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View Joe Comartin Profile
View Joe Comartin Profile
2013-06-18 10:22 [p.18508]
When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View Paul Dewar Profile
View Paul Dewar Profile
2013-06-18 10:36 [p.18511]
Mr. Speaker, we have certainly talked a lot about corruption recently in this place. As I have mentioned before, it is interesting that this bill on corruption comes from the Senate.
Let us look at what this bill would do. It is trying to bring us up to speed with other countries. There are some problems because it actually does not go far enough. My colleague will know where Canada ranks in terms of transparency internationally and it is low. We need to go further. We on this side have said that we need to strengthen our transparency measures. A communiqué came out of the G8 and we will be interested to see where Canada stands.
My question is this. Is this all the government is intending to do? It is clearly not enough. We have had only three cases of corruption dealt with in the last number of years, which I believe the member mentioned in his comments. We need to not only strengthen and amend the legislation, but go further. Is the government satisfied with just this? Is this going to be the status quo and is the government okay with it? Second, with respect to enforcement, we cannot deal with corruption unless we dedicate resources. The government has cut resources to deal with this issue, be it in the Department of Justice or the Canada Revenue Agency where it has cut resources.
I will summarize my two questions. First, is this all the government has on corruption and, second, what about enforcement?
View Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2013-06-18 10:40 [p.18511]
Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. colleague will agree that Canada's international mining presence is a major driver in our economy. We can actually set the standards for what could be seen as the best in the world.
Unfortunately, Canada's reputation has suffered because of the actions of some bad actors. They have damaged the legitimate companies and damaged our interests. It is really important that the government takes this seriously, to show the world that the Canadian standard is something that we should be proud of.
I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question in terms of the issue of bribery and corruption. We have very large corporate interests overseas, but we also have the small players. It is some of the small players that have gotten us into trouble. Should we be looking at different thresholds for what has to be revealed? For smaller players, 10,000 euros could be a huge amount of money in terms of getting a deal, as opposed to 100,000 euros. A lot of the areas that they are moving into could be bandit countries so money is being used all the time to grease wheels.
I would like to ask the member about thresholds for development, the development companies, the smaller players, the juniors versus the bigger players, and whether we need two standards.
The other question is on enforcement. It is happening overseas. It is happening in some pretty rough-and-tumble places where the rule of law simply does not exist. How do we ensure that we have the transparency to be able to say that we will hold these companies to account?
View Paul Dewar Profile
View Paul Dewar Profile
2013-06-18 10:48 [p.18512]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak, yet again, to Bill S-14. We on this side of the House have mentioned before that we support the bill. We believe that we could go further, as I mentioned in my comments and questions to the parliamentary secretary.
As I have done with all of these bills, I have to start off with our concern and my concern about the way the bill came to us. We have a bill on foreign corruption that has come to us from the other place. When a bill has an “S” in front of the bill number, it is an indication that it comes from the Senate. It has been said numerous times since we have been debating the bill that the government should have seen fit to start this bill here in the House. After all, the elected representatives, I think, are the best people to actually look at corruption, notwithstanding what is happening in the other place, speaking of corruption. Every day there is another story of corruption in the other place. I have to start by underlining that point.
The government seems to not even blush anymore when bills are sent over from the other place. At least on this bill, it should show some contrition that there is a bill, an act to amend the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, that would crack down on foreign corruption, yet it comes from the other place, an unelected body, that is mired in corruption right now.
It is rather stark to see this happening with the current government, which claimed that it was going to be different. Now it has become just like the other guys. The government brings in closure and uses the Senate, abuses the Senate, to do its toil. That is what the government has done with Bill S-14. No one even blushes anymore. It is just business as usual with the current government. It uses the Senate to do its bidding, even on something as important as foreign corruption.
The bill itself, as has been mentioned, would simply bring us up to the minimum standard of our allies. The government was embarrassed by our critique, on this side of the House, in terms of how the standards of our companies abroad have fallen in terms of enforcement on corruption and corporate social responsibility. We just saw a news report last night about what happened in Bangladesh. We should not forget that. The NDP called for hearings at the foreign affairs committee. We would like to see more done on that.
It is about Canada getting back into the game and actually leading. The bill does not go far enough.
I will just give a quick résumé. The bill would make four major changes to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.
It would increase the maximum sentence, as was mentioned by the parliamentary secretary.
It would eliminate the exception for so-called facilitation payments, which is basically paying someone to grease the wheels to get a contract moving. Interestingly, we saw allegations of that happening in Montreal. Maybe we should be applying those rules more forcefully here. Maybe the government should be taking a look at who its candidates are when it recruits them and who it hires as staff when ministers hire ex-candidates. Hopefully, it will do a better job on that.
The bill would also create a new offence for falsifying or concealing books or records. We just received a communiqué from the G8, which came out half an hour ago. In fact, if the government is going to live up to what it has signed on to, it would actually have to amend the bill further, because there is an incentive in this communiqué for the government to do more in this area and to be more transparent in terms of books and records.
The fourth part of the bill would establish national jurisdiction such that Canadian nationals could be prosecuted for offences under the act that are committed overseas. They cannot go overseas and do something they could not do here.
I think it is important to put it into context. As I mentioned, we just received the communiqué from the G8 conference. It touches on many of the aspects we are dealing with in Bill S-14. It is a 10-point communiqué. I am not going to read all 10 points, because they are not all directly related to the bill we are debating.
The first point the G8 leaders signed on to is that “[t]ax authorities across the world should automatically share information to fight the scourge of tax evasion”.
When we talk about the corruption of foreign officials, a lot has to do with the way money moves around. I am delighted to see that this is in the communiqué. We will see if the government takes this seriously.
Second is that countries “should change rules that let companies shift their profits across borders to avoid taxes, and multinationals should report to tax authorities what they pay where”. This has been mentioned already by the parliamentary secretary. It would mean more transparency of companies' operations.
Third is that “[c]ompanies should know who really owns them and tax collectors and law enforcers should be able to obtain this information easily”. If we do not have this in place, the S-14 provisions would be very difficult to enforce, in some cases, because if we do not know who owns companies, we do not know who is influencing the companies. We do not have a full profile. In other words, if we were trying to establish that there was a payment to a company official, and we did not know who the company belonged to, it would be very difficult to prosecute.
We have heard from the G8 meetings that Canada was fighting this. We should be fighting back and getting the government to comply. It turns on the issue of beneficial ownership. That means that a company is hidden behind a shell. What the G8 is looking at, and what Mr. Cameron is pushing for and what number three in the communiqué is about, is that there be full disclosure. Companies can no longer have this parlour trick of hiding behind beneficial ownership. That means having a public registry of all companies showing exactly who owns them. We do not have that right now. Prime Minister Cameron said, “Personally, I would hope the whole world will move towards public registers of beneficial ownership”.
Aid agencies say that private registries would be second best. In other words, there would be a registry, but it would not be public; it would be in government. We are hearing that only the U.K. and the U.S. have committed to having public registries.
I hope the government will take this seriously, because if we are to deal with foreign corruption, we have to have transparency. If we are serious about this communiqué we have signed on to, we have to have a public registry of all companies, who owns them and where they sit. Otherwise, we will not be able to live up to the spirit of transparency.
Fourth is that “[d]eveloping countries should have the information and capacity to collect the taxes owed them—and other countries have a duty to help them”. This is critical when it comes to the issue of being able to influence foreign officials. What we often hear, on the ground, in emerging or developing economies is that officials are able to take advantage of their power to approve projects, et cetera, mainly because there is not a requisite tax system with the proper enforcement and oversight, so they can get away with it. This is what leads to corruption, because there is no proper oversight.
This is extremely important, because obviously, it would help benefit their citizens. It is also a way to deal with the potential for corruption. If there is full disclosure and sunlight, if you will, on who owes taxes and whether they have been paid, it is a disincentive for officials to use their power for corruption.
The fifth point is very important for us in the NDP: “Extractive companies should report payments to all governments—and governments should publish income from such companies”.
We have heard a positive message from the government that it will get behind this. We need to see legislation. From what we have seen and heard from the government, there is no requirement that these reports are to be made public. It is important that we fully embrace transparency and not go just halfway.
By the way, mining companies have said that they would sign on to this. I am hoping that all the extractives will get behind it.
Number six is very near and dear to my heart. It states: “Minerals should be sourced legitimately, not plundered from conflict zones”. As members know, this is the whole issue of conflict minerals. In places like the eastern part of the Congo, where there are human rights abuses and massive corruption, it is a conflict zone. Minerals that go into all of our devices, such as BlackBerrys and cell phones, come from a conflict zone. In essence, we are all, unknowingly for many people, carrying a piece of a conflict in our electronics, because we do not have the proper sourcing of minerals.
What the communiqué says is that “Minerals should be sourced legitimately, not plundered from conflict zones”. This is a challenge to the government. Are the Conservatives going to get on board? Bill C-486, which I put forward, would allow us to comply with what we have seen in the United States with Dodd-Frank. Legislation is in place to ensure that all minerals are from legitimate sources and are not aiding and abetting conflict. The Europeans are moving in this direction. The OECD, which we talked about in terms of this bill, has provided guidelines on ensuring that there is proper and appropriate oversight when it comes to sourcing minerals.
The sixth point is very important, and it is something I have worked on with a lot of people, including people in this place, to get Canada on board and at least get us up to the standard that has been established by others.
Number seven is very important: “Land transactions should be transparent, respecting the property rights of local communities”. When it comes to the corruption of foreign officials, one of the biggest trends we have seen in the last while is the acquisition of land by foreign countries, particularly in developing countries. There is a massive land grab going on right now, particularly in Africa. I will name some countries. China is big into this right now. It is banking land, taking over land. We need to ensure that local communities are respected.
Let us be honest. We are not perfect here in Canada. When we talk about social licence for companies to do their work in extractives, oil and gas, we need to respect local communities. This is an extremely important and urgent issue in developing countries, because we are seeing massive land grabs. It is about food security and about certain countries banking land and keeping an eye on their needs for minerals, oil, gas, et cetera, and in some cases, even food.
Number eight states that governments should roll back some measures on trade that they think would be helpful for trade.
Number nine is about ensuring that things are streamlined, particularly at borders between countries. We certainly know that issue with respect to our friends south of the border. Mr. Speaker, representing your constituency, you do not have to be told that this is extremely important.
Number 10, the last part of the communiqué from the G8, states: “Governments should publish information on laws, budgets, spending, national statistics, elections and government contracts in a way that is easy to read and re-use, so that citizens can hold them to account”. That is actually for us. I am going to read that one again. It is cogent, because if we are going to talk about fighting corruption abroad, we need to be transparent at home. The G8 has signed on to this.
“Governments should publish information on laws, budgets”—think about the parliamentary budget officer here—“spending, national statistics”—this is very interesting, considering what we have done to Stats Canada—“elections and government contracts in a way that is easy to read and re-use, so that citizens can hold them to account”. Number 10 needs urgently to be brought into force here.
I have listed these G8 points that just came out in the communiqué, because as I said in my comments when I questioned the parliamentary secretary, this bill does not go far enough. If we are going to seriously deal with corruption abroad, and we are going to actually be leaders, then it is not good enough just to get up to a minimum standard. That is not the Canadian way. I feel that we are living in the past with the current government.
The way the current government seems to operate, and the parliamentary secretary said it well himself, is that the Conservatives brought forward Bill S-14 because the OECD had cited us as being laggards. It was not until that happened that the government decided to bring forward this legislation. That is not the Canadian way. We should be leading. We should be looking at our practices to see where we are in terms of other jurisdictions.
Everyone knew that we were laggards. Transparency International has been saying so for quite a while.
We can look at this 10-point communiqué of the G8. Are we going to at least meet the standard of our allies? I would like us to see us go further.
For instance, I am concerned when it comes to the issue that Prime Minister Cameron cited about companies being transparent about who owns them so that we can deal with tax evasion. We are hearing that Canada is not going to do that. We are not going to publicly publish who owns a company.
As I mentioned, we need to deal with corruption seriously. We need to have full daylight, and if the government is only going to go halfway on this initiative, we will again fall back. We will be back in this House debating a bill to bring the standard up yet again. The government should embrace what both the U.K. and the U.S. are planning to do and have public registries listing who owns which companies. It should stop the shell game, particularly this practice of “beneficial ownership”.
The point is to make sure that we are transparent when it comes to the extractive industry. The government talked about signing on to the initiative for ensuring that all payments made between foreign governments and Canadian companies are transparent, but to whom? Is the information going to be kept within government, or would it be public? Will we have to ATI to obtain it, or would government do what other governments have done and make it transparent?
As I mentioned before, we must ensure that we get up to the standard of other countries on the issue of conflict minerals so that we no longer are looking the other way when it comes to the sourcing of the supply chain for many of the things that we rely on in our technologies.
If we are serious about it, we would embrace these initiatives of being fully transparent on who owns what companies, being fully transparent and pushing transparency when sourcing minerals in the supply chain for our electronics, and being fully transparent about payments between companies and governments abroad. Then we would be at the same standard as our allies. If we do not meet that standard, then we will be left with what we are doing here, which is trying to catch up.
I will be a bit partisan: what we have seen from the Conservative government is that we have become laggards. We sign on to international treaties, but then we do not follow up with implementation that lives up to the treaty.
For example, we have been called out by Norway and the Red Cross on the fact that the cluster munitions treaty that we signed on to will be undermined by Bill S-10, the proposed implementation legislation, which we have debated. It would undermine this international treaty.
We must think about this for a second. The International Committee of the Red Cross never comes out and criticizes government, but they just did yesterday. It said that Bill S-10, the implementation bill for the cluster munitions treaty that we have signed on to, would actually undermine the treaty. It is shocking.
I am very concerned that when we sign on to this communiqué for the G8 that we actually follow up, live up to the spirit of what we have signed on to and not undermine it.
Another example when it comes to international treaties is the arms trade treaty we agreed to. Then we find the gun lobby taking it over from the government. It is astonishing.
Instead of embracing the future, these guys are living in the past. They are affecting our reputation. Instead of getting on board with progress, they are holding us back just because of their ideology.
Bill S-14 will be supported by the NDP simply because it is the least the Conservative government can do. However, what we want to see is full transparency. When we see the follow-up to the communiqué on the G8, we will be holding the current government to account to at least come up to the standard of our allies.
Personally, and I am sure I speak on behalf of my colleagues, we would like to see Canada lead and not be a laggard. It is something I think most Canadians want to see as well.
View Paul Dewar Profile
View Paul Dewar Profile
2013-06-18 11:10 [p.18515]
Mr. Speaker, I did not mean to exercise the minister to the extent that he seems to be so exercised. I simply made a comment. I did not mention one senator.
I said it is ironic, irony being a literary device, that we are dealing with a bill, Bill S-10, which deals with corruption and which comes from the other place. That is all I said.
Maybe the member is feeling defensive about payments from the Prime Minister's chief of staff to a senator. I do not know what he calls it. I do not call it enlightened behaviour. I would call it enlightened behaviour when we have a party that calls upon us to bring ourselves up to an ethical standard and have integrity in how we do our business.
When a person makes a mistake, he or she owns up to it. We have not seen that from the Conservative government.
In case he was not listening carefully, I did not name any particular senator. I talked about the irony. I would encourage him not to get too exercised about it. Maybe I will use a metaphor later, but he should not take it personally.
View Paul Dewar Profile
View Paul Dewar Profile
2013-06-18 11:12 [p.18516]
Mr. Speaker, I want to touch on two aspects of my colleague's question. One is what we can do domestically. We need to be a lot more ethical in our standards, obviously, as politicians. We have to make sure that the people we appoint to senior posts are going to live up to that ethical standard.
In the case of Arthur Porter, here was someone who was appointed to essentially oversee national security and ensure that there was accountability there. Now we find him in a jail in Panama. That could have been avoided. We on this side think that we should have a public appointments commission that would allow for the vetting of appointments of senior officials.
However, the Conservatives are so stubborn on this issue. They just avoid it. They thought their guy, Gwyn Morgan, who they thought was somehow objective and unaffected by partisanship—and I leave it to others to look into that—was the only person out of 30 million who could do the job. Then they picked up their toys and went home. They killed the public appointments commission.
That is the problem with the current government. We should have that in place. We should have all ministerial staff abiding by an ethics code, as they do in the U.K. That was part of the NDP's platform in the last election. We should have ethical standards for advisers and we should have more accountability in ministers' offices. We should allow Parliament to be a little more autonomous from the executive branch. Clearly we have seen problems in that area with this government.
That would be a start. Maybe later on we could talk about what we could do internationally.
View Alain Giguère Profile
View Alain Giguère Profile
2013-06-18 11:14 [p.18516]
Mr. Speaker, corruption is an evil thing that is very similar to cancer. Unfortunately, when Canadian companies are allowed to get away with things too easily, once they become corrupt, it rubs off on the lives of Canadians as well as on our institutions and our representation.
All too often, at our embassies overseas—
View Alain Giguère Profile
View Alain Giguère Profile
2013-06-18 11:24 [p.18516]
Mr. Speaker, if we are serious about fighting corruption, we should also discuss the often inappropriate behaviour of the Canadian government, which provides scholarships, immigration opportunities and jobs in our embassies to foreign students whose parents or families are associated with foreign governments.
Will our diplomats not only seek to enforce this legislation but also ensure that, ethically, they are beyond reproach?
View Paul Dewar Profile
View Paul Dewar Profile
2013-06-18 11:25 [p.18516]
Mr. Speaker, when we talk about accountability and oversight, it is important that all our officials abroad are going to be involved.
I heard the parliamentary secretary talk about the training of our diplomats to deal with issues like the one we are discussing today. However, it needs to have strong oversight when it comes to the government of the day being able to assure its citizens that everyone who is working abroad is doing it for the public good. That is why we have touched on the need for more ethics in ministers' offices, for instance. It is high time that the staff and advisors to ministers provide the highest ethical standards that they can provide to their ministers. We have asked to see that happen. The same has to happen with our diplomatic corps. We have to see that they are going to be abiding by the highest ethical standards.
However, I am more concerned now with the relationship between some who are involved in commerce abroad and dealing with foreign governments. The rules have not been clarified. Businesses will tell us that if there are clear rules they will follow them. The problem is that the government has not clarified the rules. We need to see more of that.
View Sylvain Chicoine Profile
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Ottawa Centre for doing a great job as the foreign affairs critic for the official opposition. At the same time, I would say I am rather shocked that the minister has failed to recognize the hon. member's excellent work.
Indeed, judging by his question to my colleague, he seems to have been offended by some of the points he raised, yet my colleague was quite right when he said that this bill does not go far enough and will barely lift Canada out of Transparency International's bottom rankings, in terms of the transparency measures in its anti-corruption legislation.
My colleague mentioned several extremely interesting points. I would like him to talk about them a bit more. In particular, he stated that Canada is a laggard when it comes to bringing its legislation in line with the international treaties it signs. Often, Canada simply does not live up to these treaties.
What does my colleague think Canada can do to improve its image, which has taken a serious beating in recent years?
View Paul Dewar Profile
View Paul Dewar Profile
2013-06-18 11:28 [p.18517]
Mr. Speaker, simply put, we need to start living up to the treaties we sign. We need to make sure that when we bring in legislation to enact these treaties, we are not undermining them. We must also sign on to the ones we have agreed to, like the arms trade treaty.
That would perhaps get us going in providing more credibility in the international community. Our international image is suffering. The government is seemingly living in the past. It is time to get on with living in the real world and getting on with the standards that have been seen set by our allies.
On the G8, let us hope that this communiqué is not going to be just words and that we will see action from it.
View Libby Davies Profile
View Libby Davies Profile
2013-06-18 11:41 [p.18518]
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's comments on this legislation. I certainly agree with him that the bill is long overdue.
I just wonder whether he also picked up on the communiqué from the G8 that my colleague from Ottawa Centre mentioned earlier in the debate. One of the items that he focused on in looking at the G8 communiqué was the need to have a public registry, a need to have much better transparency for companies operating abroad, and to get away from the practice of hiding behind a shell company. Even if we do want to enforce the law, it is hard to know on whom it should be enforced.
