Canada's Original Think Tank

Cannabis—Organized Crime

Cannabis—Organized Crime

Cannabis—Organized Crime

Hon. Serge Joyal: 

Mr. Minister, in relation to Bill C-45, I heard your answer to our colleague Senator Carignan and I don’t think it would satisfy the Canadian viewers who saw two things on TV last week. The first is they saw RCMP officer Yves Goupil, to put a name on the RCMP, who is responsible for conducting the investigation of organized crime in the production of cannabis. And Goupil stated very clearly he doesn’t have the resources and the capacity to investigate the ultimate beneficiary that hides behind the tax haven or organized crime. That’s the first thing they heard and they saw on TV.

The second thing they saw on TV, Mr. Minister, were the names of three members of the Rizzuto family. I don’t know if you know that family. I see you nodding. There were three different members of the Rizzuto family with the percentage of shares they own of an anonymous trust who owns a company that has a licence. Canadians have seen that on their screens. How can we as senators, and you as a representative of the government, come to us and say everything is fine, it is business as usual and organized crime has been pushed aside.

The objective of the government was not to push organized crime aside. The objective of the government, as you stated in front of our committee, was to eliminate organized crime from the production of cannabis. Now we see the Rizzuto family being involved in the production of cannabis. Again, what will you do to make sure the rules of Health Canada and the rules under your guidance will be strengthened to be sure we will know who hides behind those anonymous trusts that own shares of companies with licences to produce cannabis?

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., C.O.M., M.P, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction: Senator, first of all, we were very clear the elimination of organized crime was not going to happen overnight. It is a process. It is also important to recognize we left in place all of the legislative tools and investigative authorities that the RCMP and the police previously had to conduct their investigations in organized crime. All of those tools are still available to them. Those criminal offences for illegal production and illegal distribution are still in place. And we have instead put an alternative choice in the marketplace so the easiest money organized crime ever made just got a heck of a lot harder. I acknowledged in an earlier response we saw a terrible diminishment of the RCMP’s ability to conduct serious organized crime investigations. We are putting money and resources back into that capacity so they can do the important job we need them to do.

Finally, you talk about the investment of blind trust. We need to need to be very clear. There is no way that organized crime can invest and take over a licensed producer under the new federal regulations as articulated under Bill C-45.

I believe, senator, subject to clarification, that what you may be talking about is their involvement in other types of grows that existed under the ACMPR regulations, something well outside of Bill C-45. We recognize the importance and have had many conversations with law enforcement about the criminal vulnerability of that licensing regime. It is something that we are absolutely committed to fix.