Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to engage in this debate.
The reason I find this so important is that I am from the beautiful province of British Columbia and from the city of Abbotsford, which is nestled between majestic Mount Baker, at 10,500 feet high, and, on the other side, the mighty Fraser River. We live in a wonderful community in a wonderful region of the country. However, one of the challenges we have had over the years is that Canada, and more specifically British Columbia, has become the locus, the very heart, of money laundering in our country.
Just so Canadians understand what money laundering is, I will note that it is not benign activity engaged in by Canadians who want to avoid taxes or something like that. Money laundering is about taking the proceeds of crime, channelling them into what appears to be a legitimate business or a legitimate asset and trying to make those proceeds seem legitimate. It is a great way for criminals to hide the proceeds of crime. The last thing I believe Canadians want to do is aid and abet criminals to commit their crimes in our country, yet that is what has been happening for many years.
This legislation is not the be-all and end-all. Bill C-42 is simply a part of the solution. What it would do is establish a beneficial registry, an ownership registry, that would allow Canadians to see who actually owns the companies into which money might be directed from the proceeds of crime. This is not going to solve the whole problem of money laundering. Our police have their hands full in trying to track these criminals down, trying to identify the proceeds of crime and trying to get convictions.
Here is another problem. Money laundering has contributed significantly to the inflationary impacts on prices of land, real estate and homes that Canadians want to buy. These criminals know that if they can get money channelled into a house, it will be less likely for the police to identify that asset as being a proceed of crime. They also channel these proceeds of crime into legitimate businesses, like small and medium-sized enterprises. They channel this money into hard assets. They may be boats or expensive cars. At the end of the day, this costs Canadians big time.
There is another reason this is important to British Columbians. It was in British Columbia that the Cullen commission was established to investigate this very challenging problem to our criminal justice laws and to the broader issue of how much money laundering costs the average Canadian.
The Cullen commission made a long list of recommendations, most of which implicated the provincial government. It called upon the provincial government to act. However, there was one recommendation that stood out, which was that the federal government establish a pan-Canadian beneficial ownership registry for corporations. I believe Justice Cullen really intended for this to cover all companies in Canada. The problem is that the criminal justice law is federal law, so we as a Parliament have jurisdiction over it. Here is the problem: The large majority of Canadian companies are incorporated not at the federal level but at the provincial level, implicating every one of our 10 provinces and our territories.
How do we cobble together a pan-Canadian foreign ownership registry program with all of these different players at the table? The bill would, at least in the immediate term, establish a corporate beneficial ownership registry for federally incorporated companies, which is a good start. However, I believe the Cullen commission's intent was for the Liberal government to engage the provinces and territories to expand this to include the provincial regimes in federal legislation so that we can go after the money launderers in every corner of our country.
There is a reason this has come to our attention as lawmakers. Back in 2016, the Panama papers exposed how vulnerable Canada was to money laundering. Those papers made it clear that Canada was a laggard on the international stage when it came to addressing money laundering and interdicting the criminals who were taking proceeds of crime, filtering that money through legitimate enterprises and assets and then getting away with their crimes.
In 2017, it was the Liberal government's finance minister, Bill Morneau, who said we needed a beneficial registry to help combat money laundering in our market to determine the true source of funds and ownership in the acquisition of firms. He was right at that time, and that was 2017.
What happened in the intervening years? Nothing. From 2016 to 2023, we had eight years of inaction on the part of the Liberal government. This is pretty shocking, since the government, through its finance minister, at the very least had become aware that this was a very important issue for Canadians and nothing was done.
I will say that I am pleased that at least this has now come before us as Bill C-42, and it looks like we will see a beneficial ownership registry passed and implemented in our country. However, as the bill goes through committee review and comes back to the House, we are going to be asking a lot of questions. For example, how will this registry protect Canadians' privacy rights? We want to interdict criminals as they try to undertake their criminal enterprises, but we also want to make sure that the privacy of Canadians is protected.
I do not have great confidence that the government will actually protect our privacy, and here is why. We recently debated Bill C-27 in the House, which is all about privacy rights. We have been asking the government to actually include privacy as a fundamental right in Canada that Canadians can depend on. Sadly, Bill C-27 did not include that, so we have a right to be concerned.
We also want to ask who will have access to the information in the beneficial registry. Is it the police? Is it the ordinary citizen? It is business people? None of that is clarified in this legislation. We need to know that. Will the bill give law enforcement the necessary tools to combat money laundering and terrorist financing?
To conclude, I believe there is all-party agreement, so I am asking for unanimous consent to request a recorded vote on Bill C-42.