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House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was land.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, Agriculture.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that I can get on the speaking list in reference to this issue of trafficking in persons, Bill C-49.

It is interesting that right now in the subcommittee there is a major discussion going on concerning this whole issue of prostitution. It started out just relating to solicitation as it happens on the streets of our cities and elsewhere in the country and its impact on the safety of women, and men I guess to some degree but mostly women in this nation, as it applies to whether the laws are placing them in harm's way.

The debate widened very quickly and included the whole issue of trafficking. The reason that it took that route is because it became clear in the nations that decriminalized or legalized prostitution that the efforts to control that activity on the streets opened another door, that door being another brand of illegal prostitution springing up for those who did not fit into the pattern or the mould as set by the state. Therefore the issue of illegal prostitution expanding became the focus.

Who is involved in the expansion of that prostitution, that other aspect of illegal prostitution? There are several jurisdictions in the world that tried to decriminalize or legalize prostitution and authorities found that women were being hustled into the illegal side of prostitution and many of them from out of the country. In other words, there was a trafficking process that was set up from various parts of the world bringing women and children for that matter into those jurisdictions that had decriminalized or legalized the activity.

What is wrong with the picture? On one side, the government is moving toward the legalization of prostitution or decriminalization, whichever way it wants to call it. It is part and parcel of the debate that we are having in the committee. Once that is done, the illegal trade and the trafficking of women and children will increase in a very dramatic fashion.

Australia and New Zealand went through it. The Netherlands went through it and it is a prime example of what not to do. The only nation that did not and in fact started cracking down on those who were engaged in the activity of prostitution and trafficking, which is the organized criminal side of it, was Sweden. It not only cracked down on the pimps but it also cracked down on the johns, those who exploited women. Lo and behold, many of Sweden's problems disappeared. The numbers of women involved in that whole area of prostitution diminished dramatically because the jurisdiction took care of it. It took the money out of it and away from organized criminals.

We have Bill C-49 that proposes to step down on those involved in trafficking. At the same time this other debate is going on. For the most part I can see the real advantage of having some tough law, if we want to call this tough law. There are no minimum sentences in the law but at least it would address some of these concerns. It proposes up to life sentences for those who recruit, transport, transfer, receive, conceal harbour or exercise some control or influence over them.

On the surface it looks good, but we have the same problem here as we do with other pieces of legislation from the government. There are no minimum sentences to guarantee that the courts will deal aggressively with individuals who involve themselves this way. There is nothing to guarantee that and the argument of course on the other side is that the court must have all the discretion it needs to deal with whatever case may come up, and it is up to the judge to exercise that discretion.

We have heard that story far too many times. It washes kind of thin when we start looking at the results of legislation that does not aggressively deal with a growing problem within the international community.

Trafficking in people, just like drugs, is considered one of the largest sources of profits for organized crime. In our committee when we started talking about this whole matter of organized crime, nobody wanted to address it. In fact, it was almost a taboo subject because the issue of prostitution was considered by some, unfortunately, as a legitimate occupation to pursue and should be protected like any other legitimate occupation. It was the flawed thinking of some members within that committee. Most of them just so happened to be Liberals or NDP members who thought that prostitution was a legitimate form of work to be protected by the state.

To look at it from that point of view we would have move into the direction of legalization or decriminalization of prostitution. It would be a very dangerous route to go, I might point out, looking at the jurisdictions that have already experienced such a downtrend to this whole issue. Organized criminals step into the breach and they will reap the profits in tens of billions of dollars that it will bring, all at the expense of women and those who abuse women.

My concern of course is that this not get a foothold in this country. The bill certainly addresses a point or two when it comes to trafficking in people, but it does not deal with the issue once those individuals are here clearly in real terms engaged in an illegal activity in the nation.

Yes, we can support the bill. There are some provisions in it that deal with the reality of trafficking, the forced coercion or deception and the issue of forced labour or forced prostitution, but it does not connect when it comes to the other debate that is going on in the justice subcommittee dealing with the prostitution issue.

