Canada
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    Profile

    Canada

    Capital

    Ottawa

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 1,736,425.63 million

    Income group

    High income

    Population

    37,593,384

    Area

    9,879,750 km²

    Geography type

    Coastal

    3.67

    Criminality score

    161st of 193 countries

    28th of 35 countries in Americas

    2nd of 2 countries in North America

    Criminal market

    3.45

    Human trafficking

    3.50

    Human smuggling

    4.00

    Arms trafficking

    2.50

    Flora crimes

    2.00

    Fauna crimes

    3.00

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    3.00

    Heroin trade

    5.00

    Cocaine trade

    3.50

    Cannabis trade

    3.00

    Synthetic drug trade

    5.00

    Criminal actors

    3.88

    Mafia-style groups

    5.00

    Criminal networks

    4.00

    State-embedded actors

    2.00

    Foreign actors

    4.50

    7.25

    Resilience score

    22nd of 193 countries

    2nd of 35 countries in Americas

    1st of 2 countries in North America

    Political leadership and governance

    7.50

    Government transparency and accountability

    7.00

    International cooperation

    8.00

    National policies and laws

    8.00

    Judicial system and detention

    7.00

    Law enforcement

    7.00

    Territorial integrity

    6.00

    Anti-money laundering

    6.50

    Economic regulatory capacity

    7.50

    Victim and witness support

    8.50

    Prevention

    6.00

    Non-state actors

    8.00

    7.25 3.88 3.45 7.25 3.88 3.45

    7.25

    Resilience score

    22nd of 193 countries

    2nd of 35 countries in Americas

    1st of 2 countries in North America

    Political leadership and governance

    7.50

    Government transparency and accountability

    7.00

    International cooperation

    8.00

    National policies and laws

    8.00

    Judicial system and detention

    7.00

    Law enforcement

    7.00

    Territorial integrity

    6.00

    Anti-money laundering

    6.50

    Economic regulatory capacity

    7.50

    Victim and witness support

    8.50

    Prevention

    6.00

    Non-state actors

    8.00

    Analysis

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    People

    Human trafficking is present in Canada and occurs primarily in the form of sexual exploitation and forced labour. A disproportionate percentage of sex-trafficking victims are indigenous women or women of descent, and the overwhelming majority of human-trafficking cases involving Canada consist of internal trafficking. While the COVID-19 pandemic has reportedly affected the nature of sex trafficking, it has not hindered the overall market. Transnational human trafficking, on the other hand, comes primarily in the form of forced labour.

    Canada is a transit country for individuals smuggled into the United States, often in groups based on ethnicity or origin. A significant percentage are Mexican and Romanian nationals, who do not require visas to enter Canada. Tighter restrictions along the US–Mexico border have increased this phenomenon. Smugglers primarily operate along Canada’s south-eastern border,operating as independent opportunistic actors or in organized networks.

    Trade

    Traditionally, the arms-trafficking market has relied heavily on imports from the US. While this continues to pose a threat, recent years have seen a surge in internal trafficking through the illicit sale of legally obtained firearms to criminals. Nevertheless, overall, the arms-trafficking market is not pervasive in the country; Canada is not a significant source country and the societal impact of the market is limited, with murder rates remaining low compared to other countries in the Americas.

    Environment

    Canada plays a role as both a transit and destination country in the transnational illegal wildlife trade. The polar-bear trade is legal only in Canada,where prices have increased exponentially over the last decade. Narwhal hunting, legal among Inuit populations, places the species at risk of overharvesting, and narwhal and walrus tusks are illegally sold in Europe and East Asia. Bear gallbladders, believed to have healing powers, are also trafficked to Asia. Seizures of illegally trafficked fauna and by-products (e.g. Dall sheep) have risen significantly in the last two years, and include serval cats, pythons, Asian donkeys and snakes intended for the pet trade. The country is also a destination country for illegal wildlife products, especially for trafficked turtles.

