Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

March 10, 2011 10:47 ET

Parliament Passes Legislation to Stand Up for Victims of White-Collar Crime

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 10, 2011) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, welcomed the passing in Parliament of Bill C-21, the Standing Up For Victims of White Collar Crime Act. The legislation provides tougher sentences for fraud which will help combat white-collar crime.

"The devastating impact of white collar crime is an unfortunate reality in many communities in Canada," said Minister Nicholson. "The Government will ensure that individuals who perpetrate fraud face sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes."

The legislation includes a mandatory minimum penalty of at least two years for fraud over $1M. It also toughens sentences by adding aggravating factors that courts can consider. These aggravating factors include:

  • if the fraud had a significant impact on the victim, given the victim's particular circumstances, including his/her age, health and financial situation;
  • the offender's failure to comply with applicable licensing rules or professional standards; and,
  • the magnitude, complexity, and duration of the fraud and the degree of planning that went into it.

The legislation requires judges to consider imposing on offenders the duty to make restitution to their victims in all fraud cases as part of their sentence. It also permits the court to prohibit the offender from taking employment or doing volunteer work involving authority over other people's money. Courts will also be allowed to receive and consider a Community Impact Statement that describes the losses suffered as a result of a fraud perpetrated against a particular community, such as a neighbourhood, a seniors centre or a club. 

"The Government is listening to the concerns of victims of fraud, and are helping them seek the restitution they deserve," said Minister Nicholson. "We will continue to take tough action on white-collar crime and protect the safety and security of our communities."

The legislation will receive Royal Assent and come into force on dates still to be determined. An online version of the legislation is available at www.parl.gc.ca.

(Version française disponible)

BACKGROUNDER: WHITE COLLAR CRIME 

Bill C-21 Standing Up for Victims of White-Collar Crime Act

The offence of fraud can include securities-related frauds such as Ponzi schemes and accounting frauds that overstate the value of securities. It also includes mass marketing fraud, mortgage and real estate fraud, and many other deceptive practices. There are always two elements that characterize fraud - deception or some other form of dishonest conduct, and depriving another person of their property or putting their property at risk.

Fraud can have a devastating impact on the lives of its victims, including loss of life savings and feelings of humiliation for having been deceived into voluntarily handing over their property. Bill C-21 Standing Up for Victims of White-Collar Crime Act amends the fraud provisions of the Criminal Code by providing tougher sentences for those who victimize honest citizens.

Sentencing

Sentencing-related measures in this bill will better ensure that sentencing for fraud, and in particular large-scale fraud, reflects the serious nature of the crime. These measures shape the sentence that can be imposed on the offender and include:

  • mandatory jail time of at least two years for fraud over $1 million regardless of the number of victims involved; 
  • additional statutory aggravating factors that can be applied to sentencing in fraud cases such as:
    • if the offence had a significant impact on the victim, given the victim's particular circumstances, including his/her age, health and financial situation; 
    • the offender concealing or destroying records relating to the fraud or the disbursement of proceeds of the fraud; 
    • the offender failing to comply with applicable licensing rules or professional standards; and, 
    • the magnitude, complexity, and duration of the fraud and the degree of planning that went into it. 
  • allowing the court to impose a prohibition order to prevent the offender from having employment or working in a volunteer capacity that involves having authority over other people's money.

Restitution

Additional measures in Bill C-21 improve the responsiveness of the justice system to the needs of victims of fraud through restitution and community impact statements. These amendments are intended to increase the use of restitution orders in fraud cases by:

  • requiring judges to consider restitution from the offender in all cases of fraud involving an identified victim with ascertainable losses. Judges are now also be required to provide reasons if restitution is not ordered when a victim has sought restitution;
  • requiring the Crown to advise the court what steps have been taken to allow victims to set out their readily ascertainable and quantified losses to the court so that restitution can be considered. This ensures that sentencing does not proceed without any consideration of restitution or without any opportunity for victims to indicate to the Crown that they wish to seek restitution; and,
  • developing a standard form for victims to indicate that they want the Crown to seek restitution from the offender and to set out their ascertainable losses. 

Community Impact Statements

A final measure deals with Community Impact Statements. The Criminal Code requires the court to consider a victim impact statement. This is a written statement made by a victim of crime that describes the harm done to the victim and, more generally, the effect that the crime has had upon them. The statement is considered by the judge who is sentencing the offender.

In some fraud cases, however, the impact of the crime extends to other persons and not only to those who have suffered direct financial losses. The new provisions will permit the court to also receive and consider a Community Impact Statement that would describe the losses suffered by the community, such as a neighbourhood association, business association or seniors group, as a result of the fraud.

Note that the court will continue to receive victim impact statements and must consider such statements at the time of sentencing.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Justice
    Pamela Stephens
    Press Secretary
    613-992-4621
    or
    Department of Justice Canada
    Media Relations
    613-957-4207
    www.canada.justice.gc.ca