Mr. Dave MacKenzie, M.P.
Dear Mr. MacKenzie:
On March 28, 2012, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights requested that the Government table a comprehensive response to the recommendations included in its seventh Report entitled, The State of Organized Crime. The Report’s recommendations identify strategies for responding to organized crime that could be described as falling under three overarching themes: (1) Legislative Amendments to Target Organized Crime; (2) Prevention, Awareness and Rehabilitation as Tools to Combat Organized Crime; and, (3) Operational Improvements to Support the Fight against Organized Crime.
On behalf of the Government of Canada, and pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, I am pleased to respond to the Committee’s Report and to thank the Committee for its comprehensive study of the issue. The Government of Canada agrees that strong and effective laws and programs are needed to respond to the threats posed by organized crime.
In the past two decades, organized crime in Canada has become increasingly sophisticated. Organized crime groups including street gangs have spread their reach into almost every region of the country and into a much more diversified market of criminal activity. Drug trafficking continues to be the primary activity for organized crime but financial crime, human trafficking, migrant smuggling and the illegal movement of firearms, tobacco and vehicles also prove lucrative for organized crime in Canada.
These trends mirror patterns internationally, where transnational organized crime groups dominate the illicit trafficking in drugs, firearms and people, but are also continually expanding their activities into new areas including cybercrime, large-scale fraud and product counterfeiting. In the process, billions of dollars in illicit revenue flow into the hands of these criminal networks. Such revenue provides the means to further expand criminal enterprises and facilitates corruption. In turn, communities are destabilized, public safety is eroded and the rule of law is undermined.
Criminal organizations also prey on younger members of society to recruit them into gangs and to carry out illicit activities. Youth are targeted because they are vulnerable and can be easily influenced with the promise of money, that they will be treated with respect and will have a greater sense of belonging.
Against such threats all governments must constantly assess the adequacy of their existing responses, recognizing that yesterday’s solutions will not be sufficient to respond to today’s challenges. This is why the Government of Canada continues to work closely with all levels of government, and with our partners abroad, in order to strengthen our existing responses so as to better confront the challenges created by organized crime’s activities.
1. Legislative Amendments to Target Organized Crime
The Committee’s Report recognizes the need to continually build upon Canada’s legislative framework in order to provide the necessary tools to address organized crime. The cornerstone of this legislative framework is the Criminal Code. Since 2006, the Government has enacted numerous important pieces of legislation to specifically target organized crime including: the Tackling Violent Crime Act in 2008 which introduced higher mandatory minimum penalties for specific organized crime related offences committed with a firearm; Bill C-14 (2009), which made all murders connected with organized crime automatically first-degree and created a new offence to target drive-by and other reckless shootings; Bill S-9 (2010), which amended the Criminal Code to address auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime; the Standing up for Victims of White-Collar Crime Act (2011), which increased penalties for those convicted of fraud; and, most recently the Safe Streets and Communities Act (2012), which introduced mandatory minimum penalties for organized drug crime. The Government has also committed to supporting Private Member’s Bill C-394, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment), introduced by the Member of Parliament for Brampton—Springdale, which would create a new offence to prohibit, amongst other things, recruiting a person to join a criminal organization. This Bill would provide law enforcement with another tool in the fight against organized crime.
Nevertheless, the Government of Canada agrees with the Committee that further legislative reforms should be examined. Indeed many of the Committee’s recommendations for reform touch upon areas where policy deliberations are ongoing, both federally and in consultation with the provinces and territories. For example, the law enforcement challenges arising from the increasing use of radio jamming devices, particularly by organized crime, and the threats to public safety posed by this conduct have been examined with provincial and territorial partners. Canada’s Radiocommunication Act already contains prohibitions with regard to radio jamming devices. That said, the Government is currently examining options to enhance our existing criminal law framework in this area.
Another area that is being comprehensively examined with provincial and territorial partners is the law relating to bail. The bail process is an essential element of the criminal justice system, creating an important bridge between the arrest of an accused and the trial. The current Criminal Code provisions give the courts broad scope to impose conditions appropriate to the circumstances of the accused and the nature of the alleged offence. Currently, courts can and do, where the technology exists, order that an accused be subject to electronic monitoring while on bail. The Government will examine the evidence and recommendations, if any, flowing from the current study of the issue of electronic monitoring by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
The appointment of counsel for self-represented accused has also been the subject of ongoing consideration by criminal justice officials across Canada. It is clear that an accused person has control over their own defence including the decision of whether or not to have counsel. That said, it is open to the court to appoint counsel to assist the court, in appropriate cases, in order to ensure that the trial is fair. The Criminal Code also provides for the appointment of counsel in certain situations (e.g., if an accused may be unfit to stand trial, or to cross examine a vulnerable witness). Federal, provincial and territorial officials are currently examining issues associated with the appointment of counsel.