    Domestically, the illegal logging and timber trade is insignificant, largely due to strong legislation, policies, consumer choice and the monitoring of Canada's timber supply chain and ports by officials, but an illicit market for Canadian timber products and orchids has been reported in the US. With regard to non-renewable resource crimes, although artisanal mining exists, there are no illicit extractive industries. Canada holds a significant share of the international diamond market, reputed to be conflict-free and cleanly mined. However, gold from Venezuela is trafficked via neighbouring countries to refiners in Canada using false paperwork. Canadian multinationals are involved in environmental crimes and human-rights abuses worldwide, with a decades-long lack of accountability in Canada.

    Drugs

    Cannabis has been legalized in Canada for medical and recreational consumption, as has home-based cultivation for personal use. Many suppliers are government operated, with private enterprises involved in some provinces. However, commercial production fails to cover national demand, and legal cannabis is reportedly more expensive and lower in quality than illicit cannabis. As such, organized criminal groups continue to be involved in illicit cannabis production and sale. Domestic MDMA (Ecstasy) and crystal-meth production has surged, as has the importation of their chemical precursors. Synthetic-drug production is concentrated in greater Vancouver, where commercial marine ports are alsoused to import fentanyl from China, with heavy involvement by Chinese criminal networks and outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs). Fentanyl consumption and resulting deaths are rising, especially among heroin users, causing thousands of deaths annually – with cases of the two drugs being mixed.

    Heroin is smuggled in via marine ports, airports, and by post from Southern Asia and, to a lesser extent, Mexico. As with synthetic drugs, Chinese criminal networks are the predominant heroin traffickers on Canada’s western coast, while Middle Eastern criminal groups are allegedly more active in central provinces (e.g. Ontario and Quebec). Although domestic demand is limited (prescription drugs constitute the main opioid abuse), heroin-related emergency-room visits have risen exponentially, especially in Ontario. COVID-19 border closures have exacerbated heroin-related deaths due to market disruptions,causing a more unpredictable and toxic street supply. Cocaine imported from Latin America via the Caribbean and US is controlled by organized domestic and foreign criminal syndicates. Although cocaine is widely available in cities, and is thought to result in the highest state loss in terms of medical, security and productivity costs, consumption is low compared to countries of equivalent economic size, and the price of cocaine is higher.

    Criminal Actors

    Organized crime in Canada is dominated by over twenty mafia-style OMCGs,defined by brand names and symbols, the most prominent being Hells Angels and Outlaws. The former controls wholesale drug trafficking in various jurisdictions, and criminals pay a tax to operate in their territory. Besides the Hells Angels, OMCGs are highly localized and engage in illegal gambling, bookmaking, loan sharking, financial crimes, extortion, intimidation, drug dealing and trafficking, human trafficking, prostitution and the smuggling of weapons and cigarettes. Violence occurs periodically when gangs compete over territory. Foreign criminalactors of Latin American origin are active in Toronto and Montreal, as arethe ‘Ndrangheta, whose complex cell structure is aligned to familial groups in Italy. The 'Ndrangheta primarily engage in money laundering, as well as drug distribution and trafficking. The 2013 death of a clan leader led to a protracted power struggle and the assassination of a several prominent figures connected to the mafia. Asian actors, includingthe Triads, are involved inloan sharking, drug trafficking, and money laundering through casinos and real estate, and Vietnamese criminal groups operate in all large Canadian metropolises.

    Loose criminal networks are predominantly involved in drug trafficking, contraband cigarettes, gambling, counterfeiting, fraud, smuggling and human trafficking. The human-smuggling market features both organized criminal networks and opportunistic smugglers, the latter tending to be migrants themselves. There is little evidence of state-embedded actors, butthere are increasing attempts to corrupt officers, leading to a growth in the inflow of smuggled drugs and firearms.

    Leadership and governance

    Canada is among the most stable and least corrupt countries in the world. It enjoys strong rule of law, a comprehensive legislative framework and high levels of public trust. The government's organized-crime strategy is regularly reviewed by the National Coordinating Committee (NCC), and there are well-resourced justice frameworks, social services, public-awareness campaigns, andspecial law-enforcement units partnered with federal, provincial and territorial associates. Canada has ratified most international instruments countering organized crime, including those related to arms trafficking, the asset freezing of corrupt former foreign officials and extradition (with the US). Through its mutual legal assistance agreements, Canada may legally obtain court orders on behalf of participating countries, and domestic legal provisions are in place to address corporate criminal wrongdoing. A number of public platforms, such as the 'open government' website and Employment and Social Development Canada, provide open-access information on government actions and the spending of taxpayer funds.

