and Winnipeg police Chief Jack Ewatski both indicated that the new funding they were to receive was insufficient. Chief Fantino said he felt totally inadequate in his ability to direct resources away from the day to day pressing issues he had to contend with. He stated:

I do not have any direct federal funding to help me dedicate the necessary resources to sustain the very labour-intensive, difficult work that has to be done in this area to the extent that we should.

I have to wonder about the $100 million we are putting into a failed long gun registry. Everybody has acknowledged that the long gun registry has failed. It is not doing the job and it will never do it. Yet through blind political allegiance to a failed idea the Liberal government continues to pump $100 million into a registry that has not worked and will not work. The only thing it is doing is destroying the hunting industry and the tourism industry in my area.

I do not understand it. If we gave that $100 million to frontline police officers and asked them if they could do better than the long gun registry, there would not be a police officer or even a police chief who paid lip service to the long gun registry who would not say, given that choice, that they would put it into frontline policing. Why? It is because every police officer in the country cares about reducing crime and is not concerned about a failed political agenda.

Directing resources into very complex investigations often puts tremendous pressure on routine policing operations. Our frontline police officers are saying that they feel like beggars trying to find the resources to do the things of national priority. Because of the lack of resources our municipal forces may not be able to support additional investigations regardless of the legislation we pass today.

I urge the minister and the solicitor general to take a look at areas where we can find existing funding that is not being used appropriately. If we want to find $100 million today, we can find it in the failed long gun registry which is making criminals of ordinary hunters and farmers and destroying tourism and other industries in constituencies such as mine.

Why will the minister not listen? Why will the minister not do anything? The answer is simple. The minister would rather spend $100 million a year than face the political embarrassment of saying that they have made a mistake and have to find a policy that will stop criminals.

There has been a fair amount of public debate on certain aspects of the legislation, particularly in the area of the immunity provisions for peace officers. I should like to discuss that briefly because it is a very important topic.

The legislation would not give police officers any additional rights that they did not enjoy over the last 100 years or so. They always assumed that they had a measure of protection when conducting investigations where in certain situations they were called upon to break the law. That is a very difficult thing for a police officer or anyone to do. Yet it was a necessary aspect of carrying out some very delicate operations.

Police chiefs and crown prosecutors knew about it. It was accepted. It was done in the vast majority of cases in a responsible manner because police officers knew of their responsibilities to our citizens. Crown attorneys and police chiefs who supervised police officers understood it was necessary but uncomfortable, given the fact that it was a breaking of the law.

Therefore the legislation sets out in statutory form with clear criteria the conditions under which this may occur. This is not granting police officers new powers or new steps that they did not exercise before. It simply is a response to the Supreme Court of Canada.

For those concerned about constitutional issues, if one looks at the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada and the legislation in place, I do not think the Supreme Court of Canada was asking that there be any pre-authorization by judicial figures in this matter. It simply said that police officers do not enjoy an immunity in respect of these matters.

If we as a society expect police forces to do the necessary things on our behalf, we must give them legal sanction to do it. I liken it a bit to war because when we are dealing with crime we are at war. In the context of war, our soldiers must do things that would not be otherwise acceptable in society. Our soldiers kill on behalf of our country when it is necessary for them to do so. All of us regret the killing and no one believes that killing is good. Yet as a civilized society we understand that at times it will occur and we give police officers that legislated common law immunity.

In the very same way we are giving our police officers that immunity, but that immunity is very clearly defined and closely supervised. It complies in every respect with the concerns of the Supreme Court of Canada in its judgment in Campbell and Shirose. Given the nature of undercover operations and general policing activities, this immunity is essential in continued efforts in our war against crime and organized crime in particular.

Despite initial misgivings many concerned people, including a number of committee members and witnesses, ultimately expressed support for these provisions in Bill C-24. Provincial and municipal leaders and law enforcement officials alike have recognized that there may be concerns regarding the potential for abuse of these powers that could harm innocent third parties.

However, in light of the fact that criminal organizations have increased in sophistication to such a degree that police cannot keep up with them, there is a general consensus that police must have the ability to conduct undercover operations and reverse sting operations to make a significant impact in this area. Later I will talk about innocent third parties because it is an important issue that the bill overlooks.

After careful consideration of the provisions in Bill C-24 members of the committee as well as a number of witnesses decided that these concessions were necessary to allow police to carry out its duties effectively.

Legislation is not always a precise art. I recognize the difficulties the minister had in weighing some of the concerns on both sides of the issue. I am satisfied the minister has been reasonably prudent and careful in ensuring appropriate checks and balances are provided in the legislation to protect the public.

At the same time these protections are not so overly restrictive that they would impede police investigations. They would also provide police protection from prosecution in very specific and carefully delineated circumstances. I put on record that there are only clearly delineated circumstances where this authority can be exercised.

Ultimately by supporting these provisions we have respected the decisions made by justice department officials who have reviewed the law, who have considered the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Campbell and Shirose, who have dealt with police officers on a day to day basis over the years, and who have listened to the provincial attorneys general across Canada that are on the frontline of fighting crime.

However, should these provisions require improvement, an amendment was passed in committee that would provide yet another check. With this amendment parliament would now conduct a mandatory review of the sections in the criminal code dealing with these provisions every three years.

The three year time frame is appropriate and prudent. If any concerns arise in the operation of this bill, and I certainly hope that is not the case at least in respect of substantive concerns, in three years we will be here to review the matter and make appropriate corrections. We should not leave it for the next group of members to fix any problems that might arise.

While many of us recognize that the legislation may not be perfect, our support for these provisions stems from the fact that the safety and security of Canadians continues to be a considerable risk as a result of criminal activity, and citizens want protection by our police who they understand must be governed by reasonable laws and reasonable conditions. Generally speaking, the bill reflects that reasonableness.

I was also pleased to see that the minister took the suggestion from the Canadian Alliance to include provincial leaders in the list of justice system participants, thereby extending to them additional protection against intimidation from criminal organizations. That protection must be recognized given that they, even much more than many of us, are involved in the front lines of fighting organized crime.

The minister took this one step further and added municipal leaders to the list, and I commend her for that initiative.

I would also like to thank my colleague from the Bloc from Berthier—Montcalm who brought forth an amendment to extend this protection to journalists as well. We are all aware of the important role that journalists play in our society. They are fundamental to free speech in a democratic society and as a part of the exercise of free speech, they are engaged in the fight against organized crime.

As a number of recent cases demonstrate, journalists who serve the public interest by reporting on organized crime are very much in need of and deserve enhanced protection under our criminal law.

I want to briefly deal with the concern that I raised in committee and which, unfortunately, the committee voted against. I introduced an amendment that would have ensured the right for innocent third parties to sue for damages that were caused by a peace officer carrying out his or her duties.

