I call the meeting to order.
This is meeting 17 of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Today is Thursday, April 30, 2009. Welcome to the members of the public and to the media present today.
As most of you know, some time ago the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights agreed to conduct a comprehensive review of organized crime. Initially, we had looked at doing this in four meetings, and of course we very quickly realized it was going to go well beyond that. We are prepared to spend the time to do it properly.
We have asked witnesses from across Canada to appear before us to help us provide some direction to government in terms of fighting organized crime and to perhaps also identify some of the underlying circumstances that lead people to become engaged in organized crime.
We have with us today quite a number of witnesses who certainly represent a broad range of views on the issues.
First of all, I want to recognize Dr. Neil Boyd, criminologist, and Dr. Robert Gordon, also a criminologist. We have Wai Young. We have Evelyn Humphreys, representing S.U.C.C.E.S.S. We have Michelle Miller, representing Resist Exploitation, Embrace Dignity. We also have two individuals representing the Unincorporated Deuteronomical Society, Mr. Robin Wroe and Chief Justice Bud the Oracle.
Because there has been such a demand on our time--the demand to appear as witnesses was oversubscribed, in a sense--and due to our limitations in terms of time, we are limiting your presentations today to five minutes per organization. I'm going to make one exception, and that is for Dr. Boyd, because he is also going to be asked to appear on Bill .
Dr. Boyd, if you're able to, you can also address the issues arising out of Bill so that we have that for the record and can use it in our deliberations as we continue our review of that bill.
Each of you has five minutes to present, and that's per organization. There's going to be lots of time for you to get in additional information as you are asked questions by the members of this committee.
Again, thank you for appearing.
We will start with Dr. Boyd. You have 10 minutes.
Let me begin by saying that gangs and organized crime have been with us for at least 150 years—alienated and disfranchised young men finding a common bond of lawlessness, using crime as a lever for the creation of material wealth. Recall Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York, a reasonably accurate depiction of gang violence in New York City in the late 1860s, and then fast-forward to the streets of Vancouver, where, some 140 years later, there was almost a shooting a day until about three weeks ago.
The late 1960s and early 1970s provided new opportunities for those involved in gangs and organized criminal activity. The drugs of the third world arrived on the doorstep of the first world. The new availability of global travel had brought North Americans into contact with cannabis and hashish in such places as India, Lebanon, and Thailand, cocaine in Colombia and Bolivia, and opium and heroin in Southeast Asia. Some intrepid travellers and entrepreneurs brought these third world drugs into North America and western Europe. Although marijuana, cocaine, and heroin have been illegal since the earlier 20th century, there was little traffic in Canada or the United States until the late 1960s and early 1970s—in fact, about 1,000 convictions per year annually from the 1920s until 1967 for all illegal drugs combined. By 1976 we had 40,000 criminal convictions annually, and these were just for simple possession of cannabis. Something quite dramatic occurred.
For the last 40 years, we have continued to use criminal prohibition as our primary response to distribution and possession of these drugs. Unfortunately, prohibition hands the responsibility for product quality and price over to organized crime, providing these people with lucrative and guaranteed profitability. It is entirely fair to say, given this backdrop, that our policies served to line the pockets of often thuggish drug dealers. It must also be said, however, that each legal or illegal drug is different, carrying its own risks and potential harms. The greatest irony of our current reality is that individuals are now being shot to death over the trade in cannabis but that it is almost impossible to die from consumption of the drug itself.
Ironically, we attach moral condemnation to the consumption and distribution of cannabis, but not to tobacco, a drug with a greater addictive potential, more negative health consequences, and unparalleled morbidity. There is a very real sense, then, in which we go through our lives with cultural blinders, unable to see the arguably bizarre social construction that previous generations have created for us. A good part of a more effective response to organized criminals would be to remove financially rewarding forms of commerce from their control, and cannabis would be a good place to begin if there were any political will to do so. I also recognize that this is a global problem that can really only be solved in a global context.
I might add that the fight against organized crime cannot simply be won by changing our approach to drugs that are currently illegal. There are some drugs—crack and crystal meth—that are difficult to see as commodities that are capable of any form of sensible regulation. And there remain many other potentially viable means of commerce for gangs and organized crime. Identity theft, fraud, human trafficking, and cyber crime are some of the more contemporary prominent possibilities. But definitely, we have to recognize that while the regulation of some currently illegal drugs might put a huge dent into the businesses that organized criminals conduct, that alone cannot solve the problems we face.
Now, this takes us to the present and the federal government's response to the violence of organized criminals, particularly the recent spate of killings in the city of Vancouver, most notably a new category of first degree murder for any killing by a gang member. But put yourself in the position of a gang member on the streets of Vancouver. He's already carrying a handgun and willing to use it on his adversaries. He's already willing to kill and to risk being killed. He's not at all involved in any consideration of the severe penalties for his crime already set out in the Criminal Code.
Bill C-14 will also provide much grist for lawyers and the legal profession. When is an individual properly classified in law as committing a killing in pursuit of a criminal association? What kind of foresight is required for conviction for such a first degree murder charge? These questions will almost certainly occupy the time of crown counsel, defence counsel, and the judiciary, and there is no evidence that this diminution of the role of criminal intent will provide us with greater social safety. This should be, after all, the goal of any action we take.
In this regard, I would urge not a focus on penalties but more efforts with long-term prevention, targeted resources for police involved in the investigation and disruption of organized crime, and as my colleague Robert Gordon will likely suggest, an integrated Lower Mainland police organization.
As the chair noted, what I'd really like to focus on this morning is not Bill , but Bill .
I'll begin by making the observation that most individuals arrested and convicted of trafficking offences are not individuals who control the supply of these drugs. In fact, they are, for the most part, low-level user-dealers selling enough to maintain their own habits.
As I'm sure you are aware, two of your own Department of Justice studies take issue with mandatory minimum terms for drug crimes. The commentary prepared for this bill notes this from a 2005 study: “There is some indication that minimum sentences are not an effective sentencing tool: that is, they constrain judicial discretion without offering any increased crime prevention benefits.”
The other study, from 2002, noted that the lack of deterrent effect flows from the barring of judicial discretion. Prosecutors and police are then forced to exercise this discretion, often choosing not to charge people with offences that would lead automatically to a prison term. Additionally, juries may choose to acquit individuals who face an automatic prison term when it seems excessive and unjust.
So what is the case to be made for the mandatory minimum? As the legislative summary prepared for Bill notes, it is one of denouncing certain egregious kinds of conduct and holding people responsible for such conduct, irrespective of the effectiveness of such legislation. We do that for homicide offences, and it's an entirely appropriate action that we take in doing so. But what of an individual who grows a single marijuana plant or two and shares the efforts of his gardening with his adult friends and neighbours? Do we need to denounce his conduct by placing him in jail for a minimum term of six months? This is what is mandated by Bill under clause 3 and its revisions to subsection 7(2) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Put simply, the bill does not make a distinction between the cultivation of marijuana and some of the egregious kinds of conduct that some marijuana growers engage in. The bill speaks to these egregious kinds of conduct: the creation of a public safety hazard, the theft of electricity, the exposure of children to toxic residues, the presence of firearms in a grow operation, and the setting of potentially lethal traps in and around the grow operation. While it does make sense to denounce these kinds of conduct, it is grossly disproportionate to denounce all forms of marijuana cultivation with minimum terms of imprisonment. The same points can of course be made with respect to the distribution of cannabis.
I'd also like to comment on Justice Minister Nicholson's recent statement regarding cannabis: “Marijuana is the currency that is used to bring other more serious drugs into the country.” Agreed, we should be concerned about those Canadians who export marijuana to the United States in exchange for cocaine, heroin, or handguns, but what of the tens of thousands of Canadians who grow the drug for themselves or other Canadians? Are they deserving of mandatory imprisonment for six months, particularly when their drug of choice has relatively insignificant health consequences in contrast to the much more lethal and actively promoted legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco?
Finally, let's consider the cost of mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment under Bill . I will focus on marijuana cultivation, thus addressing only a small portion of the taxpayer dollars that will be required to fund passage of this new law, but we have very good data on this point.
An RCMP study in 2005 canvassed all found cases of marijuana cultivation in British Columbia from 1997 to 2003 and noted that there were 14,483 such cases in the province in that seven-year period, with a little over 500 individuals going to jail for an average of five months. The new legislation would urge at least six months in jail for an additional 14,000 British Columbians or, put differently, a further 2,000 British Columbians annually. The cost of this imprisonment would be approximately $57,000 per year for each provincial prisoner, a total of $114 million annually for marijuana cultivators in British Columbia alone.
In sum, Bill is poorly conceived legislation that is likely to cost a province like B.C. hundreds of millions of dollars annually in new jail cells. I'm not even actually calculating the cost of capital construction, but these jails will be built simply to house marijuana growers, among many others.
I can only hope that the Liberals, the NDP, and the Bloc Québécois will stand up and, if not willing to simply defeat the bill, at least pursue amendments that might stand the test of common sense.
Good morning, everybody. Thank you for the invitation. I've just cut my address back by two-thirds, so bear with me.
I'll focus on five points.
First, in the summer of 2006 I completed a report for the BC Progress Board on crime and criminal justice in British Columbia. The BC Progress Board is, of course, the premier's think tank on a variety of primarily economic issues.
Among other things, my co-author and I were asked to determine the primary causes of crime and criminality in the province and to suggest solutions, all within 40 pages. The view of those with whom we consulted for this project, mostly senior government, police, academics, and industry representatives, is that the most significant causes of crime and criminality in B.C. are drugs and alcohol.
