Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Man who wanted out of the gang lifestyle, sentenced to 7 years

They both wanted out of the gang life. The price for one was a lifetime confined to a wheelchair; for the one who put him there, a 10-year prison sentence.
Indian Posse gangster Justin Meeches admitted shooting another gang member in the head and back in a plea bargain that saw prosecutors stay a charge of attempted murder.
Meeches, 32, pleaded guilty Monday to the reduced charge of discharging a firearm with intent to wound.

Court heard the victim left the gang, raising the ire of senior members. “He felt that the brotherhood the organization was founded upon was disintegrating and that members were simply interested in exerting their power and controlling the drug trade,” said Crown attorney Brent Davidson.
When Meeches arrived at the victim’s doorstep June 9, 2008, the man thought he was going to be beaten “and he was prepared to accept that,” Davidson said.
But Meeches shot the man in the back and head with a .22 calibre rifle. The man’s spinal cord was severed and he is now paralyzed from the chest down.

Defence lawyer Kathy Bueti said Meeches was trying to leave the Indian Posse as well and saw the shooting as his “last active involvement with the gang.”
“His intention was to send a message,” Bueti said. “He didn’t necessarily want to kill him (but) he knew a serious injury was possible.”
Justice Glenn Joyal credited Meeches 32 months for time served. His remaining sentence is seven years, four months.
“You deserve every minute of the time you will serve,” Joyal said.

10 year term for shooting of ex-gangster
He tried to walk away from a Winnipeg street gang -- and ended up paralyzed for life.
Details of a shocking June 2008 attack emerged publicly for the first time this week, painting a grim picture of the challenge facing those who want to escape a criminal lifestyle.
Justin Meeches, 32, pleaded guilty Monday to shooting the 36-year-old victim in the head and back as revenge for leaving the Indian Posse. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison under a joint-recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers.
"You deserve every minute of the time you will serve," said Queen's Bench Justice Glenn Joyal.
Meeches admits going to the victim's Ross Avenue home, armed with a .22-calibre rifle, and opening fire after his former gang associate opened the door. The victim's spinal cord was severed, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down and confined to a wheelchair.
The man's common-law wife and three young children were in the home at the time. Police sealed off the area and spent hours searching for Meeches, who was able to escape. He wasn't arrested until January 2009 and has been in custody since.
"I hope in the future he can forgive me for what I did. I'm sorry his family had to go through that, too," Meeches told court.
Crown attorney Brent Davidson said the victim had recently left the Indian Posse, which didn't sit well with senior members including Meeches. The man had been receiving several threats from other gangsters preceding the shooting.
"(The victim) felt that the brotherhood the organization was founded upon was disintegrating and that members were simply interested in exerting their power and controlling the drug trade," said Davidson. "He was basically told he better start coming around or there would be problems. He tried to stay out of sight, out of mind."
The victim was prepared for violence but only thought he was going to beaten by Meeches, court was told. Defence lawyer Kathy Bueti said Meeches was also planning to leave the Indian Posse once he "sent a message" by shooting the victim.
"He was taking instructions from another member of the gang," she said. "He didn't necessarily want to kill him... he knew a serious injury was possible."
Meeches was originally charged with attempted murder but the Crown agreed to drop it in exchange for a guilty plea to the lesser offence of discharging a firearm with intent to maim or wound. Davidson said the victim has moved out of the city with his family and had safety concerns about returning to testify.
Meeches has been a member of the Indian Posse since the age of 15 and has a lengthy criminal record, court was told.
He was given double-time credit for the 16 months he has spent in pre-trial custody.

I completely disagree with the 7 year sentence. I feel that is far too harsh. I would like to know more about the mitigating factors in this case, the accused's background life, prior record, etc. Prisons are negative environments which do not solve the causes of crime or the social and economic contributing factors. Gangs, drugs, the prison subculture and pro-criminal behaviours and attitudes are prevalent which will likely have a negative impact on this gang member. It is likely that he will become further involved and entrenched in the gang and criminal lifestyle while in prison. Also, prison programs are underfunded and have long waiting lists. Overcrowding, means that prison resources and programs cannot be distributed evenly to all of those who need them most. Prisoners are often released with little assistance, no rehabilitation, substance abuse issues, no housing and no employment and no skills. 

If I were the judge, I would have sentenced this man to a 2 year conditional sentence where he would be required to participate in a gang desistance and prevention program, counseling, and attend programming to address the underlying causes of his criminal behaviour and gang lifestyle.  

US National Guard member jailed for child pornography

A member of the U.S. National Guard has been sentenced to 10 months in jail for smuggling child pornography into Manitoba.
Jason Brooks, 24, pleaded guilty Monday to charges under the Customs Act. He was arrested last February while bringing a load of corn across the border near Winkler. Officials grew suspicious about his behaviour after asking a series of questions and eventually searched his computer and found six videos and four pictures depicting children as young as five engaged in sexual activity.
Brooks made a series of excuses to police, at one point claiming he’d bought the computer from a convicted pedophile who must have downloaded the material before the sale. He later claimed up to 50 different people had access to his laptop and must have set him up.
"He hopes people who know him will know he’s not a sexual predator," defence lawyer Randy Minuk told court Monday.
Brooks lives in North Dakota and has been working as a long-haul trucker at the time of his arrest. He was also a member of the National Guard but is being kicked out because of his crime, court was told.
Brooks has spent the past four months in custody, which was given single-time credit under new federal legislation. He must now serve an additional six months behind bars and will be deported immediately upon his release. Minuk said he will likely never be allowed back into Canada, which will impact his future employment.

Minuk said his client was a "well-liked" member of society with many supporters, including his mother who was in court Monday to watch the sentencing hearing. Brooks was seeking to be released from custody almost immediately, but provincial court Judge Sid Lerner said more jail was necessary to express strong condemnation for this type of crime, which is growing in Canada.
Lerner also questioned how remorseful Brooks is given the various explanations he’s provided to police.

