An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment)
This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.
Parm Gill Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Second reading (Senate), as of Dec. 5, 2013
Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-394.
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence to recruit, solicit, encourage, coerce or invite a person to join a criminal organization. It establishes a penalty for that offence and a more severe penalty for the recruitment of persons who are under 18 years of age. This enactment also makes a related amendment to the National Defence Act.
- May 1, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
- April 24, 2013 Passed That Bill C-394, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment), as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
- June 20, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Private Members' Business
May 1st, 2012 / 6:10 p.m.
Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that I rise today on Bill C-394, introduced by the member for Brampton—Springdale. To begin with, I would like to congratulate the member on his initiative and for recognizing the fact that the gang problem in Canada is on the rise, which is a major problem that needs addressing. I would like to thank the member for giving us the opportunity to consider solutions to this problem.
To begin with, I want to make it clear that further legislation dealing with the problem of street gangs will not be a cure-all. We need to consider other solutions rather than simply throwing more legislation at the problem.
The NDP considers it important to protect our youth from gangs and organized crime. We believe that this bill is an important and positive tool in order to stem the tide of the street gang phenomenon. That is why we included this important issue in our 2011 election platform. We are in favour of a balanced approach to public safety that relies on both prevention and punishment.
The NDP's priority is to combat gangs by adopting a balanced approach. This approach, which focuses on prevention, will help meet the expectations of Canadians, who obviously want to live and thrive in communities free of violence. We want to see as many effective prevention programs as possible because they help to prevent young people from being recruited into street gangs.
Currently, there are three offences dealing with organized crime. These offences are defined in section 467.11 of the Criminal Code: participation in the activities of a criminal organization; the commission of an offence for a criminal organization; and instructing a person to commit an offence for a criminal organization.
The bill adds a fourth offence: recruiting a person to join a criminal organization for the purpose of enhancing the ability of the organization to facilitate or commit an indictable offence. It constitutes an additional legislative tool, which is at the heart of the bill.
Although there are no major problems that prevent us from supporting this bill, I do have some reservations about imposing mandatory minimums. I must remind government members that every time Parliament has attempted to include mandatory minimums in the Criminal Code, the Supreme Court has overturned these mandatory minimums because they do not allow judges to take into consideration mitigating factors that may have come into play in the commission of the crime. I remind members that this may be a major problem. It is my hope that the government will stop imposing mandatory minimums because they are not appropriate.
We must remember that young people have a fundamental need to identify with a group and to belong. If young people do not have this feeling of belonging to their family or school, for example, sometimes they unfortunately turn to gangs in order to find a sense of belonging. Peer pressure, the desire to be protected and the need to identify can therefore influence a young person's decision to join a criminal organization.
Families and children living in poverty and unemployment, or experiencing family problems, are often more vulnerable to recruitment by street gangs. In some urban neighbourhoods, where poverty and violence are everyday facts of life, young people may feel so vulnerable that they decide to join a gang because they believe it is the only way to survive. They may see it as the only available option. Joining a gang may also look to them like an alternative to their current living situation, particularly if they are from an extremely poor environment or if they have been victims of physical or sexual abuse. Stopping gang recruitment is a way of striking at the very foundation of these gangs, which is the recruitment that enables them to continue their unlawful activities.
There are data indicating that almost half the street gang members in Canada are under the age of 18, and 39% of gang members are in the 16 to 18 year age group. Almost half of all street gang members are under 18 years old.
They are also often highly ethnically diverse. Although youth gangs are primarily made up of young men, in some parts of the country, more young women are becoming gang members. As the gangs are a cross-section of many ethnic, geographical, demographic and socio-economic groups, many adolescents are at risk of becoming involved in such gangs or of being influenced by them in future.
In 2008, the statistics showed over 900 gangs totalling more than 7,000 members. Gangs made up of young Canadians are involved in many disturbing criminal activities including assault, drug trafficking, burglary, break and enter, vandalism and, increasingly, violent crimes against individuals.
There is also a disquieting relationship between many youth gangs and organized crime groups, and this increases the inherent dangers of the gang phenomenon in Canada.
Most gangs subject new members to some kind of initiation. This may consist of being beaten for a certain time by the other gang members, or it may be that most new members are required to commit crimes in order to become members of such a criminal gang. The same applies to some female members.
As is the case with most organized groups, female gang members are not really considered equal to male members. Women are more often invisible or less important, until the male members need them to commit a certain crime.
Female gang members usually participate in the same activities as male gang members. However, even though they take many of the same risks, they do not have the same status as their male counterparts. Furthermore, female gang members are often the victims of abuse such as rape and assault committed by male members of the gang. Unfortunately, male gang members can also sexually exploit them.
Gangs and criminal organizations are recruiting more and more young people, and at even younger ages. That is why we need to ferociously attack this phenomenon, in order to protect our youth.