There is no evidence to suggest that the situation has changed since 2006. In particular, the problems associated with drugs don't appear to have changed. In fact, given the outbursts of violence in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley areas in the fall of 2007 and again just a couple of months ago, everything points to a burgeoning problem. Both the supply side and the consumption side of the industry were seen in 2006, and continue to be seen now, as responsible for a vast amount of crime, and the supply side quite clearly is dominated by organized crime groups.
There is little doubt that the province is playing host to an extremely well-entrenched and highly profitable illegal drug trade. It has been growing steadily for many years and without significant interruption. There's evidence to suggest that B.C. is a major exporter of a particularly potent form of marijuana that's marketed as B.C. Bud, and that the primary trade route is north-south, into the United States. Coming north, of course, are cocaine, guns, and American dollars.
We identified three approaches to this problem, three possible ways of addressing it.
The first was decriminalizing marijuana in particular, but regulating and taxing the industry, with obvious savings--in fact, gains--to government in a number of areas, coupled with a health-based, rather than criminal justice-based, approach to drug use and abuse.
The second possibility is an all-out planned and fully resourced assault on organized crime groups involved in the illegal drug industry in the province, preferably taking a regional approach, and in particular focusing on the Pacific Northwest region as a whole, because this trade transcends political boundaries.
The third possible approach was a combination of these two things, starting with an assault on organized crime. That is, of course, what we are proposing, a war on organized crime, not a war on drugs. It would be coupled with a health-based approach to drug use and abuse and a gradual decriminalization and regulation of the marijuana industry in particular.
So there were three possibilities. The third was the combination of decriminalizing and regulating the marijuana industry in particular, coupled with an assault on organized crime.
In our report these three options were merely stated, without recommendations being offered. But it's clear that if an approach has been embraced by government, it's option B, an all-out assault on organized crime groups. And there are reasons why that's predictable.
The next point is that the extent to which an assault on organized crime groups can succeed will depend very much on the extent to which it's properly funded, adequately organized, and fully and strategically planned. Unfortunately, there's every indication that these elements have yet to be put into place, the consequence being simply more of the same. It's basically the same strategy we've been attempting to use over the last 10 years.
Periodic forays that target particular groups—often resulting in successful but temporary disruptions to the industry—make for good media events. They cause temporary increases in the retail price of drugs on the streets, with increased profits to suppliers, and ironically, they can lead to increased property crime, as addicted consumers try to acquire more resources to satisfy their wants. They also create new opportunities for new and existing organized crime groups to grab a market share. And I think we've seen some of this happening over the last couple of months. But the problem is that the underlying industry continues to thrive, in part, because of the significant consumer demand for its product.
So the answer is to move toward a better organized approach to organized crime. In this province, I think it's a chronic and critical issue. One of the problems is that we do not have a single organization in place that will operate on a region-wide basis to address organized crime issues.
We had such an organization. It was known as CLEU, but it was disbanded as a result of a report in 1998 of a committee chaired by Stephen Owen, a very distinguished British Columbian. That report recommended the creation of an alternative way of addressing organized crime in the province. From that came the Organized Crime Agency of British Columbia, which got off to a flying start—seemingly, and predictably, well resourced and well organized, and with a clear strategy, led by Bev Busson, who subsequently went on to be the Commissioner of the RCMP. So at first blush, it was a very useful looking organization.
That organization disappeared in 2004, for reasons I've yet to establish. It's quite mysterious why it was disbanded. In its place came the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and a whole host of other police organizations and agencies, which I really think represent a classic example of siloism. I don't see the kind of organization of policing services around the organized crime issue that really should be in place, particularly in British Columbia.
And with that, I'll stop my remarks.
Hello. Thank you so much for hearing me today.
I'm here today as the coordinator of the Vancouver Citizens Against Crime. It is a new community-based organization that is non-profit and non-partisan, because Vancouver citizens are very concerned about the daily shootings, as already referenced, and they want to have a voice to Ottawa.
One of our primary mandates as a group is to provide and facilitate that voice. We are currently developing a brief and collecting input, comments, and suggestions from members of the public, which we will be tabling to this committee by the end of May. I'm currently here as a backup person to somebody who couldn't be here, so my presentation is not as complete as I would have liked had I had a bit more notice. I apologize for that.
I just want to say that, personally and professionally, I have grown up in Vancouver, worked in the downtown east side, and volunteered in the downtown east side for over 25 years. In that span of time, I have lost many youths as well as adult friends and relatives to organized crime. That is my passion and my concern in being here today. I want to say that in cutting my teeth and working in the downtown east side, I've worked for neighbourhood houses services, the Chinese Cultural Centre, the Strathcona Community Centre Association, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., and as a child care worker by walking the streets of the downtown east side with the Ministry of Social Services.
During that time, I have also fostered seven children in my home, one of whom died of a drug overdose on the downtown east side at the age of 21. Attending his funeral was one of the worst experiences I have personally gone through.
I also wanted to share with this group that some 26 years ago, as the president of the Strathcona Community Centre Association, I founded and formed the Vancouver anti-gang and youth at risk task force. As a task force, we worked quite a bit to lobby local, provincial, and federal governments for funding for youth at risk. I'm happy to say that at that time we were very successful and did receive funding. This was the basis for many of the programs that we see today both provincially and federally.
However, I'm so concerned that 26 years later many of these programs seem to continue to be ad hoc and, as Dr. Gordon said, working in silos. That is primarily what I wanted to share with you today. I believe the community can be more effectively engaged and supported to achieve better outcomes by also establishing a community-integrated task force. Dr. Boyd talked earlier about a region-wide community policing integrated task force. I believe the community has a role to play in keeping our neighbourhoods safe.
If we had these kinds of initiatives in communities across Canada—working with the law enforcement agencies, of course—I believe we could strengthen and make our communities and our neighbourhoods more integrated and safer places to be. The police cannot be everywhere. I think we have had a tendency in the last 10 or 15 years to professionalize crime in the sense that it is the police's responsibility to look after this. Average citizens do not feel they know where to report things or, if they report things, whether they're safe. These are all valid concerns.
Secondly, I wanted to share a point regarding current and future requirements for justice resources. I believe that a re-prioritization maybe needs to happen with this, because as we know, Canada's demographics are changing. New immigrants are coming here who do not know what their rights and responsibilities are, who do not know about the justice system, the police systems, etc. Again, the public education regarding this area—the translations and availability of translated materials—are very ad hoc.
It happens occasionally here and there, but there's no consistent, forward-looking view to let us reach out to these people. Maybe we need to incorporate a justice module into the Citizenship Act, so that when people go for their citizenship they can learn about what their rights and responsibilities are as citizens regarding justice. There's a number of those kinds of things that could be looked at.
I also want to say that—
My name is Evelyn Humphreys, and I work with S.U.C.C.E.S.S., one of the largest not-for-profit organizations in British Columbia.
About four years ago, I had the opportunity to create a program called A Chance to Choose, targeted mainly at youth who had not completed high school. We monitor the barriers that youth have to employment. It's funded by Service Canada, and its goal is employment. However, we are finding that a lot of the youth have been involved in youth justice and adult justice, and that's one of the barriers we look at.
On average, the youth have five barriers to employment. That would include homelessness. That would include justice. That would include not completing high school, having learning disabilities.
We have a success rate for completion that's well over 80%, and 75% of the youth are working or back in school. Our success rate is really high.
I did some numbers on our last class, because I think numbers are important. Out of the 36 students involved in the tricities, 16 were involved in justice, nine in youth justice and seven in adult justice. If you look at the cost, according to the provincial director involved in custody, youth justice is $300 a day. Adult justice is anywhere between $100 and $170. If you calculate that out, nine young people at $109,000 is $981,000. The seven youth at $36,500 works out to be $255,000. Add them together and the cost is well over $1 million. A Chance to Choose costs $500,000 to run, and that includes paying the youth.
One of the things we do extremely well as one of the elements is community-based learning. We take youth out of their environment and put them into a community environment. We take them out and introduce them.
The reason we came up with this is that I had the opportunity to work with adults. One of the gentlemen who came to my house told me that he had never been to a social function where there were not drugs involved. He was 54. That led me to believe that if you're in a world that does drugs, drugs are a part of your life. So we take the youth out of the environment to introduce them to a new environment. It has been extremely successful.
Another thing we do is listen to the youth. We have a Toastmasters, which we call Speechcraft, so that young people have an opportunity to share and talk about their stories.
If we're talking about prevention, I can tell you about a young man who came in and shared his story. At Christmas he was in a shelter, and he said he'd never been so alone in all his life. He had no Christmas tree, no family, no nothing. He sat there and told us that it was the most depressing day of his life. January 1, he met his new best friend, a drug dealer, and soon started dealing drugs. He needed the money. This young man--luckily--was arrested. He ended up in jail, which was worse than the shelter, and he ended up coming to us. He's now working and doing very well.
What these young people need is connection, or reconnection, to their community.
As well, I've done a lot of research on transition, and what has been really successful is the transition between adolescence to adulthood. If we can intervene in that area...but a lot of times we don't look at that area. When they're in transition from adolescence to adult justice, youth have a tendency to look back on their lives and say, “I don't want to be here. I want to move forward.”
We've had gang members and we've had violent offenders. It has been really successful in the whole concept of A Chance to Choose, because it's choices and consequences. We're very strict on the consequences. We have a no drugs policy and we have a no weapons policy. We're very tough on the youth, probably tougher than the justice system.
