Madam Speaker, I too would like to pay tribute to my Bloc Quebecois colleague, the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm, not only for his work in committee, as the Canadian Alliance member pointed out, but also for his continuous work, since 1994, in the fight against organized crime.
Since 1994, the Bloc Quebecois has always put forward initiatives to improve the criminal code, so that criminals, particularly those who belong to biker gangs and to organized crime in general, will be given meaningful sentences that reflect their crimes and the terrorism they institutionalized in today's society.
Back in 1997, when it decided to amend the criminal code, the government used several of the Bloc Quebecois' ideas. We were very pleased with that but, at the time, we were also aware that the criminal code had to be strengthened even further. At the time, we had pointed to certain flaws, about 80% of which are being corrected in the new bill.
We still wonder, and the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm, often about this: since we were able to identify the problems with the criminal code, the flaws relating to the tools available to police officers to combat organized crime, why did the government take so long to recognize the need to strengthen the criminal code and to have specific provisions to lead a continuous, constant and determined fight against organized crime?
I am not saying that we would have avoided all that has happened, but some of the 151 murders committed between 1994 and now in the biker gang war, particularly to control the drug market, might have been avoided.
Some of the 170 attempted murders, including the recent one against reporter Michel Auger, might also have been avoided.
With a tightened criminal code, as we have before us today, we might have avoided some of these attempted murders, 13 disappearances, 334 violent crimes, 129 cases of arson, 82 bombings and the murder of one young boy in 1995. Young Daniel Desrochers lost his life as a result of a bombing in the Hochelaga—Maisonneuve area. The bomb was placed by the Hell's Angels, who were involved with the Rock Machine, now known as the Bandidos, in a war to control the drug traffic.
Let us not forget that, if we open the door to these criminal gangs, if we provide them with some kind of haven where they can grow and prosper, they can only become more arrogant and more powerful. With power comes their willingness to commit more crime to show their supremacy.
That is exactly what happened when two prison guards were killed in 1997, if I am not mistaken. We might have avoided these tragedies.
Members might remember that four years ago I talked about institutionalized terrorism in Quebec and southeastern Ontario, in the countryside. Members of criminal gangs grow marijuana in those fields every year. To ensure the growth of their business operations, they terrorize farm families. Maybe this is something else we could have avoided.
I am pleased with what I see in this bill. I even support the amendment put forward by my Conservative colleague allowing a judge to designate a member of a police force who can be protected from criminal liability for certain otherwise illegal acts committed in the course of an investigation.
It is also a way to protect the solicitor general. We should not forget that, when politics interfere with the judiciary, it always turns into a disaster, as we have seen in the past. It has always put us, willy-nilly, in terrible situations.
It is especially true since the practice of having illegal acts committed by police officers applies not only to investigations into organized crime. We often asked this question to the solicitor general and the justice minister. They have said that this practice is not restricted to organized crime.
This thing could go quite far. The solicitor general could have to make a political decision when what we need is a judicial decision. This could lead to abuse.
We have seen a lot of abuse in the past. We all know what happened in the 1970s. We would not like to see this happen again. Two royal commissions investigated police actions during the October 1970 events. The powers of were have been restricted, and at the same time, the roles of the RCMP and of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service were divided so that these roles would be clearly defined.
Did we forget about all these discussions? Did we forget what happened a few decades ago, so that we are now about to make the same mistakes again today?
We support the introduction of the judicial order, therefore of a judge, in the fact that the police are given authority or tools to work with, including the ability to commit offences not murder or rape, as part of their undercover operations.
I met a lot of policemen during the three months my family had 24 hour a day protection seven days a week because of death threats. I had reported gangsters who had taken over farmland in my riding, elsewhere in Quebec and in southeastern Ontario.
I therefore had a taste of that sort of terrorism. I also learned a lot by talking to the police who often came from drug raids and who had had to go undercover. They are often required to commit offences, because, if they do not, they risk their skins. They risk being killed on the spot. So, they need these tools in order to become more effective and to protect themselves as well.
They have to be careful. The job of policemen is not a cushy one. They need these tools. We support the fact that the government is giving them the tools to enable them to effectively combat organized crime and do not get discouraged. I also met police from the RCMP and the Sûreté du Québec, who, in the absence of legal instruments, were back at square one after months and months of investigations costing hundreds of millions of dollars and unable to lay charges.
I am very anxious to see, following the recent operation springtime 2001, with its 160 arrests, including the heads of biker gangs, how far we will be able to proceed with charges under the provisions of the Criminal Code as it now stands, and this will need to be discussed with the minister at some point.
The weaknesses that have been pointed out since 1997 are still there, until the new legislation is enacted. If they remain, this means that charges are not being laid and evidence is not being gathered against these 160 bandits who have committed criminal offences ranging from drug trafficking to corruption, intimidation of judges, politicians, journalists, and even murder or attempted murder.
If the tools available to us at the present time, which have been criticized since 1997 by the Bloc Quebecois and by my colleague for Berthier—Montcalm, stand in the way of laying any meaningful charges against this band of criminals, that will be the fault of the Minister of Justice, no more and no less.
She had no justification for waiting this long before introducing her bill. She had all the tools, all the analyses, at her disposal. We had provided them. She had everything she needed to make a decision to strengthen the criminal code well before today.
During the committee hearings, the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm told me that, as regards the amendment to include journalists in the clause about people to be protected against intimidation through sentences of up to 14 years, we had to intimidate the Liberals to have them agree to include journalists in the list of people to be protected against intimidation. This is incredible.
We all know about Mr. Auger's experience. We know that, like politicians, as I learned from personal experience, journalists do a risky and dangerous job. They examine issues. They target criminals. They report on their activities. It is quite normal to include them.
However we had to threaten the Liberals with releasing the names of those who were opposed to including journalists in the list of the people to be protected from intimidation, before they would finally agree to this amendment. They got scared that their names would be released and that journalists would say “Listen, this does not make sense”.
For all these reasons, we will support the amendment proposed by the Progressive Conservative member. We will also support the other group of amendments, which consists in including journalists in the new clause on intimidation.