I have a couple of questions for the members on the other side and I want to put them on the record. If this country were to decide to decriminalize prostitution, how many members on that side would agree that it would lead to increased trafficking in persons, especially women and children?

Members on that side will probably not be able to answer that question or maybe will not want to answer that question, but it is the only question that bears the need for an answer.

Let us talk about sentencing. It was not long ago when an issue of drugs entered the debate in the House and in fact it even hit the media in this fashion. Some suggested that the serious drug dealer, the one who makes sure that crystal meth and others are distributed to our youngsters, receive a life sentence. There was outrage from members on that side and they said, “A life sentence. How absolutely archaic”. That mantra was kind of picked up by the media. Fingers were pointed to members on this side, accusing them of being somewhat extreme, or dinosaurs or whatever.

I see drugs destroying the lives of many of our young people in this nation. In fact, that has happened and continues to happen. There is no serious legislative effort to shut it down. I am talking about the bills and the suggestions about decriminalizing marijuana for one and really seriously dealing with the grow op situation in the nation. We have no national drug strategy. In fact, we do not even have, and again this relates directly to this bill, any organized crime strategy. How are we going to deal with the organized crime issues?

I find it appalling that there is so much organized criminal activity. I have seen it creep into my own city over the last five years in very real terms and how insidious it is, how devastating it is to a community, and how many police resources are involved in trying to combat this kind of not only violent but insidious type of crime that works on prostitution, drug distribution and the like. There is no clear national strategy on drugs.

Now we have an issue dealing with people and again, it is organized crime that is at the foot of it, the foundation. I have a concern because the Liberal cabinet and the majority of members over there cannot put this into perspective. I would like to know why?

However, getting back to sentencing, it states that for the purposes of anyone who recruits, transports, transfers, conceals or harbours a person or who exercises control or influence over the movement of that person for the purposes of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation commits an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for up 14 years or life imprisonment if the accused kidnaps, commits an aggravated assault or sexual assault, or causes death to the victim.

I do not feel exactly confident that this matter is being dealt with in real terms again. A life sentence was pooh-poohed because a life sentence was suggested for drug traffickers and now all of a sudden, it appears here in another form. But again, it is at the discretion of a judge, and who knows where it will end up. Even if all of these heinous acts are committed against an individual or a group of individuals, there nothing to suggest that individual would receive a life sentence.

Then it comes to the section on money, the issue that makes this organized criminal activity go round and round in circles. It is involved in the drug business. It is involved in the prostitution business and of course the issue of trafficking in people.

We know that even cross-border trafficking is taking place. It was pointed out to the Liberal government that this had been going on and even where it had been going on, and still it was never addressed over all the years. It continues on to this day. There is a fee. There is a charge for moving a person across the border.

Even though that is the illegal side of it, there is a legal side too that is also playing hand in glove with those who want to traffic in people, and that is our immigration department. What is the immigration department going to do? If it is willing to open the doors to strippers and prostitutes of various kinds and claim what they do to be a legitimate form of work, then it is a party to what happens afterwards. I find that appalling, given the fact that it is a government department. I might also point out that ministers of the past here, ministers of the Crown, have even gone to bat for this so-called legitimate occupation. That is where the thinking is.

I urge my colleagues on the other side to deal with this in a much more effective manner. There seems to be a cross purpose of one side wanting to legalize prostitution, knowing that it will increase trafficking in women and children, and the other side wanting to crack down on some of the traffickers, if that in fact can even happen. I would like to see how the final playout of this legislation really does come about when it hits the law books and the enforcement agencies in our nation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, this particular bill, which I addressed last night, gives me great concern about maximum penalties. Maximum penalties in this bill are 10 years for one instance, 5 years for another and life for another.

However, as we have seen in this country, in courtrooms right across this land, maximums are seldom if ever given. In fact, there is a disproportionate penalty-crime ratio, and in many cases where families and victims think that some individuals are getting a serious penalty for a crime, they do not get it. Drugs in particular are some of the worst, where we see $400,000 and $500,000 grow ops and individuals getting a $500 fine for them. If I ever saw motivation for such a criminal activity, that would be it.

