Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to present to the committee regarding Bill C-14.
You should all have before you a presentation deck. I invite you to read along with me.
Statistics Canada does not take a position on the proposed amendments. What I will present are data that may inform your discussions of the bill. Please note that the data sources are clearly indicated on each slide, as are pertinent notes about the data.
At the end of the deck you will find some supplemental information on drug trafficking and production offences and on incidents involving organized crime. Given limited time, I will not speak to that information.
Of note, we do not have information relating to the extension of the duration of a recognizance. Also, we have not included firearms-related offence data because it's difficult to speculate which Criminal Code offences police are currently using in cases involving reckless use of a firearm.
My colleague Mr. Craig Grimes will assist me in answering questions.
The first several slides provide information relating to murder committed in connection with a criminal organization. The charts here show the number of gang-related homicides and the number of homicides not related to gang activity over the last decade. By gang related, we mean whether or not the police identified the homicide as involving an organized crime group or a street gang.
In 2007, police reported a total of 594 homicides in Canada. One in five of these homicides, or 117, was reported by police as being gang related. Gang-related homicides have been increasing since this information was first collected in 1991, and you can see the increasing trend over the last decade on the chart to your left. This upward trend contrasts with the trend in the number of homicides that were not gang related, and this is shown in the chart on your right. Also, Canada's overall homicide rate has been on a general downward trend since the mid-1970s.
Firearms are used more often in gang-related homicides than in other types of homicides. In 2007, 69% of gang-related homicides were committed with a firearm, eight in ten of which were handguns. Among those homicides that were not gang related, 20% were committed with a firearm, 54% of which were with handguns.
The next slide in the deck shows the breakdown of gang-related homicides by the type of violation; that is, if it was considered by police to be first- or second-degree murder or manslaughter. The homicide survey is a police survey, not a court survey, so this does not necessarily reflect any subsequent decisions of the crown or the courts. What you can see in the chart is that the majority of gang-related homicides were recorded by the police as being first-degree murder, about three-quarters of them in 2007.
The next two slides indicate where the gang-related homicides occurred. The first is a regional breakdown. Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec had the highest number of gang-related homicides, followed closely by Alberta.
In the next slide you can see that each year approximately 80% of all gang-related homicides occurred in one of Canada's 27 census metropolitan areas, and most of these were in the nine largest. These cities accounted for over three-quarters of all gang-related homicides in 2007. Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver had the highest number of gang-related homicides and together accounted for 53% of all gang-related homicides in 2007.
If you turn to the next slide, we'll look at youth accused of gang-related homicides. In 2007, in total, 74 youth were accused of homicide. Homicides where youth are accused often involve gangs. In 2007 there were 105 persons accused of a gang-related homicide; 34 of them, or 32%, were youth. For comparison, among all persons accused of homicide, youth accounted for 14%.
Because of small numbers, the rate of youth accused of gang-related homicide does fluctuate year over year. You can see from your graph on the left that the trend in the rate has generally been upward since about 2002.
In the next slide we'll make a transition to another of the amendments under consideration in Bill C-14: the creation of new offences regarding assaults of a peace officer. In 2007 police reported just under 9,800 incidents of assault against a peace officer. This was up from just over 6,300 a decade ago. You can see from the graph on the left of the slide that the overall rate of assault against a peace officer has been on a general upward trend over the last decade but has been more stable recently.
Most reported incidents of assault of a peace officer also involved another violation, and in 2007, 70% of them. The chart on the right shows some of the more common of these violations. In the table below that, we've separated reported assaults against police officers from those against other peace officers. You can see that most of these assaults were against police officers.
The next few slides provide some information on how the courts process cases with at least one charge of assault of a peace officer. Consistent with what we just saw from the police data, most court cases with a charge of assault of a peace officer also have other charges in the case. In fact, 90% of these cases have multiple charges, compared to about 60% for court cases as a whole. These cases tend to have several charges in them. The average is five, compared to an average of three for court cases as a whole.
The chart shows some of the more frequently associated charges in cases with a charge of assault of a peace officer. For example, almost one-third also had a charge of obstructing a peace officer, and about one-third had a charge of escape or being at large without excuse.