They come to us because we create an environment that's safe, that's inclusive, and that's fun for them to be in. I would really encourage this committee to look at this group of young people, look at the community base and at some of the things we've created in A Chance to Choose, because it's working, and it's working well.
We had the opportunity to open in the downtown east side last year. Unfortunately, our funds were cut, so we pulled out of the downtown east side. I'm really angry about that, because it had worked really well.
We run based on Service Canada funding, and we run on annual funding. In four years, I think we've had one large gap in service. Our contract was negotiated for 2009 to 2010, and we signed it on March 27 to start on March 30. In two weeks we had to have a full class. We had over 49 applicants. We stopped taking applications because we couldn't handle them in the two weeks. So there's a huge demand for this type of programing.
We have also experienced young people who have offended again. Last week this young man got out of jail, and he was a violent offender, and his first stop was to A Chance to Choose. We had sent him his portfolio in jail to show him his positive things. We also create strengths, and we sent him his positive things. His first stop out of jail was to A Chance to Choose to say thank you.
Good morning. My name is Michelle Miller and I have the privilege of being the executive director of Resist Exploitation, Embrace Dignity, or REED, a self-funded organization that works for long-term change for women who have been sexually exploited.
For the last 10 years I've been fighting to end sexual slavery of women and children, both in Vancouver's downtown east side and in the slums of Manila. I also live on the east side in solidarity with marginalized women.
Not once have I met a woman who is prostituting by choice. Prostitution is one of the simplest activities motivating organized crime, and it's one of the simplest to stop by ending the demand for sexual access to the bodies of women and children. Placing full responsibility on the johns, users, buyers, and consumers of women and children can and will stop the demand.
With the Olympics coming, we decided to study events in other countries to see how they would affect prostituted women. What we have seen is a spectacular rise in the demand for sexual access to women and children's bodies during large sporting events. In crass economic terms, this turns Metro Vancouver and Whistler into a market for which a product must be supplied. The market is the sex industry and the product is marginalized women and children, who are already vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
We already know that Vancouver has a gnawing problem with sex trafficking that reflects the larger global reality. It is estimated that 27 million people are living in slavery worldwide, largely in sexual exploitation, which makes about $32 billion for organized crime.
Human trafficking is the fastest growing industry worldwide and ranks only second to the drug trade in profit. Prostitution is one of the simplest activities motivating and supporting organized crime, and one of the simplest to stop through ending the demand. Women and children are recruited, deceived, coerced, and exploited, then controlled through rapes, beatings, addiction, and psychological torture to keep them from running away.
The average age of recruitment into prostitution is 14. A lot of this may sound shocking. It's an everyday reality in Metro Vancouver. We see gangs routinely coercing girls into the sex industry through posing as boyfriends. Women are brought by force or deception from other countries and forced into sexual slavery, and aboriginal women and girls are so-called “recruited” off reserves in extreme poverty and prostituted on the streets.
Of course, you know about prostituted women. They have been studied pretty much ad nauseam. But how often do you hear about the buyers, the ones who are driving the market? It was 8 a.m. on a rainy Vancouver morning, and I'm walking on the downtown east side to a friend's house for breakfast. Pulling down the alley, shrouded in secrecy, is a lone male in a maroon minivan, complete with a car seat in the back, dropping off a destitute young native girl who was paid to give him a blow job on his way to work. This so-called family man has simply put money into the pockets of a pimp.
I think of my friend Courtney, who was prostituted as a little girl in a Vancouver hotel. A gang made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling her to men eager to sexually abuse her. These perpetrators enjoy complete anonymity, all the while ruining the lives of women and children and making piles of money for organized crime.
Whether discussing international or domestic trafficking of women, the consumer driving the market is the same. Be it an immediate side street purchase, an escort, Internet pornography, it's all the same. It fuels trafficking and makes money for organized crime.
Why don't we create dialogue about bringing about solutions that would stop the demand? Why don't we ask, what's wrong with our society that the demand for exploited sex is growing? People are often paying for the women's misery. What's going on, that the demand for exploitive sexual experiences is ten times what it was five years ago? We're not counting the users and buyers of sex. We're not asking them--and believe me, they're visible if you look--why they buy sex. We don't study them to find out if it's poverty, boredom, or alcoholism. We don't seek answers that will tell us why a person would purchase a sex partner if he can beat her, rape her, and even kill her. Human trafficking operates as organized crime. It's silent, hidden, secretive, and controlled by the threat of death and the experiences of murder.
Drawing on the collective public guilt of the missing women of the downtown east side, some are seeking to legalize prostitution. That would be an absolute mistake. We're adamantly opposed to that, so please hear that. They are grossly misled in their logic, tactics, and solutions. So think about it.
First of all, in order to work in a brothel, a woman would have to be clean from drugs. It's not going to happen. Addiction is part and parcel of their situation; it's often how they're kept there.
Second, they would have to register with the government and pay taxes. No one wants a record of this time in their life.
Third, they would have to undergo health checks. Most I know wouldn't pass. And note that the health checks are put in place to protect the health and safety of the johns, not the women.
We've also seen that normalized violence such as prostitution jeopardizes the safety of all women.
So who would benefit? Organized crime. Operating with impunity, they would simply be businessmen--join the local business association, recruit your daughters at local college job fairs. It would also be a gift to johns. Any country that has legalized prostitution has seen a rise in demand, a diversification of the industry, and a proliferation of underground brothels.
Though some link the legalization of drugs with prostitution, it is important to realize that with drugs a person is asserting their agency over an inert substance, but in prostitution you're using an actual person who does not want to be there--forced slavery; it's a person.
I realize that I'm almost out of time.
What we would promote is the Swedish legislation, where they've decriminalized the selling of sex and criminalized the buying of sex. They've seen amazing results. It was recently adopted in Norway and Iceland, and Britain has adopted something similar.
We've changed attitudes around drunk driving, smoking, and domestic violence. We can do it. Prostitution is not the world's oldest profession, it's the world's oldest oppression.
I am not mister; I'm just Robin.
Thank you, Chief Justice.
Our position in respect of Bill and drug prohibition in general is quite simple.
Societies such as yours or ours govern their members by the content of those members. Drug crime is not really crime at all in any necessary sense. It is quasi-crime or crime mala prohibita on a par with an act forbidding the importation of wool and not at all on a par with, for example, that divine precept forbidding murder. I would also like to add that slavery of persons is another thing that I put in much worse regard than the possession of drugs or what not, to refer to Ms. Miller's comment.
But in any case, the rhetoric about drugs singularly destroying lives is fundamentally offensive. There is a wide variety of non-destructive reasons for drug use. Many human beings use drugs because they improve their happiness or quality of life. Other human beings use drugs for production of heightened spiritual, esthetic, and interpersonal experience.
In a commentary on DOB from the book PiHKAL by Dr. Alexander Shulgin, one of the amphetamines to be rescheduled--that's DOB, for example--in a three-milligram dose the experience was described thusly:
“Wunnerful. It's been one heck of a good experiment, and I can't understand why we waited nine years to try this gorgeous stuff. Without going into the cosmic and delicious details, let's just say it's a great material and a good level.”
Why should such a thing be prohibitorially scheduled at all? Everyone has personal tastes. Some run toward automobiles, and automobile users are taken care of by regulation, and there is no reason your society should not, at worst, apply some sort of gradated licensing to drug purchase and dispensation involving training as to the calculated statistical risk involved with drug use. At best, your society would leave each to his own diet and not use blunt corporate policy instruments for dietary control.
Further, repeal of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act will redirect a revenue stream that currently pumps into organized crime. The stream will be diverted by the CDSA's repeal into legitimate, regulated companies subject to human rights law and all the other furnishings of a modern place of employment. Those legitimate companies will use law courts for dispute resolution, not guns.
Repeal of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act will remove a key revenue stream from organized crime. Continuation of the act will sustain a key revenue stream for organized crime.
Harmless men and women do not need to submit to being governed by those who seek to harm them by imprisonment. If membership in a society becomes injurious to happiness, men and women may leave that society and they may form their own society capable of its own legislative acts. Of course, they cannot legislate away gravity, nor may they depart from certain customary behaviours. However, these have little to do with possessing or not possessing any specific plants or substances.
Why should any reasonable marijuana smoker consent to being governed by a society that sustains the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act? Why should he not instead consent to government by a society that respects his peaceful transaction with his chosen supplier? If your society fails to take up the duty of regulating demand-oriented drug suppliers, should some society or societies not fill that void?
We will quote from our summary of Bill C-15, in short, just to include one part that we think is rather important. It highlights the lack of care that has gone into the drafting of Bill C-15.
As to the appending of amphetamine and its analogs to schedule 1 of the act, we wonder why you've included the brominated and chlorinated variance of 2,5 dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine, yet have excluded the diogenated analog 2,5 dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine. This gives us cause to question what principles were involved in the drafting of the proposed appendix to schedule 1.
To conclude our statement, prohibition is a failed corporate policy and it causes harm to members of your Canadian society. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is the instrument that carves out the market enjoyed by organized crime in respect of drugs. Repeal of that act would also give the benefit of freeing up your scarce judicial resources. Absent repeal, we declare that men and women may constitute their own governments respectful of their right and good custom and be done with you, and that would be a shame, for Canada is a decent idea. It is not, however, a mandatory idea.
Right, and the status quo prevails, and we are rapidly approaching 2012, when the RCMP contract will be renewed, unless we can negotiate an alternative.
It's a great question. There are two issues.
First of all, we're talking primarily about amalgamating police services in the two large metropolitan areas: Victoria and in particular Vancouver. That's creating a single metropolitan force for those two separate city areas. That is the issue that causes the greatest resistance on the part of the municipal mayors, with some exceptions.
