The Hon. Perrin Beatty, P.C., M.P. Solicitor General of Canada
PRIORITIES OF MY NEW OFFICE
October 24, 1985
Harry T. Seymour, Chairman
Distinguished guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: It is my pleasure to welcome as our guest speaker today the Hon. Perrin Beatty, Solicitor General of Canada.
When Brian Mulroney gained the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in January, 1983, Perrin Beatty, a Joe Clark loyalist, found himself demoted from communications critic to revenue critic in the shadow cabinet. The move to Revenue seemed, at best, to represent a holding pattern in Beatty's political career.
But a combination of luck and skillful parliamentary manoeuvring turned the appointment, as one reporter noted, into political gold. In short, Perrin Beatty became a national figure in 1983 for his trenchant criticism of the National Revenue Department's operations and its treatment of taxpayers.
Curiously enough, the Minister's roots can be traced to an attractive five-year tax concession that was granted in 1874 in Fergus, a small town in the heart of Ontario's agricultural community. Armed with this incentive and spurred by three generations of mechnical geniuses, Beatty Bros. Ltd. flourished and evolved into the largest manufacturer of white goods in the Commonwealth before it was bought out in the 1960s.
After graduating from Upper Canada College in 1968, Perrin Beatty pursued his studies at the University of Western Ontario, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and history in 1971.
Inculcated with strong beliefs in personal responsibility and in limited government, Beatty's association with the Progressive Conservative Party flourished while he was at Western. His "Off Centre" column in The Gazette, the student newspaper, attracted considerable attention, as it reflected a right-wing approach generally unpopular with students in the sometimes-violent 1960s.
In 1972, at age 22, the Minister successfully contested the federal riding of Wellington-Dufferin-Simcoe, which contains Fergus, because he perceived a degree of "normalcy" was returning to society after the turbulent 1960s. In 1974, he married Julie Kenny, sister of Liberal Senator Colin Kenny. The Beattys live in Fergus with their 18-month-old son, Christopher.
In his first two terms in the House of Commons, Beatty established himself by concentrating on issues dealing with the rights of the individual. His handling of those issues was so impressive that it catapulted him, at age 29, into the cabinet as the Minister of State for the Treasury Board in Joe Clark's short-lived 1979 government.
Mr. Minister, when we first discussed your planned visit with us today, you were in the process of changing the attitudes of, and introducing the 76 recommendations in your "Crisis of Confidence Report" to, Revenue Canada's 30,000 employees.
Now, at age 35 and with almost 13 years of parliamentary experience, our guest finds himself charged with responsibility for this third portfolio, that of Solicitor General of Canada, and a completely new set of challenges: crime prevention; rehabilitation; the rights of victims; Young Offenders Act; and so on.
Although it is too early for his critics to have formed an opinion on his handling of his new portfolio, those adversaries he faced in Revenue were impressed. Liberal critic George Baker said:
"More than a few times, I have been working late and called his office for technical advice. All his assistants will have gone home, but there will be this voice on the line telling me the Minister is still in and he would be glad to help me." New Democratic Party critic Simon de Jong said:
"He is sincere, interested, and dedicated to cleaning up some of the messes. There is an aura around Perrin that he is competent."
Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the Hon. Perrin Beatty, Solicitor General of Canada, who will address us on the priorities of his new office.
Ladies and gentlemen: It is a great pleasure for me to speak to The Empire Club, which has a long and distinguished tradition of presenting speakers in the vanguard of our society. I am honoured to be here today.
I want to talk to you today about my new responsibilities as Solicitor General of Canada.
Much of what I will want to do as Solicitor General mirrors in principle what was a brief but very rewarding term as Minister of National Revenue. The PC Task Force on Revenue Canada found a great deal of evidence to suggest that Canada's tax-collection system, once one of the most fair and effective in the world, was in a crisis. Respect for the system was breaking down, complexity of the law was increasing, the number of objections filed was away up, there were suggestions of invasion of privacy and much more. In short, neither the taxpaying public, tax practitioners, nor even Revenue Canada's employees perceived the system as being fair and equitable.
While not wanting to suggest that our criminal-justice system is in any equivalent state of crisis, I want to make these same principles of fairness and equity the hallmarks of my tenure as Solicitor General. If we expect Canadians to be honest and law-abiding, then the most rigorous standards of conduct and fairness must begin with me and my department.
I'm proud of what we achieved in National Revenue in overcoming an atmosphere of crisis and restoring confidence and cooperation. If we were successful, it was not because 1, as Minister, had some mysterious qualities that others did not. It was because we stuck to our basic themes of openness, fairness, and equity, and because of the professional and dedicated public servants, at all levels, who assisted me in carrying out my work.
