Firearms & Gun Offences

Requesting Enhanced Pre-Sentencing Reports: R. v. Morris Appeal

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The long awaited appeal in the 2018 case of R. v. Morris is expected to be argued before the Ontario Court of Appeal sometime this fall.  The case, which was to be heard last September 2019 (which we previously blogged about), was delayed due to the death of a key lawyer and COVID-19.

The case includes numerous prominent human rights, legal and ethnic organizations that have been granted special status to act as interveners on the appeal.  The interveners will speak to the court about the value in admitting evidence included in enhanced pre-sentencing reports during the sentencing hearing that address unique historical and systemic factors.  The organizations include the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, Urban Alliance on Race Relations and the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights. 

Other interveners, which include the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change Network, Aboriginal Legal Services, the Canadian Muslim Lawyers’ Association, will also be asking the court for these “cultural assessments” to apply to all minority groups, not just Black offenders.

MORRIS’ TRIAL AND SENTENCING

Following a jury trial, Kevin Morris (“Morris”) was convicted of possession of an unauthorized firearm, possession of a prohibited firearm with ammunition and carrying a concealed weapon. 

In July 2018, Ontario Superior Court Justice Shaun Nakatsuru sentenced Morris to one year in jail.  The Crown prosecutor had requested that the court put Morris in jail for 4 to 4 ½ years.  Morris’ lawyers asked for a one year sentence, minus credit for various Charter breaches that were found.

Justice Nakatsuru applied the same analysis to Morris’ case as he did to one of his earlier decisions in the case of R. v. JacksonHe stated:

The criminal law has recognized that there are cases where, in order to determine a fit and proportionate sentence, consideration must be given to an individual’s systemic and social circumstances.  These circumstances may extend beyond a person who is being sentenced to include factors such as systemic discrimination and historical injustice. 

Justice Nakatsuru acknowledged that criminal courts have recognized systemic discrimination and historical injustice in the case of Indigenous offenders.  He stated that the consideration of social context in a sentencing decision is allowed further to section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code.  Thus, consideration of the social history of Black Canadians is also allowed in the context of sentencing. 

Justice Nakastsuru’s sentencing decision was in part influenced by an enhanced pre-sentencing report submitted by Morris’ lawyers on his behalf.

During the sentencing hearing, Justice Nakatsuru was presented with two reports on Morris’ behalf.  One report dealt with anti-Black racism in Canada and the other one dealt with Morris’ social history.  Although the Crown prosecutor objected to the admission of the first report, Justice Nakatsuru found the report to be useful.  The report concluded that young Black Canadian men in particular feel discrimination in the criminal justice system and are overrepresented in the practices by local police and in the jails.

Justice Nakatsuru also admitted the second report submitted by the defence into evidence, which described the impact that systemic racism had on Morris’ experiences inside and outside of the justice system.  He stated that judges can take a broader view of the materials that should be admissible.

THE UPCOMING APPEAL

The Crown is challenging what they believe was a lenient sentence given to Morris by taking this case before the Ontario Court of Appeal.  The issue before the court is how much weight should be given to systemic racism when faced with sentencing Black offenders. 

It is the Crown prosecutor’s position that there was no clear evidence of a link between systemic discrimination and the crimes Morris committed.  Furthermore, given the rise in gun violence in Toronto this is not the time to show leniency for this type of behaviour.

Although the courts consider the systemic disadvantages Indigenous offenders experience when sentencing (called the Gladue principle), there is no such principle available to Black offenders.  This may change in Ontario depending upon the result of this appeal. 

THE SENTENCING AND PAROLE PROJECT

A new organization, the Sentencing and Parole Project (“SPP”), is dedicated to encouraging Ontario courts to consider the impact of systemic racism when sentencing Black offenders.  The organization is focused on the creation of “enhanced pre-sentencing reports”, similar to Gladue reports for Indigenous offenders.  These reports will explore an offender’s background and use established research to analyze how experiences shaped by systemic racism should weigh in the context of sentencing. 

These cultural assessment reports would be prepared by experienced social workers following extensive interviews with the offender, family members and close friends, and will include recommendations on programs and other supports that could help the offender’s rehabilitation.

The organization officially launched in May and has been involved in 10 sentencing decisions dating back to 2018.  Due to lack of funding, SPP is selective in deciding on appropriate clients to provide their services to.  SPP would like to see the practice of the “cultural assessments” or enhanced pre-sentencing reports instituted across Canada and funded by the justice system.

SPP maintains that an enhanced pre-sentencing report is an important element for sentencing judges and parole boards to consider the influence of anti-Black racism as a mitigating factor when considering a fair sentence.

We will continue to follow this case and will report the results of this appeal decision in this blog when it becomes available.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with weapons offences or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Trudeau Calls for More Gun Control in Canada Following Deadly Rampage in Nova Scotia

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In response to the recent tragic shooting incident in Nova Scotia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government will work towards strengthening gun control legislation in Canada as soon as possible.

It is the Prime Minister’s intention to introduce legislation to ban assault-style weapons across Canada when Parliament resumes. 

