An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.


Parm Gill  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


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.

November 25th, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
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Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

The government is making a technical amendment resulting from the Parliament's recent enactment of private member's Bill C-394, which created a new offence of recruiting to join a criminal organization.

This amendment ensures that the justice system participants can apply for a publication ban in respect of the new recruitment offence in the same way that the justice system participants can in other organized crime prosecutions. This amendment ensures that consistency in the treatment of organized crime offences for the purpose of publication bans. A failure to make this amendment would result in an inconsistent approach to organized crime offences in the Criminal Code.

(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])

(Clause 19 as amended agreed to)

(Clause 20 agreed to)

(On clause 21)

July 10th, 2014 / 10:05 a.m.
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Christa Big Canoe Legal Advocacy Director, Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto

Good morning. Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto would like to thank the members of the committee for inviting us to make submissions regarding this bill.

ALST, the acronym we use, is a multi-service legal agency serving Toronto's aboriginal community. Our only clients are aboriginal clients, or families who have aboriginal interests. Our guiding principles include that aboriginal individuals require equitable treatment in the Canadian justice system, access to legal and related resources within the justice system, as well as understanding of the system and their options within those systems. Aboriginal Legal Services' Anishinaabemowin name is Gaa kina gwii waabamaa debwewin, which translates into “All those who seek the truth".

The Supreme Court of Canada has granted us intervener status in 15 cases in which systemic issues affecting aboriginal peoples were addressed. As it relates to this bill, Aboriginal Legal Services' most noteworthy intervention was in R. v. Bedford. I was the counsel for Aboriginal Legal.

Aboriginal Legal Services objects to the passing of this bill because of the acute aboriginal overrepresentation in the criminal justice and penal systems, and the overall impact this bill will have on a number of aboriginal sex workers, their families, and communities.

We agree with a number of positions taken by POWER and Pivot in their written submissions, and the Lowman submission, “Tripping Point”. Because we do agree on some of those points and because I have limited time, I will only focus on two areas of concern today. We do not believe that Bill C-36 is consistent with the Gladue principles, nor is it charter compliant and consistent with precedent.

There seems to be a suggestion that two completely different and incompatible views have been presented to this committee: one from current or former sex workers, saying that the work is fine, empowering, and a completely autonomous choice; and the second view saying that sex workers are vulnerable, poor, addicted, and just surviving. From our perspective as front-line workers, not only in the Canadian justice system but in providing services—aboriginal community, justice-driven services—we say that these can both be true.

They can both be true because different people have different experiences. As my colleague and co-counsel on the Bedford intervention, Ms. Emily Hill, has pointed out to me, this committee should mostly be worried about the impact of the law on the second group, which everyone seems to agree includes an overrepresentation or disproportionate number of aboriginal people.

Another important point that Aboriginal Legal would like to make is that the government can do everything it's planning to do to support exiting for those who choose to, without also criminalizing sex workers. Neither of these groups of sex workers should be criminalized or put in harm's way because the law fails to account for their lives, liberty, or security of the person.

Our main concern that we believe the passing of the bill will raise can be talked about in two parts. The first part focuses on overrepresentation and Gladue principles, and the second part focuses on sex workers' rights to ensure safety.

Before we begin our discussions on these two points, we submit that laws and policy are not benign. We've heard in the media and through some of the witnesses here that it's not the law that rapes or hurts individuals. But we have to recognize that law and policy are not benign. Historically, laws in Canada have been used as tools of oppression that have attempted to assimilate aboriginal people. The state's legal and policy attempts at eliminating aboriginal people are significant. The treatment of aboriginal people in law and policy has arguably led to poor social determinants of health and hosts of issues that aboriginal people experience.

This was cited in “Forsaken”, the report by the Oppal commission:

The long-term impact of these colonialist policies continues to be keenly seen and felt by the over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in nearly every measured indicator of social and physical suffering in Canada.

Law is not benign; law is purposeful, and law impacts us both beneficially and negatively.