To go on to the next slide, not only do these cases look different from cases in general in terms of the number of charges, but they also look different in terms of their conviction rates. Cases with at least one charge of assault of a peace officer have relatively high guilty findings and relatively high guilty plea rates. They have especially high findings of guilt on more than one charge in the case.
As well, when the peace officer assault charge is the most serious charge, the proportion found guilty remains relatively high. Two-thirds of the time, a peace officer assault charge was one of the charges for a finding of guilt in the case. In comparison, most violent cases with a finding of guilt have a single guilty charge, which was about 58% in 2006-07.
To go to the next slide, cases with multiple convictions tend to be sentenced to custody more often. This is also true for cases with at least one peace officer assault charge. Forty per cent of these “guilty cases” were sentenced to custody on the most serious charge in the case. In comparison, custody was used in 32% of guilty cases overall. When a peace officer assault charge was the most serious charge in the case, 38% resulted in a custody sentence, which is similar to the use of custody in guilty cases of serious violent offences.
The average sentence length imposed in guilty cases involving an officer assault was 107 days. This is between the average for guilty common assault cases, at 51 days, and for major assault cases, at 166 days. What this data suggests is that these cases are treated relatively seriously by the courts, but it's difficult to conclude that it is simply because of the presence of a peace officer assault when so much else is going on in these cases.
The remaining slides you have within your deck are left for the committee's consideration. They're the supplemental slides I referred to at the beginning. This concludes my presentation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you very much for having me here today.
The Ontario Provincial Police supports all initiatives that enhance public safety. The Ontario Provincial Police welcomes the intent of the changes to section 270, the offence with respect to assaulting peace officers, but believes the changes would be more adequate if the new sentencing provided had a minimum sentence.
Public safety may be enhanced with the extension of recognizance conditions for a two-year period if imposed conditions can be monitored for breaches. The working group looking at policing justice strategies to address this issue of the repeat violent offender may wish to review the provision as to its potential use with respect both to intelligence and to containment.
Available policing capacity to use this provision is a factor that will need to be considered. Policing capacity and available resources may limit knowledge as to breaches of accused persons, weakening the effectiveness of the amendment as a public safety tool. The OPP's ROE, ROPE, and SAT units could assume this role if additional resources were applied.
The Ontario Provincial Police strongly supports current provincial strategies and initiatives--examples are the Toronto anti-violence initiative, the provincial anti-violence initiative, and the guns and gangs initiative--in addressing these types of offences. Policing has received strong government support in these areas.
The OPP believes that other federal legislation and policy proposals brought forward by policing bodies, including the OPP, would enhance the policing of organized crime, gangs, and serious drug-related crime. Areas previously discussed, such as lawful access, amendments to the Firearms Act, and a national gun strategy, are some examples.
In addition, the OPP supports evidence-based programs that prevent youths from joining gangs. Implementation of the recommendations of the LeSage report hopefully will provide a framework that enables all justice system processes to work in a more efficient manner. The OPP recommends that justice sector partners work together on pretrial motions and disclosure to assist in this area.
The new first-degree organized crime murder offence has updated current legislation to address the risk to public safety from gangs. OPP experience in regard to criminal organization offences is that they are very difficult to successfully litigate and require a lengthy amount of investigative time. Use of this offence could lead to challenges, significantly prolonging the final disposition of a case and likely increasing officer time associated with court appearances and evidence. However, we hope that with the recommendations of the LeSage report and the Justice on Target initiative, these issues may be offset.
Prior rulings relating to criminal organization crime have found that the definition of the term “criminal organization” is overly broad. It may be easier to prove second-degree murder in cases than to provide evidence that would end up in a guilty finding for a first-degree murder offence.
The possibility of a life sentence may lead to greater use of witness intimidation by offenders, increasing the challenge for police in identifying guilty persons. If so, the amount of time spent investigating gang-related murders would obviously increase.
A life sentence may provide family and the public with a sense of justice being served; however, victims' families and the public may believe and come to expect that more punitive retribution is also appropriate as a crime deterrence strategy. Jurisprudence that overturns mandatory sentences may make the public regard the justice system as not working. A life sentence is not considered to be an effective deterrent but will prevent that offender from engaging in future offences. Experience has suggested to us that incarceration may not necessarily prevent an offender from continuing to engage in criminal activities while incarcerated.
