I asked the following question of Minister Nicholson on March 9, 2009:
Mr. Nicholson, what evidence can you provide to me that is proof we are winning the war against organized crime and drug abuse?
I respectfully submit this question without prejudice.
On May 13, 2009 I received the following reply:
Dear Mr. Birkbeck:
Thank you for your correspondence concerning organized crime and drug-related activities. I regret the delay in responding.
First, let me assure you that, as Minister of Justice, I share your concerns and recognize the need to provide law enforcement and prosecutors with the tools needed to combat organized crime in Canada.
The escalation of gang violence in cities and towns across Canada is deeply troubling. The Government of Canada remains committed to tackling crime and to ensuring that all Canadians can live in safe and healthy communities, free from fear of crime and violence.
One of the Government’s key criminal justice priorities is legislative reform to combat organized crime. For this reason, I tabled Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and protection of justice system participants), on February 26, 2009, to target this activity. For further information, please visit http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/news-nouv/nr-cp/2009/doc_32336.html and www.justice.gc.ca/eng/news-nouv/nr-cp/2009/doc_32337.html.
The Bill proposes amendments in four broad areas:
· making all murders connected to criminal organizations automatically first-degree murder offences;
· creating a new offence to target drive-by and other reckless shootings involving the intentional disregard for the life or safety of another person;
· creating two new offences to respond to assaults against peace officers that cause bodily harm or involve the use of a weapon and the aggravated assault of a peace officer; and
· amending the gang recognizance provision, which is a preventative court order requiring an individual to agree to specific conditions to govern their behaviour. This provision clarifies that a judge can impose any reasonable conditions and increase the period of the order to 24 months where an offender has been previously convicted of an offence involving organized crime, terrorism, or the intimidation of a justice system participant.
Bill C-14 will help to address the escalating violence perpetrated by gangs and other organized criminal groups. The amendments are the result of extensive consultations and collaboration with the provinces and territories, along with law-enforcement officials, who have expressed wide support for this proposed legislation. I believe that the proposed measures respond to the concerns of Canadians that our prosecutors and law enforcement have all the means necessary to effectively fight organized crime.
As you are aware, illegal drug use is a serious concern for many Canadians, whether in urban centres or smaller communities. Our government is taking action to address this complex problem. Consistent with our commitment to make communities safer and healthier, on October 4, 2007, the Government of Canada announced the launch of the National Anti-Drug Strategy.
The Strategy addresses and provides funding for three priority areas: preventing illicit drug use, treating those with illicit drug dependencies, and combating the production and distribution of illicit drugs.
A significant portion of the new funding for the Strategy will support prevention and treatment initiatives, including $30 million over five years for a new national awareness campaign targeted at youth and their parents. In terms of treatment, the Strategy introduces approximately $100 million over five years for new resources to support effective approaches to treating individuals who pose a risk to themselves and the community.
To complement drug prevention and treatment efforts, the National Anti-Drug Strategy provides an additional $102 million in new funding over five years to target drug producers and distributors by bolstering law enforcement’s ability to combat marijuana and synthetic drug production and distribution operations.
A Youth Gang Prevention Fund has also been established under the broader National Crime Prevention Strategy, designed to help communities prevent youth crime and to specifically focus on guns, gangs and drugs. This fund is supported by approximately $11.1 million. In addition, approximately $64 million was allocated as part of the National Anti-Drug Strategy.
In addition, the Government is committed to ensuring that the laws provide for legal penalties that are proportionate to the seriousness of drug crimes. As part of the National Anti-Drug Strategy, on February 27, 2009, I tabled in the House of Commons Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, which introduces mandatory minimum penalties for people convicted of serious drug offences. For further information, please visit http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/news-nouv/nr-cp/2009/doc_32338.html and http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/news-nouv/nr-cp/2009/doc_32339.html.
I am confident that together these measures will form a focused approach to reducing the supply of and demand for illicit drugs, as well as addressing the crime associated with illegal drugs, thereby providing Canadians with safer and healthier communities in which to live.
Thank you again for writing.
The Honourable Rob Nicholson