House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was negotiations.


Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


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

Madam Speaker, I was amazed earlier to hear some of the comments from across the way about how dare someone delay the proceedings by challenging the chair juxtaposed to that two and a half to three month break that we were under. I remember one of the Conservative MPs saying, we need to shut down the House, take all the bills over the side because we need to focus on the Olympics. I have no doubt in my mind that the four-man bobsleigh were warmed and tickled to death that their MP was at home cheering them on. My goodness, and they get paid $156,000 for that.

Maybe Conservative members should debate a bit more. Maybe they should challenge the chair more often. I am tired of being in the House, as my hon. colleague from the NDP from Manitoba would also agree with me, in that in every debate that we engage in here I seldom hear from the government side. Members must raise the bar, push this debate beyond what it is in the public discourse, beyond the ads, beyond the newsletter. They should come into the House and make their money and actually say something that they believe in.

My hon. colleague actually did that and here is the point. She wants to make the bill tougher. She wants to make this right by making it tougher, and instead all we get is, “You are just delaying”. Maybe the Conservatives should answer this question. Criminal offences of institutions exempt the larger offender. That is a very valid point. Would the member please comment on that?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, clearly there is a loophole. There is an issue that the bill does not address and we have not heard from the government as to whether or not it intends to bring forth legislation that would address the issue and that is of financial institutions that commit fraud, that clearly, intentionally develop products and services with the intent to defraud individuals of their hard-earned and hard saved money. The bill does not deal with that.

That is the point that was raised by the retired investment broker in the article that I read out where he talked about how there is a loophole. In the United States there is the case of Goldman Sachs, which is currently being sued by the U.S. national securities regulatory body. Here in Canada the criminal offences would not cover any of that.

My question for the government would be why is it not bringing--

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt, but the hon. member's time has lapsed.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, the bill is going to pass. It is going to have support from all parties.

However, this debate is important because of the usual manner in which the government, in a more partisan manner than the Conservative Party, is presenting this bill to the Canadian public. When we look at the bill, we can ask whether it accomplishes what the Conservatives would like the Canadian people to believe it accomplishes. The answer to that is an absolute no.

This is a very narrow bill in its ability to fight white collar crime because of the different natures of white collar crime. One might ask: If that is the case, why are the opposition parties supporting it? It is because it does a little. The more important question would be: Why are the Conservatives so reluctant to go after white collar criminals when they do not seem to have any problem going after criminals of any other nature?

We have heard this comparison. In one of my questions earlier today I mentioned the Ponzi scheme in Toronto, Ontario that occurred in the period of 2007-08. Just a few weeks ago, prosecutors in the justice ministry in Ontario decided not to proceed with the charges that they had laid. The amount of money taken in that Ponzi scheme was somewhere between $23 million and $27 million and they opted not to proceed.

At the same time, if we look at any number of other cases, such as a corner store being robbed or an elderly woman having her purse ripped off on the street, those charges would be proceeded with. In both cases, the amounts of money that would be taken would be minimal by comparison to the $23 million to $27 million. However, those charges would be proceeded with and, if either one of those involved violence or a weapon, the people who committed those crimes would certainly be incarcerated and, in some cases, especially if it were a repeat offence, for lengthy periods of time.

If we take that same elderly woman who had her purse stolen and lost $100 or $200 and she, instead, had been ripped off by a fraud artist for hundreds of thousands of dollars, all too often that person would get away with it. The charges that were withdrawn in that Ponzi scheme was not an isolated case.

This is part of the delay that the Conservatives accused the opposition of, but we heard evidence from lawyers who acted for those victims. In the situation where charges are not proceeded with, in some cases charges not even being laid, people will complain that they have just been ripped off for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Sometimes they are individuals and sometimes they are corporations. They will go to the police and talk to prosecutors and be told that is more of a civil case and that they will not even investigate. That is quite common, not just in Ontario but right across the country. The reason is that these cases are complex. They require a good deal of attention by investigators, the front-line police, who do this work and there are very lengthy trials in most cases, unless the individual pleads guilty.

That is the situation in the country and this bill would not address those problems at all. It would not make it easier, for instance, for the prosecutor to lay charges and get convictions. It would not make it at all easier for the investigators, the police, the forensic accountants and all the rest. There is no provision in this bill that would make their job easier.

Therefore, we have the same problem, in what is arguably the vast majority of cases, in white collar crime. If they are at all complex, we will continue to see this embarrassing process of victims not being cared for by our criminal justice system. They will be told that the crime will not be investigated or, if it is investigated, that charges may not be laid and that if charges are laid that they may be withdrawn because the prosecution cannot afford a one month, two month or three month trial.

The prosecutor estimated that the Ponzi scheme in Toronto, which I mentioned earlier, would take somewhere between three to six months. The prosecutor opted to spend the money on other crimes. This bill would do nothing about that. We are being dishonest with the Canadian people if we lead them to believe otherwise.

This goes back to begging the question: Why are we supporting the bill? This bill would do a couple of things that are worth moving forward on. Perhaps, if we start down this road, the Conservatives will see their way at some point to introducing more meaningful amendments to the code and to other legislation.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Get tough on crime.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

As my colleague from Manitoba suggested, they might seriously get tough on crime. It is worth starting down this path.

I want to spend more of my time on what we should be doing as opposed to what the bill would do.

The bill introduces a mandatory minimum sentence. However, the committee did some research on this and a mandatory minimum sentence would be under some circumstances. Fraud, for example, would have to be more than $1 million. There are also provisions for aggravating factors.

We had our researchers pull recent cases and it was found that the mandatory minimum sentence of two years has been, in the last three to five years, generally applied already, even though under the existing Criminal Code sections there is no mandatory minimum for this type of crime.

However, our judges have been imposing harsher sentences and, in most cases, sentences of more than two years. I acknowledge that there have been exceptions to that, and we will probably hear that from members on the other side, but if we do an analysis of the cases that have come down in the last three to five years, we would find that a significant majority of them have had sentences imposed of more than two years.

Members of the House know that I am far from being a supporter of mandatory minimums. They do work in very narrow cases and white collar crime is one of the areas where they do have some impact. To understand the reason that they have some impact, we would need to go back and analyze the nature of the crime.

