Backgrounder: New Regulations to Help Fight Organized Crime
Organized crime employs violence and intimidation to achieve its criminal objectives, posing a serious threat to Canadian communities. Moreover, there is always an enhanced threat to the public when a group of people come together to commit serious crimes, regardless of the nature of the crimes being committed. Criminal Intelligence Service Canada estimates that 750 organized crime groups operate across Canada (CISC, 2009).
The Criminal Code (subsection 467.1(1)) defines "criminal organization" to mean a group, however organized, that:
- is composed of three or more persons in or outside Canada; and
- has as one of its main purposes or main activities the facilitation or commission of one or more serious offences that, if committed, would likely result in the direct or indirect receipt of a material benefit, including a financial benefit, by the group or by any of the persons who constitute the group.
Organized crime is involved in numerous criminal enterprises including all aspects of the drug trade (production, importation, exportation and selling), prostitution and illegal gambling activity, auto theft, identity theft, financial crime such as securities and mass marketing fraud, environmental crime and the illicit movement of firearms, tobacco, and people.
Currently, some of the criminal acts committed by organized crime groups do not meet the definition of serious offence under subsection 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code because they are not punishable by sentences of five years or more. As such, investigators and prosecutors are precluded from using the various provisions available in the Criminal Code that target organized crime, including the specific offences that prohibit organized crime activity or the many special procedures available in organized crime investigations and prosecutions in areas such as peace bonds, wiretaps, the granting of bail, seizing proceeds of crime, parole eligibility and stiffer sentencing considerations.
The New Regulations
Over the years, there have been numerous calls for the development of a serious offence regulation in order to capture certain signature activities for organized crime such as prostitution, illegal gambling and drug-related offences. In 2007, all Federal/Provincial/Territorial ministers responsible for justice endorsed the development of a serious offence regulation to capture these activities.
The Governor in Council (the Governor General, acting on the advice of the federal cabinet) has the power, granted in subsection 467.1(4) of the Criminal Code, to make regulations that capture the full range of criminal activity engaged in by organized crime and thereby expand the availability of Canada's existing criminal organization provisions.
The new regulations targeting organized crime that have been enacted make eleven criminal offences "serious offences" for the purposes of the organized crime provisions of the Criminal Code include:
- keeping a common gaming or betting house;
- betting, pool-selling and book-making;
- committing offences in relation to lotteries and games of chance;
- cheating while playing a game or in holding the stakes for a game or in betting;
- keeping a common bawdy-house; and,
- various offences in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act relating to the trafficking, importing, exporting or production of certain scheduled drugs.
Expanding the definition of "serious offence" will now allow police and prosecutors to take full advantage of the specific Criminal Code offences dealing with organized crime and respond in a manner that is proportionate to the increased threat to public safety that occurs when organized crime engages in criminal acts. Individuals convicted of any of the specific organized crime offences are required to serve their sentences consecutively to any other punishment imposed.
Department of Justice Canada
- Date Modified: