Evidence of meeting #25 for Justice and Human Rights in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was organization.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Michel Aubin  Director, Federal and Internatioal Operations, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Serge Vandal  Lieutenant, Officer in Charge, Organized Crime Intelligence Unit, Sûreté du Québec
  • Gary Shinkaruk  Officer in Charge, Project E-Pandora, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Christopher Mainella  Senior Counsel, Public Prosecution Service of Canada
  • Kent Roach  Pritchard-Wilson Chair, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, As an Individual
  • Francis Brabant  Legal Counsel, Sûreté du Québec
  • Jocelyn Latulippe  Chief Inspector, Director of Criminal Investigation Services, Sûreté du Québec

12:35 p.m.

Senior Counsel, Public Prosecution Service of Canada

Christopher Mainella

Again, it's their choice. Section 655 of the code makes it their choice. They have an absolute veto. So, yes, they are proud to be members, but they still make the crown prove it.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

We'll move on to Monsieur Lemay, for five minutes.

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I will let Mr. Petit have a turn and come back later on.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Sure. That's fine.

Monsieur Petit.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Good morning, and thank you for being with us today.

The questions raised by the motion before us today arose many years ago in Quebec. I am a defence lawyer. I am just about the same age as Mr. Lemay, and we were both there for the infamous megatrial in Montreal, the aftershocks of which are still being felt and where the defence lawyers were better paid than the Crown prosecutors. You are certainly aware of that; there was talk of that in the newspapers. We have already heard from your colleagues, but I would be interested in your own comment in that regard.

Mr. Serge Ménard, who was the Minister of Public Safety in Quebec at the time of the gang wars, recently expressed his opinion on this motion. He said that this is not something that will enable us to successfully combat organized crime, because they will just have to change their name and start all over again. That is a valid argument, even though I do not necessarily agree. That is why I would like your opinion.

We cannot list the Hells Angels Inc. or Bandidos Inc. in the Quebec or Ontario Corporations Act or in federal legislation. Those groups would simply take different names. As long as we are unaware of those names, their activities cannot be prohibited. That is another problem.

How did you hear about the Mongols? Well, it happened one day when you arrested an individual wearing a coat that said “Mongols” on it. Without that inscription, you would not have known they existed. And yet, this is an organized crime group. Members of the mafia do no wear a name emblazoned on their chest, but they wear a tie, a nice hat, a double-breasted suit, and that sort of thing. Should we be thinking about including the “mafia” or “Cosa Nostra”, “Hells Angels” and “Bandidos” on the list?

We need to know whether the instrument that would be created by Parliament would help a Crown prosecutor talk about certain things. Let us not forget that the defence lawyer or, at least, others representing one part of the House of Commons, said something different. Why do they want this to be included in the anti-terrorist legislation? We believe it should be part of the Criminal Code.

Mr. Aubin, could you take that question?

12:35 p.m.

Supt Michel Aubin

Mr. Petit, I will try to answer you to the best of my ability. Those who are more familiar with the Hells Angels than I am could perhaps add to my response.

There are two things that come to mind. First of all, certain large criminal organizations, such as the mafia, will not necessarily incorporate, as you say, or wear items of clothing that could identify them. In that case, it is more of a lifestyle, a culture or a cult that is involved. I do not think, however, that simply because an organization appears on a list, it would necessarily change its name. It is important to understand that, for many criminal organizations, such as the mafia and other groups that originated in Asian countries, it is a question of pride and membership in a particular circle. I do not think an organization would change its name, to call itself Mafia 1 or Mafia 2, just because we have taken action.

For many of its members, it is really a question of personal pride and membership in a group. Personally, I do not see it that way. However, I cannot speak for the Hells Angels. Nor do I want to address the legal question, because that is not part of my expertise. I think we could go forward and consider the possibility of technical variations in organizations. That is the way it works with the drug legislation. If we add a drug to the list, we will also add its derivatives. There are technical terms available to ensure that criminals cannot use just any derivative or polymer. In terms of the precursors, we will obviously use the derivatives of the precursor itself.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

Monsieur Lemay, did you want to follow up on that?

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

My question is addressed to Mr. Mainella.

You heard the questions I put to Professor Roach. A little earlier, I was re-reading sections 467 and following. There must not be much missing there, because you said there is a need to reduce, that the evidence has to be different, that we should perhaps consider making things a little easier and that there has to be more focus on electronic surveillance. And yet, collecting the evidence takes just as much time when electronic surveillance is involved.

I want to try and understand. How would a listing of organized crime groups help you, more so than what is currently in sections 467 and following, and if it would help you, how? What is your response to Professor Roach's argument? Are you not concerned that the Hells Angels could take you to Federal Court to have their name removed from the list?

