Good morning, everyone. I'm pleased to be with you today. My name is Pierre-Yves Bourduas and I am the Deputy Commissioner in charge of Federal Services and Central Region for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Also in attendance with me is Inspector Michel Aubin. Inspector Aubin is the person responsible for an important file, the Colisée file which concerned and targeted traditional organized crime. Inspector Aubin will shortly be becoming our director of organized crime for the entire country.
I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to discuss organized crime in Canada and what's also commonly called the Organized Crime Act.
When we talk about organized crime, we do so knowing that many in this country don't believe it impacts their daily lives or it presents a threat to their respective community. Nothing could be further from the truth. Organized crime is never victimless. By sowing the seeds of greed, corruption, and violence, organized crime harms individuals, communities, and the fabric of our society at large. That is why detecting, deterring, and dismantling organized crime remains one of the RCMP's top strategic priorities. In our view, effective and appropriate legislation is a vital tool in the fight against organized crime.
The legislation in question today encompasses amendments to the Criminal Code and introduces sections 467.11, 467.12, and 467.13. The organized crime legislation was initially enacted under Bill C-95 in 1997 and subsequently amended through Bill C-24 in 2001. And my understanding is that this is going to be the focus of our discussion here today.
During the next few minutes, I wish to briefly discuss our efforts to combat organized crime and then move into our experience with organized-crime-related amendments to the Criminal Code.
The RCMP believe in a balanced approach to detecting, deterring, and dismantling organized crime, which includes education, awareness, prevention, enforcement, and ultimately, effective legislation. As an example, the provisions originally contained in section 467.1 were used during Projet Repaire. This Montreal-based investigation culminated in 1997 and targeted the activities of the Rock Machine organized crime group. In 2001 the same provisions were applied in Operation Spring 2001, Projet Printemps 2001, focusing on the criminal activities of the Hells Angels and its leader “Mom” Boucher, in Montreal.
In 2001 the enactment of Bill C-24 provided the existing provisions. And I would like to take a moment to explain why, in the eyes of law enforcement, these amendments were beneficial. Effectively, countering known organized crime groups requires careful planning and prioritization to help ensure that our finite resources are used where they will be most beneficial. To this end, the RCMP engages in an intelligence approach that when investigating crime organizations across the country, we target the most and the upper echelon of these criminal syndicates. These organizations exist and survive primarily on the facilitation and the commission of criminal offences preying on the weak and the innocent.
An important component in dismantling criminal organizations is the ability to investigate all those who are implicated. This involves accumulating substantive evidence against not only those committing the criminal offences, but any other individuals knowingly participating, contributing, or directing the activities of criminal organizations.
To accomplish this, we must rely on an investigative team. This team requires the use of a number of investigative techniques at any given time. Just as complex criminal organizations take years to establish themselves, investigations of this nature can't take place overnight. It takes a substantial amount of time to gather the required evidence and prosecute before justice. In the majority of cases, the interception of private communication, i.e., wiretapping, coupled with other investigative techniques such as the use of undercover operatives, is necessary. The interception of private communication is often the only technique available to law enforcement in situations where the leaders of a criminal organization counsel others to commit serious criminal offences that benefit the organization.
If we are to continue to effectively detect and deter organized crime and foster successful investigations into organized crime groups, it is essential for these investigations to have the flexibility, when necessary, to be conducted over a longer period of time and to have a wider scope.
Given these investigative requirements, the RCMP and its law enforcement partners have created a number of integrated enforcement teams throughout the country. Known as integrated response to organized crime teams, IROCs, for instance, in Alberta, and Combined Forces Special Enforcement Units, CFSEUs, across the country, these investigative teams are mandated to conduct strategic investigations into the activities of criminal organizations in their respective areas of jurisdiction. However, the use of the organized crime provision is not limited to investigations by these teams.
At this point, if you don't mind, Mr. Chair, I would like to discuss more specifically the organized crime legislative sections, mentioned at the outset, which are of critical assistance to law enforcement.
Let’s begin with the interception of private communications provisions within part VI of the Criminal Code.
Due to the very intrusive nature of this method of investigation, prior to the introduction of the organized crime modifications to this part of the Criminal Code, law enforcement was required to demonstrate “investigative necessity” to the authorizing justice before an authorization to intercept private communications could be issued. This meant satisfying the justice that, practically speaking, there was no reasonable alternative method of investigation that could be used to successfully investigate the criminal activity.
In 1997 Parliament eliminated this requirement for investigations into organized crime. In addition, the duration of the authorization to intercept private communications for such investigations was extended from 60 days to a period of up to and over one year.
Law enforcement’s reliance upon these amendments has steadily increased since their introduction.