Does my colleague agree that we need to go further than this legislation and adopt measures such as a public registry to avoid shell companies being set up?
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 11:43 [p.18519]
Mr. Speaker, in its 2012 report, Transparency International indicated that active enforcement was a real way of combatting this type of foreign bribery. We also know that the RCMP is the body responsible for conducting these investigations and reporting the facts.
I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the cuts that have been made to the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP in successive budgets.
Can he elaborate on that?
View Djaouida Sellah Profile
Mr. Speaker, first, it is important to point out that this bill originated in the Senate. In a report released in 2011, Transparency International ranked Canada as the worst of all the G7 countries with respect to international bribery. The organization pointed out that Canada rarely, if ever, enforces its negligible anti-corruption legislation.
There have been only three convictions under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. Does my colleague agree that this is an embarrassment to our country?
View Libby Davies Profile
View Libby Davies Profile
2013-06-18 11:54 [p.18520]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-14, an act to amend the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, and as we are debating this at second reading, it still has to go to committee.
I have listened with interest to the debate in the House today. It appears that all parties will be supporting this bill. We are debating it in principle but, nevertheless, it is important for us to go through the bill to examine it, as we should all legislation, and then it will go to committee.
I want to begin by saying that these last few weeks in the House have been particularly difficult because the government has used time allocation, a form of closure, I think 47 times, if I am keeping the tab correctly. It is really quite incredible that so much legislation has been rushed through.
We serve our constituents in this place. We do our work in the constituency, but our role in this House is due diligence in examining legislation and going through it. Even if we are going to support it, we have to go through it. That is part of holding the government to account in our parliamentary democracy, so it is very disturbing that we see the pattern over and over again. It has become routine. Other colleagues in the House have commented earlier that bills are now pro forma. We are expected to have a couple of hours of debate and take a cursory look, and then there is a time allocation for going through committee, report stage, and third reading. It is all established by timelines.
As members well know, that is not the way to do parliamentary business.
I wanted to begin my remarks with that because, as someone who has been around here a few years, I have watched the erosion of parliamentary and democratic practice in this House.
I can almost hear the voice of Bill Blaikie in my head, the former member for Winnipeg—Transcona. He was one of those folks in this place who had the long-term memory to know what had changed over the years. When change happens incrementally, just a little snippet at a time, it is difficult to get that overview. I think it would be useful one day to have that overview and to actually look at how much certain practices have changed in the House, say, from 10 years ago or 20 years ago. I think we would all be quite shocked, actually, no matter what matter party we belong to.
In any event, we are debating this particular bill today.
I want to begin by saying, as others have remarked today, that the bill is long overdue. Canada has, really, an embarrassing record on corruption overseas, in terms of lack of legislation.
As many have pointed out today, Transparency International, a very credible organization that monitors corruption and bribery in terms of what happens in different places in the world, in its 2011 report, ranked Canada as the worst of all the G7 countries with regard to international bribery. It pointed out that we had little or no enforcement, based upon the very minimal legislation we had.
There is no question that this is absolutely long overdue. It begs this question. Why does it take so long?
We look at the legislative agenda and look at all of the little boutique bills that come through on the Criminal Code, when they do not need to happen. Why has it taken so many years for something as major as this, which would deal with crime and corruption? Why has it taken so many years for anything to come forward? Where is the balance here? Where are the priorities? We are sort of pulling apart the Criminal Code clause by clause and adding in more mandatory minimum sentences. We have had so many Conservative backbencher bills, yet with something as major as this, in terms of Canada's role in the international community, we are hauled on the carpet by an organization that monitors international bribery and corruption, which has said, “You guys have got a pretty bad record; in fact you're basically the worst of all of the highly industrialized countries”. This is an embarrassment.
Further, there have only been three convictions in the last number of years, in fact, since 1999, and two of those were in the last two years. This is a pretty appalling record.
Suffice it to say I am glad, at least, that we are debating this bill today. At least the bill would take some steps.
Just to focus for a moment on what this bill would do, for those who are watching the debate, there would be four main changes to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. One of them would be to increase the maximum sentence of imprisonment applicable to the offence of bribing a foreign public official from five to fourteen years. That is a fairly significant change.
The second change in the bill would eliminate an exception that had been in operation for what is called facilitation payments, where foreign officials are paid to expedite the execution of their responsibilities. I will come back to this, because there are some concerns about it. While we agree that this exception should be eliminated, we have to examine the impact of that, for example, on NGOs that are operating in extremely difficult circumstances in political environments that are very risky and where they have to provide payments to get essential emergency humanitarian goods through—for example, going through police checkpoints. One does have to find that balance.
Third, the bill would create a new offence for falsifying or concealing books or records in order to bribe or conceal bribery of a foreign official. This is a very important change in terms of ensuring that transparency goes right the way down the line.
Finally, the bill would establish a nationality jurisdiction that would apply to all of the offences under the act. What this means is that Canadian nationals could be prosecuted for offences that are committed overseas. Again, that is a very important measure.
I want to say very clearly that New Democrats have long supported clear rules that require transparency and accountability by both Canadian individuals and corporations overseas. In fact, the NDP has had a number of bills in this regard. One of my colleagues, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, had Bill C-323, which would allow lawsuits in Canadian courts by non-Canadians for violations of international obligations. The member for Ottawa Centre had Bill C-486, which would require public due diligence by companies using minerals in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
These are very important issues for Canadians, because we know that the extraction industry in Canada and the way it operates overseas is a major business concern. The way those companies do business is something of great concern to Canadians in terms of ethical practices. We have seen many movements here in Canada, including NGOs, the labour movement and individual citizens who have made sure they became active on this issue.
I want to point out something about a bill we voted on not that long ago, Bill C-300, which was a Liberal member's bill. When I raised transparency in the debate, the Liberal member for Charlottetown who replied to me pointed to Bill C-300 as another attempt to bring about better transparency and corporate accountability in foreign practices.
What is really interesting, and I am sure many members here will remember, is that it was defeated in part because 13 Liberal members voted against it. I remember the bill when it came up. There was intense advocacy for the bill from major NGOs across the country. They did an incredible job. The bill itself was very reasonable. It laid out basic standards for practice. However, there was, of course, a lobby against the bill. It was really quite shocking that 13 Liberal members voting against the bill resulted in the bill being defeated by a mere 6 votes.
We actually did come close to having that bill go through the House of Commons. I know that many of the organizations and individuals that had supported the bill were quite shocked that it had been defeated and were hugely disappointed about the amount of energy, time and effort that had gone into it.
It was a wonderful example of how Canadians look beyond their own border, look globally to see what Canada is doing. They had paid great attention to the need for Canadian corporations, companies and businesses to be accountable, to engage in ethical practices and to ensure there is not bribery and exploitative practices taking place in terms of labour rights or the environment.
These are things Canadians are actually very concerned about. I always feel very inspired when I see these organizations and people, whether they are putting out petitions or sending us emails. People really care about what we do in other parts of the world. We care about whether or not people are being exploited.
Just a little while ago, my colleague from Ottawa Centre talked about the situation in Bangladesh. I saw the story too, last night on CBC, and it is gut-wrenching and it makes us want to jump up and ask what we have to do to make sure these kinds of terrible, appalling conditions no longer exist.
We are talking about thousands of people who lose their lives because they work in terrible conditions where safety is disregarded, where people are not paid decent wages. If we layer on top of that all of the bribery and corruption that goes on, this is a multi-billion dollar business in terms of corruption and unethical practices.
I do not think the bill before us would address all of that, so the other bills we have before the House, particularly from the NDP members that I mentioned, are critical to ensuring there is a comprehensive approach to the way we are dealing with this situation.
We do have some concerns about the bill, which I would like to put on the record. assuming that the bill does get referred to committee. Because the bill would amend the definition of a business to now include not-for-profit organizations, we believe that this should be studied very closely at committee, and obviously witnesses need to be brought in to look at the impact of this particular change on charitable and aid organizations. As I mentioned earlier, the reality is that those organizations do sometimes, out of sheer necessity, have to make payments to expedite or achieve delivery of very essential items and humanitarian goods. This is something that is out there in the real world.
The bill is really tackling corruption and bribery, from the point of view that money is being made, money is being put in people's pockets and officials at embassies and so on are being bribed. That is what we are trying to get at, so I think we have to be very careful that we do not, by consequence, lay down a rule that could actually have a negative impact on organizations that are legitimately and in good faith trying to do very important work in some of these global areas where there is political, military and civil conflict going on. To make sure that kind of aid is delivered in a proper way is very important. We are hoping this issue would be examined more closely at committee.
The second item we think needs further examination is that the committee should also study the consequences of establishing an indictable offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison, because once 14 years is reached, it is actually the threshold at which conditional or absolute discharges of conditional sentences become impossible. It is obviously a much more serious penalty, and the committee, when it receives the bill, should examine that very carefully to make sure there is a balance in terms of our judicial system and conditional sentencing or the question of absolute discharges.
It is easy to make a blanket case, and again we have seen that so often with the Conservative government. It tends to make harsh, blanket rules that do not allow for discretion within our court system. Our court system has a history and a tradition of allowing judicial discretion, so judges can actually examine individual cases and the circumstances that warrant a harsher or a more lenient approach. That is what balance in the judicial system is about.
Therefore, one has to be very careful that in bringing forward new legislation we do not tip that balance and create a system that becomes so rigid that it becomes counterproductive. As the penalty is so harsh, people could end up pleading not guilty more frequently, or prosecutors may even be more reluctant to bring forward charges. There could be unintended consequences of having penalties that are so harsh. This is an issue that we think should be looked at in the bill. We support, in principle, the penalty being increased and the sentencing threshold being increased. However, we have to look more carefully at whether 14 years is the right cut-off.
Finally, in terms of changes that we think need to be looked at, there is the question of the rule on the facilitation payments that I spoke about earlier. We need to figure out how it impacts NGOs and non-profits. That issue would not be part of royal assent but rather would be under the consideration of cabinet, which is in the current text. That one aspect of the bill, if this bill were passed as is, would not go ahead with the rest of the bill. Therefore, that has to be examined. We need to know the reason that is being put aside. The discussion on the facilitation payments as they would impact NGOs might help inform that debate, but it is something we need to look at.
I also want to talk briefly about more current situations. We heard today from the member for Ottawa Centre, who updated the House on a communiqué he had received from the G8 that is currently taking place. It was quite interesting. He pointed out that in this communiqué the issues of corruption and transparency were quite prominent. His point was that we need to know that our own government is committed, not only to the words in these communiqués, but that it is actually going to follow up. I thought the member used a very good example when he spoke about international treaties that we sign for which there is no follow-up.
The example he used was Bill S-10 that was rushed through this House a few days ago, on cluster munitions. I was one of the people who spoke to that bill. The member pointed out very clearly in the debate on that bill that the NDP believes Bill S-10 would actually undermine the very international treaty that it is meant to be following up. The point is that when these communiqués come out and these commitments are made in places like the G8, we need to know they are actually going to be followed up. We need to know that those commitments mean something.
Again, we get back to this particular bill, Bill S-14, that has taken so long to come forward. Why has it taken so long? Why is there not a greater priority and emphasis on these kinds of bills? In the G8 communiqué, among the issues that were flagged, was the need to have greater transparency and a public registry.
The member for Ottawa Centre told us that one of the proposals is the need for a regime whereby companies would not be able to set up a shell company. Even if there is good legislation, if enforcement is to be taken on issues of bribery and corruption, it is very difficult. There could be a lack of political will, as I have just spoken about, or it could be that they are trying to figure out who the operatives are in a particular company. There is the idea of a public registry and the need for better transparency, as well as the notion that we should not allow elaborate legal complexities for the setting up of shell companies that in effect allow individuals and operatives to hide behind other entities. That makes it much more difficult to figure out who is doing what and where enforcement should be applied.
That is a very significant issue, and it is not covered in the bill, so it does show us that the bill does not go far enough. I think that was the member's point this morning.
Nevertheless, we are supporting the bill at second reading. We will pay great attention to it in committee. We will seek to improve the bill so that it lives up to its spirit and intent, which is ensuring that we tackle bribery and corruption by public officials in other countries.
View Libby Davies Profile
View Libby Davies Profile
2013-06-18 12:16 [p.18523]
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague with interest. I am a little surprised that he thinks three convictions over five years is a good track record. Surely, Canada can do better than that. That is a actually a bit shameful, to have such a minimal response from the Canadian government.
I would like to respond to my colleague by referring to what we heard today about the G8 communiqué, which he has likely seen because of the role that he has. We need a commitment from our federal government that it is going to live up to international treaties and that there is going to be follow-through, whether it is on this bill, or cluster munitions, or trade practices, or matters affecting human rights. The follow-through is so important, and I do not get that sense from the member.
He talks about accountability. He says the bill will send a message. However, if we do not follow it up with the proper enforcement and the transparency, then it is not worth the paper it is written on. Three convictions is not quite good enough.
View Wayne Marston Profile
Mr. Speaker, the speech from the member for Vancouver East, we would say is almost across the board. She has covered so many topics. However, when she started her speech she spoke of the fact that there have been so many time allocations in the House that our debate has been limited; I believe she said it has been 47 times.
The idea of this place and of committee is to take any bill that is put forward by anyone, be it a private member, government or the Senate, and to work together to try to make it better, yet what I find very troubling is that when we get into debate here, we oftentimes find that the government is not even engaging us. It asks the odd question, but government members are not getting up and giving speeches, putting forth a point of view and working back and forth on the bill.
In her remarks toward the end, she talked about NGOs that bring supplies to places, and refugees from Syria might be an example. They come into a country and NGOs have to pay a gratuity, a tip, or a bribe, whatever they want to call it, to get those goods off of the ship and onshore. That is a reality in the world. That is not something that is high level. Do you think that people would be sideswiped by that unintentionally?
View Libby Davies Profile
View Libby Davies Profile
2013-06-18 12:19 [p.18523]
Mr. Speaker, I hope he was not asking you the question, as I would be happy to reply to him.
This is a very important point that the member has made. It is something that I focused on in my remarks. We have to make sure there are no unintended consequences for organizations that are trying to do the right thing by getting critical aid and humanitarian assistance to people who are literally dying or who are in severe conflict. This bill came down with a heavy hand. If it zeroes in on facilitation payments, on the basis that somehow that is bribery or corruption, I think we would be going down the wrong path.
The member makes a very good point. It is something we share in terms of understanding what enforcement will mean under this bill and getting it right.
View Libby Davies Profile
View Libby Davies Profile
2013-06-18 12:21 [p.18523]
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if I completely understand the member's point, or maybe she misunderstood my point.
My point was that we want to make sure that NGOs and non-profits that are delivering very important aid do not get prosecuted when they are just doing their jobs. I certainly agree that we need to focus on officials who are doing the bribery, and we do need to make sure that people are getting paid properly. The NDP has a long track record of saying that when we engage in trade deals and various international treaties, at the top of the list is ensuring that we have proper labour conditions, safety and human rights.
We are now seeing more and more situations around the world, the most recent in Bangladesh, of human misery and tragedy and what happens when there are not proper standards for corporations. They can literally get away with murder.
We are the ones who have been blowing the whistle on that for years. We have said that it is completely unacceptable and cannot continue.
View Kennedy Stewart Profile
View Kennedy Stewart Profile
2013-06-18 12:22 [p.18524]
Mr. Speaker, last night I had a very interesting conversation with our colleague from Windsor, who sits in your chair occasionally. We were talking about the evolution of the Speaker's position and how it has changed over time.
I cannot help but notice that all the bills we have been debating over the last week or so are from the Senate. I would like to ask my colleague, who has been here for a long time and has great experience in these matters, if she has noticed that change over her tenure in the House. Whereas the government should be bringing forward bills to the House, they seem to be bringing forward partisan bills through the Senate or through private members' business.
I wonder whether the member would care to comment on that and the dangers of going that route.
View Libby Davies Profile
View Libby Davies Profile
2013-06-18 12:23 [p.18524]
Mr. Speaker, there has been a very dramatic shift in this place. I tried to outline that at the beginning of my remarks. In some ways, we need to account for and look at that. However, certainly in the last three weeks since we have had these midnight sittings, I do not think I have ever seen so many bills at one time come through from the Senate.
We have had no explanation from the government as to why this is happening. I would be fascinated to hear what the Speakers think about it, but I am sure they are probably not allowed to give their thoughts on the matter. One has to ask why the government itself is not introducing its own legislation in the House of Commons. To me, it diminishes the role of the House of Commons. It diminishes the role of members who are elected to come to this place.
The government has been introducing legislation in the Senate, which itself is mired in scandal and corruption. We have begun the process with those people, who are not elected and are not accountable, and then say, “Oh well, we kind of have to go back to the House of Commons.”
The proper way to do this is to have legislation in the House of Commons. That is our primary responsibility, to debate and examine legislation and to represent our constituents. We need to talk about these things more and keep bringing them forward, so that Canadians can understand how much has changed under the Conservative government.
View Matthew Kellway Profile
View Matthew Kellway Profile
2013-06-18 12:25 [p.18524]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Vancouver East for the benefit of her years of experience in this House in being able to talk about those issues.
I will be splitting my time with my friend from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.
I rise today in the House to support Bill S-14, an act to amend the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, and I do so for a number of reasons.
The bill would make four main changes to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. I will elaborate on a bit on these changes.
Bill S-14 would increase the maximum sentence of imprisonment applicable to the offence of bribing a foreign public official from five to 14 years. It would eliminate an exception for so-called “facilitation payments”, whereby foreign officials are paid to expedite the execution of their responsibilities. It would create a new offence for falsifying or concealing books or records in order to bribe or conceal bribery of a foreign official. It would also establish nationality jurisdiction that would apply to all the offences under the act so that Canadian nationals could be prosecuted for offences committed overseas.
Having noted my support for the bill, I want to take a moment to comment on the process by which this bill comes before us in this House.
It is of concern that we get to this place by way of a 2011 report from Transparency International. That organization ranked Canada as the worst of all G7 countries with regard to international bribery with “little or no enforcement” of the scant legislation that exists in this country on these matters. This is to say that Canada needed to be named and shamed publicly, internationally, for our lax legislation and approach to these issues of corrupting public officials in other countries.
I also want to comment on the timing of the bill, which reflects a curious pathology of the current government. The Conservatives have been in power through a minority and now a majority government since 2006. It seems to elude them that they have been here seven years and that all that they do, now that they have been in power so long, is really an indictment of their own conduct as a government. Implicit in this kind of legislation is an indictment of what they have failed to do over the previous seven years in government.
I note that earlier today the parliamentary secretary justified Bill S-14 on the basis of the fact that we are a trading nation. Well, we were a trading nation as well when the Conservatives came to power in 2006. In fact, we have always been a trading nation. We have always been a very open economy, with goods coming and going to and from this country to other places around the world. When did dawn break over Marblehead? When did the Conservative government realize that we have always been a trading nation? The issues that the bill is meant to address existed in 2006 just as well as they exist in 2013.
It seemed to have taken a series of national embarrassments, largely in the extractive industry, to get the Conservative government to recognize that it needed some legislation such as the bill that we have before us. However, it is still not clear, after all of this, that the Conservatives embrace this legislation.
We had Bill C-300 before in this House. It was a bill that would have required extractive companies receiving government support to meet certain standards. As well, it would have established a system for issuing and assessing complaints against such companies. The government saw fit to whip that vote and defeat that legislation.
We had as well the spectacle of the foreign affairs minister introducing Canadian firms to the transition government in Libya before the United Nations could even assess the needs of post-conflict Libya. Among the companies that our minister of foreign affairs took to Libya, according to media reports, was SNC-Lavalin, a company whose contracts are now being investigated in 10 different countries. It is a company that has been banned from bidding on World Bank projects for 10 years. This is a government that only very recently saw fit to take SNC-Lavalin back into Libya to introduce it to a transition government.
