Backgrounder: The Safe Streets and Communities Act Four Components Coming Into Force

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The Government introduced the Safe Streets and Communities Act on September 20, 2011, fulfilling its commitment to “move quickly to re-introduce comprehensive law-and-order legislation to combat crime and terrorism.” The Safe Streets and Communities Act received Royal Assent on March 13, 2012. The criminal law amendments in this legislation will make communities safer by:

  • helping improve the safety of all Canadians and, in particular, extending greater protection to the most vulnerable members of society; and
  • further enhancing the ability of Canada’s justice system to hold offenders accountable for their actions.

Amendments to the Criminal Code to increase the penalties for child sexual offences - Coming into Force August 9, 2012

These amendments will:

  • establish new mandatory minimum penalties for seven existing offences related to child exploitation. The addition of mandatory minimum penalties to these offences will also have the effect of eliminating the use of conditional sentences or house arrest for any of these cases;
  • increase the mandatory minimum penalties for nine existing offences to better reflect the serious nature of these offences, as well as to bring greater consistency in sentencing in these cases;
  • increase the maximum prison sentences for four existing child sexual exploitation offences to better reflect the particularly heinous nature of these offences;
  • create two new offences to prohibit anyone from providing sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that child, and to prohibit anyone from using any means of telecommunications, including the Internet, to agree or make arrangements with another person for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against a child; and
  • require judges to consider prohibiting suspected or convicted child sex offenders from having any unsupervised contact with a young person under the age of 16 years or having any unsupervised use of the Internet or other digital network.

A detailed backgrounder on Better Protecting Children from Sexual Predators can be found on the Department of Justice Canada’s Web site.

Amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to protect society from violent and repeat young offenders - Coming into Force October 23, 2012

These amendments will:

  • highlight the protection of society as a fundamental principle of the Youth Criminal Justice Act;
  • simplify pre-trial detention rules to help ensure that, when necessary, violent and repeat young offenders are kept off the streets while awaiting trial;
  • strengthen sentencing provisions and reduce barriers to custody where appropriate for violent and repeat young offenders. Specifically, the legislation will be amended to:
    • add “specific deterrence and denunciation” to the principles of sentencing to discourage a particular offender from committing further offences;
    • expand the definition of “violent offence” to include behaviour that endangers the life or safety of others; and
    • allow custodial sentences to be imposed, where appropriate, on youth who have a pattern of findings of guilt or extrajudicial sanctions.
  • require the Crown to consider seeking adult sentences for youth convicted of the most serious violent crimes such as murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault. Provinces and territories will maintain the discretion to set the age at which this requirement would apply;
  • require the courts to consider lifting the publication ban on the names of young offenders convicted of “violent offences,” when youth sentences are given;
  • require police to keep records when informal measures are used in order to make it easier to identify patterns of re-offending; and
  • ensure that all young offenders under 18 who are given a custodial sentence will serve it in a youth facility.

A detailed backgrounder on Protecting Society from Violent and Repeat Young Offenders can be found on the Department of Justice Canada’s Web site.

Amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to increase penalties for serious drug crime - Coming into Force November 6, 2012

These amendments will:

  • provide mandatory minimum penalties for serious drug offences, including when such offences are carried out for organized crime purposes or if they involve targeting youth.

    These serious drug offences include:

    • production;
    • trafficking;
    • possession for the purpose of trafficking;
    • importing and exporting; and
    • possession for the purpose of exporting.

    Generally, the mandatory minimum penalty would apply where there is an aggravating factor, including where the production of the drug constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard.

    The aggravating factors involve offences committed:

    • for the benefit of organized crime;
    • involving use or threat of violence;
    • involving use or threat of use of weapons;
    • by someone who has been previously convicted (in the past 10 years) of a serious drug offence;
    • in a prison;
    • by abusing a position of authority or access to restricted areas;
    • in or near a school, in or near an area normally frequented by youth or in the presence of youth;
    • through involving a youth in the commission of the offence; and
    • in relation to a youth (e.g. selling to a youth).

    The security, health and safety factors are:

    • the accused used real property that belongs to a third party to commit the offence;
    • the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to children who were in the location where the offence was committed or in the immediate area;
    • the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; and
    • the accused placed or set a trap.
  • make exemptions for the mandatory minimum sentence by allowing a court to delay sentencing while an addicted, non-violent offender takes a treatment program approved by the province under the supervision of the court as outlined in section 720(2) of the Criminal Code or a Drug Treatment Court approved program. If the offender successfully completes the treatment program, the court would not be required to impose the mandatory minimum and could impose a reduced sentence.
  • increase the maximum penalty for the production of marijuana from seven to 14 years.
  • move GHB and flunitrazepam, most commonly known as date-rape drugs, and amphetamine drugs from Schedule III to Schedule I, which would result in higher maximum penalties for illegal activities involving these drugs.

A detailed backgrounder on Increasing Penalties for Serious Drug Crime can be found on the Department of Justice Canada’s Web site.

Amendments to the Criminal Code to end house arrest for property and other serious crimes - Coming into Force November 20, 2012

These amendments will restrict the use of conditional sentences including house arrests. A conditional sentence is a sentence of imprisonment that may be served in the community provided certain conditions are met.

Currently, in order for the courts to impose a conditional sentence:

  • the offence must not be punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty;
  • the court must impose a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years;
  • the court must be satisfied that service of the sentence in the community will not endanger the safety of the community;
  • the court must be satisfied that a conditional sentence would be consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing; and
  • the offence cannot be one of the following indictable offences that are punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment:
    • a serious personal injury offence (as defined in Section 752),
    • a terrorism offence, or
    • a criminal organization offence.

The amendments will maintain these conditions, but will also provide an expanded and clear list of offences for which conditional sentences are not available.

List of Offences for which Conditional Sentences Will No Longer Be Available

  • All offences for which the law prescribes a maximum sentence of 14 years or life including: manslaughter, aggravated assault, arson and fraud over $5,000.
  • Offences prosecuted by indictment and for which the law prescribes a maximum sentence of imprisonment of 10 years that:
    • result in bodily harm,
    • involve the import/export, trafficking and production of drugs,
    • involve the use of weapons.
  • The following offences for which the law prescribes a maximum penalty of 10 years when prosecuted by indictment:
    • prison breach
    • motor vehicle theft
    • criminal harassment
    • sexual assault
    • kidnapping, forcible confinement
    • trafficking in persons – material benefit
    • abduction of a person under 14 (i.e., by a stranger)
    • theft over $5,000
    • breaking and entering with intent
    • being unlawfully in a dwelling-house
    • arson for fraudulent purpose.

A detailed backgrounder on Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes can be found on the Department of Justice Canada’s Web site.

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Department of Justice
June, 2012