The new firearms offences will not likely deter public gunplay or drive-by shootings in larger urban areas, given the difficulty we've had in actually identifying the offenders. Other new offences could be effective in reducing these types of crimes. A handgun ban, for example, would provide an additional arrestable offence. The OPP has supported proclamation of the 2004 firearms marking regulations, legislation to address gaps given that possession and sale of gun parts is not regulated...nor any associated criminal liability and a prohibition of possessing ammunition or firearms in stipulated public areas.
Bill provides law enforcement with new tools for responding to gang violence; however, enhancing community safety ultimately requires both apprehensions and convictions. Solutions include providing police with more resources and other legislative tools and policies that will assist in increasing arrests and convictions, as police have requested, in such areas as lawful access. The gun and gang initiative has been very successful in the province in Ontario. By way of example, in 2006, murders in Ontario declined almost 14%, shooting murders declined by 44%, and shooting occurrences in general fell by 15.9%.
On adding weapons or injury provisions, or in some cases duplicating existing offences, bodily harm and aggravated assault are serious offences with lengthy penalties. Police officers as victims should be an aggravating factor that leads to lengthier sentences regardless of the specific offence. The impact of the breaches of the new recognizance conditions is not known. It will be the judge who decides if a person being released under the new recognizance provisions must report to the police or to Correctional Services.
Certain conditions, such as electronic monitoring, are now clearly permitted, and a peace bond may be for up to 24 months. It is expected that conditions may be used more consistently. However, it is the police who will be responsible for bringing forward any information to trigger the amended recognizance provision. Police also have the authority to arrest an individual without warrant if they believe a designated offence is likely to occur. To act on this authority requires happenstance, intelligence, or surveillance. Recognizance provisions represent a potential tool that police could consider as benefit and cost.
Surveillance may support warrantless arrests, enhancing public safety and providing other valuable intelligence. Police would require additional capacity to effectively monitor individuals released under these recognizance conditions. The OPP's ROPE, SAT and ROE units have the skills required, but they have little capacity to monitor persons in these high-risk areas. The OPP's repeat offender enforcement strategy, which continues to monitor high-risk offenders after their release into communities, is effective, but again, it has become a capacity issue.
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the committee, thank you for having invited me to testify before you in the context of your study of Bill C-14.
I share your deep concern with regard to the fight against organized crime and the search for new means of combatting it.
Allow me to begin by stating clearly that I support Bill C-14 without reservation and that I hope that it will be passed without delay. This bill, though not revolutionary, adds a certain number of tools to our tool box to fight organized crime.
Decreeing that a murder is murder in the first degree when committed in connection with a criminal organization remedies what I always considered to be an oversight in the 1997 anti-gang legislation otherwise known as Bill C-95. Parliament had at that time stated that murder was murder in the first degree when it was committed in association with a criminal organization and involved the use of explosives, thus excluding other homicides committed in association with a criminal organization.
The 1997 provision was useless and was never used for two reasons. Firstly, if a murder is committed with explosives it is clear that premeditation was involved. Secondly, shortly after the death of young Daniel Desrochers in 1995, organized crime in Quebec practically abandoned the use of explosives there and turned to firearms.
It is a good thing that Bill C-14 will apply the rule to all homicides committed in connection with a criminal organization, whatever means are used.
The new Criminal Code section 231, proposed subsection (6.1), as proposed by Bill , will turn an unused section of the Criminal Code into one with a much greater likelihood of real applications. Although many gangland murders are obviously planned and premeditated, others are not. A typical example we have seen on many occasions is this: two or more criminal organizations are present in a city or in a geographical area; the territory is divided up between organizations, each one controlling the rackets on its turf. Bars, taverns, and nightclubs are typically divided up between criminal organizations, and on their own turf they have a monopoly on the drug sales, prostitution, and other criminal activities. Occasionally, someone associated with, or perceived to be associated with, a particular organization shows up in the bar or nightclub controlled by another criminal organization. He is not welcome and is told to leave. He refuses, an argument breaks out and turns into a fight, someone pulls out a knife or a gun, and someone gets killed. No one planned for this to happen, so there is no premeditation. The normal charge would be second-degree murder.