Looking at the first part, when I was talking about aboriginal overrepresentation, this bill as it currently exists will criminalize sex workers through the communication provision. There is an overrepresentation of aboriginal sex workers—which all the witnesses seem to agree on—engaged in street-level and survival sex work. The acute overrepresentation of aboriginal women in the penal system, and the harm that incarceration or institutionalization causes aboriginal women, also applies to their families and communities. What we know of specific statistics is that three out of five federally sentenced women are aboriginal women.

What we also know is that a lot of those aboriginal women start off with minor records and administrative breaches that accumulate over time and see them coming back into the system, so that when they are charged with something they get longer sentences. This is known. It's well-documented. It's in a number of reports on aboriginal men and women.

One thing that we're excluding here, because the preamble and a lot of the submissions are focusing only on women, is that we also know there's a disproportionate number of aboriginal men and transgendered individuals as sex workers. It's important to understand that aboriginal men and women are affected when they're over-incarcerated. They serve longer custodial sentences, usually to warrant expiry; that means to the end of their sentences. They experience higher levels of discrimination while they're in custody and they're more likely to receive high-security assessment by virtue of being aboriginal.

These same factors are the factors that see enforcement and police over-policing certain parts of town that have aboriginal people. These are the same factors that relate to the discrimination that we saw in the Oppal report and in other reports such as the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry in Manitoba.

The Correctional Service of Canada is not meeting legislative goals. The disproportionate numbers of street-based sex workers, including those engaging in survival sex, are aboriginal and will be affected if criminal charges occur. The survival sex workers are the most vulnerable and the most marginalized of all prostitutes, and aboriginal survival sex workers experience higher levels of violence both in terms of incidence and severity.

In the past, we've presented submissions before the Senate on various bills that have recently come in. The omnibus bill, C-10, and more recently, Bill C-394. Essentially, our largest concern is that passing this act will result in the retreat, or undermining, of the principles as set out in section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code, which the Gladue principles derive from. One of the biggest things that we're concerned about is the increased reliance on minimum sentences. This means there's less opportunity for appropriate and fit sentences, and this prevents judges from considering them as sentencing options.

For those who are incarcerated in the penitentiary system, which is three out of five aboriginal women who are federally sentenced.... Let me restate that. Three out of five federally sentenced women are aboriginal. For those who are incarcerated in the penitentiary system, realistically, they come out worse than they went in. We know this. They come out maybe no better, but often worse, with gang affiliations and substance issues and abuses they didn't have, and then they're released into the community without proper programming. The Supreme Court of Canada, in Gladue, stated that:

It is clear that sentencing innovation by itself cannot remove the causes of aboriginal offending and the greater problem of aboriginal alienation from the criminal justice system.

On Monday, Minister MacKay responded to one of the member's questions in that regard. He said that the law was consistent with Gladue, or that all laws have to be consistent. We respectfully disagree. The law, or the bill, hasn't taken into account the acute impact it will have on overrepresentation of aboriginal people if the communication clause that will criminalize sex workers is left in.

Based on what we know, incarceration in incremental amounts does not deter aboriginal offenders. That includes people who sell sex. The law, as it exists, and the law, as it exists pre-Bedford, doesn't deter the actual sale of sex. Arguably, what will happen is that criminalizing one element of it will do what happened in Vancouver, or the Downtown Eastside, where we saw aboriginal women largely, but a lot of sex workers, pushed into the darkened corner. These are the types of submissions that POWER and Pivot made in their written submissions, which we agree with.

In Bedford, our intervention focused on the constitutionality of section 213 of the Criminal Code. It was our position that the communicating provision violated both section 2 and section 7 of the charter and that such violations were not saved by section 1 of the charter. We also had the position that the state had a much larger role in depriving street-level sex workers' rights to life, liberty, and security of the person and that the limited choices available to survival sex workers were constrained as a result of government action, the law, and the law not being benign.

One thing that we learned in Bedford, and we've heard talked about, is gross disproportionality and it's the only thing I'm going to focus on due to my limited time. Bedford spoke to the gross disproportionality between the infringement of the law and the objects of the legislation.

The object has been recognized to protect the neighbourhoods that experience harms associated with street-based sex work. That's what was determined in Bedford. The court said that the court must balance the harms that those neighbourhoods face with harms that street-level sex workers face.