A North Dakota long-haul trucker who smuggled child pornography into Manitoba has been handed a 10-month jail sentence.
Jason Cory Brooks, 24, has been in custody since his arrest by border guards at the Canadian point of entry near Winkler on Feb. 23.
Brooks, who had crossed the border to deliver a load of corn to the town of Haskett, became nervous and gave inconsistent answers when guards asked him questions about his criminal record.
A subsequent search of his laptop revealed it had six videos and four images of child pornography on it.
Some of the illegal material depicted children as young as five engaged in sexual activity, court heard on Monday.
Instead of being charged under the Criminal Code, Brooks was charged — and pleaded guilty to — charges under the Customs Act.
He faced a maximum prison term of five years and a $500,000 fine.
His own lawyer, Randy Minuk, argued that Brooks should spend no more than 90 days in jail, creating a conflict with the Crown's request for a sentence between 9-12 months.
Judge Sidney Lerner also ordered Brooks to serve three years of supervised probation after his release from jail.
However, he faces immediate deportation back to the U.S. after his sentence expires and likely will never be allowed to return to Canada.
He was given no extra credit for the time he's spent in custody awaiting sentencing. His arrest came one day after legislation to abolish double-time credit for prisoners was made law.

National Guardsman no longer

Brooks, a member of the U.S. National Guard, has been kicked out of the group because of his conviction, court heard.
Brooks initially told investigators that he had purchased the laptop from a convicted sex offender one week prior to his arrest, and blamed the discovery of the child pornography on that man.
He later changed his story and said he had owned the computer for several months. Later still, he claimed that a number of people had access to the computer and may have been responsible for downloading the child pornography.
Court heard that the offending material was placed in folders named "normal" and "young."
Brooks also said that his own father had emailed one of the illegal images to him.
A number of letters of support were filed with the court, and Lerner said it was proof he was a "contributing and well-liked" member of his community.
However, Lerner suggested, Brooks's changing story about how the child pornography got on the laptop showed he had limited remorse for his actions.

I disagree with the 10 month jail sentence. I believe that is far too harsh. He did not have extensive pornography on his computer and a criminal record will impact his employment prospects, especially as a trucker. I would like to know more about this man's background such as his family life and what made him a well liked member of his community. Prison is a negative environment with negative influences, gangs, drugs, little access to rehab programs and pro-criminal attitudes and behaviours. I believe that only those who are truly dangerous to society should be imprisoned. This man does not fit that category, in my opinion. Prison will not deter future criminals, prevent or reduce crime. 

I would have sentenced him to a conditional discharge, where he would be subject to probation conditions but would not receive a criminal record. This would ensure that he would be able to keep his employment and would not place further deprivations and hardships upon this man.  

Two police officers plead not guilty to fabricating evidence against drug suspect

Two Winnipeg police officers are fighting allegations they fabricated evidence to build a stronger case against a suspected drug dealer.
Const. Graeme Beattie, 31, and Const. Paul Clark, 42, pleaded not guilty Monday at the start of their preliminary hearing, which will determine if there is sufficient evidence for them to stand trial. A court-ordered ban prevents details of the hearing from being published.
The pair were arrested in March 2009 after the Crown attorney stayed charges of trafficking and proceeds of crime against a 20-year-old man. The charges read that police "did with intent to mislead fabricate report and notes, with intent that it should be used as evidence in an existing judicial proceeding." The charges also state the officers made a "false statement" by accusing the young man of drug trafficking.
Both officers joined the police service in 2006 and were moved to administrative duties following their arrests. The preliminary hearing is expected to finish later this week.

Winnipeg officers deny fabricating evidence

Two Winnipeg police officers have denied allegations that they fabricated evidence and obstructed justice in their investigation of a suspected drug dealer.
Consts. Graeme Beattie, 30, and Paul Clark, 41, pleaded not guilty to charges of fabricating evidence, attempting to obstruct justice, and public mischief at the start of a preliminary inquiry into their criminal case on Monday.
A mandatory publication ban on the preliminary hearing prevents the reporting of any evidence given. The pre-trial hearing is to determine whether the Crown's case is strong enough to go to trial.
Manitoba Justice has hired lawyer Robert Tapper to act as an independent prosecutor.
The officers are accused of falsifying notes and reports that led to a man being charged with drug trafficking in May 2008, according to court documents obtained by CBC News when Clark and Beattie were formally charged.
The case against the suspected drug dealer, 20, wound its way through the courts for months until the Crown stayed the charges against the man in October 2008 on the day his preliminary hearing was set to begin.
An internal police service investigation was launched a month later, and the officers were charged in April 2009.
The mischief charges stem from the alleged falsified reports, which polices said caused officers to unnecessarily investigate a drug-trafficking offence.
Beattie and Clark are currently assigned to administrative desk duties within the police force. Each had three years of experience with the Winnipeg police at the time they were charged.

Fabricating evidence is not acceptable. Police are supposed to be protecting us and upholding the law, not breaking it. We need police that we can trust and not a dirty and corrupt police force in Winnipeg, who will do anything, just to secure a conviction against somebody.  

So who are we supposed to trust:
1) The police who swore to serve and protect?
2) The internal police who decided to charge their counterparts?
3) The crown that blows more cases than dynamite (in my opinion anyway).
4) The courts/judges that used to rely on testimony from these officers?
5) A drug dealer who's case was thrown out of court?
6) The government that tends to let the justice system remain the same despite many complaints and problems!
I'm not interested in the drugs but the accused dealer is probaly the most honest one of the bunch, including his defense lawyer. What a sad state justice is in Canada these days!

Man pleads guilty in running massive cocaine operation

A Winnipeg man has pleaded guilty to running one of the largest cocaine operations ever shut down by city police.
Thomaz Martin Nataluk, 25, admitted responsibilty Monday just as his Queen’s Bench trial was set to begin. He will be sentenced later this fall under a joint-recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers. Sources say the proposed penalty will be in the range of eight years.
Nataluk was arrested in June 2007 after investigators seized 15 kilograms of cocaine -- worth up to $1.8 million on the street -- along with $525,000 in cash during a raid of a downtown apartment block. Officers also found 14 firearms, including two fully automatic sub-machine guns, inside three suites on Donald Street.
Nataluk spent six months in custody before he was released on bail. His lawyer, Paul Gill, initially accused police of conducting an illegal search and claimed he would challenge the validity of the case at trial.
Police first stopped Nataluk in traffic on Broadway and found two kilograms of cocaine inside the vehicle, court was told. They were then led to the nearby apartment but went in without obtaining a warrant. An additional 13 kilograms of cocaine was found inside, with more than $500,000 cash lying on a table.
Police also found ingredients to bake brick after brick of crack cocaine, with several Pyrex cooking pans of freshly made crack cocaine and one batch being mixed before putting it in the oven. As the search continued in the other suites, officers seized a black Ralph Lauren duffel bag stuffed with two Mac 11 machine-guns and 12 handguns, plus ammunition.
Police said the apartment was the centre for a major crack cocaine production and distribution centre and they had reason to act immediately. The Crown dropped proceed of crime charges Monday which had been previously laid against Nataluk’s 26-year-old girlfriend, who was the registered tenant of the apartment suite.

