CANNABIS CULTURE – The Conservatives’ ominous omnibus crime bill, C-10, is coming under fire from all sides. Experts, opposition politicians, and even conservative crime-fighters from Texas warn the bill is “counterproductive” and could spell disaster for Canada.
In the House of Commons, NDP Deputy Leader Libby Davies gave a 10-minute presentation laying-out the many flaws and dangers of the massive bill, and said the Conservatives “are completely divorced from the reality of what’s going on.”
“The conservatives have branded themselves and wrapped themselves in a cloak of crime and punishment,” she said, “and as a result they are blind to evidence, they are blind to the costs, they are blind to the fact that we have the lowest crime rate since 1973, they are blind to building safe and healthy communities, they are blind to the horrendous experience of the United States and its war on drugs regime that is now being slowly repealed – including the repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing … because of its catastrophic failure on people and society overall. They are blind to the evidence here in Canada and they are blind to the real impacts of what these bills will have on the lives of people and on communities overall.”
The Conservatives, who were unable to pass a number of crime bills before winning a majority government in the last election, have packaged them all (or nine of them, at least) into the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
Davies called the Conservatives “blind to parliamentary democracy” and said “they are only interested … in manipulating people, creating fear, division, and creating a ‘them and us’ scenario. I believe from the bottom of my heart that this omnibus bill is offensive because it is politically motivated and will have enormous negative impacts.”
Watch video of Libby Davies in the House of Commons:
Steven Harper’s crew, fast-tracking the legislation through the House of Commons, limited debate and sent the bill straight to committee. There, it has been criticized by criminologists, the Canadian Bar Association, and the John Howard Society.
“We believe the substance of this legislation both to be self-defeating and counterproductive, if the goal is to enhance public safety,” Vice-chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s National Criminal Justice Section Eric Gottardi said today. “It represents a profound shift in orientation from a system that emphasizes public safety … rehabilitation and reintegration to one that puts vengeance first.”
Anthony Doob, a criminologist at the University of Toronto called the bill a “cruel and dishonest joke on the part of the government,” and said “a law purposely made incoherent does not deserve respect.” He also said it is “‘absolutely clear’ that an increased prison population will mean an increased crime rate,” according to the CBC.
Reacting to the criticism from experts, the Conservatives offered no evidence but resorted to ad hominem attacks, questioning the credentials of Doob and Ottawa criminologist Eugene Oscapella, “suggesting they were too far removed from real life to offer relevant advice” according to the Globe and Mail. One Conservative MP called the executive director of the John Howard Society “an advocate for criminals”.
The personal attacks sparked Liberal MP Irwin Cotler to formally call for improved respect of expert witnesses called before the committee.
In her speech before the house, Davies criticized the wisdom of mandatory minimum jail sentencing, known to have failed across the United States.
“The reality is that mandatory minimums do not deter organized crime,” she said. “Instead, they almost exclusively affect small dealers, street-level traffickers and nonviolent offenders, leaving the door wide open for organized crime to step in and fill the void created by the sweeps at the lower end. Even the Canadian Justice Department and its report 2002 concluded that mandatory minimum sentences are the least effective in relation to drug offences. And I have to say that the Minister of Justice has never been able to offer a shred of evidence that mandatory minimums are a deterrence.”
Even conservatives from the reputedly tough-on-crime state Texas rejected Harper’s crime plan, telling the CBC in a special report that locking-up increased numbers of citizens is not the answer.
“You will spend billions and billions and billions on locking people up,” said Judge John Creuzot of the Dallas County Court. “And there will come a point in time where the public says, ‘Enough!’ And you’ll wind up letting them out.”
A coalition of experts in Washington, D.C. released a statement monday that added more criticism on the pile. “Republican governors and state legislators in such states of Texas, South Carolina, and Ohio are repealing mandatory minimum sentences, increasing opportunities for effective community supervision, and funding drug treatment because they know it will improve public safety and reduce taxpayer costs,” said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute. “If passed, C-10 will take Canadian justice policies 180 degrees in the wrong direction, and Canadian citizens will bear the costs.”
Watch video of the CBC News report on Texas and crime:
NDP Member of Parliament Don Davies also took shots at the bill in a recent speech in the house.
“This bill is called the Safe Streets and Communities Act,” Davies said. “I think it’s more aptly called the Overcrowded Prisons, No Crime Prevention and Overburdened Taxpayers With No Results Act.”
He told the House of a recent visit to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security by former US Drug Enforcement Administration head Asa Hutchinson.
“What he came to tell us was remarkable,” Davies said, “that the policies of toughening up sentences and incarcerating more people in United States by pursuing policies like mandatory minimums, lengthening sentences, taking away discretion from judges, reducing sentencing options for judges has resulted in poor outcomes. What he said was that it threatens to bankrupt the treasuries of every state that these policies have been pursued in and they have made no noticeable dent in the crime rate.”
Watch video of Don Davies in the House of Commons:
Green Party MP Elizabeth May managed to squeeze in a quick statement in the final two minutes of debate on the omnibus bill, and said passing the bill would be “a very large, serious mistake that future parliamentarians will have to struggle to correct.”
Watch video of Elizabeth May in the House of Commons:
The Green Party has also designed a webpage that critics of the bill can use to send a customized email to their local MP.
Other ways to help stop Bill C-10
Please contact Members of Parliament and Senators and tell them you do not support the Safer Streets and Communities Act.
Find a link to your Senator’s contact info on this list – or call them all!
Sign up at WhyProhibition.ca to get involved in marijuana activism online and receive regular updates about protest actions in your area.
Watch Cannabis Culture for more info about the Safer Streets and Communities Act and upcoming activism events.