PM Trudeau stated:

The tragedy in Nova Scotia simply reinforces and underlines how important it is for us to continue to move forward on strengthening gun control. … We were on the verge of introducing new measures to restrict assault type weapons in Canada before Parliament was suspended because of COVID-19.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has also indicated that the federal government is working towards efforts to reinforce gun control, which will include new legislation to strengthen gun storage rules to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of those who could commit crimes, decrease smuggling of firearms across the border and introduce new laws to ensure that individuals that are at a significant risk of harming themselves or others do not have access to firearms.

FIREARMS ACT CHANGES OF 2019 ARE STILL PENDING

Bill C-71, an act to amend legislation in relation to firearms in Canada, was passed into law in May 2019 and provided approximately 30 amendments to the Firearms Act.  This legislation enhances background checks, compels retailers to keep records of firearms sales (dates, references, license numbers, firearm’s make, model, type and serial number) and varies the authorization to transport rules (a licensed gun owner must possess an authorization to transport document if they want to travel with a restricted firearm). 

Bill C-71 also requires that the police examine an applicant’s life history for potential red flags, including criminal charges, violence and spousal abuse.  However, these amendments are still pending. 

A spokesperson for Minster Blair advised that Bill C-71 provisions will come into force “once the necessary administrative changes have been made, funding has been approved and the associated regulations have been tabled in Parliament for review”.  In February 2020, Minister Blair advised that the enactment of C-71 amendments were ongoing and would be addressed in the upcoming budget.  However, the federal budget has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHAT HAPPENED IN NOVA SCOTIA?

On April 18, 2020 at 10:26 p.m., RCMP officers arrived in Portapique, Nova Scotia following 911 calls reporting gunshots.  The officers found a man that had been shot.  He reported that as he drove out of Portapique he was shot by a man driving what looked like a police car towards the beach.

As more officers responded to the scene, they located several deceased individuals lying in the roadway and several structures fully engulfed in flames. 

The suspect at the time, Gabriel Wortman (“Wortman”), a 51-year-old denturist, was identified by several witnesses. 

On Sunday morning, a woman who had previously been in a relationship with Wortman emerged from the woods and explained that she had escaped from Wortman and hid in the woods until it was safe to emerge.  It seems that the deadly events began when Wortman assaulted this woman and she escaped.  She told police that the suspect was in possession of a fully modern and equipped replica RCMP vehicle, was wearing a police uniform and had several firearms, including pistols and long barrel weapons.

Wortman proceeded to go on a 14-hour killing spree, targeting individuals he knew and strangers in a string of small communities in central Nova Scotia.  There were 16 crime scenes along a 40-mile stretch north of the Bay of Fundy.  He set fire to five properties, including his own log cabin in Portapique. 

Wortman was traveling south near Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, when he collided with a police cruiser.  He proceeded to exchange gunfire with Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the RCMP, and killed her.  He then set fire to both Stevenson’s vehicle and his own. 

Wortman then killed another individual and stole her silver Chevrolet Tracker.  When he finally stopped to fill up the car with gas, he was spotted by an officer in an unmarked cruiser.  Wortman was eventually killed following an exchange of gunfire with police at the gas station in Enfield, north of Halifax.

We have come to learn that Wortman had been previously convicted of assault in 2002 and received a conditional discharge.  He was ordered to undergo counselling for anger management and banned from possession of firearms, explosives and any prohibited weapons for nine months.  He was also ordered to pay a fine.

At this time, investigators continue to piece together details of Wortman’s rampage and how he was able to obtain the firearms used during his deadly attack, as well as the decals for his fake police car.  Police believe that one of the weapons can be traced back to Canada, but others may have been obtained in the United States. 

As information becomes available, we will continue to report changes in the law regarding firearms in Canada in this blog.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Crime Rate in Canada Reported by Police Up Slightly

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s crime rate increased for a fourth year in a row.  The overall crime rate was found to have gone up by two per cent in 2018 over the previous year, however, it is still lower than the rate of crime 10 years ago. 

The crime rate report entitled “Police-reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2018” published by Statistics Canada is based upon data obtained from Canadian police forces, and does not include any crimes that were not reported to the police.

POLICE-REPORTED CRIME STATISTICS IN CANADA, 2018

Statistics Canada has been collecting information from all Canadian police services regarding criminal incidents reported to the police since 1962.  In 2018, there were more than two million police-reported Criminal Code incidents.

In Canada, there were several significant criminal incidents that occurred in 2018 resulting in the loss of numerous lives and numerous personal injuries.  One of these incidents was the attack on pedestrians that were deliberately struck by a van in the North York City Centre business district, which resulted in 10 homicides and 13 victims of attempted homicide. 

Toronto was also impacted by a deadly shooting on Danforth Avenue in the city’s Greektown, leaving 2 dead and 13 victims of attempted homicide.  In Saskatchewan, there was a devastating motor vehicle accident involving the Humboldt Broncos, a junior ice hockey team, which resulted in 16 deaths and 13 victims of serious injuries.

The legalization of cannabis and the various amendments to the Criminal Code hrelating to impaired driving, were two significant legislative changes in 2018 that impacted the crime rate statistics in Canada.  Both of these legislative amendments introduced new types of offences. 

The severity of crime, also known as the Crime Severity Index (a measure of the severity of police-reported crime), has also increased by two per cent in 2018.  However, both the crime rate and the Crime Severity Index were down 17 per cent compared to the rates in 2008.