We, at the time, submitted that the inconvenience and discomfort do not reach the same harm level as that experienced by sex workers who experience violence, sexual violence, and death. Quite frankly, we don't see a difference between what the bill is proposing and the law that was struck down as being grossly disproportionate.

Simple wordmilling by saying that it's about safety and not about nuisance is not enough. It's not the true measure a court will have to balance in determining constitutionality of charter rights, and it will always have to balance the safety of the person at risk.

I'll close with what Chief Justice McLachlin said at paragraph 121 of Bedford, which is:

Gross disproportionality under s. 7 of the Charter does not consider the beneficial effects of the law for society. It balances the negative effect on the individual against the purpose of the law, not against societal benefit that might flow from the law.

It is our opinion that the scope has not narrowed so much. This committee should ask themselves whether the legislative object has really substantially changed, or has there been some wordmilling.

Criminal Organization Recruitment LegislationStatements By Members

June 20th, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
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Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today with great pride to announce that my bill, Bill C-394, which will help protect our youth being targeted by gangs, received royal assent yesterday and has now become law.

This new law allows the law enforcement officials to combat the rapid growth of street gangs across our country. Criminals who seek to recruit innocent Canadians into gangs will now face jail time of up to five years.

I am overwhelmed by the support this bill has received from Canadians across our great nation.

We all know it is not very often we see a private member's bill pass and become law. Since 1910, only approximately 250 private members' bills have been passed, and I am truly honoured that my bill has received such wonderful support.

As a proud father of three children, I am overwhelmed by the passage of this legislation, and to know that this bill will protect our children and punish those who seek to harm them by bringing them into a life of crime.

Criminal Organization RecruitmentStatements By Members

June 18th, 2014 / 2:05 p.m.
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Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today with great pride to announce that my bill, Bill C-394, which would protect our youth being targeted by gangs, has passed its final reading in the Senate and will receive royal assent tomorrow.

This legislation would allow law enforcement officials to combat the rapid growth of street gangs across our country.

The bill would also make it a criminal offence for the recruitment or solicitation of individuals into criminal organizations.

The bill would introduce jail time of up to five years and a mandatory minimum jail time of up to six months for those who recruit youth under the age of 18; youth, our most innocent and vulnerable citizens, who are being coerced and at times forced to embark on a life that no Canadian should ever experience.

As a proud father of three children, I am overwhelmed by the passage of this legislation and knowing that the bill would protect our children and punish those who seek to harm our children by bringing them into a life of crime.

Private Members' BusinessOpening Of The Second Session Of The 41St Parliament

October 16th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would like to make a statement concerning private members' business.

As hon. members know, our Standing Orders provide for the continuance of private members’ business from session to session within a Parliament.

In practical terms, this means that notwithstanding prorogation, the list for the consideration of private members' business established at the beginning of the 41st Parliament shall continue for the duration of this Parliament.

As such, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that were listed on the Order Paper at the conclusion of the previous session are automatically reinstated to the Order Paper and shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation.

All items will keep the same number as in the first session of the 41st Parliament. More specifically, all bills and motions standing on the list of items outside the order of precedence shall continue to stand. Bills that had met the notice requirement and were printed in the Order Paper but had not yet been introduced will be republished on the Order Paper under the heading “Introduction of Private Members' Bills”. Bills that had not yet been published on the order paper need to be recertified by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and be resubmitted for publication on the notice paper.

Of course all items in the order of precedence remain on the order of precedence or, as the case may be, are referred to the appropriate committee or sent to the Senate.

Specifically, at prorogation there were three private members' bills originating in the House of Commons adopted at second reading and referred to committee.

Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, Bill C-458, an act respecting a national charities week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-489, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders) is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, committees will be required to report on each of these reinstated private members’ bills within 60 sitting days of this statement.

In addition, prior to prorogation, nine private members' bills originating in the House of Commons had been read the third time and passed. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, the following bills are deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House: Bill C-217, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief relating to war memorials); Bill C-266, an act to establish Pope John Paul II day; Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity); Bill C-290, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting); Bill C-314, an act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue; Bill C-350, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders); Bill C-377, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations); Bill C-394, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment); and Bill C-444, an act to amend the Criminal Code (personating peace officer or public officer).