I agree with the defence lawyer that the search was definitely illegal, as the police needed a search warrant. Even those this man pleaded guilty, I believe that 8 years is far too harsh. I believe that only the most dangerous criminals should be sentenced to prison, not non-violent, drug, or property offenders. This man will likely become negatively influenced by the prison environment and subculture as gangs and drugs and pro-criminal attitudes/behaviours are prevalent. He will likely become further involved and entrenched in the criminal lifestyle. If this man has been successful on bail and has obeyed conditions, I would see no reason to further imprison him. If this were the case, I would sentence this man to a 2 year conditional sentence. 

Teen on trial for second degree murder in random killing

A murder trial is underway for a youth who allegedly participated in the random killing of a Winnipeg woman.
The accused — who can’t be named because he was 15 at the time of the October 2006 slaying — has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. Crown attorney Ami Kotler told jurors Monday the evidence will show he was an equal participant in the crime which shocked even veteran police officers.
Audrey Cooper, 34, suffered 64 separate injuries in the unprovoked attack, including seven broken ribs, a lacerated liver, swelling that shut both of her eyes and bleeding on the brain. She was stripped naked and left to die.
"She was beaten from the top of her head to the bottom of her toes," Kotler said in his opening statement.
Police arrested four suspects — the boy, a 12-year-old girl and two 14-year-old girls. The youngest girl pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter and was given the maximum sentence of two years custody and one year of community superupervision. She will be called as a witness against the young man. The two other girls pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were given the maximum youth sentence of four years years of custody and three years of community supervision.

Teen pleads not guilty in random killing
A Winnipeg teen has pleaded not guilty in the random killing of Audrey Cooper outside her Spence Street home.
The now 18-year-old man is on trial charged with second-degree murder.
The accused was one of four youths arrested following the October 2006 death of Cooper, 34. Two girls, both 14 at the time of Cooper’s death, have since pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
A third girl, who was 12 at the time of the killing, pleaded guilty to manslaughter. She is expected to testify against the accused.
The Crown alleges the youths attacked Cooper on her porch after she returned home from a trip to a convenience store to buy a lottery ticket.
“She had no idea this simple act of hope would be one of the last things she did,” said Crown attorney Ami Kotler in his opening address to jurors.
Cooper was mercilessly beaten and stripped naked.
“She was beaten from the top of her head to the end of her toes,” Kotler said.
Cooper suffered more than 60 distinct injuries, including seven broken ribs, a punctured liver and a severed ear.
Kotler said police questioned the accused in connection with a separate attack in the area when he implicated himself and the three girls in Cooper’s death. “I only punched her once in the head but didn’t have anything to do with her dying,” he allegedly told police.
The trial is scheduled to begin in one month.

Trial begins for accused in Cooper death

A jury trial has begun for a Winnipeg man accused in the brutal beating death of a woman outside her West End home.
The man, who can't be identified because he was 15 at the time he was charged in the death of Audrey Cooper, pleaded not guilty on Monday to second-degree murder.
The Crown and the man's lawyer agree that Cooper, 34, was beaten as she stood outside her home at 548 Spence St. on Oct. 21, 2006.
The issue is whether he participated in the beating, and if so, if played a "meaningful and significant role" in it, Justice Holly Beard told the eight-man, four-woman jury.
Cooper's death caused outrage in the West End and in the Manitoba legislature, where some politicians called for parents to be held accountable for criminal acts committed by their children.
The trial is slated to last three weeks, but Beard said it may proceed into July.
Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the man faces a maximum sentence of four years in custody and three years of community supervision.
He has been behind bars since his arrest a few days after Cooper died.
The Crown has not indicated whether it will seek an adult sentence in the case if the jury finds the man guilty.

Insurance broker acts as his own lawyer in fraud case

A former Great-West-Life insurance broker is defending himself on allegations he stole more than $1.5 million from former clients.
Gary Palmer, 64, began his trial Monday by acting as his own lawyer. He tried to delay his case last week, claiming he wasn’t properly prepared for the month-long case. Queen’s Bench Justice Perry Schulman refused to grant an adjournment, saying Palmer has had plenty of time and is only trying to drag out the proceedings.
Palmer was arrested in October 2006 following a lengthy investigation. He has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of fraud and one charge of money laundering.
The Crown says Palmer persuaded 25 of his clients to make withdrawals from their investments on the premise he would transfer the money into higher-performing funds. He then allegedly took the money for his own personal use, including vacations, car payments and family expenses.
Palmer was working as an indepenent agent with the company over the eight years he is allegedly to have swindled the victims, who ranged from wealhy professionals to single parents. The Crown plans to call many of the former clients as witnesses during the trial, although one man has since passed away, court was told.
Palmer is also facing numerous civil lawsuits which remain before the courts.

This article is biased as it only states what the Crown's allegations are. I would like to know what Palmer's claims and arguments are and also, any mitigating factors in his life, such as a need for money.

Vincent Li's doctors recommend supervised outings-- I completely agree

The treatment team for Greyhound Bus killer Vincent Li is recommending he start receiving supervised passes that let him out of his locked ward at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
Li appeared Monday afternoon at his annual Review Board hearing, where board members must decide what type of care and supervision he should receive for the next 12 months.

Li was found not criminally responsible last year for the 2008 killing and beheading of 22-year-old Tim McLean on board a Greyhound Bus near Portage la Prairie. He admitted responsibility for the unprovoked attack but was found by a judge to be suffering from hallucinations and untreated schizophrenia at the time which left him unable to appreciate or control his actions.
Li's treating psychiatrist told the Review Board Monday he has made significant progress since his last hearing a year ago.