The increase in the severity of crime from 2017 to 2018 was in relation to higher rates of fraud, shoplifting and other thefts.

SEXUAL ASSAULT STATISTICS

Statistics Canada found that for the second year in a row the rate of sexual assaults were found to have significantly increased from 2017 to 2018 in Canada.  There were more than 28,700 police-reported sexual assaults, resulting in an increase of 15% in 2018, following an increase of 13% in 2017.

Sexual assaults were found to represent 7% of all violent crimes in 2018.

The report written by Statistics Canada indicates that the rate of sexual assault reported is “likely an underestimation of the true extent of sexual assault in Canada, as these type of offences often go unreported to police”.

HOMICIDE RATES

Homicide rates in Canada declined by four per cent in 2018, reversing a trend over the last few years of increasing rates of homicide.  According to Statistics Canada, large decreases in homicides in Alberta and British Columbia were reported, while Ontario homicides were found to have substantially increased.  The increased numbers in Ontario were largely attributed to three significant incidents that resulted in 20 homicides and 26 attempted murders (this included the victims of the serial homicides that were identified in 2018).

Toronto was found to have experienced a substantial increase in homicides and the city itself was found to be experiencing its highest crime rate since 1991.  There were 142 reported homicides in Toronto in 2018 (49 more than in 2017). 

According to the data, there were 157 gang-related homicides, which made up 25% of all homicides in Canada in 2018.  This number had decreased by 5% from 2017 following three years of increases. 

FRAUD RATES

Cases of police-reported fraud was found to have increased for the seventh year in a row.  There was a 12% increase between 2017 and 2018, and a 46% increase from 10 years ago. 

Fraud can be defined as any form of dishonest or deceptive behaviour that is intended to establish a risk or loss.  Some define it as “theft by lies”.  A few examples include mortgage fraud, identify theft, forgery, computer crimes, tax fraud and embezzlement.

In 2018, there were over 129,400 cases of fraud reported by police.  Police services report that increases of fraud may be the result of increased access for reporting fraud online.  For example, online or telephone scans, such as the “Canada Revenue Agency” scam and pre-paid gift card scams.

VIOLENT FIREARM OFFENCES

There are a number of Criminal Code offences that involve the use of firearms, including homicide, robbery, assault, sexual assault, discharging a firearm with intent and pointing a firearm. 

According to the research by Statistics Canada, there were 7,477 violent crimes that involved the use of a firearm in 2018.  This was a 5% decrease from 2017, a departure from four years of increases in these types of offences.

The crime severity index is a measure of the severity of police-reported crime, with offences weighted and those more serious given more weight.  A region’s crime severity index is calculated by adding up the weighted offences and dividing it by the population to end up with a score that’s standardized to 100. 

At Affleck & Barrison LLP we are prepared to defend your rights, no matter what the charges are.  We have extensive experience in defending clients in a variety of criminal law matters.  If you need representation or have questions about your legal rights, please contact our firm online or at 905-404-1947.

More Than 300 Charges Laid in Human Trafficking Investigation ‘Project Convalesce’

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Earlier this month, York Regional Police laid more than 300 charges and arrested 31 people as part of “Project Convalesce”, a multi-provincial human trafficking and organized crime investigation.  Approximately 100 of these charges were related directly to human trafficking.

WHAT IS PROJECT CONVALESCE?

In October 2018, two female victims of human trafficking from Quebec contacted police after attempting to escape a hotel in Vaughan.  York Regional Police began an investigation focused on suspected pimp, Jonathan Nyangwila (“Nyangwila”).  Investigators identified a number of suspects involved in various crimes of human trafficking, fraud, drug trafficking and weapons offences run by organized crime.

Nyangwila, a 28-year old from Markham, also known as Zoulou or Skulls, has been described as the “kingpin” at the top of a complicated and sophisticated criminal hierarchy.  Underneath Nyangwila were several “figureheads”, including three of his brothers.  A group of “underbosses” were positioned under the figureheads.  There were several also “strikers” positioned under the underbosses, whose responsibility it was to carry out high-risk frauds in banks and stores. 

It is alleged that the suspected criminal organization made fake identifications to purchase pre-paid credit cards that were then used to pay for expenses to run the human trafficking scheme such as hotel fees, travel and food.

Inspector Thai Truong stated:

Jonathan Nyangwila has been identified as the kingpin of the organization.  … All below him are individuals that have their own stable of girls.  But for the first time, we’re actually seeing girls being traded within, and girls being controlled by other individuals for the benefit of the organization.

Nyangwila is facing more than 30 charges relating to human trafficking, instructing the commission of an offence for a criminal organization, participating in the activities of a criminal organization, uttering threats, firearms possession, harassment and fraud.  He was arrested in July, yet continued to run his criminal operation from jail.

On October 10, 2019, following a full year of police investigation involving four police services from Ontario and one from Quebec, arrest and search warrants were executed in more than 30 locations across the Greater Toronto Area and in Quebec.

Investigating officers identified 12 victims and have information that there are 33 additional women involved in the sex trade and found to be associated with the suspects.  Most of the women involved were from Quebec and had been transported to Ontario and across Canada for the purpose of the sex trade.  The victims ranged in age from 20 to their mid-30s.  The women were found to perform sex acts seven days a week, earning approximately $1,000 a day, and passing on these monies to those that individuals that controlled them.

