Bill C-24 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and law enforcement) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Anne McLellan Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
April 29th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
Dr. Larry Motiuk Special Advisor, Infrastructure Renewal Team, Correctional Service Canada
Thank you, Chair and members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, for inviting me here today to talk about research conducted by the Correctional Service of Canada in the context of your study on the state of organized crime.
My name is Dr. Larry Motiuk. Currently I am a special advisor, on assignment, with others, on an infrastructure renewal team in CSC. Also, I am an adjunct research professor in the Department of Psychology at Carleton University. I have a doctorate degree in psychology and a master's degree in clinical psychology.
I began my correctional career at the maximum security Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre and was an employee of the Ontario Ministry of Correctional Services until 1988. During this period, I provided direct clinical services to remanded and sentenced offenders, and I conducted research and have co-authored publications on restitution, halfway house selection, and inmate classification. Until recently, I served as the director general of offender programs and reintegration, from 2006 until 2010, at CSC national headquarters. In this position I provided advice on policies, planning, and legislation relative to institutional, community, and operational management of offenders. As an employee of CSC for the past 22 years, I have served as director general of research for 13 years, having supervised and evaluated operational research projects on a national scale. These include mental health, offender intake assessment, risk management, offender reintegration, substance abuse, security, and health care. Over the years, I have published widely, and I have worked directly with various departments of corrections in jurisdictions abroad.
In 2005, the corrections policy unit of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada requested assistance and offered support to the CSC research branch to conduct focused research on federal offenders admitted with criminal organization offences.
In collaboration with Mr. Ben Vuong, a CSC research officer at the time, we developed a research framework and conducted preliminary analyses of available information related to exploring the impact of organized crime legislation in general and offenders who are required to serve sentences for organized crime offences in particular. Consequently, I was intimately involved in the research and co-authoring of two research briefs on federal offenders with criminal organization offences and as such have knowledge of the matters hereinafter deposed to.
Basically there were two studies. The first study was done in 2005 and was entitled “Federal Offenders with Criminal Organization Offences: A Profile”. By way of a little bit of background, in 1997, the Government of Canada took action against organized crime by amending the Criminal Code to make participation in a criminal organization an indictable offence, and it enhanced the investigative powers of police. On December 18, 2001, strong new legislation to fight organized crime, Bill C-24 at the time, received royal assent. Bill C-24 further amended the Criminal Code and introduced three new offences and tough sentences that targeted various degrees of involvement with criminal organizations. Criteria used to construct the specified population to be studied involved the selection of all admissions to federal corrections serving sentences for organized crime offences since 1997, both pre-Bill C-24, which was 1997 through to 2001, and after Bill C-24, from 2002 to 2004. Admission data were drawn from the service's automated offender management system, known as OMS, over an eight-year period. Admission trends, sentence lengths, related offences, demographics--gender, age, ethnicity, criminal background, correctional history and criminogenic factors, such as criminal associations, drug abuse, etc.--were explored.
Here are some highlights from the study, and these studies are both available on the CSC Infonet or Internet site.
A total of 220 cases met the initial criteria for selection into the study using the Criminal Code descriptions for organized crime offences in the offender management system. As previously noted, Bill C-24, in 2001, introduced three new Criminal Code offences--and I won't go into the sections--that replaced the one offence that was in place at the time. More specifically, 134, or 61% of the sample, were identified for participation in a criminal organization; 16, or 7.3%, were identified for participation in activities of a criminal organization; 62, or 28.2%, were identified for the commission of an offence for a criminal organization; and there were 8, or 3.6%, identified for instructing the commission of an offence for criminal organizations.
In this study we observed that the Quebec region had the largest number of new admissions serving sentences for organized crime, over 80%. Interestingly, there were no cases admitted at that time with organized crime offences in our Pacific region.
It was observed that new admissions with criminal organization offences also received additional sentences for other offences, resulting in the majority of cases serving sentences of more than three years. So 80% of that group were serving sentences greater than three years in federal custody.
As a group, federal offenders with criminal organization offences were serving medium to long-term sentences for a new set or category of offences, coupled with other offences, mainly drug offences. Eighty percent of them were serving sentences for that as well, and in some instances, for other serious crimes, such as attempted murder and robbery. They presented with prior criminal records and strong attachments to family and criminal groups.
Particularly noteworthy, however, was the finding that offenders with criminal organization offences demonstrated more lifestyle stability. That means they were more likely to have been married, employed, and healthy than their correctional counterparts.
The second study was a follow-up of this group. Initially we wanted to profile the population that had been convicted of these offences. We then wanted to observe what happened to them while they served their sentences in federal custody. So the second study was entitled “Prison Careers of Federal Offenders with Criminal Organization Offences: A Follow-up”.
By October 2005, a total of 114, or roughly 50%, of the 220 cases who had met the initial criteria for selection in the study--using those Criminal Code descriptions of organized crime offences--had been released from prison. Therefore, we could capture the whole period of time they served while in federal custody. To construct a matched group for comparison purposes, we got 114 released offenders with those organized offences and then applied criteria to set another sample.
We used a sampling population that was created for federal offenders who had been released between 1997 and 2005 without organized crime offences or any gang affiliations. For each federal offender with an organized crime offence, a similarly situated federal offender without an organized crime offence was identified based on year of admission, sentence group, admitting region, gender, and aboriginal status. The average age for both groups was 33 years of age at that time.
Here are some highlights from the study. A follow-up of prison careers found that federal offenders with criminal organization offences were not significantly more likely than their matched correctional counterparts to be involved in security-related incidents, to be placed involuntarily or voluntarily in segregation, or to be transferred upward in security level. However, these observations may be an artifact of their being placed at relatively higher security levels than their matched counterparts. Therefore, there was more control of their movements.
Similarly, the finding that this group did not participate in programming to the same extent as their matched counterparts may be due to the fact that they do not present as broad a range or array of criminogenic factors. This is deemed to be consistent with their general lifestyle stability apart from organized crime affiliations.
