Thank you very much, Chair and members of the committee. I appreciate being invited back on behalf of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, and I welcome you to Toronto for a change.
I want to talk today about a central theme in confronting criminal organizations, changing legislation, and how the criminal justice system deals with these issues, as opposed to specific comments in relation to some of the issues. For instance, on minimum sentences reducing judges' discretion, we are on the record and have talked about it on many other occasions.
I think the key here is collaboration. In reading some of the helpful testimony that you've experienced across the country, I note that a theme seems to run through it. I want to suggest to you that in the last year, collaboration among police, crown, defence, community, and government has really moved to the forefront in terms of looking at issues, better management of the criminal justice system, and better management in the identification of causes of crime and in the involvement of the community.
I want to use the word “collaboration” and suggest that there needs to be collaboration among many different partners in the criminal justice system and outside it. There must be collaboration between governments. There must be collaboration among the federal, provincial, and municipal governments in terms of funding, policing, and sharing information, and in terms of identifying some of the problems in the community, such as, for instance, community involvement, which is very important.
All levels of government have an interest in community involvement, because it is very important. There must be collaboration with the community. We must have the community involved in understanding. I really was impressed by the evidence you received in Halifax from Chief Beazley about the involvement of the police in the community.
We first need collaboration between levels of government. Who is responsible for what and who will fund what? We need collaboration between government sectors. There's no sense in operating in a silo, because criminal justice is not able to solve health problems, those addictions and mental health problems that may be the offshoot of organized crime, especially in regard to the proliferation of drugs in the communities. We need to have mental health, social services, and those other portfolios working together with you in terms of justice issues.
We can't operate as a society in an isolated way. We need collaboration among the various disciplines. There's a good example of that. I think many police officers would tell you that much time is wasted by having four or five police officers escort a chronic offender to a hospital, as opposed to those officers being back on the street. There's the interaction of mental health, social services, and different portfolios, so health is important to consider when we're talking about collaboration.
We need collaboration within communities. We need to have people in the communities involved with their police forces, crowns, defence, and judiciary. The public needs to understand. If we look at different types of organized crime, there are the street gangs, and what they are is turf organizations within communities. They're different in some respects from, historically, the Hells Angels. These are turf wars. They're in their communities. Oftentimes we have a problem in this city in terms of certain neighbourhoods. In many of those neighbourhoods, there are single parents, and the gangs are involved in turf wars. We need that community involvement, the collaboration within that.
We need collaboration among the crown, the defence, the judiciary, and the police. One of the most remarkable things that has happened within the last year, through the workings of the national Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to the Justice System, and also through the national symposium, which was prompted by the national association of chiefs of police, is that people have come together to identify some of the problems in combatting crime and running a better system, and we are finding that we have more in common here than we have in relation to different issues.
There has to be collaboration in thinking, in my respectful submission. You've had some fantastically interesting people come before you, so you have a collaborative view about the causes of criminal activity and organized crime. I remember someone talking about piracy--and all the way through. Organized crime is a response to people who don't like the law--or needs.
So I would ask you to take all of the information you're receiving from the learned academics who have testified before you and take a collaborative approach in relation to solving or addressing the issues of organized crime and the criminal justice system.
We need a collaborative approach to education. We don't do a very good job as stakeholders, defence, crown, and police, in making sure we all understand where we're coming from. For example, you have heard on many occasions that there seems to be a problem with disclosure. Disclosure is not the problem; it's getting disclosure, organizing disclosure, and disseminating it. So we need to have a collaborative educational approach for police officers, young lawyers, and crown attorneys on why disclosure is necessary. It's sanctified by the law, so let's deal with it and manage the system better. The only way you do that is through a collaborative approach.
It's not enough, with great respect, to talk about minimum sentences and how we deal with the problem at the end. We're probably never going to solve the historical evolution of criminal activity and organized crime by just making it tougher at the end. To understand and collaboratively work on the problems, the reasons, and how the system deals with them is one of the magical solutions you may get from these expanded hearings.
I really commend you for getting into the communities. I'm sure that some of the things you've heard about--the ideas that the police are offering and moving forward so we don't have a rigid system.... Because a rigid system doesn't solve the cause problem. That's the message I would like to discuss with you today, on behalf of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers. We need a collaborative approach to solving and addressing organized crime, and the use of the criminal justice system to deal with it.