    Due to the growing number of drug overdoses, Canada has also taken steps towards decriminalizing the possession of illegal drugs for personal use. However, political rhetoric has not always translated effectively into policies and implementation. For example, a federal firearmsban,prompted by increasing gun violence, contains loopholes allowing for the continued purchase of a wide variety of semi-automatic rifles. More can also be done to address the growth of gangs in aboriginal territories, as well as the long-standing marginalization of youth. Criticisms have emerged regarding the lack of transparency in the beneficial ownership of corporations and trusts, facilitating money laundering and rising house prices, especially in British Columbia.

    Criminal justice and security

    Although there are no specialized courts exclusively dedicated to organized crime, the Canadian judiciary appears to be effective, and is considered largely free from corruption. However, cases exist in which charges were dropped by prosecutors due to procedural mistakes or police refusal to disclose investigation techniques. While Canada's Association of Chiefs of Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP),the NCC and its Regional/Provincial Coordinating Committees all work to address organized crime, the results of cooperation and information-sharing agreements, policies and frameworks have been modest, with significant resourcing challenges andcompetition among law enforcement despite cooperation agreements. Canada lacks adequate infrastructure to monitor cross-border activities, and only a small fraction of all illicit drugs are detected. Widespread smuggling from China is facilitated by criminal-group members and associates active at marine ports. While cocaine smuggling from Mexico via official entry points at the Canadian–US border is increasing, the scale of illegal imports is limited considering the size of the border and the two countries’ economies.

    With regard to the state-run prison system, there have been cases of improper solitary confinement, accusations of torture, serious injury and deathcaused by correctional officials. Gang alliances and violence are a growing security challenge for penitentiaries and increase the likelihood of recidivism, with aboriginal criminal groups historically overrepresented in the system.

    Economic and financial environment

    Canada has a strong economic regulatory environment, as well as criminal and civil laws. Such measures have proved effective in governing natural resources, enabling legal businesses, and in resisting money laundering, corruption and terrorist financing. Nonetheless, the annual laundering of billions of Canadian dollars through casinos, real estate and banks by foreign criminal groups is attributed in part to lax enforcement and insufficient compliance with laws mandating the reporting of large cash or suspicious transactions. Crime proceeds invested in real estate are especially problematic in British Columbia, while in Toronto and Montreal there is evidence of criminal influence in the tow-truck industry.

    Civil society and social protection

    The Canadian government has a fairly robust framework in place to support victims of modern slavery, but there appears to be a deficit in police resources for victim services,and protocols to better meet the needs of women, children, indigenous or disabled victims. Canada has a National Office for Victims, providing a single point of contact for public enquiries and complaints, and federal law formally entrenches victims’ rights throughout the criminal justice system. Nevertheless, the victim’s role is often limited to providing evidence and a victim-impact statement. The RCMP has full-time Witness Protection Programme units across Canada, but while there is strong federal policy in place, application could be better. Many services are free, yet it is often up to the victim to make initial contact. Restrictive restitution guidelines make it difficult for victims to receive appropriate compensation, and when courts rule in a victim’s favour, acquiring retribution from the perpetrator often proves difficult.

    The media actively reports on issues related to organized crime in Canada, and the government is committed to the protection of civil society organizations and press freedom, both domestically and abroad. Although some advocacy groups focus on human trafficking, contraband cigarettes and drug trafficking, the state does little to encourage non-state-actor involvement in combating organized crime, except in the case of private-sector forensic accounting firms. These conduct investigations into financial crimes, either independently or on contract with law-enforcement agencies. While no national strategy focuses specifically on organized-crime prevention, public-education campaigns have been implemented to raise awareness (e.g. about consumer fraud and contraband cigarettes),and border communities are taught to spot and report smuggling. Some provincial policies allow licensed establishment owners to remove suspected gang members, but few communities actively combat organized crime.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.