This investigation remains active and ongoing as police are hopefuly that the 33 additional women will come forward to seek assistance and support. 

York Region Deputy Chief Brian Bigras stated:

These victims endured violent assaults, sexual assaults and other degrading circumstances as they were controlled by these violent criminals.

WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, approximately 225,000 victims of trafficking have been identified worldwide between 2003 and 2016.

Human trafficking is a crime that exploits and manipulates women, children and men for the purposes of forced labour or sexual services.  Women are often the target of this crime. 

Those trafficking in humans often recruit and groom their victims by becoming a close friend or boyfriend.  Once traffickers lure their victims, they then coerce them into sex work, using psychological manipulation, threats, addiction, violence and isolation.

Police report that marginalized youth, Indigenous youth and youth experiencing homelessness are most often targeted.  Youth who struggle with low self-esteem, bullying, poverty, abuse and family issues are also pursued.

Traffickers often recruit girls online, at malls, high schools, libraries, group homes, bus stops, and parties at hotels.

Victims of this type of crime feel alone, isolated and trapped and have no way to return home.  They become entirely dependent on the trafficker to survive.

THE CRIMINAL OFFENCE OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Human trafficking is an offence found in the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”) and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The CC includes four indictable offences to address human trafficking, including:

  • Trafficking in persons (section 279.01);
  • Trafficking of a person under the age of eighteen years (section 279.011);
  • Receiving financial or material benefit knowing it results from the commission of an offence under sections 279.01 and 279.011 (section 279.02); and 
  • Withholding or destroying documents (section 279.03). 

There are many other offences contained in the CC that also apply to human trafficking cases including kidnapping, forcible confinement, uttering threats, extortion, assault, sexual assault, prostitution related offences and criminal organization offences.

If you have been charged with human trafficking or a related charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.  We are available when you need us most.

Court of Appeal to Judge How to Weigh Systemic Racism When Sentencing Black Offenders

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Later this month, the Ontario Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear a case where the Crown prosecutor is challenging the “lenient” 15-month sentence given to a black Toronto man for carrying a loaded firearm.  Many are expecting that the judgment in this appeal will provide guidance to trial judges on how systemic and background factors are to be applied during the sentencing of black offenders, and potentially all other minorities, in Canada.

WHAT HAPPENED?

In 2014, the police were called regarding a home invasion in Scarborough.  At the scene, the police came upon four black males walking in the parking lot.  When an officer stopped the young men, Kevin Morris (“Morris”) ran.  After a chase, Morris was apprehended by police and his jacket, which he left in a stairwell during the chase, contained a loaded handgun. 

A jury found Morris guilty last September of possession of an unauthorized firearm, possession of a prohibited firearm with ammunition, and carrying a concealed weapon. 

Superior Court Justice Shaun Nakatsuru sentenced Kevin Morris (“Morris”), a 26-year-old first-time offender, to 15 months in custody due to the disadvantages and systemic black racism he faced growing up in Toronto. 

Justice Nakatsuru described the sentence as “lenient” and reasoned that this type of sentence was to address “one small step at a time, the problem of the disproportionate incarceration of black offenders”. Morris’ sentence was reduced to 1 year for various Charter breaches.

According to court documents, Morris was raised by a single mother in a neighbourhood that experienced violence and criminal activity.  Morris never graduated from high school and admitted that he felt unsafe travelling to work as he had to enter rivaling neighbourhoods.  He was diagnosed with PTSD and paranoia in 2013 after being stabbed for a third time. 

The Crown prosecutor had requested a four to four and a half year sentence for Morris arguing that illegal gun possession results in the “often immeasurable” human cost of gun crimes.

Morris’ defence lawyers requested a 12-month sentence and submitted an expert report outlining the impact of crime and criminal justice on black Canadians.  The report detailed how black Canadians experience obstacles in pursing educationa nd employment, and explained about discrimination in social services.

Morris’ lawyer, Faisal Mirza, stated:

It’s clear to everyone in the Toronto area that there are disproportionate numbers of young black men that are prosecuted and sentenced by judges based on pretty rudimentary information on who they are, where they came from, and why they got to the point of committing the crime they are being sentenced for.

Justice Nakatsuru wrote in his decision:

In our system, a sentence is not just about the crime.  It must also be about the offender.

As the legal system runs today, the courts are required to take into account the backgrounds of Indigenous offenders when sentencing, paying specific attention to systemic or historical factors such as residential schools and systemic racism.  A victory for Morris at his appeal may lead to a similar requirement requiring the courts to take into account the impact of race and culture on black offenders in Canada. 

INTERVENERS IN MORRIS’ APPEAL

At the Court of Appeal, there are 14 interveners that have been granted permission to provide joint submissions to the court on the subject of systemic racism, including human and civil rights activists, ethnic organizations and legal clinics.  Several interveners are asking the court to allow culture assessments to apply to all minority groups, not only black offenders.