I was disappointed that the amendment was defeated, since it was a very worthwhile amendment that deserved our consideration. The main thrust of the amendment was that a private, law-abiding citizen should not be penalized if his or her property was destroyed in the course of a police investigation or action, even when the police were acting in the context of the authority of this proposed legislation.

Some of the members in committee said that it was a matter for provincial rights because they dealt with civil property and civil rights under section 92 of the Canada Act, 1867. That is not entirely correct. What in fact we may be doing is granting an immunity from civil process by this section. I simply wanted that amendment, given the priority of criminal law when it comes into conflict with the property and civil rights, as a matter of clarification so every that judge was assured that this legislation would not interfere with property and civil rights and that the innocent third parties would still have the right to sue where their property was damaged.

If we expect our citizens to co-operate in this fight, the least we can do is compensate them for any damage that they might suffer as a result of police actions. Although the amendment was not supported in committee, it is an important issue to consider for the future.

The bill is a very important step forward, but I express the concern that there is a lack of funding. I hope the justice minister will ask her colleagues to consider allocating to our police forces and to frontline police officers, the funding they so desperately need.

I certainly hope she will be open to consider future amendments to the criminal code that will further streamline our justice system. We have made great gains with Bill C-24 but we must not become complacent. We need to continually revisit this issue in order to combat organized crime effectively at a national level and to offer all Canadians the greatest possible protection from this kind of criminal activity.

I also want to stress that this bill is an example where all parties in the House can move together. Yes, we might disagree on certain aspects, but I think that the disagreements were relatively minor. What I appreciated about dealing with this bill was that I did not feel that there was an underlying political agenda to embarrass one political party or another.

I wish the minister would take the goodwill she has earned and the good work she has done on the bill and turn that goodwill and that good work to Bill C-15, where I think the most crass Liberal politics is at work. That is very unfortunate.

Government members have placed together child protection laws, firearms long gun registry laws and treatment of animal laws into one bill. Of course we know what the politics behind it are. They want us as opposition members to vote against the bill, then they will come into my riding and say that I did not like children, or that I did not want the protection for children, or that I did not want police officers to have additional protection and therefore I voted against the disarming of police officer section, or that I did not want to see an increase for penalties for home invasion so I voted against the bill.

In fact government members know what the truth is. They knew that we could not support amendments to the gun registry, which is sending $100 million a year literally down the toilet. That and that is why they put it all into one bill. They knew that people in my riding, hard-working farmers and those involved in the animal husbandry industry, in food production, in livestock and otherwise, had legitimate concerns about the treatment of animals laws. What did they do to avoid discussion? They put it all into one bill.

If I ask my colleagues to vote for the bill, because we want to protect children, or we want to create an offence of home invasion or at least increase the penalties in that respect, then they will go to my constituents and say that I flip-flopped on Bill C-68 and now voted for provisions of long gun registry. They may say that I do not care about the livestock industry because I voted for the treatment of animal sections that may imperil their livelihood.

The people of my riding work hard. They are an industrious people. Yet government legislation has destroyed their livelihood in respect of the hunting industry. It has destroyed their livelihood in respect of tourism. Political pride, nothing less, prevents the government from standing up and saying it made a mistake and can we work together to fix that problem.

I want the members opposite to know that on Bill C-15, I am prepared to work in the same open way that members of the opposition, regardless of party, worked to get Bill C-24 through to protect our people. I would be willing to do that with Bill C-15. Why will Liberals not do it? Political pride.

I would ask the minister to reconsider her position, look at the good she has done here, take that good and put it to use in terms of the political mileage she has gained now on this bill and do the right thing, which is split Bill C-15.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2001 / 5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to the main estimates which were tabled in the House on Tuesday, February 27, 2001, and which have recently been returned from committee studies and are to be concurred in tomorrow.

My point of order concerns an irregularity with the estimates. I have an interest in ensuring that parliament retains its power over the public purse. This power has been eroded over time.

I refer you to the remarks of Madam Speaker Sauvé on June 12, 1981, at page 10546 of Hansard , when she said “it matters not whether the amount spent is a large sum or simply one dollar”. The issue is whether parliamentary process is properly being followed.

Speaker Lamoureux properly stated on March 26, 1974, at page 896 of Hansard that “Parliament cannot legislate by estimates”.

Speaker Jerome has also stated, at page 607 of Hansard on March 22, 1977:

—the government receives from Parliament the authority to act through the passage of legislation and receives the money to finance such authorized action through the passage by parliament of an appropriations act. A supply item in my opinion ought not, therefore, to be used to obtain authority, which is a proper subject of legislation.

Marleau and Montpetit made note of this on page 735 at note 223.

I believe there is a prima facie case where an estimate this year should be ruled out of order. I am bringing this matter to your attention at this time because your predecessors, Speakers Jerome and Sauvé, have indicated that such points of order be brought up on the next to last allotted day of a supply period. This is noted in Marleau and Montpetit, at page 735, note 221.

I bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, specifically to National Defence, Vote 1, and the creation of Parc Downsview Park Inc. and to the report of the auditor general of October 2000, chapter 17, pages 18 to 21.

In its 1994 budget, the government announced the closure of Canadian Forces Base Toronto at Downsview. In its place, Downsview was to be held in perpetuity as a unique urban recreational green space for the enjoyment of future generations.

In order for the project to go ahead, the government has first, issued an order in council authorizing Canada Lands Company Limited to incorporate a new crown corporation, Parc Downsview Park Inc. as a subsidiary of Canada Lands Company Limited, pursuant to paragraph 91(1)(a) of the Financial Administration Act.

Second, it has transferred control and responsibility, as well as the benefits from management of the Downsview lands, from national defence to Canada Lands Company Limited and subsequently to Parc Downsview Park Inc. under a management agreement with national defence, while national defence continues to hold title to the lands.

Third, it provided initial funding to Parc Downsview Park Inc. from an existing national defence vote.

Fourth, it issued an order in council authorizing the transfer of the first parcel of land, about 32 acres, to Parc Downsview Park Inc. pursuant to paragraph 16(1)(a) of the Federal Real Property Act.

Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to page 17-19, paragraph 17.58, of the October 2000 report of the auditor general, which was tabled in the House on October 17, 2000, wherein the auditor general specifically states:

Parliamentary authority was not sought for any of the above-noted activities.

The litany of the government's failure to recognize parliament continues. The auditor general said in the same report that “no parliamentary approval to spend funds on the Park” was sought.

