Police Chiefs Urge More ‘Balanced Approach’ While Supporting Omnibus Crime Bill

The head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is calling for an end to “tough on crime/soft on crime” sloganeering and a more “balanced approach” to the serious issues of criminal law policy.

Standing in uniform as he flanked the federal justice minister, Prince Albert’s Police Chief Dale McFee said he supports the government’s new law to increase penalties for serious crime, but added labels are getting in the way of constructive debate.

McFee was presented at a morning news conference as a “stakeholder” and supporter of the Conservative government’s tough-on-crime package, Bill C-10 — entitled the “Safe Streets and Communities Act.” It passed a Commons vote Monday evening with a vote of 157 to 127.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson called the news conference earlier in the day to urge swift passage of the omnibus bill, and suggested the Opposition was dragging its feet.

“The time for talk is over. The time for action is now,” said Nicholson.

But while McFee said the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police supported the passage of Bill C-10, he said the simplification of debate is not helpful.

“We’ve got this distinction — hard and soft on crime — and quite frankly I think, on behalf of the policing in this country, we need to stop that,” said McFee.

“In reality, we’re not going to arrest our way out of our troubles,” McFee told reporters, as Nicholson stood off to the side.

Those who commit serious crime “need to go to jail” where McFee said they may receive counseling and rehabilitation programs in a closed environment that keeps Canadians safe.

But, McFee said, a lot of people would be diverted from crime through early intervention and prevention programs. Such programs would “save lots of money and obviously be more efficient in achieving the results at that end,” he said. “And I think unless we do both, quite frankly, we’re missing a piece.”

He pointed to a Saskatchewan community mobilization program that engages health, social and education services, saying community safety is “more than policing.”

“Policing is a component of that. Sometimes it’s often a small component,” said McFee. He said it is important, “going forward,” that agencies collaborate on the “softer side, if you want to use that terminology or prevention and intervention, but I don’t see that as soft on crime.”

“I see that as hard decisions and hard decisions are often the first things to go when it comes to budget cuts and other things. But it’s a balanced approach and certainly when I say that, I look forward to that dialogue moving forward.”

“Do we need to do more in that area? Absolutely. Just as we need to do more on the serious side and it’s one thing at a time, and certainly we look forward to those discussions moving forward.”

Later in the afternoon, Nicholson touted McFee’s support in the Commons for Bill C-10’s passage.

The omnibus bill rolls together nine separate pieces of legislation. Now that it has approval from the Commons, it moves to the Senate, where the governing party also holds a majority.

The Conservatives belatedly admitted last week that several Liberal-proposed amendments would have reinforced the right of victims to sue state sponsors of terrorist acts.

However, the Conservatives had defeated the amendments in committee. It was too late to accept the amendments, deemed substantive changes, once the bill had been sent back to the Commons for final third reading. The government has suggested it will table the amendments anew in the Senate.

– Article from Toronto Star.