column was published in the North
Shore News on
Sept. 20, 2000)
By Leo Knight
brutal attempted execution of Journal de Montreal crime
reporter Michel Auger last week, has shocked a nation.
just perhaps, the shooting has awakened this country from its
shot five times in the back, will survive the cowardly attack.
But this is much more than just an attack on a man. It is an
attack on democracy. It is an attack on the country itself. And,
it is incredibly stupid or arrogant, or quite possibly both.
many years there has been an unwritten rule in the world of
organized crime. Cops and journalists who covered the crime
beat, were off limits. The rule was only allowed to be broken if
the target was compromised or corrupt.
this had a lot more to do with the pragmatism of the elements of
organized crime rather than their sense of fair play. The
"heat" which resulted from such a killing would be bad
for business. It was a simple enough formula.
that was then and this is now.
of diminished police budgets, complacent courts and cooperative
politicians have allowed organized crime to flourish in this
country. The result of all this malfeasance lay on the pavement
of the parking lot of the Journal de Montreal.
the wake of the Auger shooting, the Quebec Public Security
Minister, Serge Menard, called for the outlawing of membership
in organized crime gangs. Politicians of all stripes were quick
to hop on the bandwagon baying for an emergency debate in the
House of Commons.
in Calgary, nodding like a dashboard puppy was Justice Minister
Anne McLellan as the prime minister shed crocodile tears for the
assembled media asking for his thoughts on the Auger outrage.
Scandalous. Outrageous. What is the government going to do? Why
they are going to study the situation.
in the name of all things holy, is there to study?
as Justice Minister has been little more than a waste of
perfectly good opulent office space on Parliament Hill. She has
done nothing in the time she has held the office of the top law
enforcement officer in the country. Nothing.
should be bloody embarrassed to cash her taxpayer-funded pay
cheque every two weeks.
is the much-touted new Young Offenders Act? Where are the laws
to help police investigate organized crime? In fact, the only
thing she has accomplished is to bring in money laundering
requirements forcing the banks to report transactions over
$10,000, something the Americans have had for almost 20 years
and other Western nations have been screaming for this country
to do for about as long. Big deal.
seems that all McLellan can do is "study" issues.
McLellan and the rest of her government has been told for years
that Canada is losing the fight against organized crime.
commissioned a study by Price Waterhouse on the fiscal health of
the RCMP in 1998. On Sept. 30, 1999, the report was delivered to
the government and it stated that years of Liberal budget cuts
have left the force financially crippled.
Waterhouse recommended the Liberals immediately increase the
force's budget by at least $564.1 million over four years so it
would have a "minimally acceptable level of
resources." Note the wording. "Minimally acceptable
level of resources" hardly means healthy. The report also
specifically targeted organized crime saying the budget cuts
have put the RCMP's ability to fight organized crime "in
week RCMP veteran, Mike Niebudek, vice president of the Canadian
Police Association, said, "We have weak laws, weak budgets,
weak technology and little support. Our front-line officers are
extremely demoralized. On the other hand, organized criminals
have billions of dollars at their disposal and are literally
banking on the lack of enforcement resources to track their
Toronto in August, at the International Conference on Organized
Crime, Antonio Nicasio, an expert on the subject and the author
of nine books said, "Canada has always been a welcome wagon
for organized crime; a revolving door that lets everyone in
regardless of their criminal past.
other countries begin cracking down on organized crime figures,
Canada is quickly becoming an easy mark for criminals."
must realize by now what the problem is. She cannot possibly
suggest it requires more study. Nor do we need to get into the
inane debate about outlawing membership in a criminal gang. This
is the stuff of knee-jerk reactionism and frustration.
the Hells Angels or any other group want to wear colours that
denotes them as a single organization so what? That is not their
crime. It is the activities by individual members of the
organization, which constitutes the crime.
already have conspiracy laws sufficient to deal with the crime
groups. We have tax laws which should be used to go after their
assets. If we need more legislation, let it be similar in scope
to the American RICO statute.
we do not have in this country is an attitude that encourages
the prosecution of the criminal elements. The government cannot
continue to cripple the police as they have done since they were
first elected in 1993. The federal policing budget is roughly
the same as it was in 1991.
the courts have to come to some sort of middle ground when they
adjudicate constitutional arguments. For example, the
Stinchcombe decision of the Supreme Court in 1992 has added over
$4 million annually to the operating expenses of the RCMP just
in photocopying costs. For no practical purpose. And that's just
the RCMP. Add on every municipal police department, other
federal, provincial and municipal enforcement agencies and the
cost is probably over $100 million per year.
The Auger shooting has brought the issue to the forefront. And, it's about time. But, it is time for action, not study.