Pierre Poilievre is promising to establish mandatory minimum prison sentences for criminals convicted of extortion, including tougher punishments for people who use firearms to extort others or act on behalf of gangs.
The federal Conservative leader made the announcement Friday in Surrey, B.C.
"We will bring in jail, not bail, for repeat, violent extortionists," Poilievre said.
If elected, Poilievre said his government will establish a mandatory minimum sentence of three years for anyone convicted of extortion.
His announcement took aim at the Liberal government's decision in 2022 to eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences, which the government said was part of its commitment to fight systemic racism.
Bill C-5 repealed a portion of the Criminal Code which had a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for someone convicted of extortion with a restricted or prohibited firearm, or for using a firearm and acting on behalf of a criminal organization.
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Poilievre promised that any convicted extortionist who acts on behalf of gangs or organized crime will face a minimum sentence of five years.
"We need to crack down on the gangsters that prey on vulnerable youth, and my proposals will put these gangsters behind bars," Poilievre said.
Poilievre said the Conservative Party will restore the repealed minimum sentence for extortion with firearms but will set the sentence at four years instead of the previous five.
CBC News reached out to Poilievre's office to ask about the one year difference but did not receive a response by publication time.
Canadian cities report rising extortion threats
Across the country, multiple municipalities are reporting a rising number of extortion threats in their communities.
On Tuesday, RCMP charged a man in Nigeria over the death of a 14-year-old boy from Surrey. Police allege the boy was tricked into sending intimate images, then told to pay money or send more images to prevent the photos from being distributed more widely.
Last month, the mayors of Brampton, Ont. and Surrey, B.C. sent a letter to the federal government asking for help to create a multi-jurisdictional strategy to combat extortion in their cities.
Both mayors said they were particularly concerned about rising threats toward South Asian businesses.
"Their sense of safety has been pierced," said Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown.
Police in Edmonton also said their city's South Asian community is being targeted by alleged extortionists. Officers have charged six young men in connection to a series of events — including acts of extortion and arson — that police claim are linked to a scheme orchestrated in India.
Mixed rulings on legality of minimum sentences
In 2023, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that some mandatory minimum sentences are constitutional, including a five-year minimum sentence for committing a robbery with a prohibited firearm.
But in a separate decision released the same day, the court ruled a minimum sentence of four years that was imposed on a person convicted for firing a gun into a building was unconstitutional.
Poilievre said that all of his proposals "are Charter-proof. They respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and we want laws that respect the rights of all Canadians, including and especially victims of crimes."
"We know the courts will uphold our proposals today. We'll make sure of it," he added.