Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to participate in the third reading debate on Bill S-14, the fighting foreign corruption act. I would like to thank members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development for considering the bill so quickly and our witnesses for their thoughtful contribution to discussion. I note the chairman of the foreign affairs committee is here, and I just want to say to all the members of the House what a superb job he does chairing that committee.
Corruption, in all its unsavoury forms, is an affront to the values of good, honest and hard-working Canadians. Our government's position of zero tolerance in this area is clear. Canada needs to work to root out corruption wherever it lies, and these amendments to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, or the CFPOA, offer a vital contribution in this regard.
Before I address the important amendments proposed in Bill S-14, I would like to first provide a sense of the considerable efforts Canada is already making in this area. It is a good story for Canadians and for Canadian businesses, and our government is convinced that the enactment of Bill S-14 would only make it better.
I would like to first establish where we are now; that is, firmly committed to combatting foreign corruption in all its guises. Our government's approach to tackling foreign bribery centres on two main thrusts, its prevention and its enforcement. This draws on contributions from a wide spectrum of stakeholders including federal departments, crown corporations and other agencies, all of whom collaborate closely. These actors have all worked constructively together to develop and implement the range of regulatory and legislative tools already in place to advance this worthy and indeed critically important cause. Canada is truly engaged in a whole of government approach to combatting corruption.
Clearly, the best means of addressing corruption is working to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Consultation and outreach figure heavily in such preventative work, and a number of government stakeholders are already engaged in this area. I would like to highlight a few of them and their contributions.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, for one, looks to prepare its diplomats to deal with the issues of corruption, before they serve abroad. Through the provision of information and training, the department educates its ambassadors and political and trade stream officers concerning the Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and Canada's international obligations in the area of corruption.
In March 2010, DFAIT adopted and provided to its missions around the world the policy and procedure for reporting allegations of bribery abroad by Canadians or Canadian companies. That policy was adopted and circulated to provide guidance to Canada's missions on what they should take as appropriate measures when confronted with allegations that a Canadian business or individual had bribed or attempted to bribe a foreign public official and/or committed other bribery-related offences. The policy essentially instructs Canadian officers at mission to relay any such information received to departmental officials back in Ottawa, who in turn transmit the information to law enforcement authorities here, as per an established set of standard operating procedures.
It should also be noted that DFAIT regularly dispatches its legal officers abroad to deliver presentations and serve as panellists in various fora with a view to advancing the anti-corruption cause and building awareness of the wide range of Canadian activity in this area. As just one example, Canadian legal experts from DFAIT delivered a presentation to the 2011 Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption concerning legal mechanisms for freezing the assets of corrupt foreign officials and for combating the bribery of foreign public officials.
As noted earlier, DFAIT is joined by other departments and stakeholders in such important preventative work. Public Works and Government Services Canada, for example, recently added the bribing of a foreign public official under the CFPOA to the list of offences that render companies and individuals ineligible to bid on contracts. That change became effective in November 2012, and it is hoped that it will serve as an added deterrent to companies and individuals contemplating or engaging in such activity.
Our government, through the combined initiative of several federal departments, also took steps in early 2012 to host a workshop in Ottawa on the subject of foreign bribery, with invited experts from various sectors including NGOs, academic institutions, Canadian companies and law firms. The workshop, entitled “New Ideas for Canada's Fight Against Foreign Bribery” was designed to help innovate and develop better measures for enhancing efforts in this area and saw more than 30 participants join officials in a discussion of several foreign bribery-related areas of interest.
The consultation covered topics such as the recognition of and resistance to the solicitation of bribery, voluntary disclosure, books and records offences, the discouragement of facilitation payments, advocacy concerning SMEs, education, training and focused awareness raising, as well as a discussion of the possibility of amending the CFPOA.
The consultation enabled the government to register preventative messaging with Canadian companies first-hand and to really contemplate how to best improve the enforcement of the CFPOA and seek stakeholder support in working to prevent bribery before it occurs and to detect it when it does. The workshop provided a pivotal platform for enhanced engagement and co-operation with these stakeholders as we look to upgrade efforts in this area. We continue to draw on the invaluable input received. The amendments before us today reflect some of that solicited feedback, and we will probably mine some of the good ideas heard for some time to come.
Prevention is only half of the story. Our government is working hard to ensure that we effectively enforce what already exists in the way of legislation and other instruments established to advance the fight against foreign corruption.
Of course the legislative centrepiece of Canada's work on foreign corruption is the CFPOA, which has been in force since 1999. I believe we are all familiar by now with the reasons for the CFPOA's development and its role in honouring Canada's international obligations in this area, as well as the principal purposes it serves and the main activities it criminalizes. I will not repeat those here.
Rather, I would like to use some of my time today to very briefly flag the indispensable contributions that our key law enforcement agencies are making to the enforcement of that existing legislation governing the corruption of foreign public officials. The RCMP serves as the primary enforcement body for the CFPOA and since 2008 has had an international anti-corruption unit in place enforcing and raising awareness about the CFPOA. With teams placed in both Ottawa and Calgary, the latter owing to its position as the largest hub for Canada's extractive industries and related business, this unit would only get better and more effective with the benefit of Bill S-14's enactment.