The answer to that, quite frankly, is for the province to seize the bull by the horns and go ahead and do it and, unfortunately, reap some of the consequences. But if it's done in the first year, as you well know, immediately following an election, by the time you get out of the green zone and into the yellow zone, you're at about year three, and most of the pain is over and done with, and people begin to see the benefits of it. My advice to politicians on this issue is to start figuring out how you're going to do it in the year immediately following election and then just brace yourself. In the end, what will happen is that the electorate will realize that this is actually the best way to go.
That is creation of amalgamated police services in the metropolitan areas. Over top of that, you have a second tier of policing. That is the tier two or level two policing. Level two policing involves policing across the region. There's often a confusion in the use of these terms.
When talking about creating regional response to organized crime, I'm talking about a response province-wide, plus across the state of Washington and the American services, plus in Alberta, because the drug trade in this part of the world most certainly is a regional drug trade, and with all due respect to folks who are concerned about human trafficking—I am too—it's the drug trade that is driving the operations at the moment. If we can tackle that on a regional basis—and that will require the kind of organized crime agency that you created in 1999 that is going to operate in an amalgamated, organized, and properly funded way, with some accountability—we will make tremendous headway. But at the moment, we are facing a siloed system, and I don't think it's effective. I think many serving police officers will agree that it's not effective. And you're going to hear people who will defend the status quo.
The point about prohibition is that until 1967 we only had 1,000 convictions per year for possession, distribution, and cultivation of all illegal drugs combined. So one has to ask, why was it so different? Why, by 1976, did we have 40,000 convictions for marijuana possession alone?
The way to understand that is to understand global travel. Only the wealthy could travel globally until the mid- to late 1960s. People went to countries like Thailand and Colombia and they brought back the drugs of the third world.
We've always had our first world drugs, alcohol and tobacco. In fact, when we criminalized smoking opium in 1908, it was not because we had any informed debate about the harm. The law itself was introduced by the Minister of Labour and he said in the House of Commons, “We will get some good out of this riot yet.” There was a very virulent anti-Asiatic riot in the fall of 1907 that led to the criminalization of smoking opium.
Smoking opium had been a part of British Columbia for 40 years, sold in Vancouver, Victoria, and New Westminster. And in fact, in 1885 a Supreme Court inquiry into local business concluded that it was much less harmful than alcohol. The inquiry found that the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which was formed to combat beatings by drunken husbands, was on the right track to focus on alcohol as a more serious problem in British Columbia than smoking opium.
So this is my point about how we've come to make certain drugs legal and certain drugs illegal. It's not because of informed public debate about health consequences but because of history, politics, culture, and economics. It's about good first world drugs. There used to be a doctor clad in a lab coat and stethoscope: “More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette” was an ad in Life magazine. And a life expectancy table appeared on the side, demonstrating that since the twenties and the advent of the modern cigarette, life expectancy had improved. You couldn't put that forward today as credible. So we've used a regulatory model towards tobacco--aggressive public health education, non-smokers rights and issues--and we've accomplished a great deal.
My point, then, about prohibition is this. The biggest issue there is really cannabis. It's 10 to 20 times the market of all the other illegal drugs combined. The market for heroin use and cocaine use.... Many of the countries that have innovative approaches in western Europe are finding that heroin use, with prescription and supervised consumption and so forth, is declining among young people. It's not a glamour drug any more.
So I think we have to make distinctions around drugs and have to think carefully. We've done that around alcohol and tobacco. We still have a lot of work to do around alcohol. You look at ads.... Anyway, I'm rambling.
I would like to return to the list of criminal organizations. Next, I would like to talk about prostitution.
In my view, there would have to be a process. For example, if you have a judicial finding, if parliamentarians are associated with the setting up of the list... Obviously, we cannot use the Order in Council route where a minister would wake up one morning and decide that 15 groups are criminal organizations without any further validation.
I do not believe the Hells Angels will change their name. In order to be effective, they need to use a strategy of intimidation, and intimidation is part of their trademark. If ever they changed their name, then the Crown attorney would have to prosecute them anew.
These are my views. My colleagues know it, I will push hard to have this recommendation included in our report.
I would like to go back for a moment to the issue of prostitution. I sat , with Libby Davies of the NDP and Ms. Fry of the Liberal Party, on the parliamentary committee that studied this matter. I am quite in favour of a model that criminalizes johns. However, this model also has some negative aspects. We are told that even in Sweden it is extremely difficult to control johns and that this model caused people to migrate.
When the Fraser report was made public, the idea was raised to provide... There are two main types of prostitution: addiction prostitution and subsistence prostitution. In my neighbourhood, in the eastern part of Montreal, girls prostitute themselves to make a living. In an ideal world, I wish this would not exist. If we allowed prostitution out of one's home, in a controlled environment like the Fraser report recommended, would this not be better for society?
I make this recommendation realizing that we must stop prostitution by addicts that is controlled by pimps and marked by violence. Should we not be more nuanced when we talk about prostitution?
First, I thank you, colleagues, for coming to Vancouver. If I could move a motion in the House of Commons, I would move that most of our committee hearings should be in Vancouver.
Second, to our witnesses, I salute all of you. You have a common goal of reducing gang violence and helping victims. Particularly, Ms. Young, Ms. Humphreys, and Ms. Miller, you live it, you breathed it. I salute you. You have many stories to tell that we haven't heard today.
I have three questions. I want to focus on some of the laws before the House because my time is so limited.
Ms. Miller, I'm going to come to you with a very specific, a less specific, and a more general question: one, a date rape drug that will be more serious in sentencing; two, generally the question of organized crime and how that affects the victims of human trafficking; and three, the Olympics and what that's going to mean.
The first question is on one aspect of that we haven't heard much about, which is the movement of a drug called GHB from schedule 3 to schedule 1. That's the date rape drug and many drugs like it. The effect will make it a more serious penalty for people using these drugs. The primary use of it is not for an individual looking for a high, but generally to aid an attacker who can somehow subdue a victim, and it's usually a male subduing a female in that way. My question is whether that is going to help in your campaign.
Second, on organized crime, this movement to target gang violence and other serious crime, if we succeed in disrupting organized crime, will that help victims of human trafficking?
Third, you mentioned the Olympics. How is the Lower Mainland going to be more susceptible to gang violence and human trafficking in the context of the Olympics?
Good day. Bonjour.
My name is Alistair Macintyre. I'm the officer responsible for oversight of all RCMP criminal operations in British Columbia.
Violence characterizes the nature of organized crime in British Columbia. In 2008, 40%--or 55--of the province's 138 murders were organized crime and gang related. The costs are staggering.
The prevalence of violent crime, up to and including murder, occurring as a consequence of organized criminal activity is a major public concern. The people are scared. While British Columbia homicide rates are stable, the proportion of those attributed to organized crime is increasing. There's also evidence suggesting that the number of non-fatal shootings has increased, perhaps because of the increased gangster use of body and vehicle armour.
It is estimated that there are approximately 133 organized crime groups in British Columbia. While the estimated number of groups seems to have remained stable over the past four years, the exact number of individuals involved is yet unknown and difficult to accurately predict.
Organized crime and gangs have multi-jurisdictional connections. In addition to their drug trafficking practices, which are national and international, they hire shooters from other jurisdictions, which thwarts homicide investigations.
While organized crime groups and gangs were at one time characterized by their ethnic origin, there are growing trends towards emerging polyethnic groups organized around a criminal market. Their structures are flexible, their skills diverse and sophisticated, while their knowledge about how to defeat the criminal laws is escalating. Emerging groups are also less inclined than their predecessors to blatantly display the trappings or signs of their branding, as more traditional gangs like the Hells Angels would, such as using a name, tattoos, clothing, and jewellery as identifiers. This makes prosecution under organized crime laws more difficult.
The examples of Project EPARAGON typify the gangster groups, those who import and export multi-kilograms of cocaine and other drugs and launder millions of dollars of their proceeds of crime, often at casinos. These groups import precursors, manufacture illicit drugs, then export the products to a different country. They also import cocaine from Los Angeles, then export the same drugs to Australia to maximize profit.
Organized crime is becoming more sophisticated, as seen in their use of technology, and there has been a noted trend for them to relocate production facilities to rural areas to avoid detection by law enforcement. Gangs and organized crime are showing a strong presence in Prince George and Kelowna, as evidenced by the Hells Angels' establishing chapters in these two major centres, as well as by Red Scorpions' and Independent Soldiers' presence in Kelowna, as confirmed by a recent shooting.
Other outlying areas in British Columbia, such as Fort St. John, have also reported increases in gang-related violence, frequency, and intensity. The Lower Mainland of British Columbia has recently experienced an increase in gang violence that has previously been described as a “spike in violence”, a “crisis”, and a “public security threat”. It has attracted considerable media attention, and there is increased public concern over the violence and the fact that the recent high-profile incidents have occurred in public places, particularly shopping mall parking lots.
The violence is not restricted to a particular community within the Lower Mainland, but has been witnessed in both Vancouver and the suburban cities. The jurisdictions in which this violence has occurred are policed by either RCMP contract detachments or stand-alone municipal departments. The overall police response is managed via the integrated gang task force or IGTF, the integrated homicide investigation team or IHIT, and the Vancouver homicide squad. Many other agencies routinely assist. The two integrated units are composed of police officers from many jurisdictions, but are led by the RCMP.
