Gang recruitment must be made criminal
While some recent moves by the Harper Tories have been anything but universally applauded, last week’s announcement that the government plans to make life much tougher for people who recruit for criminal gangs is welcome news.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the government will introduce new legislation that will make it a criminal offence to recruit or otherwise encourage anyone to join a criminal organization, including gangs.
“Making gang recruitment a stand-alone Criminal Code offence sends a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated,” Nicholson said.
Anyone found guilty under the new legislation could face up to five years in prison. As well, if the person is convicted of recruiting someone under 18 years of age, there will also be a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail.
Whether it’s big cities or small towns, the insidious reach of gangs remains a threat to the stability and safety of communities across Canada, harming legitimate business activity and placing great pressure on law enforcement.
And for those successfully recruited into criminal gangs, the long-term impact can be devastating and life changing.
Make no mistake, while small towns and villages don’t usually see gang members operating openly, as they sometimes do in the bigger centres, the impact of organized criminal gangs is certainly felt here.
The hard truth is whether it’s drug dealing, fencing of stolen property, criminal harassment or other organized illegal activities, criminal gangs continue to carry out their unlawful business with vigor and great resilience.
Conservative MP Parm Gill has put forward Bill C-394, the Criminal Organized Recruitment Act, in an effort to stop gang recruitment at the source, stemming the flow of new members that make the illegal activities possible.
“Gangs today are targeting our most vulnerable citizens, including youth under the age of 12, and as young as eight years old,” Gill said. “Gangs across this nation are becoming more aggressive and bolder in the ways that they recruit potential members.”
If passed, this new legislation will close a very troubling loophole in the current law. And if, in the end, the new law is successful in deterring gang members and others from targeting and recruiting young people and adults into gangs, then it will be good news for everyone, including residents of West Central Alberta.
RCMP and other enforcement agencies spend a great deal of time and effort fighting organized crime. While many of those efforts are successful, making it illegal to bring new members into gangs would give police another useful tool for their arsenal.
As such, MPs of all parties should be encouraged to work together to ensure this new legislation becomes law without delay.