By Allison Jones - Monday, February 18, 2013 - 0 Comments
TORONTO – A small group of people might be harmed by mandatory minimum sentences…
TORONTO – A small group of people might be harmed by mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes, but Parliament is entitled to deference in how it tries to enhance public safety, the federal government argues.
The point is one of many Ottawa is making in support of the thorny issue of mandatory minimums, as Ontario’s highest court gets set to hear a number of landmark cases.
A special five-judge panel of the Court of Appeal for Ontario will consider the constitutionality of minimum sentences for several gun-crime laws in six cases that are set to be heard together from Tuesday to Friday.
By Keven Drews - Friday, January 4, 2013 at 3:57 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – A British Columbia judge has concluded the federal government’s mandatory-minimum sentence for…
VANCOUVER – A British Columbia judge has concluded the federal government’s mandatory-minimum sentence for the possession of a loaded and prohibited firearm is arbitrary and fundamentally unjust and has the potential to violate a person’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
The ruling is the latest across the country from judges who believe the law forcing them to impose a three-year minimum prison sentence in all such cases violates the charter.
It comes as the Ontario Court of Appeal prepares to hear several separate cases together next month on the topic in an effort to come up with a uniform ruling. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 6:15 PM - 0 Comments
After meeting with Rob Ford, Stephen Harper challenges the courts.
Reporter: Just changing the topic slightly, a lot of discussion in recent days about the most recent Toronto gun shootings, coming … Sorry. Most of the guns involved in the recent Toronto shootings come from the US. Border … the union representing border officials are saying that government cuts will make it harder to stop illegal guns from entering the country. How would you respond to that?
Stephen Harper: In fact, quite the opposite is the case. This government, through particularly our Beyond the Border action plan with the United States is literally investing hundreds of millions of additional dollars in security along our border. It is one of three principal things that we are doing as a government to try and deal with crime, and in particular, gun crime. One is of course much tougher penalties for gun offences. As you know, we’ve passed a number of things through the federal Parliament. Some of those things are before the courts. Some courts have been attempting to strike down some of the tough sentences we’ve imposed. I think these events in Toronto underscore why these penalties are essential, why it is essential to have tough and certain penalties for gun crime. I’m pleased that all three levels of government have supported those kinds of initiatives, and I certainly call on the courts to take these penalties seriously. This is not a theoretical problem. That’s one of the things we’re doing. Also, of course, on the enforcement side, we’ve got a bill before Parliament right now, C-43, to make it easier to deport those who, non-citizens who involve themselves in criminal activity in this country. I also mentioned, of course, that we do have increasingly integrated law enforcement programs with the United States to try and deal with the gun problem. As you know, most of the illegal guns that are used here do come from south of the border, and that is a number one priority of our cross-border initiative with American authorities. The third thing we’re doing, of course, is we also do invest in young people and in communities, and in programs that will try and encourage alternatives to gun and to gang activity.
Below is Mr. Harper’s response when asked specifically about his meeting with the Toronto mayor. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 4, 2012 at 1:53 PM - 0 Comments
The Associate Minister of Defence and former Toronto police chief comments on this weekend’s shooting at the Eaton Centre.
“Some of these people obviously need to be taught a lesson,” Mr. Fantino said. “We haven’t been able to effectively get their attention. That’s why some of some of these sentences, severe sentences and mandatory sentences are absolutely critical.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 21, 2011 at 2:36 PM - 4 Comments
Yesterday afternoon, Conservative MP Brian Jean stood just before Question Period to share some news with the House.
Mr. Speaker, members will be shocked to know that the CBC has not corrected the record on its misleading report from Monday night. It failed to inform Canadians about the drug treatment court exemption in our government’s safe streets and communities act. Today the Quebec Bar Association confirmed that it supports the important drug treatment court exemption in Bill C-10 for those who are seeking treatment for their addictions.
It’s impossible to apply an asterisk to words as they are spoken and Hansard doesn’t include footnotes, but, in case you were wondering, here is the story of that third sentence. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 1:23 PM - 70 Comments
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson responds to the concerns of the Canadian Bar Association.
“From coast to coast one thing is clear, Canadians want to see their communities as safe places to live, raise their families and do business. We have listened to Canadians and with the strong mandate we have received, we’ll continue to act on their behalf,” he said.
In case Conservative voters did not fully understand the significance of their ballot, the government has been very specific in the few months since May’s election, invoking their mandate to explain back to work legislation for Canada Post, job cuts at the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, reducing the corporate tax rate, cuts to Audit Services Canada, the consolidation of search and rescue resources, a $600 increase in the guaranteed income supplement, the end of the Canadian Wheat Board, the elimination of the long-form census, Senate reform, the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act, back to work legislation for Air Canada employees, the Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act, free trade, tourism, war in Libya, the elimination of the per-vote subsidy, sales tax harmonization with the provinces, cuts to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency as well as meaningful and thoughtful House debate.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 12:56 PM - 82 Comments
From their scrum yesterday, Michael Ignatieff and Mark Holland explain the Liberal side’s decision to oppose Bill S-10.
Ignatieff: We’ve taken a long hard look at S-10, this mandatory minimum proposal of the government. We’ve tried to amend it, to no avail. It’s going to add huge amounts of money to Canadian prison costs. It’s going to target young – young people, you know, a guy who gets messed up with Tylenol 3 or has six marijuana plants, gets a mandatory minimum. We just think this is not the right way to go for Canadian justice policy. It follows a failed American model so we’re going to vote against it.
