In last week’s edition of The Voice Magazine, I wrote about the role that the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians play in keeping the promise of Canada alive and well. All that was remaining was to explore “national” security through a provincial lens; that path went through the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and their Intelligence and Organized Crime Committee, and the Criminals Intelligence Service Ontario, but it was brief and eventually looped back to the federal level, with Criminal Intelligence Service Canada.
“Ontario’s” Intelligence and Organized Crime Committee
The Intelligence and Organized Crime Committee (the Committee) is a committee created by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP), and it is comprised of high-ranking members in the field of law enforcement, but under the Committee’s “Leadership” section, it only listed the Committee’s Chair, a member of the Ontario Provincial Police, and no other members.
The Committee’s mandate is to focus on supporting the efforts of police services in Ontario in combating organized crime by raising awareness of the impacts of organized crime communities and engaging in advocacy with government and other partners on behalf of police organizations. The Committee has partnerships with government, law enforcement organizations, community organizations and other public sectors to identify and promote law enforcement and intelligence-led strategies, all related to anti-organized crime initiatives including engaging in public policy and legislative discussions.
What makes this Committee even more interesting is that the OACP has 1,200+ members who serve with the RCMP, OPP, First Nations, and Municipal Police Services across all of Ontario, and organizations in the field of law enforcement from the public and private sector, and that the only way to join is if you get “sponsored” by an OACP member that is in good standing. However, there is also a membership fee associated with that process.
The fact that there is a membership fee associated with a professional association should not come as surprise because all professional associations require their members to pay fees, but the nuances between paying for a membership and having a “committee” that liaises with policy makers and different levels of policing agencies when comes to intelligence and organized crime matters seems off. Nonetheless, the OACP had some impressive advocacy-related asks.
In 2018 the OACP advocated for information sharing between police and non-police entities, then, in 2020, they advocated for the urgent replacement of the Automated Criminal Intelligence Information System (ACIIS) for law enforcement in Canada, and in 2021 they repeated their 2020 ask for the urgent replacement of the ACIIS for law enforcement in Canada. The OACP seemed to believe there were gaps with the functionalities of ACIIS. So, what was this “ACIIS” technology and who was behind it?
The Automated Criminal Intelligence Information System—Who is Behind it
The ACIIS is a Canadian database that was created in 1976 by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) and it serves as a national intelligence repository for policing agencies across Canada on organized and serious crime. All policing agencies contributed to the database by cooperating with one another in the collection, collation, evaluation, analysis, and dissemination of criminal intelligence. However, there are three categories of use, with category 1 being policing agencies with full policing powers, category 2 being agencies with limited policing responsibilities, and category 3 which were agencies that were without direct policing powers but who assisted policing agencies.
In the early 2000s, CISC adopted a three-module structure to how they carried out provincial threat assessments. The first module focused on strategic threat assessments focusing on things like legitimate or environmental drivers, criminal linkages a person may have, organized crime groups, criminal markets, criminal harms, forecast, and recommendations. The second module focused on organized crime group inventory and having inventories on all or a specific number of significant criminal groups operating within their respective province, as well as a national strategic group inventory to determine significant, inter-provincial, national, and international-level crime threats like group sizes, group associations, business associations, criminal activities, sources of support, and ports of entry. The third module focused on tactical profiles of organized crime groups or individuals and having integrated threat assessments: tactical profiles on groups or individuals engaged in organized and serious crime, including details such as personal data, position and influence, capabilities, criminal background, finances, and vulnerabilities and opportunities. These modules were intended to ensure a more consistent approach to national assessments of organized crime and to allow for more standardized comparisons between provinces.
In the grand scheme of things, CISC was supposed to support the efforts to reduce the harm caused by organized crime through the delivery of criminal intelligence products and services, informing partners, government, and other stakeholders about criminal markets in Canada. CISC’s executive committee was comprised of 20 Chiefs of Police and RCMP Commanding Officers from across Canada and chaired by the Commissioner of the RCMP.
CISC had a national bureau that was responsible for the delivery of criminal intelligence products and services as well as the maintenance of a criminal intelligence databank on organized crime, but it also had 10 provincial bureaus, including Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, which operated independently and with a focus on activities within their respective provinces and the collection, analysis and production of criminal intelligence and services, which would get submitted to the national bureau to carry holistic threat assessments.
In addition to ACIIS, CISC also published a yearly report on organized crime in Canada, and it was the only national public report on organized crime by law enforcement, with its goal being to inform and educate the public on the effect of organized crime as it affects every community and region in Canada. So, I turned to the RCMP and requested a copy of CISC’s latest report on organized crime, “Criminal Intelligence Service Canada 2022 Public Report on Organized Crime in Canada”.
The 2022 Public Report on Organized Crime in Canada
The RCMP provided me with CISC’s 2022 Public Report on Organized Crime in Canada, and the 17-page report is quite the read. The report found that there were over 3,000 organized crime groups in Canada, and 647 of those groups were deemed significant enough to get legitimized by CISC. Out of the 647 groups, 14 were assessed as national high-level threats, 149 were assessed as medium-level threats and 484 were assessed as low-level threats.
CISC’s integrated threat assessment tool was what was used to score organized crime groups on 9 criterions: public sector infiltration, private sector infiltration, association to other crime groups, technological capabilities, geographical positioning, criminal enterprise, specialized skills, money laundering, and use of violence. It is important to note that there were other ranking systems in place that would further classify organized crime group threats and make distinctions between the threats they posed at the provincial level and federal level.
The statistics related to Canada’s public sector identified Canada as one of the least corrupt countries and it rated very low for public sector corruption, but it found that 4% of organized crime groups (29) were believed to have influence or access within Canadian public sector agencies or departments. This access was primarily at the local and regional level, but it was also believed that some groups were leveraging the benefits of this access for interprovincial and international criminal activities. The big shock in all of this is that 57% of the groups were reported to have “unknown” involvement in public sector infiltration and that was attributed to underreporting due to investigative sensitivities. However, government leaks and security breaches are very low, and infiltration was believed to be limited.
The statistics related to Canada’s private sector identified that 41% of organized crime groups were linked to 1,682 businesses and 30% of these businesses were being leveraged to control or direct private sector businesses within various sectors and used to further criminal activities. The primary business sectors linked to these groups were food and beverage services, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, construction, auto dealerships, arts, entertainment, and recreation, and even finance and insurance. Out of these businesses, those associated with transportation and warehousing sector, would facilitate the movement of drugs and other contraband while those associated with finance and insurance would facilitate financial crimes like fraud and money laundering.
When it came to national high-level threat groups and key facilitators, there were 14 threat groups and 15 key facilitators and they were based in British Columbia (12), Ontario (10) Quebec (6) and Alberta (1). These high-level threats had networks that extended across Canada and even internationally: North America (14), Central America and the Caribbean (11), Asia (9), South America (6), Europe (5), Africa (2), and Australia (1). To further their criminal activities, these high-level threats were involved in exploiting the private sector (24), illegal gaming (11), drug importation (8), fraud (4), illicit cannabis (3), and public sector infiltration (1).
More investigative work is required
Now, what seemed a little strange was that the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police seemed to have taken issue with Criminal Information Service Canada’s 2021-version of the Automated Criminal Intelligence Information System, and given the scariness of the 2022 public report on organized crime in Canada, it was important to determine if this position was one that was shared across Canada and by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and perhaps determining where they stood on matters related to national security and organized crime. Those details and more will be in my final installment of this series, hopefully available in the next edition of The Voice Magazine.