We would like to thank you, Chair and honourable members, for inviting us to speak before you today on this important issue.
My name is Tamir Israel. I am staff counsel with CIPPIC. With me is David Fewer, our acting director. We apologize for not providing you with a brief of our position today.
CIPPIC is a legal clinic based in the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law. Much of our mandate involves addressing the legal and policy concerns that arise from new technologies and specifically from the ever-increasing availability of private and personal information in electronic formats.
For a long time, we have been concerned with the many facets of identity theft and have researched legal and policy approaches to that problem. This work has resulted in, among other things, a public-private multidisciplinary project funded by the Ontario Research Network for Electronic Commerce, ORNEC, and a series of six working papers available on our website at www.cippic.ca. These cover most aspects of the issue.
We will be releasing a final white paper later this year, updating and summarizing our work on this issue and making specific recommendations for law and policy reform needed to address identity theft in a comprehensive manner.
We would like to point out that identity theft is a very serious phenomenon with specific impacts on individuals and society at large. You've heard that ID theft costs our economy $2 billion annually and that this is a conservative number.
There is an associated loss of confidence that is much more difficult to quantify, but equally serious. We have seen figures estimating that individual victims in Canada spend approximately $164 million of their own money and over 18 million hours annually just addressing the fallout from having their identities stolen, just to re-establish their identities.
In addition to this social and individual financial cost, there is also the invasiveness of such offences. People who have their personal information or identities taken from them for such fraudulent purposes often feel violated. People have told us that victims of ID theft often exhibit feelings similar to those seen in victims of home burglaries. There is serious psychological harm here, as well as the financial costs.
We feel that the magnitude and nature of these harms calls for a criminal component as part of any response to the problem of ID theft.
Our study of Bill has convinced us that it is well-tailored to address the specific and fairly well-documented problems raised by identity theft in the criminal sphere. It manages to provide police with the tools they need in this sphere to address these problems, while avoiding the problems of overbreadth. It does so while managing to maintain flexibility and technical neutrality. The reason it is able to do this is that it directly addresses the specific issues posed by identity theft and does not overreach in that respect.
We're here today to say that we support this bill and would gladly try to answer any outstanding questions or concerns you might have on it. We've been paying attention to your committee hearings and we've noticed that some have been raised.
But we'd also like to remind the government, in brief, that its job with respect to identity theft is not done. ID theft requires a comprehensive response. This bill largely and effectively addresses the criminal portion of this response. In addition, the government's Bill , which is also currently in committee, takes important regulatory steps that will deter a great deal of ID theft activity.
But more reforms are essential to address prevention and to help individual victims deal with the problems that identity theft raises for them. Many of these additional reforms are beyond the scope of a criminal bill such as this one, and we would not want to delay the implementation of Bill . However, we have your attention, so we would like to point out to you the ways in which the Criminal Code can be improved to better accommodate the needs of victims. The victim restitution provisions in clause 11 of this bill will go some way to doing that, but we feel that more can be done.
We have suggested in the past and do so here again that it would be helpful to add provisions to the Criminal Code giving victims the right to local police reports. We have found from our research that this helps victims address jurisdictional issues.
What often happens is that a resident of one city, let's say Ottawa, will have their identity stolen or the ID fraud will manifest in another city, let's say Edmonton. The victim will be directed to Edmonton police, who will have jurisdiction. The local police force will generally refuse to open an additional file because they don't like to investigate claims committed in other jurisdictions. Although I note in defence of Ottawa that we were told the OPS in particular is willing to do this, most other police forces will not.
This is a serious problem. ID theft often requires immediate action, and for an Ottawa denizen to have to contact Edmonton before a file is opened, that takes a lot of time. In the meantime, they are having credit problems.
On the other hand, ID theft also has long-term, recurring ramifications, and it simplifies matters a great deal for victims to have local police as their point of contact for any investigation. The police can then forward the investigation to a more appropriate jurisdiction, but they should remain the point of contact. It should be clarified that this applies to victims, even if the financial institution in question absorbed all the financial harm in a particular instance.
In addition, we have heard that police reports often don't contain a great deal of information. They do not even state that the offence being investigated is fraud. This means they're not very helpful to victims, in and of themselves, if they're trying to vindicate themselves with persistent creditors or with Equifax or anybody else.