As a group, those with organized crime offences were found to be statistically more likely to be released later than their matched group without organized crime offences. A closer examination of these released organized crime cases revealed that 55% had been granted a discretionary release versus 66% of the matched group.
Not surprisingly, a higher percentage of the organized crime cases had been released on statutory release than their matched group: 45% and 33% respectively. The added time served in custody might explain why a higher percentage of them had been granted escorted temporary absences, and they were significantly more likely to be granted an unescorted temporary absence simply because they had a longer length of stay. Again, the aforementioned may be due to longer periods of stay.
In conclusion, taken together, these two studies suggest a group of offenders who at time of admission are likely to present themselves as good risks from a traditional corrections perspective and whose prison experience would be remarkably uneventful.
The key issue is any interpretation of these findings has to be prefaced with a caveat concerning the limitations associated with available data on which waves of analysis were conducted.
As one might appreciate, the three years since the legislation had come into effect was recent at that time, so definitive statements were difficult to ascertain about the full impacts of the legislation that may be occurring in the long run. Nevertheless, there continues to be limited research on Canadian legislation that places people convicted for organized crime offences into prison. To date, there is only one study profiling the federal offenders convicted for organized crime offences. There is one other study that I'm aware of that follows the sample, and it was the one just referenced, of federally incarcerated offenders who were convicted of organized crime offences during their stay in federal custody. Finally, a longitudinal post-release follow-up is required before such a conclusion can be drawn about their correctional careers.
What is the research impact? CSC policy directives were modified and scoring options for offender classification tools were revised to take into account involvement in criminal organizations for which a conviction has been registered. More specifically for organized crime, ratings of street stability, which are found in many of the classification tools, were adjusted, and the conviction for a criminal organization offence was duly noted.
I would like to conclude by saying that Canadians have always been able to take pride in being international leaders in corrections research and rehabilitation. From the creation of scientifically derived assessment tools for security classification, program assignment, and release risk, to the development and delivery of state-of-the-art rehabilitative programs, Canadian researchers and correctional practitioners have always been at the vanguard of best practices. Canada's advantage is primarily due to the talents and efforts of researchers and practitioners themselves. Building on our correctional technology and research advantage is more important than ever.
I look forward to the discussions here today. It is important that the correctional perspective is represented at these kinds of meetings and that all components of the criminal justice continuum work together to achieve an effective and positive public safety outcome.
March 12th, 2009 / 4:20 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
Madam Speaker, a little background is in order. Earlier, in a tone of voice neither friendly nor courteous, and certainly not the sort of tone one would expect from a man whose job it is to work toward achieving consensus on these issues, the Minister of Justice suggested that the party I represent, the Bloc Québécois, has not taken a serious enough interest in organized crime issues. I would like to take another look at some of the facts.
I was elected in October 1993. The Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Chrétien, had to go to a NATO meeting, so Parliament was convened in January. In August 1995, a car bomb took the life of young Daniel Desrochers. That was when the impact of motorcycle gang wars on civil society began to receive broad media coverage. I would like to point out that what people in British Columbia, particularly the greater Vancouver region, are going through now, unfortunately, is something we experienced to an even greater extent between 1995 and 1998.
In 1995, I introduced the first anti-gang bill. I well remember my discussions with senior federal officials. At the time, Allan Rock was the Minister of Justice, and some of his officials convinced him that we could put an end to organized crime using conspiracy provisions. I cultivated my police force contacts. A man by the name of Pierre Sangolo taught me a lot about organized crime. He was the Montreal police officer in charge of the file. I was a young member of Parliament then, just 31 years old. I had been elected a little over two years before, and I had never in my life had any need to pay attention to organized crime. I had vague memories of my parents taking an interest in the Commission of Inquiry on Organized Crime (CIOC). I was young, and I knew that organized crime could poison the communities it targeted.
Pierre Sangolo, a Montreal police officer, explained to me that a certain number of conditions have to be in place for organized crime to flourish. For example, organized crime is not necessarily the same here as it in in developing countries. In order for organized crime to exist, there have to be some indicators of wealth and lines of communication. Organized crime operates in the import and export markets. Not only does organized crime make itself at home in wealthy societies with good lines of communication, it also at home in societies with a certain amount of bureaucracy. In the case we are interested in, it is a question of the bureaucracy of the legal system. This bureaucracy has grown up mainly because of the charter and the multiple appeals that are possible when one goes to court.
And so, I introduced the first anti-gang bill. At that time, the Liberals formed the government. It took up a bill that became a government bill, Bill C-95, which created the criminal organization, or gangsterism, offence. That reinforced the idea that there was more to worry about than crimes committed on an individual basis, conspiracy, premeditation and organized criminal attacks. It meant that the ringleaders had to be targeted. Those who give the orders and plan the operations are not the ones who carry them out. In the legal system as it existed then, we had the means to deal with those who carried out the orders, but we did not have many tools to attack those at the top of the organized crime pyramid.
In large part thanks to the inspiration and leadership of the Bloc Québécois, Bill C-95 created a new offence. When five people belong to an organization and any one of those people commits a serious offence, an offence punishable by more than five years of imprisonment and from which the individual stood to gain financially, that was considered a new offence called participation in a criminal organization.
The bill was passed in 1997. From what I remember, all parties supported that bill. The next year, in 1998, the Montreal police service and other police forces told us that the number five made enforcing the law too difficult. What they were seeing was the creation of all kinds of satellite gangs and it was difficult to find five people who had been convicted of offences punishable by more than five years in prison. In Bill C-24, which, if memory serves, was introduced by Anne McLellan, the number was reduced from five to three. It was the Bloc Québécois that worked hard and got results. At the time, Richard Marceau, the hon. member for Charlesbourg, was the Bloc's justice critic. We managed to get the government to remove $1,000 bills from circulation, since we knew that $1,000 bills helped drug traffickers and people involved in organized crime. I am convinced that if I did a quick survey here and asked my fellow members how many have a $1,000 bill in their pocket, I doubt that anyone here, whether MPs, clerks or the Chair, would have a $1,000 bill in their possession, even though we all earn a good living.