Because the Supreme Court of Canada has yet to rule on the constitutionality of the elimination of the traditional investigative necessity requirement, some jurisdictions have opted to ensure that investigative necessity has been met despite the amendment to the Criminal Code.
Furthermore, on a more practical matter, in many cases law enforcement prefers to seek authorization to intercept private communications for a period of less than one year due to the ever-changing circumstances that are common in these types of investigations, and the need to adjust investigative goals.
Turning to section 467.1, the addition of sections 467.11, 467.12, and 467.13 is significant to law enforcement in that they allow us to investigate both people occupying different roles in a criminal organization and individuals who are not actually members of the organization, but whose actions support the activities of the criminal organization in question and criminal organizations that are targeted.
Specifically, section 467.11 enables us to address persons who fulfill a role that furthers the ability of the criminal organization to commit criminal acts. Basically, this section provides for the participation or contribution of a person who does or omits to do something, knowing that it is in furtherance of a criminal organization’s activities. This may include individuals who purposely communicate information relevant to the operation of activities of a criminal organization and obtain or transport equipment to assist with criminal activities, as well as individuals who launder money for a criminal organization.
In most instances, proceeds of crime investigators become involved when the focus of the investigation is to identify money laundering schemes.
In summary, this section allows us to investigate and charge those who facilitate the concealment of ill-gotten gains by criminal organizations.
Likewise, section 467.12 of the Criminal Code captures the commission of criminal offences in furtherance of or for the benefit of a criminal organization.
Under this section, the accused doesn't need to be an actual member of a criminal organization. It provides for those who commit various criminal offences such as drug importation, drug exportation, extortion, arson, kidnapping, violence, gaming, and money-laundering for which the organization derives a benefit.
Finally, section 467.13 provides for those who are members of a criminal organization and who knowingly instruct or direct any person to commit an offence for the benefit of the organization—i.e., the Mom Boucher case with regard to Operation Spring 2001.
Once at the top of a criminal organization, the leaders are often no longer directly involved in the actual commission of criminal offences. Prior to the current amendments, this situation hampered law enforcement's ability to investigate individuals who directed criminal activities and in many cases derived the direct benefit. The current provisions afford investigators the opportunity to charge leaders of a criminal organization for their actions and we are seeing the benefits of its application.
Over the years, criminal charges under section 467.1 of the code have been applied in a number of instances. Most recently, the lengthy and complex investigation “Projet Colisée” investigated the heads of an organized crime group in the province of Quebec. Following the large-scale takedown, which resulted in over 90 arrests, leaders of the criminal organization were charged under the section 467.13 provisions of the act. That is the case that targeted the Rizzuto organization, a well-known organization. And I have to admit that over the 32 years that I've been in this organization, the Rizzuto organization has been on our radar screen for most of my service. So it was quite a feat, and I'm sure that Inspector Aubin will be more than pleased to answer some of your questions.
Since 2002 there have been a number of cases both provincially and federally where investigation focused on the activities of criminal organizations. More specifically, criminal charges under sections 467.11, 467.12, and 467.13 are being applied and convictions are being registered. Anecdotally, it has been law enforcement and crown counsel in Quebec who have been the leaders in using these provisions. Clearly, a lot has been accomplished, and there is more work to be done.
Large-scale investigations into organized crime demonstrated the value and effectiveness of pairing necessary legislation with integrated resources nationally and internationally.
As criminal organizations continue to evolve, they create new challenges for law enforcement agencies and their partners. I believe more strongly than ever that criminal organizations can be effectively disrupted or dismantled through a combination of the right legislation and an integrated, intelligence-led approach.
Dialogue such as this between policy makers and law enforcement must remain an integral cornerstone in our shared priority of tackling organized crime in all its facets. I welcome the opportunity to explore further recommendations and welcome any questions you might have.
Thank you for your attention.
Mr. Chairman and committee members, I'd like to speak today with a little more concentration on the city police and the street-level focus of organized crime, with a particular focus on firearm aspect.
On the gang demographics a little bit in the Vancouver area,it's a very popular area for gangs, ranging from highly structured international criminal organizations such as the Hells Angels, to lesser known or less obvious gangs, such as Asian Triads, Indo-Canadians, Persians, and the like.
We have approximately well over a hundred Hells Angels within the greater Vancouver area. The other gangs range anywhere from just under a hundred to several hundred members. What we're finding more and more is an ever increasing conflict with respect to the drug distribution network and turf wars, and even clashing on the street just with respect to egos. The levels of violence that we're experiencing are also significantly on the increase. Never in my career have I seen it the way it is becoming in the city of Vancouver. The elicit drug trade amongst these organized crime groups is driving the violence levels through the roof. We're seeing shootings on a regular basis. It's commonplace in the city of Vancouver to go out to nightclubs on any given weekend and find gangsters in the nightclubs, wearing bullet-proof vests. Even the doormen and the staff at the nightclubs are starting to wear body armour just when doing their job in a nightclub, due to the indiscriminate firepower that's on the street and the shootings that have taken place in the city of Vancouver. Of particular concern and interest to us is the new firearm legislation from a city and a street-level point of view.
I'd like to give a couple of examples of some of the recent shootings that we've had in Vancouver, just so you can grasp what is going on in Vancouver. A nightclub in Vancouver called Loft Six, a busy nightclub in the downtown core, was full of patrons on a particular night it, at about two to three in the morning. A conflict erupted between the Hells Angels and Indo-gangsters. On that particular night, there was a shooting between the two gangs. We had nine people shot, six of whom were innocent. We had three people killed and one crippled for life. One of the individuals who was killed and the crippled individual were innocent people caught in the crossfire. Three handguns were used. We recovered two handguns, neither of which were used in the shooting, so there were at least five handguns involved in the nightclub on that particular evening. Of note is the fact that all three suspected shooters from that night are now dead from other shootings. It's just proliferation.
Purple Onion is another Vancouver nightclub, located very close to Loft Six. Again, it's a very busy nightclub, usually full of patrons. A dispute among Asian gang members erupted outside the door. What happened was that a gun was drawn and a young lady stepped between the combatants to try to quell the situation. She ended up getting killed. That night there was one handgun used. Seven people were shot, including three innocent people, with two people killed.
The most recent example was in the greater Vancouver area, in what I would describe as an urban park surrounded by multi-family dwellings, condominiums, and the like. It was a Persian gang conflict, and it was clearly an orchestrated shooting. On that particular night, numerous firearms were fired, including assault rifles and handguns. Approximately 150 rounds were fired in this little melee. Three people were shot and injured. The surrounding townhouses took the brunt of the rounds that were fired, with shots going through people's homes, given the high firepower of the assault weapons. One narrowly missed an infant in a crib.
I can't explain enough the seriousness of the firepower that's being used in Vancouver. I'm not sure if the messages or the media are getting back here with respect to what's going on. In British Columbia last year, we seized over 2,300 firearms. Almost 80% of the shootings were in public places, coming at the cost of human lives, those of innocent people and bystanders. It's not just the gangsters. The gangsters don't seem to be able to shoot that well. Like I said, at Dover Park, 150 rounds were fired and nobody was killed, but three people were injured. There's just indiscriminate firepower out there on the west coast of Canada.
With respect to organized crime legislation, I think Deputy Commissioner Bourduas laid things out very clearly. We agree with everything he has spoken to. As a member of a municipal police department, I can say that these types of large and lengthy investigations are difficult and costly for us to undertake. In British Columbia, we undertake the integrated model that was spoken of. One in particular was focused on the east end chapter of the Hells Angels, Project EPANDORA. That was a partnership led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Vancouver Police Department, and the combined forces special enforcement unit.
This investigation was about a two-year investigation. At the culmination, we ended up seizing what I would describe as the war chest of the east end chapter of the Hells Angels, which included dynamite, blasting caps, hand grenades, fully automatic weapons, silencers, and handguns. The criminal organization legislation was used to its full extent, with the cooperation of the Department of Justice and the regional crown counsel. In that investigation alone, 39 charges of gangsterism were laid, between facilitating, participating, and directing. It's very useful legislation. It's very helpful. But as I say, from the street officers' point of view, we're very concerned with the firearms.
On , the proposed firearms legislation, we're very optimistic with respect to the minimum mandatory sentences that are proposed. I know there are all sorts of studies from all over North America with respect to jailing people for longer periods of time. Does it really help? I think the studies go in both directions. I know from the street level and from the public safety level that if you take the guys who are out there doing the crime off the street for three years for the first offence and five years for the second offence, those are individuals who are not going to be shooting people any longer.
I also think there's a huge deterrent factor when it comes to the younger people who are looking at the gang situation and are trying to decide if they're going to go down that path in life. When one of their brothers goes away for three or five years, I think it does weigh heavily on their thought process.
Again from a street officer's point of view, one thing I would like to suggest or put on the table is a tool that's commonly used by the police, and that's the ability to search an individual when the police officer can illustrate articulable cause sufficient to justify the search, based on the need for preserving the safety of both the individual and the officer involved.
This concept of articulable cause arises out of a peace officer's common-law powers of search and is based largely on case law. The threshold necessary to perform a search of an individual based on articulable cause is reasonable suspicion, which is significantly lower than that of reasonable and probable grounds, as defined by the Criminal Code of Canada. It is still respectful of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The frailty of this is the fact that it's based on case law and not legislation.
