Sunday 15 August 2010

Trading places: North American edition

Remember when the US had the war on drugs and Canada had relatively lax laws, or at least lax enforcement in British Columbia?

California's having a referendum on legalizing pot. Meanwhile, Terence Corcoran writes on the coming law & order crackdown in Canada:
Mr. Nicholson was accompanied by some of Canada’s top police chiefs as he explained how the government needed to escalate its war on organized crime. The government, he said, had enacted regulations that, effective immediately, would give police new powers to crack down on a long list of activities that are already covered under criminal law as relatively minor offences.

The list of crimes now considered serious is worth a close look, especially in the context of Mr. Day’s concern about unreported crimes. They include:

- Keeping a common gaming or betting house;

- Betting, pool-selling and bookmaking;

- Keeping a common bawdy house;

- Trafficking in barbiturates and other chemical drugs;

- Trafficking in any quantity of cannabis;

- Importing, exporting, producing barbiturates.

Under the new get-tough regulations, keeping a common bawdy-house or selling a couple of ounces of marijuana will now bring maximum prison sentences of “at least” five years in prison. A low-level operator of a bawdy-house could also face five-year prison terms.

More important for police and prosecutors, under the organized crime umbrella, the full force of the gang-war and drug-war crime-fighting machine will be unleashed on small-time players who may appear to have organized-crime connections. These include wiretaps, tougher bail regimes, the ability to seize the proceeds of crime, sentencing conditions and parole rules.
Colby Cosh is trenchant:
Bill C-95, the “criminal organization” amendment to the Criminal Code passed in 1997, has borne its inevitable fruit. Devised to calm the spirits of a fearful nation, the law bent civil liberties into new and fascinating shapes. It created a new offence:
467.11 (1) Every person who, for the purpose of enhancing the ability of a criminal organization to facilitate or commit an indictable offence under this or any other Act of Parliament, knowingly, by act or omission, participates in or contributes to any activity of the criminal organization is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
Which sounds fair enough, but be sure to check out the convenience-of-the-Crown caveats in subsection (2):
(2) In a prosecution for an offence under subsection (1), it is not necessary for the prosecutor to prove that

(a) the criminal organization actually facilitated or committed an indictable offence;

(b) the participation or contribution of the accused actually enhanced the ability of the criminal organization to facilitate or commit an indictable offence;

(c) the accused knew the specific nature of any indictable offence that may have been facilitated or committed by the criminal organization; or

(d) the accused knew the identity of any of the persons who constitute the criminal organization.
To put it another way, you can conceivably be tried for “participating in or contributing to” a criminal organization even if it didn’t get around to committing any crimes, you didn’t do anything to help it actually commit crimes, you didn’t know what particular crimes it might be thinking of committing, and you couldn’t possibly pick anybody else in the group out of a lineup.
How long 'till the liberals who moved North, picking Martin over Bush, start heading South again?

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