Stephen Harper’s new majority Conservative government has made pushing the Safe Streets and Communities Act, Bill C-10, through parliament a top priority.
Comprised of nine bills that were either defeated by the last parliament or died with its dissolution, the Conservatives’ omnibus anti-crime bill is a collection of socially regressive measures. Most of these would make the criminal justice system more arbitrary and vindictive. Some are petty. Taken together they represent a wholesale repudiation of the bourgeois liberal concept of rehabilitation, in favor of punishment and vengeance.
Among other things, Bill C-10 would:
– Significantly erode the distinction between youth and adult offenders. Henceforth, the courts would be obliged to consider imposing adult sentences on persons as young as 14 convicted of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or aggravated sexual assault. Judges would also have the right to impose harsher sentences in cases involving violent or repeat offenders, including those found guilty of reckless behavior.
– Allow police to arrest without a warrant “an offender who appears to be in breach of a condition of any conditional release.”
– Eliminate judges’ discretion to impose conditional sentences or house arrest for many crimes, including manslaughter and drug trafficking.
– Impose new or increased mandatory minimum sentences for those in possession of even small amounts of marijuana and other illicit drugs if deemed “for the purposes of trafficking,” and for persons convicted of child sex offenses.
– Impose longer wait-time before persons can request a pardon and bar those convicted of serious crimes from ever obtaining a pardon.
– Introduce new hurdles for Canadian citizens jailed abroad to serve the remainder of their sentences in Canada.
Claiming that they have a popular mandate, the Conservatives brushed aside opposition reservations about Bill C-10, including some 88 proposed amendments, and invoked cloture last month to ensure its passage by the House of Commons. The bill now only needs the imprimatur of the Conservative-dominated Senate and the Governor-General’s signature to become law.
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