I would like to ask my colleague what he thinks the rationale is behind the government issuing these maximum penalties? Recently the government stood and said it was getting serious with the crystal meth business and would issue some maximum penalties when it knows full well, as in the courts in particular in British Columbia, that the penalties even for crystal meth production are very low.

I would like him to explain the rationale to the people watching this, not necessarily to the other side because I do not think those members will ever understand it. Could he perhaps give us an idea of how we can get around this inability to get the judges and the lawyers in the land to commit to discretionary decision-making that is conservative as opposed to lucrative for the criminal?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Abbotsford has contributed a great deal, both in this country and this House, to the issue of sentencing and the issue of the drug debate and the lack of drug law enforcement in this country. I appreciate his question.

By the way, what is the rationale? I would like to poll the members across to see if there is some sort of consensus about why there are low sentences even though legislation may come out with maximums that sound really tough. What is really behind that? The rhetoric makes it sound tough, but when it comes to the reality of the way the courts work in our nation, will tough sentences ever be delivered? Is that what is behind this?

I go back to the days of the Trudeau era of the Liberal government and men like Warren Allmand wanting to cut the feet out from underneath sound judicial reasoning. If we want to talk about changing the sentencing program, we just have to look at that man to see what he has done in this nation, all the way from murder on down.

At that time capital punishment was still around. He rationalized it away. People in this country were never consulted, but he rationalized it away, saying that we could not put a man in jail for life. It is a waste of a life, he said. I think those were his words.

As a result, he threw in the faint hope clause and down came the sentencing. At that time he laid down the law and shaped the future of what this country was going to look like from the judicial and the sentencing points of view. Shame on him, for he has jeopardized the safety of so many. I think that is really the philosophical root of what we see today. Unless somebody else explains otherwise to me, that is what I believe has happened.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently a court ruled on a sentence for someone who pleaded guilty in the ad scam scandal, in which there was theft of something like a million and a half dollars. The court said, “This man has been a good man. He has never committed crimes before. We will just send him home and we will let him give lectures on ethics to students at universities. That is what we are going to do”. That was his sentence for stealing a million and a half dollars.

I would like the member to comment again on minimum sentences. The minister says he is not going to go that way because it has not worked in other countries. Let us look at the section of Bill C-49 that was read out by the member for Winnipeg Centre. It talks about very serious offences. It says what the penalties are. It has been quoted several times. People can be sentenced to life imprisonment, but there is no minimum sentence. There is no guidance to the court, so someone could commit a very serious offence and some hotshot lawyer could come into the courtroom and say, “This is a good man. He has never done this before. Let us send him home”. And the man will spend his sentence at home.

I would ask the member to elaborate further on what he thinks about these minimum sentences that members on our side of the House have been talking about.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe the whole issue of minimum sentences came up as a result of legislation in the past, which eliminated, or which confused, and I guess that might be a better way of putting it, this whole issue of consequences for one's actions. Before then, the law took care of that. The law said that if we broke the law or rule we would pay a price for it. That ruled the courtroom. I was a police officer during those years to see it. There was precedent. There were issues that dealt specifically with the crime. Yes, the judge had discretion, but he looked at the safety of the individuals, the safety of the community and the consequences to fit the act that was committed.

There does not seem to be that philosophy anymore in the whole issue of judicial decisions. In fact, it is almost like situational ethics. Let us talk about a lawyer. I was going to say a Philadelphia lawyer, but how about a Bay Street lawyer? A lawyer would come in and say, “Look, this guy did this because of these reasons and any normal person would do the same thing”. Maybe that is stretching it a little bit, but the argument is there: it is that situation and it warrants a different judgment so there is no consistency anymore. Once a precedent is set, even a new precedent, in any law or any case, then suddenly that becomes the issue for the entire court to follow. It just deteriorates over time.

Why are minimum sentences now the topic of discussion? Because it is the only way to hold accountable--something that our government will not do--those courts that decide these are frivolous matters and warrant only minor sentences. On this side of the House, we want to ensure that there is some sort of consequence to the action of an individual. I do not know what the members on the other side think, but that is what is behind minimum sentences. I believe that even legislation like Bill C-49 should be addressing these matters clearly.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time for questions and comments has expired.