It was also the Bloc Québécois that managed to create a new offence allowing for reverse onus of proof regarding the origin of the proceeds of crime acquired by criminal organizations. Of course, we realized that reversing the onus of proof is always a means of last resort in law. Given that the Crown and the defence do not have the same means, the Crown must prove that an offence was committed. However, we felt that the problem was serious enough that, once a guilty verdict was pronounced, there should be a reverse onus of proof regarding the proceeds of crime.
The Bloc Québécois led the way in having these measures adopted. That is why I take exception to the fact that the Minister of Justice, who too often is narrow-minded in his interventions, implied that we were negligent, that we were not steadfast, that we were not concerned about the issue of organized crime. The police services I have worked with for a number of years—as did my predecessor, the member for Charlesbourg, and Michel Bellehumeur before him, who was once the Bloc justice critic—can confirm that we have always been very concerned about organized crime.
I say to the government that we will support this bill. We are in favour of its objective. I met with the Attorney General of British Columbia. He explained the situation in his province. He proposed three measures. We truly hope that two will be implemented. The first concerns deducting from the sentence double the amount of time served in detention prior to trial. I will come back to this. The second concerns the issue of accelerated release. This is a longstanding demand.
The third measure on which we need a bit more reflection and information is the whole notion of the Crown's ability to restrict the disclosure of evidence, which would of course be contrary to certain Supreme Court judgments, Stinchcombe in particular. We must therefore ensure, when it comes to the disclosure of evidence during the preliminary inquiry and the trial, that this is not in contravention of the rules of fairness that must exist when a trial is involved, particularly a criminal trial where it may be a matter of imprisonment and life imprisonment.
We are going to support this bill. Can I tell the Minister of Justice and the government that we will not be presenting any amendments? Certainly not. The purpose of referring a bill to a committee is to hear witnesses. We want to work with diligence. We are aware that there is a worrisome situation in British Columbia, but we are not going to rush things. We are going to work seriously but we are not going to make a commitment to present no amendments.
For example, the matter of mandatory minimum sentences is an obvious problem for us. Each time a provision of the Criminal Code contains a mandatory minimum sentence, we are sending the message that we do not trust the judiciary. Each case before the courts is individual, and justice needs to be individualized as well. We are not comfortable with anyone wanting to tie the hands of the judiciary. It is possible that the Bloc Québécois will bring in some amendments concerning mandatory minimum sentences. We have always maintained the same position. We are consistent on this.
I am also well aware that organized crime is an extremely changeable reality, a highly dynamic phenomenon. When I first began to take an interest in organized crime in 1995, at the age of 31, there was very little reference to street gangs. It was motorcycle gangs, the Hells Angels, the Rockers. There were gang wars in various communities. In recent years, another phenomenon has emerged: street gangs.
What characterizes street gangs? As far as intelligence gathering is concerned, this different phenomenon presents some difficulties. First of all, they are groups that are far harder to do surveillance on, far less organized, far less structured. I do not know whether anyone here has had the opportunity to look at an organization chart of the Hells Angels, with their sergeants at arms and their presidents. It is a highly structured organization with implacable rules and regulations. We are well aware that any Hells Angel who does not stick to the rules is liable to be killed. Not that I am sorry about that in any way, but what I am saying is that, when street gangs are involved, they are less organized groups, and so harder to wiretap, harder to do surveillance on, and less predictable in their criminal behaviour.
I was told that when it comes to street gangs, we are seeing a bit of a second generation. People in street gangs tend to be a little older. These people are not, on average, 14, 15 or 16. They tend to be a little older than that. Street gangs are not necessarily based on ethnic origin alone anymore. We know that there have been some alliances with organized crime groups and that there are now Caucasians—white people—who are in important positions in the hierarchy of street gangs. Those are some of the realities that we must try to understand more at committee.
The main new feature in this bill is the following. We are told that when a murder—a homicide—is committed for the benefit of or at the direction of a criminal organization, as set out in section 467.11, 12 and 13 of the Criminal Code, it will automatically be deemed a first degree murder.
Murder in the first degree means that it was premeditated. My colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, as a former justice minister, was quite right to remind me that the difference between a first degree murder and a second degree murder is the deliberate nature, the use of violence and the use of a weapon in the case of first degree murder.
I do not oppose the creation of this offence in the Criminal Code. I simply want to understand. It is my impression that, already at this time, if someone commits a homicide for the benefit of a criminal organization, that individual can be sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years.
How will the creation of the new offence change anything? I am not saying it is irrelevant, but I want to understand.
I thought that the reason was that, when members of organized crime are brought before the courts, they might plead guilty to manslaughter. That must be the reason, I told myself.
Just now, when I put this question to the minister with my habitual courtesy, the minister got a bit annoyed. Not only did he get annoyed, but he raised his voice. Not only did he raise his voice, but he did not want to answer. Not only did he not want to answer, but he accused me of being an ideologue. Paradoxical, that. The Conservatives calling me an ideologue. What kind of a crazy world are we living in?
I was trying to get the Minister of Justice to explain this new offence to me, one which may be pertinent, well-founded, rational, but he did not answer the question. That will not stop us from supporting the bill in principle, but I believe it may not be a provision that is as original as the minister would have us believe.
This bill disappoints us in some ways as well. For example, we would have liked to hear about pre-trial detention. It is true that there was a time in the justice system—the older ones here will remember it—when people awaiting sentencing were kept in difficult conditions in penitentiaries. That we acknowledge, but has there not been a significant change in this area? Do we still need to say that, for every day of detention before trial, there will be two days deducted from sentences?