Further, the Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to Justice (composed of six federal and provincial deputy ministers, members of the judiciary, as well as representatives from the private bar and the police community) have produced recommendations for responding to the challenges posed by a self-represented accused (see http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/esc-cde/rep-rap.html#a04).
Listing of Criminal Organizations
The Government of Canada, along with the provinces and territories, is currently examining alternatives to the “listing” or “scheduling” of criminal organizations with a view to making investigations and prosecutions of criminal organizations more efficient.
The Committee has made a number of recommendations for legislative reform in the area of lawful access. The Government introduced Bill C-30, Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act on February 14, 2012. The Government has committed to sending this legislation directly to Committee for a full examination of potential amendments.
The Government of Canada is constantly striving to ensure that the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and the Criminal Code are as effective as possible in combating money laundering and addressing the proceeds of crime. For example, the Department of Finance issued two consultation papers in November and December 2011 outlining proposed changes to the PCMLTFA and its regulations. The Department of Finance is currently reviewing the submissions received in response and is consulting further.
In addition, the administration and operation of the PCMLTFA have been the subject of a review by the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. This Committee’s Report is expected in the near future and the Government will give careful consideration to all recommendations and comments received in its ongoing policy development work relating to the PCMLTFA and its regulations. Additionally, the Department of Justice and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada monitors, on an on-going basis, the proceeds of crime and offence-related property provisions in the Criminal Code. The Committee’s recommendations in this area will be examined and discussed as well with provincial and territorial officials.
Moving forward, the Government acknowledges that law reform will continue to play a central role in responding to the ever-changing practices of organized crime. In particular, the challenges posed by technology and the increasingly transnational nature of organized crime activities means that our Government will continue to look for innovative solutions, both domestically and in collaboration with our international partners.
2. Prevention, Awareness and Rehabilitation as Tools to Combat Organized Crime
The Government agrees with the Committee regarding the importance of prevention efforts, particularly those directed at young persons who may be vulnerable to recruitment into criminal organizations.
Public Safety Canada's National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) is responsible for implementing the National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS). The NCPS provides national leadership on effective and cost-efficient ways to both prevent and reduce crime by addressing known risk factors in high-risk populations and places. One mechanism for addressing these objectives is the Youth Gang Prevention Fund, created in January 2007. Funding under the Program is directed at supporting the development and implementation of interventions aimed at youth who are in gangs or at risk of joining gangs in municipalities where the problem exists or is a growing threat.
Justice Canada’s Youth Justice Fund also provides grants and contributions to projects that work with youth involved in the youth criminal justice system. The Guns, Gangs and Drugs component responds specifically to youth who are involved in, or vulnerable to, gun, gang and drug activities. It promotes the provision of community-based educational, cultural, sporting and vocational opportunities to these youth to allow them to make “smart choices” and resist gang involvement or to exit gangs.
In Budget 2011, the Government of Canada renewed funding of $10 million annually to be divided between these two programs that focus on diverting youth from gangs and promoting alternatives to gangs. More broadly, the Government is pursuing a range of public awareness initiatives related to organized crime activities as highlighted in the Committee’s Report. In respect of counterfeit and fraud activities, a range of new measures have been launched, designed to educate the public on the prevalence of, and costs associated with, counterfeit goods. In May 2010 the Government of Canada invested $20 million to disrupt the supply and demand for contraband tobacco through measures such as a multi-media awareness campaign.
Canada’s Competition Bureau also works to prevent fraud and identity related crime through various activities including, for example, Fraud Prevention Month. For more information, please see: http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/h_00122.html
Drug Treatment: National Anti-Drug Strategy
The Government of Canada continues to provide significant support to treatment services. In 2007, the Prime Minister announced Canada’s National Anti-Drug Strategy. The three priority areas of the Strategy are: (1) enforcement; (2) prevention; and, (3) treatment. The Treatment Action Plan supports timely, innovative and effective approaches to treating and rehabilitating drug-addicted individuals who pose a risk to themselves and the community. A central focus of the Plan is to promote collaboration among governments and agencies in order to increase access to drug treatment services. Under the Treatment Action Plan, several programs provide funds, including funds to: assist provinces and territories to strengthen substance abuse treatment systems and enhance access to drug treatment services for youth and other vulnerable populations; treat First Nations and Inuit populations with drug addictions; develop innovative intervention and treatment programs for youth who have drug dependencies and are in conflict with the law; to support research on new treatment models; and, pilot six drug treatment courts across Canada.
