My immediate reaction to the passage of the Conservatives omnibus crime Bill C-10 yesterday was: “See you all in jail!” It’s the worst reaction by an avowed lifelong social-political activist. That’s because, even in the darkest hour, hope is a terrible thing to lose. At least that’s what I’m hearing from fellow Occupy Ottawa activists, Phil McGavin and Sarah Barbary.
But first, please allow me to justify my emotive and irrational reaction.
Across Canada, legal and other experts are speaking out against the bill. If the bill is passed into law, they argue, the Canadian justice system would focus more on punishment, greater use of prison as a penalty, increased police powers, and fewer protections of Canadians’ privacy and civil liberties.
More of the experts’ learned arguments:
- Canada’s compassion-based focus on prevention and rehabilitation has already brought crime rates to historic lows. Crime rates in Canada are currently at their lowest level since 1973
- Tough-on-crime laws and policies often lead to more crime
- Mandatory minimum sentences would increase prison time not only for sexual predators but for those convicted of growing a few marijuana plants.
- Millions of tax-payers funds would be spent on building prisons to trap people, and create a permanent underclass of Canadians with little hope for a better life
- The bill would make Canada a more dangerous place by filling new prisons with people who should not be there
- Mandatory sentences and prison expansion backfired in the US. Even conservative Texans are warning Canada not to follow America’s failed path of mandatory sentences and massive prison expansion.
But, buoyed by unassailable majorities in both the House of Commons and Senate, and a vindictive ideology, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives aren’t listening.
“The battle is not over,” Phil responded to my Facebook update minutres after I updated my Facebook Profile.
To which I responded, “There’s still hope that sanity will prevail. And yet, how much hope can we invest in an unelected Senate dominated by appointees of our “minority-elected unfriendly dictator?”
Still, Phil would not give up on me. “We do not reduce ourselves to hope,” he said. “We take the decision that according to our morals and ethics, we must resist. We then make a sober analysis of what we’re up against, and our means to combat it. Then, in spite of our hope or lack of it, we act!”
Phil nailed. Not for Sarah though. She added: “it’s not over yet…”
There you have it. Bill C-10 now heads to the Senate, but it’s not over! We, the people, need to make Canada safer, not meaner. We must insist on a 21st century Canadian justice system. This system, based on Canada’s cherished value of compassion, guarantees that crime victim’s needs are met, affected communities are healed, while offenders are rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. In the vast majority of cases, rehabilitation is better than long jail sentences.