To remedy this, other jurisdictions have provided, within their criminal statutes, a right to a judicial determination of factual innocence from a court of law, once an investigation is successfully completed. We point you to section 530.6 of California’s Penal Code, if you would like guidance on provisions of this nature either now or in the future. There are other examples from other jurisdictions that can be found in our working papers on our website. A broader range of suggestions is available in our working papers as well and will be collected and updated in the white paper we intend to release shortly.
We invite any questions on the issues we've raised here, on any outstanding concerns you may have with respect to the current bill that have been raised in the past hearings before you, or on any other steps that can be taken to alleviate identity theft.
I'll start off by saying that I need to move an amendment. I caught the drafting just before I came into the committee today and there was an error in it. Perhaps I'll give an overview.
I'm attempting to limit the use of this section to two categories of people. One is a police force. That's what is not in here. That should have stayed in, that any police force can ask for a document to be created, presumably to create a false person for investigative purposes. Clearly a police force should have that authority, so that should remain in there. The second category is the two ministers: the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
I have to admit that I didn't pick this up until fairly late in the process of our review of Bill , but I cannot understand why we would be extending immunity to such a large category of people. As clause 7 stands now, as proposed, it's all police forces, and I don't have a problem with that as it's obviously necessary, but then it goes on to include the Canadian Forces, with no limit.
You can understand that within the Canadian Forces certainly their intelligence units and their military police, quite frankly, might need it, but it's not limited to that. It's all Canadian Forces. The way I read it, and I don't think there's any way of reading it but this way, the average soldier, a private, could go into the office in Thunder Bay where we register our birth certificates and ask to have a birth certificate created and they would have to comply.
It then goes beyond that and includes all federal government agencies and all provincial government agencies. I cannot understand why we would extend that kind of authority. It's just so ripe for abuse.
This clause is needed for the purposes of allowing our police forces, our intelligence services, to create false identities in order for those individuals operating in those fields to be able to conduct their normal investigative role. Why would we extend this?
I was thinking yesterday that the Children's Aid Society could walk in and ask for that kind of documentation to be prepared, and the department that creates those documents would have to prepare them.
Similarly, if you were to go to one of the credit card companies and say that you needed to have this document created and ask them to give you a credit card in a person's name, the private sector would have to do that. Municipalities would have to change identification of ownership of buildings if that were asked for, and it could be asked for by a huge number of people the way the clause is written.
As I said earlier, with this amendment I've tried to keep the police forces involved, obviously, but then move that authority to the two ministers at the federal level, who would obviously be able to delegate that authority to the appropriate people within their departments.
I do not understand why a parallel has been drawn between the amendment proposed by Mr. Comartin and the issue of good faith. As I see it, good faith is always involved when someone assumes a false name, in order for that action to be legal. The goal pursued must be in the public interest; for example, when a person has to use a false name to trap someone breaking the law, so that the investigation can move forward.
Before the Criminal Code was amended, such cases were dealt with through the case law. They were essentially resolved by applying the good faith principle. I do not recall the name, but I know that was done in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling dealing specifically with the use of a false identity for the purposes of a police investigation, as well as the fact that police officers had to break the law.
Let's take an obvious offence—for example, buying drugs; police officers had no choice but to break the law. With respect to assault, they were protected by something else. It was an obvious case, but there have been even more serious cases, where police officers had to act illegally. The judgment there was based on good faith and the fact that the police were pursuing a public interest goal.
However, because the definitions were too vague, the Supreme Court invited Parliament to legislate. It did bring in other provisions on this. I believe the provisions here—perhaps the witness could tell us—are intended to mirror those made to the Criminal Code in the wake of that Supreme Court decision, and are along the same lines.
The requirement for the good faith principle to be engaged is a necessary one. And, in fact, the good faith requirement is not the only one. The action must also be in the public interest or be necessary as part of a criminal investigation. When the decision was made to go the legislative route, as opposed to relying solely on the case law, in order to allow police officers to break the law or use a false identity—and here we are talking only about a false identity—some control mechanism had to be included.
I support Mr. Comartin's argument, because it seems to me that the control mechanism here is extremely week; there are too many people able to exercise that control. It should be given to the Department of Justice or the Department of Public Safety. However, because the administration of the criminal justice system is a provincial responsibility, it should, in fact, be given to the provincial Minister of Justice, or the federal Minister of Justice, who also has a role to play in the administration of justice.