We know too that to date there have only been three convictions on these matters. Since 1999, I would cite the Hydro Kleen group being fined $25,000 in January 2005; Niko Resources Ltd. was fined in 2011 because its subsidiary in Bangladesh had paid for a vehicle and travel expenses for a former Bangladeshi state minister; Griffiths Energy International was fined $10 million in January 2013 after it agreed to pay a $2-million bribe to the wife of Chad's ambassador to Canada, and so on. There have been only three convictions since 1999.
All of this seeming reluctance on behalf of the government to bring forth legislation like this is confirmed by the source of this bill, and that is the Senate. The Senate is an institution with an enormous legitimacy deficit—
View Matthew Kellway Profile
View Matthew Kellway Profile
2013-06-18 12:33 [p.18525]
Mr. Speaker, I was in the process of commenting on the source of this legislation being the Senate and the enormous legitimacy deficit that exists in the Senate. I think that is historical, but it is particularly acute these days. In particular, the Senate really is in no position to be issuing bills on the issue of corruption, mired as it is in scandals of exactly that nature.
That said, irrespective of the source and as unfortunate as the source of this legislation is, we remain prepared to support the bill. One of the central reasons for doing so is found in the legislative history of members of this party in the House. We have long supported clear rules requiring transparency and accountability by Canadian individuals and corporations overseas.
The bill complements legislative efforts by NDP MPs to encourage responsible, sustainable and transparent management practices. I speak specifically of Bill C-323, put forward by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, which would allow lawsuits in Canadian courts by non-Canadians for violations of international obligations, and Bill C-486, from the member for Ottawa Centre, which would require public due diligence by companies using minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa. These bills reflect the history of our party. They reflect a respect for the democratic aspirations of people in other countries and a respect for their aspirations for better labour standards and a healthier and safer environment.
We understand that effective environmental and labour standards in developing countries often depend on advocacy and activism by local populations, and it is very difficult for local people to hold their governments to account when the government has secret sources of revenue that remove the financial incentive to be accountable in the first place.
We support this legislation as well because the lack of anti-bribery enforcement in Canada has been a national embarrassment to us. I will skip to my conclusion on this point of the national embarrassment over the lack of legislation.
It is worth pointing out that in spite of our support for this bill, it is in effect totally underwhelming. One is left asking, is that all there is?
When the parliamentary secretary points to the openness of our country to international trade and puts forward this legislation as the solution to dealing with corruption issues in such an open and global environment, when Canadians take such pride in and value so highly our reputation on the international scene, the question of why the government always seems to aim so low arises. Why can the government not aspire to a leadership role, one that Canadians could justly take pride in? If it is worth putting forward such legislation, and we certainly believe it is, why not set new and higher standards internationally to ensure that Canadians overseas conduct their affairs to the highest levels of transparency and ethics?
View Matthew Kellway Profile
View Matthew Kellway Profile
2013-06-18 12:38 [p.18526]
Mr. Speaker, I wish the parliamentary secretary across the way had listened more carefully to my speech, because my point was quite the opposite. The NDP is not arguing that we should be named and shamed. It is with regret that we note that this legislation comes forward only in response to a public report by a credible international organization that notes our lax legislation on these issues and the need for Canada to bring itself up to what the rest of the world is doing. The legislation would only put us on par with the rest of the world and in line with the practices of 36 of 39 other OECD countries.
With respect, by no means is the NDP condemning Canadian corporate conduct overseas. We know that Canadian corporations require and look forward to a consistent set of standards and consistent enforcement so that all corporations around the world can be sure that they are playing on a level playing field.
View Matthew Kellway Profile
View Matthew Kellway Profile
2013-06-18 12:41 [p.18526]
Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the member that it is not just prosperity that is not shared because of corruption around the world. As I said in my speech, it goes beyond the material needs of people not being met. It goes to the democratic aspirations of people and their desire to choose the environmental standards they want to live in. It goes to fundamental issues of health and safety in the workplaces in which they work and the prospect of coming home at night after a long day's work.
I hope I made it clear that there are higher standards around the world, in terms of transparency on these matters, that Canada could adhere to. Canada could aspire to even higher standards, if the government was so willing. However, it seems quite reluctant to do even the minimum.
View Dany Morin Profile
View Dany Morin Profile
2013-06-18 12:42 [p.18526]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill S-14, An Act to amend the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.
I would like to explain to those watching at home what this bill is about. It proposes four major amendments to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.
First, it increases the maximum prison sentence for bribing a foreign public official from 5 to 14 years. Next, it eliminates the exception for facilitation payments, where a foreign public official is paid to expedite the execution of his or her responsibilities. It also creates a new offence for falsifying or concealing books or records in order to bribe a foreign public official or hide that bribery. Finally, the last major amendment establishes nationality jurisdiction that would apply to all of the offences under the act, such that Canadian nationals could be prosecuted for offences committed overseas.
The bill is very important for fighting corruption despite what the Conservative MPs might think. In this debate, the Conservatives are siding with the companies that unfortunately are engaging in corruption. I am very proud to be Canadian, but when companies think they are above the law and want to engage in corruption in Canada or abroad, the NDP is here to go after them and make them pay for their crimes.
Our position on this bill is very clear. We will support it at third reading. We were a bit disappointed to see that in committee, our proposals to improve the bill did not get the attention we would have liked. There is always room for improvement, even if the Conservatives across the way do not think so and believe that everything they do is perfect. The NDP has long been in favour of clear rules requiring Canadians and Canadian companies working abroad to be transparent and accountable. The bill builds on the legislative initiatives put forward by NDP members with the goal of promoting responsible, sustainable, transparent management practices.
Canada's deficiencies in enforcing anti-corruption laws are embarrassing. However, it comes as no surprise since our government likes to stick with corrupt and unethical people. It is no wonder that under the Conservatives', under this Prime Minister, our country has leaned toward corruption.
As members of the New Democratic Party of Canada, we are glad that the government is finally doing something about this problem, but it is disgraceful that it took so long and that Canada had to be criticized and discredited for the government to do anything about this. Later I will get into the types of criticisms our international allies were making.
Canadians want the companies that are representing Canada to do so in a responsible and respectable manner, and Canadian companies want clear and consistent standards when it comes to international trade. Enforcing rules without loopholes will level the playing field for all companies and protect the environment, labour and human rights, something we could all be proud of.
I would like to provide some background and talk about the criticism of our international allies. In a report released in 2011, Transparency International ranked Canada as the worst of all the G7 countries with respect to international bribery. The organization pointed out that Canada rarely, if ever, enforces its negligible anti-corruption legislation. Since then, the government has been working on resolving the problem. However, since 1999, there have been only three convictions, two of the them in the past two years.
The bill is of particular importance for the mining industry, where the NDP has been and continues to be a strong advocate for accountability. Take, for example, Bill C-323 sponsored by the NDP member for Burnaby—New Westminster, which would permit persons who are not Canadian citizens to initiate legal action based on violations of international law in Canadian courts, and also Bill C-486, sponsored by the NDP member for Ottawa Centre, which requires companies that use minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa to exercise due diligence.
It is clear that the NDP stands up for people abused abroad and for justice. We expect Canadian companies to have good standards. We are always disappointed when we learn that Canadian companies are involved in corruption.
The political elite that benefits from corruption, particularly in countries and industries where corruption is rife, is made up primarily of men. Men will try to get away with whatever they can. Unfortunately, that is why we should never expect people and companies, even Canadians, to always do the right thing. Protocols must be put in place to ensure that everyone, individuals and companies alike, does their part by obeying Canadian and international laws.
At the same time, it is primarily women who lack government protection. That is why the NDP is very proud to be listening to women across the country. This is also why we are always actively looking to engage women during elections and consultations. We believe in the principle of equality, unlike certain other parties that prefer women to be a minority in their party.
I would like to talk about some numbers and facts that people at home might find interesting. Earlier, I mentioned that there have been three bribery convictions, and I would like to talk about that some more.
Since the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act was enacted in 1999, there have been three convictions. Hydroclean Group was fined $25,000 in January 2005 for bribing an American immigration official at the Calgary airport. Niko Resources Ltd. was fined $9.5 million in June 2011 because its subsidiary in Bangladesh paid the moving and housing costs of Bangladesh's then-minister of energy and natural resources. Finally, the third conviction involved Griffith Energy International Inc., which was fined $10.3 million in January 2013 for agreeing to pay $2 million to the wife of Chad’s ambassador to Canada and to allow her and two other individuals to buy shares at a reduced cost in exchange for support for an oil and gas project in Chad.
Naturally, I hope that the Conservatives will condemn these acts and continue to flush out other companies or individuals involved in bribery. It tarnishes our international reputation. The Conservative government has done enough to tarnish it over the past seven years. This needs to stop.
Transparency International's 2011 bribe payers index ranks the oil and gas industry fourth and the mining industry fifth in the list of sectors most likely to engage in bribery. In addition, the mining and oil and gas industries are ranked second and third in the list of sectors most likely to give major bribes to high-level public officials and politicians. Bill S-14 is particularly relevant to those sectors.
To conclude, I would say that, unlike the Conservatives, the NDP is listening to the people. When the business sector tells us that Canadian companies want clear, consistent international business standards, we listen. Enforcing regulations that are free of loopholes will level the playing field for all companies.
In addition, the NDP is listening to environmental groups and task forces that want to ensure that local communities are not abused in the course of development.
Finally, we are listening to international stakeholders to ensure that Canadian companies have sound, responsible management practices.
View Dany Morin Profile
View Dany Morin Profile
2013-06-18 12:54 [p.18528]
Mr. Speaker, I find the attitude of my Conservative colleague completely shameful. He does not really seem to think it is serious that Canadian companies are involved in corruption overseas.
He even asked what they, the Conservative government, are supposed to do. Are they supposed to play sheriff overseas?
I think that the government needs to show some backbone in the case of companies on Canadian soil that fall under federal jurisdiction, but are doing business overseas. We need to put forward legislation in Canada to protect people in other countries from Canadian companies.
If they obey the law and do not engage in corruption, they will have nothing to hide. However, because of the Conservative government's complacency, companies are currently involved in corruption and the Conservative government is washing its hands of the situation. I do not mean to insinuate anything, but I am not surprised.
View Dany Morin Profile
View Dany Morin Profile
2013-06-18 12:56 [p.18528]
Mr. Speaker, I find it rather ironic that my Liberal colleague is asking for my support and wondering if Canada can do more. Yes we can, and that is why the NDP introduced Bill C-300. That bill would have required mining companies that receive government support to comply with certain standards, but it would also have established a system for lodging and evaluating complaints against such companies.
Unfortunately, the government members voted against the bill. What people may not know is that 13 Liberal Party members, including the member who asked me the question, voted against the bill. Bill C-300 was defeated by six votes.
Yes, Canada can do more and so can the Liberals, by supporting NDP bills that are designed to strengthen these types of laws. We need to do more than just talk. We need to take action and vote the right way.
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 12:57 [p.18528]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-14, An Act to amend the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. The bill talks about corruption and transparency.
I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.
As an NDP member of Parliament and the proud representative of LaSalle—Émard, I want to say that it is very important to my constituents to have a transparent and corruption-free government, whether we are talking about this government or any other level of government. The same goes for all elected officials, at any level of government.
It is ironic that this bill was introduced in the Senate—a point that has already been raised—when we know very well that that place is severely lacking in transparency and ethics when it comes to corruption, for example.
However, when I see my Conservative colleagues rise in the House and say that a bill is a priority for this government, it always makes me wonder why the government did not introduce the bill itself if this was such a priority. I have asked myself that question about all of the bills that have recently come to the House.
This is not the first time this kind of bill has come up. In 1997, Canada signed the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Canada ratified the convention in 1998. That was a while ago.
Then, there was the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2004. This convention was ratified in 2007. That was not all. In 2008, the RCMP created an international anti-corruption unit, made up of two seven-person teams in Ottawa and Calgary. This unit focuses on detecting, investigating and preventing international corruption such as bribery, embezzlement and so on. The RCMP oversees this unit.
Canada and Canadians have been concerned about this issue for many years.
In March 2011, Canada and the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act were reviewed by members of the OECD working group on bribery. They welcomed Canada's efforts on this issue, but raised objections to the limits on the legislation's jurisdictional reach, the insufficient number of investigators working to uncover bribery of foreign public officials and the lax penalties that would be imposed upon conviction. These were the two criticisms presented.
Since we are part of this convention, it would be useful to conduct periodic reviews and evaluations on this.
They also made a list of recommendations, which is a little too long for me to read here. I would still like to talk more about some points related to the bill now under debate in the House.
Then, in September 2012, Transparency International, a non-governmental organization, released its eighth annual progress report on the enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which I mentioned earlier. Moreover, the Transparency International board of directors is chaired by a Canadian, who indicated that Canada was in the moderate enforcement category.
This is one of the problems: despite ratifying these conventions for several years, Canada is still enforcing them only at a moderate level despite what the bill says. However, according to Transparency International, active enforcement is necessary to ensure that the legislation actually enables us to tackle this problem. We think that there are not enough resources specifically allocated to do this.
The report also made some interesting recommendations. It proposed ensuring that charges not fall under territorial jurisdiction, but rather be based on the principle of nationality. That is one of the interesting parts of this bill. In other words, any time a Canadian national bribes a foreign public official, the principle of nationality will facilitate the beginning of the legal process under the Criminal Code.
This recommendation, originally made by Transparency International, has been included in Bill S-14. The hope is that it will facilitate launching legal proceedings dealing with the bribery of foreign public officials. Clearly, whether we work here or abroad, we must always hold ourselves to the highest standards regarding ethics and transparency.
This is important for Canadian industries that operate here in Canada as well as abroad, because there is a cost involved any time Canada's reputation abroad is sullied. There is a high cost for the Canadian economy as well as the industries that operate here or abroad.
Canada also needs to show some leadership. We are a democratic nation that has ethical standards. We have established standards regarding working conditions, living conditions and the environment. It is therefore very important that we continue to lead by example, both here and abroad. It is very important to keep this in mind.
Canadians want businesses representing Canada overseas to do so in a responsible, respectable manner. Canadian companies want clear and consistent standards for international business.
View Andrew Cash Profile
View Andrew Cash Profile
2013-06-18 13:07 [p.18529]
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague underlines the importance of Canada playing a leading role on the international stage in leading by example. Of course, we are mired in bad examples in the House of Commons and in the Senate.
Will my colleague like to comment on the ways in which Canada needs to shift focus to play that leading role, a role of an important example to the world community about how good governance on the international stage is achieved?
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 13:08 [p.18529]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the question.
In fact, Canada often puts up obstacles instead of actively participating in implementing bills that tackle corruption or bills that will improve environmental standards here or elsewhere in the world. The same goes for Canada's participation in fighting climate change or banning terrible weapons such as cluster munitions.
If Canada actively addressed these issues at an international level, that would help make the world a better place.
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 13:11 [p.18529]
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the Conservative member who asked the question alluded to the need for resources to tackle the problem of corruption of foreign public officials. As I was saying in my speech, that is the RCMP's job.
I hope that the government will give the RCMP the necessary financial resources and means to tackle the problem of corruption of foreign public officials.
View Djaouida Sellah Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill S-14, An Act to amend the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, to increase the maximum sentence of imprisonment applicable to the offence of bribing a foreign public official; eliminate the facilitation payments exception to that offence; create a new offence relating to books and records and the bribing of a foreign public official or the hiding of that bribery; and establish nationality jurisdiction that would apply to all of the offences under the act.
For a long time now, members of the NDP have supported clear rules requiring Canadians and Canadian companies abroad to show transparency and accountability. This bill complements the legislative initiatives put forward by members of our party to promote responsible, sustainable, transparent business practices.
In a report published in 2011, Transparency International ranked Canada as the worst of all the G7 countries with respect to international bribery. The organization pointed out that Canada rarely, if ever, enforces its negligible anti-corruption legislation. Since then, the government has started trying to address this national embarrassment. However, since 1999, there have only been three convictions, two of them in the past two years.
By eliminating the facilitation payments exception, the bill will bring Canada’s practices into line with 36 of the 39 other OECD countries. However, while the remainder of the bill comes into effect on royal assent, the rules on facilitation payments will come into effect at an unknown later date, as cabinet wishes. In the United States, the rule on accounting records is already enforced in civil matters by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Canada has no equivalent regulatory authority, but there is a similar rule in criminal law.
The bill is of particular importance in the mining industry, where the NDP has been and is still an ardent defender of accountability. I can cite, for instance, Bill C-323 introduced by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, which seeks to permit people who are not Canadian citizens to initiate tort claims based on violations of international obligations in Canadian courts, as well as Bill C-486 introduced by the member for Ottawa Centre, which requires companies that use minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa to exercise due diligence.
Canadians want our companies to be responsible and respectable representatives of Canada, and Canadian companies want clear and consistent standards for international business. The enforcement of loophole-free regulations will create a level playing field for all companies, while protecting the environment, labour and human rights, something we could all be proud of.
The news headlines concerning SNC-Lavalin are enough to convince us that this is necessary. A number of people in my extended family and some of my childhood friends in Algeria have written to me to find out whether corruption of foreign public officials is the norm in Canada. We are aware that a number of allegations of corruption are floating around the activities of SNC-Lavalin, not just in Libya, but also in Algeria. The company has even been blacklisted in Algeria, including by Sonelgaz, Algeria’s electricity utility.
Clearly, this incident was an embarrassment for Canadians. This is why Canada has a duty to adopt responsible management practices. This bill helps ensure that operations conducted by Canadian businesses abroad meet high standards, of which we can all be proud.
Under the current version of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, however, Canada exercises only territorial jurisdiction, which allows Canada to prosecute the foreign bribery offence when it is committed in whole or in part in Canada. There must be a “real and substantial link” between the offence and Canada. The fact that Canada does not exercise nationality jurisdiction in order to prosecute a Canadian for bribing a foreign public official without needing to provide evidence of a link to Canada has been the subject of negative commentary by Transparency International and by the OECD in its Phase 3 Evaluation Report. Both bodies have recommended that Canada amend its laws to exercise nationality jurisdiction over the foreign bribery offence to promote prosecution of cases under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.
The incorporation of this recommendation into the bill means that offences committed abroad are deemed to have been committed in Canada. As a result, proceedings for an offence can be commenced in any territorial division in Canada, and the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to the appearance of the accused at trial apply to the proceedings. With certain exceptions, the new provisions also provide safeguards for people who have already been tried and dealt with outside Canada for an act or omission that is deemed to have been committed inside Canada under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. This prevents people from being tried twice for the same offence, once by a court exercising jurisdiction on the basis of territory and once by a court exercising jurisdiction on the basis of nationality. Similar safeguards are already set out in the Criminal Code.
That being said, once again, as the hon. member for Outremont is fond of saying, the government needs to put its money where its mouth is both in this and in many other matters. In Canada, our inability to enforce anti-corruption laws is a source of embarrassment to the country. We are pleased that the government is finally looking into these problems, but it is deplorable that it has taken so much time and that Canada had to be condemned and discredited before the government took any action.
I would like to quote Janet Keeping from Transparency International. She said:
In our view, it is a very good thing that the Canadian government is responding to criticisms of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act that have mounted over the years.... I did want to have an opportunity to say that good law on the books is really important and essential, and Transparency International Canada is behind the adoption of Bill S-14. But just as in any other country of the world, legislation is only as good as it is enforced, especially in the criminal law area.... [Keep] in mind that we must have the RCMP and the prosecution services adequately resourced to enforce the legislation.
We must therefore ensure that our excellent police officers have the resources they need to do their job. If the RCMP does not have enough staff and resources, the legislation alone will not be enough and will not meet its objectives.
View Wayne Marston Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for her remarks. Earlier the member for Winnipeg North was talking along the same lines and said that perhaps something could have been done earlier on this bill.
