Mr. Speaker, I would like to have some supplementary answers to the question I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence two weeks ago, that is, on the Friday before the recess of the House.
Yesterday, when my hon. colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin asked a similar question regarding the problem of tobacco smuggling in Canada, I was disappointed that the parliamentary secretary was still unable to answer the question or demonstrate that he truly understood the problem we were talking about.
It is even more surprising because he had nearly two weeks to do his homework, to examine the issue and provide us with a reasonable answer. Since he knew that I would be asking him for further clarifications here today, I imagine his staff must have had a few minutes to brief him, so he can finally answer our question.
As I said, obviously, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence did not understand the file we were talking about. However, tobacco companies, citizens and representatives of all kinds want to prevent smoking and are lobbying for action to tackle this problem. He should have known, first of all, that the main problem with tobacco smuggling has to do with the fact that it involves domestic smuggling.
In his responses to both my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and me, the parliamentary secretary did his very best to talk about border services and customs seizures. The problem is not contraband getting through customs. That is not the issue. The problem is that cigarettes are being made on Canadian territory and, in most cases, are intended for distribution only within reserves to aboriginal people who have the right to consume them. However, they are being bought, distributed and consumed illegally outside of reserves.
Obviously, we will not catch these people at the border. These people are not involved in cross-border contraband operations. They are operating on our own soil. In light of that fact, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence's suggestion is a strange one. It makes me think of a police officer standing on a sidewalk in front of a bank, arms crossed, watching the street and thinking everything is under control while people are robbing the bank behind his back.
We must act. I hope that in the response the parliamentary secretary will provide shortly, he will show that he understands that the problem is not at the border, but on our own territory.
Something else I found surprising was that when I suggested the possibility of seizing vehicles belonging to people involved in contraband activities, he said that was not allowed. Yet the 2001 Excise Act enables police to seize a vehicle when they have reason to believe that it is involved in contraband activity. Here, we are talking about contraband activity taking place with the full knowledge of the general public. That makes it very easy for the police to know or have good reason to believe that a person has products intended for illegal sale, such as cigarettes, in his vehicle.
The government has the means to act, but will it?