Accordingly, a message will be sent to the Senate to inform it that this House has adopted these nine bills.

Consideration of private members’ business will start on Thursday, October 17, 2013.

As members may be aware, among the items in the order of precedence or deemed referred to committee, there are four bills standing in the name of members recently appointed as parliamentary secretaries who, by virtue of their office, are not eligible to propose items during the consideration of private members' business.

Bill C-511, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (period of residence) and Bill C-517, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons) were awaiting debate at second reading in the order of precedence at the time of prorogation.

Bill C-458, An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts), and Bill C-478, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), were in committee at the time of prorogation and, as stated earlier, have been returned there.

This is in keeping with the principle expressed at pages 550-551 and 1125 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which provides that bills remain on the order of precedence since they are in the possession of the House and only the House can take further decision on them.

These items are therefore without eligible sponsors but remain in the possession of the House or its committees. If no action is taken, at the appropriate time these items will eventually be dropped from the Order Paper, pursuant to Standing Order 94(2)(c).

Hon. members will find at their desks a detailed explanatory note about private members’ business. I trust that these measures will assist the House in understanding how private members' business will be conducted in this session. The table officers are available to answer any questions members may have.

I thank all members for their attention.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 1st, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-394, under private members' business.

The House resumed from April 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-394, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment), be read the third time and passed.

May 1st, 2013 / 4:20 p.m.
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Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank our witnesses for being here. I believe this has been a tremendous session, and I know this committee has learned a lot.

Our committee recently studied Bill C-394, criminal organization recruitment. It was introduced by Parm Gill, one of our colleagues. The bill proposes to create a new indictable offence that would prohibit the recruitment, solicitation, encouragement, or initiation of another person to join a criminal organization. We're talking about street gangs, for the most part.

The offence would be punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum penalty of imprisonment for six months if the individual who is recruited is under the age of 18.

In my opinion, from my experience as an educator, a link can be made between harmful actions of street gangs and the trafficking of women. Unfortunately, street gangs are more and more using the trafficking of women to help their repulsive trade prosper.

Would you agree with that statement? Are you seeing a lot of action by street gangs that are recruiting women into the sex trade?

JusticeOral Questions

May 1st, 2013 / 3 p.m.
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Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to keeping our streets and communities safe. This is why I have introduced Bill C-394. My legislation targets those who attempt to recruit youth into gangs. Parents want gangs off our streets and out of their neighbourhoods. This legislation would help to achieve precisely that.

With the final vote in the House of Commons scheduled for tonight, could the Minister of Justice please inform the House about the government's position on this important piece of legislation?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 30th, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of my hon. colleagues for taking the time to participate in the debate on this important piece of legislation. Bill C-394 is legislation that Canada needs in order to make our streets and communities safer for everyone to enjoy.

This is not about politics or partisanship. It is my belief and hope that when it comes to protecting our youth and our most vulnerable citizens, we are all on the same side. Our youth are our future and it is our responsibility to provide an environment in which they can reach their greatest potential.

The realities of a gang lifestyle are heartbreaking. Such things as death, guns, drugs, violence, substance abuse, criminal activity and prostitution are all too common in this environment. This is a place that no person should ever find themselves, yet far too many still do. It is our responsibility not only as elected representatives but as citizens of this country to work together in an effort to make our future safe for all.

This proposed legislation is an important tool that our criminal justice system needs in order to address this growing concern. The act of gang recruitment affects those directly involved. It is a danger to families, communities and the safety that every Canadian holds dear. Young Canadians, regardless of where they grow up, should be able to grow and explore their potential in a safe environment.

It is an unfortunate and disheartening reality that youth today are targeted by active and violent gangs. The means by which these gangs recruit our youth are both inhumane and life-altering. This reality necessitates the quick passage of Bill C-394 because one person recruited into a gang is one person too many. It is time to take action so that families do not have to live in fear and communities across this country can enjoy the safety and security that we all deserve.

As this bill is at third reading and will soon be voted on, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has been involved in the development and progression of this bill.