In coming to the Solicitor General's portfolio, I must admit I did not arrive with a working document the way I did at Revenue Canada. As a result, for the last two months I have been travelling our country, consulting, and most importantly, listening. I have been to prisons, halfway houses, RCMP detachments, Parole Board and Security Intelligence Service offices. I have hosted meetings for groups such as the John Howard Society, Elizabeth Fry Society, police associations, lawyers and others interested in the criminal-justice system.
What I discovered is that this job is not about jails or person-year reductions, or even spies. It is about people-people like you and me.
We in government have a duty to ensure that the criminaljustice system reflects a wider dimension than just policing, corrections or parole. We must let social equity he our guiding principle, not just for police, prison guards inmates and others who are in the system, but for us all.
I want to outline today a number of initiatives that will provide a blueprint of much of what I will do as Minister. In the months ahead, I will outline these initiatives in considerable detail and start implementing them as quickly as possible.
Social equity is a wonderfully melodic term but that's all it would be, unless I were to outline specifically what it means to me. Let me start with our correctional system and mandatory supervision.
When a judge sentences an offender to nine years in prison, it doesn't mean that-it means only six years, so long as the inmate has been reasonably behaved while in prison. In many cases, parole even earlier than the two-thirds point is possible.
The government has proposed some substantial changes to corrections law in Canada. Specifically, I want to give the National Parole Board important new powers to halt the release of inmates under mandatory supervision if there are reasonable grounds to believe they represent a danger to society. I find it nothing less than shocking that we are now bound by a law that puts dangerous offenders such as child molesters and rapists out on the street before the end of their sentences when we know, or strongly suspect, they will be a danger to society.
Many other Canadians have been very upset, and justifiably so, about this travesty. Earned supervised release is a valuable program, giving inmates a chance to adjust to life on the street under supervision before the end of their sentences. But, somewhere along the way, we made a mistake in not providing for detention until end of sentence of the few who just aren't ready to come back into society. This new bill, which we are just now debating in a House of Commons committee, will do much to reassure Canadians that the Government is thinking of their safety and wellbeing in administering the corrections system.
Many offenders who don't follow release conditions will go back in. They will not have another chance at mandatory supervision. The revolving-door syndrome will finally stop.
At the same time, stringent procedural safeguards will be provided for the inmates affected. They are based on the notion of a presumed right of release that can only be interfered with on reasonable grounds and after fair process. Our bill is a reasonable compromise that will protect the paramount public interest and the legitimate interests of inmates at the same time.
As I said earlier, I've been getting out into the field, visiting some of our penitentiaries and talking to staff, guards, inmate committees and citizens' advisory committees. Two things in particular struck me. The first is that we are warehousing too many non-violent offenders, letting them rub shoulders with some of the worst of our society. If we are going to stop the vicious circle of spending on new prisons and more staff, we have to get more offenders into community programs, paying society back through communityservice work and restitution.
A cheque forger is certainly a criminal and deserves to be punished, but does he need to be locked up in Kingston at monumental cost, just putting in time and reflecting on how he got caught? Community-service work would be more beneficial to the inmate and society. I'll be concentrating on more alternatives for such non-violent offenders so that society can be repaid for what it is owed.
In talking to inmates and guards, I also came away with the clear impression that inmates are not working enough and not enough inmates are working. Frankly, I was shocked and upset by the spectacle of inmates just putting in time with nothing meaningful to do. I'm not saying we don't have good employment programs; we do, some of the best in the world. But we haven't devoted enough resources to systematically developing meaningful employment that keeps every inmate busy an entire working day.
How can one have order and rehabilitation in prison without giving inmates worthwhile goals and duties? How can we expect released inmates to become productive members of society if they have never heard of the work ethic or know what it is to put in a fair day's work?
Make-work is no answer. There are few things more frustrating than having to do a job that every one knows has no useful purpose. Most of our inmates today have jobs in their institutions or are being trained or educated. For example, much of the food consumed in our prisons is raised or grown on prison farms. But, what we have to do is find more full-time, useful employment.
I'll be looking into creating increased opportunities for inmates to work by selling more inmate products to Supply and Services Canada, and by expanding joint work ventures with the private sector in such industries as forest management.
We also will develop national work standards for the inmate population to effectively measure inmate productivity, which is a problem. At the same time, we will move more towards creating a normal work day, as it were, in the institution to more closely approximate outside conditions.
When people talked about social equity and the criminaljustice system in the past, they tended to refer to inmates' rights, rehabilitation and the like. All are valid and just. Unfortunately though, this is only one side of the equation. The police catch an offender, the courts hold a fair trial, the prison system does its best to offer rehabilitation. Although this is entirely appropriate, nowhere does the system seem to offer anything to the innocent victim, or to you and me in the community who pay for our expensive criminal-justice., infrastructure.
