As expected, today the Conservative Justice Minster Rob Nicholson tabled the omnibus crime bill – the Tory’s massive ‘tough on crime’ legislation package. They’ve called it the ‘Safe Streets and Communities Act’. As the title shows they have a firm grasp on the rhetoric. I mean who wants to oppose safe streets and communities?
Unfortunately this 110-page bill is likely to lead to massive spending, tax increases, over-crowded prisons, decreased judicial discretion and fewer rehabilitative services – none of which will make our communities safer.
The Conservatives were brought down after being found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to disclose the costs of their tough on crime bills. They somehow managed to come back to government with a majority – and are still continuing to refuse to disclose the costs.
Nicholson says that they are ready to pay the price to keep the streets safe. Well, it’s the taxpayers who are going to be paying for it – not just through increased taxes but through seeing money taken out of services like health care and education and sucked into massive prison complexes.
I was at a press conference in the Centre Block today where four groups – the John Howard Society, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS), the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Native Women’s Association, all spoke out against the bill.
Catherine Latimer, Executive Director of the John Howard Society, pointed to concerns about already over-crowded prisons potentially violating human rights as they become more packed. Kim Pate, CAEFS, proposed that an amendment be added to the bill stating that it cannot be enacted until all the provinces and territories have signed off on the costs that they will have to face in housing the increased number of prisoners this bill will create.
Opposition MPs are also demanding that costs be tabled and that the bill not be rammed through without due consideration and deliberation.
“We’re being encouraged to believe we need this for public safety,” said Kim Pate. “It’s a farce. If in fact it was true, then the U.S. would be the safest place in the world, the States would not be going bankrupt and they would not be retreating from this agenda.”