Dr. Steven Kraemer says he believes Li is ready to be allowed out of his locked, high-risk ward and on to the grounds at Selkirk for up to 30 minutes a day. He suggested Li be accompanied by two security guards at all times, which is an increase of the typical one-on-one supervision other residents receive. He said Li's opportunities for fresh air, sunshine and recreation could gradually go up to two hours each day.
The grounds are not surrounded by any fence or barrier and extra staff would likely have to be hired to accommodate the resources needed for Li, the board was told.
"We're taking a very cautious approach. We have no way of knowing how he will respond," said Kraemer.
He said Li has responded well to medication, listens well to staff and has attended all required programming and treatment. Li has developed a better understanding about the impact of his crime and only "occasionally" suffers from the hallucinations that once haunted him.
Crown attorney Corrine Deegan told the Review Board it's far too early to be giving Li any privileges.
"These supervised ground permits are not appropriate," she argued. "The fact they are request that (extra) level of security is evidence of concern."
McLean's family and friends filled the Winnipeg courtroom and are opposed to giving Li any outdoor time. They say the risk of something going wrong is too high.
"I was shocked the whole facility isn't surrounded by a fence," said McLean's mother, Carol de Delley. "I don't think he should have any freedom. Treat him humanely, but in a locked facility for the rest of his life."
The Review Board is expected to give a written decision later this week.

Outside time requested for Vincent Li
Doctors treating the man who stabbed and beheaded a passenger aboard a Greyhound bus are asking that he be allowed short periods of supervised outdoor time on the grounds of the Manitoba mental-health facility where he's being held.
Vince Li, 41, returned to a Winnipeg courtroom on Monday for a mandatory annual review of his detention at a mental-health facility in Selkirk, north of Winnipeg.
The Criminal Code Review Board conducts the annual review of his detention and care.
At the hearing, Li's doctors asked the board to consider allowing Li 15-minute escorted walks on the grounds of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre. He's currently being held in a secure part of the facility. The Crown and victim Tim McLean's family are opposed to the move.
In early 2009, Li was found not criminally responsible for killing McLean, 22, aboard a Greyhound bus bound for Winnipeg in July 2008.
Li had pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder. Psychiatric evidence at his trial suggested he is schizophrenic and suffered a major psychotic episode when he fatally stabbed McLean, ate some of the body parts, and cut off McLean's head.
'I think he should be held for the rest of his life.'—Carol DeDelley
Rather than being held in prison, Li is being kept in the secure psychiatric facility. The review board is responsible for assessing whether Li should remain institutionalized or be given a conditional release, which is unlikely.
Dressed in a dark suit and sneakers, Li was seated in the courtroom in such a way that he did not face the gallery, where a number of members of McLean's family were sitting.
McLean's mother, Carol DeDelley, said after the hearing that her son's killer should never be allowed out of the secure part of the facility.
"I think he should be held for the rest of his life," DeDelley said.
"I struggle to get through a day without crying over the details of my son's death," DeDelley wrote in a victim impact statement. "I don't want to see the visions in my mind, but they are still there. I don't want to be here speaking to the review board. I feel I have to be."
Bruce Martin, the man who drove the bus on the night of the attack, and who only recently returned to regular duties, told the board his only relief is knowing Li is "under lock and key."
"I have some comfort knowing that our citizens, and their children and grandchildren do not have to fear [Li]," Martin wrote in a statement read by his wife.
Li sat slumped over as his doctor answered questions about his treatment.
The review board members heard that Li continues to be medicated with anti-psychotic drugs. He is also now being treated with antidepressants.
Li's risk of suicide has been downgraded to low, the members heard, and Dr. Steven Kremer, Li's psychiatrist, suggested this might have something to do with him taking the antidepressant medication.

Behaviour unpredictable: doctor

Questions were asked about the risk Li poses to the general public.
The board heard that Li has been participating in programming and has not refused treatment that's been offered to him.
Kremer did not suggest that these positive factors support Li's release from custody.
"We can not predict an individual's future behaviour with 100 per cent certainty," he said.
Li still keeps largely to himself, but has had regular contact with his wife, Ana, over the past year, the board heard.
It's not the first time Li has spent time in a mental-health facility.
In 2005, he went to Ontario from Winnipeg in search of employment, according to review board documents.
The documents said he was picked up by police walking on the highway on his way back to Winnipeg and was admitted to William Osler Health Centre in Etobicoke.
It is not known when the review board will issue its decision on whether Li will stay in custody, but members indicated it could be within a few days.

Call for Li pass opposed -- Ground passes suggested for bus beheader
Justice officials are opposing a recommendation that Greyhound killer Vincent Li be allowed daily ground passes at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
“This is a very difficult case for all involved,” said Crown attorney Corrine Deegan at Li’s annual Criminal Code review board hearing Monday. “A cautious approach must be taken.”
Deegan said ground passes are “not appropriate, and premature.”
Li, 41, has been lodged at the mental health centre since March 2009 when he was found not criminally responsible for the stabbing death and dismemberment of 22-year-old Greyhound bus passenger Tim McLean.
Dr. Steven Kremer, Li’s treating psychiatrist, is recommending that Li be allowed daily supervised ground passes in the company of two male guards, starting at 15 minutes two times a day, increasing to a maximum of one hour two times a day. The grounds are not enclosed.
Kremer said Li has responded well to treatment but continues to suffer low intensity hallucinations. Kremer said Li is a low risk to kill again and a low suicide risk.
“His demeanour on the ward, he doesn’t argue with staff ... he is responsive to their requests,” he said.
Kremer said the recommendation that Li be supervised by two guards is a precaution “on the off chance” he tries to escape.
“We cannot predict an individual’s future behaviour 100%,” he said. Deegan said any risk is too much.
“The fact they are suggesting that level of security is evidence they have a concern,” she said.
The review board is expected to announce its decision within the next few days.
McLean’s mother said she remains forever scarred by her son’s death, is undergoing regular therapy and can no longer work.
“I have never been a prejudiced person but now I am wary of all people, especially people of Asian descent,” Carol deDelley told the review board in a victim impact statement.
Outside court, deDelley renewed her call that Li be sentenced to life in a locked facility. “I don’t think that Mr. Li should have any freedoms,” she said.

This headline is completely biased and misleading in the media stories! It's purpose was to provoke the ignorant responses and public outrage that it has, due to its wording of "outings." This makes it seem as if Li will be allowed into the community, when really, he would only be allowed in the hospital courtyard. It was intentionally written this way. It is 30 minutes of supervised time outside for sunlight, fresh air and recreation. I don't think that will harm anybody or pose a risk to anybody. 

I agree with Li being able to receive supervised outings. He needs to be gradually exposed to the outside world to facilitate his reintegration. It would be more dangerous for us to simply release him completely with no supervision or conditions. If he is taking his medications and is attending treatment and seeing a psychiatrist, his mental illness is likely more under control. He killed Tim McLean because he was suffering from delusions and hallucinations. If he is being treated, he is not in that same mental state which is a positive thing. It was the right decision for him to be held not criminally responsible because actions which are not voluntary and unconscious committed by someone who is suffering from a serious mental disorder and who is not rational, should not be blameworthy. Prison would have only made his condition worse and more likely to re-offend. People with mental illnesses need help, not prison. 