I would like to sincerely thank my very hard-working staff, both in Brampton and in Ottawa, for their support; my colleagues for supporting this bill from the beginning; and community stakeholders across this great nation who met with me, including front-line police officers and justice officials who supported this bill from the beginning and even took the time to testify before the justice committee.

I would like to thank my constituents, the wonderful citizens of Brampton—Springdale, for the honour of allowing me to represent them here in this House and for providing me with incredible feedback and support toward this bill.

Finally, I would like to thank the countless number of youth I had the opportunity to meet and who inspired me to create this piece of legislation so that their future and the future of coming generations could be protected.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 30th, 2013 / 6:05 p.m.
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Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-394, criminal organization recruitment, which aims to address the important issue of gang recruitment. Combatting organized crime has been a long-standing commitment of this government, and I would like to thank the hon. member for Brampton—Springdale for introducing Bill C-394, a bill that would very much continue to build on these efforts.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has reported this bill back to the House with a minor amendment, specifically relating to consistency between the English and French versions of the Criminal Code, and one additional amendment. Before I go on to address these amendments in more detail, allow me to say that this bill makes a strong statement against the serious problem of organized crime groups in this country.

Bill C-394 aims to ensure that the Criminal Code explicitly prohibits recruiting another person into a criminal organization. It does so by proposing a new indictable offence: actively recruiting, soliciting, encouraging or inviting another person to join a criminal organization for the purpose of enhancing the ability of that criminal organization to facilitate or commit indictable offences. The person doing the recruiting would not need to be a member of the criminal organization to which the individual is being recruited. This offence would be punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum penalty of imprisonment for six months if the individual recruited is under the age of 18.

The committee heard from many witnesses on this issue, and many of them emphasized just how important Bill C-394 would be in the effort to prevent youth from joining criminal organizations in the first place. Organized crime groups often target young people to conduct many of their activities, in part because they know that if a young person is caught, he or she will be treated more leniently by the justice system. For example, we heard testimony about criminal organizations that use 11-year-old children to run drugs. Criminal organizations also target young people who are vulnerable and do not have positive influences in their lives. These young people are often seduced by the promise of a lifestyle of power and money. However, we know that this most often does not turn out to be true and that, in fact, gang life is a dangerous life to choose.

When the Attorney General of Manitoba, Andrew Swan, testified before the committee, he emphasized this:

Gang life closes out family, friends, school, and community. Many young people who get brought into gangs, who are coerced to join gangs, find that there is no financial benefit. There's a cutting off of all the things that the youth have been involved with, and there is no easy way out.

Being involved in a gang increases the risk of violence to an individual and even the risk of death.

The vulnerability of youth in these situations was the primary motivation behind the proposed imposition of a mandatory minimum penalty if the individual recruited is under the age of 18. Attorney General Swan elegantly described this element of the proposed offence as a guaranteed consequence. This element would send a strong message to gangs that Canada's young people are a priority and that we will protect them.

I will be the first to admit that Bill C-394 represents only one of many available responses to a problem that has been recognized by many to require a multi-faceted approach. It is a Criminal Code approach. I do not wish to suggest for one second that this bill alone would prevent all recruitment into a criminal gang. Do I think it is an important response? Yes, I do. Do I think it is a meaningful response? Of course it is. I also recognize that combatting organized crime requires a broad response.

Prevention efforts must also be put in place to provide meaningful alternatives and positive role models so that people who may be thinking about joining a gang have an opportunity to choose otherwise. The government has made significant investments over the past number of years to support programs and youth gang prevention activities. The proposed offence of recruitment by criminal organizations would provide yet another tool for police as they continue to address the growing problem of criminal gangs.

The effort to recruit people into a criminal organization is more than just a problem for the people being recruited. It also represents a significant problem from the perspective of public safety. When people are successfully recruited into a criminal organization to facilitate the organization's ability to commit crime, it enhances the threat posed by these groups in general.

As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-394 has been reported to the House with a few minor technical amendments, which I support. I am also very pleased to report that there was unanimous support for this bill by all our colleagues at committee.