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada works hand in hand with the RCMP to tackle corruption. Since 2006 and its creation, the PPSC has stationed one of its counsel in Ottawa with the explicit mandate to advise and assist the RCMP's two teams in Ottawa and Calgary with their anti-corruption investigations. This collaboration is paying off. We have seen 3 convictions, and there are another 2 cases pending and 35 more under investigation. The penalties are increasing significantly with each conviction, and we can expect this trend to continue as our legislation gets tougher and we get better at identifying and holding these offenders to account. We are on the right track, and Bill S-14 would only drive us further in that positive direction.
Having touched on what exists already and where we are at, I would like to turn now to where we are going next. Bill S-14 is fundamental to our continued progress, and these reforms would make a significant contribution to our ongoing work to ensure that Canadian companies refrain from bribing foreign public officials and continue to act in accordance with the highest legal and ethical standards in the pursuit of freer markets and expanded global trade. This bill is compelling evidence of our government's commitment to this work, and its passage would send a crystal clear signal to other countries of our expectation that they should hold their own companies to the same account.
These six amendments seek to introduce nationality jurisdiction, specify which authority can lay charges, eliminate the facilitation payments exception, clarify the scope of the CFPOA, increase the maximum penalty and create a new books and records offence.
If I may, perhaps I will just refresh the House's memory as to what each of these amendments would provide for, in turn.
The first amendment, which would introduce nationality jurisdiction, seeks to expand the limited reach of the existing act. The CFPOA's current requirement that the prosecution demonstrate a “real and substantial link” between Canadian territory and the offence charged effectively acts to circumscribe the number of corruption cases we can bring to justice. The assertion of nationality jurisdiction would allow us to tackle possible foreign bribery engaged in by Canadians or Canadian companies regardless of where that bribery might take place, by enabling us to prosecute them on the basis of their Canadian nationality alone.
The second amendment would provide the RCMP exclusive authority to lay charges under the act. This would permit the RCMP to ensure that there is a uniform approach taken to the pre-charge stages of the CFPOA cases throughout Canada. It would also put Canadian businesses on notice that it is clearly the RCMP that is the lead law enforcement agency as far as investigations are concerned.
The third amendment proposes to eliminate the facilitation payments exception currently provided for under the CFPOA. In essence, any payments made to expedite or secure the performance by a foreign public official of any act of a routine nature do not constitute bribes for the purposes of the current act. Such facilitation or grease payments to move along a foreign public official's performance of something he or she is already beholden to perform are plainly open to abuse and should also be characterized as bribes, which are payments specifically made to extract a business advantage and are already illegal under the act.
Indeed, bribes are illegal under the legislation of every OECD country. This is important in light of any concerns that this amendment would place Canadian companies at a competitive disadvantage internationally. As noted in the bill, the entry into force of the specific amendment would be delayed to further address any such concern in recognition of the fact that some other countries continue to permit facilitation payments and, most importantly, to provide Canadian companies with a fair and reasonable amount of time to adjust their own practices, internal policies and operations should that prove necessary.
The fourth amendment, which proposes the elimination of the words “for profit” from the definition of business would ensure that the reach of the CFPOA is not unduly restricted. It clarifies that the scope of the CFPOA is plainly not limited to bribes paid to for-profit enterprises or in the course of profitable businesses. This is key if we are target those who pay bribes on behalf of companies that may not earn a profit in a given year, as well as organizations with a not-for-profit raison d'être. These entities would be caught within this proposed change.
The fifth amendment is straightforward: an increase in the maximum jail term for a foreign bribery offence under the act to 14 years. It is currently set at five. The current possibility of unlimited fines for such offenders would remain untouched.
The new books and records offence that composes the sixth proposed amendment is meant to prevent individuals and companies from cooking the books. While there are offences under the Criminal Code that criminalize the falsification of books and records, they are not specific to foreign bribery. Canada is required to put such specific measures in place in order to honour its obligations under international anti-corruption treaties to which it is a party. The amendment would add another enforcement measure to our tool kit and would be punishable by a maximum of 14 years' imprisonment and unlimited fines; the same severity that is in place for the offence of foreign bribery.
Bill S-14 was adopted by the other place as tabled and I would offer that it is plainly in the national interest that the House do the same. If adopted, the amendments I have just described would clearly and unequivocally demonstrate to interested parties in Canada and abroad that corruption is simply not the Canadian way of doing business, nor should it be the way of doing business anywhere. Ensuring a level playing field for international business is crucial to the global fight against foreign bribery. Legislation such as Bill S-14 is vital if economic growth and expanding global trade and prosperity are to flourish. Indeed, foreign bribery works to undermine that growth, trade and prosperity and to corrode the rule of law that is the foundation for the market freedom so absolutely vital to a trading nation such as Canada.
Bill S-14 seeks to ensure that our companies continue to embrace the highest legal and ethical standards in pursuing their business internationally. Canadians expect no less, and rightly so. Our government firmly believes that Canada can compete with the best and win fairly. Bill S-14 is an expansion of that belief and of our twin commitment to both strengthening the fight against corruption and securing jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians. I ask all hon. members in the House to work with us to ensure its passage into law as quickly as possible.