I completely agree with supervised outings. If his mental illness is under control and he is receiving treatment, I see no problems here. Would you people who disagree rather have him released completely one day with no supervision or conditions or have him gradually exposed and reintegrated to the world outside? Personally, I think successful reintegration and rehabilitation should be the goal here. I advocate for more prisoners' rights and therefore, completely agree with giving Mr. Li more rights. Denying him the right to sunlight, recreation and fresh air, would be inhumane in my opinion, especially since he has made great progress so far. 

He would only be spending 30 minutes per day, accompanied by 2 security guards. Under these conditions, he will hardly pose a threat to anybody. Convicted criminals who are deemed responsible for their crimes are allowed exposure to sunshine and exercise for more than 30 minutes and Mr. Li was found not criminally responsible for his crimes, due to the fact that he suffered from shizophrenia and was unaware of the nature of his actions at the time. He has every right to be allowed sunlight and exercise. Refusing this man 30 minutes of sunlight per day is hardly humane. These passes should be done in a sensible, safe and cautious manner, but I believe in human rights for all individuals regardless of the crime they committed, and especially for someone who suffers from mental illness. This was not criminally responsible for McLean's death because of his illness. He could not appreciate the nature of his actions and was not aware of what he was doing due to delusions and hallucinations. He was incapable of understanding what he was doing at the time. 

I believe that what's fueling this intense public anger about these passes, is the manner in which the body was defiled. I agree, it was horrible, but it doesn't make Li any more responsible for his actions. He is probably less of a danger to society in the future than those in the community with undiagnosed schizophrenia whose illnesses have yet to reach the severity of Li's at the time of the murder. 

Nobody, even those convicted of brutal murders, should be locked in a room 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That is inhumane treatment. Li was found to be not criminally responsible for his actions, and should not be treated worse than someone serving time in a federal prison! That is torture and it should not have its place in a so-called civilized society such as Canada. This man needs rehabilitation and treatment. We need to treat prisoners and those with mental illnesses, with dignity, respect and trust. We also have an obligation to treat those humanely.

After reading the comments on the Winnipeg Free Press's and CBC Manitoba's websites, I am shocked at the public's reaction. People are so ignorant and they clearly do not understand mental illnesses. It is not dangerous for Li to be allowed supervised outings in the COURTYARD and the hospital! He isn't being released into the community, so I don't understand what the public outrage is about. He will still remain detained in the facility until doctors feel that he no longer poses a risk to society. This man suffers from a severe mental illness and commentators simply don't understand how debilitating that can be to a person. We need to have compassion and sympathy for those with mental illnesses, regardless of if they committed a crime or not. The public needs to educate themselves about mental illnesses and restrain their impulse for revenge. I find it disturbing that people actually spoke favourably about the Chinese justice system and about the execution of the mentally ill, which is completely cruel and barbaric. 

Yes he committed a horrible act, but he was not aware of his actions, did not understand the nature of his actions and did not know it was wrong due to his mental illness. 

We are supposed to be civilized and advanced in our societal values and culture and morals, yet the majority of those who have commented show no understanding of mental illness and instead push for vigilante style justice and execution of the mentally ill. Yes, this man's actions were horrible and tragic but he was acting out of his untreated mental illness, which can be successfully controlled in most people. We should not be promoting hatred and vigilante justice of the mentally ill. That is disturbing to me. These comments are cold-hearted. Vincent Li is a human being and we need to attempt to rehabilitate those with mental illnesses. Execution is not how a civilized society treats the mentally ill. I have compassion for both the McLean family and Vincent Li. Society is better served by having this mentally ill individual in a treatment facility as opposed to having him in prison where his condition would worsen without adequate treatment. The McLean family needs to spend more time and energy supporting mental health causes and trying to understand it as opposed to hating this man. 

The lack of compassion for the mentally ill shown by many people is shocking to me. Saying that he should be executed or deported because he has a disorder is judgmental and demonstrates a complete lack of empathy for the mentally ill in our society. He belongs in a mental health facility and needs treatment. People are so ignorant about mental illness. Mr. Li deserves the same sympathy of anyone with a mental illness over which they have no control. What happened to Tim McClean was horrible, and Vince Li should probably never be released from the secure facility where he is being treated, unless there can be absolute assurance that he will not engage in similar actions. I wish people would take the time and opportunity to understand mental illnesses and the impact it has on individual lives. This man should not be locked up forever and should be gradually reintegrated into society eventually, but right now, he needs rehabilitation and help. Every human life is of value and nobody, including Li, deserves to die. Vengeance is completely different from justice and should not be tolerated. Denying rights and mistreating individuals with disorders will not make society safer in the long term. The ignorance and prejudice of the mentally ill by some readers, is just disgusting.  

We should not be further depriving and punishing someone who was found to be not criminally responsible for their actions. The public's understanding of severe, persistent mental disorders is poor. Those who advocate for incarceration or execution or deportation of this man, obviously have no experience with schizophrenia other than what they know from movies, TV and the media. Most people with schizophrenia are a larger risk to themselves than they are others. Most live in the community and do well as long as they have access to proper treatment and support. It's easy for the narrow minded to condemn Vincent Li but how are you to know that he has ever been given the treatment that he required or the support that he needed? It's easy to say that he didnt take responsibility for his own health but this illness robs people of the insight they need to comply with treatment. What this man did was gruesome and horrific. But these types of events by people with mental illnesses are rare and most people with this disease can control it. The only thing more disturbing than what this man did while he was severely ill, are the so called sane people who want to put him to death or lock him up in prison for the rest of his life because of an act he committed while under the influence of a terrible and debilitating disease. Shame on you all. Vincent Li was not responsible for his actions therefore, he should not be blamed or punished harsher than criminals in prison who are responsible for their actions. He should not be punished for a crime he never intended to commit. He is not a criminal and should not be treated as one. 

What Li did, was not his fault. The public's lack of understanding regarding mental illness is staggering. Schizophrenia cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. He did not intend to commit that gruesome act and was not rational at the time. One cannot be guilty of a crime if they are in a mental state that prohibits reason and/or they are unable to comprehend the consequences of their actions. He should be put into the care of people with the ability to treat his mental condition. Mental illness is not a technicality. I do feel for the victims, he just happens to be one of them. Mental illness is not something any person with the ability to reason would wish upon themself. Li deserves to have the basic human rights of sunshine that even convicted criminals in prison receive. Li is not a criminal and should not be treated as one. Keeping him confined forever will not better his mental state, it can only worsen his illness. We are supposed to be humane and treat people with dignity and respect. What Li did was horrific, but it was done with a conscious mind but we should NOT punish those with mental illnesses and deprive them of basic rights!!    