Even though I am still new in my portfolio, I do know that I want to make progress improving services to victims of crime-as I said, the forgotten factor in the criminal-justice equation-and in encouraging more community-based crime prevention. These are two areas in which I believe we can improve the quality of life for Canadians as a whole.
We have started to make some progress in improving the lot of victims of crime. Recently I headed the Canadian Delegation to the 7th United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. At this congress, I proposed a draft declaration, later adopted unanimously, on basic principles of justice for victims. This declaration, now before the General Assembly, calls for basic rights of justice for victims.
Canada now meets these basic principles, but I feel we should do more. Building on the Ministry's five years of ex-
perience in working for victims' rights and services, I want to greatly improve the criminal-justice system's capacity to serve victims. We can do this by continuing and expanding our efforts to promote through the police, community organizations and others, the creation of new programs to help victims deal with the impact of the crime, to get greater access to the justice system and information about their case, and to assist them in getting compensation and restitution for their loss.
If you or your loved ones were victimized in some manner, whether through a break-in of a home or car, or worse, by a violent offence, would you know whom to turn to, who could help you protect your rights and who could give you the support and understanding required? Wouldn't you feel you deserve equivalent information to that offered offenders?
Wouldn't you feel you were entitled to compassion and understanding and perhaps to compensation for your losses by the offender if he or she were apprehended and if these losses could even be measured? If some of your property were stolen and quickly found by the police, don't you feel you should be entitled to have it back in your possession in short order? I do.
I want to look at all of these things, including doing more to train police in handling victims' needs at the scene of the crime and later on. We can bolster our efforts to provide information on how to organize and administer victims' services. We need imaginative ways to divert funds to compensation and restitution programs and I want especially to improve our research capacity in order to better understand and respond to particular concerns of different types of victims. In short, the Federal Government will be taking more leadership in the victims' area.
Crime prevention is another area where we can do much to help Canadians help themselves to greater security. The Ministry has, along with the private sector, been sponsoring annual national crime-prevention weeks to focus Canadians' attention on the benefits of concerted community action to prevent crime. The year Crime Prevention Week takes place Nov. 3-9, and I'll have the honour of presenting the Solicitor General's Crime Prevention Award to individuals and groups who have made outstanding contributions to community crime prevention.
Community-based crime prevention is an idea whose time is long overdue. We will continue to support the development of programs and information to help Canadians protect themselves from crime.
The principles of fairness and equity I mentioned earlier can be brought to bear more effectively on these and other facets of the criminal-justice system. I want to make the point right now that we have without doubt one of the finest criminal-justice systems in the world. But it can be improved.
One area where I feel we can make significant improve-' ments is in combatting highly profitable commercial crime activities, such as the illicit drug trade, which are organized and operated like large businesses. The drug trade in Canada is estimated to involve transactions totalling billions of dollars annually, and the profits are used to finance other illegal activities or laundered through financial institutions in Canada and abroad and used to infiltrate and sometimes undermine legitimate business.
To combat such crime, we have to reduce the profit motive by attacking the proceeds of these criminal activities. This approach, which is the centrepiece of drug-law-enforcement efforts in Italy and the United States, is intended to give added emphasis and bite to the ancient and honoured CommonLaw precept that criminals should not profit from their crimes.
It is noteworthy, in this connection, that Canada is one of the few western countries to make it an offence to possess the proceeds of crime. Paradoxically, criminals can still profit from their crimes, despite the farsighted wisdom of the legislators who created this offence.
The reasons are quite simple. Our laws do not provide, for example, for the seizure of proceeds of crime once they have been deposited into an account or converted into real property. Nor do we have clear forfeiture provisions for the disposition of the proceeds of crime upon conviction.
Let me illustrate the consequences. Recently, a convicted Colombian drug trafficker, who had laundered approximately $50 million derived from drug trafficking in the United States, deposited $800,000 in illicit proceeds in a financial institution in Montreal. Because the possession of the proceeds of crime in Canada is an offence, regardless of where the illegal transactions took place, a warrant was issued to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for the seizure of approximately $400,000 remaining on account at the time the warrant was issued. The warrant was challenged, the challenge was upheld by the courts, and the bulk of the remaining funds was transferred out of Canada.
In another case, this time in Alberta, the police and courts were powerless, despite the conviction of the individual, to prevent the dissipation of illicit proceeds amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial-institution accounts and real estate. Why can't these funds be turned over to us to help defray some of the enormous costs that taxpayers like you and me are constantly having to dip into our pockets to pay for?
I'm exploring, with my colleague the Minister of Justice, ways of ensuring that criminals convicted by the courts do not profit from their criminal action. To do this will require legislation, enforcement action, and the active cooperation of the financial and business communities both in Canada and internationally. I am asking many of you here now from the financial community for your support and your ideas. I will be consulting with many of you shortly.
