Monday, September 19, 2011

Canadians: Don't Be Tricked by the "Safe Streets and Communities Act" - It's Omnibusted!

"I would love to have all you soft of crime guys come post after some one close to you was violated for ever. Why do you want criminals out early.

You look at the cost to society of keeping them in jail. No one mentions the cost to society of letting them out.
" - "Gambitdude2" on CBC Message Boards re: Harper's Omnibus Crime Bill

The above is just an example of some comments talking about "us Lefties letting criminals run rampant through our streets". Here's my response:

You're missing the whole point, Mandatory Minimum drug laws and much of the legislation laid out in the Tory Omnibus Bill are for *after* a criminal offense has already taken place. After. While Benjamin Franklins' famous quote "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" was actually fire-fighting advice, it also stands true as a way to fight crime. My bleeding heart doesn't need to "Hug a Thug" - it wants to divert people from becoming involved in the criminal justice system in the first place. That's not being "Soft on Crime", that's addressing the subject of crime realistically and proactively.

As we know, crime in Canada is at a historic 30 year low. If the Conservatives pour billions of hard earned taxpayer dollars during these tough economic times towards building new prisons and the astronomical budgets needed to operate these facilities (along with additional ballooning legal costs to persecute more Canadians entering the justice system, not to mention how much Provinces are going to have to pony up) it diverts funds away from true necessities like hospitals and health care, education, job creation, childcare, mental health supports, the environment, infrastructure, transit and other essential services that benefit all Canadians. The more educated, healthy, employed, industrious, productive and happy we are, the less likely our citizens will engage in criminal activity. This is being SMART on crime.

Anybody who believes every human will be "perfectly behaved" is fooling themselves. Of course Canadians are concerned about crime and we want to be safe where we live, work, go to school, play and socialize. Alas the reality is that no place on Earth ever has been or ever will be Crime Free because we are Human. We are a species driven by emotion - you'll be hard pressed to find someone who actually looks up the sentence of a criminal code violation before breaking a law. (You know it's true.)

History has shown throughout our whole existence people have committed crimes fueled by what they feel or by way of mental anguish or defect. No decree, police force or punitive law will stop this reality of Human Nature. Of course hurting others is not acceptable and those who victimize others physically and/or financially should face punishment, but it's reckless to drive crime policy based on fear and an absence of judicial discretion, Canadians deserve better than that! Our very own
Canadian Justice Department has concluded that Mandatory Minimums don't work, cost taxpayers dearly and fail at keeping people safer.

Obviously violent, dangerous offenders should be sought out by police and incarcerated - that is the most important utilization of law enforcement and our correctional system. You'll get no argument from me about keeping paedophiles and murderers like Paul Bernardo behind bars and off our streets, but we also must have the common sense to leave ideology, deceiving (Tough on Crime!) mantras and knee jerk reactions out of our legal system as all crime is not "equal".

We are smart enough (I hope!) to recognize that a couple of college kids growing 6 cannabis plants should not be lumped in with a bill that targets child molesters, (Seriously, read this about C-10:
Child rapist to get less time than pot grower, Incarcerated weed offenders to skyrocket) Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms legislates that sentences should be proportionate to an offense. The state of California has gone broke because of correctional spending, proving that locking up non-violent drug users and pizza thieves as long as gun-wielding carjackers is superfluous and does nothing to improve community safety. Why would we want to emulate such a disaster?!

I'm not the only one calling the Tories out on this, if this mish-mashed, rhetoric-laden, incoherent patchwork of an Omnibus(ted) Bill passes through Parliament let's say goodbye to our great country and prepare to suffer the harsh societal consequences of American-style "justice". Git 'er done!

And p.s. to "Gambitdude2" - I HAVE been a victim of crime.

UPDATE October 26th. 2011: Even Texas says to the Conservatives You're Doing It Wrong.

"Republican governors and state legislators in such states of Texas, South Carolina, and Ohio are repealing mandatory minimum sentences, increasing opportunities for effective community supervision, and funding drug treatment because they know it will improve public safety and reduce taxpayer costs," said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute.
"If passed, C-10 will take Canadian justice policies 180 degrees in the wrong direction, and Canadian citizens will bear the costs."

From the October 18th, 2011 edition of The National.
CBC's Terry Milewski discovers the Canadian government's crime policies - including the building of more prisons - are getting poor marks in Texas.
Please read the accompanying article for this story: Texas conservatives reject Harper's crime plan 'Been there; done that; didn't work,' say Texas crime-fighters

Here's more amazing articles recently published discussing the colossal failure that is Bill C-10:

Judge deems Harper's crime bill 'strain' on system:
"As Justice Bauman said, Parliament and the legislatures have a constitutional obligation to ensure that the judiciary, which is a separate and independent pillar of our government, is able to bring people to justice in a timely fashion and that citizens have access to justice.
Both the criminal and civil legal systems are cornerstones of a civil society and they are both in jeopardy."

The mandatory minimum mess:
"And remember the phrase "real property that belongs to a third party"? That's what a rented apartment is. Imagine a university student living in a rented apartment with her boyfriend, suggests University of Toronto criminologist Tony Doob. She grows a single marijuana plant. She rolls a joint for her and her boyfriend. And just like that she's a "trafficker" subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of nine months in jail.
Are these outcomes simple, clear, and predictable? Hardly. They're shocking as hell. But mandatory minimums have a nasty tendency to do that.
Remember the infamous case of the pizza thief sent to prison for life in California? The law didn't say "pizza thieves shall get a life sentence." The law said anyone convicted of a third felony would get a life sentence. Pizza theft is normally a misdemeanor. But that poor sap had committed previous felonies and a different law said that petty theft committed by anyone convicted of felonies must be prosecuted as a felony. So misdemeanor pizza theft became his third felony and he was sent to prison for life - an outcome almost everyone thought was insane."