Interveners in criminal proceedings must receive permission to provide submissions to the court and are typically only granted permission sparingly.  Chief Justice George Strathy wrote in his decision to allow interveners to weigh in on the appeal in the Morris case:

But the issues that arise in this appeal transcend the interests of the parties and are of significance to the administration of criminal justice.  The proposed interveners are well-recognized organizations with experience and expertise in the issues raised in this appeal.  They can offer perspectives that are different from those provided by the Crown and the respondent.

The Black Legal Action Centre and the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers are entering a joint submission at the appeal and on their behalf Johnathan Shime states:

This case represents an opportunity for the Ontario Court of Appeal to consider what role race and, more particularly, anti-black racism should play in sentencing of offenders. 

The appeal is scheduled for September 24, 2019 in Toronto.  We will report the results of this potentially ground breaking appeal decision in this blog when it becomes available.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a crime or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Violent Long Weekend Fuels Talks of Potential Handgun Ban in Toronto

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Civic Holiday long weekend in early August resulted in 17 people shot during 14 separate incidents in Toronto.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The first gun-related incident of the long weekend started at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, 2019.  Police were called to the Dufferin Street and Glen Long Avenue area where they found two male victims with gunshot wounds.

On Sunday, August 4, 2019, a man, whose identity has not been revealed, was left with life-threatening injuries at an Airbnb in one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in Toronto, the Bridle Path (south of Bayview Avenue and York Mills Road).  Officers arrived at the property and found a man, conscious and breathing, lying on the ground, suffering from a gunshot wound to his upper body.  He was immediately taken to hospital and stabilized.  It has been reported that between 20 and 30 people were at the home, which was being rented as an Airbnb.

Later on Sunday, a man received non-life-threatening injuries following a gunshot  in Liberty Village.

At least five people were injured at a nightclub in suburban North York early Monday, August 5, 2019.  One male was found to be in life-threatening condition and four others were found in non-life-threatening condition.  It was also reported that two more victims of this incident took themselves to hospital, but police have not confirmed that these two victims were injured in the nightclub incident.

Hours after responding to the nightclub incident, police were called to Lombard Street near Church Street and Richmond Street East.  Police reported that three individuals were injured after a vehicle was shot.

Police also responded to a gun-related incident shortly before 5 p.m. on Monday, August 5 in the Lawrence Heights area, just south of Yorkdale Shopping Mall.  A man was taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, which were found to be serious, but not life-threatening.  Another victim was able to make it to hospital on his/her own.

Later in the day, police responded to multiple gunshots heard in northwest Toronto.  Another victim of gunshot wounds was found.

Police Chief Mark Saunders does not believe that there is a connection between any of the shooting incidents in the city. 

TORONTO MAYOR CALLS FOR HANDGUN BAN

Toronto Mayor John Tory released a statement calling the gun violence in Toronto “absolutely unacceptable”. 

Mayor Tory continues to advocate for a ban on handguns to address the perilous gun violence in Toronto.  He stated:

The gun violence we have seen in recent days in our city is absolutely unacceptable. … I remain firmly of the belief that a handgun ban will help us address the gun violence we are experiencing in our city and the surrounding area.  I led city council – joined by other major Canadian cities – in sending a clear message on the need for a ban on handguns, assault rifles and semi-automatic firearms.  This was always put forward as a part of the answer to gun violence together with changes to other laws affecting things like bail, additional support for police, and the paramount need for all three governments to invest together in kids, families and neighbourhoods.

Police Chief Mark Saunders responded to questions regarding a potential handgun ban by saying that “anything that removes a handgun, it is a good day in the city”.  He stated:

I’ll let the politicians work on that one.  I’ve got people that are shot.  I’ve got people that are shooting people.  I’m going to use my resources and all of my energy to solve these cases and bring them before the court systems. 

Chief Saunders has responded to the weekend of violence by advising that there will be additional resources in certain parts of the city to deter and reduce the gun violence.  He did not indicate what measures would be taken or which parts of the city the police would focus on. 

Mayor Tory announced earlier this week that the city of Toronto will be receiving $4.5 million to help fight gun violence from all levels of government, including the municipal, provincial and federal governments. However, it remains unclear as to how the funds will be utilized.

Chief Saunders advised that the police service will provide more information regarding its plan of how to use these additional funds shortly.

GUN-RELATED VIOLENCE STATISTICS

According to Statistics Canada, gun-related violent crime has been increasing since 2013.  Between 2013 and 2017, gun crime increased by 42% in Canada. 

According to Toronto police, shooting deaths in the city are at a three-year low.  Only 19 people have been killed as a result of shootings in Toronto in 2019, which is down from 30 deaths recorded last year at this time.

Gun violence in the city of Toronto is also comparable to past years.  There are 244 recorded “shooting occurrences” in 2019, which is comparable to 238 occurrences in 2018 and 226 in 2017.  There have been 365 victims of shooting occurrences in 2019, 324 victims in 2018 and 335 victims in 2017.

We will continue to follow the anticipated police service plan to utilize the funds provided by all levels of government to fight gun violence in Toronto and will report any developments in this blog.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Majority of Canadians Support Ban of Handguns

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The latest public opinion poll by the Angus Reid Institute reveals that half of Canadians consider gun violence a serious problem in Canada. 

