2011-09-29 "Potheads Fare Worse Than Child Rapists in Canadian Crime Bill" by Cathryn Wellner
If you’re contemplating a life of crime in Canada, now is the time to switch from growing marijuana plants to preying on children. If the Conservatives pass their omnibus crime bill, you will get off with a much lighter sentence.
The Province points out, “Under the Tories’ omnibus crime legislation tabled Tuesday, a person growing 201 pot plants in a rental unit would receive a longer mandatory sentence than someone who rapes a toddler or forces a five-year-old to have sex with an animal.”
Politics, Not Safety -
After years of having his crime bills defeated by the opposition, Stephen Harper is on the verge of getting his revenge. Never mind that the crime rate has been steadily dropping. Forget the failed experiment in tougher sentencing in the U.S., where the cost of incarceration is so great even conservatives are calling for reform. Harper promised to get tough on crime, and he plans to keep his word even if the social and economic costs far outweigh the benefits.
Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act lumps together nine bills that failed to pass when the Tories were a minority government. Among the omnibus bill’s most contentious measures are those that will strip judges of discretionary power and swell the prison population.
House arrest would be abolished, though it has proven effective for nonviolent offenses. Mandatory minimum sentences would be imposed for drug offenses, including six months for anyone caught growing six or more marijuana plants. And anyone with three offenses will never be eligible for parole.
Does Canada Need This Bill?
Crime in Canada is at its lowest rate since 1973, when the country had only 12 million people. Violent crimes are down. Young people are committing fewer crimes, and even property crimes have dropped. So safety is clearly not the driving force here.
The Tories are also not saying how much the measures will cost, but The Globe and Mail estimates Corrections Canada “will spend more than $450-million this year implementing just one of the Conservative government’s new tough-on-crime measures – the Truth in Sentencing Act – as Canada’s prison system expands to accommodate a rush of new inmates.” This is at a time when Corrections Canada already has a $3 billion budget, prisons are overcrowded and the country’s economy is still vulnerable.
On Tuesday the Tories moved to restrict debate, clearing the way to ram the bill through Parliament without having to put a dollar figure to it or allow for real discussion. The agenda here is politics, not crime, and the impact will reverberate throughout one of the safest countries in the world.