The Bloc Québécois wonders whether this practice ought not to be reviewed. We were concerned about this getting rushed through. How is it that a person who has had a fair trial can be released after a sixth of his sentence? Is there not something about this that should worry us as far as the peace we desire for our communities is concerned ?
I repeat, we are anxious to look at this bill in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We are not going to take a partisan approach. We have a full picture of what is going on in communities, in Vancouver and other parts of British Columbia. Moreover, there is no community anywhere that is sheltered from violent confrontations between criminal groups. I am not guaranteeing that we are not going to make amendments, but we do support the bill in principle.
I hope that all members of this House are not going to start impugning motives, and that they will all agree that we are all concerned by the safety of our fellow citizens and that we are going to bring to our work in committee a high-minded approach and broadness of outlook, as all serious parliamentarians must.
May 28th, 2007 / 12:25 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
I would like to make it clear that the Bloc Québécois is concerned about and condemns all offences involving firearms. Everybody understands that offences involving firearms are serious, and that is why, since 1997, the Bloc Québécois has been steadfast in its demands for a mandatory gun registry, a public registry that police officers consult 6,500 times a day. We believe it is inconsistent to seek to implement a mandatory minimum sentencing strategy for offences involving firearms while attacking the very existence of a gun registry, which is a true public safety tool, as I will demonstrate.
Bill C-10 imposes mandatory minimum sentences. Right off the top, there is a problem with that because when it comes to sentencing, when a court must sentence an individual, the first consideration must be individualization. The judge must consider all of the factors that shape the context of the offence. That is the first consideration.
It is certainly true that the Department of Justice—not the Bloc Québécois, not the NDP, not the Liberals—awarded contracts to carry out studies. It asked professionals, in this case criminologists, to carry out studies. They looked at the experience of countries that had adopted mandatory minimum penalties, in particular for crimes committed with a firearm, to see if that had any deterrent effect. After all, that is the goal. There are certainly some maximum penalties in the Criminal Code. Those penalties must be severe when one is dealing with crimes committed with a firearm because the potential for destruction is extremely high and very real. Usually, we put our trust in the judge and we can say that a judge or a magistrate, whether in a trial court or an appeal court, should be able to give proper weight to the facts and circumstances and determine the appropriate sentence.
Every time there is a mandatory minimum penalty, there is cause for concern. I recall that the Department of Justice called on one of the most renowned criminologists, Professor Julian Roberts, of the University of Ottawa, who testified before the Standing Committee on Justice during the review of Bill C-9 and Bill C-10. What did that criminologist say about a study carried out in 1977 by the Department of Justice? He concluded that mandatory prison sentences had been introduced by many western countries, among them, Australia, New Zealand and others. He emphasized that the studies that reviewed the impact of those laws showed variable results in terms of the prison population and no discernable effect on the crime rate.
Julian Roberts, who was asked to review all the existing studies on this subject, concluded that, in the case of mandatory minimum sentences, in those countries where there are mandatory minimum sentences no positive or negative effect on the crime rate can be seen.
When the Minister of Justice appeared before the committee, he was unable to table any scientific evidence to contradict those words.
The bill provides that, for some 20 offences—of which the most serious are attempted murder, discharge of a firearm with intent, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery and extortion—where there is a minimum sentence of three years, a minimum sentence of five years should be imposed and that where a five-year minimum sentence is now provided, a sentence of seven years should be imposed.
Initially—and this was defeated in committee—there were even offences for which, in the case of a second offence, the minimum sentence could be up to 10 years. I emphasize that minimum sentences remove any kind of discretionary power a judge may have to consider the circumstances and evaluate the factors related to the incident. That is extremely prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Why should we not worry about a government that says it wants to get tough on criminals? Committing an offence with a firearm is certainly reprehensible, and we are not being complacent about that. We recognize that there may be cases where the judge will impose a 10 year sentence. There may even be cases, for example if there was an attempted murder or a homicide, where the sentence could be as much as 25 years. It is quite acceptable to have such sentences. But it is never acceptable to rely on an automatic process and to remove the judge's discretion in assessing the events which led to the offence.
Let us take a look at societies. If imprisonment through mandatory minimum sentences really were useful in making societies more secure, reliance on such penalties would necessarily have a visible positive effect. The United States would be a model society. The incarceration rate is 10 times higher in the United States than in Canada. Mandatory minimum sentences are used much more in the United States than in Canada. I have some statistics that show that following the American model with more imprisonment, for longer periods, is a bad strategy. Here are some of the statistics: three times more homicides are committed in the United States than in Canada. Fewer violent crimes are committed in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada.
Look at the Conservatives and their legal activism. They have introduced about 10 bills. When they are good, we support them. For example, we supported the bill on street racing. We supported the bill on DNA data banks. In the 1990s, it was the Bloc Québécois that applied pressure, especially my former colleague from Berthier, Mr. Justice Michel Bellehumeur, who was appointed to the bench because of his merits. Mr. Justice Michel Bellehumeur campaigned, with my support, to create a new law to deal with a new phenomenon: organized crime and criminal motorcycle gangs. There were 35 of them in Canada around 1995. I well remember the former justice minister Allan Rock—who became Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations but has been recalled since, if I am correctly informed—who was kind enough to let me meet some senior public servants. He attended the meeting as well. At the time, criminal biker gangs were fighting among themselves for control of the narcotics trade in our big cities, including Montreal. I well remember discussing this with senior public servants, who felt we could break up organized crime using just the existing conspiracy provisions in the Criminal Code.
I was convinced, as were Michel Bellehumeur and all the hon. Bloc members then, that a new offence was needed. At the Bloc’s initiative and thanks to its resolute leadership—the government and public service did not really see things this way at the time—some new offences were created, such as working on behalf of an organized gang. At the time, we had the three-fives theory: if five people committed five offences for a gang over the previous five years, they would be charged with a new offence established by Bill C-95. However, the police told us that this was not working and we had to go from five to three. This amendment was taken up by the government in Bill C-24.