Toronto Mayor John Tory has campaigned for a handgun ban and the Liberal government is facing pressure from gun control groups to respond to gun violence in Canada following the implementation of a ban on semi-automatic firearms by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after a deadly mosque shooting in Christchurch.

ANGUS REID POLL RESULTS

A recent public opinion study completed by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute surveyed 1,525 respondents across the country and is proportionally representative of Canadians from each region of the country.

The study has found that 61% of the respondents would support an outright ban on civilian possession of handguns.  This number rises to 75% in regards to a ban on assault weapons. 

When it comes to gun violence, rural and urban respondents voiced different concerns.  Respondents in Canadian cities are most worried about gang activity, while rural Canadians are more concerned about accidental shootings or the use of guns for suicide.

According to the survey, 63% of respondents were in favour of the proposal by the federal Liberal government to lengthen background check periods from the current five-year limit to include a prospective gun owner’s entire history.

WHAT DO CANADIANS WANT?

Bill Blair (“Blair”), Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, recently stated that implementing a national handgun ban is a possibility. 

Blair was directed to study and consult on a full ban of handguns and assault weapons.  Beginning in 2018, he travelled the country to hold roundtables and public engagements regarding the issue of reducing violent crime involving firearms. 

Last month, Blair released his report entitled “Reducing Violent Crime:  A Dialogue on Handguns and Assault-Style Firearms”.  The report also included written submissions made by Canadians and responses recorded through an online questionnaire which included 134,917 total responses from Canadians (with no limits placed on how many times an individual could complete a survey).

The key findings of Blair’s inquiry include:

  • Polarized views on a potential ban and limiting access to handguns and assault-style firearms;
  • Many felt strongly that a ban would target law-abiding gun owners, rather than illicit gun owners, and would not greatly impact crime reduction (specifically gang violence);
  • Many supported enhanced enforcement capacity by law enforcement and border services, in addition to harsher punishments for those found trafficking in firearms and gun-related crimes;
  • Emphasis on more support for community-level programs and initiatives to address the socioeconomic conditions that lead to gun violence;
  • Emphasis on the need to improve the collection and sharing of data on gun crime; and
  • The need for a multi-faceted approach to dealing with violent crimes, rather than implementing a ban on guns.

Blair has advised that he has been reviewing the data, the experience in other jurisdictions, Canada’s regulatory environment and how firearms are used in criminal activity in Canada.

Blair stated:

… I believe that there are some things that we can do to create a safe environment, reduce gun violence in our communities and make it far more difficult for people who would commit crimes.

I believe there is an overwhelming consensus in this country that public safety is important, that we deserve to be safe in our communities and in our places of worship, and those weapons which have been used to kill so many people have no place in our society.

GUN BUYBACK PROGRAM UPDATE

We have previously blogged about the Toronto Police Services gun buyback program launched in an effort to reduce unwanted firearms and violence in the GTA.

As a result of this recent program, Toronto Police received more than 2,700 unwanted guns from residents during the gun buyback program that started on April 26, 2019 and ran until May 17, 2019.  These guns were all destroyed.

It has been reported that this was the most successful firearm collection in Toronto.  During the three-week program, police collected over 1,900 long guns and over 800 handguns.  In 2008, a similar program was launched resulting in a total of 2000 guns collected by police.

Chief Mark Saunders stated:

We are pleased with the participation of Torontonians taking steps to safely dispose of unwanted guns in their homes.  These guns can present a potential danger if they fall into the wrong hands.  Removing access to these guns, many of which are not securely stored, contributes to community safety.

We will continue to follow up on any developments regarding the government’s response to gun violence in Canada and will provide updates in this blog.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Toronto Police Announce Gun Buyback Program

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Toronto Police Services announced last week that between April 26 and May 17, 2019 they will be buying back unwanted guns from residents in an effort to reduce unwanted firearms and violence in the city. 

Last year was a particularly violent one in Toronto with 406 shooting incidents, resulting in 540 shooting victims and 50 homicides by gunfire. 

Durham region also experienced a trend of increasing violence.   It has been reported that there was a 27% increase in gun discharges and an increase in non-fatal shootings by 113% in 2018.  Almost half of the shootings occurred in west Durham, which includes Ajax and Pickering.

Durham Police Chief Paul Martin stated his concern for “the number of guns we are seizing and the number of guns being used in crimes”.  Chief Martin confirmed that many of the firearms used in these crimes were associated with gang activity and are typically smuggled in from the United States, stolen from legal Canadian owners, or obtained legally with legitimate licences and then sold to others who intend to use them for criminal purposes.

TORONTO GUN BUYBACK PROGRAM

According to Chief Mark Saunders, Chief of Police of the Toronto Police Service, Toronto’s gun buyback program “is a great opportunity for Torontonians to get rid of unwanted guns from their homes that present a potential danger if they fall into the wrong hands”.

Toronto residents can arrange for police to pick up a registered or unregistered gun for destruction and will be compensated $200 for a long gun and $350 for a handgun.  Those that turn guns over to the police will not face any charges for possession or the unsafe storage of a firearm.

Toronto Police advise that individuals should not bring guns to a police station or any City facilities.  In order to participate in this buyback program and arrange for an officer to pick up a firearm at your home, please call the Toronto Police non-emergency line at 416-808-2222 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Toronto police will test all firearms suspected of being involved in criminal activity collected through this initiative.  Those that have not been found to be involved in any criminal activity will be destroyed.