In August 1999, the treasury board approved the first transfer of land for commercial development and acknowledged that Downsview Park would not be in a position to pay anything for the land for “decades”. Normally the government acquires lands to meet its needs and to deliver a program, such as national defence. When the land is no longer needed for program purposes it is declared surplus and is sold. The proceeds from the sale are returned to the consolidated revenue fund. Parliament then votes on its program priorities and appropriates money from the consolidated revenue fund through the estimates process. This process is intended to ensure that spending of public money is authorized by parliament.

In the case of Downsview Park the government has in substance transferred assets to another entity and, by developing these assets, would have proceeds available to fund new program activities without parliamentary approval. Parliament has not been asked to appropriate funds for development of the park and for park activities.

During 1999-2000, national defence spent approximately $4.8 million for Downsview Park operations and development, which of course, we will remember, is under a subsidiary of Canada Lands. It expects to spend $4.5 million annually on Downsview Park for the next three years. To date, these expenditures have been charged to national defence's Vote 1, which parliament has authorized to be used for the department's operating expenditures, not for Canada Lands.

In the view of the auditor general, the expenditures related to the development of the Downsview Park site, approximately $2 million of the $4.8 million, are not a valid charge against national defence Vote 1. The Department of National Defence should clearly not be funding Downsview Park from its operating expenditures. If the government wants to develop and operate Parc Downsview Park, it should introduce legislation accordingly, then seek the appropriate funding through the estimates rather than through national defence.

I want to make it clear that I am not opposed to spending for our hard working men and women in the Canadian forces in the Department of National Defence. In fact, I support increasing their funding. However, we have a case where parliamentary approval has not been sought for expenditures.

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could ask you to only rule the money in Vote 1 for Downsview Park out of order, but I cannot. I can only ask that you rule the vote out of order in its entirety even if one dollar has been spent without proper parliamentary approval.

Mr. Speaker, I am asking you to send a message to the government that such methods of deception are not acceptable. Parliament is supreme and its authority has to be respected.

This is the first time since the auditor general brought the matter to parliament's attention that we will be voting on the main estimates. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, using the criteria established by previous Speakers on several occasions, which I quoted from earlier, and with the information provided by the auditor general, I am asking you to strike the national defence Vote 1 from the estimates and the subsequent supply bill, since it is clear that millions of dollars are not a valid charge against the public purse, the national defence, and are not in order.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, certainly I had no notice of this coming forward, but I am speaking in the context of being a former minister of national defence who oversaw the dissolution of the Canadian forces base at Downsview and also the minister with geographic responsibility for the greater Toronto area, where I and the current minister of defence sort of share shepherding responsibilities for Downsview Park-Parc Downsview.

I think that the point made by the hon. member is very specious in the main. First, when we closed those bases, in particular Downsview, we said that the land would be retained in perpetuity for future generations, primarily as a unique, open, recreational green space. The reason we put primarily in there is that other ongoing uses would still be permitted, for example, national defence still has housing on that site and there is now an armoury that has been announced by my colleague the Minister of National Defence, as well as other activities. It was always intended for that portion of land to remain in the title of national defence so that if, God forbid, we were in an emergency situation whereby that land would be required for emergency defence operations, it would be there.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

You didn't say that.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The Chair is listening to a very substantive intervention. The House heard uninterruptedly from the hon. member for St. Albert and I am sure the same courtesy will be extended to the Minister of Transport and other members who might choose to make an intervention.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

David Collenette Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not purport to have all the references that the hon. member for St. Albert has, but as a parliamentarian of longstanding I can state that if a financial matter comes before the House in the budget and if it is passed, as the 1994 budget was, whether it is a taxation measure or whether it is the measure under discussion, that legitimizes the particular expenditure. It legitimizes the particular use that was called for in the budget.

I would submit that, first, it is entirely appropriate that national defence retain ownership of those lands, and second, that it is entirely appropriate for the government, in the view that those lands are no longer needed in the short term and hopefully in the long term, to make an arrangement with another government agency, in effect a contract, to manage those properties and that revenues be allocated for that purpose.

The hon. member talks about inappropriate transferring of assets to another entity. National defence has not transferred any assets. National defence remains in title in the government and has entered into contractual arrangements with Canada Lands, and a subsidiary of Canada Lands, Parc Downsview Park, is managing this on an ongoing basis.

It was always our intention to try to have other sources of revenue. There was a parcel of land that was subdivided, which has been now taken up by one of the box stores. It was an orphan piece of land, as we say, in the southern portion of the runway. That was severed and the moneys accrued as per the normal procedure of divestiture of the federal government, whereby the land went to Canada Lands and was put on the open market. The proceeds went back into Canada Lands for use for the ongoing maintenance of the park. All of this is appropriate.

I think that this is another case, with great respect, where the former auditor general erred. I have another case in my current department, on Moncton Airport, where the logic he used is not supported by the facts and is creating political expectations about the arrangement that was made for the transferring of the Moncton airport.

I am not attacking the former auditor general, but I am saying that no one is perfect, including auditors general. In the case of Moncton airport, my officials have been looking at that and will continue to look at it as part of the ongoing lease review of the 26 NAS airports on which the government has entered into contractual arrangements with local communities for administration. In that case and on the issue of Downsview Park and the changes of the Canadian forces base there, he was wrong. His logic was wrong.

I would say, Mr. Speaker, with great respect, that I would hope you do not find yourself entitled to strike any vote out of these estimates for reasons that are highly subjective, will not stand up procedurally and will not stand up in terms of parliamentary precedents.

The fact is that nothing could be more germane to the mandate of the House than the voting of money and the spending of money. That is what the 1994 budget has done. That is what all subsequent budgets have done. Therefore I would hope that the hon. member sees the error of his ways and withdraws his point of order.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to the minister as well as the previous speaker, the mover of this point of order. I must say that of the two arguments I certainly think the hon. member for St. Albert has put forward a very credible and very serious matter which he has brought to the Chair.

I would like to speak in support of this matter. The member for St. Albert has a very strong reputation as the fiscal thistle. He has made a number of very timely and well placed barbs and he comes by this name by virtue of his at times very prickly approach to some of the frivolous government spending he encounters.

This matter the minister calls subjective somehow, saying that because it has already received scrutiny and has gone through the House in a previous budget we should just accept it part and parcel because the government at some point passed it with its majority will in the House.

That is not how it works nor, I suggest, are his comments about the position taken by the auditor general particularly germane to this argument. The auditor general obviously saw a flaw in the process which is very similar to that pointed out by the member for St. Albert. He put forward in his report of 2000 a very detailed and, I would suggest, very relevant commentary on the Downsview Park Incorporated scenario.