I am not going to draw a parallel between Mr. Rathgeber's remarks and Mr. Comartin's amendment, but I do think it would be advisable to retain the words “in good faith”. As Mr. Murphy pointed out, it is almost pointless to have it in there, because it is obvious that the individuals involved must be acting in good faith. That is part and parcel of the activity we are seeking to protect.
Thank you. I'm ba-a-ck.
I actually like clause 7 as it reads now in Bill S-4. I think our colleague, Maître Serge Ménard, dealt very well with the issue of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision about illegal acts committed by, for instance, members of police forces in the course of their duties while working, for instance, undercover. It actually does cover also the use of force, not in defence of themselves but, for instance, when they're undercover in a criminalized biker gang and have to take part in beating someone.
An hon. member: [Inaudible--Editor]
Hon. Marlene Jennings: Yes, it was covered.
I think the issue here is whether or not the person made the false document—at the request of any of the different agencies that are mentioned here—in good faith. And if the agency is acting illegally, we have provisions in the Criminal Code to deal with that. I can in fact see, at times and given certain investigations, the requirement that one would want to have, for instance, a provincially issued ID. You would have the police force requesting la Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec, for instance, to issue a driver's permit. It would in fact be a real driver's permit issued in the course of an investigation, and this provision would protect the employee who issued it from criminal charges. Right now, the police officer is protected, but not the person who actually produces the false document.
So I like it as it is; I don't like the amendment. I think the amendment is much too restrictive. If we were to go with the amendment, then it would have to be amended seriously to add the Minister of National Defence, the provincial ministers of public safety or solicitors general, and all of the different levels at which you could have official documents produced that are false documents but actually authentic documents.
So I like it the way it is and I will not support the amendment, but I will support clause 7.
First, with regard to good faith, I think this is clear, but I'm going to repeat it just to be clear about why I was shaking my head. I think the officials have confirmed this: the good faith defence as an immunity only applies to the person who's creating the document. It does not require the police force as it stands now, or the Canadian Forces or any of those departments, to be acting in good faith in requesting the document. I suppose if we had that in there, it might be some additional thing.
With regard to the point about interfering with current practices, it's hard to say. Some of the current practices in creating false identity may in fact be illegal under existing law, and I don't think this should in any way be a guideline as to whether we should be interfering with that. What we're doing in the rest of the bill, assuming it becomes law, is creating a new legal authority to create that. It may in fact in some cases be confirming what our existing practice is, which may or may not be illegal, but I don't think that should be our consideration for this.
As far as the subamendment is concerned, I agree. Mr. Ménard is correct that we should be extending the authority to the attorneys general and the solicitors general right across the country. I probably should have put that in myself. I certainly would be supporting his subamendment. I think it's appropriate that we do that. They would then have the authority at both the provincial and territorial levels and at the federal level to be able to designate officials who would have the authority to make the request for these types of documents.
You don't need to add, as Ms. Jennings has suggested, all of the federal departments. That is not required. They can take care of that at the federal level by delegating that authority.
That's my summation, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
It's along the same lines as the previous amendment, in that I think the proposed change is simply too broad. As I indicated in some of the questions I asked when this issue was raised—I think two meetings back—there is a requirement for this section to be in here in order to get around the provisions of the Criminal Code's section 25, and more specifically section 25.1.
What those sections are about, and Mr. Ménard and Ms. Jennings have already referred to it, is that we passed those amendments in order to provide protection for police officers when in the course of their employment they were compelled—usually when they were undercover—to commit criminal acts. They were particularly concerned about acts that entailed violence or force. But the sections certainly go far beyond that, including, I believe, to catching this type of conduct of creating a false identity, now that we passed these amendments, for the rest of the act. This section is necessary, in effect, to extricate police officers from the provisions of section 25.1.
I don't think that is what is desirable in a democratic society; it extends too much authority, really, to individual police officers. What I have proposed with this amendment to proposed section 368.2, if I have the same version as everybody else—it's part of clause 9 of the bill—is to add to the end of it. What we're saying up to this point, in the amendment the government has proposed, is that if the police officer is doing this for the “purpose of establishing or maintaining a covert identity for use in the course of the public officer's duties or employment”.... This would add to that: “and if a competent authority, as defined in subsection 25.1(1), authorized the public officer to do so”.