Toronto Police advise that a similar gun buyback program took place in 2008 and Toronto Police received 2,000 guns.

ONTARIO’S GUNS AND GANGS INITIATIVE

In addition to the federal government’s contribution of $11.37 million in funding over the next two years towards initiatives to reduce gun and gang crime, the government of Ontario recently announced contributing $16.4 million towards efforts to combat guns and gangs over the next two years. 

Part of the focus will be on providing resources and tools to support frontline police officers, law enforcement teams and prosecutors in an effort to combat gun and gang-related violence.  The emphasis will also be on initiatives to prevent crime and break the criminal cycle by focusing efforts on high-risk communities and youth.

The initiatives planned include:

  • Creating a guns and gangs enforcement unit to help local police and prosecutors through the use of province-wide intelligence gathering, integration and coordination;
  • Improved training for corrections officers to secure better intelligence to deal with gangs and contraband smuggling taking place in jails;
  • Creating “justice centres” in three cities (Toronto’s downtown East and Northwest neighbourhoods, London, and Kenora) to focus on prevention of gang activities by coordinating law enforcement and justice representatives with health and social services, and moving the justice process out of the courtroom and into a community setting;
  • Examining current discipline practices and data in 10 school boards (14 schools) to address the over-representation of certain individuals involved in suspension and expulsion;
  • Creating the “Youth Violence Prevention and Resilience Program” to support high-risk youth and young adults and their families in an effort to reduce youth violence, victimization and keep youth out of gangs;
  • Launching the “Indigenous Youth Prevention and Intervention Program” to focus efforts on keeping Indigenous youth out of gangs; and
  • Creating the “Gang Intervention and Exit Program for Indigenous Women” to provide community outreach, education and support to victims of gang violence and the prevention of exploitation, recruitment and victimization of Indigenous women and girls.

Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, stated:

We want youth at risk of coming into conflict with the law to build resiliency and gain important skills that will help them throughout their life.  We want to work with out partners to provide programs that strengthen communities, create safe neighbourhoods and set up all of Ontario’s youth for success.

We will continue to follow these police and government initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence in our communities and will report any developments as they become available in this blog.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Gun Violence Increasing in Toronto

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The deadly rampage in Toronto last Sunday is just another tragedy in the growing list of fatal shootings in our city. In the wake of a violent summer and in an effort to reduce gun violence in Toronto, Police Chief Mark Saunders (“Saunders”) and Mayor John Tory announced plans to add 200 frontline officers to the night shift.

The additional police officers will be on the job between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. in designated areas of the city that are in need of the added police presence. Officers will be focusing on areas where police have seen gun and gang activity. The increased police presence will last for an eight week period, at which point Toronto police will re-evaluate their needs.

Saunders clarified that neighbourhoods will not be inundated with police,

It’s about being focused and strategic in our deployment. This is not about turning communities upside down. That will never be the intention.

According to Toronto police, there have been 228 shootings in Toronto and 29 people killed in 2018. In comparison to 2017, at the same time of year there were 188 shootings and only 17 deaths. This is a 53% increase in shooting deaths since 2017. The increase has largely been blamed on gang activity.

The most recent tragic event involving gun violence in Toronto occurred on July 23, 2018 after 10:00 p.m. in Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood. A 29-year-old gunman opened fire resulting in two innocent deaths and thirteen wounded individuals.

Following this recent rampage, Mayor Tory confessed that guns are too accessible in Toronto and stated:

We have a gun problem in that guns are readily available to too many people. The police are doing their best, but they’re operating under extraordinarily difficult circumstances to deal with these guns.

PLANS TO TACKLE GUN VIOLENCE IN TORONTO

Mayor Tory announced a $15-million plan to confront gun crime in Toronto. These funds are coming from all three levels of government. Some of this money will be allocated to 16 community initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence and preventing youth from joining gangs. These initiatives include new employment opportunities, job fairs in marginalized communities, establishing a children’s mental health recovery team, and the expansion of existing programs. Some of the money will be allocated to YouthWorx, which is a program by Toronto Community Housing that employs young people in various fields.

Toronto is also in the process of applying for federal funding available to municipalities through the National Crime Prevention Strategy.

 SHOOTINGS IN TORONTO THIS SUMMER

The following is a list of some of the shootings that have occurred in the Greater Toronto Area since the beginning of summer 2018:

  1. June 24: Two men shot and killed inside a home in Etobicoke;
  2. June 24: Drive-by shooting in North York;
  3. June 25: Man shot and killed inside an apartment building in the early morning in Toronto;
  4. June 28: Man arrived at a hospital in Toronto with a gunshot wound to his foot;
  5. June 29: Pedestrian and cyclist shot in Moss Park neighbourhood;
  6. June 30: Two men dead and another woman injured during a daylight shooting in Toronto’s Entertainment District;
  7. June 30: Teenage boy collapsed from a gunshot wound behind a church in the Downsview area;
  8. July 1: Man shot and killed and three others injured in a shooting in Kensington Market;
  9. July 3: Man suffered bullet wound to the hip in a drive-by shooting in the Fashion District;
  10. July 8: Man shot and killed in parking lot in North York, believed to be a targeted attack;
  11. July 9: Man killed in shooting in Black Creek neighbourhood;
  12. July 9: Man shot in the Annex neighbourhood;
  13. July 22: Woman and young girl shot and killed and 13 others injured on the Danforth.