Organized crime in the Lower Mainland can best be described as a pyramid, with the street gangs at the low end and sophisticated international, multi-commodity Asian organized crime and outlaw motorcycle gangs at the apex. Typically, street gang enforcement is handled at the local level, and high-end organized crime is investigated by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, which you will hear from shortly.
The crime that has been of the greatest concern in recent days is that of the mid-band. The mid-band of organized crime is primarily focused on the drug offences and is very territorial. Gangs argue over territory, alliances are much less permanent today, and there's a fundamental lack of respect amongst these gangsters, both within their respective gangs and towards other gangs. This results from increased police enforcement and the issues of supply and demand.
There are also strong standing personal rivalries and jealousies amongst the gangsters. In recent months the Bacon brothers' gang has obtained wide news coverage. The Bacons have a family residence in Abbotsford and an apartment in Port Moody—I should say “had”. Those cities, with their own police departments, have become focal points for much media attention and the public advisories to avoid the Bacons and their associates. The Bacon brothers are associated with the Red Scorpions, who are in conflict with the United Nations Gang.
Although mid-level gang activity used to be ethnically based, it is now multi-ethnic, with family and school ties being secondary. The number of gangs in the mid-band has increased rapidly over the past few years due to the lucrative drug trade. It has become more violent due to the easy access to new and modified firearms from Asia and the United States.
A spate of recent murders and shootings in the Lower Mainland, i.e. 10 in 10 days, really raised public concern. Many of the shootings have occurred near a freeway, allowing for easy access and egress.
The gang task force and other units generally know the players in the gangs, yet procuring the necessary evidence in determining who in the gang was the shooter tends to be very difficult. Various legislative and legal obstacles make the investigation of these crimes more difficult and onerous. Search warrant and electronic eavesdropping requirements and pretrial disclosure tactics are prominent among these. I know you've heard much about that already.
The prevalence of modified armoured vehicles and gangsters wearing bulletproof vests increases the risk to police officers. Police concern has also been raised by homicides involving innocent victims: two within the Surrey six massacre of 2007, one in Richmond, and one in Burnaby.
The integrated homicide team had its busiest year last year, recording 57 homicides in its jurisdiction. This does not include the cities of Vancouver, West Vancouver, and Delta. The next highest year was 2005, when there were 48 homicides. The homicide rate in Greater Vancouver exceeds that of Toronto and other major urban cities.
Approximately 40% of IHIT's--that's the homicide team--homicide investigation relate to organized crime. Some are high-profile gangsters in the mid-band, but many are functionaries in the drug gangs, such as crack shack reloaders and dial-a-dope runners.
In an effort to stem the growth of gang violence, the Province of British Columbia announced a host of initiatives. The initiatives include the assignment of PORF--that is, the police officers recruitment funding--obtained from the federal government to fight against organized crime; taking provincial action through increased organized crime prosecutors; and civil forfeiture and seeking action from the federal government in terms of amendments to the Criminal Code respecting gun violence, crime paraphernalia, evidentiary obstacles to prosecution, and sentencing.
The gang task force and the integrated homicide investigation team and numerous other RCMP and municipal units are working very hard to stem the violence on the streets. Many initiatives have borne fruit over the past year, including a uniformed gang squad for the Lower Mainland and increased resources. The current level of killings is unprecedented, however, and is taxing the skilled resources required to conduct these investigations.
The trend in spiking gang violence continues today. The first three months of 2009 continues to show an increase in gang violence. Homicides in the region are forecast to exceed last year's record numbers if continued at the current pace. When they are forecast, we can multiply by four to get approximately the annual projection of 52 gang murders this year in the metro area, within the 136 of the total for the province.
In the 2009 provincial statistics to the first three months of this year, 13 homicide victims were from organized crime activity; 8 were without organized crime activity; and for 13, we're still trying to figure where they fit.
Through an intelligence-gathering process, police have identified and are now targeting the groups seen as being involved in the highest level of gang violence in the region. Some successes have been seen, and more will follow.
Most of the gang violence seen today in the Lower Mainland is directly linked to the control of drug lines. Some of the examples and patterns seen are retaliation for taking over a territory or street-level drug lines in the region; continual hunting behaviour of key gang members by rival gang members. This hunting is done with well-armed and experienced gang members, some of whom travel from other areas of the country. Other factors are internal conflict arising from the lack of profit being generated through the respective lines, the inability to pay debts, or the increased tax placed on individuals controlling drug lines for the various gangs by the upper-level gang members. This tax can come from the drug supply organized crime group as well.
There are also some ethnic-driven rivalries between gangs in some pockets of the region, and marijuana grow rips or other drug rips. Some known targets have made this behaviour their only source of income. They routinely carry rip kits made up of such things as firearms; body armour; balaclavas and bear spray; knives; conducted-energy weapon devices, or tasers; duct tape; and zap straps to conduct their activity.
Another aspect is lists of named individuals--contracted violence against those who gang members identify as interfering with their criminal activities, who may be killed in the near future.
The challenge that police face is often the sheer volume of gang activity that occurs in the region at any given point in time. There have been an estimated 600 confirmed incidents of shots fired in the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia since January 1, 2006. Each of these shots-fired complaints reflect a conflict that is the cause of the incident.
The police have been successful in investigating some gang activity. However, success has come at the cost of a significant drain in resources and time. All the while, other gang members flourish due to their rivals being targeted by the police.
Since 1995, well over 150 investigations have been identified that have involved a wide range of offences committed by organized criminal entities and/or gang members. These investigations have targeted, arrested, and charged members and associates of the Hells Angels, the United Nations Gang, the Red Scorpions, and the Independent Soldiers, as well as Asian, Indo-Canadian, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Hispanic, and independent organized crime groups. Many have resulted in significant seizures of illegal commodities, specifically marijuana, cocaine, illicit synthetic drugs and the chemical precursors used to manufacture them, heroin, and firearms. In addition, several investigations have resulted in the seizure and restraint of cash and other monetary instruments, real property, or other articles deemed to have been derived from the proceeds of crime.
A comprehensive review of over 50 of those investigations resulted in identification of 153 persons who have successfully been prosecuted and convicted in British Columbia. An additional 120 persons are awaiting an upcoming trial, or indicted, convicted in foreign jurisdictions, primarily the U.S.A.
The integrated gang task force, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, the integrated homicide investigation team, and other numerous RCMP and municipal police units continue to work hard to stem the violence in the street. This collaborative and inclusive partnership will continue to result in investigative successes. Police anticipate a decrease in the levels of violence only after sustained pressure by law enforcement, prosecutor services, the judicial system, and community support. A failure of any one component will result in a collapse of the entire effort.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and everyone here, and a special thanks to Dona. We have a long and very important history that brings us here today.
My name is Doug Kiloh. I have over 30 years of experience in policing, and I'm presently in charge of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit for British Columbia. There are some reinforcing themes here, but I'll try to pick up speed on them, Mr. Chair.
Law enforcement in British Columbia has responded to the increased violence exhibited by street and mid-level gangs, as well as continuing to investigate more complex organized crime targets in the province of British Columbia. As was said, we have over 130 criminal groups in various stages of development and activity. Over the last few years, the adaptation by and violence of some of those groups has required equally adaptive law and policing tactics.
For public safety, our adaptations have included the development of a uniform gang task force, which is right in their face, on the street, finding them where they're at, as well as focusing the larger investigative teams on the worst public safety threat we see. For example, I'm sure you'll hear of the following investigations from the panel in Vancouver: Projects Rebellion, EPARAGON, EPESETA, and EPACEMAN. They are some of the large investigations that have had a significant impact on gangs and organized crime.
Intelligence gathering and enforcement actions continue to target several high-ranking Middle Eastern, independent, outlaw motorcycle gang, and Asian organized crime groups and their associates. They're obviously involved in a myriad of offences—murder and numerous acts of violence—largely committed by lower-level associates and drawn in by the higher level, embroiled in retaliation for drug rips, as has been stated. But there are also relationship issues within these organizations that cause this violence and them to fall apart.
All have access to firearms and routinely utilize body armour or armoured vehicles and may have access to, or are involved in the trafficking of, weapons. Many of the shootings, assaults, kidnappings, and extortions are carried out overtly without regard to public safety, which has probably driven us here today.
Fraud, international smuggling of monetary instruments, and money laundering is well in excess of $100 million out of this province. Importation, exportation, production, manufacturing, and distribution of synthetic and other drugs fuel this activity...[Inaudible--Editor]...to make it viable. They are also involved in international smuggling of people, and I believe you heard from some of the panellists earlier that the production of extremely non-genuine supporting documents is also prevalent.
Structurally in British Columbia, we're linking municipal, provincial, and federal resources through the integrated teams. For example, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, the integrated gang task force, the outlaw motorcycle gang unit, and a new firearms unit being developed out of the core funding that was spoken of earlier are all coming together and having closer ties, so we can have specific, pointed investigations where we can get the best bang for our dollar.
CFSEU will have all the police agencies in British Columbia involved in its governance, direction, and actions to combat the spectrum of organized criminal activity. These units have a footprint across the province. I'll mention again that we'll be opening two CFSEU offices, one in Kelowna and one in Prince George, because of the issues in the northern and central parts of the province. We already have one in Victoria. This won't take away from other local, provincial, or federal responsibilities, but will ensure that the complete spectrum of criminal activity is subject to a coordinated enforcement body focused on the specific threats. And I think that's a key component. We can't leave one area and focus on another. In other words, we can't focus on just one specific area; we have to focus on the complete spectrum.