All of this is to say that the Bloc Québécois is not soft on crime. When we need to clamp down and ensure that our toughest criminals are behind bars, we are ready to do so. We have always brought forward very positive proposals. In just a few days, the Bloc Québécois is going to announce its proposals for improving the criminal justice system. That is our responsibility as parliamentarians and as a party with seats in the House of Commons.
It is extremely contradictory—and I am sure this has not escaped my colleagues—to repeatedly introduce bills to toughen sentences and yet not attack the root of the problem, which is granting early parole to some offenders. We in the Bloc Québécois will have an opportunity to express our views on this in the near future. But I am certain that all my caucus colleagues would agree that the government should have tackled the parole system in January, when this Parliament began. That would have been a wiser course of action.
Moreover, a parliamentary committee had expressed concern about a number of provisions that could raise concerns among members of the public. My colleague Pierrette Venne was sitting on the committee at the time. Instead, the government chose an approach that implied that Canadian communities are safer when mandatory minimum sentences are in place, even though scientific literature does not support this view. Few witnesses aside from the police testified before the committee that our communities would be safer if we had mandatory minimum sentences.
I would like to quote an eminent criminologist, André Normandeau, who has researched and written extensively about the concept of neighbourhood or community policing, which has become a reality. I do not know whether community policing exists in English Canada, but it has become commonplace in Quebec. I will quote him directly so as not to be accused of misrepresenting what he said.
André Normandeau, a criminologist at the Université de Montréal, said:
Minimum sentencing encourages defence lawyers to negotiate plea bargains for their clients in exchange for charges that do not require minimum sentencing.
This shows the perverse effect of plea bargaining between defence lawyers and lawyers for the crown to drop charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences for charges that do not. Mr. Normandeau added:
Minimum sentencing can also force a judge to acquit an individual rather than be obliged to sentence that individual to a penalty the judge considers excessive under the circumstances, for cases in which an appropriate penalty would be a conditional sentence, community service or a few weeks in jail.
It was evidence like that that prompted all my predecessors, be it Richard Marceau, the former member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, or all my predecessors in the Bloc Québécois, to consistently say the same thing. My position in this matter is not original.
I am part of the long tradition in the Bloc Québécois. Every time we have mandatory minimum sentences and someone is trying to cut into judges' discretion to impose the sentence they consider appropriate, we think that it is not going to be in the interests of the administration of justice.
Some witnesses even took this line of reasoning farther, and gave us an example that much ink was spilled over at the time, and that got a lot of media coverage: the Latimer case. I do not know whether our colleagues will remember the Latimer case. He was a father in western Canada who helped his daughter to put an end to her horrific suffering. It was a case of assisted suicide. However, assisted suicide was not recognized as such by the court, and he was found guilty of homicide.
Consider what the witnesses told us in committee. To demonstrate the rigidity of mandatory minimum sentences, we can cite the case of Robert Latimer, the father who killed his severely disabled 12-year-old daughter. He killed her—and we have to remember this—out of compassion. This man was convicted of second-degree murder. In the Criminal Code, second-degree murder is an automatic sentence, so the judge was automatically forced to sentence him to 25 years in prison, when the jury—because this was a jury trial—wanted a much more lenient sentence.
These are some examples, and I know that if my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin has an opportunity to speak today he will also point out flaws in Bill C-10 and the extremely pernicious and perverse nature of mandatory minimum sentences. This does not mean that we are lenient when we have to deal harshly with crimes that are committed with a firearm.
I said earlier that the Bloc Québécois would have been extremely happy if, when we began our examination, we had been able to discuss the entire question of parole. That is quite unfortunate. I do not know whether the expression "dishonest" is parliamentary, but I will use it. What is dishonest in the Conservatives' discourse is that it suggests, when we look at what is in their legislative arsenal and the nine bills that have been introduced, that we are living in a society where violence is getting worse, where crime rates are on the rise, a society that is therefore much more disturbing than the one we lived in 10, 15 or 20 years ago.
Statistics show a completely different reality. That does not mean that we must avoid imposing sentences or controlling some individuals. We can all easily understand that imprisonment is the appropriate solution in certain cases. That is obvious. However, let us look a little more closely at the statistics. In the recent past, from 1992 to 2004, the number of violent crimes has been decreasing in Canada. When I say violent crimes, I mean homicide, attempted murder, assault, sexual assault, kidnapping and robbery. There were 1,084 of those crimes per 100,000 inhabitants.
At the beginning of the period, there were 1,084 of those crimes per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2004, that number had fallen to 946 per 100,000 inhabitants. In fact, Quebec, with 725 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants is the place with the fewest violent crimes. The number of homicides also diminished. In short, in general terms, the Conservative logic does not stand statistical analysis.
In concluding, I will say that we are taking all crimes involving firearms very seriously. We remain convinced that the best way to counter such crime is obviously a public firearm registry with compulsory registration. We know that the present registry is consulted 6,500 times daily by police forces across Canada.
We do not believe in the reasoning behind mandatory minimum sentences and that is why we cannot support Bill C-10.
December 6th, 2006 / 5:05 p.m.
Assistant Commissioner, Federal and International Operations, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
No. In Canada, we have the organized crime legislation that defines what a criminal organization is, and then it sets offences for belonging to a criminal organization, directing a criminal organization, and so on. For example, we've had the Hells Angels in Ontario identified as a criminal organization as a result of the Lindsay–Bonner case in Ontario. There are also several other cases that I'm aware of right now that are being prosecuted under the organized crime legislation.
We have what was Bill C-24 at one time and is now section 25.1 of the Criminal Code. It is the law enforcement justification that allows designated police officers—they have to be designated by the minister responsible for policing, and in the case of the RCMP it's the Minister of Public Safety designating individuals under section 25.1 of the Criminal Code—to commit any “acts or omissions that would otherwise constitute offences” in the pursuit of an investigation.