12:40 p.m.

Senior Counsel, Public Prosecution Service of Canada

Christopher Mainella

I'll answer that two ways. First, when you're designing legislation it's not just for one particular group. The one thing about motorcycle gangs is they have trademarks; they have very clear indicia. Most criminal organizations are amorphous and they're very difficult to list. It's a very unwieldy and inflexible tool.

Secondly--and this goes back to my answer to Mr. Comartin--the trier of fact, whether it's a judge or a jury, needs context. They need to understand that if Mr. X is the president of the chapter of a particular outlaw motorcycle gang, what powers does that mean. It's not like the Canadian Constitution, where the powers of a branch of government are listed in a document. You have to explain that through evidence. So in terms of answering your question, I'd still have to call several days of evidence to explain the context of facts.

I may have a document that you may think nothing of when you read it, but in the gang culture it may be a very significant document, so I would have to call one of the very few experts in Canada who knows about that document. So the evidence would probably have to be repeated.

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Thank you.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

All right, our next round would be Liberal and Conservative. Are you okay, Mr. Murphy?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Yes, for fifteen minutes or so.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Ed Fast

I'm going to take the liberty of just asking a question myself. I think all of--

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Chairman, pardon me for interrupting. I asked a question, and Mr. Aubin answered. Would someone else like to respond? Perhaps the other witness could answer. I think you were waiting for a chance to comment.

May 26th, 2009 / 12:40 p.m.

Francis Brabant Legal Counsel, Sûreté du Québec

Thank you.

In terms of organizations such as biker gangs, they are, in fact, international organizations devoted exclusively to criminal activity. This is a phenomenon that has been observed everywhere in the world. It has been noted in Europe and elsewhere that disputes have arisen between international criminal biker gangs whose sole aim was to exert total control over a specific criminal territory. There I am referring to narcotics trafficking, prostitution and all the other types of criminal activity that can benefit a group.

Members of these organizations use their image when they make contact with members of another organization, or even the same organization. I could give you the example of the Hells Angels. Members of the Hells Angels group in Quebec and in British Columbia use the same selection process. That means that they are all loyal to the organization. That being the case, they can collaborate for the purposes of their illicit trade without having to worry about protecting themselves, as opposed to dealing with members of another organization or with independent criminals who are not part of a criminal organization. The partnering process would not occur without a certain amount of mistrust. Wearing its colours and identifying with an organization, including obeying its rules regarding the wearing of those colours, authenticates the members and facilitates their criminal activity.

I am talking about the Hells Angels here. However, at the international level, there are also such groups as the Outlaws, the Bandidos, the Rock Machine, and the Mongols, which are governed by the same principles and operate in the same way.

Flaunting one's membership in such an organization becomes a tool. In some cases, it can even act as a deterrent to people, in both the civilian population and among local criminals or members of other organizations who oppose a takeover by the organization that is out there showing its colours. Being out there for everyone to see or using the name of one's organization elicits a certain image in people's mind, just as the words “Hells Angels” do. Things immediately come to mind and suggest that this is a criminal organization, because there have been prosecutions, media coverage in other countries, and so on. These things are well known to people in the criminal justice system, because they have been acknowledged in Canada.

A little earlier, statistics were mentioned, reference was made to days or weeks. Just to give you an example, on the Software project, the R. v. Lindsay case, Mr. Cameron spent 10 days proving the act of extortion. Six months were needed to prove the existence of criminal organizations in Canada. That is really a very lengthy and significant period of time, compared to the offence.

It is also important to understand that a member of the Hells Angels who is in charge of a narcotics trafficking network is contributing to the overall welfare of the group. Part of the criminal revenues are spread around to improve the organization and make it more powerful. When a member like that is arrested, those things are often lost.

I see that Mr. Latulippe may want to add something. However, I do think that shows the impact that these images can have.

In closing, I would like to raise one final example. In 2004, there was a gathering of Hells Angels members in the Sherbrooke region to celebrate an anniversary. Members of the organization from across Canada travelled to Sherbrooke on that occasion. About 25 members of the organization from British Columbia decided to fly in economic class and to show their colours. Complaints were made during the flight by the airline staff. Subsequently, passengers also complained, saying that the fact these individuals were showing their colours had upset them. I was asked to meet with a security manager for the airline company in Montreal. He asked me what steps could legally be taken under the legislation. He wanted to know what he could do and what the law allowed him to do in such cases.

I had to tell him that any action fell within the purview of the airline company itself, which could possibly ask such individuals not to show their colours, because it upset their clients.

Thank you.