We have clear designs on continuing our enforcement focus in that way to increase public safety by targeting the violent groups at the earliest opportunity through predictive intelligence models and utilizing both covert and overt tactics. We must continue to support local, provincial, and national direction to disrupt and dismantle the organizations, from the street level to high-end sophisticated groups. Again, to reinforce this point, if we stop enforcing laws on one part of the spectrum, it allows the activity to flourish.
We're continuing the local, provincial, federal, and international law enforcement efforts through our intelligence and our intelligence sharing. It's better than it has ever been. Is it perfect? No. Do we have a long way to go? Yes. We have to increase the analysis both at the local police department or detachment level as well as throughout all of the specialty units and develop better protocols and quicker sharing in that regard so that the intelligence can be utilized.
We have to develop anti-gang initiatives to prevent youth from joining, and provide options to those who want to leave the gang lifestyle. I think there's a real shortfall in Canada at this point, for us to do that--certainly in our area.
We have to continue to educate not only law enforcement and the young law enforcement officers coming in, but the public and you as politicians, about the insidious nature of organized crime and how much of a grip it really does have on our society and the violence that spins out of that. We have to have more empirical research—and it's very limited here—in the areas of organized crime and gang activity. We have to continue to support the modernization of the Criminal Code, lawful access changes, and change in evidentiary rules to allow us to do that. There are huge bureaucratic slowdowns for us to actually do our job.
Thank you. My name is Gary Shinkaruk. I'm an inspector with the RCMP. I'm in charge of the provincial Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Enforcement Unit.
The OMGs have been present here in British Columbia for about 30 years. There are eight different outlaw motorcycle gangs, but without doubt the Hells Angels is the number one gang in this province. They're recognized internationally and nationally as the flagship way to run a criminal organization. They have worked hard and been very successful in the last few decades at being accepted by society. In many instances, they are revered and even romanticized. There seems to be an underlying theme that they're not that bad guys and that if you don't get in their way then you won't have any problems.
The reality is that they're an extremely sophisticated modern criminal organization that is extremely violent. They will partake in any criminal activity they can profit from, but without doubt, the bread and butter of the outlaw motorcycle gangs is the drug trade and the international drug trade. The death head patch provides them a criminal gold card anywhere in the world that they can take advantage of as individuals—they're recognized by any crime group as having credibility.
They're very alive to police techniques. They spend a lot of time keeping up on our techniques, and they're very successful at keeping ahead of the curve, causing us a lot of problems in our investigations that try to combat their new ways of doing business. They've copyrighted their death head patch and protect the death head patch with absolute vigour, both legally and illegally. They don't profit from the patch like any normal company would, but they profit by it through the credibility it gives to criminal abilities in the international community.
They work with all other crime groups—locally, nationally, and internationally—in order to achieve their goals. In today's world, you have to do that. You can't be exclusive to just your crime group. They're instantly recognized everywhere by their patch, and that provides a great ability for them to prevent witnesses and victims from coming forward and testifying, which again is a big obstacle. They have extremely well-run rules. In order to become a member, it takes roughly seven years of very tough scrutiny. Most organizations would be very proud of the way they run their business. They have weekly, monthly, and yearly national and international meetings, and they ensure that every one runs smoothly.
In the criminal world, violence is an absolute must. If you don't have the ability to be violent or be seen as violent, you are not going to survive. What we see in British Columbia with the spikes in violence is the result of a lot of these groups trying to gain some ground in the criminal world. That's the way they're going to do it. They're going to use violence. The Hells Angels aren't seen as part of this, often because they don't need to resort to it. By just showing up with a death head patch, people know they mean business criminally. They're very effective at staying out of the public limelight right now, but they're certainly enjoying the fact that the police have to put so many resources on these other public safety issues.
An investigation we did into the Hells Angels through the court process started in 2003. We ran it operationally for about two years. It cost us over $10 million a year to run the operation. Since the takedown, which was in 2005, it still costs us several million dollars a year. We are in court literally every day, and I imagine we will continue to be in court daily for the next two years. From start to finish, that will be about an eight-year operation.
As to where we need to go and things we've done—I think that was the question you said you'd like us to focus on—some good things have come forward. Certainly, subsection 25(1) of the Criminal Code—our ability by police to use exemptions—has been very good for us and very successful. We used it in our investigation very well. We used it 72 times. I know that's something that gets reviewed and has close scrutiny put on it, and rightfully so.I would encourage people to continue allowing the police to use that and keep the due diligence over it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Fraser MacRae. I'm a police officer and a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for over 32 years. Currently I'm the officer in charge at the Surrey RCMP detachment.
I acknowledge and recognize two MPs here from the city of Surrey, Ms. Grewal and Ms. Cadman.
I will be brief. As a chief of police for a city of half a million people, I'd like to talk about some of the downstream impacts of organized crime in our community.
While organized crime groups are becoming more diversified in their criminal activities, it is clear that their primary source of income and power comes from trafficking in illicit drugs. In British Columbia, cannabis has been the currency of organized crime. The production and cultivation of cannabis is occurring throughout the province in small and large communities and in urban and rural areas. This cannabis is primarily cultivated for export into the United States, where it is converted into cash, firearms, and/or cocaine, and imported back to Canada and the province.
Once the cocaine and firearms arrive in the country, it sets up the dynamic and atmosphere of violence and misery. The street drug of choice is crack cocaine. This cocaine is accessed primarily in three ways. There is the hand-to-hand drug transaction on the street, or the street buy. There is the dial-a-dope operation, where addicts access dealers--known and unknown to them--through cellphones, and the dealers attend with the product. Then there are the crack shack operations, where addicts attend to the latest location where crack cocaine is being held and sold.
There is a significant amount of money that can be made at this level of organization through these operations. For example, some dial-a-dope operations can realize $5,000 a day. These large profits and potential incomes result in significant competition for these drug lines, whether they be for the reloads for the crack shacks or the dial-a-dope line or the turf itself.
We have seen over the past several months that this competition is aggressive, often supported by firearms. Some statistics from 2008 will help to illustrate this situation.
In 2008, 33 people were shot in the city of Surrey, ten of them fatally. Surrey RCMP responded to 98 incidents of confirmed shots fired. This represents a 20% increase in shots-fired incidents over 2007.
In 2008, Surrey RCMP seized 222 shotguns and rifles, and another 120 handguns, for a total of 324 firearms that were seized by police.
I previously referenced the dynamics of violence and misery. The statistical information I've provided regarding firearms speaks to the violence. The misery resides with those who are addicted to the cocaine, many of them street-level addicts. They can be seen in any city in Canada.
Most of these addicts will do anything to get their drug, whether it be begging, prostitution, thefts, break and enters, robbery, and sometimes murder. Most are in constant crime mode, moving from one crime to another to get enough money for their next drug purchase. It is these persons who most impact on society's feelings of safety and are responsible for the vast majority of property crime that occurs.
As the committee well knows, this is a very complex subject, one without an easy answer, quick fix, or a single-facet solution. I offer the following as suggestion for attention. This is a dynamic that goes beyond those involved in high-level international organized crime and, in my view, requires strategies in the following areas.
Certainly there is a need to address issues that present impediments to police as they investigate sophisticated organized crime groups. Disclosure and lawful access are two examples of this. Not only will this provide police with opportunities to successfully impact these organizations, but there will be a net effect in the freeing up of police resources that can be otherwise applied.
For all those who are involved in enterprise crime, or crime for profit, especially when that criminal endeavour is premised upon drug trafficking, there needs to be significant custodial consequence upon conviction. Not only will this more appropriately balance the risk versus reward equation, it has potential to interrupt the continuing involvement of lower levels of criminal organizations.
It is commonplace for those who are involved as either shooters and/or victims in these firearms incidents to have had considerable police and criminal justice history. If these criminals are removed from the scene earlier and for non-violent offences, then this inevitable path of violence and competition is interrupted.
In my opinion, there needs to be significant consequence for someone who is in possession of firearms. There should be a reverse onus on those charged with simple possession of a firearm that they are not involved in criminal activity.
There's a requirement for the criminal justice system to better respond to the issues surrounding those who commit crimes because of addiction, especially for those offenders who are prolific and who have a long history of criminal conviction. This would require the cooperation of provincial and municipal governments. It would include a mandated program of detoxification, rehabilitation, and forward planning for the subject. For those who have demonstrated an unwillingness, through action and record, to avail themselves of these opportunities, there needs to be a consequence of substantial custodial sentence that will both provide opportunity for rehabilitation and training and protect the Canadian public from these individuals' criminal activity.
Finally, there's a need to develop education and prevention strategies that are directed at youth, both in the area of drug use and in gang awareness and avoidance. Without this piece of the strategy, there will continue to be persons destined for the type of overpowering addiction that drives the majority of crime, and there will continue to be the market that is in place for those who would prey upon the addicted.
I would like to thank the committee for inviting me here today.
I'm Bob Stewart. I've been with the Vancouver Police Department for the last 32 years. I'm presently in charge of our criminal intelligence section.
The VPD, through its own efforts and those of the provincial criminal intelligence network, has identified a number of organized gangs and crime groups operating within the region, including the city of Vancouver. Many of these groups have recently become high profile in the media and, due to the level of violence they are currently demonstrating on our streets, present a threat to the safety of our communities.
The financial rewards associated with the prolific illegal drug trade are currently the catalyst for the formation of these organized crime groups. The subsequent violence is typically the result of drug turf wars, drug rip-offs, and unpaid drug debts. However, many of these individuals are involved in other aspects of criminal activity. These activities include, but are not limited to, gun smuggling, extortion, robbery, credit card fraud, identity theft, mortgage fraud, money laundering, counterfeit goods, and vehicle crimes such as VIN-swapping.
