By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 0 Comments
As promised, the Conservative government in Ottawa has transformed the country’s legal landscape within…
As promised, the Conservative government in Ottawa has transformed the country’s legal landscape within the first 100 sitting days of its majority mandate. Last night, the Harper Tories finally passed Bill C-1o, otherwise known as the omnibus crime bill, with its laundry list of legal changes the Conservatives had failed to push through Parliament during their years in minority government. These include mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug offenders, harsher penalties for violent crimes and sexual assault, and a provision allowing victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators more easily.
“These are very reasonable measures,” said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson. “They go after those who sexually exploit children, people in the child pornography business and it goes after drug traffickers. So this will be welcomed, particularly by victims, those involved with law enforcement and, as we know, Canadians are supportive of what we are doing in this area.”
But not all of them. In fact, many view much of the legislation as ideologically motivated and detached from reality. The Canadian Bar Association, for instance, has released a list of 10 reasons to oppose Bill C-10, saying it will unjustly send many people to prison—on the taxpayer’s dime—while neglecting to pursue avenues of crime reduction proven to be successful, such as poverty reduction, diverting young offenders from the adult prison system and offering more services to the mentally ill.
The Liberal government of Ontario has questioned the bill’s price tag, saying it will unnecessarily cost the province more than $1 billion due to an expected influx of new prison inmates in the provincial prison system. Quebec’s Liberal government went further, saying the bill “harms” the province’s youth rehabilitation programs, and vowing not to pay the $600 million in extra costs it expects the legislation will bring.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, March 12, 2012 at 11:54 AM - 0 Comments
The Tory crime bill will allow lawsuits to be brought against countries that engage in and support terrorism, like Hezbollah in Lebanon
Americans David Jacobsen and Alann Steen spent years blindfolded and in chains, never knowing if they would one day walk free, or be shot and dumped in a roadside ditch.
The two were among more than 90 foreigners in Lebanon kidnapped and held hostage by Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia, during the 1980s and ’90s. Jacobsen, who was director of the American University of Beirut’s medical centre, was captive for 532 days, before he was released as part of a deal that saw the U.S. facilitate the secret sale of weapons to Iran. Steen, who was teaching at Beirut University College, was locked up for almost five years. Both were threatened and abused. Guards beat Steen so badly they knocked fillings out of his teeth. He still suffers seizures as a result.
Jacobsen and Steen never lost the will to defy their captors. Once, when a guard held his gun to the back of Jacobsen’s head and told him he would die, Jacobsen said he was very busy and asked the man to come back and shoot him after lunch the following day. Steen, a former Marine, punched a guard who was beating him. He called another by the name “Asshole,” telling him it meant “Big Boss.” A third guard was “S–thead,” which Steen assured him meant “Little Boss.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 11:02 AM - 0 Comments
Jack Harris was the New Democrat selected to respond on Tuesday to the Justice Minister’s final tabling of the omnibus crime bill. As the opposition member responding to a minister, Mr. Harris was not subject to the normal time limits placed on speeches in the House. And so he spoke—with a few brief interruptions—for three hours. The resulting speech numbers no less than 21,631 words.
The official opposition is generally refusing to roll over and allow swift passage of the legislation, thus apparently ruining at least one photo op so far.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 9, 2011 at 10:03 AM - 0 Comments
A former Progressive Conservative MP and Justice Department advisor says the government’s crime legislation will lead to worsening conditions in prisons.
Mr. Daubney said that, since the mid-2000s, the Justice Department has asked for less and less research to be undertaken and typically ignores recommendations against policies such as mandatory minimum sentences or prison expansion. “It is kind of sad that I have to do this, but somebody has to take the risk of talking,” Mr. Daubney said. “I feel sad for my colleagues who are still there. It was clear the government wasn’t interested in what the research said or in evidence that was quite convincingly set out.”
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 2:36 PM - 18 Comments
There are so many things to dislike about Stephen Harper’s unnecessary, anachronistic, ruinously expensive, and mean-spirited omnibus crime bill that at least one of them has been largely overlooked: the bill will bring an end to the option of house arrest as a “conditional sentence” for a large range of offences. What that means is that many small time crooks, including grow-op gardeners, joy-riders and laptop thieves may find themselves behind bars, whereas they might have otherwise been constrained to their homes and places of work.
This is a shame, and not just because prison is, as Elizabeth May pointed out, “crime school” for minor hoodlums who might otherwise have found their way.
An end to house arrest will also mean that the Canadian justice system will be unable to make use of technologies that make it cheaper and more effective than ever to keep an eye on criminals without locking them up. I speak specifically of a new generation of GPS-enabled tracking devices.
House arrest was once a difficult thing to enforce- corrections officers would have to randomly and sporadically check in on convicts to make sure they were following the rules. Later, ankle monitors were introduced that could measure the distance between a wearer and a receiving unit placed in his or her home. The unit used radio signals to measure distance, and then used phone lines to relay the data to the authorities.
Today, GPS units on cellular networks allow for a much more sophisticated approach to house arrest. Convicts can move between their homes and workplaces and other pre-ordained locations without triggering false alarms. Any small deviation goes recorded, and major deviations—like, say, a drug dealer approaching a schoolyard, can set off instant alarms. Additional devices can constantly monitor blood-alcohol levels.
If left completely unmonitored by actual humans, these devices would likely be circumvented. Cunning criminals will adapt and find ways to break their sentences without triggering alerts. But coupled with human oversight and random in-person check-ups, modern house arrest can be pretty difficult to outsmart. If crimes are committed while a monitoring device is worn, alibis will have to match perfect digital records of a convicts’ whereabouts.
In the U.S., the ballooning prison population resulting from the war on drugs has pushed these technologies forward. It would be nice if Canada could benefit from them without repeating American history.
[Main article image: Tim Pearce/Flickr]
By Brendan van Niejenhuis - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 2:18 PM - 7 Comments
Provincial governments helped create the problems Ottawa’s tough-on-crime approach will exacerbate
In November 1983, Elijah Askov and three others were charged in connection with a plot to extort money from a man who ran a business supplying exotic dancers to Ontario strip clubs. Their case was plagued by delays from the start; nearly three years after the men’s arrest, and two years after their preliminary hearing, Askov and his co-defendants had not yet had their day in court. The Supreme Court of Canada was eventually asked to interpret the Charter guarantee to “be tried within a reasonable time.” And in its then-controversial Askov decision, the Court put a stop to the proceedings, giving birth to the modern and frequently employed practice of throwing out criminal charges based on unreasonable delay.
That Askov didn’t mean an end to unreasonable delays makes it hard for the provinces to mount a credible case against the federal government as it proposes sweeping changes to the Criminal Code. The Conservatives’ controversial omnibus crime bill has sparked a flurry of attacks for its substance, including its introduction of American-style mandatory-minimum sentencing. Quebec, Ontario and now Newfoundland have also introduced a new ground of opposition—the impact the federal government’s “tough new measures” will have on provincial balance sheets. It’s not clear, though, why voters should believe Ottawa is doing anything worse than adding to a problem the provinces had a hand in creating. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 1:34 PM - 9 Comments
The Conservatives have invoked time allocation on C-19, the bill that eliminates the long-gun registry. Of the ten government bills debated in the House since Parliament reconvened in June, the Harper government has now invoked time allocation on five of them: C-3 (budget implementation), C-10 (the omnibus crime bill), C-13 (budget implementation), C-18 (Canadian Wheat Board) and C-19.
The young Stephen Harper would no doubt be concerned.