What subsection 25.1(1) does is create really three categories of authority. One is a member who's a “public officer” or “senior official”, and then they go on to say in paragraph 25.1(a) that “in the case of a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police”, it would be “the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness” who would authorize this type of activity to go on. Paragraph 25.1(b) goes on: if it's a police service at the provincial level, it's “the Minister responsible for policing in the province”. Then there's a third category in paragraph 25.1(c): “in the case of any other public officer or senior official, the Minister who has responsibility for the Act of Parliament that the officer or official has the power to enforce”. That would cover the mention we've already had from the officials of people acting at border service agencies or the Department of National Defence, and then you go down through the list of people operating in the field under the ministers of the environment or of natural resources.
It then goes on in that section to define “public officer” and “senior official”.
What we would be incorporating by this amendment is moving away from a police officer as an individual being able to make the decision as to whether to have a covert identity, to having that person make the decision but also having the authority from those senior members of the department. In fact, the way this has worked is that the authority is delegated down through the police forces and other agencies to the local level.
Those are my comments.
If I could make just one slight clarification about the Hamilton case, there isn't really a criticism of the definition of “reckless” in the Hamilton case. In fact, the Hamilton case was interpreting the offence under section 464 of the Criminal Code. The offence under that section is counselling an offence that is not committed, and the word “reckless” does not even appear in section 464 of the Criminal Code.
In fact, in the Hamilton case, what the court was required to do was to develop some common law surrounding what the necessary mental state was for that offence in the absence of there being an explicit mental state in that offence, so they determined that the mental state for counselling an offence that another person doesn't actually commit.... In this particular case, the factual scenario may help elucidate the discussion.
It was a case where someone had sent out hundreds of spam e-mails to all kinds of people who this person didn't even know. They were advertising a variety of things. Sandwiched in the hundreds and hundreds of documents included in the spam were documents on how to make a bomb and how to commit credit card fraud. That person was tracked down. There was no evidence that any of the people who had received the spam had gone on to commit those offences. The question was whether that person who sent out those e-mails could be charged and convicted of the offence of counselling another person to commit an offence that was not actually committed.
As I mentioned, there is no explicit mental state in section 464, so the court had to essentially read in what the necessary mental state could be. They determined that in the Internet age, which is apropos of the discussion surrounding identity theft as well, it would be too high a threshold to say that a person would have to know that another person would commit an offence. They said that in the Internet age it should also be permissible to get a conviction if the person is reckless, and in this particular case they set the threshold for recklessness at a fairly high level, because no offence is actually committed and a person is really convicted simply for counselling another person, sending out an e-mail.
So in this offence they read in the mens rea of recklessness and set it at a fairly high threshold of a substantial and unjustified risk. But they didn't actually critique the definition of recklessness, although there may have been some commentary that the notion of recklessness has been in the criminal law for probably hundreds of years at this stage, going back to English common law, and there is no definition in the Criminal Code. So what we have are a few instances of “reckless”, including the fact that reckless is used in the murder provisions. It's an offence if you intentionally cause grievous bodily harm and you're “reckless whether death ensues”. Those are the words in the Criminal Code.
So the question really is this: is this threshold of recklessness satisfactory for this particular offence, and if you were to incorporate it into this bill, will you be setting a precedent for the interpretation of recklessness in other offences without having considered what those other thresholds should be?
That's slightly broader than what your particular question was directed at, Mr. Comartin, but I find the background on Hamilton helpful to understanding the situation.
I am not sure that this case was as widely reported in English Canada as it was in French Canada, but it certainly raises a great many troubling questions. First of all, it took one individual, with the occasional assistance of a few lawyers, 14 years to prove the validity of a complaint lodged with the RCMP in 1995, to the effect that a piece of work he had submitted to Cinar several years prior to that had clearly been plagiarized. In addition to that, it was plagiarized by a company that had committed other irregularities, to put it mildly, in the process of obtaining funding from Telefilm Canada—in other words, public funds—to produce a program that had been plagiarized. We are talking about considerable amounts of money here.
To begin with, complaints were lodged by the person who had been robbed, not only of his idea but also his work. The RCMP undertook an investigation and, just when the investigation was almost completed, instructions were received from the Department of Justice to close the file.
Here we have the example of a citizen who was the victim of a huge fraud. However, the judge did award him an amount of $5 million in damages for infringement of his copyright. So, this is not a minor affair.