In fact a number of issues arise, but this point of order focuses on whether this spending should be legitimized through this process, that is to say, the process that has been set up, and I think it is the contention of the hon. member from St. Albert, is outside the bounds of parliamentary spending. The way in which this money has been manoeuvred within the government department is wrong. The government has not taken these particular assets through the normal channels, and in this instance we are talking about the value attached to a certain piece of property that will be used to incorporate and operate in perpetuity a park.

There is precedent, as was pointed out previously, and I would refer the Chair to Beauchesne's 6th edition of Parliamentary Rules & Forms . As the very learned trio of Fraser, Dawson and Holtby point out at page 258, notation 937:

The test which items must meet to be included in the Estimates is whether or not the government is putting forward a spending estimate under authority it already possesses, or whether it is really seeking new legislative authority to do something. It makes no difference whether an item attempts to spend a large sum or simply one dollar. The government may not, by the use of an Appropriation Act obtain authority it does not have under existing legislation.

This came from Debates of June 12, 1981.

Beauchesne's goes on at 938 to cite:

The previous amendment of legislation by Appropriation Acts cannot justify a repeated use of items in the Estimates to amend legislation.

Finally, the notation at 942 states:

Asking for money in the Estimates before legislation is passed to establish programmes “puts the cart before the horse.”

That is exactly what has happened here. The government does not have the authority to act in this manner. In fact, I am referring to the auditor general's report where he cites at page 17 under citation 17.67:

In the case of Downsview Park, the government has, in substance, transferred assets to another entity and, by developing those assets, intends to fund new program activities. Parliament was not asked to appropriate funds for development of the park and for park activities.

That clearly falls within the description and the bounds of what was cited in Beauchesne's.

I also want to bring to the Chair's attention under the House of Commons Procedure and Practice rules, edited by Robert Marleau, a very distinguished clerk of the House, and Camille Montpetit, at page 733. I will quote the last paragraph on that page. It states:

The inclusion of one dollar items in the Estimates also gave rise to the issue of using Estimates to “legislate” (i.e., Estimates going beyond simply appropriating funds and attempting to obtain new legislative authority which would otherwise require separate enabling legislation through the regular legislative process, outside the Supply procedure).

That is what is happening here. There is an attempt through this process to circumvent or do an end run around the normal spending practices of this place. That is the rub and that is what is contained in the conclusion of the auditor general's report where he states at 17.73:

In our view, the Government of Canada wishes to set up an urban park and invest more than $100 million of public funds therein, it should have clear and explicit approval from Parliament to do so.

To ignore the arguments by the member for St. Albert would allow the government to do just that. If one wants to talk about specious and evasive language, one only has to read the government's response to the auditor general's commentary in this regard. It is very evasive and dismissive in what the auditor general had put forward.

I would humbly submit that this is an abuse of process that has been brought to the Chair's attention at the appropriate time. I would suggest that it is typical of the government's attitude toward parliament to subvert the normal practices and procedures when it comes to spending and to other issues. We see time and time again the avoidance of the ever shrinking examination of the estimates.

Even though the government may want to go home early, I would suggest this is an important issue for the Chair to examine. We cannot avoid our responsibility in that regard. There has to be respect for the opinions of the auditor general here. There is precedent that has been pointed out by previous Speakers Jerome and Sauvé.

Therefore, I encourage you, Mr. Speaker, to accept the prima facie case that has been presented to you by the learned and hon. member for St. Albert.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we could get into an extensive debate on whether items can be introduced by way of the estimates process. There has been debate after debate on that issue going back to the creation of VIA Rail and so on, but I do not even think it is at issue today.

What we have today is an issue involving the asset. The asset is land. It is real property. It is real estate. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that in real estate, if someone is the owner of the title, that person owns the property. As the Minister of Transport has said very clearly, the asset still remains the property of the Minister of National Defence.

There may be arrangements toward the administering of that real property by another agency, in this case another agency of the crown, not one that was created for this purpose but one that already exists, namely Canada Lands Company Limited and, of course, one of its subsidiaries, Downsview Park Inc., to look after this land.

However, the fact still remains that if we are dealing with a physical asset, that is, real estate, it is the ownership that is at issue and the ownership remains and is retained by the Department of National Defence, and for good reason. Those good reasons have all been explained by the Minister of Transport.

I am sure that when Mr. Speaker prepares his ruling to that effect he will want to inquire as to the ownership of the property in question, the asset in question, to use the language of the auditor general, and Mr. Speaker will conclude, as we did, that the asset is still in the hands of the Department of National Defence. As it was not changed it makes the point that was raised today moot. It no longer has any value because the asset was not changed.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for St. Albert has raised a very serious point. He is claiming that the government has attempted to usurp the authority and responsibility of the House and its members.

As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, this responsibility of the House represents a basic principle of our constitution. The fundamental principle, that the crown has no power to tax except by grant of parliament, is to be found even in the Magna Carta. The bill of rights of 1689 declares:

Levying money for or to the use of the crown by pretence of prerogative without grant of Parliament for longer time or in another manner than the same is or shall be granted is illegal.

The principle that parliament approves expenditures for the specific purposes for which they were intended began as far back as Charles II and was developed under William and Mary. As a result, we are governed today by rules that make it illegal for the executive to make expenditures, except those expenditures that are approved by parliament in ways approved by parliament.

Mr. Speaker, we have just had a report from the modernization committee suggesting that there are deficiencies in the handling of estimates by parliament. It recognized that:

The estimates are an important tool in terms of accountability, and the financial control of the House of Commons. Despite numerous procedural changes over the years, we have been unable to discover a workable solution. There are many reasons for the lack of progress in this area, many of which are attributed to our political culture.

This disturbing attempt by the government to erode the influence of the Commons in this way represents some of that political culture. While we as members could alter the rules to improve the way we consider the estimates, only you, Mr. Speaker, can protect our financial privileges from the government's attempt to slide through illegal spending.

Therefore I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to take this point of order very seriously. We ask that you protect the ancient constitutional right of the Commons to insist on legislative authority as a precondition to sanction grants of supply.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thought some information out of the auditor general's report for October 2000 might be helpful to you in making your decision on this. I would like to quote a couple of sections that are relevant to what the member for St. Albert was objecting to from section 17, page 19.

Section 17.63 states:

Downsview Park was capitalized by $2.9 million of surplus funds generated by property management activities at Downsview Park base up to 31 March 1999. Leasing revenues for the next four years are expected to exceed $20 million.

Section 17.64 states:

Half the land (300 acres) will be used for commercial or residential development. The other 300 acres will be developed as a park. Downsview Park expects that commercial and residential development will generate more than $145 million over the next 15 years for developing and operating the park.

It is pretty clear from the report that the government is in the business of land development. I suggest that is not a role the government should have. This is clearly outside the authority of government and it is not acting in the best interests as it should be.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Certainly the member for St. Albert has raised a point of order that is serious and at the same time substantive. I thank all members who participated in the debate at this time.