But with the amendment proposed by Bill , we could envisage a conviction for first-degree murder. We had a case just like this in Montreal where a completely innocent person was killed by a gang of thugs in a bar. It was a case of mistaken identity, because the victim in reality had no association at all with the opposing criminal gang, but his murder was nonetheless gang-related and gang-motivated.
As for the new offence of recklessly discharging a firearm, as proposed by Bill , it fills the void presently existing between disturbing the peace by discharging a firearm, which is a summary conviction offence and therefore punishable by only six months maximum, or careless use of a firearm punishable by no more than two years, and discharging a firearm with intent to wound or endanger life, punishable by 14 years and a five-year minimum when committed with a handgun.
In the case of drive-by shootings, it can be very difficult to prove the specific intent to wound or endanger life. This can be even harder to prove if no one is hit by the bullets, yet the conduct is much more dangerous than simply disturbing the peace or carelessly firing bullets into the air. Drive-by shootings can and do kill people, including innocent bystanders. So the new offence of recklessly discharging a firearm as proposed by Bill would allow us to go for more significant sentences up to 14 years and with important minimums when committed with handguns or for a criminal organization.
The two new offences of assault against peace officers don't appear at first view to change anything, because the maximum sentences are no higher than those for similar assaults against any person. However, when viewed in conjunction with the new proposed section 718.02, one can see the significance of these new offences. Proposed section 718.02 will call upon courts to give primary consideration to denunciation and deterrence when sentencing for these offences. This should lead courts to give stiffer sentences and consequently this should lead to greater respect for peace officers. I believe this change is needed, for we're continuously reminded that there's increasingly a lack of respect for police officers and consequently their capacity to keep the peace is impaired.
The new proposed section 718.02 will also call upon courts to give primary consideration to denunciation and deterrence when sentencing for intimidation of justice system participants in general. This too should lead to greater respect for all those working in the interests of justice.
The amendments proposed by for preventive peace bonds under section 810.01 are good ideas, in my opinion, but I have to admit that in Quebec we have never used this section of the code. That is probably because in our efforts to fight organized crime, we have concentrated our energy on gathering enough evidence to lay criminal charges and get criminal convictions. However, I do know that the organized crime recognizance is used in Ontario as part of their guns and gangs strategy, particularly for what they call “small fry”; in Quebec we call that le menu “frettin”. In Quebec we hope to start using these provisions in the future as a part of our own strategy against street gangs.
The Quebec Bar Association has expressed its opposition to a couple of the suggested conditions in the new legislation. The new legislation proposes certain specific conditions for the preventive peace bonds, and the Quebec Bar Association has expressed its opposition to those conditions, particularly the one involving participation in a treatment program and also the wearing of an electronic monitoring device.
Some lawyers say these are drastic measures for someone who is not even charged with, let alone convicted of, an offence. However, I believe that since these measures are at the discretion of the provincial court judge, we can trust our judges to use their discretion wisely and impose these conditions only where there are reasonable grounds to believe they are necessary, which will probably be quite rare.
So I support Bill ; however, I would like to point out that many of the legislative changes found in Bill , as well as in Bill , are dependent upon a determination by the court of the existence of a criminal organization. If you really want to give us a boost in our fight against organized crime, I would ask you to stop for a moment and consider why Parliament continues to treat criminal organizations so differently from terrorist organizations.
As of 2001, Parliament simply decreed that dozens of organizations set out in a list were terrorist organizations. Prosecutors don't have to prove that they are terrorist organizations; they are declared to be terrorist organizations by the Governor in Council. Most of these groups have never been convicted of terrorism in Canada. In fact, most of these groups do not even exist in Canada, let alone carry on terrorist activities here.
On the other hand, ever since the adoption of the first anti-gang act in 1997, Parliament has required that prosecutors prove that an organization is criminal in each and every case, even if it is the same organization. Consequently, each time we charge someone in the Hells Angels on anti-gang charges, we have to start from scratch and prove that the Hells Angels motorcycle club is a criminal organization.
