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House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was victims.

Topics

Privacy Commissioner of CanadaRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Privacy Commissioner on the Privacy Act for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2010.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h) this document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

FinanceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Finance concerning Bill S-3, An Act to implement conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Colombia, Greece and Turkey for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-577, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (hearing impairment).

Mr. Speaker, there are hundreds of thousands of hard of hearing Canadians and yet, because of the existing structure of the disability tax credit, many of those Canadians cannot access the disability tax credit. This came out very clearly from hearings that I have had over the last few years in my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster.

What my bill foresees is tax fairness. This would change the criteria that currently exists, which is people who are able to hear in a quiet setting with somebody familiar to them, to what would be a more realistic criteria, which means a normal setting with somebody who is unfamiliar to the person.

This bill has been endorsed by the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, the Canadian Academy of Audiology and the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. Each of these organizations are supporting the bill because they believe in tax fairness for people who are hard of hearing.

This is for the hard of hearing, who are not treated fairly when they apply for a tax credit for people with disabilities. This bill would provide for equality, access to the tax credit, and fairness for hard of hearing Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

moved:

That, notwithstanding the provisions of any Standing Order, for the remainder of 2010, when a recorded division is to be held on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, except recorded divisions deferred to the conclusion of oral questions, the bells to call in the members shall be sounded for not more than 30 minutes.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the Chief Government Whip have unanimous consent to propose this motion?

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

VIA RailPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 5th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, petitioners in my riding are concerned that two decades ago VIA Rail service was stopped along the north shore and through Thunder Bay. Petitioners, like Laura Vanderwees and others, are concerned that, with the rising cost of gas and other expenses in northern Ontario, restoring passenger service would be a wonderful thing.

The petitioners call on Parliament to support the Superior passenger rail motion that would restore passenger rail service along the spectacular north shore of Lake Superior and in through Thunder Bay.

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, this petition is on a subject that is dear to my heart, as we have been campaigning for this for quite some time.

Back in 2005, three pilot projects were introduced to the Canadian public regarding employment insurance. These projects had been extended up until now but one has already expired. We are about to see the second one expire, which is what we normally call the best 14 weeks. Essentially, it allows people to use the best weeks they have accumulated, with 14 being the minimum, to receive benefits. Unfortunately, if this program fails, they will only be able to use the last 14 weeks, which, in effect, would provide a disincentive to work. I hope the government will see fit to make this program permanent or, at the very least, extend it.

I thank the petitioners primarily from the Fogo Island area for providing this petition to restore the best 14 weeks.

Veterans AffairsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great empathy that I table a petition today signed by some 6,000 citizens. They are calling on the federal government to amend the veterans charter to restore the lifetime monthly pension for injured soldiers as compensation. This petition supports the steps taken by a constituent in the riding of Quebec City, Francine Matteau, who is the mother of an injured soldier, and who is fighting for this amendment to the veterans charter.

I thank all of the individuals and groups who helped make this a success, and I hope that the federal government will not remain unmoved by the legitimate claim that these petitioners are making here today. Although the minister announced new measures two weeks ago, he did not deal with the main issue, which is the payment of a lifetime monthly pension as compensation.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, I am proud to table a petition today that has been signed by hundreds of people in my riding of Hamilton Mountain who are predominantly seniors or people who are very worried about the future of their own retirement incomes.

As people across the country will know, public pensions provide, at most, $16,000 to the typical retiree. Privately, only 31% of Canadians contributed to an RRSP in the last year and they have just seen billions of their savings evaporate. Fewer than 40% of Canadians have workplace pensions. Today, over a quarter of a million seniors subsist on poverty level incomes.

The petitioners in my riding are asking the House to adopt the NDP's comprehensive retirement security plan that would: (a) increase the guaranteed income supplement to end seniors' poverty; (b) strengthen the Canada pension plan and Quebec pension plan in consultation with the provinces with the goal of doubling benefits; (c) develop a national pension insurance program funded by employer pension plans that would guarantee pensioners a minimum of $2,500 a month in the event of bankruptcy and plan failure; and (d) create a national facility to adopt workplace pension plans of companies in bankruptcy or in difficulty and keep them operating on an ongoing concern basis.

Conscientious Objection BillPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to again table a petition signed by many people from greater Vancouver supporting the passage of the conscientious objection act, a private member's bill that I have tabled in the House.