In addition to that, the amounts obtained from Telefilm Canada, based on two kinds of misrepresentations, amount to millions of dollars. That money had been earmarked by Telefilm Canada to encourage Canadian television production, by Canadians. So, there was a first misrepresentation by individuals who copied the original version prepared by Mr. Robinson. At the same time, these individuals were foreign nationals—of either American or French nationality—and thus, the company would not have been in a position to receive the large grants of money that were paid. Furthermore, because this was public money intended to help Canadian business or a specific type of Canadian business, one of the conditions was that there be a minimal investment by a Canadian company with support in the form of U.S. or foreign capital. In fact, the Canadian company was required to invest 25% of its own capital in the business in order to receive federal funding.
It turns out—and that is now being alleged in the appeal—that even though they had submitted a letter to the government stating that they were in fact putting up 25% of the capital, in the case on appeal, they are now claiming that they were only providing 10% of the capital and that, consequently, they should only be ordered to pay 10% of the total amount of $5 million to the author—not 25%—even though they said at the outset that they were investing 25% of the capital. They were therefore responsible for 25%.
So, there are three substantial issues involved here.
What is worse, and why I believe there is a need for action on the part of the lawmakers, is that, at the present time, despite everything that has been done, people still do not understand why, when the RCMP had gathered considerable evidence—enough to convince a superior court judge—the RCMP was then instructed to set aside this file and not lay charges.
If Mr. Robinson wins on appeal, he will be compensated, although no one knows how long that will take. However, if the judgment is upheld, he will receive $5 million, plus interest. The fact remains, however, that throughout this period, the government—the public—was subsidizing a company which was supposedly 25% Canadian, when in actual fact, it is now very clear in these proceedings that the company in question was only putting up 10% of the capital. And, I might just mention in passing that 90% of the profits made by stealing Mr. Robinson's copyrighted material were paid offshore, when in fact the purpose of the funding program was to encourage Canadian craftspeople.
This case began in November of 1995; that's why we are still talking about 14 years. An initial complaint was lodged by Mr. Robinson with the RCMP for infringement of copyright. I would just like to remind you that copyright is something we have talked about a great deal in this committee, I believe, as well as in others. Essentially, we provide poor protection for copyright here in Canada, even though, as lawmakers, we all realize, when dealing with copyright legislation, the incredible asset that proper protection of copyright really is, since it is a tool for protecting innovation, and so on.
I don't really need to say much more about this. I only mention it to bring home to you that this is a matter of the utmost importance. It is possible that it did not receive the same media attention in English Canada as it did in French Canada, but in my opinion, it is similar in importance to the sponsorship scandal, even though it involves a different area; basically we are talking about public money obtained fraudulently.
As I say, the whole affair began in 1995. In March of 1997, after searches were conducted at the offices of Telefilm Canada and Cinar—the company in question—the RCMP completed its investigation and a request to institute proceedings against Cinar was filed with the Crown. The Crown sought the advice of a copyright expert and decided not to lay charges.
In June of 2000, Radio-Canada revealed that the expert in question was the sister-in-law of the president of the company. As a result, a second request to resume the investigation was brought forward in October of 1999. At that time, the front men scandal was exposed—in other words, the fact that American or French authors were copying or adapting Mr. Robinson's original work and that copies were being signed by Canadians who had had no involvement whatsoever in that work. Once again, funding intended for Canadian craftspeople had been directed to American or French nationals. So, the whole front men scandal was exposed in October of 1999.
Following fresh allegations of tax irregularities, and at the request of the Minister of Canadian Heritage—Sheila Copps, at the time—the RCMP reactivated its investigation of Cinar, in two parts: the tax irregularities and the copyright infringement.
In May of 2000, the RCMP made it known that the investigation had hit a brick wall because of a lack of cooperation from the federal Department of Revenue.
In February of 2001, the RCMP's investigation into tax irregularities was completed and it recommended that criminal charges of tax fraud be laid against four executives and former ex-executives of the company Cinar.
On January 22, 2002, after consulting an expert with Justice Canada, the Crown announced its intention not to lay criminal charges against Cinar for tax fraud, but the criminal investigation into the copyright complaint continued.
In December of 2003, the Crown decided, for a second time, not to lay charges of copyright infringement against Cinar. It claimed there was insufficient evidence, even though important witnesses had not yet been heard. That marked the end of all RCMP investigations.