I would like to now briefly comment on an amendment made by the committee.

Bill C-394 was amended to include coercion in the list of prohibitive behaviour. That particular amendment would have the effect of prohibiting the recruitment, solicitation, encouragement, invitation and coercion of someone to join a criminal organization.

Coercion is a term that is generally used in criminal law to refer to conduct that is for the purpose of compelling someone to do or to refrain from doing something. Its inclusion in the bill's proposed new offences therefore makes sense. It is another way in which people can be, and are being, brought into criminal organizations, which in turn increases the capacity of criminal organizations to commit crime.

Bill C-394 is an important piece of legislation, and I want to thank the committee for its work on this bill.

In closing, I would like to again thank the hon. member for Brampton—Springdale for introducing this extremely important bill. The protection of youth is a priority for this government and it should be a priority for all members of this House.

Furthermore, the threat of organized crime continues to be a major concern for Canadians. The thought that youth are being brought in and recruited by such organizations is a very real and troubling issue. It is for this reason that I hope all members will stand in this House and support Bill C-394.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 30th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
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Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the debate on Bill C-394 and the issue of gang recruitment. I had the privilege of sitting in on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights while it considered this legislation, and I will expand on some of the issues discussed in those meetings.

I speak, I believe, for all members of the Liberal Party when I say that I want to deter youths from joining gangs. Indeed, if this legislation served any preventive end, we would gladly endorse it. However, not only does Bill C-394 fail to address the fundamental reasons that youths join gangs—the root causes, if I dare say that—but it also would employ a mandatory minimum penalty, which the Liberal Party opposes in principle.

I raise the root causes of youth gang involvement as an issue, because the government acknowledges the problems but it fails to provide solutions either in Bill C-394 or elsewhere. For example, the website of the Department of Public Safety lists risk factors relative to youth gang involvement and includes the following as major risks: limited attachment to the community, over-reliance on anti-social peers, poor parental supervision, alcohol and drug abuse, poor educational or employment potential and a need for recognition and belonging. Yet Bill C-394 does not address any of these. In fact, the government is missing in action on things like youth unemployment and access to education, things it could take proactive measures to correct.

With regard to violence among aboriginals, public safety's website explains:

The increase in gang violence and crime in some Aboriginal communities has been attributed in part to an increasing youth population, inadequate housing, drug and alcohol abuse, a high unemployment rate, lack of education, poverty, poor parenting skills, the loss of culture, language and identity and a sense of exclusion.

As Idle No More and similar movements demonstrate, the government is out of touch with the needs of aboriginal communities. If it took those needs seriously, we could begin the process of reconciliation. We could address the social problems plaguing first nations. We could give aboriginal youth access to education and opportunity. Instead, by ignoring these problems, we further the cycle of despair that makes gang life attractive to youth.

It is interesting to have this discussion in light of the Conservatives' attack ad on the member for Papineau. They criticize him for being a camp counsellor, a rafting instructor and a drama teacher. If we want kids to feel included in their communities, to have a sense of belonging and purpose, we ought to have more camp counsellors, more rafting instructors, more teachers seeking to make a difference in the life of a child, not attacking these sorts of things as useless pursuits unbecoming of a leader. However, the government buries its head in the sand and refuses to acknowledge that preventing crime involves addressing tough issues beyond the Criminal Code.

I can assure the House that youths are not joining gangs because they believe their activities are lawful, nor do gangs recruit because they believe it is legal to do so. This is the problem with the Conservative approach to crime. Everything is a matter for the criminal law, and every incident provides a pretext to legislate.

As was said by the member for Toronto Centre, “when the only tool we have in our toolbox is a sledgehammer, everything starts to look like a rock”. For Conservatives, criminal law is all about punishment. By adding new offences and penalties and, in some cases, duplicating existing offences and penalties, the Conservatives attempt to regulate on the back end, after the crimes have been committed. This ignores the fact that there are other elements to criminal justice such as prevention, rehabilitation of the offender and reintegration into society, let alone addressing the underlying causes of crime.

As I mentioned, I may be accused of perhaps committing sociology on this. Let there be no mistake. Bill C-394 deals with gang recruitment only on the back end once it has occurred. I submit that by then, it is way too late.