The petitioners note that our Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. They note that some Canadians object on conscientious or religious grounds to participating in any way in the military and associated activities that train people to kill and use violence, produce and purchase lethal weapons, conduct military-related research, prepare for war and killing, and other activities that perpetuate violence, thus hindering the achievement of all forms of peace.

These petitioners support legislation that would allow such conscientious objectors to redirect a portion of their taxes from military to peaceful, non-military purposes.

Passport FeesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, my petition calls upon the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce the United States and Canadian passport fees. American tourists visiting Canada are at their lowest levels since 1972. It has fallen by five million people in the last seven years, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009.

Passport fees for multiple member families are a significant barrier to traditional cross-border family vacations, and the cost of passports for an American family of four can be over $500. While over half of Canadians have passports, only 25% of Americans have passports.

At the Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments, attended by myself and 500 other elected representatives from 11 border states and 3 provinces, a resolution was passed unanimously and reads, be it:

RESOLVED, that [the] Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism;

...we encourage the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application; and be it further

RESOLVED, that this resolution be submitted to appropriate federal, state and provincial officials.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker Ms. Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, today I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Newton—North Delta.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-21, particularly given the importance of white collar crime in this country. Over the last few years we have seen more and more of these cases. The Canadian securities administrators note that at least 5% of adult Canadians have been affected in one way or another by this white collar crime situation and that over one-third of these large numbers of victims of fraud are seniors who have invested money and who have obviously been misled. These people take the money and often it is not recoverable.

We also note with interest that corporations have estimated that between 2% and 6% of their annual profits are affected by white collar crime. Over the last few decades this has totalled billions and billions of dollars, so both the average individual in this country and corporations are affected by the activities of these fraudsters who clearly prey, in many cases as I have indicated, on seniors and the most vulnerable in our society.

We welcome the government's legislation, finally, on this and obviously support it going to committee to be reviewed. This legislation has a minimum mandatory sentence of imprisonment for two years for fraud valued at over $1 million. We could get into the issue of where people stand on mandatory minimums, but the reality is that the courts need to be much tougher on these individuals who prey on the most vulnerable and who clearly take people's life savings.

There have been cases recently where these situations have occurred and have caused great personal trauma for people, the Jones case in Quebec, for example. People believe that the individual before them is a reputable individual who tells them they will be able to invest their hard-earned money in certain investments for their retirement. Yet it turns out that they are victimized, and the penalties are not tough enough.

Not only do we have to look at the penalties but we have to look at prevention. How do we stop the fact that 2% to 6% of corporation profits are lost? How do we stop the fact that 5% of Canadians have been victimized? The committee will have to examine it, but it is not simply about the penalties; it has to be about how we can do better in terms of dealing with these kinds of individuals who are preying on our society.

Prevention is obviously important. The bill does not address the issue of the end of the one-sixth accelerated parole provisions for these offenders, which the opposition has called for and certainly the public has called for. There is absolutely no reason why this provision should still be there, and we hope the committee will deal with that issue. That is one of the shortcomings we see in this proposed legislation.

There is no question that the legislation has been a long time coming. It would have been dealt with earlier by the previous legislation that was introduced before Parliament was prorogued. Now we have new legislation, Bill C-21.

The Earl Jones case in Quebec and the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme in the United States are examples of the kind of individuals out there who prey on people and why we need to have tougher legislation. We need to have legislation, in my view, that not only includes the mandatory minimum but also deals with the sentencing issue and the psychological and financial impact on individuals.

The legislation permits victim impact statements after sentencing, but just as it is with an individual who is a victim of a mugging or an offence of that nature, the psychological impacts and the financial impacts in this case are quite significant, which is important. It is important that the courts look at those victim impact statements as well, to see obviously what mitigating factors were involved, but these things have a very long-term effect.

Constituents in my riding of Richmond Hill have been victims of white collar crime, and some of these people are still feeling the effects 10 years later. They should not, but they blame themselves in many cases and ask how they could have been taken in by this individual, how they could have been so gullible. Therefore, they ask what the penalties are, and often it is simply a slap on the wrist, and this is why the mandatory minimum is obviously important. But, it is also important to look at those community impact statements as well.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has indicated its support for this. The Canadian Bar Association has concerns about the mandatory minimum issue, but again we need to deal with the reasons for white collar crimes. We need to deal with what the regulations are. One of the issues the House has been dealing with as well is the issue of the securities commissions, the fact that we have 13 across Canada and the issue of a national regulator. When I was parliamentary secretary to two ministers of finance, we promoted the idea of a national regulator. The government is again talking about a national regulator. It is important because, in trying to keep track of investments and the fact that if people overseas are looking at investing in Canada, it does not make a lot of sense that we have 13 bodies. But there are other issues. There are about 50 entities as well that are also involved in the issue of regulations, as well as dealing with the issues of enforcement, investigation, coordination, et cetera. We have a very bureaucratic system, which is often why these kinds of cases slip through the cracks and why these people are able to advance their particular agenda on individuals who unwittingly fall victim to this.