The Chair will take the matter under advisement and I assure the House that the matter will receive the close scrutiny that it deserves, and if necessary I will report back to the House.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations among House leaders to extend the hours this evening to complete consideration of two bills.

I would like to seek consent to propose a motion to the House which was negotiated with House leaders, that any divisions deferred to the conclusion of government orders today be taken at 6.30 p.m., that after the said divisions the House continue to sit to consider if necessary third reading stage of Bill C-24, as well as Bill C-6, that divisions be deemed requested thereon and deferred to the conclusion of government orders on June 12, and that when Bill C-6 is disposed of the House shall adjourn until the next sitting day.

I am asking to extend the hours to complete Bill C-24 and Bill C-6. There is a third bill but negotiations are not complete on it yet. I believe we now have consent regarding Bill C-24 and Bill C-6.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the government House leader have unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-24, an act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and law enforcement) and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-24 is an extremely important bill. Earlier, the Canadian Alliance member for Provencher began his speech in a manner he says is unusual for him, and expressed surprise that the Liberals were doing the right thing on this issue.

I think we must forgive the Canadian Alliance member, because he has been in the House only since November 2000 and perhaps does not have all the background.

The reason the Liberal members decided to take action was because there was an opposition party here in the House known as the Bloc Quebecois, which decided to press the issue.

Since 1994-95, we have been talking about organized crime, in a much more structured way since 1997, and we have never given up, because we believed, and we still believe, that the whole issue of organized crime is a very important one. We must do what it takes to give our law enforcement officers and the legal system all the tools necessary to combat organized crime.

The Bloc Quebecois has raised this frequently and regularly in the House, because there was a special problem in Quebec.

But the real question the member for Provencher should perhaps have asked is how it is that it is an opposition party which has kept this issue alive all these years, while the federal Liberal members from Quebec have never said a thing on the topic, even though they are supposed to defend the interests of Quebec. At least, that is what they said during the last election campaign.

Throughout the years that we have been questioning the government, why is it that we never saw members from Quebec, Liberal members opposite, rise in this House and tell the Solicitor General of Canada and the Minister of Justice the exact same thing that the Bloc Quebecois has been saying, which is that we need additional tools within the Criminal Code?

The Liberals opposite, the federal Liberals from Quebec, do not utter a word in this House. They take their cue from English Canada, and in particular the Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General of Canada, and if these people say yes, then they say yes. But if the people from English Canada do not ask questions, you can be sure that the Liberals from Quebec will not ask any either.

And that is not just on the issue of organized crime. The same thing goes for several other bills. However, to stay on the subject of justice, let me digress here from a moment to talk about the Young Offenders Act. Where were the federal Liberal members from Quebec? They were crawling on their knees.

This is how they defend Quebec's interests. They get down on their knees and they watch what English Canada does, what the justice minister who is from Alberta does, to find out if they should get up on their feet or not. They watch the Solicitor General of Canada, who is from the Maritimes, to see if they should say yes or no. That is how they defend Quebec.

However, that is not how the Bloc Quebecois in the opposition sees things. It is not true, and it is not the way we saw things with regard to the Young Offenders Act. We fought hard and we will keep on fighting because it is too important.

It is not the way we saw things with regard to organized crime either. We did not crawl, we did not grovel on our knees before English Canada. We took on that issue and we defended it. We even sacrificed opposition days to get members opposite, particularly federal Liberals from Quebec who never say a word in this House to defend Quebec's interests, to understand that they should introduce a bill that would include certain tools in the criminal code. We made numerous proposals over a period of several years. We asked questions and finally, the government gave us Bill C-24.

I think I just gave a brief history of this issue, but I will remind members that, with the war that was raging between criminal biker gangs in Quebec, with the bombs that were going off here and there, this was an issue of great concern to everybody, something people read about in the newspapers practically every day.

Innocent people died because of that, people who tried to bypass the system somewhat to defend their territory, their vested interests as well as democracy. It is indeed a matter of democracy when one looks at the influence criminal groups can have on a justice system such as ours.

These people died. A young boy named Desrochers lost his life in a bomb blast. There was also the young owner of a bar in Terrebonne who was murdered by organized crime. There were bombings. There was the case of journalist Michel Auger, who received threats. Then, someone shot him on orders from organized crime. Luckily he survived. But this is a very important issue.

We in the Bloc Quebecois tried in every possible way to make the government opposite listen to reason. That was the case in 1997. I clearly remember that the issue of organized crime was discussed during the 1997 election campaign. We raised important elements in our election platform to make the government understand. We fought throughout the 36th parliament to have amendments made. It was also true during the last election campaign in November 2000, when the Bloc Quebecois put the issue of organized crime at the forefront.

We were committed to making Ottawa take action. We were committed to spending the time and the energy to make the government opposite do something and we got Bill B-24.

Hon. members probably remember that I was pleased when Bill C-24 was introduced, because it included about 80% of what we had been asking for. Some clauses were even taken from a memo that I had sent to the Minister of Justice at the time. I have before me a note on gangsterism dated June 1, 1999, asking to redefine a gang as a group composed of three or more people. Simplification was called for because the bill was, to our minds, too complex despite the minister's protestations to the contrary, that everything was fine and it was just me who could not understand any of it. Now it can be seen that I was right in saying it was complex.

The minister has, I see, finally understood something about this matter, and has proposed the amendments I had submitted long before Bill C-24 was introduced. I submitted them to her in writing as long ago as June 1999.

Certainly we are in agreement with the main thrust of the bill. It is what we wanted, but there are some unanswered questions. Time will tell, really, as the legislation is applied, whether the government has gone too far or not, whether or not it ought to have listened to the opposition as far as granting immunity to police officers who commit illegal acts is concerned.

Yes, I do believe we must give police officers carrying out an investigation the permission or legal protection for them to commit certain offences with complete impunity. If we want to be able to infiltrate certain groups, to gather evidence, to fight organized crime on an even footing, then I believe that in a free and democratic society such as ours, we have no choice but to confer these powers.

That said, however, I am not necessarily in agreement with the way it will be done. Bill C-24 gives the final blessing to the solicitor general. I find it dangerous to have both the political and the legal mixed up together in this cocktail that allows police officers to commit certain acts.

I moved amendments in committee and I defended them. I can say that if I had had a little more time, I think I would have convinced the government representatives of the dangers of having the authorization in the hands of the Solicitor General of Canada. Unfortunately, my amendment was defeated by two votes, I think.

I would have preferred, even today, to have the authorization given by a judge, who gives the police this immunity to enable them to commit offences, just as a judge issues a search warrant before proceedings or permits wiretapping, for example. This would have ensured total detachment.