As I have indicated, this issue is already addressed by the Criminal Code. Former justice minister Anne McLellan said in this place, upon the introduction of what is currently in the Criminal Code that we are seeking to amend today, the following:

We know that successful recruitment enhances the threat posed to society by criminal organizations. It allows them to grow and to more effectively achieve their harmful criminal objectives. Those who act as recruiters for criminal organizations contribute to these ends both when they recruit for specific crimes and when they recruit simply to expand the organization's human capital.

In other words, we knew when introducing what was already in the code that recruitment was an issue, is an issue, and we put in place offence language that captured it. Thus, while the regime in the code at present may not use the word “recruitment”, the intention is clear in the record and there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that prosecutions for recruitment are not happening because of some legislative loophole.

Indeed, as it is proposed, the bill will actually add to the problem by putting in a mandatory minimum penalty. International studies corroborate what even Justice Canada has found, that mandatory minimums do not deter crime. Among other things, mandatory minimums remove prosecutorial and judicial discretion. They lead to prison overcrowding. They lead to more crimes in prison and more crimes outside of prison. They contribute to a clogging of the courts, resulting in accused persons being set free. They are, as I indicated in my question to the member earlier, constitutionally suspect. Mandatory minimums have prejudicial consequences, particularly on aboriginal peoples and minority communities.

I know colleagues in the NDP have argued that the mandatory minimum in this bill is light and, therefore, acceptable, in their view. We take a different approach, which is that there is no need for adding something that could lead, in the right fact situation, to this legislation being overturned. This just is not smart legislating.

However, if I were to address the Conservatives' inability to legislate intelligently, I would certainly run out of time. In fact, we might be here all night. Instead, I will focus on one shortcoming relevant here, which is the failure to vet bills for constitutionality. Much has been made of that in the House and, in particular, by my colleague, the member for Mount Royal, of the obligation of the Minister of Justice, under the Department of Justice Act, to review government legislation for compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights.

The minister, time and time again, has said that his bills are constitutional, yet time and time again the provisions are struck down and the government is called to account for its failure to comply with the supreme law of the land. Not only does legislating in such a reckless way risk the statute being struck, it also clogs up the courts with challenges that could have been avoided. It also costs the taxpayers, who bear the burden of defending the government. For a government that claims accountability, why is it not accountable to the charter and its statutory obligations? For a government that prides itself on fiscal restraint, why is it wasting taxpayer money?

One may wonder why I am raising this issue when the obligation for a charter check is only on government bills, not on private members' bills like Bill C-394. The answer is that the government has been increasingly using private members' bills to legislate through the back door. If this bill was so important, why was it not included in the omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10? Why has the minister not introduced it on his own accord? Surely, if it were so necessary, the minister could have made this change to a government bill and it would have passed through the House much faster. Indeed, by using the private member bill route, the government minimizes House debate and circumvents the required charter review.

We must address the cycle of poverty and homelessness that affects too many children in the country. Where is the government on that? We must say to ourselves that if children are to be the priority, maybe we need more camp councillors, rafting instructors and drama teachers. What they do not need is a government that says it cares, throws a band-aid on the problem that will not hold and then pats itself on the back for having done anything at all. Bill C-394 would be just that, and that is why the Liberal Party will vote no on this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 30th, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
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Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as Bill C-394, presented by my colleague the member for Brampton—Springdale, reaches third reading.

Bill C-394 amends the Criminal Code to create a new offence in relation to organized crime, namely recruiting a person to join a criminal organization. The NDP supports this bill as part of a response to the problem of gang recruitment, particularly of young people.

Upon reading the text, we find that the bill was amended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. One amendment adds the concept of coercion to the new offence. The others are designed to ensure consistency between the English and French versions, and in the terminology used in the Criminal Code. The bill was examined for three hours by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

As a member of the committee, I had an opportunity to hear valuable and thought-provoking testimony, and to question witnesses. I also had an opportunity to take part in interesting exchanges with my colleagues on the committee. The phenomenon of recruitment, mainly of young people, by gangs presents a real problem, which calls for a balanced public safety approach, that is an approach combining prevention and enforcement.