On the issue of recouping of dollars, when people have taken the money how do we get the money back, if any of it is recoupable? How do we get that in terms of where they have put it? Have they put it offshore? Have they simply spent it? What are the tough penalties to deal with individuals who do this?

In my riding there was an elderly lady who had invested $10,000 with someone she thought was a reliable individual, and unfortunately she never recouped that $10,000. When people are elderly and that kind of savings is gone, it has a tremendous impact. The question again is, what are we doing as legislators not only to deal with the proponents who are involved in this kind of white collar crime activity but as well to prevent it? How can we be tougher in terms of the regulations? How can we be tougher in terms of monitoring? Those are the kinds of things that people want to see. The bill deals with part of that, but it does not deal enough on the prevention side. I hope the committee will do more with that.

The victim restitution issue is obviously going to be extremely important because again that is something that at the end result people are most concerned about, in terms of how that impacted on individuals and their families and their community. How do we get the word out of what happens to these people? Some would argue that a minimum of two years is not strong enough, but from the Liberals' standpoint we do believe that there need to be strong provisions put in place, and if we had not prorogued we probably would have had this a lot earlier. But we have to move quickly on a bill of this nature because this addresses an issue in our society, which is becoming more rampant. When we think of 5% of Canadian adults who have been in one way victimized by white collar crime, that is quite significant. I look forward to future deliberations on this.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, obviously Canadians welcome greater measures in our laws, policies and programs to protect them from shysters, but one area the bill does not address is one of the largest categories of fraud, which impacts on the public market and the public, and that is environmental fraud.

When I worked in Bangladesh, I discovered that in Asia the government regularly brings fraud charges under its criminal code against major polluters. There have been recent serious cases in my own province of industry filing false reports on pollution. This is not a minor blip or technical matter. Our entire environmental regulatory system is based on self-reporting and if companies do not self-report, there can be significant harm to human health and the environment.

I am wondering if the member could speak to whether the bill should cover a much broader area, including environmental crimes, and in that case, who would speak on behalf of the community in the court.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, as a former parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment, I welcome the question. My personal view is that yes, it should be broader. It should deal with those kinds of issues. There are jurisdictions where this in fact takes place. She mentioned Asia, and Japan is another example.

This is a type of fraud, although obviously a different type, one that not only has a major impact on the community but can have significant financial implications as well. Environmental false reporting or fraud is an issue that the committee would certainly have to look at, but there are examples in Japan and Singapore where these in fact are on the books and could be very useful.

Who speaks for the community? That is a good question. Both interest groups in the community at large and we as legislators have to put some teeth into legislation that sends a strong message to companies that we do not want it to occur and if it happens there will be penalties. We have to speak with a very loud voice because, whether the pollution is in rivers or fields, the fact is that it is having health effects. Those are implications that need to be addressed.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, the member talked about a single regulator. With his experience in the previous government with financial matters and being from the centre of the financial universe, the greater metropolitan Toronto area, he would have some experience in giving an answer to this question.

Why is the government behind the United States with respect to the self-regulation of securities, with respect to cracking down on fraudsters, and why does this bill have no response, for instance, to the type of rampant Madoff situations that occur in the United States? Even though the Conservative government emulates the United States in so many ways in its style of politics, why is it so far behind the U.S. regulatory and punitive regime with respect to securities?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, it partly comes down to political will. It also comes down to the fact that we seem to always be bogged down in jurisdictional issues. There are not only 13 regulators but 50 other bodies involved in the co-ordination, investigation, et cetera. The fact is that this is one area where Parliament needs to act very strongly because the ability for these things to slip through the cracks is very evident.

I do not know of too many countries, in fact I cannot remember one, where there are so many regulatory bodies dealing with this issue. The United States, Great Britain and France all have a single body, and yet we are still debating regulations and jurisdictions rather than who we are supposed to be serving. It is the public that is the victim because of these 13 bodies and the other 50.