On a point of order, the hon. parliamentary secretary.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2005 / 4:55 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Liberal

Raymond Simard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I think you would find unanimous consent to adopt the following order: That the speech of Her Excellency, the Governor General, together with the address of welcome made by the Prime Minister in the Senate chamber on September 27, 2005, be printed as an appendix to the official report of debates of the House of Commons and form part of the permanent record of this Parliament.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

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4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

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4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

(Bill C-53. On the Order: Government Orders:)

May 30, 2005--the Minister of Justice--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (proceeds of crime) and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to another act.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberalfor the Minister of Justice

moved:

That Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (proceeds of crime) and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to another act, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in debate on Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (proceeds of crime) and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to another act.

First and foremost, this bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to put in place a reverse onus with respect to certain proceeds of crime applications. The new measures would apply to those convicted of a criminal organization offence or a serious drug offence and will provide that, subject to certain conditions, the property of such an offender identified by the Crown can be forfeited by order of a court unless the offender proves that the property is not the proceeds of crime.

In effect, these new provisions would add a new, more aggressive forfeiture method to the Criminal Code, in addition to the proceeds of crime forfeiture provisions that already exist.

This legislation also makes a number of corrective amendments to the current forfeiture of crime provisions for the purpose of ensuring clarity in these provisions.

The proposed new reverse-onus forfeiture power under Bill C-53 builds upon the current proceeds of crime scheme in the Criminal Code.

The current provisions originate from legislation put in place in 1989. They are part of the criminal process that comes into play when a court is imposing sentence on an offender. At their core, they are fundamentally designed to put in practice the straightforward principle that crime ought not to pay.

By allowing the government to claim the proceeds of crime, these provisions directly attack the illicit economic gain that is the prime motivation of many types of criminal activity, especially organized crime activity.

As such, proceeds of crime legislation is absolutely vital in helping to deter this type of crime and to undermine the criminal groups that are responsible for it.

These proceeds of crime provisions are found at part XII.2 of the Criminal Code. They allow for the forfeiture of proceeds upon application by the Crown after a conviction for an indictable offence under federal law, other than a small number of offences exempted by regulation. These offences, for which this current procedure is available, are referred to as designated offences under the code.

Currently, in order to obtain forfeiture the Crown must show on a balance of probabilities that the property is the proceeds of crime and the property is connected to the crime for which the person was convicted. Alternatively, the Crown can also obtain forfeiture even if no connection between the particular offence and the property is established, provided that the court is nevertheless satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the property is proceeds of crime.

Attached to these existing forfeiture tools are other related powers. These include, for example, powers allowing special search warrants to find property that may be proceeds of crime; the powers of restraint and seizure of property pending resolution of criminal proceedings to ensure that the property does not disappear before a possible forfeiture order; and provisions for court proceedings to permit relief from forfeiture where appropriate in order to ensure the protection of legitimate interests in property, including third party interests.

These existing proceeds of crime measures have proven to be fair and effective powers under the Criminal Code. However, there are strong arguments that they have not been effective enough.

While Canadian authorities have managed to seize, restrain and ultimately forfeit substantial suspected criminal assets, these amounts are believed to represent a relatively small proportion of the total amount of proceeds of criminal activity in Canada.

Organized crime groups in particular are believed to have control of sizeable financial assets that are the product of illicit financial activity that have not successfully been recovered by Canadian authorities. There is a substantial international dimension in this as well, as criminal groups transfer illicit gains out of the country, or indeed, transfer illicit gains from activities in other countries into Canada.

While our current proceeds of crime provisions are effective, the government is of the view that they can and should be improved upon, especially in relation to organized crime. We must build upon the current provisions in order to make them more effective. In particular, there are limitations in the way the current provisions operate that create barriers for police and prosecutors.

While criminal organizations are believed to be involved in numerous offences leading to substantial illicit material gain, convictions are typically obtained only with respect to a small number of offences. It is not always the case that these offences have associated proceeds.