For example, if you are infiltrating a criminal organization in an undercover capacity—and that's mostly what it's used for—and you have to commit an offence, then that legislation provides you with the justification to commit the offence. Some can be committed by the police officer himself, and some have to be approved by a senior official, of which I am one. They include either the direction to an agent to commit an act or an omission or to cause damage to property.
There are also certain things within that legislation that no one can commit, regardless of what authorization they have, such as murder or perjury. There are some things that cannot violate the sexual integrity of an individual. Those are things that are a “no go” zone.
And then, of course, we have the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It allows us to traffic, import, or export drugs, again in the purpose of undercover operations.
To that extent, we're satisfied. Conditional sentencing and things of this nature cause us concern, but I understand they are being looked at right now.
March 12th, 2002 / 11:35 a.m.
Lynn Myers Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to enter the debate on national security which remains a key concern for all Canadians I believe. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River.
On behalf of the solicitor general, I assure you, Mr. Speaker, and all members of parliament that national security and public safety continue to be the number one priority and the top priority for the Government of Canada.
The Solicitor General of Canada has a leadership role within the Government of Canada for protecting Canadians and helping them to maintain a peaceful and safe society.
Many other ministers of the government, including departments and agencies, are also key partners in this very important area in the fight against terrorism, including my hon. colleagues from justice, CCRA, CIC, DFAIT, national defence, Transport Canada and Health Canada. We all work closely with our federal partners on a daily basis through a variety of informal and formal meetings to ensure that the government's overall public safety strategy is co-ordinated and effective.
The ad hoc ministers' committee on public security and anti-terrorism as well as the deputy ministers' committee on public safety are prime examples of interdepartmental co-ordination.
The portfolio of the Solicitor General of Canada also co-operates with federal, provincial and territorial partners in a number of ways to share information, consult on major initiatives and to reach consensus on proposed criminal justice reforms. These include, for example, ministers responsible for justice, deputy ministers responsible for justice, co-ordinating committees of senior officials and several subcommittees and working groups to examine specific policy issues.
In particular, a new federal-provincial-territorial deputies committee has just been formed to ensure co-ordination among all jurisdictions in their approach to anti-terrorism and public safety issues.
Strong partnerships with stakeholders is vital to the work of the Solicitor General of Canada. We encourage and actively support co-operation with our non-governmental partners, including provincial and municipal police forces, and emergency firstline responders through consultation, information sharing, exchange of expertise and knowledge, training and the provision of resources.
It goes without saying that since September 11 counterterrorism is a top priority for police and security agencies the world over. It is a top priority here at home too for the RCMP, for CSIS and for law enforcement officials across Canada.
The primary role of the Government of Canada is to lead this fight against terrorism at national and international levels. The government is doing so through new legislation and several important initiatives announced in the last two federal budgets.
Since the year 2000, the Government of Canada has dedicated a total of $9.5 billion to public safety and national security, including $7.7 billion in the December 2001 budget. The comprehensive set of measures outlined in budget 2001 are designed to keep Canada safe, keep terrorists out and keep our borders open. To this end, it includes major investments to equip and deploy more intelligence and frontline investigative personnel, improve co-ordination among law enforcement, intelligence and national security agencies, and to boost marine security and safety to the tune of $1.6 million. It also includes improving the screening of immigrants, refugee claimants and visitors to the tune of $1 billion; creating a new air security organization, assigning armed undercover police officers on Canadian aircraft, purchasing explosive detection equipment and enhancing policing to the tune of $2.2 billion; and finally, enhancing border security and improving the infrastructure that supports major border crossings to ensure the legitimate flow of people and goods, which is so important to our economy, to the tune of $1.2 billion.
Furthermore, under Canada's anti-terrorism plan, key federal agencies responsible for public security, such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, will receive substantial new funding to enhance their counterterrorism capacity and priorities.
CSIS will receive an additional $334 million over five years which will be used to boost its frontline security intelligence capacity. The RCMP will receive an additional $576 million which will bring new technology on line and put more officers to work on national security matters.
Under Canada's anti-terrorism plan, specific federal support for provinces, territories and municipalities include the establishment of new integrated national security enforcement teams, INSETs, and increased integrated border enforcement teams, IBETs, by the RCMP with provision for the salaries of INSET members seconded from other jurisdictions.
These are all important measures and, while the focus is on counterterrorism, initiatives undertaken on this front have had ripple effects that will benefit organized crime investigations, community policing and policing and law enforcement in general. What these measures do is establish a framework to ensure a high level of public security and safety for Canadians wherever they live in a national security framework.
Federal anti-terrorism initiatives will clearly strengthen the criminal justice system on a national basis. All jurisdictions will benefit from the resulting tools, expertise, new or expanded programs and infrastructure. These benefits will continue over a long period of time.
As a result of the events that took place on September 11, the Government of Canada and the U.S. administration have been more attentive than ever in ensuring security and safety at our joint border. Both countries have formally agreed to co-operate on border security and regional migration issues and have signed a smart border declaration which includes a 30 point action plan to ensure a safe, secure and efficient border.
The goal is to facilitate the movement of legitimate goods and people while preventing terrorists and undesirable individuals from entering Canada or the United States.
The Government of Canada has long realized that the fight against organized crime is not a task it can take on alone. Since the adoption of the joint statement on organized crime in 1998, we have been working very closely with our provincial and territorial counterparts to address this problem.
The national agenda to combat organized crime identifies a series of new legislative initiatives to enhance the investigation and prosecution of organized crime. Bill C-24 was a good first step and an important first step.
The police community told policymakers there was a need to improve legislation and that is exactly what happened and what we did. Bill C-24 will assist in addressing serious problems like biker gangs and other forms of serious crime.
We all know that criminals are making full use of technological advances to facilitate and provide leverage for their crimes. In order to respond effectively, we need to capitalize on the new technological tools available to us.
