As promised, the Conservative government in Ottawa has transformed the country’s legal landscape within the first 100 sitting days of its majority mandate. Last night, the Harper Tories finally passed Bill C-1o, otherwise known as the omnibus crime bill, with its laundry list of legal changes the Conservatives had failed to push through Parliament during their years in minority government. These include mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug offenders, harsher penalties for violent crimes and sexual assault, and a provision allowing victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators more easily.
“These are very reasonable measures,” said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson. “They go after those who sexually exploit children, people in the child pornography business and it goes after drug traffickers. So this will be welcomed, particularly by victims, those involved with law enforcement and, as we know, Canadians are supportive of what we are doing in this area.”
But not all of them. In fact, many view much of the legislation as ideologically motivated and detached from reality. The Canadian Bar Association, for instance, has released a list of 10 reasons to oppose Bill C-10, saying it will unjustly send many people to prison—on the taxpayer’s dime—while neglecting to pursue avenues of crime reduction proven to be successful, such as poverty reduction, diverting young offenders from the adult prison system and offering more services to the mentally ill.
The Liberal government of Ontario has questioned the bill’s price tag, saying it will unnecessarily cost the province more than $1 billion due to an expected influx of new prison inmates in the provincial prison system. Quebec’s Liberal government went further, saying the bill “harms” the province’s youth rehabilitation programs, and vowing not to pay the $600 million in extra costs it expects the legislation will bring.