I am losing my voice because I have spoken so much in the last 10 days on crime bills in order to meet the agenda that the Conservatives have set. I will use that as an excuse to move away from what I was going to say on this bill and argue that I would use my voice less and we would have less debate in this House if the Conservatives simply used omnibus bills rather than introducing a bill for every section of the Criminal Code.

I will now get back to the point of this bill. With regard to the mandatory minimums and the nature of white collar crime, it is not a spontaneous crime. It is planned, generally speaking, over a lengthy period of time. Much like the senior level of organized crime, the majority of individuals who commit these crimes do know the potential penalties. They know at this point that we do not have mandatory minimums with regard to fraud charges in this country, in the white collar area in particular. I am convinced that it is one of the few areas where it may have a beneficial impact on reducing white collar crime. I am not a big proponent of it but it is worth trying if it will have even a minor impact.

The other provisions in the bill that we support would provide some additional guidelines and authority for our judges to take into account aggravating factors. Those are important in terms of the judges' being able to exercise discretion in determining aggravating factors, and we actually list those for them. It is hard to say that most judges would not see them there but it now formally authorizes them, which is a worthwhile step in terms of giving the judges greater jurisdiction.

I must admit that I had mixed feelings about having introduced, for the first time in the Criminal Code, the concept of a community being able to come forward and say that, overall, as a community, it has been a victim of this particular white collar crime. Up until this point, the only provisions for victims' statements were those from individuals. That could be a corporation but an individual corporation.

This would allow a whole group of people to have a representative speak on their behalf. I do have some concerns about this section because it is the first time we have tried it. The provisions within the bill, in terms of how this will be conducted, for instance , will more than one representative be allowed to speak for the community that has been so negatively impacted by this type of crime, are not clear. That will be left to the judges to sort out. The bill does not define, in any way adequately, what a community of interest is, and I think that will pose some problems for our judges.

Having said that, I am still supportive of experimenting with this but I thought it would have been much better for the government to have come forward with clearer guidelines for our judiciary when they are allowing community statements to come forward. I cannot forecast whether this will be a worthwhile experiment and a successful one or whether it will not be used.

What is certain, and this goes back again to resources, is that it would make trials longer on the sentencing side. I do not think there is any doubt that would produce some additional hours, if not days, added on to these trials. If the individual is convicted, the sentencing process will be much more extensive. That is a worthwhile risk to take because, if it works, it would allow victims to have meaningful representation. I have heard this from my clients when I was practising and I have certainly heard it from victims' groups that game before committee at various times, that the criminal justice system is intimating to them as individuals.

If they can afford to hire their own counsel, and the vast majority of them cannot, especially since they have suffered large wealth losses in these cases, this process would make it easier for them to have a representative for both themselves and the rest of the group that has been affected. It would also allow the judge to hear better evidence of how extensive the fraud was and how damaging it was.

There would be better evidence going in than we get at the present time because individuals would do this or a prosecutor, who is way overburdened, would need to attempt to get that kind of evidence in front of a judge in order for the judge to understand just how severe the impact was of the white collar crime.

For those reasons, I think this is a very worthwhile step to take. Hopefully it will work and hopefully this government will see its way. As opposed to spending billions of dollars on prisons, it would put more money into the transfer of dollars from the federal government to the provinces so that the numbers of our prosecutors, police and judges could be expanded to deal with this problem. So we would not have the situations we do now.

In the majority of cases of white collar crime, there are significant complexities and charges are being dropped or plea bargaining done so that the penalties are either minimal or certainly not in keeping with the severity of the crime itself. Resources have to be put in place. Rather than spending an estimated $9 billion or $11 billion over the next few years for expanding our prisons, we need to be using a good deal of that money to transfer to the provinces to give them the opportunity to have more judges appointed, more prosecutors in place and certainly more investigators, so that these cases can be effectively prosecuted.

It is very clear that if we are going to combat any type of crime, the individuals who are contemplating committing those crimes will have second thoughts. We know this, and all of the evidence we have tells us this. It is almost a certainty that if they think they are going to get caught, they have second thoughts about committing the crime.

We need to show that we have a meaningful system in place to fight white collar crime: investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence. That message needs to be out there for the perpetrators, who are generally fairly sophisticated people. If they understand that system is in place, that they will be caught, prosecuted and receive harsh penalties for the crimes they have committed, the amount of white collar crime will be reduced. I firmly believe that. However, we do not have that system in place now, and this bill does not do anything to put it in place.

I would also like to raise some of the alternatives. As I have said repeatedly, this bill does not go far enough. Some of the evidence we got in committee, called by the opposition parties and not by the government, showed other legislative mechanisms that we could put in place. I will point to one that we heard on the final day of evidence before we went clause by clause on this bill.

We had two lawyers come before us. One was a former prosecutor for the Ontario Securities Commission and the other was a lawyer who, for almost his entire practice at a large Toronto firm, worked with victims of a variety of natures of white collar crime.

The prosecutor, who had spent a good deal of his professional career working for the Ontario Securities Commission, pointed to one of the things that was occurring in the United States that they had found to be fairly effective. This was on the stereotypical Ponzi scheme.

The way a Ponzi scheme works is that those people who first buy into it tend to get paid with money from the subsequent victims of the scheme. The initial so-called victims of the scheme, in a lot of cases, make a lot of money. The rates of return are not the 1% or 2% that we currently get at banks and financial institutions. They get returns of 40%, 50%, 100% to 200% in the first few years of the scheme. Of course, the people coming in at the end, before the Ponzi scheme is identified and the person is caught, so it stops, end up losing all of their money.

A number of states, New York being the leading one, have begun to lift the veil on all of those transactions. They go back to the initial “victims” who have, in many cases, made huge profits as part of the Ponzi scheme, even if they did not know it was a Ponzi scheme; or they might have known. They are required to put the money back into a central pool and whatever money is left is distributed throughout.

We need to put in place regulations that would allow us to do the same thing in Canada.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague on the justice committee for his intervention. I do appreciate the thoughtful manner in which he articulates his views at the committee, although we often profoundly disagree, the NDP emphasis of course being on the rights of offenders, whereas our Conservative government focuses on the voices of victims and protecting the public against crime.

That said, as he knows, the Liberal Party has made it very clear that it wants to continue debate on this bill, even though on the face of it, it says that it supports it, but it wants to continue debate and continue to delay.