I have faith in the Quebec and Canadian legal system. I have faith in the judges, who are very well trained, perfectly competent and very professional. To my knowledge, as far as anyone can remember, there has been no major abuse in the legal field as compared with what has happened with the police.

I am working in close co-operation with the police. I know them well and I know they are very professional. I know they do an excellent job, and I have a lot of respect for the work they do. Yet, in a big family, such as that of the police, we cannot know or keep tabs on all the family members.

From the way immunity is given in the bill, abuse is possible. In any case, the possibility for it is there, and I can see it. I find that dangerous. This is why I moved the amendments that were defeated.

It is obvious we will be closely following all the developments and especially the implementation of this bill in daily matters along with everything connected with police immunity. I would also have preferred that immunity be given only in cases involving organized crime. The Barreau du Québec, the Canadian Bar Association, other prosecutors and specialists in the field, and the Bloc Quebecois find it dangerous that this immunity applies to almost all spheres of criminal activity, and not just to organized crime.

The title of the bill before me is an act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime). In reality, Bill C-24 applies to much more than just organized crime. I introduced amendments which were rejected, but I would have liked its application to be limited to organized crime, so as to limit the potential for abuse. Once again, we will be following the implementation of this bill and watching how the solicitor general, with his authorizations, and the police enforce the legislation on a daily basis.

The police are delighted with these powers, but I remind them that they now have an obligation, but not the means, to produce results. There is zero margin for error. They do not have the right to abuse their authority and commit illegal acts. I do not know whether they realize this, but there will be enormous pressure on them and many people will be watching.

I also won a point when the bill was being studied in committee, of course. I would point out, in passing, that the federal Liberal members from Quebec did not introduce any amendments. Once again, they did not have a thing to say in committee, as though there were no members of the government from Quebec. The point that I won concerned protection. In Bill C-24, members of the House of Commons were protected. That is wonderful. The senators in the other place were protected. Fine. However, I wonder why organized crime would want to infiltrate the Senate. I do not know whether anyone can draw me a picture that would help but, in any event, the bill protected them.

But members of the Quebec national assembly and of any other legislative assembly were not protected. Nor were city councillors. Yet, we are well aware that, because of zoning, anti-bunker and other types of bylaws, organized crime can exert a great deal of pressure on these people.

Journalists were not protected either, even though we had a striking example in the case of Michel Auger, from the Journal de Montréal , who was the victim of attempted murder by organized crime, because he was reporting on their activities, because he had a power, the power of the press, which is an extremely important democratic power. The bill was totally silent on this issue.

It is not federal Liberal members from Quebec who defended these people. They did not say anything. It is the Bloc Quebecois which moved amendments in committee and these amendments were adopted. As was pointed out by the Progressive Conservative member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, who was present when the bill was reviewed in committee, I managed to get these amendments adopted. How? By asking for a roll call vote and telling those federal Liberal members from Quebec who were present “If you vote against these amendments I will give your names to the media. If these amendments are not adopted it will be because of you”.

This is how, in the end, the two Liberal members from Quebec found the courage to say yes to my amendments. I had to threaten them with giving out their names to the newspapers, otherwise they were not going to agree to provide protection to journalists. This was not very proper on my part, I know, but it was the only way to get this amendment adopted.

I was pleased by what I saw later on at report stage in the House. The minister moved an amendment to strengthen the amendment that I had proposed in committee to protect journalists, but that the Liberals had initially rejected. Bravo.

I can say that it took a long time to get the people over there to understand this. Who would have defended Quebec if the Bloc Quebecois were not here? Not the Liberal MPs from Quebec, who never say a word in this House. They always just parrot what a minister has said. That is not what we in Quebec need, and the people of Quebec know that very well. A striking example of this is evident in Bill C-24, and an even more striking one with the Young Offenders Act. Quebecers need Quebecers to defend them, to represent only the people of Quebec in this House.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

An hon. member

It takes a Bloc Quebecois member.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

The hon. Liberal member across the way says that it takes a Bloc Quebecois member; even he has understood.

There is also another point on which I do not think we have gone far enough. We will vote in favour of Bill C-24, but I believe we could go a little further. We are going to monitor how it will be applied, we will watch how the police forces and the government are going to apply this law. In due course we will review the situation, since we consider it one of our priorities, both before it is passed and after as well. The matter of reversal of burden of proof is the aspect relating to the proceeds of crime that we believe needs to be taken further. It is still too easy to get around this.

There are many cases I could cite. For instance, when someone declares an income of $13,000 for the previous year and is driving around in a Jaguar, frequenting the most chic Montreal restaurants almost nightly, and lives in a $350,000 house, I think there is something fishy going on. The law needs to be strengthened in this area.

The government should also amend certain federal laws relating to taxation. As Canada has a police force specializing in organized crime, there should be special investigators to enter organized crime, investigate and build files. We do not have this at the moment, and millions of dollars are slipping through our fingers. We will study that closely and come back to it if the government drags its feet once again.

We will not wait for the Liberal members from Quebec. We know they never do anything. We will take the initiative and continue to defend the matter as we have done from the start.

There is also the question of financing. I know the member for Provencher, a member of the Canadian Alliance, mentioned this in his remarks earlier. He is right, especially since I put the question to the minister. I asked her, “Of the $200 million that you say you will make available for the implementation of C-24, how many millions of dollars will go to Quebec, because the provinces will apply it on a daily basis? The provinces will be going after organized crime. How many millions of dollars will be coming to Quebec?”

Do members know what the answer was? It is perfectly splendid “Zero”. The $200 million is for the federal government, for the machinery. for adjustments, for training, for application purposes, not for those working on location. And yet we know that a lot of money is needed there.

We know because we carried out operation Printemps 2001 in Quebec. We conducted the biggest operation against organized crime that Canada has seen. I no longer know how many gang leaders and members in good standing were arrested, and how many warrants were issued. I think there were about 40 in approximately 77 municipalities. So it was quite a large-scale operation.

Operation springtime 2001 alone cost the Quebec treasury around $15 million, and that does not include all the future court costs. If close to 50% of all those accused end up behind bars, several prisons would have to be adapted, because they could not all be incarcerated immediately.

In addition, we saw what it cost in terms of adapting court houses, conducting trials, and so on. The costs were enormous. The federal contribution needs to be rethought, because no funding has been planned for Quebec or the other provinces with respect to enforcement of this legislation.

This is very important. We know that enforcement is what will make the difference. Even if we have the best laws in all the world, if we are unable to enforce them, if we lack the staff or law enforcement officers, where will it leave us? In the wonderful Canadian system in which we live, it is the federal government which makes certain laws and the provinces which enforce them.