In the past 12 years, there have been dozens of convictions establishing that the Hells Angels motorcycle club is a criminal organization. In Quebec, there were even full-patch members who admitted that they belonged to a criminal organization. On at least three occasions, courts in Ontario have decided that the Hells Angels motorcycle club is a criminal organization across Canada. These were decisions by the superior court of Ontario.
Yet courts in British Columbia, Ontario, and Manitoba have also decided that because of the present state of our law, those findings apply only to the particular accused in those particular cases. As prosecutors, we haven't complained, and we have gone about our duty diligently and successfully, but this constant requirement that we prove the same thing over and over again is monopolizing valuable resources that could be used elsewhere in the fight against organized crime.
Proving that a group is criminal organization is usually one of the most time-consuming parts of an organized crime prosecution. It can take literally months to make this evidence before the court. I'll give you some examples.
On March 28, 2001, in Quebec, police carried out a massive round-up of Hells Angels, called Operation Springtime 2001. There were 119 members and associates charged by the organized crime prosecutions bureau, in which I work, in three different files. Project Rush alone--which was part of these people being arrested--united 42 accused in one file, of which 36 were arrested, and 35 were denied bail.
A new courthouse had to be built just to allow a trial this big to take place. However, the justices of the superior court decided to break up the co-accused into smaller, more manageable groups. One trial involved 14 accused, lasted eight months before a jury, and heard 73 witnesses before a guilty plea was worked out.
A second group of 17 co-accused began another trial, which lasted three months before one jury and then had to start all over again before a new judge and jury when the first judge quit. The new trial lasted 13 months before a jury, saw 1,383 exhibits filed, and heard 151 witnesses. Some of the accused threw in the towel along the way and pleaded guilty. In the end, the jury rendered verdicts on the nine remaining accused and declared them all guilty.
The third trial, in English, united two accused, took three and a half months before a justice of the superior court, sitting without a jury, and also resulted in convictions. But in that case, it only took three and a half months because they admitted that Hells Angels was a criminal organization.
While the Hells Angels trials were getting under way, Montreal police were completing another investigation, called Amigos, which focused on the Bandidos Motorcycle Club. It culminated in another massive roundup that effectively put an end to the Bandidos club in Quebec. A trial was held for five of the accused in 2004. It lasted eight months before a jury; 68 witnesses were heard, and all of the accused were convicted.
Last week, we broke all our previous records when we charged 156 Hells Angels and their associates in one single file. This is considerably larger than in the spring of 2001. There will almost definitely be more than one trial, and each trial that is held will be very lengthy. We can predict this already. We will have to start all over again and prove that the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is a criminal organization. Although we are confident of our capacity to be successful, the fact is that the longer the trial lasts, the greater the danger that something might go wrong along the way. For example, for the trial to abort, all you have to do is have somebody very important get sick. If the judge, the lead prosecutor, or more than two members of the jury get sick along the way and have to quit, it can cause the whole trial to abort, and you have to start all over again. The longer the trial, the more the chances that something will go wrong.
Consequently, I urge you to seriously consider legislation that will declare the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club to be a criminal organization once and for all.
Thank you for your attention.
Mr. Chairman and honourable members, my name is Jocelyn Latulippe. I am Chief Inspector and Director of the Criminal Investigation Services Branch of the Sûreté du Québec. I am accompanied by Mr. Francis Brabant, Legal Advisor to the Sûreté du Québec and Member of the Law Amendments Committee of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. I am appearing before you today as representative of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and am the Co-chair of the Organized Crime Committee of the CACP. I would also like to take this opportunity to convey the distinguished salutations of our President, Mr. Steven Chabot, Assistant Director General responsible for criminal investigations at the Sûreté du Québec.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police welcomes Bill C-14 as a long-awaited legislative response to the homicides and other acts of extreme violence committed by organized crime. At its annual conference held in Calgary in 2007, the CACP passed a resolution to support the efforts of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Manitoba aimed at bringing about reforms of federal legislation concerning organized crime.