Holland: Canadian churches, Canadian health care providers and those on the front lines of stopping crime and stopping victimization in this country say this bill won’t work. And this bill will burden us with billions of dollars in new costs for prisons. It will send us down the same path California walked, the same path that the United Kingdom is now trying to undo. We simply can’t afford it. It will crush us. It will steal from priorities like health care and education and at the end of the day make our communities less safe.
Of note: when Parliament resumed business last month, the Conservatives vowed that no votes, aside from the budget, would be considered matters of confidence.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 11:47 AM - 31 Comments
Two weeks ago, a group representing 11 religious denominations expressed its objections to the government’s justice program. Now, it’s a group of 500 health professionals that is registering its concern.
“We, the undersigned, are concerned that the federal government is pursuing significant amendments to federal drug legislation, through Bill S-10, which are not scientifically grounded and which research demonstrates may actually contribute to health and social harms in our communities,” the health professionals say in the letter.
They say there is no evidence that mandatory minimum sentences will reduce drug use or deter crime, that the sentences would have a disproportionately negative impact on young people and members of Canada’s aboriginal communities, and that they would have a negative impact on public health and HIV rates.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 4:16 PM - 77 Comments
Harper is right that certainty, not severity, deters crime. But that “certainty” is not the “certainty” of getting prison time when you stand in front of a judge to hear your sentence. It’s the certainty of getting caught. Sentencing? Is Harper serious? At the time someone is contemplating a crime, sentencing is a vague notion far away in a distant future that the would-be criminal seldom considers because — please note — would-be criminals tend to be impulsive people who do not consider the future consequences of their actions… even if they know what the sentence for a crime is, which they probably don’t because would-be criminals also tend to be badly educated and poorly informed.
Oddly enough, Mr. Harper’s Justice Department has so far been unable to provide any evidence that suggests mandatory minimums deter crime (or, for that matter, that the sentences it is legislating differ from the sentences that are already being enforced).
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 1, 2010 at 11:45 AM - 25 Comments
The Hill Times discovers that Rob Nicholson was vice-chair of a Parliamentary committee that, in 1988, advised against pursuing mandatory minimums. Mr. Nicholson’s director of communications attempts to explain the distance between that report and the Justice Minister’s current rhetoric.
Geneviève Breton, Mr. Nicholson’s (Niagara Falls, Ont.) director of communications, said in an email to The Hill Times that the justice system and the drug world are different than they were 22 years ago, and therefore the government’s response has also changed …”Parliament is expected to draft and enact laws that clearly articulate the legislators’ intent, which is reflective of the values of the citizens who elected them. It is the role of the legislator to give guidance to the judiciary on maximum penalties, as well as on minimum penalties. For certain offences, our Government firmly believes that a minimum period of incarceration is justified,” Ms. Breton stated.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 1:57 PM - 45 Comments
Our John Geddes looks at the government’s crime policies.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson doesn’t offer up any departmental research at all to support the Tories’ major law-and-order thrust. Nor does Nicholson rely on reports by independent experts to buttress his case for telling judges how long they must lock up criminals for a slew of offences. Instead, in response to requests from Maclean’s for any analysis or data justifying the new minimum sentences, his office produced a 1,000-word memo explaining the policy. It candidly admits that research doesn’t offer persuasive evidence that mandatory minimum penalties, called MMPs for short, reduce crime. “In our opinion,” it says, “the studies are inconclusive particularly with respect to the main debate: do MMPs deter crime?”
If they can’t be shown to act as a deterrent, why put MMPs at the core of the government’s high-profile anti-crime push? Nicholson offers a list of seven other reasons … The top item on Nicholson’s seven-point list: “ensure victims feel that justice has been rendered.” And the second: “ensure that the amount of time served is proportional to the gravity of the offence” … This seemingly irrefutable line of reasoning, however, rests on the premise that the government knows sentences now being handed down by the courts are too light. In fact, they often haven’t bothered to collect that information. Nicholson’s office and his departmental officials admit they have not compiled statistics on typical sentences in convictions for most of the crimes they’ve targeted for MMPs. And it’s not always clear the new minimum terms will be any tougher than the sentences often imposed up to now.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 19, 2009 at 3:33 PM - 23 Comments
Liberal Todd Russell, yelling in the direction of Rob Nicholson this afternoon as the Justice Minister took a friendly question about crime legislation.
“What’s the mandatory minimum for cheque fraud?”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 10:45 AM - 9 Comments
Going back to June and including each of his answers since announcing the government would comply with a court order to bring Abousfian Abdelrazik home, here, for your enjoyment, are the last eight responses offered by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson in Question Period.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 10:37 AM - 31 Comments
Dan Gardner has written extensively on this stuff, but this column of his might be the most entertaining on the topic—Gardner asks the Justice department to provide the research used to support its move toward mandatory minimums, hilarity ensues.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 12:43 AM - 15 Comments
Highlighted conclusions of a 2002 survey, conducted for the Justice department, on the deterrent value of mandatory minimum sentencing.
The evidence was mixed with regard to the impact of more generalized MMS of the “Three Strikes” variety.
Enhanced sentences for firearms infractions show some promise, although findings here, too, are inconsistent or unclear.
While the evidence overall underscores the critical role played by vigorous law enforcement and the certainty of punishment in this area [impaired driving], studies provide little reason for optimism with regard to the efficacy of tough sanctions.
Severe MMS seem to be least effective in relation to drug offences.
Drug consumption and drug-related crime seem to be unaffected, in any measurable way, by severe MMS.
MMS calling for lengthy prison terms are likely to carry massive costs.
MMS, such as the Three Strikes and federal drug laws in the US, have produced some grossly disproportionate sentences.