The member who just spoke was not in the House when Bill C-300 came before the House. I recall that night distinctly. The galleries were full of people from various NGOs and groups concerned about corporate social responsibility. It was debated when we had a minority Parliament. When the vote was called, despite the fact that it was a Liberal member's bill, it was lost, because 13 Liberals did not bother to vote.
We certainly have had an opportunity before to start addressing this.
Earlier I raised concerns that often we have NGOs trying to bring goods ashore to help people who are in difficulty. Often they are displaced persons or are even in another country. The NGOs have to pay an offloading fee or a tip, or we could call it a bribe. The reality is that those things facilitate getting that food ashore to help people.
Does the member see in this bill any concern about the fact that this might sideswipe the NGOs?
View Djaouida Sellah Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his pertinent question.
Our goal was to have an exception in the bill that would accommodate non-profit organizations and level the playing field for them. The fact remains that we are supporting a bill that should have been brought forward a long time ago.
I would like to quote one of my constituents, who I met at a playground. He said to me, “Madam, politics, it is the same old story.” The NDP is different. We are working to protect human rights. Furthermore, we want to protect labour rights and the environment.
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 13:24 [p.18531]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech. She did a good job of summarizing Bill S-14.
She mentioned something that we often point out in our speeches. In her opinion, what concrete action could the government take? The House of Commons often votes on budgets that are part of omnibus legislation, which is really disturbing and shows a great lack of transparency on the part of the government.
What resources should be allocated to ensure that the bill is implemented properly, especially with respect to RCMP officers?
View Djaouida Sellah Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her insightful question. She is a very bright parliamentarian, who works very hard for her constituents.
According to Janet Keeping, from Transparency International, it is all well and good to have laws, but we need to follow up with meaningful action. Cuts are to be avoided. Instead, funding must be provided to police forces, such as the RCMP, so they can do their job properly.
Unfortunately, this is a very short-sighted government that cannot see past its nose. People are clamouring that we need human and financial resources. I hope that passing this bill will ensure that this government will put its money where its mouth is.
View Alain Giguère Profile
View Alain Giguère Profile
2013-06-18 13:26 [p.18531]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to state right from the outset that the NDP is in favour of Bill S-14. We would have liked the legislation to go further and move faster, but it is a good start.
The key thing to understand in combating corruption is the importance of being vigilant. The primary purpose of this bill is to guarantee that corruption is never considered an acceptable modus operandi. Not only do we want to stop Canada from getting a reputation abroad as a corrupting nation, we also want to prevent this corruption from having a damaging effect at a local level. We do not want to be complicit in the misfortunes of people who have never done anything to us.
An Italian judge, Giovanni Falcone, when speaking out against the Mafia, stated that politicians can be divided into three groups: those who are fighting the Mafia, those who are working alongside the Mafia and, lastly, the most dangerous of all, those who let the Mafia go about their business unfettered. That last category may include any of us, hard-working people who work long hours and take part in fundraising activities where we meet all kinds of people, including lobbyists. That is part of our daily work as members of Parliament, and it can be difficult and trying. It is easy to overlook certain things. All that is needed is a moment of inattention. Nobody in the House is immune to that. Unfortunately, dishonest people take advantage of our weaknesses. The huge majority of honest people are convinced—and rightly so—that other people is just as honest as they are. That is what allows swindlers and corrupters to abuse our trust.
Bill S-14 would punish Canadians who attempt to corrupt foreign public officials. Canada must engage fully in the joint effort by the family of nations to put an end to this scourge. This corruption, in far too many countries, is a source of human rights violations. A corrupt officer in his own country breaks the law of the land at home. When a journalist writing an article on an allegedly corrupt minister challenges this officer, is he really going to incriminate himself or will he be tempted to have the journalist killed?
Corruption goes hand in hand with the destruction of the values of freedom, justice and democracy. The more corruption is tolerated, the more perilous it will be for democracy in these countries. We ask countries to engage in good governance, but in the same breath, we turn a blind eye to Canadians offering bribes. That has got to stop. This legislation is the House’s response, across party lines, to this problem. It is also important to us. If we do not do this, our credibility as advocates for human rights and freedoms will be in tatters.
Canada missed out on the opportunity to obtain a seat on the United Nations Security Council. This is directly attributable to the fact that our foreign policy has, at times, fallen short of what is expected in terms of our reputation on the world stage. We have allowed our reputation to be tarnished, and it has sunk to new lows. The time has come to rectify this.
We remain saddled with the problem of tyrants and dictators. Both tend to be corrupt, which is why they hold on so tightly to the reins of power.
They are continuing to get rich off the backs of their own people. Corruption, misappropriation of funds, nothing is beyond these people. We are now openly declaring that we will no longer be complicit in this.
Libya is a hugely embarrassing problem. Mr. Gadhafi was no boy scout; he did not respect the laws and freedoms of his own people. Unfortunately, the bungling of some of our officers at the Canadian embassy in Libya, combined with the dishonesty of certain engineering firms and a number of Canadian construction and natural resources development companies, meant that a small portion of the Gadhafi family's income came from Canada. This is not something to be proud of. It is important to be aware of it and to address the situation.
Our response to the incident is Bill S-14. The legislation will punish Canadians who seek to corrupt foreign public officials. It was high time legislation like this was introduced.
Let us not complain. For once, all the parties in the House will support the bill. We support the fact that an individual found guilty of corrupting a foreign public official is liable to be sentenced to up to 14 years behind bars. There will no longer be an exception in the case of facilitation payments. This was a handout to officials not because they agreed to take on a case, but to have the case processed more quickly. Building permits, for example, were requested. People were entitled to these permits, they were legal, but the public official would claim to have a lot of work. Now, if he were enticed, the official might say that he could look after the case the following week rather than two months down the road. These facilitation payments will no longer be permitted. There will be a zero-tolerance policy.
Cooking, or concealing, the books to hide corruption will not be allowed, either. It will not be possible to tell Canadian shareholders to look at the company’s terrific bottom line when it hides the fact that $60 million or $80 million has ended up lining the pockets of corrupt foreign officials. Sometimes, the money finds its way into the pockets of top Canadian executives, who receive what is commonly called a kickback. For example, a person might hand over $50 million and get a kickback in the form of $10 million deposited into a Swiss bank account. That, too, will no longer be tolerated. It was high time. Canadian shareholders were getting the wool pulled over their eyes, and this had to stop.
The bill applies to all Canadians. Regardless of where the crime is committed, Canadian citizens will be accountable under Bill S-14. Often Canadians have several citizenships and do business in all corners of the globe, and now, extraterritoriality will no longer be grounds for immunity.
Turning a blind eye to Canadians offering bribes abroad is dangerous because once they are back in Canada, the very same Canadians end up bribing Canadian officials. That is the problem: corruption knows no borders. Corrupt people in Libya or in Latin America will be just as corrupt in Canada. Unfortunately, that is a fact. That much is obvious when it comes time to foot the bill, and the bill is steep. Canadian taxpayers have contributed to the tax-haven-sheltered bank accounts of far too many corrupt people and corrupters.
This is why the NDP strongly supports this bill. We stand by our position. The NDP is unequivocally opposed to corruption, which is a source of embarrassment for our country. It ruins our reputation and has an adverse impact on Canada’s financial and economic opportunities.
Mining, gas, oil and manufacturing companies, the pulp and paper industry, and equipment and service suppliers will think that it is dangerous to do business with a Canadian company because they are corrupt. This kind of thinking has to stop. People need to know that if they do business with a Canadian company, that company is accountable under the law. It is not true that Canada tolerates corruption. Canada will not have that kind of reputation.
Corruption is a cancer that does not stop at our borders. It insinuates itself into our politics. Recently, cases of corruption have surfaced among our political parties. This morning, I researched the ideological path taken by one individual. My goodness, he was involved in every municipal political party, every single one. He did them all in Montreal, bar none. Provincially, he was close to the Quebec Liberal Party and the Action démocratique du Québec, Mr. Dumont’s party. He toyed with the PQ, having the occasional flirtation here and there. Then, federally, he was a member of the Liberal Party of Canada, even seeking to run for the Liberal Party of Canada. It now turns out that he was a candidate for the Conservative Party. He wore every political stripe. He was always very close to power and always played the corrupt card when it came to power, always.
I can guarantee that, if he had not been caught and arrested, he probably would have tried to join the ranks of the NDP when it takes the reins of power in 2015. He is that kind of person.
No political party is immune to that kind of person. People cut from that cloth are dishonest and use how busy we are to take advantage of us. They aim to profit from the money Canada has. Indeed, if Canada were as poor as Job, they would not be like bees to honey. They seek, above all, to satisfy their personal interests, and they generally succeed. That is why we all, collectively, have a duty to be vigilant. From a purely non-partisan perspective, I can say that nobody is safe. This is happening right now. It is all well and good to say that a Conservative got caught. He was never a Conservative, but he was, and has always been, a thief. That is the take-home message.
In the past, our laws were weak. Not only did this give Canada a bad reputation, it led to some pretty poor outcomes. There have only been three convictions since 1999, and those convictions were not particularly impressive. The major players were not really caught in the net. A $10 million fine was issued, which is nothing to be sneezed at. However, the contracts were worth billions of dollars. The penalties in other countries for corruption are significant, and those found guilty see their wealth go up in smoke.
Canada had such a bad reputation that international agencies were saying that Canada ranked fourth or fifth among the most corrupting countries. It is embarrassing.
Thanks to Bill S-14, we are collectively correcting our past mistakes. No one is infallible. Only those who never do anything never fail. It is because we collectively realized our mistakes that we were able to correct them. That is the difference between a mistake and a fault. Anyone can make a mistake. It becomes a fault when you keep making the same mistake over and over, without correcting it. Thanks to this bill, Canada does not have this problem.
We also need to talk about other problems, such as money laundering. Imagine a corrupt government official in an African country who finds himself with $400 million or $500 million, as we have seen. Nigeria once had a president who died of a heart attack and was later found to have had $6 billion in Swiss bank accounts. When people are corrupt in their own country, they want to buy things for themselves in that country, but above all, they want to ensure that if they lose power, they will not lose their money, so they transfer it to tax havens. We need to tackle this problem.
Bill S-14 does not tackle it. However, we will tackle it through other bills. In the future, it will be impossible to divert money like that. In terms of international co-operation, we will have better regulations. It will be easier to exchange information and easier for countries that have lost money like this to recover it. That is an important element.
We have a significant banking sector. Our banking institutions play a major international role, and that is good. We cannot complain about having a solid banking system that plays an important role internationally. That is why we have to be careful. These institutions must not be left open to criticism or become a way to launder dirty money, corruption money. We will also be introducing crime bills to correct this situation.
There was also discussion about Canadian officials who represent us in embassies. They have a role to play. They must not encourage or tolerate this corruption. From an ethical standpoint, they must also avoid becoming corrupt by being so close to power.
Far too often, we have seen the children of a foreign president, minister or senator obtain bursaries to study in Canada or have their Canadian citizenship process fast-tracked. We have seen that sort of thing quite often, even in Syria. For example, in one case, the daughter of the immigration minister was working on the immigration portfolio at the Canadian embassy. That was not very smart.
The last few minutes of my speech will be on the Mafia and organized crime. Organized crime knows no borders. Corruption attracts corrupt people, and there is nothing more corrupt than organized crime on a global scale. It has interests in anything and everything. It knows no borders. In that sense, Bill S-14 could be improved in future when we deem it necessary. Bill S-14 is a first step, but not the last. We all think it is a good one.
View Alain Giguère Profile
View Alain Giguère Profile
2013-06-18 13:50 [p.18534]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague's last question is unfortunately so partisan that he has missed the point.
Collectively, it is our duty to protect our country against corruption and the corrupt. Unfortunately, those who disregard this make personal attacks and focus on imagined facts. At present, people are fighting corruption in Canada and abroad.
Unfortunately, collectively, we are sometimes not vigilant enough. Canada's response to this lack of vigilance is Bill S-14. We are going to deploy teams of expert police officers to fight this phenomenon.
In Montreal, the Marteau squad is tackling corruption. Unfortunately, if the member would open his eyes, he would see that the Marteau squad arrested the assistant to one of his ministers. These are not just suspicions; he is being charged with corruption. Just two months ago, that man claimed to be the shadow MP for the riding of Mount Royal.
We can fight corruption, not with partisan attacks, but by working together as we did on Bill S-14 and as I encourage the House of Commons to do in all circumstances.
View Andrew Cash Profile
View Andrew Cash Profile
2013-06-18 13:52 [p.18534]
Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned a number of issues around international corruption that we need to take seriously. He talked a bit about the context, which is that we are facing scandal upon scandal in this very country in our political establishments, in the Senate and here in the House.
Could my colleague comment on the importance for Canada to show leadership abroad? We on our side of the House believe the government should show leadership and claim the place that we have always held in the international dialogue. Could the member comment on the importance of cleaning up the scandals that beset the government here at home first, or as well?
View Alain Giguère Profile
View Alain Giguère Profile
2013-06-18 13:53 [p.18534]
Mr. Speaker, people who are corrupt outside the country will also be corrupt inside the country. They are the same people. That is clear from the criminal charges that were recently laid.
The same people who gave bribes to Mr. Gadhafi gave bribes to the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal. The people who said they were experts in military intelligence and were members of the CSIS board of directors are the same people who accepted bribes.
No one is immune to corruption. Nor is any political party. However, we can implement measures to correct the situation as quickly as possible when it does happen. We can combat corruption with legislation, regulations and joint effort.
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 13:54 [p.18534]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for his very eloquent speech.
I would like him to talk a bit more about Canada's international reputation. Indeed, The Globe and Mail reported today that Canada is still seen as the holdout at the G8 summit. It is not willing to make reforms on tax transparency at the international level. It is resisting reform and putting on the brakes.
Could my colleague comment on the way Canada has been doing things over the past few years, resisting reforms that would make us active participants in the global efforts to improve the situation?
View Alain Giguère Profile
View Alain Giguère Profile
2013-06-18 13:55 [p.18534]
Mr. Speaker, this is directly related to a government policy. The government chose to never be on the right people's side.
An Israeli minister once said, “Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”. That is exactly what is happening with this government. Canada is receiving environmental booby prizes. We are in last place, the biggest polluter. We are also in last place when it comes to money laundering. The government is making cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency, which should be working to combat money laundering. Canada is also lagging behind when it comes to combatting foreign corruption.
We still have not voted on Bill S-14. We are the last of the G8 countries to have a bill of this nature. At some point, the government will have to take full and exclusive responsibility in all areas.
We lost the opportunity to get a seat on the United Nations Security Council. That should have been a red flag. The Conservatives trivialized the incident. They trivialize everything. They are against anything that could stand in the way of a Canadian company making a quick buck. Unfortunately, this is tarnishing Canada's reputation on the world stage.
View Andrew Cash Profile
View Andrew Cash Profile
2013-06-18 13:56 [p.18535]
Mr. Speaker, on that subject, there is a 2011 report from Transparency International that ranked Canada as the worst of all G7 countries with regard to international bribery, with no little or no enforcement of the scant legislation that does exist.
We are playing a lot of catch-up on this front. Could my hon. colleague comment on why it is that the government needs to be dragged, kicking and screaming at all levels, in order to present transparency and accountability?
View Alain Giguère Profile
View Alain Giguère Profile
2013-06-18 13:57 [p.18535]
Mr. Speaker, Canada is in last place because it is the last country to pass this type of legislation. Our country has become a laughingstock. This government has known for years that this type of legislation is essential.
At the very beginning of my speech when I quoted what Judge Giovanni Falcone said about politicians, I said that there were those who are fighting the Mafia, those who are working alongside the Mafia and those who let the Mafia go about their business unfettered. Clearly, the government's actions in this case were not inadvertent or due to a lack of vigilance. This government knowingly allowed companies to engage in wrongdoing.
Diplomats at the Canadian embassy in Libya were involved in the corruption surrounding the Gadhafi family. That is unacceptable. That is why Canada is in last place and everyone knows it.
When it comes to making a quick buck, this government will support the corrupt, regardless of the long-term effects or the impact it will have on Canada's reputation. The government wants Bill S-14 because it no longer has a choice.
The NDP government will go much further. We will re-establish Canada's reputation of excellence.
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 13:59 [p.18535]
Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate that the NDP has always been in favour of responsible, sustainable and transparent management practices. My colleague alluded to this during his speech, and I would like him to reiterate the NDP's commitment to that.
I also appreciated how he mentioned that it was up to each one of us to recognize our responsibility to adopt ethical and responsible measures.
View Alain Giguère Profile
View Alain Giguère Profile
2013-06-18 13:59 [p.18535]
Mr. Speaker, that is a good question.
In many cases, the purpose of corruption is not just to facilitate access to the resources of a foreign country. Often it is used to bypass the basic rules of sustainable development. I am talking about anti-pollution rules, respect for workers' rights and respect for the right of local communities to live in a healthy environment without having to disturb modes of transportation or water supplies. All of these things are part of regulation, and corruption can deny these people their right to sustainable development.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
View Nathan Cullen Profile
2013-06-18 16:46 [p.18558]
Mr. Speaker, people say hitting 50 is not easy. It can be hard on a person, realizing that shutting down debate 50 times in the House of Commons is breaking all previous records by any government, and there have been some bad governments.
I am sure my Conservative colleagues would agree that there have been some awful Liberal and Conservative governments, but this one is beating them all. Even on bills that we in the official opposition agree on and even on bills that we should have some discussion about, the government feels inclined to abuse its power as a majority government, something the Conservatives said, when they were in opposition, was wrong and anti-democratic.
I remember the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Prime Minister saying that for a majority government to abuse its power by shutting down debate like this was wrong. These guys took lessons from those bad governments and made it so much worse.
Shutting down debate 50 times is not something that the Conservatives should be celebrating. On something as important as justice issues, the government wants to shut down debate even before the discussion has begun. How can the minister possibly expect, after so many experiences with his government writing bad law that gets challenged at the Supreme Court, that he is justified here again today in shutting down debate in the House of Commons? I am not the one saying it is bad law; it is our Supreme Court justices who are striking down his laws, which is very costly to Canadians and bad for justice.
Let us just have the conversation. Let us get justice right. Let us make the system work for Canadians and not have some draconian ideology shutting down conversations and shutting down our democracy.
View Yvon Godin Profile
View Yvon Godin Profile
2013-06-18 16:49 [p.18558]
Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I remember Brian Mulroney not paying his taxes on $250,000, and he was the Prime Minister of this country.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2013-06-18 16:53 [p.18559]
Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, if Canadians thought that the Mulroney government was so extraordinary, they would not have reduced it to a two-member caucus at the next election.
The fact remains that the minister is doing what his colleague, the Minister of Heritage, did with Bill C-49. He claims that he is mulling over the issue and that he has been working on the bill for some time. However, he should make the distinction between his work, the work he does behind the scenes, and the business of Parliament. I think that they are three separate things.
Members heard the same thing from the Minister of Canadian Heritage when he claimed that the matter has been a topic of discussion for the past eight months. Perhaps he has been discussing the issue for the past eight months, but members of the House, duly elected by Canadians, have not had the same opportunity. We support the bill being debated in the House. However, as members, we are nevertheless very pleased to be able to have an opportunity to speak.
I think that the minister should make the distinction. Moreover, he should stop saying that the simple act of debating the issue automatically means that victims’ rights are not being respected. In my opinion, that is a disrespectful case to be making, both to colleagues in the House and to me.
View Anne-Marie Day Profile
Mr. Speaker, 48, 49, 50, that is what should be announced in all the social media and on television all across Canada. That makes 50 times this government has muzzled us and prevented us from discussing a bill, one that deserves to be debated here in the House. We have the right to debate it. For some of my constituents and many of those of other members, the only time they hear it discussed is when we talk about it together here.
McDonald's no longer just refers to fast food. We are talking about a McDebate here. The Conservatives do not want to sit in the House any longer. They no longer want to take the time to sit in the House, apart from a mere five hours per bill.