As we know, case law has the ability to change dramatically and rapidly, and it can have a sweeping effect through the Canadian court system. It would be interesting and highly beneficial to see Parliament create legislative authority that recognizes the greater good of protecting society over protecting the rights of an individual. This can be accomplished by lowering the threshold to legally search a person of a notorious character and his immediate surroundings, such as an automobile, for a firearm or a weapon dangerous to the public peace, from “reasonable and probable grounds” to “reasonable suspicion”.
In proving reasonable suspicion, numerous factors can be considered, including the individual's previous violent background; gang involvement; location; documented associations with other know violent criminals or gang members; the individual's actions at the time of the investigation; and other relevant information and intelligence. To illustrate this, I would point to one of the enforcement models that we use in the city of Vancouver. On Friday and Saturday nights, we use what we call a firearms interdiction team because of the number of shootings and firearms in Vancouver now. Simply put, this is SWAT members and gang squad members going out and hunting down gangsters, trying to take guns off the street.
One of our biggest tools in this area is articulable cause, where we embark on some type of investigation or lawful detention, such as a Motor Vehicle Act offence or anything, and using articulable cause, we will then search the person and his vehicle. Like I say, it's a valuable tool, but it's based largely on case law, which could be taken away at any time and it would affect officers across Canada.
What would be very valuable is to have it codified by legislation, allowing us not first to need another type of law, such as the Motor Vehicle Act, to initiate the search and work within the laws of Canada. What would be very valuable is to identify this person of notorious character as a gangster, and someone who's most likely got a gun on him or in his vehicle, and that would be good enough for us to initiate the search for guns. Because that's what we're trying to do in the long run, get these guns off the street so they don't kill innocent people.
With respect to the Hells Angels and the effects of the gangsterism laws on these criminal organizations, I would suggest that in Vancouver, the greater Vancouver area, the Hells Angels are really the only ones that are concerned about the gang legislation, as it stands. We all know, and I'm sure you're all aware, that they have a national fund, they call it the C-95 defence fund. They put money into a fund to fight the actual legislation itself. Every member participates, contributes, and that's what they do. They've identified it as a definite threat and they put money towards fighting that threat.
In British Columbia, we have very media-savvy Hells Angels. They're very concerned about their public image. They've actually changed the name of their C-95 defence fund to the West Coast Freedom to Associate Society. It sounds very nice, but basically it's a fund to fight the organized crime legislation.
We find in our Hells Angels trials.... We had a Vancouver police investigation where we convicted two members of the Nomad chapter, Hells Angels, in British Columbia, of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, trafficking cocaine, possession of proceeds of crime. A lot of times the Hells Angels aren't concerned about being found guilty or not. They are under the gang legislation. But we're also finding that their biggest concern is they want to find out how we did things, who was the rat, that type of thing.
And they are masters at delaying the court process. To give you an example, a very short example, of the delay process these guys do, in this case it was a 1996-97 investigation, arrests were in 1998, they were convicted in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001 and sentenced to four and a half years in prison. They launched an appeal to the B.C. Court of Appeal, and subsequently the Supreme Court of Canada, and these individuals eventually went to jail for four and a half years, commencing November 2005. Eight months later, on a 55-month sentence, one of these individuals is out on parole already. So the time and money spent by the criminal justice system on these individuals is phenomenal. And it was a relatively simple case, nothing like a criminal organization case. That is just to give you an idea of another type of battle that we fight out there with these criminal organization groups, who are masters of delay in the court system.
In summing up, I would just like to say thank you very much for having us here. It's an excellent opportunity to get our point across. As I said, I talked to the fellows at work, and I really wanted to bring a street perspective to the committee, as opposed to the large criminal organization investigative perspective, because I knew that our compatriots here would certainly cover that area and I felt it was important to get more of a street-level perspective. I know all the large cities across Canada are dealing with these similar firearms issues.
Thank you very much.
Sure, there are a couple of points. Larry covered most of the material I was working on.
As you address the specifics of Bill , I think this was a specific interest that I was asked to bring to this by some of my colleagues. We fully support the minimum and maximum sentence provisions. I think it's three...as it advances. I couldn't tell you how much we support that, as does certainly every police officer who I talk to nationally.
I'm not a lawyer, so I won't try to craft the words that go into legislation, but any time you craft legislation dealing with firearms, we would simply ask you to consider the words “imitation” and “replica” in your dialogue. It means that any time you make an order or there's a prohibition order or a sanction against a firearm, you always have to add the words “imitation or replica” afterwards.
The reason is the huge numbers. We seized, I think, 250 firearms off offenders in Vancouver last year. Ten times that were seized in terms of pellet guns and imitation replica guns. You cannot tell the difference. You've seen it all on TV.