Not only do we need to make it illegal to recruit people into gangs and criminal organizations, but we also need to strengthen and focus our efforts on youth crime prevention. Through such programs, we would be able to identify young people who might be susceptible to recruitment. It is therefore important to break down the radicalization process, so that our young people can thrive without the negative influence of these gangs.
Beyond criminalizing recruitment, we want more resources to be allocated to crime prevention programs, especially those designed for young people. We also want police forces to have enough resources to protect our communities across the country. To do so, we must certainly work together with the provinces, the territories and communities such as the first nations.
Fighting crime has to be done in partnership with all the players in the legal sector and the social sector.
We have constantly asked for an increased investment in front-line police officers. We have also asked for more money for youth crime prevention programs. Thanks to pressure from the NDP, the government has provided funding to these programs. Nonetheless, it has refused to provide funding for front-line municipal police officers. The Conservatives have thereby let down the provinces when it comes to the police officers recruitment fund that is allocated to the provinces to recruit front-line police officers. This is a very useful program that unfortunately will end in 2013.
The Conservatives are trying to show that they are willing to fight organized crime through this bill. However, they are not fully meeting the needs and expectations of Canadians.
In conclusion, I would just like to reiterate the importance of preventive programs. The punitive approach unfortunately has its limitations, and the best way to prevent recruitment into criminal organizations is to combat poverty and all the variables that result in individuals becoming involved in organized crime.
Criminal behaviour is caused by multiple social variables. Those are what we must work to eliminate. That is how we will have the greatest effect in the battle against crime and the recruitment of young people into criminal gangs.
Private Members' Business
May 1st, 2012 / 6:20 p.m.
Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance
Mr. Speaker, I will begin by reading some of the speech that I have prepared for today. Then I want to take a moment to give some practical examples of how this would affect youth not only in my community and in the province of Manitoba but in many communities across this country.
Bill C-394 would create a new offence that addresses the practice of recruiting or encouraging persons to join a criminal organization. The person who is recruiting must be doing so in order to enhance the ability of the criminal organization to commit or facilitate the commission of an indictable offence.
Organized crime, to be successful, requires a constant stream of new recruits. These individuals replace others who have either been incarcerated or have perhaps experienced worse outcomes. New members join the ranks of an existing organization so that the group can maintain or expand its criminal enterprises into new territories or new activities.
It is particularly disturbing when young people are targeted. In many instances the job of recruiters is very easy, because they target our most vulnerable young people. This leads me to some examples.
As members know, I have been a police officer for some 19 years with the Winnipeg Police Service, and I intend to go back to the police service. What brought me here to this House was the failure of the previous Liberal government to address the recruitment of our youth by criminal organizations, our youth being exploited into the criminal element.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act was created by the previous Liberal government. It was supposed to address this exploitation of our youth. It was supposed to address the fact that our kids were being dragged into gangs. It did none of that. In fact, it removed denunciation and deterrence from the act itself. It created an environment in which criminal organizations could easily target our kids into gangs. As a result, I as a police officer, and many police officers across this country, experienced direct recruitment of our youth through gangs providing them with incentives.
I know that the Liberal member for Winnipeg North is in the House right now. I really want him to pay attention, because it was in his area that I experienced this kind of recruitment. It was fairly common in Winnipeg following the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which was put forward by the previous Liberal government.
First, what the criminal element will do is target a vulnerable youth who perhaps does not have parental supervision, perhaps is in a low-income family, perhaps has not been able to eat, or perhaps is not going to school. The recruiters target these kids and convince them by incentives to become gang members. They would give them $50 to go into Safeway to steal a tube of toothpaste. They would give them $50 after that to go into a house that an adult had broken into and ask them to steal a tube of toothpaste for $50. Then they would start to ask them to deliver packages for $50. What is in the package? Drugs. Now the child, without knowing it, is a drug dealer. The gang member then discloses that they have this information and threatens the young person to stay in the gang and work for the gang. It is despicable.
This is what the Youth Criminal Justice Act did to the children in my community, and this bill will help us to stop that kind of behaviour. I applaud it 100%. I know police officers across the country will applaud it.
I encourage the members of both opposition parties to please consider supporting this bill. It is absolutely necessary. It will do such wonders for our youth in our communities. It is high time that we address these victims who are unnecessarily being put at risk.
February 13th, 2012 / 3:05 p.m.
Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-394, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment).
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to introduce my private member's bill entitled An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment). The bill aims to protect the increasing number of innocent and vulnerable youth who are actively targeted and recruited by criminal organizations. The bill would provide the necessary tools for law enforcement officials and our justice system to hold these criminals accountable for their actions and protect our youth.
I look forward to having a debate on the bill in the House in the very near future.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)