White Collar Crime: The Classification System, Organized Crime, and Transnational Corporations

Here is a short essay that I wrote for my white collar crime class that proposed changes to help combat white collar crime which includes changes to the CSCs classification system, changes to the definition of organized crime, and lack of labour rights for employees of TNCs.

White Collar Crime: The Classification System, Organized Crime, and Transnational Corporations

 On September 20, 2011, The Toronto Star published an article entitled, “Tories roll nine bills into massive crime proposal” (MacCharles, 2011). This so-called tough-on-crime Conservative bill set out to target the alleged increasing street crime and violent crime. It has been argued by many Canadian experts that this bill was unnecessary and statistics indicate that crime rates, including violent crime and traditional street crime, has either decreased or remained the same since 1998 (Mackrael, 2011; Statistics Canada, 2009). Then earlier this year, the Honourable Vic Toews announces in a speech directed toward policing agencies to cut budgetary costs due to the fact that “over the last decade, the volume and severity of reported crime have both been on the decline.” One could argue that the Tories tough-on-crime agenda aided in these declines. However, as demonstrated earlier, crime rates have been reported at steady rates or declining since 1998. Perhaps the most alarming undertaking by the Tories’ agenda is its failure to protect Canadian society and its citizens from white-collar criminals. After careful review of the legislation that was affected or created by the infamous Safe Street and Communities Act, I propose the following changes to: the classification system used by Correctional Service of Canada, the definition of organized crime, and consider eliminating The Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act.

One of the changes to the Tories Omnibus Crime bill to combat white-collar criminals, which addresses the sentencing or lack thereof, is reforming the biases within the classification used by Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). Currently, the classification works as a grading scale that provides scores to inmates upon their intake to each individual institution (Correctional Service of Canada, 2012). For each item that is ticked off on this scale, the inmate may or may not receive a point, and for each increasing number of points received means an increasing risk or higher level of security that is needed for the inmate. Not one of the items listed on the classification are intended to protect society from white-collar criminals. For instance, as described by Friedrichs, white-collar criminals are middle-aged or older, maintain a middle to upper-class status, more likely to be employed, married, and have community group, and church affiliations (13-16). Some of the biases within the CSC’s classification include prescribing high scores to younger inmates, inmates with charges relating to assaults, inmates demonstrating instability within the streets, and inmates with prior convictions. The biases include it is classist and oppressive nature. The classification system targets those inmates who may or may not have street stability. In other words, this system targets inmates who are sentenced and who do not have a stable home, family, or are unemployed. Since white-collar criminals commit crime within an occupational context and are described, as indicated earlier, having a stable home and connections to the community, the current classification system should be altered so that it captures these types of criminals. In addition to this, the classification should be altered to include white-collar crimes (WCC) and not just offences that are violent in nature. One might argue that including WCC within this classification may harm individuals who are at-risk of being exploited within the prison system for not having a particular criminal past. However, it should be highlighted that the severity of white-collar crimes needs to begin to be taken seriously, and taking WCC seriously begins within the Correctional Service of Canada.

Another proposed change to the Tories Omnibus Crime bill is to change the definition of organized crime. While the initial bill targeted organized drug trafficking, it failed to target organized crime committed within a legitimate occupational context, which leaves Canada and its citizens to pay the bill via increasing costs within the justice system. The original omnibus crime bill had introduced changes to The Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act. This particular act sought to target organized crime as one of its aggravating factors (Department of Justice, 2012). However, after careful research of organized crime, not one definition of organized crime includes corporations. While one may argue that the definition of organized crimes as corporations are included since it includes outlaw motorcycle gangs, like the Hells Angels which is also a registered corporation (2008). However, it does not include corporations operating within a legitimate occupational context. Within a Canadian context, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has defined organized crime as “composed of three or more persons in or outside Canada; and, has as one of its main purposes…of one or more serious offences [that] would likely result in the direct or indirect receipt of a material benefit, including a financial benefit” (2011). The RCMP stressed in their definition that organized crime does not mean that “three [sic] of more persons that has formed randomly for the immediate commission of a single offence” (2011). Within this definition, the RCMP further stresses that organized crime includes popular international organized crime groups like “Asian, Eastern European, Italian, Latin American organizations, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and a variety of domestic groups” (2011). As such, I propose that the definition of organized crime be amended to include corporations operating within a legitimate occupational context for the commission of financial benefit (short-term or long-term) at the expense of its victim(s) whether it includes the victim’s physical, mental, emotional, or psychological health; the victim’s livelihood and financial well-being. In addition to this proposed change to the definition of organized crime, the definition must also include a violation of trust based on privilege or status held by those involved in the corporation or the corporation itself. This proposed definition of organized crime attempts to satisfy the principal attribution of “violation of delegated or implied trust” and also addresses the fact that WCC is described as a form of organized crime (Friedrichs, 2010). Since the omnibus crime bill received its assent, it has failed to address white-collar crime and this inclusion of the proposed definition may begin to be a step forward in the right direction in combating white-collar crime.

In addition to the proposed changes above, I would like to draw attention to the transnational corporations (TNCs) that commit white-collar crime in foreign countries but have business operations within Canada. While the Tories’ omnibus crime bill sought to bring attention to human trafficking, and in particular the exotic dancers who migrate to Canada, it failed to address the criminal acts committed against workers employed by TNCs in foreign countries. For example, in “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” (2005), the crimes committed against foreign workers while in their home country are documented. Unfortunately, these crimes in the documentary and others committed by TNCs tend to go unnoticed or unpunished. One of the changes within the omnibus crime bill included the enactment of the Preventing Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act. This act has been argued to have caused net-widening and targeting of migrant women who said they will turn to illicit, underground work once their licensing to be an foreign, exotic dancer expired (Godfrey, 2012). This would be one example of how the government turns a blind eye on the WCC committed against foreign workers in their home countries. Perhaps one of the solutions to WCC being committed against foreign workers in their home country would be to direct legislation that seeks to criminalize the practice of seeking cheap labour at the benefit of the lives of others. As Canadians, I believe, that we have a duty and an obligation to advocate for those who risk their lives for the benefit of Canadians and the products we use on a daily basis. In addition to this, our current government should not target those individuals who earn a livelihood, pay taxes, and should not legislate what jobs it considers to be degrading or dehumanizing, like exotic dancing.

Since receiving assent, the omnibus crime bill has set out to do what it was meant to do: target criminals, especially young people and already marginalized groups, and limit decisions of the judiciary with mandatory minimums. However, this bill has achieved all that it was meant to do at the expense of our Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Canadian Bar Association, 2011). Currently, there are six cases that are to challenge the omnibus crime bill at the Ontario Court of Appeal level and are predicted to go all the way to Canada’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada (The Windsor Star, 2012). Not only did this bill target already marginalized groups, but it also failed to address the crimes committed by the powerful and privileged. In fact, it can be seen as obscuring the crimes committed by the powerful and privileged, especially those crimes committed against foreign workers in their home countries. One might argue that the Tories are acting in their best interests. As highlighted in Trust Criminals, Friedrichs writes, “politicians have generally found it more attractive to attack street crime…than to attack the crimes of powerful corporations, which may be among their financial supporters” (31). Unfortunately, the Tories have acted in their best interests at the risk of Canadian citizens’ lives and already marginalized groups. With the proposed changes, there would be a shift in targeting already marginalized groups to targeting the powerful and privilege, which would help Canada to set the standard in setting an example in protecting its citizens from victimization and harm.

References

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