12
Dec 11

Bill C-10, what the senators say (or not)

As you may know the Conservative government recently voted in favour of the Omnibus Crime Bill C-10 which is a mashup of 9 or so bits of legislation that they weren’t able to push through before.  It includes all sorts of things that “get tough on crime” by creating mandatory minimum sentences for all sorts of crimes (eliminating any discretion in sentencing by judges who, presumably, know more about the cases they’re judging than the politicians), establishing all sorts of new sentencing guidelines for growing pot, basically finding ways to put more people in prison for longer.  This, even though Canada’s crime rate has been falling for years and the same government wants to cut everything in sight to save money.

So I wrote to our sentators.  Well, not all of them, truth be told, but all Conservative or Progressive Conservative or Independent senators.  Tha’ts about 51 or so.  Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Senator xxxxxx,

I am writing to you in regards to the Omnibus Crime Bill, Bill C-10. I am concerned that this bill, while purporting to make our communities safer, will not achieve its goal, and will result in enormous new pressures on our prisons and justice system. Its focus on punishment as opposed to prevention is one that has been tried in the United States and has led to a bloated corrections system that, in some states, consumes a greater portion of the budget than education. Violent crime in this country is at a level not seen since the 1970s, and has been falling for two decades. With pressing budgetary concerns like securing funding for education and healthcare, I am concerned that this Bill is both unaffordable and unnecessary.

Please take the time to consider this bill carefully, assess the evidence, listen to the diverse opinions of Canadians, and ignore the rhetoric from the various political parties.

Sincerely,

xxxxxxx

That was last Thursday.  Today is Monday.  Of the 51 senators I’ve written to ONE has bothered to respond.  ONE.  And, interestingly, it’s Elaine McCoy, a Progressive Conservative who was appointed by a Liberal PM.  So not a single Conservative appointee has bothered to respond to a concerned Canadian.  This is pretty telling.

I’ll update this if anyone else writes back.  For now you can read what Senator McCoy has to say.  She’s not optimistic about this government which, considering she’s an old-school conservative (of the PC type), I think says just how far from conservative ideals this government really is.

Thank you for contacting me about the omnibus crime bill (C-10).  I concur with the Canadian Bar Association’s views.

As you are well aware, the Conservative government has been trying to push much of this legislation through both the House of Commons and the Senate for several years now.  Senators have made many thoughtful amendments in the past. The government rejected all of them.

Recently, when confronted with the latest crime statistics which continue to show a steady decline, Justice Minister Nicholson replied “We don’t govern on the basis of statistics.” I  am therefore, not optimistic that the government will see reason to modify its position this time round either.

Traditionally, senators acted somewhat independently of the government to give Canadians the benefit of our traditional sober second thought (click here for examples). That is no longer happening with Conservative senators who vote the way Mr. Harper tells them. Now that they have a majority in the Senate, I anticipate the Conservatives will pass Bill C-10.

Nevertheless, it is important for Canadians like yourself to continue to speak out.  We must be diligent in reminding one another that our nation fundamentally values compassion over coersion, ideals over ideology and rehabilitation over punishment.  Thank you for taking the time to do just that.  Please don’t stop.

Best regards, Elaine McCoy

Alberta Senator