Many times the prohibition orders that are given by the courts will ban an individual for ten years from having firearms or ammunition or explosives, but they leave that replica and imitation.... It's a huge advantage to the police to have that ban in there. We try to seek those at the local level, but to have it enshrined as part of the sanction instead of in a probation order would be very helpful.
The imitation law.... I don't want to harp too much on the imitation replica. In Canada it's an offence to be in possession of an imitation weapon for a purpose dangerous to the public peace. The trouble is that's a very high threshold and it's very hard to prove. So we would like to see almost the reverse onus. If you are in suspicious circumstances and in possession of a replica gun, in the reverse onus you have to explain why you have that gun. This would allow us to deal with the innocent high school kids who have a pellet pistol in their car and mean no harm...to the drug dealers in Vancouver who pull up their shirt to threaten purchasers by flashing an imitation gun.
In Vancouver we lead the country--I'm not proud of this--in armed bank robberies. I think we have three times as many in Vancouver as they do in Toronto, and the majority of them are lone bandits producing an imitation weapon.
In Bill , under clauses 17 to 24, there's a list of offences that are outlined in there, a series of offences. I would simply ask, in addition to the offences that are already articulated, that you consider break and enter and commit.... It sounds like the old break and enter, B and E, of a dwelling house. That's not the case. It's break and enter and commit an indictable offence that would allow us to deal with home invasion. Also conspiracy--anyone charged with conspiracy would fall under the same....
These are just add-on sections that we think would be somewhat helpful to us. I'm sure the lawyers on the committee would help you work that through.
There's a provision in there of transferring gun licences. We would ask that there be a provision in there for an individual to have a thumbprint on a gun licence. It allows an officer on the street to quickly look at an individual's thumbprint and compare it to a licence. You can tell even with the naked eye whether it's the same person. There's an IT solution to how that can be done on these plasticized cards.
I read with interest the Canadian Bar Association...and there were a couple of religious groups, I think, that presented to the committee. Excellent presentations. I disagree with some of the things they said. They had their statistics wrong in a couple of areas. Violent crime in Vancouver is up 6%; it's not down. We are, as I said, the bank robbery capital. We seize hundreds of loaded firearms a year.
I'm very proud that next year will be 40 years in policing for me. I've worked many years with the RCMP, and my colleagues and P.Y. and I are on a couple of committees together at the national level. The support from this committee, at least what I've heard so far, is very positive.
I'll just end this on a more global level. We accept the fact that the best deterrent in the world to offenders is to sow the seed in the mind of the offender that there's a likelihood they'll be caught. That's our biggest deterrent. That's the number-one prevention strategy we have. If two offenders are planning a crime and they know there's a chance they'll get caught, they will not do the crime. They just won't. They'll go elsewhere. The fear of going to jail is not a large deterrent, but I'll tell you, it sure is helpful.
We don't particularly like sending more and more individuals to jail for long sentences, but as Larry pointed out, when they're in jail they do not hurt anyone else for the time they're in jail, and that cannot be overstated.
We have 1,200 officers in Vancouver, and I've got six full-time surveillance teams—full-time. Four of them are strike force teams and two are patrol based. Now, instead of doing global investigations, we track what are called “chronic offender programs”. We identify through various means who the chronic offenders are.
Our definition of a chronic offender is if you commit 12 or more crimes you are arrested for in a year—that's chronic. We have about 80 such offenders now, and we target them; we pick them up one at a time. Once we get to the bottom of the list, we go back to the top and keep getting them. We started off with five indictable offences a year for a chronic offender, and we had 800 such offenders in Vancouver. The pool was too big, so we just moved the goalposts and raised the numbers. That gives you an idea of the level of offenders we deal with and the violence.
Anyway, thank you very much for the opportunity to say a few words. I'd love to be able to answer your questions.
The support is really appreciated.
By all means, thank you.
I conducted research on street gangs and criminal business organizations in B.C. during the last wave of overt street gang activity, from approximately 1985 until 1993. One thing we discovered from this research is that street gang activity, at least in B.C., has flowed in waves since about the end of World War II. Oftentimes street gangs are related to what I refer to as criminal business organizations—though some prefer to call them organized crime groups. But those criminal business organizations have been present in British Columbia in the greater Vancouver area since the 19th century. They're a constant in many instances, and they supply the illegal goods and services for which there is extraordinarily high demand. Foremost among those illegal goods and services, of course, is drugs.
Street gangs and criminal business organizations most certainly intersect at some points, but they should be viewed differently for the purposes of developing policy and legislation relating to them.
This research was done, by the way, for the Ministry of Attorney General in B.C., and there was a report that was produced on that research and recommendations.
In short, what we're saying is that a street gang suppression probably requires a different strategy, a different direction of resources, from suppression of criminal business organizations.
