Tory Omnibus Crime Bill Will Produce More Crime and Less Justice

By l'Hon. Irwin Cotler on October 26, 2011

 

The Conservative’s omnibus crime bill will result, sadly, in more crime, less justice. There are six principal problems with the legislation.

First, even before the legislation was tabled there was a serious problem of prison overcrowding, with some provinces reporting prisons at 200% capacity. We know overcrowding leads to more crime within prisons, and more crime outside prisons. The US Supreme Court has found overcrowding of 137% can constitute cruel and unusual punishment. This legislation will only exacerbate the problem.

Second, there is the question of costs. Not only have the costs not been disclosed, but in fact the Parliamentary Budget Officer costed one of the bills alone at $5 billion. Canadians and Parliament have a right to full disclosure and accountability.

Third, there is a need for consultation with our provincial and territorial counterparts, who will bear the burden of costs at the expense of services, and that will address the issue of crime prevention and not just crime and punishment.

Fourth, bundling nine major pieces of legislation in one omnibus bill will not allow for sufficient and differentiated Parliamentary discussion and debate – let alone oversight. This will serve to undermine the Parliamentary process. If you ask the Canadian people if they are in favour of protecting victims and safe streets, of course the answer is yes. The question is how you achieve it. This bill will not achieve it; it will only serve to make things worse.

Fifth, the omnibus bill is about principles and priorities – at its core it is about values. If you go ahead and spend unnecessary billions of dollars on building unnecessary prisons while crime is receding, that means do you not invest those billions of dollars on a social justice agenda, on childcare, on health care, on crime prevention, on seniors, on social housing. So at the end of the day we'll probably – as a result of this bill – have more crime and less justice.

Finally, evidence demonstrates that the use of mandatory minimum sentences – such as would be expanded in this legislation - do not deter crime, have a differential and discriminatory impact on vulnerable groups, and unduly circumscribe judicial and prosecutorial discretion. Indeed, even US Conservatives now regard it as a failed policy that has caused the prison population to skyrocket, while creating expensive mega-jails that effectively become factories of crime.

 

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