I liked these comments on the Winnipeg Free Press:
He should absolutely be allowed to have supervised passes on the grounds, which should NOT be fenced in, since the Selkirk Mental Health Centre is a hospital, not a prison. Having been found not criminally responsible, as he should have been under the law, he is entitled to the same course of treatment and rehabilitation as any patient. Like it or not, he is NOT a criminal, and therefore cannot be treated as such.

Schizophrenia can be CONTROLLED with medication. If the disease is controlled, then Li will be able to control himself. It's wrong to conclude that because he still has hallucinations that he always will. Give the man time to heal and adjust. Mental illness doesn't heal in a straight trajectory. There are peaks and valleys on the road to recovery.

Li was never ON meds before the murder so you can't say he's violent when he's off them. Rehabilitation implies that he did something wrong and should have known better. The man who Vince Li is deep inside was not the person who took Tim McLean's life. That was a disease called schizophrenia. Vince Li wasn't present when that happened...not mentally.

I'm sure this is an important question. But I'm a bit confused as to why they are making such a fuss about a guy walking outside for 15 minutes when they should be investigating how a person who was previously under the care of our mental health system could be released to commit such a horrific act in the first place. 

Mr.Li is ill, as is so many other untreated or undiagnosed schizophrenics. There are more out there than you think, and any of them can suffer an episode and there is no way to predict how severe it will be. These people are not animals, and to categorize them as such is uneducated. Do I think he should be set free, absolutely not, and despite what some posters are saying, neither do the doctors. He is not being set free. He is allowed to go outside for a half an hour under strict supervision, far from "set free" if you ask me. Everyone desserves that freedom, even criminally RESPONSIBLE killers. We live in Canada where basic human rights need to be upheld. Lets not try and act like 30 mins outside equals complete freedom.

"The level of discourse here is quite upsetting."

I'll say. It almost brings tears to my eyes. I had hoped people were beginning to understand the nature of mental illness and that the stigma was falling away. If these comments are any indication of the general population's feelings, we're still in the dark ages.

God forbid I ever have to appear before a "jury of my peers" if this uninformed hysteria is the norm.

Deprive a sane person of daylight for long enough and you are bound to get some unpleasant results (having lived above the tree line I can attest to that). If Li suffers and goes even further off the deep end because of a vitamin D deficiency or for any other reason it is the people around him that we should be concerned about. The less healthy he is the more likely he is to harm a doctor, nurse, security guard, hospital patient or family member.

Let's not confuse common sense with liberal pandering. Whether or not to allow this man to see daylight under supervision in a secured area for a limited amount of time is about lowering the risk of danger he poses to himself and also (or maybe even especially) to others. It is not about the severity of punishment he deserves.

The next wave of prison construction in Canada: Who would pay and what are the alternatives?

By Justin Piche

To be presented to the
Provincial-Territorial Heads of Corrections

Monday, May 31, 2010
Château Laurier, Ottawa

Hi folks,
Let me begin by thanking you for the invitation to speak to your group today and to acknowledge the efforts of the members of your agencies who assisted me as I completed the data collection phase of my doctoral dissertation. While I have encountered major roadblocks at the federal level and some hurdles at the provincial-territorial level, the majority of officials who I dealt with demonstrated what accountability and transparency in government can look like.

In this presentation, I will briefly discuss my methodology and summarize the findings of my report An Overview of Prison Expansion in Canada (available upon request). Following this, I will outline some of the key challenges associated with the cumulative impacts of federal punishment legislation and propose a number of mechanisms that can be used to mitigate them. I will conclude with a short discussion on how we can build just and safe communities in Canada going forward.

An Overview of Prison Expansion in Canada

Based on the information provided to me by governments from across the country, there are at least 22 new provincial-territorial prisons at various stages of completion. On the slide you can view the locations of these facilities (view map of new provincial-territorial prisons): 1) projects in the preliminary planning stages are highlighted in dark blue; 2) initiatives in the site selection and / or procurement stages are in red; 3) new facilities awaiting budget approval are in light blue; 4) institutions in the process of being constructed are in yellow; and 5) the prison in green is operational. According to the information disclosed, there are also 16 additions to existing facilities at various stages of completion.

The figures obtained to date reveal that there are over 6,500 new provincial-territorial prisoner beds being established across the country. When these beds come online and are filled – which they will be given current overcrowding challenges faced by most jurisdictions – I have estimated that it will cost you an additional $343.9 million in annual operating costs. The figures compiled also show that over $2.8 billion has been earmarked for the construction of these facilities to date. This total is likely to surpass the $3 billion mark once funding announcements for future prisons currently in the preliminary planning stages are made public.

Due to an information blockade enforced by officials from the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and a Minister of Public Safety who has stated that he would “rather not share” the plans and related economic costs associated with expanding the capacity of federal penitentiaries, I am unable to report what current or future facility construction plans are being implemented by the Government of Canada. This should not be a surprise to those of you in this room who have also been stonewalled by this government. This is illustrated by the fact that the Feds did not give your agencies the opportunity to make submissions to the CSC Review Panel (2007) as well as their refusal to fully participate in the yet to be released Changing Face of Corrections Report (2009), despite the cross-jurisdictional implications associated with the findings and recommendations of these task forces.

Challenges Moving Forward

If the current prison boom is primarily being driven by persistent overcrowding associated with rising remand populations, aging facilities, space requirements associated with changing programming objectives, as well as the fact that penal institutions are increasingly being used as dumping grounds for the poor and individuals with mental health and drug addiction issues, the next wave of prison construction – should it occur – will be in response to the minority Government of Canada’s punishment agenda.

While the federal Conservatives have been busy grabbing the headlines by drafting, advertising, tabling, killing (through prorogation), re-tabling and eventually passing punishment bills, who will be left holding the bag? What effects will legislation introduced in the House of Commons such as Bill C-16, which will severely restrict the use of Conditional Sentences, have on provincial-territorial prisons? What impacts will legislation introduced in the Senate such as Bill S-10, which will require judges to hand-out mandatory minimum prison terms for trafficking marijuana, have on the prisons you manage?