View Hoang Mai Profile
View Hoang Mai Profile
2013-06-18 17:01 [p.18560]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for what he has said. However, I would also like to correct him when he says that debate serves no purpose.
I would remind the minister that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which includes Conservative members, accepted two NDP amendments. The first related to victims.
The minister says debate and conversation serve no purpose, yet we listened to victims, and they said they wanted to know about the intended place of residence of the accused. The government had to backtrack. It realized that its bill was incomplete, and still had flaws. It was because the opposition was able to look into this and listen to the experts and the victims that we were able to solve the problem.
We proposed other amendments for which we requested verification. We also asked the government to change its position. Unfortunately, it refused.
The government did accept another amendment so that the legislation will be reviewed in five years because, as noted, it still has many flaws. Moreover, there has not been much consultation, particularly with experts working in the field of mental health.
If the minister says that debate serves no purpose, why did the Conservatives accept amendments which resulted in a better bill for victims?
View Dennis Bevington Profile
View Dennis Bevington Profile
2013-06-18 17:14 [p.18562]
Mr. Speaker, it is a sad fact that we are here at this time speaking to another closure motion. This has gone on for a long time. It has become habit forming. The government is addicted to the process that it has created with the closure motions it has put forward.
Quite clearly, through the limited debate time today, many issues have been raised and have not been responded to fully. Are we going to get to those in the five hours? I do not think so.
What we see is a failure of the government to recognize the nature of its own addiction to its belief that it is right on all issues, that it is correct. Those things are very dangerous to our process.
Would the minister look into his heart and understand what he is doing by supporting these types of closure motions over and over again? What is he doing to this process we are in?
View Joe Comartin Profile
View Joe Comartin Profile
2013-06-18 17:56 [p.18563]
I declare the motion carried.
It being 5:55 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business, as listed on today's order paper.
View Joe Comartin Profile
View Joe Comartin Profile
2013-06-18 18:00 [p.18564]
The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Deputy Speaker: When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View Hoang Mai Profile
View Hoang Mai Profile
2013-06-18 18:15 [p.18565]
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Ahuntsic on her bill and on having done a great deal of work to promote it. I know she has worked very hard on this bill. That is why we are proud to support it.
When the bill was studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, there was a very clear discussion concerning sexual exploitation. This bill goes even farther with respect to exploitation and trafficking by protecting people who do domestic work or forced labour. I would like my colleague to talk about that.
View Hoang Mai Profile
View Hoang Mai Profile
2013-06-18 18:31 [p.18568]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today to talk about Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons).
I would first like to congratulate the member for Ahuntsic on the work she has done. I know that she has worked extremely hard on this bill, which she tabled in Parliament so that we could debate and discuss it. She may rest assured that the NDP will support it.
Such a bill naturally generates a great deal of emotion. I had the good fortune, as deputy justice critic, to sit on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Some of the evidence was so touching that it left us shaking. It made us realize certain things. The victims who came to testify have all my admiration. I would like once again to salute the courage they showed in coming to share their experiences in order to give us a better understanding of what is happening on that front.
We also heard from numerous experts, people working in community organizations and people in law enforcement. Those working in the field emphasized the importance of this bill. They felt it was something that could really attack the problem of human trafficking, a problem that exists in Canada. We all agree that it is a heinous crime and that we must amend the Criminal Code in order to deal with it. This is one more step in that direction.
Witnesses talked about the lack of resources. It is all very well to have a bill, but you have to have the necessary resources on the ground. In that respect, we shall continue to pressure the government. This will not be just a bill and some words. We must have the means to attack the problem.
I am going to talk quickly about what this bill offers, since we are at third reading, and we have already supported it.
Bill C-452 would amend the Criminal Code in order to provide consecutive sentences for offences related to trafficking in persons. It would create a presumption regarding the exploitation of one person by another. It would also add circumstances that would be deemed to constitute exploitation. It would add the offence of trafficking in persons to the list of offences to which the forfeiture of proceeds of crime would apply.
Witnesses stressed the importance of the changes made in the Criminal Code. It was just as important to create a presumption and attack the problem of financial resources. The topic of consecutive sentences is always somewhat controversial, but it is something we can nevertheless support because we are talking about very serious crimes.
What is human trafficking, in broader terms? This is the RCMP's definition:
Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of persons for the purpose of exploitation (typically in the sex industry or for forced labour). Traffickers use various methods to maintain control over their victims, including force, sexual assault, threats of violence and physical or emotional abuse.
I raised this question with the bill’s sponsor. It is important to address sexual exploitation, but forced labour is also a very serious factor. While it may be more serious abroad, the problem does exist in Canada.
In committee, therefore, it was important for me to emphasize that the problem exists here. Fortunately, this bill covers trafficking in people who do forced labour. In some cases, this involves domestic work. In committee, the testimony of the victims was very touching. It was highly emotional. It was obvious that many people were affected.
When listening to anyone who has been a kidnapping victim speak about their experience, no one can remain unmoved by their story. Once again, I wish to say how much I admire the victims who are willing to talk about it. It is important to do so, to look for help and to discuss the problem so that we can be aware of the severity of the problem and the need to take action. Everyone, including ordinary people and law enforcement agencies, needs to know that parliamentarians are there to support and listen to them.
As for human trafficking, the RCMP estimates that some 600 women and children enter Canada each year through trafficking for sexual exploitation and that this figure increases to 800 when those who enter illegally for other forms of forced labour are included. Once again, I wish to point out that there are two aspects to human trafficking.
Most of the time, the victims are, of course, exploited women. What is even worse in my view is the fact that many of them are aboriginal women. There is a real problem here. The government has been mightily criticized because of the shortage of resources for aboriginal communities. This is yet another sign that there are problems. We would therefore like the government to work harder and to provide the resources needed to address this scourge.
Needless to say, it is essential to work together with the first nations, Inuit and Metis to attack the problem proactively and combat human trafficking. Unfortunately, when funding for these communities is cut, things only become worse.
As I was saying, we tend to think that human trafficking only affects foreign countries and that it cannot possibly exist in a country as developed as Canada, yet it does. In my riding of Brossard—La Prairie I met people from the bar association in Longueil who explained to me clearly that in some areas, like the DIX30 complex, the problem—this scourge—existed. This demonstrates just how real it is. That is why I am proud to support this bill so that the problem can be addressed.
The reason I mentioned my own riding is that we all, as parliamentarians, need to realize that we are surrounded by these problems. We need to open our eyes and talk about them. That is why I take a great deal of pride today in speaking about these issues and being willing to address them.
I briefly mentioned resources. Providing resources is very important. We need a plan that will mobilize the police and that will also provide them with the resources they need to truly attack this problem. I said that the bill was a step in the right direction, but the people who work in the field need resources.
Unfortunately, it is important to look at what is actually happening. Once again, I will take an example from my riding. I learned that there was an Eclipse squad, a team of 10 to 15 police officers from several municipalities working specifically to combat street gangs, and all of this exploitation and human trafficking. Surprisingly, however, the federal government eliminated funding for the project. This was on April 1, 2013. What they told me in the field was that these people had to return to their offices. They had to walk away from all the expertise they had built up. They now need to work on their own on certain cases without the benefit of all the expertise that had been available.
It is all very well to have a bill that is moving in this direction, but resources are also needed. The government is clearly not headed in the right direction. It is hypocritical for the government to claim it is fighting and introducing bills when there is no evidence of funding to do the work. I gave the example of a group that was working in my riding. I find it deplorable.
I would like to conclude by saying that human trafficking is an important matter.
We in the NDP do not believe that this is a partisan issue. That is why we are proud to support the bill to tackle this scourge.
View Christine Moore Profile
View Christine Moore Profile
2013-06-18 19:19 [p.18573]
Mr. Speaker, we have talked about cases of people found not criminally responsible on account of mental illness. In various cases, there has been an opinion that has received heavy media coverage in Quebec. I have not necessarily taken a position, but I would be curious to know whether it was discussed in committee.
People have talked about the complexity of mental illness and whether it makes a person not criminally responsible. For example, a person can have schizophrenia but may have been completely aware of what they were doing at the time they did it, and be criminally responsible, just as they may not be.
People have said that when a person pleads not criminally responsible, they should be tried, not by ordinary juries, but by a panel of health professionals who are more capable of understanding the complexity of mental illness.
As I said, I have not necessarily taken a position on this, but I think it is particularly appropriate, given the subject.
I would like to know whether this question was addressed in committee or whether it unfortunately was not.
View Jack Harris Profile
View Jack Harris Profile
2013-06-18 19:26 [p.18574]
Mr. Speaker, a lot of concern has been raised about the possible stigmatization arising from bills like this, so I think it is important to put in perspective the kind of numbers we are talking about.
There was evidence that in Ontario only 0.001% of those convicted of a crime are found not criminally responsible. That is about one in 100,000 people, and of those the recidivism rate is between 2.5% and 7.5%. For other people who are convicted of a crime, the recidivism rate is between 41% and 44%. For those who think this is about mentally ill people being the problem in society, the other 99,999 people who are before the courts do not have any mental illness. This is not really about mental illness. A very small percentage of people are involved, and a small percentage of them would be considered potential high-risk offenders.
View Randall Garrison Profile
View Randall Garrison Profile
2013-06-18 19:28 [p.18575]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.
I rise tonight to speak in favour of Bill C-54 at third reading. I must say that from the day the government first announced its intention to introduce this bill, I have supported the bill in principle. I believe the matters we are seized with in Bill C-54 are very important, even though the number of individuals affected is very small.
The unfortunate incidents which have brought us to this debate tonight are obviously extremely wrenching for all the victims and their families, yet, at the same time, there is a real danger that the very small number of extreme incidents resulting from mental illness will cloud our collective judgment when it comes to addressing the broader issues of mental health in Canadian society.
I believe the bill we have before us today is a reasonably balanced bill. It is certainly not as good as it might have been, but it is better in some key ways than what was originally introduced.
To me, the most important improvement was the addition of an amendment proposed by the NDP to add a mandated five-year review of the legislation by Parliament. This is a very good way to make sure we have this right. We will look at it again in five years to see what the impacts have been.
However, the most important reason for supporting this bill is the significant progress it makes in enhancing victims rights, especially in the cases where the accused is found not criminally responsible for his or her actions.
I want to draw attention to four ways in which the rights of victims, and in particular their safety, are improved in Bill C-54.
The most important one is the entrenching in law of the right of victims, upon request, to be notified when the perpetrator is discharged. We have had one case when someone ran into someone in the community who they thought was still in custody. Obviously, that could be very shocking It would be upon request, but victims should certainly have that right.
Second is the provision to allow orders to be made that forbid communication between the perpetrator and the victim.
Third is the provision that adds a requirement for the review boards that makes these decisions about the release of perpetrators to consider the safety of victims when decisions are being made about the perpetrator.
The fourth major improvement, and again it was not in the original bill but was added via an NDP amendment, is the provision that is closely related to the first improvement. It would give victims the right to be notified of the address of the perpetrator if the perpetrator is released, thus making it less likely that they will have inadvertent contact with the perpetrator, which can obviously be very traumatic.
The second reason I have for supporting this bill is the fact that it now makes public safety the paramount consideration for provincial review boards in decisions relating to those found unfit to stand trial or found not criminally responsible for their actions.
The change here is that public safety becomes the most important consideration; it is not just one item on a list of considerations. Our criminal justice system always ought to function with public safety in mind, so these cases should be no different. We also need to remind ourselves that public safety, as the main priority, does not diminish our responsibility to consider these cases and to make sure they function within the bedrock of our legal system, which is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The third reason I have for supporting this bill is the fact that it creates a high-risk designation for those who are found not criminally responsible for the most violent incidents. I want to stress that we are talking about a very small number of cases where the perpetrator is found not criminally responsible. It starts with a small number of those decisions, and then there is a very small number among that group.
The definition that is provided in the bill is quite sound. It talks about applying a high-risk designation to those found not criminally responsible for serious personal injury offences where there is a substantial likelihood for further violence that would endanger the public, or where acts were so brutal as to indicate a risk of great harm to the public. We are not saying that all of those found not criminally responsible will end up falling into this high-risk category, but only those who provide a great risk to the public.
This is a designation that would be made by a court and that could only be removed by a court. The result of such a designation would be to deny granting unescorted absences from a secure health facility. It would place limits on the reasons for escorted absences. It would also provide the possibility, just the possibility, of lengthening the period for review of the status of the perpetrator from one year to a maximum of three years, again at the discretion of the court.
When we are talking about creating this high-risk designation, it is important to remember the context. When considering the case of someone found not criminally responsible, provincial review boards have three choices.
The board's first choice is an absolute discharge if the person does not pose a significant threat to public safety. This means release back into society with no restrictions or supervision. I emphasize that very few of those who are found not criminally responsible are granted an absolute discharge at their first hearing. This is due to the obvious necessity of taking time to allow therapy to work. In fact, at the annual reviews in B.C., only 18% of cases are granted an absolute discharge, while the rate in Ontario is even lower at only 5%. If we look over time, studies revealed that 35% of those found not criminally responsible spend more than 10 years in the system, so it is not true that those who are found not criminally responsible are released immediately as the system exists now. However, the change we would make here is to ensure that there would be additional consideration: a second set of eyes to look at those decisions when those high-risk designated perpetrators are considered for release.
The second choice available to the expert provincial review boards is a conditional discharge. Just as it sounds, this option allows a return to society under conditions which include things like specifying a place of residence, a treatment regime or reporting requirements. These are conditions very similar to those used in the parole system.
Finally, the third choice is to retain the perpetrator in custody in a secure health facility.
I know there are those who are very worried about the creation of this high-risk designation, but its importance here is the reassurance that it would offer to both victims and the public alike, as a person designated as high risk would not be eligible for conditional or absolute discharge until both the review board and the court are convinced that the perpetrator is no longer high risk.
There is no doubt that the current system has left the public and families of victims feeling exposed. This is true if we are talking about the case of the beheading of Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba in 2008, where the perpetrator was held in a facility where the grounds were not fenced, and was allowed out on his own onto those grounds very soon after the events; and where the perpetrator was allowed escorted absences that were perceived to be much too early and caused a very strong public outcry. Many people were not reassured by the explanation that the perpetrator was fine so long as he was taking his medications.
This reassurance is also needed if we are talking about a case like the three Schoenborn children who were killed by their father in B.C., again in 2008. His ex-wife was understandably concerned when the perpetrator was granted escorted absences in the same suburban Vancouver community where she lived.
From the moment the government introduced this legislation, I felt it would be in the public interest to adopt it in principle, and I believe we have had significant improvements at the committee level.
However, before concluding, I would like to take just a moment to address some of the concerns expressed by those opposed to the bill.
First, I would say there should be no confusion. This bill in no way would affect the availability or the use of the defence of not criminally responsible by anyone accused of an offence.
Second, I would say that I understand the concern that the focus on the most violent incidents involving mental illness may inadvertently contribute to the unfortunate stigma surrounding mental illness in our society. However, it is my hope that in fact this bill would accomplish the opposite by helping reduce the fears surrounding these extreme incidents.
Finally, I would say that I share the concern of all those who have pointed out the deficiencies in the way we deal with mental illness in our society, especially in terms of the lack of services and supports for those individuals and families struggling to deal with the impacts of mental illness on a daily basis.
In conclusion, I believe that in Bill C-54 we have before us a balanced bill, one that could have been further improved with the additional amendments that were offered by the NDP, but nevertheless a balanced bill. Most important, I believe that Bill C-54 would deal more justly with victims and their families in cases where the perpetrator is found not criminally responsible. We have a bill before us that would make it clear that public safety must be the paramount consideration in all these cases. Finally, we have a bill in front of us that would address those very few cases involving extreme violence and high risk of recurrence, and it would do so in a way that would ensure a thorough review of the case in order to guarantee public safety and to reassure the families of victims.
For these reasons, I will be supporting Bill C-54 at third reading.
View Nathan Cullen Profile
View Nathan Cullen Profile
2013-06-18 19:38 [p.18576]
Mr. Speaker, it is so often the case when Conservatives have brought forward so-called justice legislation that they get the balance completely wrong. They often take a hammer to a problem that is of small significance or has low numbers.
As it has been pointed out by my friend from Newfoundland, the actual number of Canadians that we are talking about in this case is incredibly small, yet these cases are important. They tend to be high-profile cases, often because of their violent or extremely violent nature in some regard.
I suppose what my friend has offered is that we do not want to sacrifice the good for the perfect. In seeking to find a way to better achieve the balance, we did not get all the way there, but we made a great stride.
In the general question about justice and how we write laws for that area, is this a good example upon which the government and opposition can build in order to strike a better and more equal balance with respect to things?
The fact that we are under time allocation on this motion does not speak to a lot of confidence on the government side that they do have the right balance. They have to invoke it so often. Today was the 50th time to shut down debate in Parliament.
View Randall Garrison Profile
View Randall Garrison Profile
2013-06-18 19:40 [p.18577]
Mr. Speaker, yes, I think there is some irony that the government quite often will not take yes for an answer.
We worked together in committee. We had a lot more improvements that we felt could have been made to further defend victims' rights in this bill and to further increase public confidence in what we were doing.
What saved it for me was the willingness of the government to accept the five-year review. Parliament will come back and look at this issue again. As the member says, we are making an improvement and we are taking a step forward.
It is not a perfect bill, but having a five-year review by Parliament will allow us to look at this issue again and see if we have in fact done the right thing or if there is more we could do to improve the situation.
View Randall Garrison Profile
View Randall Garrison Profile
2013-06-18 19:42 [p.18577]
Mr. Speaker, I am bemused when she says there is no empirical evidence of a need to do something with this bill. Has she not heard the voice of victims? Has she not seen the things that have happened with victims all across the country? I believe there is, in fact, a lot of empirical evidence.
I want to say again that this bill would actually help to reduce the stigma around mental illness by separating out these very few high-risk offenders who have committed what I would say are quite brutal acts. There is no way to describe a public beheading other than as “brutal”. It would also help assure the public that we have the measures in place to take care of those situations so that we can then turn our minds to the other mental health issues in society without being worried about these extreme cases.
View Randall Garrison Profile
View Randall Garrison Profile
2013-06-18 19:44 [p.18577]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her comments. I struggled thinking about this speech and whether to talk about the individual cases of victims, because I know that it is often quite difficult for them to relive this over and over. My hope is that the use of these examples in the bill will help the victims' families feel that they have contributed something when we come to cases of future victims. I believe that they will make a contribution.
As when I talk about the criminal law, I rarely use the name of a perpetrator. I do not think that even in these cases perpetrators should become famous. It is the victims we should remember.
View Jonathan Tremblay Profile
Mr. Speaker, before getting to the meat of this subject, I would like to mark a sad anniversary today. Earlier in the day, we had the 50th time allocation motion imposed on us, the 50th gag order. In this 41st parliament, Tuesday, June 18 is a sad anniversary.
I recall bills on which I would have liked to have the opportunity to make my contribution and to present a different perspective on the debate, one that came from the constituents in my riding, but I could not do that because, unfortunately, a time allocation motion was imposed and curtailed the debate.
I am sure that as many members on the Conservative side as on the opposition side have found themselves in that situation in various debates.
In terms of the present bill, I would first like to say that it has changed for the better as it moved through the various stages of the legislative process. That is why I am going to vote in favour of this bill. It is not perfect. We wanted to make amendments that were rejected, but we have still been promised that this bill would be reviewed in five years to see whether it is working, as we hope it will.
Public safety and the attention that victims of crime receive are issues that had to be dealt with. We succeeded in addressing issues relating to the real consequences of the proposed changes and were careful to listen to experts and victims.
Public safety has to be considered. I agree that it is essential to keep our communities safe. However, we need to make sure that we abide by the rule of law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We had to be sure that the way we manage the cases of accused persons with mental illnesses is effective in treating mental disorders. I would therefore like to congratulate the legislators who wrote this bill, but mostly those who amended it, on the job they have done.