I would ask my colleague from the NDP whether he and his party would be prepared to pass this bill now so that we can move on to some of the other bills that are awaiting debate in this House. As he knows, our government does not want to delay criminal justice bills. We want to get them passed to ensure that the safety of Canadians is protected.

My question for him is this. Would he be prepared to co-operate with us, move this bill into the other place so that we can get it passed, give it royal assent and put the protection of Canadians at the forefront?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I was really hoping that somebody from that side was going to ask me this question. I have two answers.

First, on the NDP's role in protecting victims, I always remember the session we had with Gord Mackintosh, who was the attorney general at that time for Manitoba. We were having a debate on how we deal with crime, and in particular the victims, and he said that there is not a political movement or political party in this country that has greater claim to protecting members of society, in all of the work that it has done, not just in crime areas but in all areas. That is our responsibility in the crime area, in the criminal justice system area, as it is in protecting people, to see that they have adequate housing, that our foreign affairs protect them, and we could just go down the list. That has been a guiding principle for me since I have had that discussion with him, because it is true. As a political movement and as a political party, as social democrats, our primary responsibility has always been to take care of people in our constituency base.

I want to answer the question about whether we want more debate on this by responding with a question. Did the member, did the Minister of Justice and the parliamentary secretaries for justice and public safety go to the Prime Minister and say to him, “How come you keep proroguing? How come you keep having elections when you promised to work at fixed dates?"

Did those members on that side, who claim to be concerned about victims, say to the Prime Minister, “We have had Bill C-52. That was the predecessor to Bill C-21. It sat on the order paper. It got knocked off the order paper because you prorogued. How can you keep doing this? We have 15 or 16 crime bills, public safety bills”.

Did they go to the Prime Minister and say, “Stop doing this. If you are really concerned about victims of crime in this country, and we believe that these bills are going to make a difference, why do you keep putting them off?”

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, you are doing an excellent job as always.

Of course there are always thoughtful interventions by the member, with his deep knowledge in this area, but I have to say that I disagree with him, as do some of my colleagues actually, on the point he made about suggesting that all these Conservative justice initiatives, albeit that is all they have, should go into an omnibus bill, because then they could pass a number of bad initiatives all at once.

As he knows, the justice agenda of the Conservatives has been basically a disaster. That is evidenced of course by the fact that they are going to have to build more prisons because they have not dealt with the things that reduce crime, the root causes of crime, which are rehabilitation and alternative sentencing, all things that are proven to reduce crime. They have been a failure at that.

However with the bills they have brought forward, as the member also knows, being on the justice committee, not only has the government stalled them by proroguing and calling illegal elections, but the bills have had to have many amendments because they are so poorly written, because they did not accept the advice of the justice department, the experts. It bulldozed ahead and brought forward bills that are totally contrary to what the experts said would reduce crime and that need a whole bunch of improvements.

Why would we want to pass all these bills quickly, this poor legislation, in an omnibus bill without taking the time to at least correct them and make them better legislation?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I did not say I was going to support passing the omnibus bill. I would do my job as the justice critic and expect other members of the committee to do the same. In a minority government situation, we would have chosen those parts of the omnibus bill that in fact had meaningful effective mechanisms to fight crime of whatever nature.

Other than that, we would have deleted parts of the omnibus bill that were meaningless and all for show. I am not saying we could have done this all in one bill. However, I have done some analysis of this. Of the 50 to 60 bills that we have had, some of which are before public safety and national security and some in front of justice, if we divided them up we probably could have done it in a total of about 5 or 6 omnibus bills.

Then when they were in front of the committee, we would have meaningful representation from witnesses, including victims, so that we had a very clear picture of what we were going to come out with. Then we would do our job as opposition members to take out those sections that were not of any use and to put in additional sections that make the laws more effective, which we have done with a number of bills, including one of the amendments that we did to this one.

What I am saying is that the omnibus bill process is actually shorter because, as opposed to calling the same type of witnesses and in some cases the same witness over and over again, when they appeared they would be able to speak to perhaps four or five parts of the omnibus bill as opposed to having to come back four or five times to deal with separate bills.

Therefore it actually would have sped up the process for the amendments that are necessary for the code to try to get the code into the 21st century. It is a much more meaningful and useful process in a minority government situation. It would have allowed the opposition parties in effect to have a meaningful and I think much more effective role to play.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Madam Speaker, I note that this is a government bill and the government says it is very concerned about victims. However it seems to me, as I look at the bill, that there are some problems with the scope of it. One is that it does not cover all white collar crimes. I think that is a real problem.

The second thing that jumps out at me is that the offenders are not compelled to compensate their victims.

Those seem to be perhaps a couple of weaknesses of the bill, and I wonder if the member would like to speak on that.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, there is no question that this is a very narrowly focused bill with the way the government is defining fraud.

We never got any satisfactory answer from the government. There were specific suggestions made to the Minister of Justice when he was in front of the committee about areas it was not covering. He admitted that, but gave no explanation as to why the government did not broaden it.

I have my own reasons. I think the government just wanted to run a bill through here as quickly as possible, drag out victims and say it has done something. A more complex bill would have taken longer to draft, although the government had two shots at it, so we would think it could have still done it in that period of time.

On the other point of the whole issue of restitution, the bill addresses the issue of restitution but it really does not expand in any way beyond what we already have.

The point that I made earlier in my speech about going after the people who have received benefit, who are not the perpetrators of the crime but received benefit from it, would be a very good area for getting additional dollars of restitution to all of the victims of the fraud scheme.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

December 14th, 2010 / 11:40 a.m.


Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that we are going to vote for this bill, albeit somewhat reluctantly, as the bill has clearly been cobbled together and is deeply flawed. Still, it is true that Parliament must give the impression that it is doing something about major fraud of the sort that has made the headlines in recent years, especially in the financial sector.

We will vote for this bill, even though it provides for a minimum sentence. I am confident that the sentence will likely never be imposed, for the good reason that frauds over $500,000 or $1 million have always led to much longer sentences than two years, which is what the government wants to add.

Nevertheless, it is disturbing because, as usual, when the government sets minimum sentences, it is thinking of the worst criminals. The government tends to forget that minimum sentences do not apply just to the worst criminals, but also to minor accomplices to crime.

I get the feeling, though, that this law is so complicated that no one will dare apply it to people who have played a lesser role in frauds of $1 million, such as the telephone operator for a business or a secretary in an office.