For example, if such a criminal is convicted of murder, no particular proceeds will in general be associated with that one offence. Even for other types of offences that often do involve economic gain, such as drug trafficking, it frequently is the case that arrests will take place just before a major drug transaction takes place. While the organization itself likely will have been involved in numerous other trafficking activities, the particular offence for which the person is charged in that case would have involved an offer to traffic, for which there may be few or no related proceeds. Even where conviction does take place for an offence for which there are related proceeds, and forfeiture of these proceeds is possible, the particular offence and associated proceeds will very often only represent a small proportion of the total offences and illicit accumulation of property for which the criminal organization is responsible.

This means that the Crown often has to rely on the second branch of the current proceeds test, requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the property is nevertheless the proceeds of criminal offences. This often means that even after a successful prosecution, there is a prospect of substantial additional proceeds litigation with sometimes doubtful prospects of success to obtain property, which in the organized crime context very much appears from the outset to be proceeds of crime.

It is for this reason that a new reverse onus proceeds of crime forfeiture power is needed. It is the view of the government that there are certain criminal circumstances under which it is legitimate to presume that the identified assets of an offender are proceeds of crime. Of course, it should still be open to an offender to prove on a balance of probabilities that assets are in fact not proceeds of crime. However, failing such proof, the property should be forfeited by the order of the court. This is the basis of the proposed new power under Bill C-53.

This is a type of procedure that has already been adopted in a number of other democracies in respect of proceeds of crime. It is a power that federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice have identified as needed in Canada as well.

I believe that this initiative has considerable support within this House. I urge all members to work together to ensure that it is passed as soon as possible.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I find this legislation interesting in the sense that quite a battle has raged onward with law enforcement and its legislators in trying to address the whole issue of proceeds.

I remember as a serving officer that in an investigation there was always this matter of trying to seize the goods, whether it was a drug trafficker or some other organized criminal group. There were so many loopholes in the law that many of the organized criminal groups or individuals would simply sign their proceeds over to their lawyer and the Crown could not touch them. For the most part I think that is basically where the legislation sits today.

The other part of it was an issue that would deal with perishable seizures. For instance, there were individuals who went into ranching. Perhaps they would have 500 head of cattle. All the cattle were bought with illicit money from the drug trade. How does one look after 500 head of cattle? Who looks after 500 head of cattle? Is the Crown responsible for looking after 500 head of cattle? The issue became a moot point because nobody wanted to do it. Of course the proceeds would slip away and again end up in the hands of the lawyer who was defending the person.

I am curious. When it comes to an outright seizure, what does the state have to do to prove that the goods were obtained through illegal activity? What hoops does the Crown have to jump through? The legislation can say a certain thing, but until we see it all played out on the ground, we will not really know how effective it is going to be.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the principle being advanced here is very clear and distinct in what we are really trying to say. I agree with the hon. member to the extent that if we can take the profits out of crime, then there really is not any particular reason for pursuing that sort of activity.

With respect to the member's specific concerns about the ability of our legal system to trace money and to hold money, there are in place already certain provisions that will permit that money to be held, and even if it could be shown to be in the lawyer's hands, to be held pending the hearing process.

The other option that is offered in this legislation that is of some interest to the member is that first of all, in order for the reverse onus to apply, the Crown would first be required to prove, on a balance of probabilities, either that the offender engaged in a pattern of criminal activity for the purpose of receiving a material benefit or--and here is the one that likely comes closer to fitting the member's concern--that the legitimate income of the offender cannot reasonably account for all of the offender's property.

This is broad and far-reaching. It goes well beyond the present legislation where we are limited really to the proceeds of that particular act of criminality, unless we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that something did come from and can be identified as proceeds of crime by itself.

The member's concerns are legitimate. It is something that should be raised at committee. We should ask the experts to make sure that they have the tools in place to allow for the tracing and following of moneys. I believe that this new bill will really go a long way toward taking profit out of crime. Then I think we will see some positive results in terms of our law enforcement.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, we in the Conservative Party support Bill C-53. I want to make a couple of comments about things that take place in the real world outside Parliament because I spend a fair bit of time on street issues.

