A new report by the Institute for Research on Public Policy outlines ways Canada can deal more effectively with corporate wrongdoing and white-collar crime.
The report is based on a round table held in Toronto in November 2015 that brought together legal and academic experts and stakeholders for a frank exchange on how to ensure integrity in government procurement processes while allowing Canadian firms to conduct their business on a level playing field with international competitors.
Specifically, the report calls on the federal government to
- Adopt a regime of deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs). While DPAs do not replace prosecutions, they can be an effective alternative to formal prosecution when certain conditions are met.
- Disentangle punishment of crime and public procurement. While complete disentanglement is not possible, the primary focus of Canada’s procurement regime should be to ensure proper procurement in Canada, not to punish Canadian corporations for dubious actions abroad, which should be the aim of the judicial system.
- Strengthen enforcement. More resources must be dedicated to investigation and enforcement as well as training for commercial crimes units.
- Raise public awareness of white-collar crime. Lack of public awareness may mitigate the penalties for wrongdoers — particularly if white-collar crimes are seen as victimless and therefore less urgent than violent ones.
- Fill the knowledge gaps in our data and research. We simply do not know enough about the problems to be able to deal with them effectively, and more primary data (e.g., how many federal resources and full-time employees are dedicated to enforcement) and academic research are needed.
“Canadians expect their governments to reinforce accountability and integrity and to not use public funds to support firms that engage in questionable business practices. They also expect that any restrictions placed on a company’s ability to do business with governments will be measured responses that appropriately reflect the severity of the offence,” says IRPP President Graham Fox, who facilitated the round table discussion. “It is through this lens that Canada’s policy approach should be assessed.”
Finding the Right Balance: Policies to Combat White-Collar Crime in Canada and Maintain the Integrity of Public Procurement can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (irpp.org).
The Institute for Research on Public Policy is an independent, national, bilingual, not-for-profit organization based in Montreal.
By Shirley Cardenas