The federal government needs to look beyond just law enforcement as a means to combat gangs that plague Manitoba and increasingly many First Nation reserves.
Ottawa has announced it will be giving police and prosecutors enhanced powers to tackle activities such as prostitution, illegal gambling, and drug trafficking. The changes will expand the list of what is considered a serious crime in the Criminal Code. Keeping a common bawdy house (for hookers), keeping a gaming or betting house and exporting, importing and producing illegal drugs will all be added to the list of serious crimes.
Manitobans and Winnipeggers are familiar with the reality of growing organized criminal organizations. Indian Posse. Mad Kowz. All of these organizations are being fuelled by illicit activities. Throughout the 1990s, Winnipeg was known as the gang capital of Canada, on a per capita basis.
Unfortunately, the federal government is often on the wrong side of the drug prohibition debate that may help in taking the profit out of gang activities. It appears that even Mexican President Calderon, leader of that country’s conservative party, has said he is open to a debate about the legalization of marijuana and other drugs as a means to take the wind out of drug cartels that profit from illegal drugs and commit violence along the border with the United States. More than 28,000 people have been killed by Mexico’s drug cartels since 2006.
Calderon would be joining other Latin American leaders in calling for this debate. Three former Latin American leaders, Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Fernando Cardoso of Brazil, have all called for a debate on the legalization of marijuana in order to undermine the income of the drug cartels. It was noted by authorities that about 70% of the income of these gangs comes from sales of illegal marijuana, which they turn around and use to purchase weapons to further their turf wars with competitors.
Law enforcement officials who support ending drug prohibition have also called upon President Barack Obama to engage in the debate about marijuana legalization.
The same goes for prostitution as current Canadian laws outlawing “common bawdy houses” prevents sex trade workers from accessing areas where they can be safe and under the law. Under existing laws, they are forced to solicit patrons in vehicles where they are unsafe.
It appears that we are behind on this debate and need to look to other jurisdictions for how they are responding to gang activities and prostitution. The instinctive response is to look to law enforcement for solutions.
Drugs, prostitution and illegal gambling are all activities that bring harm in many instances to individuals, families and communities and many feel they are immoral. But, one needs to look at the unintended consequences of prohibiting all these activities.
People will always want to do these things and criminals often reap the benefits because they can provide them at exorbitant prices and people will still pay.
By all means, discourage people from these activities and help them, but recognize that this requires sophisticated solutions, not just “get tough” measures.