Pubdate: Sat, 28 Feb 2009
Source: Langley Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Langley Times
Author: Monique Tamminga
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


On the same day Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to Vancouver to
announce a new 'Organized Crime Bill' to tackle gang violence, it
appears another gangland hit left one young man dead in Maple Ridge on

A total of 19 shootings and half a dozen deaths in one month brought
the PM here and B.C.'s top cops to Ottawa in an attempt to get serious
about the out-of-control gang problem in B.C.

The bill introduces automatic first-degree murder charges for anyone
involved in a gang-related killing. Drive-by shooting convictions will
receive mandatory four-year prison sentences.

"The gang violence needs to end now," said Langley MP Mark Warawa on
Thursday from Ottawa.

Warawa said the country is abuzz about the Fraser Valley's gang
problem with B.C. being dubbed the organized crime capital of Canada.

"With B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal and Solicitor General John van
Dongen coming to Ottawa and our prime minister coming to Vancouver, it
just goes to show how serious all levels of government are taking this."

The Organized Crime Bill could be passed into law as quickly as
mid-spring if the opposition parties continue to support it, said Warawa.

"But now we are counting on the courts to support it," said

After two years of delays, the Conservative government's "Tackling
Violent Crime" legislation came into force in May 2008 and yet
provincial court judges have ignored it, he said.

"These gang members who face weapon charges shouldn't be getting bail
under the new legislation and yet they are. We need judges to start
using the laws they are instructed to use."

Both the federal NDP and Liberals have come out in support of the bill
on Thursday. But Warawa is doubtful they will continue to.

"At this point, they say they will support it but when the public
isn't watching, it goes into committee and they keep it from passing,"
he said.

The Tackling Violent Crime bill went to a confidence vote, something
this government doesn't plan to do again this time.

"There is no appetite for an election right now," Warawa

On Friday, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said they will push to make
drug trafficking convictions carry a minimum one-year prison sentence.
It's been speculated that the current gang war is due to escalating
costs of cocaine.

This drug trafficking law was brought to parliament last year and
failed, but this time around the Conservatives hope to get the support
of opposition parties.

Warawa isn't as supportive about the judicial issues Oppal and van
Dongen went to Ottawa to speak about.

"When you put too many bills into the justice committee, it tends to
clog it," he said.

He anticipates more justice bills to come, but admits it is a slow

The B.C. ministers were in Ottawa asking for changes to very specific
issues regarding two-for-one sentencing, easing and updating wiretap
legislation and looking at changing disclosure laws which bogs down
police in mounds of unnecessary paperwork.

In the kidnapping case of Graham McMynn, eight police officers worked
full time for one year to present the evidence of disclosure to
defense and Crown lawyers for that trial.

Warawa agrees that rewarding double time to 'dangerous people'
awaiting trial is wrong.

"If a person is charged with a serious crime and is kept in custody
because they are a high risk to cause bodily harm, then why would you
credit them for being in custody?"

But changes to that practice won't come anytime soon because the focus
is on the federal organized crime bill, he said.

Bacon brother associate and gang member Kevin LeClair was gunned down
in the Thunderbird Village mall parking lot on Feb. 6 in front of
dozens of people. LeClair spent the day prior hanging out with one of
the Bacon brothers, who are under police protection.

LeClair was corralled into the parking lot by several vehicles chasing
his truck.

Once inside the mall, by the IGA, one or two men got out and shot
LeClair while he sat in his driver's seat. Other bullets hit a car
with a mother and daughter inside but they were uninjured. Shell
casings scattered the asphalt and many witnesses remained in shock of
what they saw so upclose.

IHIT has taken over the case but there are no suspects or arrests. Nor
is there any more information on a shooting at a 200 Street gas
station the next morning.

Surveillance footage shows two vehicles driving around the Shell gas
bar, shooting at one another. A bullet disabled the engine of the
black pick up, which was abandoned.

Of 594 murders across Canada in 2007, one in five was gang related,
according to Stats Canada.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said Thursday she believes the two pieces of
planned legislation are key in getting gang violence under control.

"I think it's really important that we need to be sending a message,"
Watts said.

"My concern here is to make sure that the Crown prosecutors are fully
supported and have the staff to make sure these things go to trial."

She also wants to see measures in place to ensure drive-by shootings
are not pled down to a lesser charge to avoid the four-year minimum.

The two pieces of legislation address some of the concerns raised by
local mayors last week, when they devised an 11-point plan to tackle
gang violence.

The federal bill also gets tough on people who assault officers.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin