Research Compilation “Gang Violence in Canada”

The Topic Overview

In the recent years, there has been a growing concern among scholars and criminal justice experts to understand the pertinent issue of gang violence. The ongoing criminology research continues to reshape the conceptual framework in the study of the organized crime by gangs. Although this paper studies the phenomenon of gang violence in the Canadian perspective, it is evident from the empirical research information that the societal challenge is a global issue. The cultural transmission theories believe the formation of gangs is as a result of assimilation of varied cultures in the light of continued globalization. Social conflict theorists believe the formation is due to ethnic inequality in the society Boyd (2014).

The violence sparked by the organized criminal gangs include robberies, car thefts, committing homicides, assassinations, drive-by shooting and soliciting cash from enterprise owners. Boyd (2014) conceptualizes crime not only in the law breakage perspective but also as the violation of societal norms. Criminal gang activities also bring about gender-based violence that is detrimental to women in society. It is critical to note that violent gangs do not only operate in urban areas but also in the remote parts of Canada. Boyd (2014) makes it clear the members of the young generation at at-risk of joining gangs majorly with the motives of money, power, respect and a sense of belonging. Many of the gang members comprise of youths that are aged below 18. In fact, a substantial number falls between the ages of 16 to 18 years of age.

The paper provides a deep evaluation of the formation and operation of the gangs. It also highlights the impacts that society faces as a result of the activities of the gang members. The paper also advances several community-based approaches that could help society address the violence instigated by gangs.

Listening in to Gang Culture

It is essential to start off by understanding what makes up a gang. Scholars have for a long time differed on the definition of a gang. According to Beare and Hogg (2013), a gang is an ‘interstitial group with the radical formation and integrated through events of conflict’. It implies that the members meet face to face, carry out coordinated attacks and have leadership ranks. Gangs also have rules that ensure continued brotherhood through loyalty as well as values and norms strictly upheld by members.  They have manpower as well as weapons to accomplish their aspirations. Activities such as street shooting amplified by media coverage beget outstanding motivation and respect from the community.

The study by Beare and Hogg (2013) is relevant to the Canadian gang contest since it recognizes gang violence as the tip of the iceberg of the societal challenges geared towards the realization of economic power. It is idealistic to link the gang violence problem to the community approach. In essence, the perspective aims at minimizing uptake of the youths into the gang culture. Gangs are a complicated societal issue that the Canadian authorities cannot easily eradicate through a series of arrests. Notably, arrests would not be sufficient to subdue violence. The aspect of gang violence is interwoven with other critical factors such unemployment, alienation and drug trafficking amongst others. Consequentially, more research is necessary to evaluate the social anthropological factors surrounding the formation, organization, and operations of the gangs in the contemporary society.



Ideal Philosophy to Address Gang Violence

According to Ezeonu (2014) the formation of the Canadian gang differs from that of the United States that follows the theory of social conflict. It implies that the Canadian gang formation is not racial based on marginalized youths. From the empirical research studies, it is clear that gang violence is a public security challenge in the Canadian cities, for instance, Toronto. As gang violence continues to attract authority ad scholarly interest in Canada, the techniques, nature, and organization of the gang undergo a change with time. Conventional gangs are run differently in comparison to the classical gangs of the mid and late 20th century. Although money, belonging and respect are the key motives, complexities within the gangs outlay is evident. For instance, the chains of command have undergone transformation and capturing of a gang leader does not end its operations.

Ezeonu (2014) faults the ‘failed’ attempts to address the gang problem by the justice and law enforcement departments. The police philosophy of enforcing the criminal organization laws is misplaced. By focusing on groups as opposed to individuals, many gang members are rounded up, convicted, and some are let go while others face jail terms. The gangs get reinforcement within the prison system and consequently turn more brutal and unsympathetic. It is of profound importance to understanding how and why the gangs operate so as to mitigate the gang-induced violence in society. Ezeonu (2014) acclaims the use of participant observation that has been useful in the US perceptive such as on the ‘Brotherhood of Outlaw Bikers’.

The study has profound relevance by outlining a suitable approach to understand and counter gang-related violence. It is correct to assert that Canadian gangs differ in some ways to the US counterparts that are the most researched in the world. Going by the resource allocation by the Canadian criminal justice system to address the gang problem, one affirms that it is a great challenge in the modern society. Policymakers should thus not undermine the gang violence problem but reshape policies to better combat the problem.

The Public Safety Canada’s Perspective

According to Erikson, LaBoucane-Benson, and Grekul (2007), it is possible to take a societal approach to minimize the violent action of gangs in Canada. The report cites that years after the launch of the Community Solution to Gang Violence (CSGV) project, it is optimistic that the project is ideal to address the issue. The project anchors on three objectives of enhancing community responsibility, formulation of community network support and fostering positive youth development.

The CSGV project seeks to create the community initiatives to encounter the differential association theory. Project handlers believe that they would win back the ‘brainwashed’ youths who have joined gangs. Contrary to the strain theory, using violence to gain societal respect and power is totally unacceptable. The project thus de-radicalizes the youths and integrates them into the society.   Erikson, LaBoucane-Benson and Grekul (2007), argue that gang violence completely terrifies and fascinates the community. Young people get attracted to such motives through violent behavior and carrying weapons to schools. Communities crave for safety in the neighborhoods. Governments struggle to develop policies to restore order and families get dismayed by the ruthless nature of the terror gangs.

The CSGV is thus an ideal way to mobilize all individual at all levels through initiatives to form long-term solutions to the gang violence problem. The holistic approach focuses on putting the young people on the recovery path within the scope of the resources of the community. It is a multifaceted project that when effectively implemented it builds the community values and fosters leadership for long-term success. It creates a clear vision of where the community intends by focus attention on individuals, not on the gang generalization (Erikson, LaBoucane-Benson & Grekul 2007).

The Case Study

According to Smith-Moncrieffe, NCPC, and PSC (2012), the sustained effort to free youths from gang-related violence has yielded many fruits. The report cites few cases that involved detachment from the gangs due to the rehabilitative programs in place in transforming youths. In one of the cases the Regina Anti-Drug Services (RAGS) project transformed Anthony, a 26-year-old street gang member. With a father who lived a gang life, it was hard for Anthony to forego the life of drugs, violence, and the imminent jail life.

Anthony confesses that drugs made him quit school only three months in the grade 12. With the mother dead and father in prison, joining the gang was the only solace. Anthony had greatly admired gangster life and quitting school provided the opportunity to do so. From weed, Anthony progressed to cocaine and other hard drugs. After ‘conversion’, Anthony realized the true self and saw the better part of the life without constant worry of the police and criminal justice system.

The success story of Anthony is a qualitative case study that potential members of gangs should emulate to make a turnaround in their lives. After serving the gang for a dozen years, Anthony made a substantial effort together with the RAGS reformists to alienate the life of a gang member. Smith-Moncrieffe, NCPC & PSC (2012) report that such cases like that of Anthony, mobilize positive behavior, social skills and the ability to shun violence and be a productive member of the society. Later after the Reformation, Anthony could sustain employment to provide to provide income for the wife and three children. Truly as Beare & Hogg (2013) sum up, the gangs culture needs a listening ear from the society.


Modern criminology studies attempt to uncover much information concerning the challenge of gang violence in Canadian cities. Many research studies view that gangs are organized entities with street codes, values and norms and leadership ranks. The members execute violent tasks with precise coordination and skill. As the law enforcement tightens, so does the techniques and operations of the gangs evolve. Contrary to the conventional notions that eliminating gang leaders could ease violence and destabilize their structures, modern gangs survive through such ordeals. It is essential for the concerned parties in addressing gang operations to take an individual perspective in addressing the gang violence.

Another key factor in addressing the phenomenon is the recruitment process. Many times, youths lacking adequate family support or in desperate need for cash opt to join such gangs to ‘get a life’. Additionally, it is not easy for a member to easily defect from the gang due to strict rules that bind the ‘brotherhood’. In many cases, the gang views defective members as traitors. Since organized crime has links to the aspect of drug trafficking, it might be difficult for one to give easily up drugs and quit the gang.

In the same vein, many scholars view the community-based approaches as ideal in addressing the gang violence. In Canada, programs such as the Community Solution to Gang Violence (CSGV) launched in 2003 have been helpful in saving many youths from gang-related violence. Furthermore, Regina Anti-Drug Services project is also a community approach that has helped reform youths hooked on drugs and affiliated to gangs. All in all, gang violence poses significant security risks, and a therapeutic approach best complements the apprehension approach. The approach to addressing the violent activities of street gangs should focus on individuals and not in generalized on groups.













Beare, M., & Hogg, C. (2013). Listening in…to Gang Culture. Canadian Journal Of Criminology And Criminal Justice55(3), 421-452.

Boyd, N. (2014). Understanding crime in Canada: An introduction to criminology. Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications.

Erickson, K., LaBoucane-Benson, P., & Grekul, J. (2007). The Community Solution to Gang Violence: A Collaborative Community Process and Evaluation Framework (pp. 1-82). Ottawa: Public Safety Canada. Retrieved from

Ezeonu, I. (2014). Doing gang research in Canada: navigating a different kaleidoscope. Contemporary Justice Review17(1), 4-22.

Fleury, É., & Fernet, M. (2012). An exploratory study of gang-affi liated young men’s perceptions and experiences of sexuality and gender relations. The Canadian Journal Of Human Sexuality21(1), 1-16.

Smith-Moncrieffe, D., NCPC, & PSC,. (2012). Youth Gang Prevention Fund Projects. What did we learn about what works in preventing gang involvement? (pp. 1-25). Ottawa: NCPC.


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