For its part, the Ontario Securities Commission decided to open an investigation into Cinar's activities, but thus far, no information has been made available as to the results of that investigation. The Quebec Securities Commission also has an investigation underway.
Finally, Mr. Robinson went before the Superior Court to defend his copyright. When proceedings were first initiated against Cinar with respect to infringement of copyright, Claude Robinson was at the very centre of the front men scandal, because he is the one who realized who had actually written the copy of what he had submitted. So, even though the defendants engaged in multiple delaying tactics—changes of lawyers, repeated requests for additional details regarding the application, and so on—$2.4 million in lawyer fees and 14 years later, Claude Robinson won his case before the Superior Court on August 26, 2009.
In a 240-page judgment, Justice Claude Auclair of the Quebec Superior Court awarded $5.2 million to Mr. Robinson, the author of Robinson Curiosité, which was the name he had given the work he had submitted to Cinar. The judge was highly critical of the defendants, saying that their behaviour was, and I quote “scandalous, despicable and immoral” and that the conduct of their business was “based on cheating, lies and dishonesty.” The judge went on to add this: “The conduct of the defendants is abusive, premeditated and deliberate. Even during the trial, they continued to hide their wrongdoing.”
I have skipped over many parts of the judgment, quoting only those passages that are the most salient, in order for you to understand just how important this whole affair was.
In 1997, to terminate the RCMP's investigation, the Department of Justice relied on the expertise of Danielle Aubry, sister-in-law of a Cinar vice-president. It took her only two days to review 26 episodes and hundreds of pages. The investigation was subsequently reopened, and two subsequent assessments concluded that Cinar had used most of Robinson's project.
Bertrand Gagnon, a former RCMP investigator on the file said: “Yes, if our bosses had not believed in this, I would not have worked on this investigation for three years. The evidence speaks for itself—what we had, what we were receiving; it was always positive, and yes, we kept on going. We had to discover the other side of the coin.” That was confirmed in 2001 in a passage from an interim report on the second RCMP investigation. It says, and I quote: “It seems increasingly clear that the work entitled Robinson Curiosité was plagiarized.”
Again, I remind you that the Department of Justice stepped in to prevent the RCMP from initiating proceedings on the basis of the complaints that had been lodged.
Bertrand Gagnon, the former RCMP investigator, went on to say: “Could someone please explain how an investigation ordered by a federal minister [Sheila Copps] could not be considered in the public interest… I just don't get it.”
It is also important to remember, in terms of the public interest, that foreigners claiming to be Canadians had acted as a front, in order to receive federal funding.
First of all, I would like to say to Mr. Ménard that, in the province of New Brunswick, there are more than 200,000 people who speak French, who are part of this country, and who are French Canadian. French Canadians living in Quebec are not the only ones that have concerns with respect to our justice system.
I would say, though, that we've all followed this case, and we know that it's a court case. I've only been here for close to four years; I wonder if we're going to get involved now in all court cases.
In rebuttal to your motion--I'm not really sure where I'm going to land on the motion, so I'm just saying this by way of commentary--we have in the past looked at allegations that touched upon members of Parliament and their role as public office holders. The Cadman case comes to mind. We didn't actually get to deal with that. The Mulroney-Schreiber matter certainly comes to mind.
I was involved in both of those discussions. The commonality, I suppose, was that they touched upon public office holders of a sort or another, past or present. You can see the nexus between our work as a committee, although not everybody agreed on each of these cases, and investigating issues regarding public office holders--or, as they were, members of the Commons.
This case, as far as I can see, emanates from a recent finding of a judgment, in effect. We have many judgments in this country that speak to large sums of money and very bad people on the defence who cause large sums of money to be awarded by judges. I just wonder....
Maybe I'll ask these questions to close with, because I'm not sure where we're going to land on this or where I'm going to vote on this.
I would like you to answer these simple questions--first, how this might be the Pandora's box where we look into almost any judgment where there has been sort of fraud found, in a civil matter, that hasn't been adequately investigated by the police.
Secondly, as you would well know, probably more than anyone here, there is no statute of limitations on the kinds of crimes that are talked about in this judgment. How do we know that there isn't an ongoing investigation that we might inadvertently muddle by our investigation?
Finally, and you might as well say it, are you talking about specific members? I think there are allegations of political interference. I mean, your statement was long enough; I'm surprised it didn't actually make the allegations as to the specific political interference. You might as well say it.