Numerous witnesses were consulted during and after the committee’s study. We took the time to listen to victims, families and our communities. We were thus able to have the bill amended to reflect some of the testimony given in committee, and I have to say I am reasonably satisfied with the final result.
It is nonetheless important to recall that the rules in the Criminal Code regarding mental disorders apply to a very small proportion of accused persons. It is always worthwhile to listen to debate in the House and to be able to ask questions afterward, I would note in passing.
A person who is deemed unfit to stand trial or found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder must appear before a provincial or territorial review board, which decides on a plan of action. The person is therefore neither convicted nor acquitted. Once again, this is an extremely limited number of individuals. Some of them have not committed serious crimes.
Concerns had been voiced about the bill at first. We had to make sure that we did not exacerbate the public’s fears for no reason. We also had to be sure not to hinder the reintegration of individuals found to be not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. We undertook a proper examination of the Criminal Code provisions relating to mental disorders, an issue that is important to many Canadians. Some recent cases that received heavy media coverage have also cast doubt on the effectiveness of the current approach, and the bill fixes some of those flaws in terms of victims’ rights.
Bill C-54 also deals with victims’ participation in the process. The ideas put forward are taking us in the right direction. In the NDP, we wanted to know, before anything else, how we could assist victims in this process. One thing the bill provides is for victims to be informed when an accused is released and for the accused to be prohibited from communicating with their victim, and for the safety of victims to be considered when decisions are made about an accused person.
I have no problem with these proposals. However, I have to say that more will need to be done to assist victims. The Conservatives have often applied the same formulas in the past. They complicate the judicial system, but they do not offer assistance for victims.
This bill, at least, is a first step in the right direction.
What else can we do? Catherine Latimer, of the John Howard Society of Canada, asks that more programs and services be offered to the victims of sexual abuse. In her view, the government should invest more in crime prevention. Prevention is something that is often lacking in the Conservative ideology. I totally agree with her.
Every year in Canada, the total cost of crime is at or near $100 billion. This is a huge bill for our society. With regard to individuals declared not criminally responsible on account of mental disorders, it is important to work with key players, such as the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, in order to prevent crimes.
There are costs associated with any amendment. Once again, it is the provinces that will have to pay the bill. It must be said that under the Conservatives we have grown accustomed to seeing the bill passed on to other levels. They really like to pass legislation and then let others pay for it. They also like applying legislation according to their own ideology, without consulting the provinces. I am starting to wonder whether this is not a centralizing government after all. Perhaps the Conservatives are centralizers.
With regard to provincial prisons in Canada, the provincial and territorial governments are already forced to do what they can with the pointless reforms passed by the Conservatives.
I am not saying that any change to the Criminal Code is pointless. It is even necessary to have certain provisions, or at least consider them. In any case, I will be voting in favour of the bill. Nonetheless, certain changes made by the Conservatives have not improved safety in our communities. The only thing they have managed to do is to bog the system down even more.
Can the Conservatives tell us if they now have a financing scheme that will enable the provinces to implement the changes proposed in Bill C-54? I would really like to have an answer to this question.
It is necessary to make sure that the provinces and territories will never again receive a bill that they do not have the resources to pay. The government could thereby learn from its mistakes and at least accompany its reforms with compensation for the provinces. We can all agree that it is very easy to pass legislation when you do not have to pay to implement it. Basically, it is a simple matter of justice.
Over the past few months, the members of the NDP have spoken with experts on mental illness, victims, as well as the provinces to find it out what approach they think would be the best. We did not indulge in political games. We have concentrated on the most important thing, that is, on the study of the merits of this policy, a policy that, we must remember, must come with adequate funding by the federal government.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the fact that public safety must be protected as a priority, with due regard to the rule of law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also essential to consider the needs of the victims. The bill does respond to these concerns.
With regard to the elements that raise concerns and the amendments put forward by the NDP, including clarification of the term “brutal”, amendments that in any case were not accepted by the government, there is at least a guarantee that we will be able to study the bill again in five years’ time, when we will be able to see the benefits and the positive impact of the change.
The NDP is not unwilling to change. We have done our homework, and we have managed to improve the bill. I recognize how much work we put into studying this bill and this is why I will be voting in favour of it.
View Fin Donnelly Profile
View Fin Donnelly Profile
2013-06-17 13:44 [p.18416]
Mr. Speaker, the member referred to Darcie Clarke who lives in my riding. She was the victim who lost her three children to her husband at the time, Allan Schoenborn. That was a very public case, and I understand this legislation would address some of the problems associated with the Schoenborn case; obviously not all but it would be a move in the right direction.
I know there are certain groups across the country that have expressed their concerns with this legislation. In fact, we had made some suggestions at the committee, but overall Bill C-54 would improve the circumstances for victims.
Once the “high risk” designation is assessed, I understand the judge has discretion for providing a term of up to three years before the review is deemed necessary. Could the member comment on that time frame, how that works and where it could be one year, which is what I understand it is now, and where three years may be appropriate?
View Hoang Mai Profile
View Hoang Mai Profile
2013-06-17 13:49 [p.18417]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his speech.
He talked about clause 12, which creates a new category of high-risk accused. This definition refers to offences of a brutal nature. The parliamentary secretary mentioned some victims' cases. When the Minister of Justice and also certain experts were asked about this, they said there was no definition of offence of a brutal nature. We therefore suggested we should rely on what was already in the Criminal Code.
I would like to know whether the parliamentary secretary can define “brutal nature” and tell us why he did not rely on what was already set out in the Criminal Code, as was requested by the Canadian Bar Association, the Barreau du Québec and several experts?
View Hoang Mai Profile
View Hoang Mai Profile
2013-06-17 13:54 [p.18418]
Mr. Speaker, we are debating Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder), at third reading.
The whole issue of mental health and crime is a very emotional subject. We saw this when we were examining it in committee. This subject really moved us.
I would especially like to thank my colleague from Gatineau, our justice critic, for all of her hard work on this bill.
Few of us are extremely familiar with the topic of mental health. We sometimes generalize. People have a certain idea of what this entails. However, we do not know everything we need to know.
One of the problems we noted in committee was the Conservative government's failure to consult with experts in the field with regard to this bill.
One example I have is from our committee on June 5. Chris Summerville, from the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, mentioned that nine associations were not consulted. We are talking about the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention, the National Network for Mental Health, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, and further, 19 members of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, all of which are members and none of which were consulted either.
When I asked why, they did not understand. They are the first ones on the ground. They are the people who actually have the knowledge. It is very unfortunate that the government only decided to consult with them when we were working on and dealing with the bill, and then, when we had amendments, those amendments were not accepted by the government.
This is a very sensitive issue and victims have asked us not to make it a partisan issue. They have asked us not to play politics. Unfortunately, that is what the Conservatives are doing.
Jenni Byrne, the 2011 national campaign manager, sent an email dated May 29 that reads:
You probably remember the story of Vince Li—a man who, five years ago, beheaded and cannibalized a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus. He was found to be not criminally responsible for his actions—and was even granted escorted leave in to the community by the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board. This is an insult to his victim—and this is not what Canadians expect from their justice system.
She then asks for a donation to the Conservative Party.
This is the type of petty politics that we find very disappointing. It is absolutely deplorable to see the government use victims in order to raise money. In addition to what I was saying about the lack of consultation, the fact that the government keeps using cases like this is just as deplorable when it comes to stigmatization. The public does not necessarily understand mental illness. I encourage all Canadians to talk about it. In the House, I have talked about a friend of mine who committed suicide. It is important to talk about it. I think we need to talk about every aspect of mental illness.
Using high-profile cases to raise money is serious. It is not what responsible parliamentarians should do, but it is what the current government is doing. We are asking the Conservatives to show more respect.
Our approach to the bill is simple: this bill is important for victims. As the Conservatives have mentioned, this bill will provide a way to help us inform victims about what is going on with offenders. All the witnesses we heard from agree with this, including the Barreau du Québec, the Canadian Bar Association and mental health associations.
We support this bill and we did even more than that. What is surprising is that the Conservatives accepted one of our amendments to inform victims of the offender's place of residence. Once the offender is released from prison, the victim should be aware of everything that is going on. All of the victims we consulted asked for this. We therefore thank the government for accepting the NDP's amendment to ensure that these victims are better informed.
We are very sensitive to this situation, and we were touched by the victims who came to testify. I want to acknowledge these victims, who showed extraordinary courage. Talking about their problems and their experiences was very difficult for them. As I said, it is very emotional for members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to hear people share their stories, but that is what pushes us to keep going.
One of the problems is the lack of consultation from a legal standpoint. The government proposed changes, but it is reassuring to know that the court will have the last word. That is why we supported some of the amendments proposed by the government. However, we would have appreciated it if the government had considered more of our amendments.
View Mike Sullivan Profile
View Mike Sullivan Profile
2013-06-17 15:28 [p.18438]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak. I have lost count now as to the number of closure motions the government has put forward to limit debate, but it is clear the members opposite have virtually no regard for what parliamentary democracy is all about. We are now rushing through debate and consideration of every bill that comes before the House, yet when it comes to the democratic process itself, the government has failed to provide the bill that it has promised for I do not know how many months on reforming the democratic system to allow Elections Canada to have more oversight over spending and how elections themselves are conducted.
The government is only interested in pursuing its agenda in a rapid-fire way, in a way that undermines the very ability of Parliament to study and debate matters, while at the same time refusing to put forward the changes to the elections process that it has promised over and over again. We are at the point where we honestly do not believe the legislation will ever come forward.
Could the government tell us when the reforms to the elections process will be coming?
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
2013-06-17 15:31 [p.18438]
Mr. Speaker, this is some sort of record, today. How can the government beat its own record? I guess it has until June 21 to break today's record number of time allocation motions.
An hon. member: I think it will be broken today.
Mrs. Sadia Groguhé: Indeed, it might be today.
We feel that this is a major challenge to our democracy. Whether we are here in the House or at committee, when a time allocation motion is moved, it challenges our democracy, which is taking a beating. At least, that is what the official opposition and Canadians think.
We are once again being gagged by a government exerting unacceptable but continual control over us. We, as parliamentarians from the government side or from the official opposition, are here to do our work, to represent Canadians and, above all, to debate the issues that are important to them.
Canadians across the country are not the only ones who feel this way. People around the world are taking note of this. We are really concerned and frustrated that another gag order is being imposed with regard to this bill.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
View Pierre Nantel Profile
2013-06-17 15:37 [p.18439]
Mr. Speaker, once again today, we are being cut off; we are being prevented from speaking on this subject. Even though the Minister of Canadian Heritage felt that this was something simple that everyone would rally around, unfortunately, that is obviously not at all the case. What is shocking today is to see how hard the government members are pushing to pass his bill, his idea. That is the problem: it is his idea. That is where the problem lies.
People have spoken out many times to say how important it is that the bill be supported by everyone. Today, everyone is pleased to see what phase 2 of this museum will be, travelling exhibits and exchanges with other museums in Canada. However, it is quite cunning on his part to have included that aspect in the bill, an aspect that was already part of the existing museum's mandate. We are focusing a lot on that, but less on the fact that we could very easily have improved the existing museum rather than demolishing it in order to build another one. That is what is happening.
In conclusion, I would like to ask a question. The minister says that he consulted everyone and that everyone is happy. What then does he think about the comment made by Mr. MacDonald, a director whom I am sure he knows very well? Mr. MacDonald said that he was outraged to hear the minister claim that aboriginal peoples were excluded from the exhibits in the Canada Hall. He added that it was clear that the minister had not understood the mutual obligations nor the meaning of this exhibit to aboriginal communities on the west coast that make a living from fishing. We are talking here about the famous Nishga Girl. Again according to Mr. MacDonald, the pressure that the minister is exercising to have that exhibit removed contradicts what he claims are the very objectives of his bill.
What does the minister have to say on the matter?
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
2013-06-17 15:42 [p.18440]
Mr. Speaker, are we not debating the time allocation motion rather than the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher's remarks on Bill C-49?
View Robert Aubin Profile
View Robert Aubin Profile
2013-06-17 15:46 [p.18441]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote Joe Dassin, who stated that, “life is but one day after another, and every day is the same”. This is the 47th time allocation motion. If members were looking for a sign—as if one were needed—that the government is tired and no longer knows what to do, they would be hard pressed to find a better example.
I would remind members that time allocation motions are usually for a specific purpose, and denote some urgent need to act. However, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages certainly knows how to play up the benefits of his bill, and has been doing so for some time. Despite cutting short debate—which he has done 46 times—his colleagues and he claim that they do occasionally have ideas, but that they are not overly interested in debating them. They also claim that they want to be more efficient and insinuate that the parliamentary system is a hindrance to Conservative governance. Basically, the Conservatives wonder whether they might not simply do away with the parliamentary system altogether.
In my opinion, when the House reconvenes in September, an omnibus bill will be introduced that clumps together all the legislation that has been discussed over the course of the year. That will mean voting once, and only once.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Robert Aubin: I can already hear the applause, which is proof that this is, indeed, the approach the Conservatives intend to take.
For once, in a debate on time allocation, might we not debate the urgency of completely disregarding any and all procedure in order to ram through bills that members would still like to debate? I would like to have time to make my rebuttal concerning the bill itself, and I hope that I will have a few minutes remaining to do so. I will not do so during this debate because it deals with time allocation.
View Andrew Cash Profile
View Andrew Cash Profile
2013-06-17 15:50 [p.18442]
Mr. Speaker, having watched and participated in the debate over these many months, I know how much this means to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. In fact, it means so much to him that he mistakes approaching members from our caucus in back hallways for consultation with Canadians.
He wants it so badly that he gets the process of consultation backwards. He had the plan. He announced the plan. He announced how much money he would spend, and then he embarked on a bogus consultation with Canadians. He has already made the decision. Now he is asking Canadians to give him some cover on that decision.
He has spent an extra $1 million on the consultation on the name change. Only the Conservatives would call this an inconsequential, non-controversial move. Only the Conservatives would call $26 million they plucked out of thin air a non-controversial move, because of course, this is the government that has lost $3.1 billion and cannot seem to find it. This is a minister who hired a staffer who is now under a cloud of indictment in Montreal. We do not need a lecture on leadership from this minister on this file or on any others, for that matter.
I would ask the minister how he got the process so wrong. Why was he so blinded by his own ambition on this?
View Hoang Mai Profile
View Hoang Mai Profile
2013-06-17 22:09 [p.18488]
Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me more time to speak to Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act .
This bill talks about mental disorders. As I was saying earlier, this is a very emotional topic. We are talking about both crime and mental illness.
In committee, when we were studying the bill, we heard testimony from a number of victims who came to talk about their situations. I think I can say on behalf of all members here, from the NDP and the other parties, that we were deeply moved by the experiences people shared with us. We also acknowledged the courage of the victims who came to talk about their experiences and educate us a bit by giving us more information on what happens when victims have to live with the consequences and the results of the justice system.
These people have often said that there are problems in terms of information. In one case, the victim told us that family members were quite surprised to run into the accused after he was released. Imagine their shock.
As I was saying earlier, whether we were talking to experts, the Canadian Bar Association, the Barreau du Québec, or mental illness experts, every witness agreed that the victims need to be informed. That is why we are supporting this bill.
As I said, we went even further. We proposed an amendment. To our pleasant and great surprise, the government accepted the amendment. This amendment would specifically ensure that the accused person's intended place of residence, his residence once he is released, is given to the victim at the victim's request. Almost every victim we asked questions to requested this. Even those we did not ask questions to shared this concern with us.
We are acknowledging that, for once, the government accepted an opposition amendment, one from the NDP in particular. We appreciate it and we believe that this advances the bill and makes it better.
However, the NDP and the other opposition parties proposed many amendments with regard to the language created in this bill.
There are two elements, as I mentioned earlier: the bill creates a high-risk designation; it also refers to brutal nature. We have been attempting to define the brutal nature of the high-risk accused. One of the many problems identified was indeed the definition of brutal nature.
Contrary to what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice said, the Supreme Court has not really defined this concept. There is no definition in the Criminal Code that applies in particular to this case.
When I asked the Minister of Justice that question, he was unable to provide a specific answer about the definition.
Some legal issues were raised by the experts. There were concerns about the lack of a definition. When a new concept is created, we do not really know how it will be used.
Unfortunately, as I explained earlier, experts were not consulted. There was no consultation of medical associations, mental health professionals, psychiatrists or psychologists. New terms were created without conducting a thorough analysis of what the impact would be. That is one of the problems we pointed out.
We asked that more well-known terms, such as those in the Criminal Code, be used.
Unfortunately, once again, the Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights rejected the proposed amendments. That is a problem.
Initially, we asked that the criterion of the brutal nature of the act committed be removed. One of the problems with the use of the term brutal nature is that a person will be judged based on the act committed rather than on what the accused could do in the future. The act will be judged, but the Conservatives are forgetting that this act was committed by a person with a mental illness, given that we are talking about cases where the accused are not criminally responsible. An act was committed and its brutal nature may not necessarily indicate what will happen in the future. In that respect, I believe that the government has gone in the wrong direction.
We would have liked the Conservatives to accept our amendment, which in fact made it more understandable. We would have liked them to give more thought to what the Supreme Court has said. We would have liked them to give more thought to the judgments that have been handed down. Unfortunately, all of that was rejected. One of the things that will have to be considered was in fact raised by the Canadian Bar Association, among others. There would certainly be constitutional challenges. Nobody has specifically said that it is contrary to the charter, but we need to ask ourselves some questions.
We can also question the removal of the requirement that the decision be the least onerous and least restrictive to the individual. We asked that this idea be put back, but the amendment was rejected. That is unfortunate, because what was already in place—the decisions of the Supreme Court and the lower courts—provided us with a better balance. Unfortunately, it was rejected, because that is the intention of the government; that is the intent of the bill. In fact, it has been openly criticized by legal experts. Unfortunately, that is the bill.
Although I am noting all the concerns about how the government is doing this and about the legal issue, one of the things we can like about the bill is the fact that it will ultimately be a judge who will be able to make a decision. The judge will have the decision-making power.
In this case, the government has left the judge a degree of latitude. We agree with that view, because it refers to possible reviews of the assessments of the individuals themselves by experts in the field, and when it comes to finding an individual to be high-risk or a high-risk accused, that decision is to be made by the court. It is therefore up to the court to decide whether the individual falls into that group. If so, the accused can be removed from that category, that label can be removed, at a later date.
We would have liked the government to allow the decision-making power for reviews to be transferred, but once again, unfortunately, the government rejected one of our proposed amendments.
A lot of questions arise in relation to the way the courts are going to be interpreted. Are they going to use this new category of high-risk individuals?
I asked the Minister of Justice a question to find out whether this category would apply in the Guy Turcotte case, a case we have heard about everywhere in Canada and Quebec.
The question that I asked the minister was relatively clear. It dealt with the fact that the Conservatives have politicized this issue. They have made it a reason for funding, saying that this would resolve many problems.
In the case of Guy Turcotte, the question was posed, not only to the minister, but also to the Justice Department experts who were present. We were told that Bill C-54 would certainly not apply in the case of Guy Turcotte, because he would not necessarily be considered a high-risk accused.
When the victim, Ms. Gaston, came to give evidence, I asked her the question, too, and she was aware of the problem. Despite the promises by the Conservative government, she knew that it was very likely the bill would not apply in her case. There would certainly be a problem there.
As I said earlier, we deplore the fact that the Conservatives have politicized the issue. They have even helped stigmatize people with mental illness by using certain terms. The Minister of Justice had in hand certain figures on rates of recidivism among people found not criminally responsible and he overstated those statistics.
Figures already existed. Certain cases were discussed. Of course, the witnesses confirmed that people found not criminally responsible had a much lower rate of recidivism than criminals, in the case of serious crimes. The language used, not only by the Conservatives, but also by the minister, gave us the impression that it was a more serious problem. Once again I deplore the fact that the Conservative government has politicized this issue so much that it has alienated, swept aside and stigmatized people suffering from a mental illness. The government’s attitude toward this issue is really appalling.