The government is forgetting that the definition of “accomplice”, which the Criminal Code calls “parties to offence” or “participants à une infraction” in the poor French that is a direct translation of the English, applies only if there is abetment. Subsection 21(1) states:

Every one is a party to an offence who

(a) actually commits it;

(b) does or omits to do anything for the purpose of aiding any person to commit it; or

(c) abets any person in committing it.

Paragraph (b) is the most significant.

This has to be coupled with the doctrine of wilful blindness. The doctrine of wilful blindness means that an individual has to know something in order to commit an offence. Knowledge is therefore a key element. In the case of a company that begins systematically defrauding its clients, as Vincent Lacroix's companies did, when some people begin to suspect that activities or money collected for clients are being used to defraud people, they cannot use the excuse that they did not know because, in fact, they had suspicions but may not have wanted to ask any questions.

This doctrine may apply to the employees of a company that has every appearance of legality at first or the employees of a brokerage firm that misuses funds and where people play minor roles, such as a young bond seller who did not initially think the money he was collecting would be used for that purpose.

This brings me to the clerical staff, who at some point begin to wonder if the business is in fact seriously involved in fraud worth millions of dollars. I do not think anyone would even consider sentencing these people to two years in prison. However, they are accomplices if they decide to stay, given that, by continuing to perform their duties, they are encouraging the company to continue committing fraud.

Wilful blindness is important because clearly, the secretary, junior salesperson or telephone operator is going to realize sooner or later that the company is not a regular investment firm, but rather has a criminal purpose. At some point, they will say they had their doubts, but that they were just secretaries after all. Consider the example of the Canadian woman who was caught in Mexico around six months or a year ago, who said exactly that about some frauds that had been committed.

When someone suspects that something may have an illegal purpose, but refuses to ask any questions because they do not want to know the answer, that is known as wilful blindness. Wilful blindness is the same as knowing. That theory is beginning to be widely accepted in drug-related cases. Looking at a real case, someone is asked to bring back some scuba diving tanks. He decides to do it for someone he has met only once, who offers to pay him well for doing so—more in fact, than the actual value of the tanks. He does not know what is inside, and does not want to know. When he is arrested, he will be very surprised to learn that the tanks were full of drugs. This is an example of wilful blindness regarding what was in the tanks. Accordingly, he would be guilty of importing the drugs that were in the tanks.

This also applies to fraudulent businesses that appear to be legitimate. They hire people who, in the beginning, believe that they are working for a perfectly reputable company; however, at some point, they realize that the business is fraudulent. A young single mother with two or three children to care for would want to keep her employment. From now on, she will be guilty of a crime with a minimum sentence of two years in prison. When we bring this type of case to the attention of the Conservatives, they say that the police or a prosecutor would never lay charges in such cases. In all likelihood, this is true, but what does that say about this legislation, which is not serious enough for the police to use or for crown attorneys to prosecute? In my opinion, this is bad legislation that must be amended to cover specific cases.

We previously proposed that, with this bill and others, we follow the example of other Commonwealth countries that also fell into the trap of imposing minimum sentences for everything but, at a certain point, felt they needed to implement safeguard clauses. In some circumstances, when a judge finds that, given the role the accused played and the few benefits they obtained from the crime, the minimum sentence is really unfair to the accused, the judge could have recourse to these provisions and justify, either orally or in writing, why he was not imposing the minimum sentence.

The Conservatives hate judges so much and have so little trust in them that they would rather trust the police. They tell us that the police or prosecutors would not lay charges in these cases. They do not want to give this discretion to a judge who has experience hearing such cases and who would render a decision after hearing from both parties. Instead, they would rather have the police or crown attorneys act as judges and decide not to prosecute before the issue goes before the courts. This is a major flaw.

Then there are provisions for ordering the restitution of the proceeds of fraud. Once again, that is very good and it is being done already. It is already provided for in the Criminal Code, although it is not a requirement. There are many instances when it is not practical. Furthermore, a criminal court cannot easily intervene in civil matters. Quite often, fraud on this scale is not committed by just one person, but by many. Although they are all guilty of the same offence, their participation must differentiated.

The accountants, secretaries and junior salespeople just hired by the company must be treated on a case-by-case basis by the judges. When it comes to the restitution order, the court must suddenly transform into a civil court and determine that one party will be responsible for 50%, but that the accountant is responsible for 20%. As for the young salespeople who sold the first, legal securities, but who then allowed the fraud to continue in order to pay back the funds, they have a lesser responsibility.

If 15 people are involved, the judge will have to determine the order of restitution. In civil law, this is not really a problem because everyone shares the responsibility for the entire amount. However, in criminal law, the share of responsibility must be established. If a judge sentences one individual to repay 50% and another to repay 3%, what happens to the person who does not repay his 50% compared to the person who, according to the judge, is responsible for 3%? In any event, this will give rise to many problems.

Other problems have been pointed out by two Toronto lawyers with rather extensive experience. I believe that one of them has even served as the chair of the Ontario Securities Commission, the equivalent of our Autorité des marchés financiers in Quebec. They too said that it would complicate trials considerably. That makes me think of something I often say: bad laws make good lawyers wealthy. I know something about that; I can attest to it. More complicated trials, and minimum sentences that may one day be applied to cases that do not warrant it, will result in pre-trial negotiations and the prospect of a great deal of work for lawyers.

Among the restrictions the judge will have to consider, one is very intriguing and it involves real estate activities. Really. I remember a judge who was convicted of money laundering. His fall was total. He was never able to practice law again. He ended up working as a building caretaker. Under this bill, he would not be able to do that any more because being a caretaker involves real estate activities. He could no longer collect rent, wash the stairs or make repairs to apartments because all that involves real estate. We see that the government still wants to take away discretionary power from judges. Would it not be better to leave it to judges to apply conditions to sentences, as they currently do? I have not heard any complaints about the way judges exercise the very broad powers they have for imposing conditions on parole and on this punishment, because quite often, it is imprisonment with a probation period during which certain conditions have to be respected.