More recently, I also produced a report on crime and criminal justice for the B.C. Progress Board. The B.C. Progress Board, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is a think tank, for want of a better term, created by Premier Campbell in 1991 to advise the B.C. government on a variety of issues, both economic and social. This year the board decided to commission reports on, among other things, crime and the criminal justice system in B.C.
I was asked to ascertain what the crime rates were doing in B.C. and in various centres in B.C., what the trends had been over a period of ten years, and, more importantly, for the purposes of this committee, to identify what the primary causes of crime were in the province. The research included interviews with a large number of senior people within the criminal justice system and the business community and academic community, including Chief Graham. One of the things that stood out—and it was consistent across the sample of the 40 or 50 people we talked to—was that the major driver of the crime rate in B.C. was drugs, and the drug trade in particular, both on the supply side and the consumption side.
Obviously, this committee at this point is more concerned with the supply side. As Sergeant Butler has already pointed out, on the supply side, a lot of the crime is related to conflicts within the drug trade, conflicts being settled by the use of firearms.
I think it's very useful to think analytically in terms of these groups as being businesses engaged in a trade in products that just happens, right now, to be illegal, but highly profitable because these products are in high demand and relatively short supply. You can use these business models quite successfully to understand what's going on and to help you cut through a lot of the rhetoric that gets pumped out in the media.
I have to add that I'm pretty much certain that many of the police officers involved in this particular business would not disagree with that.
As I said, lot of those conflicts are settled by the use of firearms, whereas conflicts in conventional, legitimate businesses are settled by the use of courts and lawyers. Inevitably settlements are swifter and more certain when firearms are used between individuals disagreeing with each other. It's also a lot less expensive.
As everything before me indicates, firearm importation is a significant part of the payment system involved in the trade surrounding B.C. bud. The province is a leader in the production and distribution of very high quality marijuana, which fetches a good price south of the border and elsewhere. I should hasten to add that I did not bring any product samples with me this morning.
B.C. bud goes south; guns and other products come north. There seems to be a relatively healthy and almost unstoppable trade. Ironically, it's free trade.
The options that we looked at for dealing with this in the B.C. Progress Board report included tackling the whole issue of supply and demand. We have not made any particular recommendations one way or the other; that was not the task. Instead we've thrust it back to the politicians to deal with. One option we identified was to address the pressing problem of the marijuana industry. At least one solution to the organized crime issue in British Columbia is to legalize drugs, particularly the marijuana industry, and to treat addiction as a health problem. I should add that this product should be taxed.
Of course one of the big problems with doing this is that there is significant opposition. You don't need me to go back over all that opposition. There is also significant opposition from law enforcement agencies, because there is a personal investment—and I understand this fully.
As Chief Graham knows, I have a law enforcement background before becoming an academic. So I understand the problem of tackling these groups, the members of which are often very unpleasant individuals. I would not want one as a neighbour. But sometimes in the pursuit of these individuals, one gets caught up emotionally in trying to arrest and prosecute, and loses sight of the potentially larger policy issue.
That's not a criticism in any way. It's simply an observation, because one of the second options that we identified in this progress board report was to engage in a planned attack on criminal business organizations, particularly in B.C. It's not so much a war on drugs. Again, there is a lot of rhetoric attached to that phrase, and it automatically produced a criticism based upon the failures of our neighbours to the south in this particular area.
I have to confess that some of our concern in B.C. is a little parochial, because the report is saying just go after all the criminal business organizations in B.C. and push them out of the province. Let them be somebody else's problem, which is not terribly neighbourly of us. However, it is a strategy that should be considered.
In my conversations with folks in B.C. involved with organized crime investigation, it was clear that there are a large number of organized crime groups identified in the province—over 100—that are not being actively investigated or pursued.
I was astonished by this revelation. It's a matter of public record; there's nothing secret about this. If you go to the various information sources relating to organized in crime in B.C., you'll see it there.
When I asked the person in charge of the investigations in B.C. why the situation exists, it simply boils down to a resource issue. You can legislate all you like, but if you don't pour resources into enforcement of the legislation it is so many words on paper. I'm sure members of this committee are well aware of that.
Thank you very much for your presentations. I found them very interesting. Following the presentations that you've made and those of other witnesses we heard last Tuesday, I have a few questions to ask.
Some of our witnesses emphasized the lack of organization in the fight against organized crime, the lack of intelligence sharing, the lack of resources, the lack of recognition of expertise among the various services, which represents so many barriers if we want to put up a truly effective fight. Other witnesses suggested some potential solutions to us, other than more financial resources. One example is a national repository for evidence. Like you, they mentioned the fact that the Hells Angels have their special repository where all judgments rendered across Canada are immediately classified and available, which enables their lawyers to conduct an effective defence against gangsterism charges.