Nonetheless, we managed to do one thing: adopt an amendment that we thought was really important. The opposition can be really proud of this. This amendment, when the bill becomes law, will require the government to review the act after five years.
According to the government and the experts who came to testify, experts, specifically mental health experts, were not consulted. Legal experts were not consulted either. We managed to get an amendment passed that forces the government to review the act and its effects in five years.
For example, will this go to court because some provisions violate the charter and are therefore unconstitutional? We will also have to see whether the bill has had the desired effects on public safety. We cannot forget that this is of utmost importance to us.
Some witnesses, including victims, told us that this was not in the best interests of public safety. This raised some questions. We would have liked to see the government consult people before, but we were happy that it finally agreed to our amendment to have the bill reviewed in five years. One thing is for sure: when we are in power, in five years, we will be able to review this bill and ensure that it is appropriate.
View Hoang Mai Profile
View Hoang Mai Profile
2013-06-17 22:25 [p.18490]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his work on the justice committee. As Chair, I can say that so far he has been very fair.
With respect to his question, I would like to read a letter from the Conservative Party to members. I will read it French. It states:
You probably remember the story of Vince Li--a man who, five years ago, beheaded and cannibalized a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus.
He was found to be not criminally responsible for his actions--and was even granted escorted leave...
This is an insult to his victim--and this is not what Canadians expect from their justice system.
I was saying that this was used as a fundraiser and the letter goes on to ask for donations. The victims were used as a means to raise funds. My issue was with the fact that we were raising the partisan issue.
In terms of defending victims, New Democrats agree and that is why our amendment goes further than what the bill was suggesting. I agree that victims need to be informed and that is why we supported that part of the bill. That is also why we put forward an amendment, so victims would know where the residences of accused persons were, and the Conservatives have agreed with our position.
View Claude Gravelle Profile
View Claude Gravelle Profile
2013-06-17 22:27 [p.18490]
First, Mr. Speaker, I am not surprised that the Conservative Party would stoop that low and use that as a fundraiser. That should not surprise anybody.
First, it is the victims that we want to protect. I will read a few lines and I would like my colleague to say a few words about this.
We must make public safety our top priority, while respecting the rule of law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We support the changes, but it is critically important that we make sure that the cases of defendants with mental disorders are managed effectively and that their mental disorders are treated. For that, we must ensure that the provinces have enough money because they are the ones who manage the situation at the end of the day.
We are used to hearing and seeing the Conservatives pass legislation that the provinces are forced to deal with. It does not cost the Conservatives anything.
I would like my colleague to talk about what happens in the provincial prisons to convicted offenders who are battling mental illness.
View Hoang Mai Profile
View Hoang Mai Profile
2013-06-17 22:28 [p.18490]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nickel Belt for his question. He just raised a point that I unfortunately did not have time to cover in my speech.
With Bill C-10 we saw the Conservative government's tendency to introduce bills without consulting the provinces or considering whether they agreed or not. Bill C-10 has a direct impact on the provinces' administrative costs.
Unfortunately, in this bill, there is no mention of how the government is going to help the provinces. There is no mention of any funding that might be allocated. We are pretty sure there will be none. When we looked at the budget, there was no increase in funding to help the provinces deal with this problem.
Again, we are operating in a vacuum. The government is introducing bills without consulting the provinces or experts. What is more, the government is not allocating any resources for the provinces to cope with these problems.
I thank my colleague for the question because it allowed me to address a point that I did not have time to raise in my speech.
View Hoang Mai Profile
View Hoang Mai Profile
2013-06-17 22:31 [p.18491]
Mr. Speaker, as the member mentioned, we tried to bring forward amendments with respect to victims giving more information. One of the problems we had was that the Conservatives said that amendments were needed before we actually heard some of the witnesses. Those were the deadlines and procedures.
With respect to her question about why the government was still using the wrong numbers, I raised the fact that the Conservatives were using this as a partisan issue and making it worse than it was. It came to me that they were stigmatizing people with mental illness, and we heard this from witnesses. The Conservatives came out with numbers. They were talking 38%, 39% with the real numbers being 7% or 9%.
The worse thing is that this came from the Minister of Justice. He knew with the reports that those numbers were the wrong numbers. We are talking about people who are non-NCR. A minister should know all the facts. A minister should not use numbers to make it sound worse and do a bit of fundraising. That is not how we should work in Parliament.
View Hoang Mai Profile
View Hoang Mai Profile
2013-06-17 22:34 [p.18491]
Mr. Speaker, it is not a question of not helping victims. The reason we put forward amendments was to help victims and the reason we supported that part of the bill was because we wanted to support victims.
Expert witnesses told us that the government did not have evidence-based numbers. The chair of the committee is saying that numbers do not matter, that there is no difference between 9% and 39%. We have to come up with facts. We have to make laws that are based on facts. Victims are important, so that is why we support it.
We went to committee with even better amendments to better protect victims and the government accepted them. What we are saying is when we make decisions and when we go out in public, we need to be truthful and we need to talk about facts, not just make up numbers as the Conservatives are doing.
View Philip Toone Profile
Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague's very pertinent speech.
She raised some points that deserve further attention. The bill clearly has flaws, and it can be improved.
She mentioned a number of times that the existing resources for victims are insufficient. In its day, the Liberal government made massive cuts to social services.
Does she feel that there is a lot of catching up to do because of those Liberal Party cuts to social services? It is quite obvious that the Conservative government bought into the Liberal Party's ideas and has simply cut, cut, cut. Now we are left with good intentions but very few resources to implement them.
Does she feel that the Liberal Party made a serious mistake in the 1990s by cutting as much as it did?
View Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his speech.
I agree with many of the things he has said tonight, but I would like to ask him a question about costs.
How much does he think this bill will cost, more or less? I am talking about costs that will be passed on to the provinces, for example.
If he thinks there will be some cost to this, how high will it be, approximately? What resources does he intend to make available to those who will be paying for it?
View Guy Caron Profile
Mr. Speaker, I rise before the House for the second time this evening, this time, to speak to Bill C-54.
Bill C-54 is important. It is the latest bill on the Conservative government's crime agenda. Based on the controversial example of Dr. Guy Turcotte in Quebec, the government thinks it is better to impose its ideological measures.
The profound, collective feeling of injustice triggered by the murder of his two children was a completely normal, healthy reaction. Indeed, he made us question the essence of justice and the future of our society and prompted us to ask other important questions of that sort. As parliamentarians, it is our duty to ask whether such a case, which fortunately, is very unusual, requires us to question where the justice system is going.
I would like to quote a senator who was talking about one of her bills dealing with this issue. I think this quotation is quite relevant:
Even though there may be the odd case that concerns us all, Canada has recognized mental health experts and a proven judicial system. Anger and pain should not dictate our courts. Nor should they dictate our laws. It is a mistake to go down this path because instead of building a peaceful society we would create an unstable, harder, less tolerant one. We would fall into a vicious cycle of repression and violence, precisely into which the [Prime Minister's] Conservatives—and Senator Boisvenu—seek to lead us....We are talking about sick people. Punishment will not cure them. Prison does not cure.
That was Senator Hervieux-Payette, and those were her words regarding her own Bill S-214. I am quite certain that she will not mind if I draw a parallel with the current situation.
Is the government outraged that I would dare claim that it is playing politics at the expense of victims? The government is constantly accusing the opposition of siding with pedophiles, murderers and other criminals of that ilk, so I would simply like to try a little experiment.
The government has made several public statements on this bill, as did Senator Boisvenu and the mother of the two murdered children, Isabelle Gaston, whose state of mind I cannot even begin to imagine. The following is an excerpt of the statements of Senator Boisvenu and the Minister of Canadian Heritage at the announcement of Guy Turcotte's release on parole:
We believe that Isabelle Gaston doesn't deserve to live in fear of her children's killer, and neither do other victims...
Such decision is clearly undermining Canadians’ confidence in our justice system.
That's why our Government will shortly introduce legislation to address Canadians’ concerns about high-risk accused persons found Not Criminally Responsible on account of mental disorder who may pose a threat to public safety if released.
Well, if the government is not engaging in petty politics, and if the bill does not apply in any way to Dr. Turcotte's case, why are the Conservatives promoting the bill by using an emotionally charged and high-profile case involving children?
It smacks of demagogy and is very dangerous when the government plays with Canadians’ feelings and keeps them in the dark. The Conservatives know full well that this legislation will give the government an opportunity to capitalize on Canadians’ empathy for Ms. Gaston, while at the same time never clearly pubically admitting that the legislation cannot, and will never, apply to Ms. Gaston even if Mr. Turcotte were to face a second trial. Moreover, when Ms. Gaston was questioned on a Quebec public affairs television program, she admitted to being unaware whether the legislation would even apply in her situation. To quote Ms. Gaston “As far as I am concerned, I do not know, it is perhaps too early to get a sense of whether it will have an impact on my situation—the process is ongoing.”
This proves that all Ms. Gaston really wants is for things to change, and for her children not to have died in vain, which is entirely admirable. However, I seriously doubt that a more rigid position and the criminalization of mental illness will resolve the problem.
I use the word criminalization because, in truth, government members do not really believe in rehabilitation—we realized this when Bill C-10 was adopted. After listening to Senator Boisvenu, the jury is out as to whether he even believes that people genuinely suffer from psychological distress or severe mental illness.
In fact, the senator even wants the government to review the definitions of a number of mental illnesses whereby individuals may be found not criminally responsible.
Why? Simply because Mr. Boisvenu does not think that the incidence of mental illness could have increased so significantly over the past 10 or 15 years.
Why did the number of people found not criminally responsible increase twenty times? I do not think that the incidence of mental illness has increased at such a rate over the past 10 or 15 years. We must find out why there has been such a drastic increase in the number of these cases.
My colleague, the member for Gatineau, our justice critic, explained this during her opening speech. She said:
It is true that the percentage has risen over the years. However, and this is what it does not say, before 1991, if I recall correctly, when the amendment was made to the Criminal Code, the term was changed from “not guilty by reason of insanity” to “not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder”. At that point, summary conviction offences were also added, and this resulted in a lot of cases that had not been covered previously. Obviously that had an impact on the statistics. According to the government's responses, we are talking about a tiny percentage of cases where the individuals were found to be not criminally responsible.
To what point are mentally ill offenders dangerous?
This question was at the heart of an extensive study the Canadian government's Department of Public Safety conducted at the end of the 1990s. It recorded and analyzed more than 60 studies on this subject to properly identify the problems.
These studies looked at more than 15,000 offenders who had been released from prison or specialized hospitals and who were followed in their communities for a period of four to five-and-a-half years, on average. What were the findings?
When compared to offenders who do not have major psychological or psychiatric disorders, mentally disordered offenders are less likely to recidivate violently.
Second, mentally disordered offenders are not always actively psychotic. They may be in remission or their symptoms are being managed by medication.
The study also evaluated the relative importance of different risk factors. Many mental health professionals place considerable emphasis on “clinical” variables. Examples are length of hospitalization and type of mental disorder (e.g., schizophrenia, manic-depression). The meta-analysis found that these variables demonstrate very weak associations with violent re-offending. Much more potent predictors of violent recidivism are the factors typically found to predict violence among non-disordered offenders. Examples of these risk factors are criminal history, unemployment and family problems.
When the Minister of Justice said in his opening speech on second reading that the objective of the proposed reforms was not to impose criminal penalties on individuals found by a court to be not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, that was only half true, in fact.
In reality, Bill C-54 will divide the clientele into two types of cases: those who meet the criteria in Bill C-54 and those who do not meet those criteria, even though they have all been found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. This means that accused persons whose cases meet the criteria and who are found to be high-risk accused could be held in custody with no possibility of release by the review board as long as the court has not revoked the finding.
Why place people who are not criminally responsible outside the jurisdiction of the review boards that deal with mental disorders, quasi-judicial tribunals that are composed of psychiatrists, not judges? Only a court could find an accused to be “high-risk” and then revoke that finding, at present. Before revoking it, the court would seek the recommendation of the mental disorder review board, but the final decision would no longer be the board’s.
In Quebec, the mental disorder review board makes decisions concerning individuals who have been found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.
As long as the accused is not discharged unconditionally or found fit to stand trial, a review must be held each year. With Bill C-54, that time will be extended to three years, and this could cause a number of problems, according to the experts with the Canadian Forensic Mental Health Network. It would prompt defence counsel to stop pleading not criminally responsible and opt for custodial prison sentences in the traditional prison system. In addition, individuals found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder would not receive proper care, but they would still present a danger when they were released.
The study I referred to earlier also found that the similarities between risk factors for offenders with mental disorders and other offenders suggest that there is a point at which health care services and the criminal justice system could integrate their approaches in order to effectively manage offenders with mental disorders.
There are two specific areas where co-operation between the two systems is possible: risk assessment and rehabilitation of offenders. I am not citing that study to embarrass anyone, but simply to try to make the government members understand the consequences of deinstitutionalization, poverty and the criminalization of mental health problems. Prison does not cure people.
This bill, like so many others, was drafted without much thought to the consequences and without consultation, in order to make the public, and particularly the Conservative base, believe that this government is tough on crime. In reality, this bill would probably not apply to the case of Guy Turcotte.
Clause 12 of Bill C-54 adds a new section to the Criminal Code, section 672.64, which lists the conditions that must be met in order for a person to be considered high-risk:
672.64 (1) On application made by the prosecutor before any disposition to discharge an accused absolutely, the court may, at the conclusion of a hearing, find the accused to be a high-risk accused if the accused has been found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder for a serious personal injury offence, as defined in subsection 672.81(1.3), the accused was 18 years of age or more at the time of the commission of the offence and
(a) the court is satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will use violence that could endanger the life or safety of another person; or
(b) the court is of the opinion that the acts that constitute the offence were of such a brutal nature as to indicate a risk of grave physical or psychological harm to another person.
For Guy Turcotte to be declared an assumed high-risk accused, the judge has to be convinced, beyond a doubt, that he would likely seriously harm another person or could endanger the life of another person. Everyone agrees that the murders were both brutal and grotesque. I, too, have children. However, that is not what justice must decide. Rather, it should focus on whether or not there is a chance the accused will reoffend.
Given the decision made, the experts were obviously able to convince the judge that this was not the case. I am going to outline the five criteria that the judge must take into consideration—and he must take all of them into consideration—when determining whether the individual is a high-risk accused.
He must consider the nature and circumstances of the offence, any pattern of repetitive behaviour of which the offence forms a part, the accused’s current mental condition, the past and expected course of the accused’s treatment, including the accused’s willingness to follow treatment, and the opinions of experts who have examined the accused. If one must take into consideration all these criteria, the Turcotte case does not at all fit, given the experts' opinions, his mental condition and the treatments and therapies that he is following.
The nature of the offence is the only criterion that might lead a judge to consider him dangerous. However, given his mental condition at the time, and based on what the judge took into consideration, the risk of reoffending is very low. According to the Conservatives' bill, Guy Turcotte would not be a high-risk accused.
The one thing I agree on is that victims should be at the centre of the process. The problem is that the bill says very little on this aspect.
In closing, I want to reiterate that the government must realize the importance of providing real support to victims of crime, including by following up on more than one recommendation of the report by the ombudsman for victims of crime. It must also understand the whole psychosocial structure surrounding prevention, the study of risk factors, research, health care and rehabilitation.
It is difficult because each case is unique, but experts have tools to try to have everyone make progress. Some are probably beyond redemption, but just like with the concept of high-risk accused or mental disorder, it is certainly not up to politicians, or even the legal profession to establish the foundations. It is up to psychiatrists and doctors.
While referring to the former cardiologist's case, the Minister of Canadian Heritage said that such decision obviously undermines Canadians' confidence in our justice system. However, the minister was not able to say how this desire to put victims at the centre of the process would translate into concrete measures.
That is another contradiction in the Conservatives' logic, and it is the reason why we presented a number of amendments in committee. In fact, one of those amendments was accepted, and it is one of the few that the Conservative government has accepted in any committee.
The amendment would inform victims, at their request, of the address of a person already found to be not criminally responsible for a crime so that the victim can avoid the area for his or her own well-being. It is one of the examples that showed that we do care about the victims. We want to improve this bill so that it reflects this concern.
One of the reasons why we will be supporting this bill is that we were able to have the Conservatives accept a second amendment that would require the government—no matter which party is in power in five years, that is in 2018—to have a committee study and re-examine the situation.
There are still many concerns about this bill, and I have pointed out a few of them. I think it is worthwhile examining them. There are other concerns that I did not have the time to address in my speech. They were brought up by experts, or in committee, and had to do with the possibility that this bill may be unconstitutional.
The validity of such measures is obviously based on the victims' rights, but also the rights of those deemed to be not criminally responsible for the acts committed. These laws must also be protected. In that sense, a contradiction could easily lead to interpretation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The committee was informed of concerns by the media. That is why, five years after the bill becomes law, such a study would be pertinent.
In my speech, I made sure that I talked about the danger of politicizing cases like the Guy Turcotte case. I am certain that other members could cite similar cases that have occurred in their riding or region. These cases are very delicate and they affect us.
I already mentioned that I have children. Anyone who has young children will be emotional about a situation like that. It is the reason why such a delicate and sensitive situation must be handled by parliamentarians in the same manner, that is in a delicate and sensitive manner. These types of cases must not be used to promote a political agenda.
The reference made by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Senator Boisvenu to what I just mentioned was the second speech made on the same bill. It was announced twice. The government must be very careful, because this kind of issue is very volatile. Again, the politicization of these cases has muddied the waters for the collective debate we should be holding on this issue. This makes it much more difficult to find our way.
In the future, for law and order bills on crime, I would like the government to be much more sensitive to the reactions it causes and the way they interfere with the debate when similar bills are introduced.
On this side of the House, we showed we were willing to work with the government. We will do so by voting for this bill, among other things. In addition, we demonstrated our co-operation by proposing and expediting the passage of Bill C-2, which allows for the group prosecution of biker gangs.
We will continue to work on this issue, but we need the government's co-operation in order to have a healthy and useful debate for Canadians.
View Guy Caron Profile
Mr. Speaker, I do not know if it is a question of interpretation, but that is not exactly what I said.
Everyone needs to be able to understand their role. Psychiatrists or doctors who specialize in the underlying issues need to be involved in the process. Judges and lawyers who understand the legal issues must also be involved.
It is not a question of excluding anyone. I think that each person needs to understand their role, and the legislation needs to provide a framework for each person's role so that those roles complement one another.
View Claude Gravelle Profile
View Claude Gravelle Profile
2013-06-17 23:55 [p.18502]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his speech, and I would like to assure the constituents in the riding of Rimouski that they are being well served by their MP here in the House.
The member has often mentioned the case of Guy Turcotte. I would like to quote his ex-wife, Isabelle Gaston, and then I would like to hear the member's comments:
Even if I devote my time to changing the justice system, if ministers, deputy ministers, the Barreau and the Collège des médecins do not change their ways, then injustices like this one will continue.
Can the member comment on that?
View Guy Caron Profile
Mr. Speaker, indeed, that statement came from someone who suffered a terrible tragedy.
Quite frankly, it is very difficult for me to imagine what she went through, even though I have two young children. I think she is right in the sense that victims of a crime like this one feel extremely disadvantaged and helpless when the offence is committed by someone who is found not criminally responsible. They feel as though the justice system has let them down.
That is why it is never a bad idea to examine these elements of the justice system. In this case, Bill C-54 deals with the issue of individuals found not criminally responsible. If victims feel as though the system ignored their needs and their situation, we need to be able to comfort those victims through possible changes to the system, but again, from a perspective that does not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, for instance, or use the issue for political gain.
These debates are extremely important and very sensitive, and this matter must be dealt with accordingly.
View Guy Caron Profile
Mr. Speaker, ideally, I would agree with the member for Durham. However, I am not convinced that the bill addresses the issue specifically.
I believe that we can see how the bill will be implemented and how the changes will benefit the victims and families of victims of criminal acts committed by someone deemed to be not criminally responsible.
