Tories pass controversial omnibus crime billWritten by Steven Zhou
The Conservatives passed the omnibus crime bill on Mar. 12 as they promised they would within the first 100 days of sitting Parliament. Bill C-10 continues to be a polarizing piece of legislation, and key provinces continue to voice their opposition.
The Safe Streets and Communities Act passed the House by a vote of 154 to 129, and is supposed to be the first of several Tory anti-crime initiatives. The federal government has estimated that implementing this Act will cost the country around $1 billion at least.
This has led Ontario Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur to say in a public statement Monday that “Ontario taxpayers cannot be expected to pay the full costs for federal anti-crime initiatives.”
Ms. Meilleur also says that Ontario is not ready for the 1500 new inmates that the Act will likely produce.
Both the Canadian Council on American Islamic Relations and the Canadian Civil Liberties Union have voiced concern over the introduction of “mandatory minimums”. This stipulates that a minimum amount of jail time will have to be served for certain low-level crimes. The CCLU said in a public statement that they do not see this new measure decreasing crime rate.
“Now, I think the other fear is that the Conservatives have a majority and can pass whatever they please on this issue,” Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of CAIR-CAN says.
Other civil society groups that have voiced concern over the omnibus bill include the Canadian Bar Association and the Urban Health Research Initiative. The Initiative even published an open letter a year ago to the federal government opposing section of the bill, then called Bill S-10.
Among the bill's most vigorous critics is Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier, who introduced amendments last year to the bill that were eventually rebuffed.
“We would have preferred Parliament accept the amendments put forward by the Quebec government in conjunction with a number of organizations,” Mr. Fournier says in a statement.
Bill C-10 is estimated to cost Quebec up to $600 million.
NDP Justice critic Jack Harris also says that the bill will eventually end up exacerbating crime, not preventing it. Mr. Harris says that Bill C-10 will increase recidivism, put people in jail longer, and imprison people at a higher rate. He said that this means that less people will receive rehabilitation.
The Tories have made no apologies or compromises in the face of criticism. Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says in a public statement that “These are very reasonable measures. 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.”
Much of the opposition salutes the provisions in the bill that try to deal with sexual exploitation of children. The problem is that Bill C-10 is so large in scope that more common ground can be found if the bill was passed in pieces. The bill is an omnibus version of nine different pieces of legislation that the Tories tried to pass when they were still a minority.
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