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.