FEDERAL REACTION TO TORONTO’S GUN VIOLENCE

Former Toronto police chief and current Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Bill Blair, reports that he has been in touch with Major Tory and Saunders to discuss the latest deadly shooting in Toronto and how Ottawa can support the city’s efforts to put an end to the increasing incidence of gun violence. Blair will be working closely with Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford have also had discussions following the latest shooting in Toronto about how the two levels of government can work together.

Premier Ford has also confirmed that all three levels of government will be working together to tackle the gun violence sweeping through Toronto. He stated:

As Premier, my commitment to you is that I will do everything in my power to keep our neighbourhoods safe. We will make sure our police have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs, and we will work with our municipal and federal counterparts to identify, apprehend and convict those who commit, or plan to commit violence.

TORONTO REQUESTS NEW TECHNOLOGY TO RESTRICT GUNS

Mere days before the horrific shooting spree, Toronto’s police services board had requested more security cameras and new technology to be installed in parts of the city to help curb gun violence. The board has requested more than double the number of closed circuit police cameras in public places where gang activity and gun violence are known to take place. This would bring the total number of police cameras to approximately 80.

The board is also requesting that the city implement “ShotSpotter” technology that uses microphones to detect and locate gunfire, and automatically informs the police.

It will cost $4-million over the next two years to implement both of these measures. This will likely be covered by the crime prevention funding from both the federal and provincial governments.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Proposed Gun Control Laws Aimed at Gun Store Owners

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

On March 21, 2018, the Liberals introduced Bill C-71 to improve Canada’s existing gun control legislation. This legislation includes measures to broaden background checks for gun owners, toughen rules around the transportation of handguns, and tighten record keeping requirements for the sale of firearms. Bill C-71 proposes to make changes to the Firearms Act, the Criminal Code and repeals changes made by the previous Conservative Government.

In Canada, crimes involving firearms have increased by 30% between 2013 and 2016, with 2,465 offences occurring in 2016. Homicides involving guns have increased by two thirds between 2013 and 2016, with 223 homicides occurring in 2016.

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, stated:

While Canada is one of the safest countries in the world, increased gun crime has caused too much violence and taken too many lives in communities of all kinds. … With this legislation and our other measures, we are taking concrete steps to make our country less vulnerable to the scourge of gun violence, while being fair to responsible, law-abiding firearms owners and businesses.

GUN CONTROL LAWS IN CANADA

Gun control in Canada is governed by the Canadian Firearms Act and the Canadian Criminal Code. This legislation defines different types of weapons and set out rules regarding which weapons are legal in Canada and under what circumstances.

Canadian law classifies firearms as follows:

  • Prohibited:   .32 or .25 caliber handguns or those with a barrel length of 105 mm or less, automatic firearms, short-barrelled long guns;
  • Restricted:   handguns that are not classified as prohibited, semi-automatic long guns with a barrel less than 470 mm;
  • Non-Restricted: those not regulated as either restricted or prohibited.

A Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) is required to possess firearms. The eligibility for a PAL includes a background check to determine whether the applicant has been convicted of any of the designated offences, treated for any mental illness associated with actual or threatened violence, or has a history of behaviour that includes violence, or threatened or attempted violence within the previous five years.

Following a background check, an individual must undergo the “Canadian Firearms Safety Course” and pass the corresponding exam. The individual must also fill our forms and provide character references.

PROPOSALS FOR GUN CONTROL

Enhanced Background Checks

Bill C-71 proposes to expand background checks for those who want to buy a firearm. As described above, the current background check looks back on the last five years. It has been proposed that the RCMP examine any relevant information throughout the individual’s lifetime for prospective gun owners and those who have to renew their gun licences. The RCMP will complete an extensive background check looking into criminal, mental health, addiction and domestic violence records before authorizing an individual a licence to possess a firearm.

Once a licence has been issued, background checks will be ongoing to see if a licence holder has become a public safety risk.

Gun Shop Owner Obligations

Bill C-71 proposes changes to the responsibilities placed on gun vendors in Canada.

Under the new legislation, commercial gun shop retailers will be required to keep information about sales and inventory for at least 20 years, including the firearm’s serial number, the licence number of the transferee, the reference number and the day the reference number was issued. This requirement will not apply to private sellers.

Also, anyone selling or gifting a non-restricted firearm will be required to verify that the person they are providing the firearm to holds a valid firearm licence through the Canadian Firearms Program.

Police investigating a firearms crime can trace the owner of a gun through the licence number, but they are required to get a warrant in order to access the records held by gun shop retailers.

Transportation Regulations

Bill C-71 proposes that owners of restricted or prohibited firearms will need to obtain Authorization to Transport (ATT) documents every time they wish to take their guns anywhere other than a shooting club or gun range. Therefore, taking a firearm for servicing by a gunsmith or to a gun show would require separate authorizations to transport the firearm. However, authorizations to transport will not be required for non-restricted firearms.

If you have been charged with a firearm/gun offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.