British Columbia

Can a public inquiry into B.C.'s dirty money problem help?

Some people calling for a public inquiry point to the success of Quebec's Charbonneau Commission, which dealt with corruption in the construction industry. Others say two reports about money laundering with scores of recommendations is enough.

Some people point to success of Quebec's Charbonneau Commission, while others say extensive reports enough

Finance Minister Carole James, Attorney General David Eby and money laundering investigator Peter German present address findings of a report into money laundering in real estate. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Explosive reports released by the B.C. government last week that reveal more than $7 billion was laundered in B.C. in 2018 have prompted calls for a public inquiry into the problem.

On Thursday, two reports were released that outlined the influence of money laundering in B.C.'s real estate market. Both revealed how criminals are using real estate to clean their money.

The reports were written by Peter German, a former RCMP deputy commissioner, and law professor Maureen Maloney, the chair of B.C.'s expert panel on money laundering in real estate.

The German report also said B.C.'s colleges and post-secondary institutions could be an avenue for money laundering.

The reports prompted Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West to call for a public inquiry to further examine the problem. "What we have here is a systemic failure," West said.

"I think we have corruption of our entire system."

West pointed to the success of Quebec's Charbonneau Commission, which looked at corruption in the construction industry. The inquiry, which lasted four years and cost close to $45 million, resulted in a new regulatory body and changes to how whistle-blowers are protected.

"The Charbonneau Commission not only addressed those systemic issues but put people in jail, made politicians resign," said West.

"It did a number of things that I think British Columbians are crying out for here."

'Love of public inquiries'

There have been several high-profile public inquiries in B.C.

The Braidwood Commission looked at the tasering death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekansi at Vancouver International Airport in 2007, and resulted in changes to airport operations, as well as the Canada Border Services Agency and RCMP.

The Davies Commission investigated the death of Frank Paul, who died of exposure after being released by police and became the catalyst for the creation of the B.C. Independent Investigations Office, a civilian-led police watchdog group.

The Gove Inquiry examined the death of Matthew Vaudreuil and helped bring changes to child protection in the province. Vaudreuil died when he was six years old following years of neglect by his mother despite being under the watch of dozens of social workers.

Former B.C. attorney general and retired judge Wally Oppal, who headed several public inquiries, said they aren't always useful and are expensive.

Oppal headed the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in 2010, which looked at how police investigations into missing women were handled following the Robert Pickton trial.

He told CBC News that public inquiries don't always lead to change.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby, and Peter German, former deputy commissioner of the RCMP, release the latest section of a report into money laundering in B.C. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

"One thing [people calling for an inquiry] have to keep in mind is that we've had extensive material from Peter German and Maureen Maloney," he said. "So the government has to ask themselves, 'Is there anything more we can learn?'"

Premier John Horgan said his caucus will discuss the possibility of a public inquiry this coming week.

A breakdown of money laundering: what, how and why. 1:36

With files from Tanya Fletcher

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