Some groups have demonstrated a high level of sophistication with the use of encrypted communication technology to develop and maintain their criminal networks and to transmit information nationally and internationally. As this activity continues to proceed unchecked, the groups become more organized and entrenched, presenting an even bigger challenge to law enforcement.
In support of enforcement efforts to dismantle, disarm, and deter these groups from their criminal and violent activity, the VPD has seconded officers to many of the integrated police units you've heard about today.
In fulfilling our local mandate to provide safety for the citizens of Vancouver, being funded mainly at the municipal level, the VPD focuses its organized crime enforcement efforts on those individuals or groups that have demonstrated the highest propensity for violence and pose a serious drain on our local policing resources due to their violent street-level activity.
The VPD is committed to investigating all aspects of group criminality. To this end, we endeavour to use creative enforcement techniques and all the tools provided by the Criminal Code and other statutes to sustain enforcement actions on key members of organizations to stem the wave of violence and create instability within the groups.
As a result of a recent project that targeted one of the most violent crime groups operating in Vancouver, the VPD has laid more than 175 charges against 25 people. In addition to offences related to drug enforcement, the charges resulted from incidents ranging from causing a disturbance to violence, assaults, and murder. Of the charges, 75% were directly related to weapons offences and resulted in the seizure of 25 to 30 firearms. A direct positive impact on public safety as a result of this project is the significant decline in shootings over the last six months in the southeast area of Vancouver, where the group carried out its criminal enterprise.
A practice that has proven to work well with criminal gang prosecutions is access to the regional gang prosecutor. Although the potential of this highly effective close working relationship with crown counsel has yet to be fully appreciated in relation to gang crime, the investigative and prosecutorial efficiencies realized by the assignment of a dedicated prosecutor cannot be overstated. Investigations tend to remain focused, while appropriate charges are laid and warrants are executed in a timely manner.
Police and crown counsel, both federal and provincial, need to be encouraged to continue to develop strategies to increase their joint effectiveness. Furthermore, federal and provincial prosecutors need to continue to develop working relationships that aim to address jurisdictional issues and consolidate prosecutions so that judges at trial can fully appreciate an offender's scope of criminality and the subsequent negative effect of that activity on the overall community.
In addition, employing a dedicated prosecutor who is completely familiar with a particular file facilitates an appropriate and compelling disclosure of information at bail hearings. This should be considered as a best practice, so that violent individual offenders of a crime group may be arrested and charged in a timely fashion and held in custody at bail without potentially revealing information that may jeopardize an ongoing larger investigation.
Persons who are in a heightened state of violent criminal activity need to be arrested, charged, incarcerated, and then held in custody in order to provide a sense of relief to the community and increase public safety. An example of this successful model as it relates to property crime is the Vancouver Police Department's chronic offender program and the identity theft task force. Dedicated provincial crown prosecutors come on board early in the investigative stage and help set an efficient agenda and direction to bring the file to an early conclusion. In the course of the charge approval process, the same prosecutor consolidates charges on the accused from throughout the region and then presents at the bail hearing and sentencing. We have realized detention orders and guilty pleas in over 90% of the cases as a result, and the community gets a break from the negative impact of a prolific property offender.
I have one last point. There's another area of the criminal justice system that I believe requires some further review, and that's parole. One could argue that the public would agree in many cases that sentences handed down by the courts are deemed appropriate. But what is often of greater concern is the application of the parole process. Offenders may serve only one sixth to one third of their sentence time in an institution, while the remainder of their sentence is served in the community.
This may not be the right forum to discuss parole. I appreciate that the issue is very complex. However, one could argue that as a result of the parole policy, there is not significant enough deterrence to the commission of crime.
My name is Brad Desmarais. I've been a police officer for over 30 years. I'm currently the inspector in charge of the gangs and drugs unit in the Vancouver Police Department.
I'm going to talk a little bit about the business of organized crime. I'm going to raise the bar a little bit in terms of the more sophisticated levels of organized crime that we're seeing. I'm going to build on the comments of Inspector Shinkaruk in terms of how organized crime deals with issues above street level.
Organized crimes, like most crimes, are commerce-oriented. Except for crimes of passion and a few other categories of offences, most people commit crimes to accrue a benefit. Organizations that commit crimes or have others commit crimes on their behest generally do so to satisfy a profit motive.
Like legitimate business, criminals in criminal organizations, whether they know it or not, conduct a risk-benefit analysis prior to committing an offence. They balance risk against profit. For the most part, this concept is consistent, whether an individual is casing a house to commit break and enter or whether it's the highly organized group considering a complex criminal enterprise. Generally, it's all about the money.
Arguably, the illicit drug trade is a major driving force behind the North American criminal economy. However, significant profit lines exist in other areas of criminal activity as well.
I've been a police officer for over 30 years. I have been investigating organized crime money laundering for the bulk of the last 15 years. During that time, there has been, in my view, a dramatic shift in how sophisticated organized crime groups do business. Like many successful legitimate businesses, those persons managing or advising organized crime groups have learned the value of diversification.
Diversification of criminal business lines is often the key to the longevity and profitability of a criminal organization. Their reliance on outside subject matter experts in the areas of law, accounting, financial planning, and the like also contributes to a healthy and robust criminal organization.
Criminals whose historic area of criminal expertise is drug trafficking are now exploring and engaging in other areas of criminal enterprise as a means of spreading risk and exploiting profitability. Fraud, extortion, counterfeiting, pimping, human trafficking, theft, and dozens of other offences comprise a plethora of opportunities to turn a criminal profit. Even a relatively crude fraud can reap massive rewards. In my experience, these crimes are often being run simultaneously with drug trafficking enterprises rather than being excluded.
The fallacy that drugs are the sole drivers of organized crime and, as some would have you believe, that the removal of drugs from the criminal economy would bring an end to organized crime and all that goes with it is naive in the extreme. Organized and individual criminal activity committed for profit will remain.
As I mentioned earlier, the primary motivator for committing most criminal offences is to create a benefit, pure and simple. The thugs and traffickers of today are not simply going to go away if one or another criminal business line is removed.
Similarly, violence will always be a fixture in the business of organized crime, regardless of crime type. The courts and other means of legitimately settling disputes are not typically available to criminals. Mediation does occur between groups, but when that fails, violence is often used to settle disputes, decrease liability, or eliminate competition. In most cases, the application of violence against competitors or persons who hold some liability to the organization is done discreetly and away from the public eye. Often the target of the violence simply disappears.
Violence is a way of life in much of the criminal world. There is no argument, however, that the most egregious violence is attributed to street and mid-level traffickers who are defending their drug lines from competition or takeovers. Crime is a source of untaxed, easy money, and not something that criminals will voluntarily walk away from.
In short, we need ways to address root causes and substantially improve the ability of the state to attack the profit motive through criminal asset removal.
The courts also need the ability to impose significant penalties resulting from provable offences against persons who provide services that enable criminal acts. In the Lower Mainland, we are reacting to what has accurately been described by our chief constable as a brutal gang war. We are directing a massive amount of resources toward dealing with this immediate threat to public safety. I think we're winning.
There's no question that the deployment of these resources is appropriate. It is what the public expects of us. Nothing less will do. What we can't be blind to, however, is the absolute certainty that organized crime and the human misery that accompanies it will remain long after the current regional gang violence abates. We need to look to the future and try to get ahead of the curve in countering criminal threats before they become egregious public safety issues.
We need to have better tools to undertake complex criminal investigations. Enhanced or new legislation in a variety of areas is an important part of the solution. No doubt you have heard of police frustrations in dealing with lawful access to information disclosure and the like. There are other areas of the law that should also undergo significant revision. The Canada Evidence Act, for instance, has not undergone a substantial major revision since 1923, despite changes in information technology, banking and business practices, international conventions, mutual legal assistance treaties, and so on. That is just one example; there are numerous other examples.
We were relieved to see that civil forfeiture legislation survived a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court of Canada a few weeks ago. Quite frankly, utilizing the civil process to remove criminal assets has been a wild success, at least in British Columbia. Exploring other forms of civil law is something that should be considered as a means of disrupting organized crime.
We also need to work on improving the viability of proceeds of crime law. These are complex investigations that are typically onerous and lengthy to undertake, and they then take years to wind their way through the court.
Finally, the most important part of countering present and future threats from organized crime is to continue support of law enforcement by government at all levels, even when the current spate of violence is over. Sophisticated organized crime groups will continue to operate. The damage they wreak is not measured in body counts; it's far more subtle.
My name is Roland Wallis. I'm with the RCMP and presently stationed in the Surrey detachment. Fraser is my boss. I have to be careful what I say--not really.
I have approximately 20 years of experience as a police officer. Prior to that, I had my own plumbing and heating business and I received a plumbing gas certificate for British Columbia as well as a plumbing ticket. The reason I say that is because it has helped me in my career as a police officer to provide expert evidence in court on marijuana growers as well as tented meth labs.
I spent some time in the GI section, the plain clothes section. I went over to the drug section for approximately a year and a half in Mission. In 1996 I was exposed to one of Canada's largest mobile meth labs, with my partner. We were out in the bush at the far end of Mission and we didn't quite know what we had at the time and what we were even exposed to. It was all new to us. I think this was the start of these meth labs coming to our area.
As a result of that, and having our police officers not knowing what went on, I took it upon myself to go and get as much education, as a general duty police officer, on marijuana labs and meth labs as I could. I have taken quite a few courses all through North America, while working as a street police officer, to learn about these types of meth labs and their dangers.
