Quebec measures to soften effects of federal crime bill

Posted on March 25, 2012 in Child & Family Policy Context

Source: — Authors: – news/
March 14, 2012.   By James Mennie, The Gazette

One day after the Harper government adopted Bill C-10, its controversial get tough on crime legislation, Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier announced on Tuesday a series of measures aimed at softening the effects of the federal law on Quebec’s youth justice system.

And Fournier, who last November argued passionately against C-10 before a Commons justice and human rights committee, mused over just how permanent the more contentious elements of omnibus bill would be.

“It is not because a law is adopted that it will be there for a century,” he said. “When we share our expertise, our experience … others will follow and change will come to C-10.

“It’s not for a politician sitting in an assembly to establish the sanction for a crime. That was the kind of justice many centuries (ago). We’ve got a system where we have judges, we have prosecutors, we have lawyers. They know the facts. Not all cases are the same and they’ve got to have the tools to adapt justice to the case.”

The tools Fournier will provide for Quebec’s justice system include:

-Publishing the name of a juvenile charged with a serious offence only in “exceptional” circumstances.

-Using an order in council to allow prosecutors to inform the court of their decision not to seek adult sentencing of young offenders age 16 years and older. C-10 allows the procedure to be applied to young offenders 14 and older.

-Creating a drug rehabilitation program that would allow courts an alternative to a minimum sentence in the case of non-violent crimes.

Fournier repeatedly reminded reporters that while the federal government could adopt laws, the administration of justice was a provincial jurisdiction, and Quebec possessed 40 years of experience in dealing with youth crime, experience based on the ideal that rehabilitation is preferable to imprisonment.

“In Bill C-10, the concept of rehabilitation has been retained, but its importance has been diminished,” he said. “The legal power we have (as a province) is to add nuance to the manner C-10 is written … to conserve the idea of long-term protection for the public and to conserve the concept of rehabilitation.”

Fournier reiterated his support for certain sections of C-10, such as pre-trial detention for young offenders charged with serious crimes. But he also repeated his concerns that enforcing the legislation will cost Quebec an additional $80 million annually, while the construction of new prisons to house the anticipated influx of extra prisoners created by the law would cost more than $700 million.

In Quebec City, Parti Québécois MNA Bernard Drainville said C-10 is one of a series of measures by the Conservative government that make “a very, very strong case for Quebec’s independence.”

“It’s a defeat for Quebec, it’s a defeat for our values,” Drainville told reporters.

If Quebec was a country, the law would not apply, Drainville said.

“Who will pay?” Drainville asked, pointing out that Fournier has said Quebec would not pay for the Harper government’s election promises, and called on Ottawa to pony up the cash.

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