Omnibus Crime Bill Rushed Through Senate, Liberal Senators Say

The government’s omnibus crime bill was being pushed through its final test in the Senate for no good reason, Liberal senators charged Thursday.

Their words, however, were unable to change the trajectory of the bill’s path to becoming law, as the Conservatives used their majority in the Senate to give final approval — by a vote of 48 to 37 — to the bill before it returns to the House of Commons.

Once in the Commons, MPs would have to approve the six changes Conservative senators made to the bill that more clearly define terrorism activities and how victims of terrorism can sue groups or states that support terrorism.

Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, passed its final vote in the Senate at about midnight Friday.

The Conservatives used their majority to limit debate on the bill to six hours, much to the chagrin of the opposition Liberals. Only one Conservative voted against limiting debate: Sen. Pierre Nolin. Mr. Nolin was also expected to vote against final passage of the bill.

The government promised to pass the omnibus crime bill within 100 days of taking office, and limiting debate was done to ensure the government could keep its promise, said Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan.

“Canadians are expecting us to (pass) this,” Mr. Carignan said.

“The best way to ensure the population is not jaded when it comes to politics is to keep our promises.”

The Liberals, however, said there was still enough opposition to the package of nine bills that every senator deserved the right to speak to the bill, especially the seven newest senators who may not have had the chance to review every transcript and piece of evidence a Senate committee heard about the bill, including critiques of the mandatory minimum sentences outlined in C-10.

“It is not a one-size-fits-all justice system. Criminal justice is not a vending machine, where you press a button — A1, B5 or B6 — and out pops a sentence,” said Sen. James Cowan, the Liberal leader in the Senate.

“Vending machines usually dispense junk food. We should aim for something higher when we dispense justice to Canadians.”

During 2 1/2 hours of arguments on the proposal to limit debate to six hours — the least number of hours required when the Senate approves time limits — Liberal senators called the rush to make C-10 law an affront to democracy and a hindrance to the Senate’s ability to act as the “chamber of sober second thought.”

“There is no excuse for what this chamber is about to do. We should be ashamed of ourselves,” said Liberal Sen. Joan Fraser.

– Article from The National Post.