While local police shed little light on a long crime bill being rolled out by the Conservative government, MP Alex Atamanenko has a number of reasons why the “tough-on-crime agenda” doesn’t work.
New criminal justice changes included in a 110-page omnibus bill tabled in the Commons affects nine pieces of existing legislation including drug laws, youth sentencing, anti-terrorism measures, the pardons system, detention of refugees, parole and house arrest.
“What they’ve done is put all these bills together, rather than going at them one by one so basically we have a choice here to vote for all or nothing and that’s wrong,” said Atamanenko.
“There are some provisions in these bills that are acceptable but a lot of them aren’t.”
Corrections Canada estimates the cost of the system will increase to $3 billion this fiscal year from $1.6 billion in 2006 when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives took power.
The push for the bill that’s coined the “safe streets and community act,” he says, isn’t necessarily justified since crime rates have declined steadily for the past decade.
“The consensus is crime rates are going down and what this is going to do is stuff our prisons full of people and we’re going to have to build more prisons,” said Atamaneko. “It also takes away these mandatory minimum sentences, it takes away discretion from judges for other measures that have been successful in the past.”
While Canada moves in this “tough-on-crime” direction, some of our neighbours south of the border are attempting to replace harsh minimum sentencing with more parole and house arrest options.
Though some of the system changes clearly would have an impact on local enforcement, Trail RCMP doesn’t want to gush to soon.
“Any time any government poses any changes, they’re obviously done because the government feels that it will be to the benefit of society and ultimately that’s what we do as police officers, we’re here to protect society,” said Trail RCMP Cpl Dave Johnson. “But, ultimately, until it becomes the law of Canada, I don’t want to be anti-political but it’s really none of my concern as a police officer. As a citizen, I have my own opinions.”
Though local police concentrate much effort on cracking down on marijuana grow operations, Johnson would not say whether he believes a proposed harsher penalty on possession and production of drugs will deter people from criminal activity.
“Any time we’re given the ability to increase the safety of a victim in any crime, well then absolutely we’re going to be in favour of that,” he said, pointing to the bill change that would give new powers for police when release conditions are broken. “Not knowing what those changes are going to be and having a slight idea of what is proposed and what actually comes out the other end as legislation, again, I’m not going to speculate on it.”
With files from CP