Hundreds of activists are expected on Parliament Hill at noon on Tuesday, January 31, to protest the Harper Conservative government’s widely condemned omnibus crime Bill C-10. The protest is being organized by the Political Action Committee of the Occupy Ottawa movement.
“Bill C-10 is titled The Safe Streets and Communities Act – which is quite an ironic name,” said Occupy Ottawa activist Andy Wilson. “Most, if not all, expert opinion indicates that, if passed, Bill C-10 will do nothing to make streets and/or communities safer.”
The bill incorporates nine separate measures rejected by Parliament before Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative majority victory last May. The government used its majority to pass the bill in the House of Commons last December. The bill is now before the Senate.
If passed into law, the legislation would obliterate Canada’s humane, compassion-based criminal justice system, and replace it with the Tories’ vindictive, ideology-driven tough-on-crime approach.
Experts have consistently argued that the legislation would make Canada a more dangerous place by filling new prisons with people who should not be there.
It would limit bail and parole conditions and impose mandatory minimum sentences for certain sexual and drug offenses. More young Canadians would spend months in custodial centres before trial and, if convicted, longer and tougher sentences.
“Bill C-10 will make our streets and communities less safe,” Wilson said. “Tougher and longer prison sentences toughen criminals. Do we want them to come out as neighbours, or as predators hardened by their prison experience?”
A mockery of our democracy
The Tories rushed Bill C-10 through the House of Commons to meet the government’s “100-day passage” promise made during the federal election. Opposition MPs and expert witnesses have complained that they were not given adequate time to examine and input into the bill. They have argue that no proper attention was given to the legislation’s costs, consequences, and the legitimate concerns stakeholders.
A Quebec Bar Association spokesperson recently told the Ottawa Citizen that “Minimum sentences send a terrible message to society because they give the impression that Parliament does not trust our courts and our judges to do their jobs…It undermines one of the basic foundations of our democratic society, which is our court system.”
On the night of the vote, MPs from the Official Opposition New Democrats, Liberal Party, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party united against the bill. Many wore “Safer, not meaner” buttons.
Massive public rejection of bill and government’s contempt of evidence
Dozens of professionals, criminal justice activists, victims’ rights groups, civil society organizations and other stakeholders have officially come out against this bill. They include: the Canadian Bar Association, First Nations chiefs, the Canadian Criminal Justice Association, opposition MPs, the Canadian Pediatric Association, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
The experts have argued that Canada’s current humane and rehabilitation-focused strategies have been proven to reduce crime. Crime in Canada is at it’s lowest since 1973.
Too dump for Texas
For decades, right-wing Conservatives in Texas experimented with “tough on crime” approaches to criminal justice, resulting largely unchanged crime rates, and skyrocketing incarceration rates and costs. They oppose this bill.
“Republican governors and state legislators in such states of Texas, South Carolina, and Ohio are repealing mandatory minimum sentences, increasing opportunities for effective community supervision, and funding drug treatment because they know it will improve public safety and reduce taxpayer costs,” said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute.
Enormous cost on provinces and taxpayers
Newfoundland, Ontario and Quebec oppose Bill C-10 and the cost it imposes on their budgets. Ontario’s Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur recently said the bill would force the province to fork out $1 billion to implement the its sweeping crime changes.
But the Harper government, buoyed by it’s comfortable majority, isn’t listening these democratic voices.
For more information, please contact the Occupy Ottawa Political Action Committee at: firstname.lastname@example.org or the Occupy Ottawa website Editorial Team at: email@example.com
With contributions from Phil McGavin, Andy Wilson, Laura Farbie, Sarah Barbary and other Occupy Ottawa activists.