It seems to me that there is something wrong. The federal government is the lawmaker and it has money coming out of its ears, but it decides to make cuts and to look after its own interests. Fine. But we have to see about the implementation of the act as such, which is very important.

Right now, what the minister is telling us about funding is not reassuring. We will have to check and to monitor this very closely to ensure that Quebec, among others, gets the necessary funds. This will not be the first issue over which we fight. Indeed, the Bloc Quebecois has fought a number of battles to ensure that the federal government gives us the money that belongs to us, the money owed to the province under certain programs and following Ottawa's withdrawal from certain programs, including in the area of justice. We fought; we went and got money for Quebec, and we will continue to do so.

We will not wait for Liberal members from Quebec, because they never say anything in the House, they are too afraid to get any money. But not us Bloc Quebecois members. We will continue to protect Quebec's interests and to go and get the taxes that we paid.

I will conclude by saying that for us the most important issue that is still unresolved is that of making it a crime to merely be a member of a criminal gang. This is not in the bill, but I still believe in such a clause and the government is making a mistake by not taking the Bloc Quebecois up on its proposal.

We said so in 1997, when the Minister of Justice brought in amendments to the criminal code. We told her—or rather him, since the federal Minister of Justice was a man at that time—that it was a mistake. But he did not heed us. He had indeed made a mistake. Today we still feel that not making mere membership a crime is again an error on the government's part.

There is the whole matter of the Canadian constitution. Is it or is it not constitutional to make mere membership in a gang an offence? There is agreement on the definition of a gang as being a group of individuals who join together to commit crime and to live off the proceeds of crime. Such a definition naturally excludes such groups as the Knights of Columbus, the Daughters of Isabelle, the Optimist clubs, the Club Richelieu and so on. Does this respect the Canadian constitution or not? I believe that it does. I believe we have everything we need in the Canadian constitution to create legislation in this area that respects jurisdictions, that respects the Canadian constitution.

That was my opinion before, continues to be today, and likely will be tomorrow as well. For the worst case scenario, that it does not respect the Canadian constitution, we have the notwithstanding clause in section 33 and it can be used in such a case. It is not true that the constitution is there to protect gangs. It does not do so in Bill C-24.

We will be voting in favour of Bill C-24 because it offers additional tools. It may not be all we wanted in such a system, but in large part it reflects what we were calling for. We are going to vote in favour of this bill. But it will have to be monitored very closely and we will not hesitate in the least to revisit the matter. We will not hesitate to invoke the notwithstanding clause if need be. In any case, there are reference procedures. We could have checked the legality or illegality of a bill that used the definition of organized crime as we understand it.

The government opposite knows about that, since it has already used the reference procedure. The Liberals were a little short on guts politically. They did not go that far. We will follow this. We will check it and closely follow the laws daily application. We will no doubt be back if certain points are not well applied, and the criminals still get away with it.

We know that criminal groups are well informed in legal terms. They are sometimes said to be better equipped legally than the crown prosecutors. They are obviously going to examine this bill and find its weak spots, try to get around it.

We will follow the law's application. We will work, as we always have, with the police and the justice system and, once again, try to bring the issue of organized crime before this House. We will try to convince the minister to go further in the procedures we raised with Bill C-24.

Probably, one day or other, the government opposite will tell us we were right, as we were right in 1997 to complain about the bill it tabled. One day or other, I am sure, the government will say it will have to go further, because the bill does not provide what Canada and Quebec need to fight organized crime.

Once again, we will be there for the people of Quebec. We will rise, unlike the Liberal members from Quebec, who say nothing in this House. From this side of the House, we will defend the interests of Quebec, because we were elected to do that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I know my learned friend has contributed significantly to this debate. He brought forward a number of good ideas both at the committee and here in the House, some of which were embraced and are now encompassed in the legislation.

The Conservative Party generally supports Bill C-24. We see this as a positive initiative. We see it as an attempt finally by the Liberal government to recognize and put into law shortcomings that exist for police officers and law enforcement generally across Canada as it relates to this ongoing issue of organized crime.

Previous speakers have alluded to the numerous attempts made to amend the legislation, one of which dealt specifically with the special designation or authorization that would be granted by virtue of the bill. That designation, as the Chair knows, would allow police officers, in some instances, such as in very critical and dangerous circumstances, to engage in activities that would otherwise be offences under the criminal code.

The legislation would grant a form of immunity to the police in cases where they need to prove their affinity and prove themselves to members of organized gangs in order to gain their trust so that they might infiltrate that organization and embark on an important investigation.

The Conservative Party supports that. We believe it is a necessary evil, in some instances, to allow police to do just that. However, it is the unfettered ability to do that with which we are somewhat concerned, and that is the origin of that jurisdiction, the origin of that granting of authority.

We believed very strongly and moved an amendment to the effect that it should come from a judicial authority, as opposed to an internal police decision. That is not to cast aspersions in any way on the police or to suggest outright that there would be abuse. It is just to recognize that there are normal practices currently in place which pertain to warrants and wiretaps, for example, that allow those in a position of judicial authority to review the circumstances and make a more impartial, a more informed and a more impassioned decision as to who should receive that designated authority.

The government in its wisdom does not believe this to be the case. Yet I sense a great deal of unease and discomfort on the part of many government members who were part of the committee process.

Canada has increasingly become the focus of these very notorious gangs within our own borders. We know that organized crime does not recognize or respect borders. Yet this plague or this cancer that exists in our country and around the world is spreading. Many organizations have branched out and recently, for lack of a better word, set up shop in Canada.

In my home province of Nova Scotia the Hell's Angels are becoming very prominent. They have opened a clubhouse that in terms of its outward appearance has store frontage that would rival that of Wal-Mart. It is that blatant. They have their name up in neon lights. That is very much the attitude and the cockiness that exist within many of the criminal gangs in the country.

Many concerns have been ongoing for many years about the resources and the state of our laws that create the imbalance which allows organized crime to thrive.

Bill C-24 goes some distance to bringing back some form of equilibrium, at least in the ability of police forces to combat organized crime, to penetrate the very being of organized crime, to gather evidence, to go into the field and to hurt organized crime in the same way that it is wreaking havoc in our communities. To do so they have to use extraordinary methods at times. That is surely what the legislation is intended to do.

It is also clearly a response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Campbell and Shirose. The decision was interpreted as having struck down many of the previous authorizations in police for police to occasionally break the law. The decision opened up a chasm, a gaping hole in terms of the police understanding of what was or was not permissible in pursuit of organized crime. Bill C-24 is an attempt to restore some of the power and discretion that existed for many years in Canada.