Bill C-10 will create the prisoners to fill Conservative prisons:
"Bill C-10 is a massive piece of legislation of roughly 100 pages that rolls nine laws from organized and drug crime, to pardons, to child sex offenders, to migrants entering Canada and young offenders into a single omnibus law. The panel is focusing on how the bill's policy on mandatory minimum sentencing for selling, or even giving away a small amount of drugs, will criminalize a generation and attack some of the most vulnerable people in our society."

Harper's omnibus crime bill won't reduce victimization rates
"Lorraine Berzins worked in federal penitentiaries for 14 years and was the victim of a hostage-taking. As spokesperson for the Church Council on Justice and Corrections, she says the Harper tough-on-crime agenda “goes so much against all the evidence about what keeps communities safe, and it does so much harm, and they are going to spend so much money, that it’s really surprising that there isn’t more opposition.”
Steve Sullivan of Ottawa Victim Services (and erstwhile Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime) says “victims understand, better than most, that nearly all offenders will eventually be released from prison. . . . The best protection victims, their families, and the community will have is if the offender can learn to modify negative behavior before he or she is released.” In other words, rehabilitation programs are key.
In spite of eloquent pleas by victims’ advocates, the Harper government forges ahead with a retrograde, antediluvian and discredited approach to criminal justice. Its only “solution” for any and all crimes is a long prison sentence."
Safe Streets and Community Act Will End Real Justice:
"Some of my fellow criminal lawyers have cynically pointed out that ultimately we lawyers alone will benefit from the draconian mandatory sentences that are attached to the new legislation. We will now be able to look clients in the eyes and say, "Well, why should you plead? There is no upside to 'making a deal.' Let us put the government up to task and let them prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not as if the judge will have any discretion in sentencing even if you were allegedly carrying on in the spirit of Mother Teresa!"

Quebec National Assembly calls for withdrawal of Bill C10:
"The motion, presented by the Parti Québécois, but winning the support of the Charest government and all parties and independents present, says Bill C-10 goes against the values of Quebecers."

From the Church Council on Justice and Corrections: CCJC Bulletin – Omnibus Bill:
"The CCJC urges everyone to actively and vocally express their concerns about Bill C10. Let us not by our silence condone the suffering of others."
and Will the Omnibus Bill Bankrupt Canada?:
"The government’s Parliamentary Budget office projected the increase costs related to just one of bills would be more than five billion dollars – more than doubling current expenditures for the corrections system alone. Furthermore, he revealed that the provinces and territories would have to contribute the largest proportion of the increase."
More from the Globe & Mail: Coalition of churches condemns Ottawa’s justice plan:

And lastly, Leadnow has created an email campaign for Canadians:

"The good news is that more and more Canadians are speaking out and public opinion is close to a decisive shift. We need to strengthen each other’s voices to show the Conservative government that they must choose a better path, or pay a serious political cost for a cruel Crime Bill that will make Canada a meaner and more dangerous place."

"Our Conservative government is trying to rush through a cruel Crime Bill with mandatory sentences that will fill new prisons. Even conservative Texans think the Crime Bill is too harsh, costly and ineffective. Send a message to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to stop the Crime Bill from making Canada meaner and more dangerous."

Read the rest here and send your letter easily, so far over 15 000 Canadians have!

And just out today: Canada's homicide rate declines to 44-year low

I will continue to add story links as they are published. Funny that we're not seeing many articles in support of the bill. Where are they, Conservatives?


*The Church Council on Justice and Corrections ( a national faith-based coalition of eleven founding churches incorporated in 1972. We promote community responsibility for justice with an emphasis on addressing the needs of victims and offenders, mutual respect, healing, individual accountability, and crime prevention. It is primarily by education and community development initiatives that we foster healthier communities and crime prevention through social responsibility. CCJC has demonstrated in publications, pilot projects and numerous other initiatives how to strengthen community through its understanding that real justice requires the pursuit of wholeness for all. We work with both multi-faith and non-religious partners and have achieved international recognition for our contributions to creative thinking about criminal justice.

This post was updated/edited October 26th 2011.


  1. I find it odd that nobody in the government has thought about the fact that crime rose when marijuana became illegal. It wasn't until then that we had much more crime, probably due to the fact the last thing any of us want to do is rob a store or kill someone when we're high lol

  2. "The Senate was intended also to provide "sober second thought" on legislation (though the Commons has passed very few bills that even the Senate could consider radical) and to protect minorities"

    Bill C-10's implementation of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences *is* radical, and yet the Senate has approved MMS legislation twice, already, since harper has been PM! (Bills C-15 and S-10)

    FACT: ALL previous MMS legislation died on the order paper ***because of Stephen Harper***, not because of obstruction by opposition

    * Bill C-26 died due to election call by Harper;

    * Bill C-15 died due to Harper proroguing Parliament;

    * Bill S-10 died due election, precipitated by Conservative Cabinet being found in contempt, for not providing cost estimates to implement its MMS legislation.

    Keep up the good work, MJC!


  3. very interesting post and also interesting posts by other users, thanks for sharing.


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