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.

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."

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