Supporting Innovative Solutions through Drug Treatment Courts
As a component of the National Anti-Drug Strategy Treatment Action Plan, the Drug Treatment Court Funding Program (DTCFP) supports the six Drug Treatment Court (DTC) pilots at an annual budget of $3,596,000. The DTCFP has been in place since April 2005 and is managed by the Department of Justice.
DTCs provide a blend of addiction treatment and judicial supervision premised on the belief that drug dependency is not simply a criminal justice problem but is also a public health and societal concern.
Under the Safe Streets and Communities Act, offenders who may be subject to a mandatory minimum penalty may be granted an exemption to this sentence upon successful completion of a drug treatment program. Justice Canada is working with provincial and territorial officials to undertake a full assessment of the best practices and overall efficiencies of the DTCFP to assist in the development of future funding options for DTCs in Canada.
Supporting Safe Reintegration
The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) employs a range of programs with the ultimate goal of contributing to the safe reintegration of offenders into society. Offenders who are involved in organized crime can be referred to one or more of the following programs:
(a) Violence Prevention Program (VPP): The VPP was developed to address general violence. It targets both reactive (emotion driven) violence and goal directed or instrumental violence. While offenders who are involved in organized crime typically engage in the second type of violence (i.e., instrumental), they may also show a pattern of reactive violence. Both are addressed through this program. The VPP also targets attitudes and peers which support the use of violence. This program is available both in the institution and community.
(b) National Substance Abuse Program (NSAP): NSAP was developed to address offenders whose offending is linked to substance abuse. The lifestyle associated with organized crime can promote the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse programs, such as NSAP, respond to the needs of offenders involved in organized crime whenever there is a direct link to their criminality. NSAP is available both in the institution and community.
(c) Alternatives, Associates and Attitudes (AAA): The AAA was developed to address offenders whose offending is strongly linked to peers who support crime and violence, as well as the attitudes which contribute to the criminal lifestyle. These are the contributing factors related to crime which are commonly found amongst offenders who are involved in organized crime. AAA is available both in the institution and community.
(d) Community Maintenance Program (CMP): Research has shown that follow-up substantially increases the effectiveness of programs. The CMP was developed to provide follow-up in the community for offenders who have already completed a correctional program. It helps them to consolidate the gains they made in the initial program(s). Therefore, offenders who are involved in organized crime and who completed a correctional program can be referred to the community maintenance program.
These programs are proving successful. The 2009 evaluation of correctional programs showed that CSC’s correctional programs reduced the rates of general recidivism by up to 45% and the rates of violent recidivism by up to 63%. That is, rates of re-offending were significantly lower amongst those who completed the programs than among those who did not. In addition, the diversity of CSC programs allows the organization to respond to the different needs, including the mental health needs, of its population. Mental health assessments are done on a case-by-case basis as required by each individual’s specific mental health needs.
National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking
The Government of Canada recognizes the need for continued vigilance to respond to trafficking in persons. That is why, on June 6, 2012, the Government released Canada’s National Action Plan on Trafficking in Persons. The Action Plan provides the comprehensive blueprint for future action in the areas of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships.
The Plan will guide the Government of Canada's fight against the serious crime of human trafficking. Canada's National Action Plan emphasizes the need for awareness in vulnerable populations, support for victims, dedicated law enforcement efforts, and all Canadians to prevent the trafficking of individuals.
The National Action Plan will:
- Launch Canada’s first integrated law enforcement team dedicated to combating human trafficking;
- Increase front-line training to identify and respond to human trafficking and enhance prevention in vulnerable communities;
- Provide more support for victims of this crime, both Canadians and newcomers; and
- Strengthen coordination with domestic and international partners who contribute to Canada’s efforts to combat human trafficking.
These measures, supported by $25 million over four years, build on and strengthen Canada's significant work to date to prevent, detect and prosecute human trafficking, such as targeted training for law enforcement officials and front-line service providers, and enhanced public awareness measures. Canada's National Action Plan reflects the Government's on-going commitment to strengthened partnerships and collaboration to prevent and combat the crime of human trafficking.
3. Operational Improvements to Support the Fight against Organized Crime
A number of the Committee’s recommendations touch upon issues of an operational nature. For example, the Committee discussed the role of the federal Witness Protection Program as an important component in the fight against organized crime. As was noted in the Committee’s Report, the Government is considering amendments to the Witness Protection Program Act, while at the same time it is implementing administrative and program improvements to the Witness Protection Program itself.
The Committee also identified the importance of reviewing legal aid contributions. Federal funding helps to ensure that Canada, in a cost-effective manner, meets its criminal legal aid responsibilities in federal prosecutions, such as those under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Current resources for criminal legal aid include $111.9 million in permanent annual funding for criminal legal aid. In addition, $1.65 million is provided for court orders for funded defence counsel in federal prosecutions. Funding for these cases helps to ensure that the federal government meets its responsibilities with respect to court orders for funded defence counsel, significantly reduces federal costs with respect to these cases, attracts senior counsel and diminishes the risk that federal prosecutions will be stayed due to lack of representation.
The Government recognizes the importance of having access to relevant information on the scope and impact of organized crime’s activities in Canada. Such information is important in the development of laws, programs and policies and critical in evaluating the success of such initiatives.
There exist numerous sources of information that can be utilized by organizations involved in the criminal justice system. For example, the Parole Board of Canada (the Board) depends on the CSC and other criminal justice partners to supply critical information about offenders needed to make quality decisions. The Board recently collaborated with CSC and Halifax Regional Police on a new-style police report which is designed to give the Board timely and detailed intelligence, while treating sensitive information in a manner consistent with openness and transparency under the law as well as protecting sources and ongoing investigations. The Board, as an independent tribunal, will continue working with CSC in exploring opportunities to enhance the receipt of offender information from police agencies.
The General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization, as the only national survey of self-reported victimization, is a key source of justice information in Canada. The survey provides an important complement to police-reported crime data, as it measures both crime incidents that come to the attention of the police and those that are unreported. The GSS on Victimization was previously conducted in 1988, 1993, 1999, 2004, and 2009. The next iteration of the survey is planned for 2014. The data collected from Statistics Canada’s GSS have been used extensively in reports by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Justice Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and other federal departments, provincial government departments, academics and students. The justice community uses this data to inform victim services, family violence initiatives, policing and crime prevention programs.
Improvements to data collection and access to timely and relevant information is critical. Efforts are being made to life cycle manage the Automated Criminal Intelligence Information System (ACIIS). ACIIS provides Canada’s law enforcement community access to information and intelligence relating to serious and organized crime.
Uniform Crime Reporting Survey
The Government agrees that data on drug offences is critical. Not all “drug-related” offences are captured through justice statistics. However, since 1997, when the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) replaced the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drug Act for drug-related offences, Statistics Canada’s Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR) has collected and published data each year on police-reported incidents of possession, trafficking, importation and exportation and production of all substances within the scope of the CDSA.
Police services are required to report to the UCR the four most serious offences involved in each incident. In addition, police services identify the most serious offence in the incident, as determined by a seriousness index based on maximum penalties. UCR data on drug incidents can be analysed and presented, based on incidents where the drug offence was the most serious, or on all incidents that involve drug offences even if it was not the most serious.
Case Management and Disclosure
The Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act, which came into force on August 15, 2011, amended the Criminal Code to facilitate the resolution of disclosure disputes in pre-trial and trial proceedings. Close cooperation between police and prosecutors is necessary to ensure timely disclosure. The Committee’s recommendations of this nature are consistent with those previously articulated, for example, in the 1993 Report of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Charge Screening, Disclosure and Resolution Discussions (the Martin Report), the 2008 Report of the Review of Large and Complex Criminal Case Procedures (the LeSage/Code Report) and with the 2011 Report on Disclosure in Criminal Cases of the Steering Committee on Justice Efficiencies and Access to Justice.
More generally, federal, provincial and territorial officials have been working together to consider various disclosure issues. This work will be informed by the Committee’s recommendations as well as the recommendations in the above-noted reports, reflecting the Government’s continuing commitment to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the criminal justice system.
Our Government is committed to ensuring criminals are held fully accountable for their actions and that the justice system is strengthened in order to protect the safety and security of law-abiding citizens. Our Government will continue to fight crime and ensure that our communities are safe places for people to live, raise their families and pursue a livelihood.
The Honourable Rob Nicholson
c.c.: Jean-François Pagé, Clerk of the Committee