The problem is that we do not know the answer to these questions, either because the minority Government of Canada has not undertaken the analysis needed to determine the cumulative impacts of their punishment agenda across jurisdictions or because they would “rather not share” those details with Canadians. This is not only an irresponsible position which could have catastrophic economic and human consequences, it is also damaging to our democratic political process which necessitates transparency in order to determine whether legislation can be implemented in a manner that positively impacts Canadian society.
While uncertainty exists, one thing that we can be sure of is that should the Conservatives punishment agenda continue provincial-territorial facilities will become more overcrowded. This will necessitate that you keep open institutions that were slated for closure because you’ve deemed outmoded to meeting your objectives and are in violation of your operational standards. The situation will also result in more individuals who have slipped through the cracks – particularly women and Aboriginals living in poverty, as well as those with mental health and substance abuse issues – ending-up behind bars because our under-resourced social infrastructure has failed them.
As a result of federal penal downloading that will further exacerbate overcrowding in your prisons you can expect heightened levels of tension and violence between prisoners, as well as between prisoners and staff. With more prisoners, your ability to provide programming will be further compromised. You will also likely find yourselves engaged in additional labour disputes with your employees, some of which may provoke strikes requiring your management to take over the day-to-day operations of your facilities. If this were to happen in your jurisdictions, many of you will be forced to place your institutions on long-term lockdown – an untenable situation considering many of your cells already hold 2, 3 or more prisoners which contravenes the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
Should overcrowding persist and worsen, I strongly recommend that you hire more lawyers who will be busy dealing with class-action lawsuits as well as legal challenges seeking reductions in prison terms filed by prisoners and their advocates under section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states “Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment”.

Faced with this situation, you may be considering building new multi-million dollar prisons to absorb the influx of new prisoners awaiting trial and sentencing or those serving longer sentences – two groups of prisoners which increasingly have fewer chances of release. However, there are a number of alternatives at various scales of intervention that can be mobilized which are proven to be more successful at enhancing safety in our communities at a lesser cost than imprisonment.

Prison Agencies

As Heads of Corrections, you can make changes within your prison systems that will allow you to reduce the number of individuals incarcerated in your institutions by recommitting yourselves to community-based alternatives such as parole. While this would involve changes to legislation in many jurisdictions, I would encourage you to re-evaluate and promote such measures to your Ministers if your respective agencies have not already begun this work. If implemented, you could then reallocate the money saved using community-based alternatives to additional investments in education, employment and housing programs prisoners may need to successfully reintegrate themselves into society.

Penal System

There are also various levers that can be used to address the complex harms and conflicts in our communities that we call ‘crime’ in the penal system (also known as the criminal justice system). Additional investments in social programs that prevent ‘crime’ and save taxpayers $7 in incarceration costs for every $1 spent can be made (Waller, 2006). Police officers can be encouraged to utilize greater discretion in dealing with the public. Prosecutors could alter how they manage their cases. Judges could exercise more leniency when deciding on whether or not to allow someone to post bail and make use of similar provisions during sentencing. These are not innovative ideas, as we know that such practices have been used to manage major changes that have been introduced into the penal system in the past which will continue to be used in the future.

Electoral Politics

Given the challenges most of you are currently facing, another approach to mitigate the cumulative impacts of federal punishment legislation would be to encourage your Ministers to call for a moratorium on such initiatives. This would not only be the prudent response as you do not have time or the money to build new prisons, this would also be an approach that is supported by scholarly evidence that shows that increasing our reliance on incarceration does not enhance community safety in the long-term.

Should your Ministers wish to continue to publicly support the agenda of the minority Government of Canada, the least they could do is place pressure on the Feds to examine and disclose whether or not the laws being proposed can pass the central test of legislation – implementation. This would require law makers to take the time to evaluate the cross-jurisdictional impacts related to various pieces of legislation, including their fiscal costs. It would also require disclosing findings and estimates to the public to allow for an informed debate regarding the merits of new bills.

In my view, these necessary steps in the democratic process are not currently taking place. The passage of Bill C-25 last year, which limits the amount of credit judges can give individuals for time served in remand, is the best example of tagline justice. While the “Truth in Sentencing” legislation was agreed upon by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Justice and Public Safety in October 2006 (see here), it appears that this is where the collaboration ended.

When the legislation was tabled in the 2nd Session of the 40th Parliament, little information concerning the implementation of Bill C-25 and related costs were divulged by the Government to Canadians. CSC Commissioner Don Head even refused to cite implementation options and estimates during committee hearings citing Cabinet confidence. Despite the fact that much was unknown about the potential impacts of this legislation the bill was passed, although in an altered form that included provisions that would allow judges to give 1.5 days credit for every day served by an individual prior to trial and / or sentencing where deemed appropriate – something the Conservatives denounced.

Now, according to a forthcoming report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, it appears as though the provinces and territories will be picking-up the bulk of the tab for the implementation of this legislation – something many jurisdictions appeared not to expect or adequately prepare for. This is a perfect example of how not to proceed during the legislative process and will serve as an illustration of bad policy-making in university classes for years to come.

Building Just and Safe Communities

In a context of declining police-reported ‘crime’ rates and a fiscal crisis, the minority Government of Canada has been engaged in an expensive campaign that characterizes what those of you in ‘corrections’ previously considered as your successes as failures requiring immediate action in the form of punishment measures said to be in the best interest of public safety.

Faced with this, your bosses of various political stripes are abandoning reintegration because of the perception that they will get no credit for the positive aspects of their programs and all of the blame when sensational and un-representative cases hit the media who often examine ‘crime’ and punishment by looking at the distorted image reflected on fun-house mirrors rather than looking through the glass. Intimidated by or complicit in the politics of tagline justice and public safety, your Ministers are enabling the Conservative punishment agenda that if allowed to persist will cause irreparable damage to our economy, governmental institutions, communities, and particularly to those working and incarcerated in our prisons.

Perhaps by uniting and taking a collective approach in your capacity as the Provincial-Territorial Heads of Corrections you can excavate the true implications of federal legislation moving forward. From there, you could encourage your Ministers to generate the kinds of discussions needed to build just and safe communities where education, equitable workplaces, affordable housing, health care and environmental sustainability form the cornerstone.