Some witnesses suggested that we should have the same tool, which would be available to all police departments and all Crown attorneys offices across Canada. There we would assemble shared information on evidence, the means used and judgments. I'd like to know your ideas on the subject.
Then there's the question of resources. Mr. Gordon, like others, you said that it's all well and good to pass laws or even to make existing laws harsher, but, if the resources aren't there, are the existing laws used 100 percent? That's a good question. You're saying you don't have the necessary financial resources. So the laws that are...
Have the laws on the books right now been used to the ultimate that they can be used? That's a question I have for you.
What are your financial needs? If financial resources don't enable you to conduct all the investigations that should normally be conducted, that is to say to conduct them properly with all the necessary tools, should we establish, if that doesn't exist already, a special anti-organized crime fund? In that way, police departments attacking this issue could use the money from the fund rather than rely on their police department budgets, which may be allocated to other causes.
Third, what statistics do you have to date on offences related to the possession and use of firearms in committing a crime, on arrests, charges, trials, the outcomes of those trials, and so on? We've heard that sometimes there was plea bargaining and that charges were dropped even if we had evidence. For example, a person may plea bargain, plead guilty to one offence and receive a lesser sentence. Perhaps that's also why we don't necessarily have all the convictions for these kinds of offences.
My last question will be very brief. You mentioned Project Colisée. I've received a number of e-mails and telephone calls from voters who were somewhat outraged because the name of a national and international treasure had been associated with the negative activities of organized crime. I've already forwarded those comments to the Commissioner because some people were outraged to see the name “Colisée” associated with organized crime. What do you consider when choosing the name of an investigation?
I'm very pleased to welcome you this morning.
We in the Bloc québécois are less convinced of the necessity of mandatory minimum penalties than of providing the best possible investigation tools possible. We think that the major outcomes of cases have not been attributable to mandatory minimum sentences, but to the fact that investigation techniques have been improved.
I'm going to ask you four brief questions, and I'd appreciate precise answers. I'm putting them, of course, to Mr. Bourduas and Mr. Graham more particularly, but, if Mr. Butler or Mr. Gordon want to answer them, they are welcome to do so.
How are investigative methods for attacking street gangs, more particularly, different? We're currently reviewing the second legislative measure. On May 4, Bill C-95 will have been passed for 10 years. These laws were designed mainly in relation to the Hells Angels and criminal biker gangs. At the time, there were 38 biker gangs in Canada, which constituted a threat to the community. We've locked up a lot of the Hells Angels' leaders; there's still some work to be done, but a lot of charges have been laid. Today, street gangs are a new reality raging in our communities.
Can you provide the members of this committee with any indications concerning investigative methods? What are the tools that you don't currently have and that you need?
Second, Mr. Bourduas, you said that surveillance, infiltration and wire taps are very important methods. We've been told that wire tap warrants, which were extended by one year under Bill C-95, were not always consistent with the other types of warrants.
Do you have any very specific recommendations to make to the committee?
Third, in Canada, there are no more than roughly 10 attorneys specialized in street gangs. The reason why we win trials when people appear before the courts is that specialized attorneys agree to invest two, three or four years of their lives to become specialists.
Do you have any specific recommendations to make to the committee on that subject?
Lastly, do you believe we should amend section 467.1 to make specific reference to street gangs? Personally, I tend to think so, but our views may differ on the subject.
First, I'd like to hear Mr. Bourduas. Then I'd be pleased to hear from the Chief of the Vancouver police.
So that's why we're here; we need better laws. When we make these small recommendations for making changes to words here and there--about replica--it may not seem that crucial, but it's huge for the street-level officers. We tried to get regulations at the local level that you cannot have a replica gun or a water pistol unless it's painted orange or yellow. A water pistol that you can buy in Costco can easily be disguised as a pistol. Handguns are designed for one reason only, and that's to be concealed. The pellet guns are the same way. They should be easily distinguishable. So that's why we're here, to get these words that will help us added to specific pieces of legislation.
The federal government also, we understand, is moving in this direction. We've had discussions with the public safety minister and the Attorney General about 2,500 additional police officers being given to municipalities. We're very interested in that, and we're assured that this is being looked at. Wonderful!
There's no mechanism in law for the federal government to give money to a municipality to pay for police. There's just no mechanism for that to happen. The money has to flow to the provincial entity, then my budget goes to the province to see whether I can get positions out of them. My front-line officers are as much a part of the war on organized crime as anyone, and we would like to have the funding flow straight to the municipalities, where I can convince the federal government that it's in your best interest to help me. We think that's important.