I have attended approximately 35 meth labs in my career and well over 300 marijuana labs. In some cases the people are not aware of the dangers that even a marijuana lab can have. The reason I say that is, as a gas fitter, I've attended a marijuana lab where rubber hoses were used to connect to a gas line in the house to run a CO2 generator, which provides CO2 to the marijuana plants. There's a chemical in the gas that eats rubber and it could dissolve over a period of time, and that's where we get our explosions from.
So this is just a marijuana lab.
As police officers we get exposed to the pesticides and the herbicides in these marijuana grow ops. I attended one where this person tied into the main gas line on the street and had 40 pounds of gas blowing 500 feet away from the road into a huge generator. It was like a 747 jet going on. That's a lot of gas to be exposed to.
I have attended, as I've stated, several meth labs and MDMA labs. All these types of chemicals that are used there--the solvents, ether, that type of chemical, sulphuric acid--are extremely explosive. An example of that is in the paper. A house or apartment in east Vancouver was blown out, and this is the cause of some of these labs that I have attended.
These people have absolutely no regard for any safety when they conduct their business with manufacturing or producing these drugs. It's all about money and who's going to be on the top. We try as best we can as police officers. We do have some other agencies that do help us. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have Revenue Canada sitting right next door to us in some of these places to knock on the door right after we're done and really take a close look at where all this money is coming from from these people.
It's all related to gangs as well. They all want to be on the top and have their turf and their areas and produce the most money. I think these drug labs are one of the areas where most of the money for even our motorcycle gangs and our other street gangs is coming from.
I'd like to see a change in our judicial system with search warrants. If they could make it so that we could make it an exigent circumstance to enter any one of these meth labs and marijuana labs...because public safety is a first concern for us as well as our members. We need to take these labs down. In a lot of cases, I know our members know where some of these places are, but we don't have quite enough evidence to go and take some of these down. We could, based on our expertise and some of the information that we do have, under an exigent circumstance, enter into any one of these labs and at least take them down and deal with the aftermath later.
It's also expensive for these chemicals to be destroyed. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars. This truck in Mission at the time cost $32,000 to be destroyed, and that's quite a bit of money.
Just to sum up, once again our public safety is the major concern. A prime example is what happened last night in east Vancouver. Thank you.
Matt Logan. I've been a member of the RCMP for twenty-eight and a half years, and I'm happily retired. For the last six years, I've been the operational psychologist in major crime.
I just want to say, to wrap this up, that my take on it is certainly in keeping with everything you've heard, but I want to go one step further and talk a little bit about the makeup of the individuals in the gangs.
First of all, what we have in gang membership is a combination of anti-social personality disorders and psychopathy. Now, psychopathy is a much more constricted group, probably 15% to 20% of offender population, whereas anti-social personality is about 85% of offender population.
What we're saying here is that the psychopaths have no conscience. They could care less who is hurt by any action they take. Their entire life is need gratification. I believe that the courts should actually look at these people at sentencing, with that psychological perspective, understanding that rehabilitation is probably not likely to happen with that particular group. Also, with the anti-social personality disorder, not as a means of...this is an excuse for what this person is doing, but to say that this person is not likely to be rehabilitated, and the sentencing should follow.
The most important thing I want to say today is in keeping with my belief about fishing upstream. We have an opportunity and a mandate to protect society and certainly to protect our children. One of the things that I think we really need to be aware of is that we're pouring a lot of money into the salmon that's belly-up in the federal system.
We need to start early. We could start at age four. The diagnosis of conduct disorder and oppositional defiance disorder can be made at four. Certainly by the third grade of elementary school, there is an opportunity to really take a look at which of our children are going to be life-course persistent offenders and which are going to be merely adolescent-limited offenders.
Probably one of the largest bodies of research on the child studies that have gone on over 40 years, longitudinal studies...the main two areas being Pittsburgh and Dunedin. This vast amount of research is telling us that about 5% to 6% of our criminals have been that way since childhood. We have another approximately 43% of criminals who are adolescent-limited. They are pulled over to the anti-social side between the ages of 12 and 21.
Now, one thing the research doesn't talk a lot about--and I think we really need to stress the importance of it--is that the 5% to 6% of life-course, persistent offenders--people who will continue right through their lifetime--are also influencers over a very susceptible group of adolescent-limited offenders. By paying more attention to the 5% to 6%, we not only look at those who are committing over 50% of violent crimes, but we also look at the influence they have over our pro-social children during certain ages.
Another thing we have to be aware of is that the influence process is most apparent in the early ages. So by grades seven and eight, these children need to have better role models. Now, some of the role models they're getting, unfortunately, are the people my colleagues are talking about.
What we have to do, even to the media, is call these people what they are, not have them referred to as heroes, people who should be emulated. As we move together in a multi-agency approach, with the police being involved with other agencies, we need to really focus on what we can do to build on the needs and strengths of our children and to fish upstream to prevent a catastrophe from happening.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Witnesses, it's very interesting to have you here today, and there's so little time. I want to go through some of the comments made, just to let you know we're listening and we understand the subject.
Inspector Shinkaruk—I only know Irish and French names where I come from, sorry about that—know that we understand there has to be some tinkering, some work done on the definition of criminal organization; know that we understand that.
Inspector Stewart, I want to let you know that this afternoon there'll be a witness who, in Ottawa a couple of weeks ago, said there's nothing wrong with the parole system—we should learn from it—but that the sentencing done by judges is inappropriate, which is the exact opposite of what you said. I'll be putting your comments to him this afternoon. I don't know where it will lie, but we're getting some conflicting evidence.
Inspector Desmarais, know that we understand that the Canada Evidence Act and the code need to be looked at and revamped, as Mr. Comartin said. The exigent circumstances aspects of search warrants--that's a great idea.
I have just two questions. One is for the assistant commissioner.
Whether it's accurate or not, there's some literature that suggests that here in British Columbia, Unit E, with respect to bike units, was disbanded many years ago and the follow-up was something called CLEU. There has been some evidence this morning that it was also disbanded and it left a gap. There were allegations, I suppose, of infiltration and ineffectiveness. I guess what I'm hearing today, with all the suits here, is that you've filled the gap left by CLEU and Unit E and everything is effective and working appropriately and efficiently.
Would you care to comment on that?
As far as the mega-trials nationally are concerned, both Superintendent Kiloh and I have in the past attended national forums led by prosecution services throughout each province. In about three weeks, I believe, we're going to the next one, which is being held in Manitoba. The previous one was held in Montreal, Quebec, last year.
The heads of each provincial prosecution unit attend, as well as police officers like Superintendent Kiloh and me, and the general frustration throughout the entire room is national. There's a national need. The idea of having this workforce and this committee is to change a lot of the legislation, to figure out how to do it.
I do believe that there are national things that need to be done, not on the mega-trials, but, as an example, on the precursors. We get tonnes of precursors in this country, legally allowed, and these precursors are absolute gold in the States. For a $25,000 barrel of ephedrine, you can get $250,000. That's a huge profit. Precursors are legally in this area by the tonne, and they get across to the States.
Getting back to the mega-trial issue, certainly in B.C. we struggle more than any other province, I think, but I know that a couple of years ago the Manitoba justice department did a comprehensive Canada-wide study on trying to get suggestions. I took our head of federal prosecution out to Quebec to meet the head of the prosecution doing the case of the 155 Hells Angels that we're talking about, just to try to discuss how that can happen in one area and not in another area. The rules each court was following were a little bit different, significantly enough that it would just not allow us that in this province, but certainly they have issues they have to address.
As I've mentioned about the two-page amendment to a wiretap, that has not been approved. It was something that Quebec went out on the plank for and that their prosecutors believed was the right thing to do, but it hasn't been tested in the Supreme Court, so certainly that is something that could be done.
Again, locally here in B.C., police don't have charge approval. I know that in Ontario there are many instances where the police will charge 100 or 130 street-level gangs, but when you actually follow it through to the end of the prosecution stage, you find that the number quickly dwindles down to a much lower number.
To answer your question, yes, we do have to address it in this province, but it certainly is a national priority.
Thank you, gentlemen, for your presentations, and in particular, for your candid responses to questions from our colleagues today.
I'd like to adjust the focus a little bit. We've talked a lot about sentencing and mandatory minimums, which I certainly acknowledge have a role to play, more on the deterrence and denunciation side. Two of you, Assistant Commissioner Macintyre and Chief Superintendent MacRae, raised sort of tangential issues.
Assistant Commissioner, in your opening comments, I thought you were referring to lawful access legislation. You talked about, for example, electronic surveillance. I think you talked about certain legislative and judicial obstacles that make it difficult, or more difficult than perhaps it needs to be, for you to conduct investigations and then undertake successful prosecutions.
There's been some discussion about various investments in technologies--hyperspectral imaging sensors, for example--that have been used, for which funding was then, I think, cut off or not made available. I'm wondering if you can give us some suggestions regarding lawful access legislation and electronic surveillance, which I certainly think needs to be modernized and updated to give you the tools you need to conduct investigations against increasingly sophisticated criminal enterprises.
In the disclosure piece, you referred to obstacles, or the burden that disclosure represents, I think, particularly regarding relevance. I don't think anybody is suggesting we take away the right of an accused person to know the case against him or her, but it perhaps has become an unreasonable burden now, or it is done in a way that takes valuable resources away from policing and diverts them to photocopying and so on. I'm wondering if you could touch on that.
And then, if we have time, I want Chief Superintendent MacRae to tell us more about some of the prevention and youth at risk initiatives in your community. I found those very interesting.