I am pleased to report that Canada is also in the forefront in the development of initiatives that will attack the international dimension of crime. Canada is working with the United Nations in the development of a new Convention to help control international drug trafficking and is part of
similar efforts by the seven Economic Summit countries. We are also establishing a network of mutual legal-assistance treaties. Thus far, we have signed a treaty with the U.S. and we are now negotiating with the Bahamas and Switzerland. Beyond this, our law-enforcement agencies, particularly the RCMP, work closely with their counterparts in other nations and Canada is an active supporter of Interpol.
I will be asking the RCMP to improve and expand upon its efforts to develop, with Health and Welfare Canada, awareness programs to solve specific problems related to drug trafficking and drug abuse. In addition, I have asked the RCMP to look at developing modern computerized drugintelligence capability to assist in tracking down major traffickers and assist coordination with drug-intelligence officers of other countries.
As I indicated in my earlier comments on crime prevention, governments, enforcement officials, corporations, and individual citizens share responsibility for controlling crime in our workplaces and communities, and I was pleased to note that in a recent address to the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Allan Taylor, chairman of the executive council of the Canadian Bankers Association, outlined the financial community's responsibilities in controlling crime, particularly the importance of close cooperation with enforcement agencies.
In his remarks, Mr. Taylor also highlighted the banks' commitment to client confidentiality. This is an important reminder that, in our efforts to combat crime, particularly sophisticated criminal conspiracies, we must ensure that the rights and freedoms of Canadians are safeguarded.
I believe that the objectives of effective law enforcement and the protection of civil rights are compatible and that, with the cooperation of both orders of government, municipalities, the private sector, and individual Canadians, it will be possible to take the profits out of crime.
One other bill I now have before the House of Commons will create a Public Complaints Commission for the RCMP and bring internal discipline and grievance procedures within the Force in line with accepted police labour relations in place in most other police forces in North America.
I'm surprised how little attention tt `; bill has received. It was over ten years ago that the Marin Commission of Inquiry into RCMP handling of public complaints, grievances, and internal discipline, stressed in its report that Force procedures should be open and visibly fair. Bill C-65 is a large and involved bill but this is its bottom line: to allow any member of the public, whether he or she is directly affected by the complaint, a formal, independent and objective process to bring complaints against members of the Force. There is not now any such mechanism for redress of public complaints against the RCMP; neither is there any formalized body to arbitrate in Force actions against its members.
An External Review Committee, which like the Public Complaints Commission will make an annual report to Parliament, will protect the rights of rank-and-file Force members while giving them clear guidelines as to what is expected of them as members of one of the best police forces in the world.
I want to end with a few words about anouther aspect of my responsibility, the Young Offenders Act. This Act has been getting a great deal of media attention since its coming into force and I am the first to recognize that there are some problems with it, although not nearly on the scale that some would have us believe.
No matter how careful the drafters are and how carefully legislation is considered-and this Act had ten years of consultations preceding its enactment-its only test is its performance as law.
I believe the Act is, for the most part, working and I totally agree with its fundamental principles. It was legislation badly needed to reform the juvenile-justice system and to give in law to young people the rights and obligations that we enjoy as adults.
But, as can be expected with any new legislation that so
fundamentally affects our social fabric, there have been problems. For example, in my own riding, a problem was identified when a youth charged with murder was found not guilty by reason of 'nsanity.
The Act appears to require that all records associated with such a case be destroyed. Because this individual has been committed to an institution, it is clearly necessary that these documents be available to assist the provincial authorities in providing appropriate treatment and in reviewing the case, as is required under the Criminal Code.
This and other problems highlighted in recent months have moved me to direct my department to consult with the public and my counterparts in the provincial governments to determine what amendments may be needed. In fact, I begin my first such consultation tomorrow here in Toronto and will be meeting with my provincial counterparts early in the new year to get on with the job. My deputy minister will continue his regular meetings with his counterparts in support of these consultations. I am confident that this Act, a progressive piece of social policy legislation, can be adapted to make it fully responsive to the concerns that have been voiced by those who have had to work with it.
I have taken you on a bit of a whirlwind tour of the Ministry of the Solicitor General today and, if I have left you with one main impression, I hope it's that I view my role as one of elected representative chosen to lead and also to listen.,
Mandatory supervision, the rights of victims, work in prisons, alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders, community-based crime prevention, taking the profits out of crime, and the Young Offenders Act are but some of the areas on which I will be concentrating in the short term. In a Ministry that employs more than thirty thousand personnel with such weighty responsibilities, there is bound from time to time to be tension between the aims of law enforcement and corrections, national security and parole, and individual Canadians who come into contact with the system. There is a way to resolve such tensions, and that is for me and my officials to stick firm to our themes and the principle of social equity in discharging our responsibilities.
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Michael Meighen, Second-Vice President of The Club.