There’s something I don’t understand about us humans. We can cure disease, explore outer space, access information from around the world in a split second and discover the God particle, and yet the best idea we have come up with to respond to crime and social harm is to lock people in cages.
Our current government shows a particular zeal for the punitive, as evidenced by pretty much every aspect of their crime agenda.
On Wednesday, Vic Toews said “Contrary to predictions by our critics and the opposition, we have not seen the so-called substantive increase in offenders swamping the correctional system and creating untold new costs.” I think this statement is worth discussing.
First of all, Bill C-10, the Conservative government’s sweeping omnibus crime bill, just received Royal Assent on March 12 of this year. Many of the legislative amendments that will expand the prison population (changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, mandatory minimums for drug offenses and the elimination of conditional sentences for a number of crimes) won’t come into force until October/November.
As a result of backlogs in the courts, the average length of time between being arrested and going to trial is eight months. So of course there hasn’t been a massive increase in prison populations…yet. It will take at least a year before the impact of this legislation can be accurately assessed. Either the Public Safety Minister is being intentionally deceptive, or he lacks a basic understanding of how the court system works. I’m not sure which one is more disturbing.
Second, Toews tries to dismiss legitimate concerns about the efficacy and necessity of the Harper crime agenda by calling them “predictions by our critics and opposition.” Would Statistics Canada be considered the opposition? It only takes a quick visit to their website to see that the crime rate and the crime severity index have been dropping steadily in Canada since 1994. It’s also important to remember that red flags have been raised about Harper’s law and order tactics by people from all across the political spectrum.
The Canadian Bar Association, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and NUPGE (the union that represents federal prison guards) were among groups that spoke out against the new legislation.
– Read the entire article at The Huffington Post.