Tories’ Crime Bill Gets Another Chance to Pass Tonight

The Conservatives’ controversial crime bill will be put to final vote Monday night in the House of Commons, a few days later than the government expected.

It had planned to pass Bill C-10 last Wednesday, but the NDP was able to delay the last day of debate until Friday and push the final vote to today.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and other Tory MPs had even held a news conference on Wednesday to mark what was supposed to be the last time MPs dealt with the bill.

It had been sent back to the Commons by the Senate because of amendments made to the part of the bill that gives Canadians the ability to sue perpetrators and supporters of terrorism.

After taking up more than three hours of debate by reiterating his party’s opposition to the omnibus crime bill, NDP MP Jack Harris proposed a motion to reject the Senate amendments. MPs will first vote on that motion this evening, then on whether to accept the revised bill. The Conservatives will be able to defeat the motion and pass the bill because of their majority.

The safe streets and communities act, as the legislation is called, combines bills that were introduced separately in previous sessions of Parliament but never passed. It makes a number of major changes to the justice and corrections systems, and several of the measures have been controversial.

Critics oppose mandatory minimum sentences
The toughening of jail sentences and the introduction of new mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug and other offences are among the measures opposed by critics.

Louise Arbour, former justice at the Supreme Court of Canada, is one of those critics and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group that studies and makes recommendations on national drug policies around the world. She told CBC News on Monday that mandatory minimum sentences are generally “bad criminal law policies.”

They preclude judges from considering the specific circumstances of the offender and the offence and tie their hands, Arbour said. With marijuana-related offences, mandatory minimum sentences “go completely against the modern thinking by world leaders about the direction that the so-called war on drugs should take after 40 years of failure,” she said.

The government says it is targeting drug traffickers, but Arbour says mandatory minimum sentences won’t put a dent in what is a global problem. In her opinion, the safe streets and communities act is “a very costly enterprise that is based on ideology rather than science and progressive experimental initiatives that Canada is very famous for,” Arbour said.

The opposition parties have supported the part of C-10 that toughens sentences for child sex offenders and they wanted those proposals separated from the bill, but the government kept C-10 as a complete package.

Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the other lead minister on the bill, have always defended it by saying it will lead to improved safety for Canadians and better protection for victims and that it will give more appropriate punishments to offenders.

– Article from CBC News.

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