By leaving them this discretionary power, we will have conditions that are perfectly suited to each specific case. Here the government is introducing a great deal of rigidity. In fact, the Conservatives lacked imagination when they established the various conditions available to a judge during sentencing. It is as though they copied the ruling in the Vincent Lacroix case and pasted it into the legislation. Obviously, the Vincent Lacroix ruling was perfectly suited to that case. We can expect that future conditions will probably differ from those in the Vincent Lacroix case, even if they are equally deplorable and significant.

The other thing that strikes me is this constant desire to show that they are tough and their attempt to apply that to very objective criteria such as sums of money. That is truly very important. In practice, fraud involving small amounts of money can be much more heinous than fraud involving banks or major financial institutions. I remember seeing some rather remarkable examples.

I was retained as one of the lawyers who had to help a judge determine which of the offenders known as habitual criminals met the new definition in this part of the Criminal Code when the part entitled “habitual criminals” was removed from the Criminal Code and redefined as “dangerous offenders”. The term “dangerous” implied a risk of violence. The government therefore appointed a judge. I think there was even a commission headed by a single judge who was directed to examine, one by one, all cases where there had been no violence and where the people had been declared to be habitual criminals but were not violent.

Anyone sentenced as a habitual criminal was sentenced to an indeterminate sentence. Ordinarily, the end of a sentence is always known, but in this case, the sentence served was indeterminate and it was reviewed every two years to see whether the person was still a so-called habitual criminal.

In the section, we had several examples of con men. In fact, the way they operated was sometimes quite funny. One case I remember was a con man who operated on a regular basis. I have to point out that this was really several years ago. At the time, there were more women at home than today, because a lot of women work during the day now and are not at home. This con man would generally arrive at a woman’s home with packages that bore a resemblance to Canadian Tire packages, and tell the woman that her husband had ordered some tools. He handed her the tools and asked to be paid in cash. The women had not heard anything about it. So he collected $10 or $15 or $20, amounts that seem negligible today, but that were significant at the time because people earned less than $100 a week. It seems that his success rate was about one out of five.

What the police officer who had arrested him and put together the evidence for him to be declared a habitual criminal rightly observed was that he was taking money from disadvantaged and somewhat naive people, and it was a very serious thing for them.

Another con man used this trick: he would go to someone’s home and tell them he had been sent by the landlord to repair something that was not working. Is the heating system not working? Right, he would check it out. And then he looked at it, he took the pieces of the furnace apart, and he said he absolutely had to go and get an essential part at the store. Then, since he unfortunately had no money on him, he asked the victim to lend him $40 so he could buy the missing part. I do not know whether that con man’s success rate was one out of 12 or one out of five, but it was still a very substantial rate.

These are not major frauds, and the technique was actually quite crude, but what is important is that they often succeeded. It was more serious than some bank frauds, because money was being taken from people who genuinely needed it, people who were already in need. It amounted to taking advantage of their naivety.

At the time, these people were considered to be dangerous enough to be declared habitual criminals and left in prison for an indeterminate period.

In the case of fraud, there are many different things to consider, beyond the amount. For example, jurisprudence exists for fraud committed by someone in a position of trust and for specific types of fraud, for example, if the individual took advantage of seniors or naive individuals. Jurisprudence also exists for the impact of fraud on victims. All of these elements are regularly taken into consideration.

We must give judges the discretion they need to deal with each case individually. I am not saying that the Conservatives have taken that away here, but they have made it very strict.

I have only one minute left, so I will conclude by saying that this bill does not do any harm. However, this is far from the major reform we would have liked to have seen and that should have applied the six points. I am sure that my colleagues will talk about the plan presented by the Bloc Québécois over a year ago.

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12:05 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the member's input into the bill. He has also informed the House and Canadians of a number of other aspects of the bill well beyond mandatory minimums.

In listening to the debate so far, it would appear that the most significant disclosure and the most challenging problem for Parliament is to determine how we will deal with a serious Ponzi scheme in the tens of millions of dollars. If it is thrown out with no restitution to anyone because there is no case, we have to make a choice. Do we do the rape case or do we do the Ponzi scheme? It is very telling.

The other telling point is this. The reason underlying this is that the federal government makes the laws, but the provinces must enforce them. However, without the resources to enforce those laws, how can anyone argue that we are tough on crime when those new laws and provisions of the Criminal Code cannot be enforced simply because the federal government has not decided to support the enforcement of the laws at the provincial level?

Would the member like to give us his thoughts and words of wisdom on how we deal responsibly with justice bills that try to be tough on crime?

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, our colleague raises a very important point. Ponzi schemes are pyramid schemes, which are already an offence under the Criminal Code. People invest a certain amount of money and that enables them to recruit ten other people who also invest a certain amount. Each gives a percentage of his earnings to the person who recruited him, who then gives a percentage to the person who recruited him, and so forth. It is a lot like a pyramid scheme, except that the people inside the pyramid do not benefit. In a pyramid scheme, everyone inside the pyramid benefits. To pay off the most recent investments, everyone on earth could be involved and there still would not be enough.

It would be very difficult for a judge to redistribute the money in a fair and just way to the people who were defrauded in a pyramid scheme like this. One thing is clear: there is no easy answer.

In addition, it is the provinces that are responsible. When it comes to fraud, the RCMP also gets involved. In view of these new kinds of fraud, we think that multidisciplinary teams based on the Carcajou squad should be created. In this approach, accountants share their expertise with the police.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I noticed that my colleague, who is on the justice committee, gave guarded support to the bill. One of the reasons was he felt there was much more that could be done to protect victims of crime, especially in the area of fraud. I would not disagree with him. There is so much more we can do to protect Canadians against shysters and fraudsters who prey on the vulnerable.

Perhaps he could help us pass some of those 20 bills that are still stalled in the House and at committee. Our government is very intent on getting these criminal justice bills passed on an expedited basis, and I ask him for that support.

Could he also expand on the kinds of criminal justice initiatives our government could still bring forward that would protect the vulnerable, such as seniors, against fraud? Some of the areas the bill does not extend to yet are issues such as securities fraud and other related types of crimes. Would the member expand on how we can go even further in protecting Canadians against these kinds of crime?

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12:10 p.m.


Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by pointing out, as others have done, that we are not responsible for the delays. These are bills that the Conservatives allowed to die on the order paper. Another of the main reasons why these crime bills have been delayed is all the prorogations. Surely that has been said often enough.

