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Canada: Government Introduces Bill to Create Anti-Gang Laws

(Mar. 9, 2009) Statistics Canada recently reported that although Canada had a relatively low level of homicides in 2007, one-fifth of the 594 homicides reported were “gang-related.” (Statistics Canada, Homicides, Oct. 23, 2008, available at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/081023/dq081023a-eng.htm.) The upward swing in gang violence was sharp and not unexpected. Reports of drive-by shootings and gang clashes have appeared in newspapers with increasing frequency in central and western Canada over the past few years. In recent months, the situation has become most alarming in Vancouver, a city that has attracted many drug addicts through the policy of enforcing the country's drug laws less vigorously than other major urban centers. (Jancie Tibbetts, Tory Anti-Gang Bill Gets Opposition Support, THE VANCOUVER SUN, Feb. 26, 2009, available at http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Tory+bill+takes+gangs+guns/1331876/story.html
.)

The federal government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has introduced two bills aimed at combating the rise in gang violence. Bill C-14 would amend the Criminal Code to create new offenses for: 1) drive-by shootings, which would be punishable with between 4 and 14 years of imprisonment; 2) attacking a police officer; and 3) recklessly discharging a firearm. The bill would also extend to two years the period of release on recognizance of persons convicted of a criminal organization, terrorist, or intimidation offense who may pose a continuing security risk after having been previously convicted of a similar offense. Finally, Bill C-14 would make all murders committed in connection with a criminal organization first-degree murders, regardless of whether they were planned and deliberate. (Bill C-14, 40th Parl. 2nd Sess., http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=3697305&La
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(last visited Mar. 4, 2009).)

Canada's opposition parties have already indicated that they plan to support Bill C-14, although some opposition members have indicated they believe it should provide for greater penalties, and others have expressed their opposition to mandatory minimum sentences. (Tibbetts, supra.)