If you're looking for tools, I'll tell you that one of the best tools we've found in Vancouver is to increase our officers' participation in school liaison programs. If you look at the provincial strategies, and Professor Gordon can talk about this, one of the great strategies to dissuade young people from making bad choices and getting involved in criminality is literacy. Who would have thought 20 years ago that cops would stand before groups and promote literacy and promote stay-in-school programs? We know that the more children who are literate and the more children who stay in school, the fewer the people who make bad choices, and we don't have to deal with them when they're 15. So every nickel that the federal government or anyone puts into literacy or school programs or education has a huge impact on law enforcement. You won't hear it too often, but it's important.
I think Larry touched on the search provisions a little bit. That's a tricky one, because I'm sure that all the lawyers will just be up in arms when we start to tinker with the search provisions. As an example, my FIT crew, my firearms interdiction team, is downtown on a Friday night. They cruise the entertainment district looking for these gangsters' vehicles, usually the big Cadillac Escalades. They spot them, they see two gangsters walking up to the car, they know they're on bail and they've got all kinds of conditions, so they search the car and find a gun. So there have to be some provisions for common sense applications so an officer doesn't have to find some grounds under the traffic act to search a car.
If you're an eight-time-convicted, indictable offender, and you're on bail, and you're out late at night, and the officer looks into your car and sees a balaclava in the back seat, boy, you have to be searched, and your vehicle should be searched. You do that now on a case, and it's out the window.
The RCMP recognizes the importance of partnerships, and I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that organized crime permeates different areas of our country.
What's important to realize is that we've put together infrastructures with our partners at both the municipal and provincial levels to create these CFSEUs, these combined force special enforcement units, and IROC in Alberta. We've looked at the top layers of criminal organizations and we've targeted them, but there's a price tag to this.
What you have to bear in mind is instances like Projet Colisée. The Rizzuto family syndicate has been operating in Canada since the 1950s and has implications in all parts of the world; when you tackle these types of organizations, there's a price tag, and if I quoted the price for Colisée, it would be in the millions of dollars. It's staggering, but it's a price we all have to pay.
As Inspector Aubin indicated, we have partners sitting around the table and we're all focused in the same direction. What's important is to prioritize at the appropriate level and ensure that we stay focused on these criminal organizations.
The problem, though, is that we need additional funding, and of course the latest report from CISC spoke of 792 criminal organizations operating in our midst, in our country. We just can't tackle all of them, but we have initiatives taking place at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels, and it's by combining all our resources, having a structured format like the Canadian law enforcement strategy to combat organized crime, addressing the gaps, and working with our partners that we'll able to tackle this.
You've talked about the Americans and the model they've adopted and the RICO Act that was enacted. What you have to bear in mind, though, is that our charter is different from the charter south of the border, and that has an impact on the way we proceed. We have to work within the Canadian charter.
I don't have a lot of time left.
My question is mainly for Larry Butler. I'd like to hear your view on the following question.
The Province of British Columbia and the Province of Quebec have adopted what, in politics, are called socialist assistance measures. In Quebec, all kinds of preventive measures are in place in an attempt to eliminate organized crime and participation in organized crime. We have free street workers, free psychologists, free psychiatrists, free social workers, shooting galleries where they give out free needles, free arenas and gymnasiums, volunteers to help people, free primary and secondary schools. There are all kinds of things that your province, like our province, provides in order to help the public.
However, barely three weeks ago, in Montreal, a person was walking with a red scarf on. One group, the Blues, shot at him. During the same period, barely three weeks ago, a number of youths who had exchanged songs through YouTube fought each other with guns because one didn't like the other one's song. You're familiar with the same kind of problem in British Columbia.
In my province, there's also a firearms problem. As you know, we've had the three biggest killings, the one at the École Polytechnique de Montréal, the attack on Valery Fabrikant and what happened at Dawson College. We've really had our quota.
Recently, however, a Bloc québécois member published a very good book on street gangs. I don't know whether you've had the opportunity to read it. This book shows that, despite all the free resources for helping youths to avoid getting involved in street gangs — we're told that youths of 12 or 13 belong to street gangs, as is the case in your province — you can currently buy weapons in Montreal in less than half an hour. You can even rent weapons there and return them afterwards. That tells you how big a problem this is.
We're considering Bill C-10. The problem this bill attempts to solve is that there are now 34 active street gangs in Montreal. We were unable to get rid of them, and, in addition, they're growing.
Today there are two philosophies. Either you pardon criminals and find all kinds of explanations, or you try to defend the victims and future victims. Bill C-10 may be the least costly measure that can help you.
I'd like to hear your comments on Bill C-10. You no doubt know that that's why you are here. In your opinion, could Bill C-10 prevent people from being shot at in the street?
We have to know what position to adopt. I don't want to find out tomorrow morning that someone was killed in the street because I made the wrong decision. That's my problem; it's a matter of conscience.
I'd like to know whether you think that Bill C-10 could help you.