If Mr. Ménard has an opportunity to respond to those questions, I might be better informed to make my decision on his motion.
I have to say I am curious as to where the reference to allegations of political interference is coming from. I, too, would like to be given a little more information from our colleague, Mr. Serge Ménard.
To be perfectly honest, I think the Bloc, and possibly other parties, already have a target in mind. I am quite concerned about the fact that we do not know whether a police investigation is currently underway. I would like the government to tell us whether such an investigation is ongoing. I can understand the Bloc's frustration. Their leader has asked questions regarding this affair on a number of occasions during the Oral Question Period, and the government is refusing to provide clear answers.
So, first of all, I am curious to know whether a police investigation is in fact underway at this time. Only the government can answer that question. It does not hesitate to tell us—in other cases, for example—that it cannot comment because of a complaint, because a police investigation is underway or because the case is before the courts and that, for this very reason, the government must avoid commenting. In this case, it seems to me that the government should be in a position to tell us whether, yes or no, a police investigation is underway regarding this whole question of allegations of criminal fraud, and so on.
Secondly, I would like to receive additional information from our colleague who states, in his motion, that there have been allegations of political interference. Could he please tell us more about that? In the presentation he just made, he referred to the Department of Justice, and to officials working for that department who terminated the charge-laying process. However, the only actual politician he has made reference to is the former Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Hon. Sheila Copps, and he repeated a number of times that she herself had requested that there be a police investigation, without ever alleging that this particular minister or her successors may have tried to interfere in that police investigation. So, I would like to know who those allegations refer to, in order to make an informed decision on the motion.
I would also like to know whether the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice is in a position to tell us whether a police investigation is, in fact, underway on this specific case.
This is necessary, because this is a serious case. If the motion is passed by the committee, that will mean that bills that are waiting to be studied by this Committee will have to be set aside, based on what I heard earlier. So, we have to have an answer to those two questions. At the very least, I need an answer from the government, through the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice. The other question is for my colleague, Mr. Serge Ménard.
That's it. Thank you.
I will start with the easiest one. I don't know why Mr. Murphy made the remarks he did with respect to the fact that there are Francophones in New Brunswick. It seems to me that I was careful to refer to Canadian Francophones and Canadian Anglophones. Of course, this whole affair involved something that was done in French. Indeed, I believe the plagiarized show was broadcast in New Brunswick as well. So, that argument is neither here nor there.
Why? Well, this is probably the biggest copyright case ever to have arisen in Canada. We encouraged the RCMP, we prompted it to investigate possible plagiarism and to defend patents. The investigators assigned to this case are convinced that they had causes of action. They filed charges and were subsequently told to withdraw them. Who told them to withdraw those charges? Obviously, they were told that by officials, but we would like to know, in light of what is clearly stated in the judge's decision, who asked them to do that.
I am not one to bandy about accusations, but looking at this whole affair, one cannot help but think that the instructions given the police to withdraw the charges had to have come from very high up. It is absolutely unthinkable, when you read the judgment, that a lawyer could have expressed that opinion. So, there must be another explanation, and that is exactly what we are seeking.
This is not about interfering in the work of police officers—quite the opposite; it is about understanding why the work done by the police, which resulted in charges being laid with respect to considerable amounts of public funds and very serious violations of the rights of an individual, was terminated.
It is my conviction that many people will tend to identify with Mr. Robinson, even if they recognize that they do not have his talent. It's the chicken or the egg. We are talking about a judgment which makes it clear that there was fraud, that offences were committed, that the police were aware of that and were convinced that they had the necessary evidence. Yet the work of the police was terminated as a result of instructions given from higher up. We want to know where those instructions came from. You are asking me where I am going with this; I want to go right to the top. I believe that most citizens who are aware of this affair want the same. As far as I am concerned, this is just as important as the sponsorship scandal or an investigation into monies collected by a former prime minister while in office. I am sure you realize that this is just about the most serious thing that could happen.
And other information has become available. There are documents and a letter that was produced where it is stated that Cinar was contributing 25%. That letter was essential in order for the company to receive the federal funding it was granted. And, there is another letter stating that, despite what is written in the first letter, that contribution was actually only 10%. I think someone has to take a close look at all of this. Since no one else appears to be doing that, I am appealing to our committee.