Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

February 26, 2009 11:31 ET

Government Introduces Legislation to Protect Canadians From Gangs and Other Forms of Organized Crime

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 26, 2009) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., Member of Parliament for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today introduced new legislation that will fight violence associated with organized crime and gangs.

"No part of our society is immune to the menace of organized crime activities," said Minister Nicholson. "That is why our Government is moving forward on its justice agenda to address the lethal impact of gangs and organized crime on Canadian families and communities."

If passed by Parliament, the proposed Act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and protection of justice system participants) will:

- make murders connected to organized crime activity automatically first-degree. First-degree murder is subject to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for 25 years;

- create a new offence to address drive-by and other reckless shootings. This offence would carry a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison, with a maximum of 14 years. The minimum sentence would increase if the offence was committed for a criminal organization or with a prohibited or restricted firearm such as a handgun; and

- create two new offences of aggravated assault against a peace or public officer and assault with a weapon on a peace or public officer. These would be punishable by maximum penalties of 14 and 10 years respectively.

"Our Government is committed to targeting gangs and other organized criminal groups that are involved in violent crimes," said Minister Nicholson. "We will continue to take tough, responsible action to make our streets and communities safer and more secure."

For an online version of the legislation, visit www.parl.gc.ca.

BACKGROUNDER

New measures to combat gangs and other forms of organized crime

The Government has introduced new legislation that would provide the justice system with new tools to fight street gangs and other forms of organized crime. The new Act to Amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and protection of justice system participants) introduces amendments to target gang violence and other serious crime. It will provide law enforcement officials and the justice system with better means to address organized crime-related activities, in particular gang murders and drive-by shootings.

New Provisions Related to Gang Murders, Drive-By Shootings, Peace Officer Assault and Gang Peace Bonds

Organized crime presents a serious threat to Canadian communities, as it is linked to a wide range of criminal activity, including murder, drug trafficking, auto theft, the illicit movement of firearms, human beings and vehicles, and identity theft. The number of gang-related homicides has been increasing, and now accounts for 20% of all homicides in Canada.

It is estimated that 900 organized crime groups operate in Canada, in both rural and urban areas. Characteristically, organized crime resorts to violence and intimidation to achieve its criminal objectives, putting the safety and security of Canadian communities and their residents at risk.

The organized crime Bill would strengthen the Criminal Code in the following ways:

- Specifying that murder is automatically first-degree when it is committed in connection with a criminal organization. First-degree murder is subject to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for 25 years.

- Creating a new broad-based offence to target drive-by and other intentional shootings involving reckless disregard for the life or safety of others. This offence would include a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison with a maximum period of imprisonment of 14 years. The minimum sentence would increase to five years if the offence was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization or with a restricted or prohibited firearm such as a handgun or automatic weapon.

- Creating two new offences of assault against a peace officer that causes bodily harm and aggravated assault against a peace officer. These new offences would be punishable by a maximum of 10 and 14 years imprisonment respectively.

- Clarifying that when courts impose sentences for certain offences against justice system participants, including peace officers, they must give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence.

- Strengthening and lengthening "gang peace bonds" (preventive court orders requiring an individual to agree to specific conditions to govern their behaviour). The peace bond could be issued for up to 24 months (as opposed to the usual 12 months) against a defendant who has been previously convicted of intimidating justice system participants, or of committing an organized crime or terrorist offence. This reform to the Criminal Code would make it clear that a judge has broad discretion to impose any reasonable condition necessary to protect the public in that particular case.

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Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Justice
    Darren Eke
    Press Secretary
    613-992-4621
    or
    Department of Justice
    Media Relations
    613-957-4207
    www.canada.justice.gc.ca