THREE PROVINCES JOIN FORCES ON ORGANIZED CRIME
MONTREAL — Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba will form a common front in the fight against organized crime, pledging to share information with each other in order to bring more criminals to justice. The attorneys general from the three provinces signed an agreement Friday that aims to stem the growth of increasingly sophisticated criminal networks.
“As criminals become more organized like never before, we need to ensure that our justice system is more organized than ever before,” said Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant. “The answer to reorganized crime is organized justice.”
The idea behind the deal, which was first announced last May, is to expand the large amount of informal collaboration that goes on among provinces. “It’s important to formalize these exchanges because organized crime doesn’t respect borders,” said Quebec Justice Minister Yvon Marcoux. Marcoux said Quebec stands to benefit from Ontario’s expertise in street gangs, while both Manitoba and Ontario could learn from Quebec’s success against biker gangs. “All provinces are in the process of prosecuting gangs, and some have been more effective than others,” said Dave Chomiak, Manitoba’s newly minted justice minister. “Knowledge is power, and the ability to share that power keeps us one step ahead and, on occasion, one step behind criminal gangs.”
The provinces plan to collaborate on a wide range of policing matters such as wiretapping, search warrants and Criminal Code interpretations. Under the agreement, the provinces can even exchange Crown prosecutors to help with certain cases.
Justice officials from the three provinces will also meet in early 2007 to swap crime-fighting techniques at what will become an annual symposium.
The hope is that more dynamic collaboration among the provinces will limit criminals’ ability to take advantage of jurisdictional loopholes. “Given the division of (federal and provincial) responsibilities around criminal justice…there’s obviously the potential that organized crime can exploit that,” Bryant said. “We endeavour with this agreement to get ahead of that.”
The three ministers stressed their interprovincial agreement is just a starting point, and that they will now look at the possibility of expanding the deal to include other provinces as well as the federal government. “It was important to go ahead immediately because we felt (the agreement) doesn’t exclude the collaboration of other provinces, and eventually other provinces from joining,” Marcoux said. “At least there will be a start, it was the best way to get concrete results rapidly.”
Friday’s deal coincided with Premier Jean Charest’s announcement that the Quebec government will spend an additional $7.25 million over the next three years on anti-street gang initiatives.
Fri. Sep. 22 2006 Canadian Press