The hon. member on the other side talked about organized crime groups having substantial assets. I along with many other people really wonder what it is going to take in Canada to get organized crime groups off the streets.

We watch every day as the Hells Angels parade around the country with their nice jackets and their bikes and that sort of thing. Now they are disguising themselves by wearing suits. We are still allowing these people to rove around the country like they are some kind of bicycle heroes, but that is not the case. Those people are selling drugs to our kids. They are involved in prostitution. They are involved in all kinds of crime, and yet we tolerate their existence. I have a hard time with that quite frankly, and it is difficult to believe that it even happens.

Bill C-53 is important, but it is also important to follow up on my colleague's comments. This should not just be about the seizure of assets, because it is after the assets are seized that one of the biggest problems begins. I am going to cover several instances that I have been involved with just to give the House some examples. I also want to mention the contradiction in our laws today with respect to things like seizing assets.

I am very much involved in the debate about harm reduction in drugs, which of course is not harm reduction but rather harm extension. Harm reduction extends the use of drugs. It does not reduce the harm at all, as we will find out too late one day. Harm reduction involves injection sites, needle exchanges, crack inhalation sites, issuance of heroin to individuals, and the legalization of marijuana. Lately it also involves roving injection teams in Vancouver, if anybody has ever heard of anything so absurd.

Roving injection teams involve addicts who rove the streets and back alleys with needles to inject incapacitated addicts because they are too incapacitated to inject themselves. Not too long ago that was called attempted murder. When individuals walk into an injection site with illegal drugs in their hands, one has to wonder why there is some kind of free bubble zone to allow that when we are supposedly saying those kind of drugs are illegal to possess. The government has to get out of its schizophrenic mode where basically it is saying that drugs are against the law, but it is okay to break the law.

That is my preamble to my examples of this bill, which is really talking about seizure of assets, and it is a good thing.

Not too long ago there was a drug bust. It not only included drugs, but about eight or ten feet away in the rafters there was about $400,000 all wrapped up in plastic which the police took out of the building. This case went to court and the judge, in his infinite wisdom, gave all the money back to the dealers because they said they did not know it was there, that it was just something that must have been up in the rafters. Poor dears. He virtually gave the drug dealers $400,000 because in that courtroom with that defence lawyer, they did the wrong thing. They went after the defence of that drug money.

Although we have laws in this country, the problem is that lawyers on the defence side and the judges making the decisions are making the wrong decisions applicable to laws like this. It is not just the law that has seizure of assets that is important, it is the application of the law within the courtroom. I do not know what it is going to take for us in our society to go to the defence lawyers and say that we all have a problem, that for goodness' sake they know where the $400,000 has come from. It cannot be given back to the dealers. They would just use it to buy and sell again.

I cannot say how many times I have been involved in situations where money has been seized, put in trust because it cannot be given back to the dealers, when in fact the lawyers can get their hands on it. They go in on behalf of the dealers, charge a fee of the amount that is in the trust account, get all the money out of the trust account, give part of it back to the dealers and keep a good chunk of change for themselves. Those lawyers out there know who I am talking about. That is trafficking. It is wrong. It is stupid. It is not just a matter of setting a law to seize assets, it is the application of the law after it is made. These laws are not made to be broken or challenged. They are not made to have application under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They are made to prevent illegal use of money.

How do these guys get around it? I have mentioned before that recently a young man was kidnapped in my community. He was thrown into a van and pistol whipped. This sounds like something out of Terminator II in the United States. He was in the van which was involved in a high-speed chase with the police. The bad guys drove through a stoplight and killed a woman who was entering the intersection on a green light. They rolled the van and took off from the scene of the accident. It was a hit and run. Four of them were caught. All four were charged. They had guns, money and drugs in the car.

I was in the courtroom. They dropped all charges against three of them who said they did not know the other guy, that they did not know there was money in the van or to whom the drugs and gun belonged. It is the application of the laws. I do not know what it is in the House. We develop good laws and they are broken all the time.

There was hardly enough room around the front of the bench for lawyers because there were so many of them. Quite frankly it was a laughing stock of a zoo. Ultimately the driver of the vehicle was charged with dangerous driving. There were no gun charges. Everything was dropped.