That is the reason why I am pleased that there will be a review after the bill has been adopted, hence after the legislation goes into effect. We will be able to study how the lives of victims and the people affected by the crime have been enhanced. We shall see whether or not that is the case. I hope so. If not, the review will allow us to revisit the law.
Ms. Gaston's testimony was very emotional. I do not believe that she lacks empathy, quite the opposite. Her circumstances are extremely difficult and she sees how her own experience can help improve the judicial system, not just for herself, but also for other people who are experiencing the same thing.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2013-06-14 13:30 [p.18391]
Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying that I am very pleased to be able to speak to this bill. I will explain why in my speech. I also want to thank the hon. member for Red Deer for introducing this bill. I worked with him on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, and I know that he is a hard-working member of Parliament. I am very pleased to support his bill.
A very serious incident prompted this bill. The incident received a lot of media coverage and, obviously, led to legislative action. There could also be other situations in which incidents like this could occur. Sometimes, we do not hear about them, and that is why I want to support this bill.
In the end, this bill will improve an aspect of the Criminal Code. Under this bill, personating a peace officer or public officer for the purpose of facilitating another offence will be considered an aggravating circumstance.
The crime committed in the incident in Red Deer was sexual assault. The offender personated a police officer, which created circumstances that facilitated his crime.
I am very happy to support the bill introduced by my colleague from Red Deer because this could happen to anyone and we are hearing about it more and more.
I participated in two seniors' forums in Chambly. These forums are usually held every year in September and bring together various regional organizations to talk about issues that affect seniors. Many of the organizations talk about seniors' safety. Every year, hard-working and highly respected members of our local police force come and talk to us about how seniors are vulnerable to certain things, sometimes even to their own families.
As an MP and as a young person, a son and grandson, being aware of these issues enables me to understand all of the things that can happen.
The police officer talked about personation of public officers. This is getting to be a big problem because seniors are getting more and more calls from people pretending to be police officers. These people are asking for information and all kinds of things so they can commit fraud, theft and anything else they think they can get away with.
This is getting more dangerous in a day and age when information is more freely available than ever before. We are happy that information is so readily available, but we also have to be more careful and vigilant.
We are very happy to be updating the Criminal Code to deter criminals from engaging in personation. At least now, when a person—a senior, as in my example—answers the phone or physically sees someone pretending to be a police officer or a public officer, that person will know whether that is the case or not.
I would like to step back for a moment because this is an interesting topic. Yesterday, during debate on a time allocation motion, the Minister of Justice talked about how the NDP does not support victims or bills aimed at punishing criminals and protecting victims. This bill is a perfect example of how untrue that is. I will explain why.
I think we can say that we are very pleased that there is no minimum sentence set out in this bill. To date, the NDP has, as a matter of principle, opposed bills that propose minimum sentences because that is a drastic way of meting out justice. It shows a lack of respect for the justice system, as well as for the judges and the discretion to which they are entitled and should apply. We are very pleased that there is no minimum sentence proposed in this bill. We understand that we are talking about aggravating circumstances that facilitate the crime committed, in this case, personation.
Before speaking to this bill, I took the opportunity to look at the work done in committee by all its members, who agreed to this bill without amendment. The process was very quick.
However, in addition to the fact that the process was quick, it also went well. Witnesses were heard, and there were some good discussions. I even read testimony from the member for Red Deer, who seemed very pleased with how the process played out.
I want to use this bill as a positive example. Despite the rhetoric that comes from both sides of the House, I have hope that we can agree on issues such as victim protection, even though we may not always agree on the approach and the changes to be made to the law.
At the end of the day, despite disagreements between parliamentarians, we share the same objectives. Sometimes, the only difference is in how we achieve those objectives. In my opinion, this bill is a very good example that proves that we have Canadians' interests at heart. This time, we could agree, although that may not always be the case. This bill really is a positive example.
I would like to take this opportunity to ask the members and the government to look at what has been done. We need to realize that it is possible to work together in order to advance an agenda that will strengthen the justice system and advocate for victims. This is very doable. That is not often the case with this government's agenda and its tendency to ram legislation down our throats without considering other opinions or other ways of achieving the same objective. It is very important to have the same objective. I cannot stress that enough.
Coming back to the issue of personation, that is something that really scares me and that is hard to understand. It is important to build a relationship of trust with peace officers and public officials, who have very clear objectives and must deal with people on issues that are sometimes very sensitive. Needless to say, for peace officers, these are very sensitive issues indeed, since their safety is at risk any time they are called to intervene.
However, officials also have to deal with sensitive issues. They sometimes deal with financial matters, very personal issues or immigration cases. It is very worrisome that someone would claim to represent any of these authorities. If I put myself in the shoes of the young victim from Red Deer, I can understand how difficult it must be for her, her family and her friends. Furthermore, people who heard about this case now find it more difficult to trust police officers even though they work hard to protect people.
Trust is essential. In my opinion, no matter their political allegiance, parliamentarians have the responsibility to take action in order for their constituents to feel protected by these people and to feel comfortable dealing with them.
In light of my experience and what I have heard from the people in my riding of Chambly—Borduas who attended the seniors' forum, I have no qualms about supporting the bill. I would also like to congratulate my colleague from Red Deer.
I will conclude by repeating what I said in my speech. We have a perfect opportunity to show that all members of the House support victims, even though we may have differences of opinion about how to protect them. The bill can set an example by showing that we can agree from time to time. We must never forget this when debating very sensitive and important issues.
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-11 10:27 [p.18057]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member a question about her speech.
This is the fourth version of this bill. Were first nations involved so that their needs were made known, their concerns were heard and those needs and concerns were incorporated into this bill?
Can the Conservative member explain how this bill fulfills the needs that were expressed during meaningful consultations with first nations?
View Dany Morin Profile
View Dany Morin Profile
2013-06-11 10:33 [p.18058]
Mr. Speaker, Bill S-2 puts the onus on couples to resolve disputes in court, yet it does not improve access to provincial courts. In addition, it is difficult for the bill to be enforced, in a practical sense, in many first nations communities. It is unrealistic.
Instead of presenting first nations with a bill that is ineffective, will the Conservatives commit to supporting the implementation of remedies within first nations communities that would stem from their own legal traditions?
View Peter Julian Profile
View Peter Julian Profile
2013-06-11 10:37 [p.18058]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, who will be taking the second half of the speech on Bill S-2.
I was deeply disturbed last night by the aggressive, attacking tone of the government on the bill. What we heard last night from speakers, and we are hearing a bit of that today, are very aggressive attacks from the government.
I certainly understand that the government feels it is in a weak position. The Conservatives brought forward Bill S-2 for consultation. They actually tried yesterday to say that they consulted with groups like the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada. They talked about the consultation process as something meaningful. None of them, not a single Conservative member of Parliament who spoke on this issue last night, and we have not heard any this morning, acknowledged that those organizations opposed the bill. In the consultation process that supposedly took place, the government was met with opposition from aboriginal women's groups from across the country.
There is something profoundly disturbing about government members who would stand in the House and say that they have done some kind of consultation when the organizations that they consulted with have said that the bill would not get the job done and, in many respects, the bill would actually be harmful.
The aggressive tone of government members has done nothing to allay the many concerns that we are hearing from first nations, aboriginal women's groups and aboriginal groups across the country. The reality is, the aggressive tone belies what the government's agenda has been when it comes to first nations. We have seen it cut back on funding for the aboriginal police forces that should be ensuring that women are protected on reserve across the country. It slashed and closed the First Nations Statistical Institute that gave us important information about what was happening right across the country. It closed down the National Centre for First Nations Governance.
The Conservative government has a lamentably poor record when it comes to adequately funding of first nations organizations. It is making first nations and aboriginal peoples in Canada pay the price of the Conservative agenda of bestowing billions of dollars on its pet projects, whether it is the F-35 or many others that we have spoken of over the last few days. It is aboriginal Canadians who are paying the price for the government's mean-spirited attitude toward first nations across the country and indeed toward all Canadians.
The government stands in the House and says it has slashed funding and would not provide any funding for Bill S-2, yet any aboriginal women's organizations that raise concerns, any opposition members of Parliament who raise concerns, are treated with an aggressive and attacking tone. We simply beg to disagree. This is a fundamentally wrong approach.
There is a duty to consult by the government and it did not consult in any meaningful way. Aboriginal organizations across the country are opposing Bill S-2.
Aboriginal organizations and aboriginal women's organizations are on one side saying the bill should be opposed. The government says it knows better, it will try to ram it through with closure and takes a very aggressive attacking tone with anyone who raises any of the very valid concerns that aboriginal organizations, aboriginal women's organizations and first nations have raised across the country.
The question then is, who has credibility? It is worth reading into the record what the Conservative government's record is. It has closed a wide variety of first nations organizations doing important work. It actually shut down the statistical institute that allowed all Canadians to understand the current situation of first nations. After seven years in power, here are the results: a quarter of first nations' children live in poverty. That is double the national average.
Suicide rates among first nations youth are five to seven times higher than rates among young non-aboriginal Canadians. Life expectancy of first nations citizens is five to seven years shorter than that of non-aboriginal Canadians. Infant mortality rates are 1.5 times higher among first nations. Tuberculosis rates among first nations citizens living on reserve are 31 times the national average.
A first nations youth is more likely to end up in jail than to graduate from high school. First nations children, on average, receive 22% less funding for child welfare services than other Canadian children. There are almost 600 unresolved cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
The Conservative government's record is appalling. It has not taken action on any of these issues. Last year, we saw our former leader, the member for Hull—Aylmer, go with the member for Timmins—James Bay to Attawapiskat, where they saw appalling housing conditions.
In the same way that the government is attacking members of the opposition, it told aboriginal women's groups and aboriginal groups in first nations across the country on Bill S-2 that if they dared to disagree, it would attack them. It would insult them and degrade them. In the same way that the government did that, we can remember the attacks on Attawapiskat. The attacks were on the first nations there, which were simply looking to ensure a better future for their children.
The Conservative government's attitude is that anyone standing in the way of its agenda is somebody to be attacked, insulted and degraded. The first nations of this country deserve much better than a government that will insult and deride them when they disagree fundamentally on a bill's direction.
The government introduced the bill, first in the Senate and then here in the House. The government introduced the bill and it has not got it right. The government cannot stand and say that it has done the consultation when the groups that it consulted with oppose the bill. There is an illogical disconnect between government members standing up and saying they have done the consultation and not mentioning that the groups they consulted with oppose the bill. It simply does not make any logical sense.
What it does, of course, is lessen the integrity of the individuals from the government side who are standing up and making these comments. Maybe they do not know. Maybe they are reading prepared talking points from the Prime Minister's Office, so maybe they really do not know that the organizations that they are trumpeting about having consulted with are opposing the legislation. I do not know.
On this side of the House, when we carefully read our comments on any bill that is coming forward, we make sure that we get it right. We make sure that we are making comments that are factually true. However, here we have Conservative members who, perhaps in a mean-spirited way or perhaps unknown to them, are mentioning organizations like the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada and saying that they have consulted with them, when those organizations oppose the bill and disagree with the government, very vehemently in some cases.
Where do we go from here? We have an appalling state of first nations after seven years of a Conservative government. We have slashing and cutting of a wide variety of important first nations organizations, including the First Nations Statistical Institute. It did not cost a lot of money, but given the horrendous situations in health and unemployment and the lack of opportunities for children and youth on reserve, one would expect that a government would want to know what was going on. The Conservative government wanted to be blind and wanted to shut off that source of information.
With that approach from the government, we can only say this. Yes, we will continue to stand up and speak against this bill, as so many aboriginal women's organizations, aboriginal organizations and first nations have. The New Democratic Party members of Parliament will be the voice of first nations, the voice of aboriginal women and the voice of aboriginal Canadians here in the House of Commons. We will continue to say, very clearly, that this bill needs to be strongly redrafted.
The duty to consult still exists for the government. The government has the obligation to consult with first nations and heed what they say.
View Peter Julian Profile
View Peter Julian Profile
2013-06-11 10:48 [p.18060]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. It was a sincere question, and I appreciate it.
There are numerous reports that deal with matrimonial real property that make solid recommendations. I am talking about “A Hard Bed to Lie In”, 2003; “Still Waiting”, 2004; “Walking Arm-in-Arm”, 2005; the Status of Women Report, 2006; and the Wendy Grant-John ministerial report from 2006.
All of these reports could have been guidelines for the government. They spoke to the issue of matrimonial real property rights and provided very substantive recommendations. A number of the aboriginal organizations across the country supported those recommendations. The question is this: Why did the government not heed those reports and follow those recommendations? The work had already been done, which is what I find so sad.
Aboriginal women have been waiting for such a long time. The government had a number of reports that provided substantive recommendations, but instead of following those recommendations, the government ignored them. Then, when first nation organizations said that this bill was inadequate and would do more harm than good, the government refused to listen to those aboriginal organizations and women's groups. It is sad. However, there is still time for the government to pull back and do the right thing.
View Peter Julian Profile
View Peter Julian Profile
2013-06-11 10:51 [p.18060]
Mr. Speaker, first of all, the Conservative government has imposed closure, so there is not going to be this debate. The government's position seems to have weakened as the fact that it has not consulted aboriginal women's groups and organizations has become more apparent, and the government is shutting down debate.
I would quote Ellen Gabriel, the former president of the Quebec Native Women's Association. This is what she said:
It is reprehensible that the Government of Canada is so eager to pass legislation [that seriously impacts the collective human rights of indigenous peoples] without adequate consultations which require the free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. While it is understood that legislation is not accompanied by commitments to adequate financial and human resources necessary to implement laws, these Bills will create further financial hardships on First Nations communities.
View Djaouida Sellah Profile
Mr. Speaker, this bill is the fifth of its kind to be introduced by the government since 2008. The background on this issue has been given and we have debated it. Every time it has had the opportunity, the NDP has opposed the bill, and that is the case again here.
I am a feminist and I fight for women's rights. I fought as part of the Quebec section of the NDP women's council for years, before I was elected, and I have had the honour of chairing the NDP women's caucus. I take these issues to heart.
Division of matrimonial property is an important issue. Courts have rendered decisions on this issue since the mid-1980s, and parliamentary committees have been studying it since the early 2000s.
Right now, when a couple divorces, the division of family property, such as the house and the couple's personal property, is determined by provincial legislation. Subsection 92(13) of the Constitution Act, 1867, provides that property and civil rights are under provincial jurisdiction. However, under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution, the Parliament of Canada has exclusive legislative jurisdiction over Indians and lands reserved for Indians. Therefore, provincial laws are not applicable to the division of property on the reserves.
In 1986, in the Derrickson case, the Supreme Court of Canada created a legal vacuum when it ruled that the courts could not rely on provincial law when determining the division of matrimonial real property on reserves. The absence of provisions at both the federal and provincial levels with regard to the division of matrimonial real property on reserves is a problem, because the people who live on reserves cannot appeal to the Canadian legal system to resolve issues relating to the division of property when a marriage has broken down. It is usually aboriginal women who pay for this legal vacuum.
The Assembly of First Nations determined that the following three broad principles were key to addressing matrimonial rights and interests on reserves: first, recognition of first nation jurisdiction; second, access to justice; and third, addressing underlying issues related to housing and economic security.
The bill does nothing to address any of these principles. On reserves, gender discrimination clearly exists when it comes to matrimonial real property. Everyone says so, including the courts, aboriginal people and politicians.
Bill S-2 does not solve the problem. It does not address the issues related to a lack of financial resources to support first nations governments to actually implement the law, a lack of funding for lawyers and legal advice, a lack of funding to account for limited geographic access to provincial courts, a lack of on-reserve housing, and a lack of land mass that would be necessary to give both spouses separate homes on reserves.
Here is what Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo had to say:
The legislation...does not provide the necessary tools or capacities for first nation governments to deal with the issues that arise when marriages break up. This is rightfully a matter of first nation jurisdiction and we must have this capacity.
First nations have repeatedly and forcefully called on the government to work with us on an approach that will truly give our people in our communities access to justice. There are already first nations that have put their own laws and approaches in place on this matter. These must be respected and a similar approach must be supported for all first nations.
The Native Women's Association of Canada also has a problem with this bill.
Despite previous recommendations that first nations must be involved and create the solutions that will address the multitude of socio-economic issues impacting on families, the government has consistently tried to rush the process and to push through legislation that has been drafted mostly on its own, with little involvement and disregard for the comprehensive recommendations of the past ministerial representative, and many first nations governments and organizations.
As I indicated earlier, a lot of work has already been done on this issue. For example, there was the 2005 report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development entitled “Walking Arm-in-Arm to Resolve the Issue of On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property”.
The report set out a number of very worthwhile suggestions. It recommended that the government consult with the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations in order to develop a new law or amend the Indian Act. It also recommended that the first nations be given financial assistance so that they can develop their own matrimonial real property codes, and that any new legislation should not apply to first nations that have their own codes. What is more, the Canadian Human Rights Act should be amended to apply to people living on reserves. The report also suggested that Canada recognize the inherent rights of first nations to govern themselves.
Canada is a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and, as such, consultation entails the consent of the people consulted. Although Canada conducted some limited consultations, no consent was given by the rights holders. As a result, we are opposed to Bill S-2 because it violates article 32 of the UN declaration, which requires the free and informed consent of the rights holders prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or well-being.
Those are the reasons why I cannot support this bill. However, I would like to add that the government must treat our first nations with more respect. In addition to a better bill on matrimonial real property, it is urgent that the government work with first nations in order to put an end to violence against aboriginal women. It must improve living conditions on reserves, particularly with regard to the housing crisis, and it must put an end to systematic discrimination with regard to funding for first nations children.
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
View Hélène LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-11 11:01 [p.18061]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for all of the hard work she has been doing on women's issues for several years now.
She pointed out some problems inherent in this bill. Could she elaborate on those? We heard from first nations women, particularly in our women's caucus.
What is the member's perception of violence against women in aboriginal communities? What concrete measures could be taken, particularly with respect to the housing crisis and the fight against poverty?
I would like to hear the member speak to these major issues.
View Djaouida Sellah Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my passionate and hard-working colleague for her question and I thank her for giving me the opportunity to talk about the testimony we heard in our women's caucus.
Aboriginal women are very disappointed that the government has not taken action to combat the violence they are experiencing. They told us that nothing has been done. Study after study gathers dust on the shelf. No action plan has been created. These women took the initiative to get organized and put pressure on the authorities to open inquiries, particularly in the case of abused, missing and murdered women.
These women do not even have the right to a roof over their heads. They have no financial assistance. WIthout a home or financial means, how do we expect them to be able to access the courts? That is the problem with this bill, which was unfortunately introduced in the Senate and not by the government. The government is trying to pass this bill today, but in my opinion, this bill is nothing but smoke and mirrors.
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
2013-06-11 11:04 [p.18061]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
The government boasts about having held consultations. Indeed, perhaps it did. However, after consulting communities, the government has to respond to their demands. In this case, most of the groups were very critical of this bill.
Does my colleague think that sound consultation involves taking into account what was said during the consultations and then incorporating all this information in a bill? Is that what the government did?
View Djaouida Sellah Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank our hard-working member, the youngest in the House, for his insightful question.
As I mentioned earlier, the government claimed that it consulted everyone, yet these consultations were quite limited. I quoted Mr. Atleo, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and his words spoke volumes. Moreover, according to the Native Women's Association, this bill does not provide any tangible solutions to address the problems they face every day.
It is obvious that this government is once again trying to pass bills in a hurry just to get them done and pretend that it has already done all the required work.
Since the 2000s, no tangible solutions have been found to address the problem at the community level.
View Joe Comartin Profile
View Joe Comartin Profile
2013-06-11 11:11 [p.18062]
It being 11:12 a.m., pursuant to order made Tuesday, June 4, 2013, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the bill now before the House.
The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the nays have it.
And five or more members having risen:
The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to order adopted Wednesday, May 22, the deferred recorded division is deferred until later today at the end of oral questions.
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