We had a six-point plan: first, completely eliminate parole after one-sixth of the sentence has been served—Vincent Lacroix was released after serving one-sixth of his five-year prison term, although he was subsequently sentenced again; amend the provisions in the Criminal Code on the confiscation of the proceeds of crime to include language covering fraud over $5,000, and not just over $500,000 or $1 million; reorganize the police, especially the RCMP, to create multidisciplinary teams specializing in economic crime; require banks to report irregularities in trust accounts to the Autorité des marchés financiers—that is what should have been done in the case of Vincent Lacroix and Earl Jones because the banks suspected fraud but did not report it; amend the Income Tax Act to help victims, especially through a new provision allowing fraud victims to deduct the amount that was stolen from their income, instead of treating it as a capital loss—the way things stand now, people have to pay taxes on illusory profits declared by their fraudulent brokers; and amend the Income Tax Act to prevent the use of tax havens, as endorsed by the Liberals and Conservatives, which enable individuals and companies to hide money away and evade taxes.

We already presented this six-point plan, but very little has been done so far.

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12:10 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know that the hon. member has just made several references to this effect, but I am interested to hear his comments on the government's hypocrisy, both in terms of this bill and in general. For example, he is trying to say that the opposition parties are against the government's program, but we have heard here several times that the opposition parties support measures that are tough on the type of crime we are discussing today. In fact, the government's decision to prorogue Parliament and the delays the Conservatives themselves created are the reasons why we are in this position today. I would like to hear his comments on the hypocrisy of the Conservative government.

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12:10 p.m.


Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member who spoke before me chose her words well and she is absolutely right. The only thing the Conservatives care about when presenting their strategy on crime is looking like they are tough on crime, as though that could reduce the crime rate.

I never hear them talk about how their measures will reduce crime. Their approach has been tested: apparently Saudi Arabia is also very tough on crime. The United States is a great example. In one generation, that country's incarceration rate, which was once on par with ours, exploded to 763 individuals for every 100,000 inhabitants. We are still at about 130 individuals for every 100,000 inhabitants here in Canada. We fall somewhere in the middle in comparison to Europe because incarceration rates in western European countries are lower than ours. Our rates are comparable to those of Scotland and England. That type of approach does not work.

And that is probably why the government has so many short bills. It talks about victims. But what has it done for victims? The only thing it has given victims is the satisfaction of seeing that the criminals who made them suffer will suffer a little bit more. I do not think that this is any consolation to the vast majority of victims. They would rather have help.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-21. Following on the remarkable comments of my friend and colleague from the justice committee and the Bloc member's comments, it is a good theme to continue.

Much of the Conservatives' anti-crime agenda purports to help victims. It purports to take victims' rights over those of offenders, over those of politicians, over those of many other groups in the community. However, much of what they actually do in terms of the legislation has little positive impact on the victims at all.

I think in the area of white collar crime more than anything where what was taken away, in terms of assets or wealth, is sought to be restored, this is the most apt example of how not seizing on the goal of anti-white collar crime, which is the restoration, restitution, recovery of wealth lost, the government is doing a disservice.

In other forms of crimes, I suppose one could argue very cogently that that which was taken away, whether it was life, liberty, or sense of security, cannot be easily returned. They are not things that are in the marketplace. It is very difficult in the case of a violent crime to return the victim's sense of security. It is not a market commodity.

In this case, however, we are talking about the victims of white collar crime whose wealth, nest eggs and futures have been stolen through deceitful and fraudulent means by someone else. It would seem to me that in addition to increasing penalties, which is really all this bill would do, the government, which has now been in power for five years, even administratively without having to come to this place, which it really does not like to do very often anyway as its record on prorogation shows, might have administratively notched up its game on the recovery of assets.

Instead, as I will show in my speech, it has been left to the devices of the provinces with respect to their powers under property and civil rights.

I want to apologize in advance if my speech seems a little familiar, but there is a recurring theme on these bills in justice. I sit on the committee; I have for five years. All the time we see bills, and this case is no different, that seem to the other side to be strong electorally and politically, but not so strong on policy.

We have seen bills on auto theft, on the reporting of child Internet pornography, and now this one on white collar crime, all of which have pithy and exciting titles which, on a quick reading of the short title, would lead people to believe that the problem is solved, that we have a cure and there will be no more white collar crime, no more child pornography, no more auto theft.

That is not at all the case. The government's steps are baby steps toward those evils in our community and, as with all Conservative government agendas, the sound bite of the short title is more important than the pith and substance of the legislative tool.

The government's publicity machine will go to work and tell everyone that Bill C-21 emphasizes standing up for the victims of white collar crime and that Canadians will feel a lot safer about their nest eggs.

Electorally it is a gamble. There is the saying that one can fool all of the people some of the time, or one can fool some of the people all the time, but the message to the government today on these legislative bills toward crime with their very sexy short titles is that the government cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

It has been five years. We have to start thinking in the Parliament of Canada that the Conservatives have driven the government's legislative agenda for five years. I would love to see a survey as to whether people feel safer in all areas, but let us concentrate on white collar crime. I would love to know whether people feel they are less likely to be made the victims of losing their nest eggs and fortunes than five years ago when many of the tools that the Conservatives possess as government could have been used.

Let us take a quick look at the history. It has been a very prolific period these last five years for embezzlers and fraudsters. Today, Madoff and Earl Jones are household names, but they were not 5 or 10 years ago. There has been a real run on fraud, Ponzi schemes, investment schemes, direct mailing and direct investment schemes. These have taken a lot of wealth out of communities in Canada, largely from people who have saved all their lives for retirement, which in some cases now they cannot afford.

If we look at the title of this bill, it is obvious the bill falls short of the expectations. It does not make Canadians safer. The Earl Joneses and Vincent Lacroixs of this world are still around. Last month, in fact, Carole Morinville was arrested in Montreal in another Ponzi scheme investigation. These investigations are not carried out solely by the Conservative Party or the government; they are all conducted by police forces.

What do we hear from police forces? They are under-resourced. What do we hear from the government? The government says that it has added 1,000 more RCMP members. It has not. It is a shell game. The government does not deliver on what it promises with respect to manning police forces across the country. Ask any police force that question.

Ask the people of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe whether they are happy that the government has not moved on giving the 10% subsidy it gives to every other RCMP force in Canada, except the one in Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe. That is the same as saying that one out of ten crimes will not be investigated or prosecuted. That may be okay for the nine cases where the criminals are prosecuted, but what about that other case? There will never be the chance to have an investigation and prosecution in that other case because the government will not stand up for its principles with respect to prosecuting criminals.