Panel set to tackle youth crime and its root causes

Without much fanfare and no political grandstanding, the Selinger government has launched what's intended to be one of the biggest social projects to reduce gang crime in Manitoba.
In a week in which one teen was killed and three children were injured by gunfire, Premier Greg Selinger unveiled his 29-member Advisory Council on Education, Poverty and Citizenship.
It's co-chaired by former Winnipeg Regional Health Authority head Dr. Brian Postl, now incoming dean of the University of Manitoba faculty of medicine, and Doris Young, assistant to the president of aboriginal affairs at the University College of the North.
Selinger said Friday the main goal of the council is to find ways to increase high school graduation rates among aboriginal people living in the north.
"There is a very high correlation between young people completing high school and a reduction of crime," Selinger said. "The more young people stay in school and get skills and access to decent job opportunities, the less the attraction of a more criminal-oriented lifestyle."
Selinger added while high school graduation rates have increased from 72 to 80 per cent, more can be done. "This is getting behind the daily struggle to keep neighbourhoods safe and to provide long-term alternatives to young people who might not otherwise continue in school."
Selinger said the council will be introduced at a later date, which will include the participation of aboriginal elders.
It's modelled after the Premier's Economic Advisory Council, set up by former premier Gary Doer, and brings together Manitobans from public and post-secondary education and training, community development, First Nations, Métis and aboriginal organizations, and immigrant and refugee organizations.

Prominent members
MEMBERS of Premier Greg Selinger's Advisory Council on Education, Poverty and Citizenship:
Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg;
Jordan Bighorn, youth counsellor at Southeast College;
Serge Carrière, principal at École Aurele-Lemoine;
Pauline Clarke, chief superintendent of the Winnipeg School Division;
Sharon Conway, provincial education consultant at the Manitoba Métis Federation;
Arnold Dysart, area superintendent at the Frontier School Division;
Marti Ford, dean of indigenous education at Red River College;
Pat Isaak, president of the Manitoba Teachers' Society;
Bob Kriski, vice-principal at Portage Collegiate Institute;
Wayne Mason, of the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre;
Suni Matthews, principal at Dufferin School;
Rebecca Ross, education director at Cross Lake First Nation;
Delores Samatte, co-ordinator of Brandon University Northern Teacher Education Program;
Jerry Storie, dean of the faculty of education at Brandon University;
Eleanor Thompson, founder and director of the Urban Circle Training Centre;
John Wiens, dean of the faculty of education at University of Manitoba.
Community representatives
Omar Adan, case manager at New Directions;
Doreen Demas, executive director of the First Nations Disability Association;
Denise Everett, resident in William Whyte neighbourhood;
Rick Frost, CEO of the Winnipeg Foundation;
Geraldine Langford, of the HeadStart Program at the Andrews Street Family Centre;
Susan Lewis, CEO of the United Way of Winnipeg;
Shauna Mackinnon, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives;
Diane Roussin, executive director at the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre;
Bintou Sacko, manager Accreil Franchophone du Manitoba;
Sister Maria Vigna, co-director at Rossbrook House;
Jennie Wastesicoot, health director at Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.

I completely support this panel and its work to prevent gang and youth crimes in Manitoba. We need more of these prevention programs and initiatives. Here are some of my ideas for the prevention and reduction of youth and gang crime::
- Monetary incentives for at-risk youth in inner cities and northern communities and reserves to complete high school. 
- Employment assistance and resources to youth of inner cities, aboriginal reserves and northern communities. 
- Gang desistance and prevention programs 
- Youth mentor and tutor program to provide positive role models
- More recreational facilities, community centres and activities
- Parenting programs and education and family violence programs and counseling
- Substance abuse programs and resources 
- Better access and resources for mental health programs, treatments and services
- Education in schools about the dangers and consequences of joining gangs and how to get out of them
- Programs which teach life skills, coping skills, communication skills, and problem solving
- Develop support networks and mentoring programs for youth
- Emphasizing life skills preparation in schools
- Revitalize impoverished communities and neighbourhoods and upgrade buildings, etc. 

Prisons are not long term solutions and fail at addressing the root causes of crime and gangs among youths. Alternatives to incarceration need to be considered more often for youths and aboriginal youth, as opposed to an over-reliance on imprisonment. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Crime bills to be scrutinized, Liberals warn

One of the stated reasons for the prorogation of Parliament was that the resetting of Senate committees would better allow the Tories to pass their crime legislation, parts of which had been held up in the Upper Chamber in the past.
But the Liberal justice critic says his party is not going to approve speedy passage of all the crime legislation through the House of Commons -- even if that leads to accusations of being labeled "soft on crime" -- when Parliament resumes this week.
"What you are going to see in the coming weeks is a more focused discussion from us," said Dominic LeBlanc. "We are not going to be wedged anymore. We will look at each bill one-by-one to see if it is more effective for public safety," the New Brunswick MP explained.
The Liberals, and other critics, say the Conservatives have often brought forward bills that allow them to promote an anti-crime stance, even if the changes to the justice system would have little practical impact in preventing crime.
"This is the first government to politicize the Criminal Code," said Mr. LeBlanc.
He accused the Conservatives of bringing forward "gimmicky" bills with "silly names" such as the "Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murderers Act."
In that case, the names of Robert Pickton and Clifford Olson were invoked by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson when he announced the bill last fall. The amendments would permit a judge to impose consecutive parole ineligibility periods for multiple murderers. There is no instance, however, when a convicted serial killer has been released on parole. The changes would not apply to Pickton or Olson since they are not retroactive.
There were nearly 20 crime bills that died when the federal government prorogued Parliament and the Conservatives are promising to re-introduce all of the legislation.
Mr. Nicholson rejected suggestions that the crime package is about politics over substance, in an interview Monday with the National Post. "We have a broad based approach. We are trying to give police the tools they need, punish crime and give greater rights to victims," he said.
The bill aimed at multiple murderers as well as plans to eliminate the "faint hope" clause will mean that families of crime victims will not have to repeatedly attend parole hearings for these offenders, explained Mr. Nicholson.
He defended, for example, a controversial bill that would impose minimum jail terms for low-level marijuana grow operators. "These are people in the business of trafficking. One of the ways to break up this activity, is putting these people in jail," said Mr. Nicholson.
Critics of the government's crime bills such as Craig Jones, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, said the legislative package could actually decrease public safety. "This is not about being tough on crime, it is about being stupid on crime," said Mr. Jones.
"Nothing will change for serious offenders," stated Mr. Jones. But mandatory jail terms for petty car thieves and marijuana grow-ops will clog already crowded provincial jails with people on the low end of the criminal spectrum, he observed. "If you put people in jail, they get worse," said Mr. Jones. "We are going to create a cohort of harder persons."