Why oppose the Conservative’s omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10?
Is potentially unconstitutional in many ways:
- Bill C-10 will increase double-bunking from 13 to 30 percent of the prison population and some of our prisons were already at 200% capacity before Bill C-10 was even introduced. With the U.S. Supreme Court already ruling that overcrowding of 137% can constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” the precedent is set for Bill C-10 to create a whole prison system that systemically violates Section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- The legislation removes the requirement of prison officials to use “the least restrictive measures”, which is another potential violation of Section 12 of the Charter (freedom from cruel and unusual punishment).
- Bill C-10 creates another potential constitutional violation by prescribing “excessive, severe, injurious, disproportionate and prejudicial mandatory minimums” (Irwin Cotler, Dec 2, 2011)
- Bill C-10 creates pre-trial detention situations that may violate Section 11(e) of the Charter (Any person charged with an offence “has the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause”).
- Bill C-10 introduces offences that violate the principles of fundamental justice (Section 7 of the Charter); specifically, the offences are arbitrary, vague and overbroad.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association calls Bill C-10, “unwise, unjust, unconstitutional”.
Will lead to more crime
Bill C-10 is called titled “The Safe Streets and Communities Act” but experience and evidence shows that putting more people in jail for longer actually make our streets less safe. “studies show that the resulting prison overcrowding and use of mandatory-minimum sentences will ultimately result in more crime” (Irwin Cotler 1). In fact, research shows that longer jail terms actually increase the likelihood of recidivism (Smith, Goggin & Gendreau).
Will create more criminals and keep them criminals for life
Bill C-10 will force judges to jail people whose crimes and circumstances do not warrant incarceration and will make it much harder for these people to get criminal record pardons, leaving them few options when they are released from prison (and almost all prisoners will be released back into society at some point).
Will create harder criminals
Bill C-10 gives prison officials “more latitude to disregard prisoners’ human rights, bypassing the least restrictive means to discipline and control inmates” (The Star, Nov. 14, 2011) and “will dramatically increase violence in prisons and jails, increasing risks for both inmates and staff. It will also make it harder, if not impossible, to offer programs in jails and prisons to help inmates rehabilitate themselves.” (John Howard Society)
Will lead to dangerous prison over-crowding
“Even before this legislation was tabled, there was a serious problem of prison overcrowding, with some provinces already reporting prisons at 200 per cent capacity. We know overcrowding leads to more crime within prisons and more crime outside prisons… This legislation will only exacerbate the problem in Canada, both as a matter of policy and arguably even as a matter of the constitution.” (Irwin Cotler 2).
Currently, approximately 13 per cent of the Canadian male inmate population is double-bunked in cells built for one prisoner. Bill C-10 will increase double-bunking to 30 per cent. “Prison overcrowding undermines nearly everything that can be positive or useful about a correctional environment… It is linked to increased levels of institutional violence, is a contributing factor to the spread of infectious disease and reduces already limited access to correctional programming and delays the safe and timely reintegration of offenders into the community.” (Pierre Mallette: the head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers)
Will be extremely expensive
The cost of Bill C-10 has not been disclosed. Of the 9 original bills that comprise Bill C-10, the Parliamentary Budget Office costed one of these bills alone at $5 billion. The John Howard Society estimates the cost of the sentencing changes alone to be over $2 billion a year, or over $1400 a year per taxpayer. The billions spent on Bill C-10 will be diverted from social programs, social justice, crime prevention and rehabilitation. While approximately three-fourths of the increased costs resulting from Bill C-10 will have to be paid by the provinces, many of them have spoken out against the bill, including Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador. (The John Howard Society)
- Irwin Cotler 1 (MP for Mount Royal and Liberal Critic for Justice and Human Rights): http://irwincotler.liberal.ca/op-ed-2/an-incoherent-approach-to-justice-montreal-gazette/
- Irwin Cotler 2: http://irwincotler.liberal.ca/op-ed-2/irwin-cotler-feds%e2%80%99-omnibus-bill-an-abuse-of-democracy-the-hill-times/
- Irwin Cotler Dec. 2, 2011: House of Commons, Government Orders
- Smith, Goggin & Gendreau: “The Effects of Prison Sentences and Intermediate Sanctions on Recidivism: General Effects and Individual Differences” http://publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection/JS42-103-2002E.doc
- The Star, Nov. 14, 2011: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1086785–10-reasons-to-oppose-bill-c-10
- Pierre Mallette, the head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers
- John Howard Society: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/commentary/fast-facts-bill-c-10-fact-sheet
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