An excellent example of this is the Canada Public Safety Information Network which is designed to link criminal justice agencies across Canada to allow for better detection and prosecution of offenders. In October 2001, the Solicitor General of Canada announced that $4.9 million in new money would be dedicated in part to enhancing this program.
Furthermore, encryption technology is becoming cheaper, stronger, widely available and easy to use. Criminals and terrorists increasingly use some form of encryption or password protection to secure their communications. That is why the Department of the Solicitor General has implemented an action plan to provide technical solutions and to conduct a comprehensive legislative review.
Here, as with organized crime, the challenge is for our laws to keep pace with the changing face of technology and crime.
The Government of Canada does not take public safety and national security for granted. As I have just outlined, we have introduced numerous initiatives designed to enhance both national security and public safety.
Parliament and parliamentary committees continue to play a vigorous role in this area. We have only to point to parliament's work on Bill C-36, Bill C-24, Bill C-11 and continuing debate regarding Bill C-42 and Bill S-23.
I look forward to the continued input of all parliamentarians as we work together in this very important area. I will conclude by saying that public security and public safety remain a top priority. As a government, along with all Canadians, we need to work in this very important area to ensure that at the end of the day we secure a safe and good place for Canadians wherever they live in this country.
Message from the Senate
The Royal Assent
December 18th, 2001 / 5:05 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-6, an act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act--Chapter No. 40.
Bill C-24, an act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and law enforcement) and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 32.
Bill C-31, an act to amend the Export Development Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 33.
Bill C-32, an act to implement the free trade agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Republic of Costa Rica--Chapter No. 28.
Bill C-34, an act to establish the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No. 29.
Bill C-36, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Official Secrets Act, the Canada Evidence Act, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act and other acts, and to enact measures respecting the registration of charities in order to combat terrorism--Chapter No. 41.
Bill C-38, an act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act--Chapter No. 35.
Bill C-40, an act to correct certain anomalies, inconsistencies and errors and to deal with other matters of a non-controversial and uncomplicated nature in the Statutes of Canada and to repeal certain provisions that have expired, lapsed or otherwise ceased to have effect--Chapter No. 34.
Bill C-44, an act to amend the Aeronautics Act--Chapter No. 38.
Bill C-45, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002--Chapter No. 39.
Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (alcohol ignition interlock device programs)--Chapter No. 37.
Bill S-10, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Poet Laureate)--Chapter No. 36.
Bill S-31, an act to implement agreements , conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Slovenia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Senegal, the Czech Republic and Germany for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income--Chapter No. 30.
Bill S-33, an act to amend the Carriage by Air Act--Chapter No. 31.
December 6th, 2001 / 3:20 p.m.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, like my colleagues from other parties, I will be keeping my remarks on these amendments quite brief. I rise on behalf of the coalition to add some thoughts on this issue.
As others have said, there is more than just a touch of irony that the unelected other place was successful in getting these two substantive amendments to Bill C-24, despite the best efforts of opposition members, especially at the justice committee, to get similar amendments through in the House of Commons. Unfortunately that speaks volumes to the attitude of the government in its approach to legislation, specifically its approach to the consideration of amendments to its legislation.
Unfortunately something very similar transpired with Bill C-36 more recently, despite assurances from the government, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice that adequate consideration, and a common sense approach, would be given to representations from individuals, groups, opposition MPs and its own backbenchers. Once again we saw a flawed process brought to a very speedy close with the use of time allocation.
I would like to congratulate the Senate for bringing forward these two amendments to Bill C-24, the organized crime legislation. I refer specifically to the one increasing independent review or civilian oversight. That is especially appropriate, but not only for this legislation.
Similar concerns were put forward not only by opposition members of parliament, but by groups concerned about the rights and privileges of individual Canadians and the risk of abuse by police forces in how they would implement the new powers contained in Bill C-36. Very serious efforts were put forward by a number of organizations, including the PC/DR, to have an independent oversight agency or individual hold the police and law enforcement agencies that would have the new powers, such as CSIS, accountable rather than individuals going to court to hold the government and law enforcement agencies accountable, if they felt their powers were being abused.
That is an important amendment to Bill C-24 made by the other place. Hopefully, something similar will be included in Bill C-36. The same concerns are being expressed about Bill C-42, which we are just now beginning to debate.
The fact that the system had to ultimately rely upon the Senate to bring forward amendments successfully points to a serious flaw, as other members from other parties have said, at the committee level and in the House of Commons. We do not have a system of free votes. I would argue very strenuously that if we had that, much better legislation would be passed in this place. That legislation would then go to the Senate and it might not be required to make amendments that should have made here originally.
Hopefully it is something the government will consider in the future. It is hoped the government will free up its members to vote more independently, especially when dealing with something as common sense as amendments being put forward to legislation at the committee stage. It could ultimately have the effect of parliament being more democratic and also of the House of Commons operating much more efficiently and effectively.
Legislation would come back from committee properly amended. I suspect there would be fewer amendments put forward at report stage on the floor of the Chamber. In many cases that is one of the few tools the opposition members have to draw public attention through the television cameras to what they feel is flawed legislation. They bring their amendments forward at report stage in the Chamber.
Obviously the legislation, as has been said before, is targeted at organized crime, specifically at some of the horrific activities of biker gangs, especially in the province of Quebec. We are all aware of those activities. We do not need to rehash those ongoing issues. We want to ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the necessary resources, powers and the tools to combat organized crime wherever it occurs.
On that one specific issue, concern has been expressed by the coalition and by other parties about the financial resources available to our law enforcement agencies. In the eight year history of my involvement as a member of parliament I have spoken many times about the need to ensure adequate resources for the RCMP.
As the previous speaker for the Canadian Alliance alluded to, the legislation once it goes into effect can easily involve substantial expenditures by our police forces. That obviously would be at the local or city police level, provincial police forces or the RCMP, or presumably even an agency such as CSIS, in combating organized crime. It is much similar to the need for all those same agencies to wage the successful war against terrorism.
