Hot! Bar association blasts tough-on-crime bill

VancouverSun.com – health – Organization representing Canada’s lawyers says proposed Bill C-10 has been rushed, ignores evidence and will create out-of-control costs
November 18, 2011.    By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

Canada’s lawyers have joined a host of others – from Texas Republicans to criminologists and civil libertarians – denouncing the federal omnibus crime bill.

Ironically titled The Safe Streets and Communities Act, Bill C-10 is being rammed through Parliament by the Conservative majority government although many of its measures are a proven waste of money and effort.

Many penology and law-enforcement specialists say the ill-considered legislation could make things worse.

Ontario and Quebec are balking; B.C. has said whoa, let’s have a look at the numbers.

Texas, California and other states that tried these policies were unable to afford the prison system they spawned.

Representing over 37,000 lawyers across the country, the Canadian Bar Association now is lobbying MPs urging them to listen to reason.

“This bill will change our country’s entire approach to crime at every stage of the justice system,” said CBA president and Nova Scotia lawyer Trinda L. Ernst.

“It represents a huge step backwards; rather than prioritizing public safety, it emphasizes retribution above all else. It’s an approach that will make us less safe, less secure, and ultimately, less Canadian.”

The association earlier this month presented a 100-page submission to Parliament, but it has distilled that brief into a list of 10 key criticisms of C-10:

1. Ignores reality. Decades of research and experience establish what actually reduces crime: (a) addressing child poverty, (b) providing services for the mentally ill and those afflicted with FASD [fetal alcohol spectrum disorder], (c) diverting young offenders from the adult justice system, and (d) rehabilitating prisoners, and helping them to reintegrate into society.

2. Rush job. Instead of receiving a thorough review, Bill C-10 is being rushed through Parliament purely to meet the “100-day passage” promise from the last election. Expert witnesses attempting to comment on over 150 pages of legislation in committee hearings are cut off mid-sentence after just five minutes.

3. Spin triumphs over substance. The federal government has chosen to take a “marketing” approach to Bill C-10, rather than explaining the facts to Canadians. This campaign misrepresents the bill’s actual content.

4. No proper inspection. Contrary to government claims, some parts of Bill C-10 have received no previous study by parliamentary committee. Other sections have been studied before and changed – but are back in their original form.

5. Wasted youth. More young Canadians will spend months in custodial centres before trial, thanks to Bill C-10. Experience has shown that’s where they have their criminal behaviour reinforced; only when diverted to community options are they more likely to be reformed.

6. Punishments eclipse the crime. The slogan for one proposal was Ending House Arrest for Serious and Violent Criminals Act, but Bill C-10 will also eliminate conditional sentences for minor and property offenders and send those people to jail. Is roughly $100,000 per year to unnecessarily jail someone a good use of taxpayers’ money?

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