The government has been in power for five years and gives lip service with short titles and publicity bills. It is not enough. Over five years, as I have mentioned, serious things have happened. White collar crime is far more serious than it was when I was first elected.

White collar crimes and tax fraud are very serious problems. These crimes wreak havoc on the lives of victims. People can lose an entire lifetime's worth of savings overnight. When people lose their entire life savings, they lose faith in the idea that if they are doing their part, if they work, they will get their fair share.

This nation-wide loss of faith is dangerous because it can be passed on from one person to the next. The government is thus called upon to take action to protect the victims of these financial crimes and to protect people's faith in the integrity of the financial system. We all saw the damage that a pyramid scheme or Ponzi scheme can cause to the victims and to a country's reputation when Bernard Madoff was caught in the United States. We cannot allow such a thing to happen again.

We cannot stand by idly. The bill simply does not follow up on its promise to protect victims of white collar crime entirely. What does a mandatory minimum sentence of two years do for the victims of Earl Jones when he is already in jail under sentence for 11 years?

The lessons of the Madoff affair in the United States tell us that the damage to the victims would have been far less if the financial authorities had been better empowered by regulation and better equipped in resources and staff to apprehend and stop the carnage.

Why is the government peddling its minimum sentences into this area? Is this comforting to the victims of Earl Jones? He is in jail for 11 years. There may be a requirement to reconsider a restitution order, but the money is usually gone. The money is gone and the person is usually locked away for more time than the mandatory minimum set out in the bill.

I really think the government should take the next step outside of an amendment to the Criminal Code and review the financial regulatory system and the funding of our financial regulation enforcement, because it is what Canadians need to protect their investments.

The response from the finance minister might be that the Conservatives have a financial regulation overhaul, review and reform under way, that they are proposing a single regulatory agency, which will be voluntary, and will be located in Toronto. I assume that is the plan; it is where the finance minister is from. I have not heard a lot of people against that in the government, but if it was suggested it be moved to Moncton, they might have a different song to sing. I have nothing against Toronto. There is no question that the TSX is the largest index in the country.

It is an issue of provincial regulation. We have seen the government step into areas of provincial domain on many occasions before. Occasionally it takes a first ministers conference on these issues to decide what are the real ills in society with respect to white collar crime and what are the tools best suited to combat them.

People whose life savings have been taken away by a scheme will not be comforted by a Criminal Code amendment. They might be comforted by a federal-provincial announcement that a joint task force, which applies throughout the country, will concentrate on cracking down on Ponzi schemes and fraud in the general sense. They might, at that press conference, say that they are quite comfortable with the Criminal Code and with what has existed before.

If the justice minister had a TV show, it might be called “PJ”, pure justice. The Conservatives march in here before the evening news with a bill to protect Canadians from white collar crime, and the government indicates that is the cure. What Canadians will not know, and maybe it is our job to let them know, is that part X of the Criminal Code between sections 380 and 432, and on pages 280 to 304 of the short version of the code, those 25 pages in the compact pocket Criminal Code cover fraud.

So on the idea that someone looking at a newscast would think the government is enacting new legislation, legislation that did not exist before, that is just misleading.

We ought to say, yes, there are some amendments here that we can certainly stand behind, no question. But our response is three-fold.

First, these are minor amendments to the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code already has provisions in place to combat fraud.

Secondly, there is so much more that the government could have done in five years in office, working with the provinces to surgically crack down on the sources of fraud through the regulatory reforms that might be proposed.

Finally, if the government really cared about moving legislation along, especially legislation such as this that is not going to be opposed, why did it prorogue? Why did the government limit debate? Why did it shut down Parliament if it really wanted bills passed?

It is a good question, but we have never heard a real good answer. We did hear the word “recalibration”. Tell that to the victims of white collar crime. We could tell them that we are waiting to crack down on white collar crime, so could they recalibrate their losses? That one would not really fly.

There were fake fears about the governance of the country. People who have lost their savings want a government that will respond.

They might be shocked to know that, five years after the government took power, there was a bill that moved the yardsticks a little bit, a bill that no one would really object to, that could have been passed a long time ago, but the Prime Minister and his gang decided to pull the plug on Parliament, so it could not be passed. People should know that every time the plug is pulled on Parliament by prorogation, bills that are on the order paper, bills such as this, are killed. Prorogation stops everything.

This bill had a previous incarnation, called Bill C-52. It never became law because it was stopped in its tracks, and here we are, debating Bill C-21.

Ironically, sometimes the new incarnation is better. Because they have let it go so long, there are changes in the communities and in law enforcement techniques that have been incorporated into the new bills. So the argument that it is exactly the same bill and we are just bringing it back in every case does not fly. We want to hear the evidence to date about what is going on, in order to get the best bill on the books to combat white collar crime.

What was the reason for prorogation? Did the government think opposition parties were for white collar crime? Has anyone ever seen in a pamphlet, on the news, on the airwaves, in the blogisphere, in Twitter, Facebook or otherwise, that any Liberal, NDP or Bloc member is for white collar crime? Has anybody ever stood up and said that? I do not think so. It is preposterous. So why did the government not come forward earlier with this legislation?

The chairman of the justice committee asks, why do we not fast-track the 80 bills, or whatever number there are now? Why can we not get the job done? Why do we not stand up for Canada? It is a tired speech. The Conservatives are the ones who pulled the plug on their own bills, cutting off their nose to spite their face, and when they do come forward with legislation, it only effects change in the most minor of ways.

Carole Morinville is the case that I mentioned a minute ago. She was an unlicensed security adviser who was arrested for what financial authorities believed to be another Ponzi scheme. That case might have been better dealt with by a task force, by people knowledgeable in the financial regulation industry. It might have been something that the government would oversee and help with, rather than saying that opposition parties are against bills with Criminal Code amendments that really do not affect what is going on out there.

I have gone on at some length about the government attitude of not really helping victims. The provinces have really leap-frogged the federal government. We have seen it with respect to auto theft and many other areas, such as white collar crime.