In the NDP, we believe that this bill contains part of the answer to the problem, but in committee we pointed out that the creation of a new offence amending the Criminal Code with the addition of section 467.111 is the outcome of a private member’s bill, not a government bill. The government should make changes to its policy to deal with street gangs. Let me pursue this point further.

The street gang phenomenon is so important in our country that the government should adopt a strategy to deal with these criminal organizations. The government should find effective solutions for the problem of recruitment by criminal organizations.

Representatives of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada came to testify before the committee. This Canada-wide organization provides guidance and assistance to young Canadians who are marginalized or in difficulty, work that is essential to social cohesion in our country.

I would like to quote Marlene Deboisbriand, vice-president of that organization, regarding the importance of these clubs in Canada:

Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada is a leading provider of quality programs that support the healthy development of children and youth. Our association of over 100 clubs reaches over 200,000 children, youth, and their families across the country. We are in 500 community locations from coast to coast to coast.

These representatives emphasized the need for funding for prevention programs:

We are not opposed to Bill C-394. Our concerns are mostly related to the need for enhanced prevention efforts....and rehabilitative programs for youth who want to rebuild their lives outside gangs.

The testimony given by Rachel Gouin of Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada was very compelling. She addressed three important points.

First of all, is it very important that public authorities take a comprehensive approach to the complex phenomenon of the recruitment of young people into gangs. Targeted punitive measures like this one, combined with adequate police action to catch people who are recruiting, would be best. However, these measures must be accompanied by programs and social services geared towards housing assistance, mental health support and employment assistance.

Secondly, recruiters are sometimes children or teenagers themselves. As Ms. Gouin said in her testimony, the scope of this bill does not apply to them. Children and youth have their own criminal justice system, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The third point, which is related to the first, is the importance of continuity of funding for prevention programs that target both those likely to do the recruiting and those likely to be recruited.

The Youth Justice Services Funding Program helps the provinces establish rehabilitation services for these people. It is regrettable that budget cuts have affected this program.

The presentation by Manitoba's attorney general was also very important. The NDP paid close attention to what he said. Our only amendment to the bill, presented in committee, came out of this evidence. The attorney general said:

...we believe Bill C-394 could be improved by being applied to anyone recruiting in places where youth are expected to gather, the very places I think all of us want to keep safe, such as schools and schoolyards, community centres, friendship centres, and parks—places where we want it to be safe for young people to go.

The NDP presented an amendment concerning sentencing. It would ensure that the court take into consideration elements of proof establishing the recruitment of someone under 18 into a gang, near a school or community centre, for example, as aggravating factors. Our excellent amendment was hotly debated and the Conservatives unfortunately decided to reject it.

The NDP has always been proactive when it comes to public safety. On the one hand, we want more money for crime prevention programs. On the other, we want police forces to have the resources needed to adequately protect communities across Canada. It is therefore important to continue to collaborate with the provinces, the territories and first nations.

In closing, this bill is a solution to the problem of recruitment by gangs, but it is not the only one.

We support this bill. However, we are asking the government to do more. An approach that strikes a balance between repression and prevention must always prevail when it comes to public safety.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 30th, 2013 / 5:45 p.m.
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Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I was putting together the bill, I had an opportunity to travel right across the country and discuss it with a number of different stakeholders and communities, including youth. I came across far too many incidents like the one I shared in my remarks about gang members in Winnipeg targeting younger and younger people with some of their tactics. This is very heartbreaking, the destroying of our future, because especially at a young age, as young as eight years of age, these young people have no idea what they are getting into. They are being enticed. Their lives are being ruined. These criminal gangs are terrorizing our communities and our streets. Bill C-394 would help protect us.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 30th, 2013 / 5:40 p.m.
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Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government has a strong record. It has actually invested more money in protecting Canadians and in our justice system than any previous government in history.

This is a very important issue. Our government has introduced a number of initiatives to protect Canadians and to make our streets safer. Bill C-394 is another tool in the toolbox to help our justice officials and our front-line police officers protect Canadians, especially our youth, the young generation, who are the future of our country.