By: Tonda MacCharles, The Star
OTTAWA—Conrad Black befriended mafia bosses, drug dealers and other inmates during his time in prison.
And though he has been one of the pre-eminent small-c conservative thinkers in Canada, Black is no friend to the Stephen Harper government right now.
His jailbird’s-eye view was more than a rude awakening. It was fodder for his memoirs and now, before he goes back to jail next week, for a tirade against the Harper government’s law-and-order agenda. Read more »
BY AILSA M. WATKINSON, THE STARPHOENIX
Watkinson is chair of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan and a professor in the faculty of social work at the Saskatoon campus of the University of Regina.
In the article, Sask jails 'recipe for disaster' (SP, Aug. 22), Corrections Minister Yogi Huyghebaert affirmed his support for the federal government's law and order agenda and said he is not concerned with the influx of prisoners into provincial jails from a deluge of new federal legislation intended to imprison more people. Read more »
BY AMY MINSKY, The Province
OTTAWA — The Conservative government's omnibus crime legislation, to be introduced this fall, may put too much focus on offenders, leaving victims in the dark, crime victims advocates say.
The legislation, likely to be sweeping in scale and scope, will be bundled into omnibus bills that represent a larger group of about a dozen bills the government was unable to pass in the previous minority Parliament. The Tories have promised to pass the bundled legislation within 100 sitting days of the majority Parliament, which sat for just a few weeks in June.
Advocates for victims of crime are concerned that the bill — expected to dramatically expand mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes, harshen sentencing for certain sexual offences against children and affect the privacy of young offenders — puts more weight on punishment than prevention, and won't go far enough to help victims.
The government has said that harsher sentencing will help victims of crime by ensuring offenders stay off the streets and behind bars.
But the answer isn't that simple, said Sue O'Sullivan, the federal ombudsman for victims of crime. Read more »
How tough is tough enough when it comes to crime?
A Maclean’s investigation this week by Ken MacQueen and Patricia Treble (“Too many cops?”) offers a surprising look at the unintended consequences of Canada’s recent tough-on-crime agenda.
The overall crime rate in Canada is at its lowest level since the early 1970s, and serious crime is similarly falling. This is good news, of course. And it may in large part be due to the fact that police staffing levels are at a 30-year high nationwide. Read more »
By Michael McKiernan, Law Times
HALIFAX — Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson brushed off a barrage of criticism for his tough-on-crime policies during his annual appearance at the Canadian Bar Association’s conference in Halifax last week.
Earlier, the CBA’s council passed a string of resolutions sponsored by its criminal justice section calling for the federal government to tone down legislation expanding mandatory minimum sentences for certain offences by inserting a so-called safety valve in Criminal Code amendments.
It also asked Nicholson to reconsider the policies in the light of their costs through increased imprisonment and their effects on the aboriginal community and mentally ill offenders. Read more »
BY JAMES WOOD, THE STARPHOENIX
The inmate population in Saskatchewan's jails is now approaching twice the original intended capacity of its four adult correctional facilities.
And with new federal crime legislation likely to go through this fall, some observers such as the provincial ombudsman believe the situation is in danger of becoming much worse.
The growth in inmate numbers had been a continuing trend for a number of years until a slight drop last year. Between 2005 and 2009, the average daily count of inmates increased from 1,244 to 1,530. Read more »
Winnipeg Free Press
Canada's association of lawyers is justifiably worried about the effect new sentencing laws will have on aboriginal offenders. The mandatory minimums for some offences in the federal government's proposed omnibus crime bill run contrary to the philosophy that reasonable, alternative measures to jail ought to be canvassed where appropriate. And with disproportionately more aboriginal people charged with crimes, they are likely to feel the effect disproportionately.
If Canada's jails begin filling up because the Harper Tories aim to throw more people found guilty of selling marijuana in the slammer -- one target of mandatory minimums -- they are bound to house more aboriginal people, particularly on the Prairies where native populations are higher.
The Conservatives have long felt Canada's Criminal Code, in particular its sentencing principles that have steered courts into an ethos of rehabilitation, has coddled crooks. The bill, which the Harper government has promised to pass in its first 100 days, cracks down on specific crimes and offenders the Tories believe jeopardize public safety.
Judges are required, particularly for aboriginal people, to look at alternatives to sentencing -- but both the Supreme Court of Canada's Gladue decision, which spoke of systemic factors to consider for native people, and the Criminal Code explicitly say alternative sanctions are to be considered where reasonable. Judges, in other words, have greater flexibility to fit the penalty to the crime and criminal. The Supreme Court also said the more violent the crime, the less likely sentences for aboriginal and non-aboriginals would differ. Read more »
By: EDWARD GREENSPAN AND ANTHONY DOOB, Globe and Mail
The federal government has promised to reintroduce its Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act – a bill that died when the spring election was called. The bill is aimed at combatting illicit drug production and distribution by imposing harsher penalties on organized crime, such as six-month minimum prison sentences for those found growing as few as six marijuana plants and a two-year minimum sentence for those selling marijuana to persons under 18 near schools. Read more »
BY DAVID MOSCROP, OTTAWA CITIZEN
Hammurabi was tough on crime.
When it came to law and order, the ancient Babylonian king didn't mess around. His law code, written in 18th century BC, was clear on how to punish criminals. For instance, if a builder builds a house that collapses and kills its owner, he shall be put to death; if a man puts out the eye of another, he shall have his eye put out; if a slave strikes a patrician man, his ear shall be cut off; if a man robs another, he shall be put to death.
These were the "mandatory minimums" of ancient Babylon. Read more »
CALGARY HERALD Editorial
The Canadian Bar Association passed a number of worthy recommendations at its recent annual conference that Justice Minister Rob Nicholson should take time to consider.
They include a measure asking that a "safety valve" be brought in with mandatory sentences, which would give judges an ability to deviate from the legislation in rare circumstances where they feel the sentence would cause an injustice.
There's nothing unreasonable or unusual about this request. Such judicial discretion is a standard provision in many countries that have legislated mandatory minimum sentencing, including the U.K., Australia and South Africa. Read more »