It is following the trace of authorization to permit this type of activity which causes members of the Conservative Party and I some concern, as well as members of the bar associations in many provinces and others concerned that this type of potential invasion of civil liberties is a bit stretched by virtue of the bill.

As the government would be quick to point out, the level of accountability in legislation, at least in terms of the tracing the line, goes right to the solicitor general. Quite interestingly, in probably his last speech in the House before he trundles off to the other place as a reward for his diligence and duty on the part of the Prime Minister, he would be the figurehead, the top cop, if the bill were to come into being. That causes many to shake in their boots but that is currently the case.

The solicitor general is supposed to be directly accountable. Yet the supposedly personal responsibility which rests with the solicitor general's office will not be personal at all when there is a cabinet shuffle or when he leaves for an appointment.

It cannot be personal. It is ludicrous to suggest otherwise. That is the type of fallacy the bill creates. If there is to be real authorization and real accountability in the legislation, there must be judicial oversight, a judicial review of who receives this type of designation.

This concern is shared by many, as I have alluded to, but it is one that is particularly prevalent in the province of Quebec. The Chair would certainly be aware that on Tuesday, September 12, 2000, Quebec public security minister, Serge Ménard, urged the federal government in some instances to use the notwithstanding clause to outlaw membership in gangs such as the Hell's Angels and Rock Machine that were a plague to the streets of Montreal and other cities in Canada. In so doing it might anticipate the fact that the courts may very well strike down as unconstitutional some of the provisions of anti-gang legislation and legislation such as Bill C-24.

At the same time we know that in the city of Toronto, under the very able and capable leadership of Chief Julian Fantino, the police have assigned a full time team to monitor Hell's Angels bikers who have brashly set up clubhouses throughout the city as they have in Halifax. Police are most concerned that Hell's Angels might be involved in drugs or arms dealing or taking over legitimate businesses for money laundering purposes. We spoke to that previously in debate on legislation before the House today.

Yet organized crime does not exist just in the large cities. Hon. members would be quick to recognize that their reach goes far beyond our major metropolitan areas. It is found in small towns and villages. Particularly in rural Canada now more and more we are seeing the activities of organized crime. Ports and coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to the importation of contraband materials.

We in the House have an obligation to recognize that Canada is becoming a target of organized crime. In so doing we are very much committed to bringing forward legislation such as this one which arms the police with the tools, the support and the resources necessary.

Resources do not just entail the concrete types of resources one might expect such as computers, firearms on occasion, weaponry, cars, surveillance equipment, helicopters and planes. It also includes legislative backup, legislative tools that allow police forces to optimize their efforts. They allow police forces to see the fruition of their efforts through the courts and prosecutorial system and the eventual incarceration of those who engage in illegal activity.

There was a reference made in previous remarks to the horrible shooting that took place in Montreal of Journal de Montreal reporter Michel Auger who was shot five times in the back. It was a truly cowardice act. I think evidence emerged recently to suggest that it was very much linked to organized crime, particularly motorcycle gangs which Mr. Auger had made the subject of many of his articles.

Therefore the bill now encompasses protection of journalists who write about, disclose and pull back the veil of secrecy surrounding organized crime. As I said, criminal gangs are branching out. Any effort that curtails their activity is such that we should be supportive.

Having said it is rampant and spreading within Canada, it is certainly recognized that it is a world problem. We have seen references to Russian mafia. Certainly Chinese triads have now set up in Canada. We have references to all sorts of organizations from the Middle East that have been active within our borders.

This is a clear indication that Canada has to be competitive and to look in some instances for information from other sources outside our boundaries. That again has to be a direction in which we are prepared to move, because just as in legitimate practices within the economy Canada stands to be left behind if we do not keep up the pace and recognize that this is something now far beyond our control and far beyond the scope of our boundaries.

There was a debate in the House on September 18 initiated by the Bloc that I would suggest very much pushed the government toward bringing forward useful and positive legislation.

The Minister of Justice repeatedly gave assurances throughout the debate and on other occasions that efforts were being made to break the back of organized crime. Yet she refused to discuss using the notwithstanding clause during the course of the debate and conceded that the Liberal government could strengthen the anti-gang laws first initiated back in 1997.

Bill C-24 would do a great deal to achieve some sense of hobbling organized crime. It certainly would not break its back but it would strengthen the definition that pertains to what comprises an organized gang. It would target various degrees of involvement within the organization, make it easier for police and crown prosecutors to arrest and jail gangsters and keep them in prison for longer periods of time by extending the range of sentencing available.

It would allow law enforcement agents to forfeit the proceeds of crime, use the property to do good work and put those resources toward necessary areas. It would also strengthen the rules protecting against intimidation of witnesses, jurors and their families in an organized crime trial, a big problem when it comes to the successful prosecution of these types of offences.

Further, it would strengthen protection for federal members of parliament and improve protection for law enforcement officers from criminal liability when they commit certain illegal acts while engaged in undercover operations to infiltrate criminal organizations. This is the immunity clause of which we spoke earlier.

In recognition of the non-partisan efforts put forth on the committee some very useful amendments were passed. The record will reveal that all who have spoken to the bill have done so in a fairly positive and straightforward fashion as to what would be accomplished when the bill comes into being.

There was also mention of the amendments moved by other parties in attempts to improve and expand upon the status of the legislation. Under the bill the Solicitor General of Canada and provincial ministers responsible for policing would release an annual report accounting for how often law enforcement agents engage in acts which are considered illegal under the current criminal code. That would provide some record and some ability to trace at least what actions have occurred, when the immunity has been used and for what purposes.

There is some degree of comfort in knowing there will be an after the fact examination of the efforts and acts of police in attempts to infiltrate organized crime and invoke on occasion the immunity which allows them to commit illegal acts like stealing a car and using stolen property. However there are still limitations that speak in particular to offences that might involve bodily harm, sexual assault, and certainly murder and the use of violence. The limitations are there. They are real and they exist for a reason.

The amendment the Conservative Party brought forward, which in fairness emulated much of the intent and mirrored the substance of the Bloc amendment tabled at the committee, would go back to this designation. Suggesting that somehow it would slow the process down by having a judge rather than a police officer or superior law enforcement officer make the designation simply does not wash.

There is no further delay in having judicial authority in the first instance than there would be in having police authority to grant the immunity. There would be a much greater sense of ease among many if they knew the designation was coming from a judicial authority as opposed to an internal, in shop process which allows in the extreme one police officer to designate another who would in turn designate him again.

We support this type of legislation and recognize it as something that can be improved upon. Yet the authorization itself is something we would like to revisit at some opportunity. I expect we will because we know that the instant the bill comes into being there will be challenges before the courts. Who knows what the supreme court would do in its wisdom with this type of intervention and designation of authority?