Those are good questions.
I will deal with the number five first. When we were preparing the legislation, and indeed over the period of time when we were looking at the scourge of organized crime and trying to determine the best course for dealing with it, we looked at statutes in other parts of the world. Some of them were of no help because they were in countries with different constitutional traditions and they had approaches that would clearly not be appropriate for Canada.
In some American jurisdictions, we found some helpful precedents. When it came to defining what a criminal organization or what a criminal gang was, they almost invariably used a number, sometimes three and sometimes five. We inquired into it and concluded that the reason is that you have to start somewhere and pick a number.
At the end of the day there is an element of arbitrariness. It could have been three, it could have been five. At one time I was looking at the prospect of two or more. The concern with two or more is that it could be a husband and wife team who are engaged in a crime spree and might be considered a gang. That was not really intended.
We came to five as a reasonable accommodation in that we wanted to have a sufficient number so that there was a group, not so small that it could be a couple or a couple with a friend, but not so large in number that we were going to end up with groups creating subgroups in order to escape the definition. The number five is intended to reflect our policy objective of capturing linkages among people, more than just a couple of friends, so that there is a
critical mass for a group but not so many that it becomes impractical to enforce.
The second question my friend asked had to do with primary activities. Again we did not define that term. We would be happy with the dictionary definition.
We expect that a court is going to require a prosecuting crown to establish on the evidence that one of the primary activities of a particular group was to engage in serious criminal offences and that is not going to be easy. The crown attorney is going to have to produce evidence of past criminal conduct, statements or circumstances which would lead the court to conclude that in the common sense definition of the term, one of the real reasons for the group, one of its fundamental purposes, one of its chief preoccupations and one of its reasons for being is to commit serious criminal offences.
For example, members of a motorcycle gang might say that their purpose is to ride motorcycles and engage in discussions about the size and performance capabilities of their motorcycles. That is one primary activity. However on the evidence the judge would be invited to conclude that another of their primary activities was the commission of offences because of what they had been doing and what had been brought before the court. In each case it will be for the court to conclude on the evidence on a common sense test that it was one of their primary purposes.
The third question put to me by the hon. member has to do with whether one needs to formally establish a fact of conviction in order to satisfy the constituent elements of the definition, that is to say that in the preceding five years any or all of the members have engaged in the commission of a series of such offences. We used the term commission of offences rather than referring to conviction so that it would not be necessary to file a formal certificate of conviction.
It will be open to the prosecuting crown in each case where an effort is made to come within the definition to prove on evidence that there was the commission of such offences. That will not be easy either. The crown is going to have to establish to the satisfaction of the court, and because it is criminal offences we are talking about, on evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that indeed these people did engage in the commission of such serious offences during the relevant period. It is not an easy definition to meet.
That is why I have a degree of confidence in responding to people who express the concerns: Are you not casting the net too wide? Are you not going to catch up in this well intended legislation those who are not so bad and those who you never intended to catch but who might be committing acts of civil disobedience? I do not think so.
What we are creating here is a significant hurdle for the prosecuting crown in that exceptional case where we are dealing with organized crime and we have to prove on the evidence the elements of primary purpose, the element of numbers-five-and that on the evidence to the criminal standard of proof, they have engaged in the commission of a series of serious criminal offences.