Thank you for taking the time to learn more about my private members bill, C-394, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment).
On February 13, 2012, I rose in the House of Commons to introduce a bill on an issue that is very close to my heart; the need to protect our youth from falling into a gang culture that surrounds us all, and prevent violent criminal street gangs from being able to grow and expand their operations. On Wednesday night, in the House, our Government sent a strong message to criminal organizations across the country that their reign of terror in our communities has come to an end.
When I set out to introduce this bill, I was shocked that there was no existing legal punishment for recruiting youth into gangs. During consultations with front-line groups across the country, I was able to hear first-hand the heartbreaking stories of the effects being recruited into gangs have had on youth across the country. Hearing youth recount stories of death, guns, drugs, violence, substance abuse, criminal activity and prostitution made it exceptionally clear that something had to be done about this issue.
Especially troubling were the stories I heard of youth as young as 8 & 9 years of age being recruited into gangs. Gangs have made use of youth members in the trafficking of drugs & weapons, due to the comparably lighter sentences given to youth. At this age, a child’s biggest worries should be finishing their homework and what to do at recess, not carrying drugs or weapons for their gang. By passing my Anti-Gang Recruitment bill, we have given law enforcement agencies nationwide a new tool to combat this threat, and made sure that no child, teenager, or adult need become a victim of these gangs.
One person recruited into a gang is already one too many. With this bill, those who target youth for recruitment into gangs will face criminal charges for their actions. The Bill establishes a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment for recruitment, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 6 months imprisonment proposed for those who recruit persons under the age of 18 years old. Law enforcement agencies nationwide will be able to cut off the supply of new recruits by charging those who engage in recruitment in the first place, and children & youth can be spared a life of violence and criminality.
Protecting our nation’s youth is not about politics or partisanship. When it comes to protecting our youth and our most vulnerable citizens, it is my hope that we are all on the same side. Our youth are our future and it is our responsibility to provide an environment in which they can reach their greatest potential. Young Canadians, regardless of where they grow up, should be able to grow and explore their potential in a safe environment. In passing this bill, we have taken action, so that families do not have to live in fear and communities across this country can enjoy the safety and security that we all deserve.
I would like to sincerely thank my colleagues for supporting this bill from the beginning, community stakeholders including front-line police officers and justice officials who supported this bill from the beginning and even took the time to testify before the justice committee, my constituents, the wonderful citizens of Brampton, and the countless youth I had the opportunity to meet and who inspired me to create this piece of legislation so that their future and the future of coming generations could be protected.
Parm Gill, MP
830 La Promenade Building, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5B9