The federal government took aim on Thursday at eliminating systemic racism in the legal system that is blamed for significant and widespread over-incarceration of vulnerable minorities.

Ottawa hopes to stop the unjust jailing of Black and Indigenous persons and help drug users avoid conviction by ending many mandatory minimum prison sentences, broadening conditional sentence guidelines and urging prosecutors and police to divert more cases away from court.

There was no shortage of back-patting rhetoric from Liberal ministers about the multi-faceted package of measures dubbed “bold and appropriate action” to address “the greatest challenge facing Canadians” … “a reset of the justice system.”

The Liberals maintained the individuals who will benefit are not “a menace to society.”

“Some people like to talk tough on crime, let’s instead be smart on crime,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said.

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Testimony on gaming is coming to an end at the Inquiry into Money Laundering with the main accusation in tatters that B.C. casinos were well-oiled machines for cleaning Dirty Money.

At worst, they may have been money-pits for proceeds of crime from crooks who liked to gamble, or those who borrowed money from criminals — both mostly losing the ill-gotten gains.

Attorney-General David Eby’s drive against a so-called “Vancouver Model” of organized crime with tentacles linking casinos, China, fentanyl and nefarious sleight-of-hand is sputtering in the face of facts.

By 2016, B.C. casinos were leading the global gaming industry in terms of anti-money-laundering measures.

The launching of a police investigation in 2015 together with new measures meant suspicious large cash transactions “fell off a cliff,” the inquiry heard.

Some players were prohibited from using cash, others had their use of cash restricted, players were also encouraged to use playing accounts, asked to declare the source of their funds, and B.C. Lottery Corp. investigators interviewed them about questionable activity.

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Wonder why the B.C. gambling regulator didn’t act a decade ago when some thought a tsunami of dirty money was beginning to swamp casinos?

The bureaucrat in charge of B.C.’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch considered it a ripple — tens of millions, perhaps, but still less than one per cent of the casinos’ annual $6 billion rake.

“In relation to the total buy-in, I did believe it to be small,” Doug Scott told the Cullen commission into money-laundering, referring to suspicious cash. Scott, a deputy minister, was manager of the enforcement branch from 2011 to 2013.

“It wasn’t the fact that it was small that made me think we didn’t need to take action,” he said, referring to his response to the potential threat. “What informed me … was (it was) small relative to the $6 billion or so.”

Even though he believed some of the suspicious cash was the proceeds of crime, the former Mountie didn’t think the RCMP cared — as there had been no enforcement and no prosecution for money laundering or proceeds of crime and ta dedicated enforcement unit had been disbanded in 2009.

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Former B.C. Lottery Corp. chairman and ex-cabinet minister Bud Smith was (expletive deleted) mad about the money-laundering debate and Attorney General David Eby’s response.

He fumed that the Crown corporation’s staff had been vilified, one viciously verbally assaulted on the street, a director berated at Thanksgiving dinner, the rest “having the bejesus kicked out of them” because of a lie — that BCLC was wilfully blind to dirty money in casinos.

“I’m going to be measured in what I say because, frankly, it’s one of the assertions that I and others have had to live with. And to not overstate it — it pisses me off in the extreme,” Smith told the inquiry into money laundering this week.

“It is an obnoxiously untrue statement. … It was really, really unsettling.”

He remained troubled.

“There was a narrative developed … it’s now received wisdom in B.C. by the overwhelming majority of the population that this took place. It’s not correct. No one, zero, as in nada, asked or directed or suggested or gave a wink or a nod or a nudge with their elbow or anything else that we should stand by or stand down from our responsibilities and increase revenue to government. Ever.”

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A third senior B.C. Lottery Corp. executive has poured scorn on consultant Peter German’s Dirty Money report at the Inquiry into Money Laundering.

Brad Desmarais, BCLC’s chief operating officer and a vice-president, said he was “shocked” and considered the report on massive amounts of cash being cleaned in B.C. casinos incredibly unfair and erroneous, partly because the incidence of suspicious cash transactions had “fallen off a cliff” between 2015 and 2017.

“There were a lot of challenges that arose out of that piece of work, and government’s blind acceptance of the recommendations was also a blow, ” Desmarais told the one-man commission triggered by German’s findings.

The 33-year-veteran of major crime investigations, many international, Desmarais said he believed there was a difference between money-laundering and proceeds of crime being spent by unwitting gamblers.

“We were constrained in responding to the criticisms of Dr. German’s report as well as some of the erroneous media stories that began to circulate about that time that caused morale to plummet in the organization and quite frankly our — I think with (Jim) Lightbody, myself and (Rob) Kroeker — our standing with the employees, because they would see these obviously false news reports and occasionally erroneous reports or comments from various members of government. They were looking to us to make it right. And we felt we couldn’t.”

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