We want to ensure that we provide the tools that these agencies and law enforcement organizations require to do the job, to go head to head with organized crime and terrorists. We want to ensure that they have the adequate financial resources as well.
It is little help to them if we only say that we will make the necessary legislative changes to ensure that they have the power to do their jobs effectively and hold those individuals to account, whether those individuals are in organized crime, or undertake terrorist activities, or encourage others to undertake terrorist activities. It is simply not enough to give them the necessary legislative tools without giving them the financial resources.
Obviously all of us in this place and all Canadians will be watching with great interest the presentation of the finance minister's budget on Monday. We will be watching to see what financial resources will go hand in hand with the legislative tools to ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the resources and funds necessary to take on organized crime and terrorists wherever they may be lurking and hiding and conducting their filthy business in our country.
December 6th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.
Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB
Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois on the role of the Senate in this debate and on the amendments to Bill C-24.
It is odd indeed that the very things we tried to achieve in committee, which could not be achieved because of a docile Liberal majority on the committee, can now be achieved because presumably we have a less docile Liberal majority in the Senate. These things have come back to us to address concerns that needed to be addressed, and which were raised in the House of Commons, the elected Chamber, but were not dealt with because of the excessive ego of the government when it came to its legislation and the excessive docility of government members.
Very briefly, we welcome these amendments. They address concerns we had about Bill C-24. We hope that from here on in this bill, even though there are problems with it, can proceed expeditiously and we can find out the extent to which this legislation will or will not be effective against organized crime in the country.
December 6th, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.
Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-24, but I will be very brief.
I will briefly discuss the background of Bill C-24, which seeks to fight organized crime. The Bloc Quebecois repeatedly asked the government to take measures. We will not go so far as to say that we are the sponsors of this bill, but we pressured the government regarding several clauses in this bill. Indeed, we were relentless in asking the government to provide Canada with proper tools to fight gangs, including criminal biker gangs.
We worked very hard to propose some changes. We also made gains. When I say we, I mean Quebec, since Quebec was among those asking for major legislative changes.
So, the House passed Bill C-24, which was then sent to the other place. Senators examined it and felt the need to propose amendments. I took a close look at these amendments—we are not against them—but I sincerely think that the bill would have been very acceptable without these changes.
It is true, as the Canadian Alliance member said, that it is a bit funny that the other, unelected, chamber seems to have more power than duly elected representatives of the people, those who were actually chosen in a very democratic ballot.
But that is how the system is. As people know, the Bloc Quebecois would like out of this system. But, for now, we are still part of Canada. We therefore live with the rules dealt us. The Senate has put forward amendments. Do we have a major objection in this regard? No. Should this bill be passed quickly? Yes. Are we already late passing it? Yes again.
I will conclude with this. Before even studying Bill C-24, before even studying the bill which is intended to do something about the problem of criminal biker gangs, the Senate preferred to start out in September by looking at Bill C-7, which is intended to something about the problem of young offenders, instead of assuming its responsibilities and doing something about organized crime, so that Canada will have the legislation it needs.
We are past the point of worrying about commas, dropping periods and fussing over wording. We have reached the point where we must pass this bill. We must do so quickly so that the public knows that we have taken action, so that people feel safe as well, but especially so that the police and the system will have the legislative tools they need to combat organized crime for once and for all.
The government has taken so long reacting that even before Bill C-24 becomes law, organized crime has already examined the legislation and is getting ready to challenge it. That is how very slow the system is, with its two chambers, among other things. The bill has therefore come back here and we will have to pass it again, and then it must receive royal assent. Some of Bill C-24's provisions probably already no longer apply.
We will still be very vigilant. Yes, it is a step in the right direction. Yes, we must pass Bill C-24 quickly. Yes, the Bloc Quebecois will continue to be vigilant and push the government to take appropriate action if ever any provisions of this bill are no longer adequate to deal with the present organized crime and biker gang situation. It is no to violence, no to intimidation and yes to Bill C-24. We must act quickly.
December 6th, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.
Vic Toews Provencher, MB
Mr. Speaker, as indicated by the parliamentary secretary, the import of the amendments is to increase clarity and independent review with respect to the designations of public officers.
The amendments are timely. They are born of the rapid succession of bills brought forward by the government to deal with public security matters. There is a growing unease among Canadians that the government is not concerned about debating the principles or details of bills it brings forward. The unease has increased as a result of the Liberals' imposition of closure with respect to Bill C-36.
While the position of my party vis-à-vis the Senate, the other place, is clearly in favour of democratic reform and accountability, it is ironic that non-elected members of that house have more freedom to take steps to safeguard the security and traditional liberties of Canadians.
This is because of the shameful conduct of the Prime Minister. It is shameful that the House is no longer permitted to vote in accordance with the values of Canadians. The Prime Minister and the government consistently use the dispensation of political favour or the withholding of political favour to ensure government members vote in accordance with the Prime Minister's personal wishes.
I am prepared to recommend support for the amendments, perhaps as a result of the troubling conduct of the government over the past few months. The amendments are more necessary now than they were a few months ago.
Bill C-24 still has serious shortcomings. It is procedurally cumbersome. It would do nothing to streamline prosecutions. It would require substantial expenditures on the part of provincial and local police authorities. At the same time the federal government demonstrates increasing reluctance to fund the operations and prosecutions flowing from the legislation it passes.
Law enforcement in the country is being crippled by cumbersome legislation and inadequate resources. It is ironic that the member opposite stands and talks about improved definitions. We have seen this type of legislation add detail to the process without an appreciable increase in security.
I am prepared to recommend the amendments born of the concerns raised in the Senate. I urge the government to review this type of legislation and re-examine the principles underlying many of the bills it is passing. They are not effective. Nor do they do anything to enhance civil liberties in the country.