Madam Speaker, today, we are debating Bill C-349. I want to begin by thanking the sponsor of this bill, the member for Rivière-du-Nord, as I did in my questions.
The fact that we are still talking about this problem obviously says something. We all recognize that, unfortunately, in politics, whether we are talking about organized crime or other matters, it sadly often takes a tragedy before something is done about an important issue. The issue before us today, that of organized crime, is obviously extremely important.
We must be honest and recognize that, regardless of our political stripes or what we believe are the best ways of eliminating or at least minimizing the human, personal, physical, and economic threats posed by organized crime, we all agree that we must do everything in our power as legislators to combat it.
I am going to talk about the solutions that are proposed in this bill, with a particular focus on the creation of a list or registry of criminal organizations. When I took the time to reread the testimony of the witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice when it was carrying out the study proposed by the Bloc Québécois in 2009, I noticed some interesting things. I noticed that the burden of proof placed on the shoulders of police forces and others creates a real challenge. The police have to prove that an organization is criminal and then prove it again every time, even when it seems obvious. Anyone looking at the situation would say that this does not make any sense and that we are well aware of which organizations in Quebec and Canada are criminal organizations.
Nevertheless, this burden of proof exists and, every time a crime related to organized crime is committed, the crown must constantly prove that the organization in question is in fact a criminal organization. That causes a lot of grief and creates a lot of work for prosecutors and the police.
I would suggest that the proposed list is not an adequate solution to ease the burden on the police. I took note of what witnesses said during this study. William Barclay, a lawyer working in the criminal law policy section of the Department of Justice, said, “Even though a group was a listed entity, law enforcement would still have to collect evidence for a case to be presented in court, as the listing process in its application to a particular case could still be challenged in any case.”
From that and what other lawyers have said, we see that there is still an obligation for police and, consequently, for the crown to collect the evidence necessary to prove that the organization in question is criminal.
There are a few things that we find worrisome about the creation of such a list.
First, even though we know that it is sometimes necessary, we always worry when something is basically left up to the minister's discretion. The bill contains a challenge mechanism, but I think it falls short.
I will give an example from that section of the bill. It says that, if a group goes to court to challenge the fact that it was put on the list, the judge may receive anything into evidence, even if it would not otherwise be admissible under Canadian law.
That is very worrisome. Take for example a recent case in Montreal where a megatrial against various organized groups was basically thrown out. One of the reasons why that happened was that the RCMP conducted various wiretap operations that were deemed illegal and that would no doubt have been challenged because they were illegal and unconstitutional.
We might find ourselves in the same situation if we grant this kind of discretion together with an inadequate method for challenging it. Although it is a different mechanism, it is somewhat the same thing as with the no-fly list, the list that prohibits people from flying under the passenger protect program. We see that the lack of a robust remedy creates an enormous amount of trouble for individuals on the list.
We can see that the counter-argument would be that the names of organized crime groups are relatively well known. Whether we target them or not, we cannot wait until they start challenging it. The problem arises when we examine this kind of list. Obviously there are groups that we all know, that we can name, such as biker gangs that we are very familiar with, for example, and that are in the news on a regular basis.
Some experts submitted a problem during the 2009 study. Specifically, when we say organized crime, that may mean biker gangs, but it can also mean street gangs, for example. As the member for Rivière-du-Nord said himself in his speech, these groups know how to adapt. Their identities are very fluid and the groups' names and composition are constantly changing, as are the crimes in which they are involved in our society. This therefore presents an enormous challenge.
The most striking example is that one of the groups that supports the creation of this kind of list, in principle, is the RCMP. When we read the RCMP testimony more closely, however, we see that it has in fact acknowledged that this kind of list would be extremely difficult to maintain, particularly in terms of the administrative burden associated with maintaining it, and making sure that the information is accurate and that communication with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is robust and appropriate.
I am not just saying that, in my opinion, this mechanism is not the solution. We also have to examine different solutions, because the member is actually talking about an important issue in his bill. As he said very well in his speech, the Jordan decision has brought on a new reality. We see trials ending too soon, at the expense of victims. Criminals are being released because of the judicial system and all sorts of factors. Sometimes these are legislative or administrative factors, and other times, let us be honest, this happens because of the incompetence of the government, in particular this government, when it comes to appointing judges, for example. However, we have to acknowledge that we must deal with this reality.
I am in favour of the solution proposed by Department of Justice representatives in a 2009 study. The law currently allows expert testimony from previous trials to be included in an attempt to facilitate the collection of evidence to prove that an organization is criminal. We need to go further, and this solution should be backed.
In a case in Ontario, for instance, in a trial involving an individual associated with a biker gang, if the judge rules that it is a criminal organization, that decision would be admissible in a new trial. According to the experts we consulted and the testimony we read during the study, this approach would be much more robust, much more likely to be constitutional and less likely to be challenged under the charter.
If we want to discuss public safety issues, the reality of the Jordan ruling, and the whole administrative burden that currently exists in the justice system, we must acknowledge, whether we want to or not, that any additional burden will create another tool that defence lawyers can use to challenge a decision under the charter. We must also acknowledge that this could lead to proceedings that last much longer and that, unfortunately and inevitably in some cases, may result in release of the offender and the end of the proceedings. I do not think anyone in the House wants to see this happen. To the contrary, like I said at the outset, every member wants to do everything they can to tackle organized crime.
We therefore recognize that a tool that may seem obvious unfortunately creates too many problems. These are problems that will exacerbate rather than alleviate the burden on the legal system. However, we also acknowledge that there is a solution.
In closing, the other solution involves resources. I am on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and I have already asked Commissioner Paulson of the RCMP about the focus on the fight against terrorism and how it has affected the fight against organized and white-collar crime. He told me that there was indeed a lack of resources. Obviously, money is also the sinews of war.
Ten minutes is not enough time for me to fully express my thoughts. Unfortunately, we are unable to support this bill, but I congratulate the member for tabling it, and we hope to find the right solutions.
Unfortunately, we cannot support this bill, but I congratulate the member for tabling it. We hope to find the right solutions.