Pubdate: Fri, 14 Dec 2007
Source: South Delta Leader (Delta, CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 South Delta Leader
Author: Thomas Hubert


Good news: Despite the fact that crime rates in Canada have been 
falling steadily since 1991 (according to StatsCan), Stephen Harper 
is planning on getting "tough on crime" with Bill C-26.

If putting people in jail was the answer to stopping crime, the 
United States would be crime-free. Unfortunately, the evidence is 
clear that extremist law and order measures have no deterrent effect 
on crime rates.

Former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler called mandatory minimum 
sentencing "ineffective" and U.S. Supreme Court judge Anthony Kennedy 
(who was appointed by Ronald Reagan) has said that mandatory minimum 
sentencing is all too often "unwise and unjust."

The absurdity of Bill C-26 knows no limits. Under the proposed 
legislation, any "organized crime" group guilty of trafficking 
cannabis will face a mandatory sentence of one year in jail. That 
means any three people (which is what is considered "organized 
crime") sitting on a couch passing a joint around (trafficking does 
not need to involve money) can face a year in prison. That's right, 
parents: Stephen Harper wants to put your kids (and probably many of 
your friends) in jail.

An equally frightening aspect of Bill C-26 is the interference of the 
legislature in the independence of our judiciary. A cornerstone of 
our society is independent, impartial judges with the discretion to 
deliver decisions and hand out sentences on a case-by-case basis. 
With Bill C-26 the federal government will obstruct this independence 
and start telling judges what to do.

Furthermore, Bill C-26 will put the lives of law enforcement officers 
in further jeopardy. Real criminals and drug traffickers, if faced 
with unnecessarily long and harsh prison sentences, will be more 
likely to use violence as a means of evading arrest. Indeed, because 
of the increased dangers of being in the drug trade there is no doubt 
prices for hard-drugs like heroin and cocaine will skyrocket.

That means that marginalized people who are struggling with substance 
abuse will be forced to resort to desperate measures to get their 
drugs: more persons smashing car windows and more sex trade workers 
putting themselves on the street.

Bill C-26 may in fact increase crime rates that have been going down for years.

If the Conservatives were serious about tackling the issue of crime, 
they would invest in rehabilitative programs for offenders and 
concentrate on restorative justice. Most importantly they would focus 
on the roots of crime: poverty, neglect, broken communities, racism, 
substance abuse and mental health issues. And finally, they would end 
the prohibition of cannabis that is currently achieving nothing more 
than a cash cow for gangs and criminal records for law-abiding Canadians.

Canada does not need a War on Drugs. We do not need more prisons. My 
question is will John Cummins stand up to this latest attempt to 
Americanize Canada?

Thomas Hubert

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