Lifestyle

Editor's Note: A national scandal

When will Canada's justice system take financial crimes seriously?

This magazine has long argued that establishing a national securities regulator is a vital step not only toward cutting inefficiencies out of the patchwork provincial system Canada now has, but also toward protecting investors from fraud and other financial crimes. Lately, Canadians have been getting political leadership on the issue. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty seems never to miss an opportunity these days to point out why Canada needs one regulator to protect investors. Good for him. But here’s the thing: a national securities regulator will not be enough. Read what Bill Majcher and Craig Hannaford have to say in this issue (page 24), and you’ll see what I mean. For years, the two were top cops on the front lines of the RCMP’s white-collar crime squads, and they paint an alarming picture of what’s really going on. They say police are demoralized, ill-equipped and handcuffed by procedure in financial crime investigations. The rich play the sclerotic Canadian courts, and prosecutors often don’t have the expertise to win cases. Meanwhile, Majcher and Hannaford say, foreign police have greater investigative powers over Canadians than domestic police do. Small wonder Canada has an international reputation as a haven for white-collar criminals. It’s earned it. As a step toward fixing this scandalous state of affairs, a national securities regulator might be necessary, but it is not sufficient. Canada needs a full-scale review of the judiciary’s interpretation of privacy, disclosure and search-and-seizure rules; of the training of prosecutors; of the resources allotted to police; of sentencing and parole guidelines; and of the culture of complacency and appeasement that seems to have infected the justice system in its pursuit of financial criminals. Theirs are not victimless offences. Investors, workers, businesses and government all pay. And as Majcher and Hannaford make clear, Canada’s tolerance of white-collar crime has claimed another victim: the country’s reputation.