Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Canadians deeply divided on crime and punishment
OTTAWA -- As far as politics go, promising to stop giving child predators a pardon is pretty much a no-brainer.
So it is not a surprise that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has the support of more than four of five Canadians for his new legislation to eliminate pardons for sex offenders who abused children -- or at least so said a poll released last week by Angus Reid.
What is perhaps more interesting in the poll results is the clear divide between crime prevention and punishing criminals. The current government's tough-on-crime focus is almost all about putting more people behind bars for longer.
But the poll found 50 per cent of Canadians think the government's focus should be on preventing crime, compared to 45 per cent who think it should be on punishing offenders.
Not surprisingly, Conservative voters are more in favour of punishment than prevention -- 59 per cent to 38 per cent. Liberals (55 to 40), NDP (64 to 32) and Green voters (62 to 35) all came out more on the side of prevention.
So was NDP justice critic Joe Comartin correct when he said recently that very few voters who are not dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives will be swayed by the government's tactics painting any vote against one of its crime bills as pro-criminal and anti-victim?
Regardless, the numbers give some support to the showdown I'm expecting between opposition parties and the Conservatives over crime bills with billion-dollar price tags.
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The Canadian Museum of Nature is designated a national historic site and for four years served as Canada's Parliament Buildings after Centre Block was destroyed by fire in 1916.
But by 2000, the museum was less national treasure than national embarrassment.
The roof leaked. The foundations were sinking. The electrical and mechanical systems and the fire alarms were ancient. There was asbestos in the walls and giant blobs falling from the ceiling.
Over the weekend, the 100-year-old Tudor-Gothic castle had its rebirth as the museum celebrated a grand reopening complete with parade, concert and, of course, a ribbon cutting.
It was the unveiling of a six-year, $216-million overhaul that is nothing short of spectacular.
Four million pounds of steel were inserted into the walls to make it earthquake-proof. Twenty-eight million pounds of concrete were poured for new walls, floors and foundations. State-of-the-art temperature and humidity controls will allow the museum to showcase specimens previously considered too fragile for display.
Essentially, the exterior was restored and a new building built within it to accommodate the needs of a modern-day museum without sacrificing the charms and history of a century-old building.
That's definitely something to celebrate.
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a pretty busy guy -- trying to stop a global bank tax and preparing to host 20 of the world's most influential leaders later this spring.
But if you're a music star and you're in Ottawa, you might expect to get added onto his agenda.
Last week, Harper's office released official photos of the PM and his 11-year-old daughter, Rachel, with Taylor Swift, who was in the capital to perform at Scotiabank Place. They had a backstage tour and Harper gave Swift a signed copy of the book The Maple Leaf Forever: A Celebration of Canadian Symbols with the inscription:
"Taylor: I hope you look back upon your time in Ottawa fondly. Thank you for spending time with my daughter, Rachel, and me. All the best in the future! Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada May 20, 2010.
On May 2, Harper tweeted that he played Run to You with Bryan Adams at the official prime ministerial residence, and posted a photo.
On April 11, he tweeted about welcoming Nickelback lead singer Chad Kroeger to 24 Sussex Drive and added the requisite photo of the two posing, one-armed-hug style, on the front steps.
In January, Harper and his wife, Laureen, hosted Jann Arden at their vacation home in Harrington Lake and treated her to sugar-pie tarts and shots of Goldschlager -- a cinnamon-flavoured liqueur with flecks of gold in it.
If we care about preventing and reducing crime, prison is the least effective way to do so. If we really want to prevent crime we need to address the underlying causes of crime. Prison is a quick fix, not a long term solution to our problems. Most inmates will be released into society someday and we need to care about crime prevention, as it is in our best interests. Sex offenders should receive pardons because a criminal record severely limits employment and housing opportunities and with unemployment comes the increased chance of re-offending. We need to foster rehabilitation and reintegration not inhibit it. Sex offenders still have restrictions when granted pardons. Their file and record is never completely sealed. Imprisoning more people for longer periods does not prevent or reduce crime. It is a quick fix. We need to address the causes of crime such as unemployment, low levels of education, poverty, addictions issues, family violence, poor parenting, mental health issues, etc. and create programs for at-risk youth, and gang desistance programs.