Since the government came to office, a number of provinces have ratcheted up the provisions they have under the property and civil rights sections of the Constitution to enhance their powers of seizure and forfeiture for crimes committed, and not just in the white collar crime area. The provinces did that pretty much on their own, because they were not getting a lot of legislative resources through funding of policing or joint task force help from the federal government.

Then the other end of it is, what could the government have done with respect to the proceeds of white collar crime? It does not all just disappear into ether; it does not just disappear into thin air.

There is no way Bernie Madoff could have spent all the money he took, nor Earl Jones, so it went somewhere. The usual suspects are the international banking community. What has the government done with respect to international banking reform?

When we bring up the government and the international stage, we could be here for days talking about how it has embarrassed Canada, whether it is a seat on the United Nations, whether it is Copenhagen, whether it is the environment, and so on. But what has it done with respect to reforming the international banking system? What pronouncement has come forward from the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and others with respect to saying, “We want to crack down on white collar crime because we know where some of this money may be going; we have looked into it; we are doing our job; we are getting the job done”? They are not getting the job done. We have heard of no serious reforms in this regard.

What Canada needs, much as every other country, is an overarching national scheme of financial regulation with international components. We cannot wait for these crimes to happen and then say that we will be tough on crime with mandatory minimums. This approach is proven not to work. It will not keep Ponzi schemes from happening and it will not bring the money back to our church programs, our school programs, the family nest eggs and investment funds and community funds in general that have disappeared. We need to stop these funds from being defrauded in the first place, before it is too late.

The case I come back to in conclusion is that of Carole Morinville, who was not even an accredited investor. She should never have got her hands on the honest citizens' investments. At the very least there should have been officials with some authority tracking her activity to stop her before it was too late.

What it comes down to is resources and support beyond tinkering with the Criminal Code. The government has not shown its trust in police officials by funding them adequately. It has not shown its co-operation with provincial and territorial partners by having adequate and frequent meetings on this topic. It has not stuck its head out of the foxhole of its own parochialism on the international stage to be even a follower, let alone a leader, on reforming the international banking system to find the money that has left so many Canadians destitute and without hope.

As parliamentarians, we must restore hope in the system. I hope the government will get to work on these needed reforms.

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12:35 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member does good work on the justice committee and I have appreciated his thoughtful approach to these issues. Of course, I profoundly disagree with him and certainly disagree with his characterization of the bill.

He has suggested that the bill essentially does not make Canadians safe at all. He refers to us peddling in mandatory minimum sentences and talks about tinkering with the Criminal Code.

If the bill is so bad, I disagree with him on that but he said nothing positive about the bill, why is he supporting it? Why would he stand up in his place, here in the House of Commons, as a Liberal and mislead Canadians into thinking that he supports our criminal justice initiatives when in fact he himself has admitted that he believes this legislation would do nothing to protect the safety of Canadians? I find that to be quite disingenuous.

On our side of the House, we as the Conservative government believe this is a very significant step in the right direction in protecting Canadians against fraud, especially in protecting vulnerable Canadians such as seniors against fraud.

I ask the member, why would he suggest that the bill does nothing to protect the safety of Canadians and then suggest that he will still get up and vote in favour of this legislation?

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12:35 p.m.


Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I think my friend, as the neutral arbiter as chair of the committee, does not get enough occasions to be raucous as he just was and I will let it slip like water off my back the fact that I was disingenuous or that I am misleading Canadians.

We support the bill. I said that at the beginning. It is too little and too late. Sorry for the criticism, but the member should get used to it.

His community of Abbotsford has not been at the bottom of crime statistics in Canada. Whether it was auto theft or murder, it has been at the top. So I would think he has a very deep interest in doing something more quickly than five years to get to a white collar crime bill that does very little.

I said that very clearly. It does very little about getting money back to victims of white collar crime, about resourcing police officials to detect white collar crime; and how about dealing with federal prosecutors who are under contract and cannot get enough money to staff the courts? How about that to fight white collar crime?

The parts that are good in the bill talk about section 380.1, which allow more sentencing principles that already exist but give a very clear direction to the judges that they should take into account the amount and degree of trust, fiduciary-wise, that an investor, or an embezzler or a fraudster has, when sentencing

As I said, it is mild and it is good, and we can support it. We are voting for it wholeheartedly. We would have voted for Bill C-52 had the government not prorogued. I just wish the member would not say that I was disingenuous. I have always been too blunt for my own good.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, talking about the victims of white collar crime, I submit that the biggest victim of white collar crime is me, it is you, and it is every other Canadian taxpayer.

We have a situation in Canada now where there are thousands upon thousands of rich Canadians who are taking their money offshore for the sole purpose of not paying Canadian income tax and there is absolutely no mechanism to go after these rich individuals. In fact, if or when they are caught, there is total immunity granted to them. All they have to do is walk into the nearest CRA office, their income for the last three years is assessed, there are a few penalties, a bit of interest, and they go to their next cocktail party. There is total immunity, and as a result, you and I and every other Canadian taxpayer pay more taxes.

Therefore, my question for my friend whether he is as disturbed about this issue as I am.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am disturbed by the issue. I am disturbed more by the inaction of the government, as I said in my speech, towards the culprits and the whereabouts of the money.

This is a very interesting justice debate because there is an ability to offer restitution, to restore a person almost in the civil litigation sense or the civil sense to where he or she was before. With so many other crimes, that is impossible.

Why is the government not cracking down, with the provinces, because there is a division of powers in the Constitution, to do something provincially, territorially, nationally, and as my friend said, internationally with respect to getting the money back to the people from whom it has been taken?

That is the objective here. We would all agree with that. Can the government come up with better measures to do so? We hope so.

Mr. Speaker, 2011 is a whole new year. Many people are asking for various things under the Christmas tree this year. I am hoping that the government comes up with effective legislation in the new year.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the speeches today have dwelt on what this bill does not do. It is pretty clear from the objective input that members have had that this is a sentencing bill that is going to deal with fraud cases of over $1 million, but it is a mandatory minimum sentence. In fact, the name of the bill says that it is “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud)”.

The real fraud in the bill is the short title, which says this is “Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime”, but the evidence is that it deals with only a small portion of white collar crime. The bill does not deal with fraud of $900,000. It does not deal with fraud under $1 million. That is already in the legislation. This is a bill about sentencing.

So I am asking the hon. member, why is it that the short title does not reflect what the legislation in fact does?