The guy who was kidnapped, who was a witness, was asked what he did. He said, “I deliver”. “What do you deliver?” “Drugs”. He was asked if he liked that and he said no because his supervisor put him on the midnight shift from dial-a-dope.

These stories sound bizarre, but they are in fact true. What I am saying in the House of Commons is that while we have a bill we support, we have to approach those in the legal industry and tell them to apply this the right way and not to abuse where our intentions are going.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey Conservative North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I certainly enjoyed the presentation by the distinguished member. He referred to organized crime. I have a different situation in my riding which I would like him to comment on.

He is familiar with the community of Stewiacke in Nova Scotia. Recently there was a meeting of town council and dozens of concerned citizens about the high level of theft, crime and vandalism in the area and the lack of police enforcement. It turns out that the RCMP detachment in Stewiacke was closed many months ago because of a mould problem. In May the RCMP moved into a temporary facility, but it is still sitting there vacant and unusable by the RCMP. The lack of RCMP has resulted in an increase in crime. There is almost a crime wave in Stewiacke.

I met with the Department of Public Works and it turns out that it is that department's responsibility to upgrade it. It does not know yet what level to upgrade it. Today I met with the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Public Works and they are sorting out how to get this temporary facility up and running. Meanwhile the people in Stewiacke fear for their well-being, their safety and their lives. This appears to be a very lax attitude toward law enforcement and penalties for crime in general .

At the meeting in Stewiacke about a week ago, time and again it came up that the youth justice act does not work and that there is very little in the way of penalties for people, both youth and adults, who do commit crimes.

I wonder if the member would comment on the lax attitude of the Liberals toward law enforcement and penalties.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think this is my 12th year in this place and I have been on this justice issue for all 12 years. I came here and wrote the victims' bill of rights and the sex offender registry initially. I still see things getting worse. As much as the government writes bills, a lot of the issues are not being addressed. My friend Chuck Cadman spent a lot of time on the young offenders act, and it was changed, but there are still many problems unaddressed in the youth justice act. We are miles behind the drug issue in this House, from all sides. The government is supposed to take the initiative. We are miles behind these things.

I do not understand, and I suppose I will leave this House not understanding, why it is that a government can sit in office and be so far behind the real world out there. I know there is a philosophical difference between the Conservatives' approach to justice and the Liberals' approach to justice, but it cannot possibly be that wide a gap. The issues we are talking about here are common to everybody, such as the support of our police and the justice issue.

Everybody in this House knows that the the time put in for the crimes today is not what it should be. Yet on the other side we hear comments like, “We have to use judicial discretion”. We have tried judicial discretion. It is not working. Just go to British Columbia please, and look at the record. I can refer to thousands of cases to show the record. There is a problem.

It is getting pretty close to the time when we will insist on minimum sentences in this country. If the Liberals are not prepared to do that, then there should be sentencing grids. If they are not prepared to do that, then they should be prepared to look for election of judges or appointments of judges for a shorter period. This is being forced on our society because of inaction across the way with the Liberal government. It is coming.

The Liberals might smile at that little comment, but if they do not take action, this side will be government one day and all of the things that the Liberals failed to do are going to be implemented. I do not know how we are going to treat, ultimately, this discretion of judges, but somewhere along the line society here in this country will insist on those three actions. One precipitates the other. If they do not do one thing, then they should get used to the other one.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, would the member comment on the reverse onus section that is in the bill? As I understand it, for the reverse onus section to apply, the Crown has to prove on the balance of probabilities that the offender has engaged in a pattern of criminal activity and the court then makes a ruling to seize whatever the material is.

As one of my colleagues has said that it is some reverse onus clause. This is the first thing that has to happen. The Crown has to prove on the balance of probabilities that either the offender engaged in a pattern of criminal activity for the purpose of receiving material benefit or the legitimate income of the offender cannot reasonably account for all the offender's property.

After the court makes the ruling, then comes what I gather the government calls the reverse onus clause. The offender has to prove on the balance of probabilities that the property is not from the proceeds of crime.

What does the member think of the reverse onus clause?