Three of these reforms are to be found practically in their entirety in the bill: making any homicide perpetrated by an individual for the profit of, under the direction of or in connection with a criminal organization, murder in the first degree; the commission of a criminal offence for the profit of, under the direction of or in association with such an organization, as well as the creation of an offence concerning drive-by shootings, and finally the addition of conditions that may be imposed pursuant to section 810.01 of the Criminal Code in order to more effectively monitor those we suspect may commit criminal organization offences.
Moreover, Bill C-14 proposes the creation of specific offences involving armed assault against peace officers or assaults causing bodily harm to peace officers, and these offences would be severely punished. These provisions have a close bearing on police work and the protection of our police officers who are currently being particularly exposed to street gang violence. Moreover, the bill provides for severe penalties aimed at repressing the serious assaults too often directed at people who denounce crimes. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police would like to see these measures as well as all of the others in the bill adopted as quickly as possible.
I also want to take this opportunity to discuss the current situation of organized crime in Canada more broadly, as well as what the future holds for us in this regard if we do not take remedial action. I want to direct your attention to two extreme situations we seem to be experiencing in Canada in the context of the fight against organized crime.
Indeed, police services grapple with the constant challenge of having to adjust to two current and opposite realities involving the criminal world, that is the increase in inter-gang violence and the increase of the infiltration of legal economies by organized crime agents, all of this in the context of borderless alliances among organized crime members, which involve different situations in each province.
The first reality observed by police officers is related to the fact that street organized crime has become increasingly violent and unpredictable. In that context, the trafficking and use of firearms is becoming increasingly prevalent in some regions of Canada, thus increasing the risks for both citizens and police officers.
Conversely, the directors of large criminal organizations seem to be attempting to adopt a broader perspective. These high-level organized crime elements are becoming more strategic, attempting to look like businessmen and investors, in addition to having learned ways to protect themselves following each major investigation. Thus, certain high-level organized crime elements are attempting to profit currently from growing partnerships among criminal organizations, but also from the globalization phenomenon and the difficult economic situation.
Bill C-14 provides measures which we wholeheartedly support concerning the fight against organized-crime-related violence, but we also believe that it is just as important to see to the protection of our economies and of free enterprise against the growing initiatives being taken by traditional organized crime senior members who want to join the fray as economic actors, but according to the rules of their milieu. They further their activities by relying on intimidation, taking over the awarding of contracts and the setting up of monopolies activities, which in the medium and long term will certainly undermine the economy and discourage honest investors, especially during difficult economic times. The infiltration of organized crime within various market economies is a serious concern we must address.
A number of sectors are already at risk: construction, transportation, landscaping, construction equipment rental, towing, automotive. Our challenge is to find legislative ways and means to eradicate this phenomenon. It requires a lot of police resources over long periods of time but often produces limited results. Not to mention investigations that take a lot of time, since organized criminals know how to protect themselves during lengthy police operations by making sure that all traces of their dirty money are erased.
I want to make you aware of two ways in which our efforts can be supported. First, by blocking the assistance provided to organized crime by facilitators: lawyers, notaries, accountants, tax experts, real estate agents and currency exchange operators. These people are all either corrupted by organized criminals or turn a blind eye to the illegalities. Second, by providing ways to encourage partnerships between the various law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering agencies. That is a significant goal.
Whether it be for financial matters or for intelligence about the various organized crime players or supporters inside different corporations or professional organizations, cooperation between revenue agencies is needed on fraud committed against the government or the many organizations or corporations that are the victims of identity theft, and so on.
Even in the exchange of information between police services and organizations, working together is a vital element that can contribute greatly to the fight against organized crime. Any other organization affected by organized crime must also support us, and we must find ways to encourage coordinated work in upholding existing laws and missions. We must work towards a broader partnership in matters such as intelligence and the exchange of information.
In summary, the two aspects that need focus and appropriate responses to the threats that confront us in the spread of organized crime are the facilitators and the exchange of information. We also have to deal with existing problems, such as the ever-growing and ever more complex disclosure of evidence.
I hope that I have been able to provide you with some awareness about the present situation and the realities we face as we investigate organized crime. The two aspects I have described are on the increase and will need to be explored more deeply in the future. Solutions exist and, as an association, we are ready to be part of any work that moves the fight against organized crime forward in the context of these new realities and the mounting threat.