Thursday, October 18, 2007

Don't Let Harper Americanize our Justice System

Much has been made of Stephane Dion's reaction, or predicted non-reaction, to this week's Speech from the Throne. There are times when politicians' hands are tied: they oppose something in principle but can't oppose it in fact without losing their ability to oppose at all.

Meanwhile the Canadian public appears to be taking a thoroughly passive role - leaning back like the crowd at Wimbledon, waiting to see whether the Government or the Official Opposition is victorious. But politics shouldn't be a spectator sport.

At issue is Harper's plan to Americanize the Canadian justice system. In the Throne Speech, Harper proposed a bill "to protect Canadians and their communities from violent criminals and predators" that will put more people in prison for longer periods and will tie judges' hands with mandatory prison sentences.

The homicide rate per 100,000 people in the US is 5.59. In Canada, it is 1.85... and declining. It makes no sense to follow the model of a country that locks up inordinate amounts of its citizens - especially minorities - and only manages to keep crime rampant.

Canada has had huge success with a kinder, gentler approach to crime. Jail diversion programs reduce recidivism, but that should not be the only metric used to judge their effectiveness. This is a human rights issue. Going to prison wrecks a person's life: it is traumatizing; it makes it difficult for a person to ever work at a good job or fit in to regular society; it is a training ground for future criminal behavior. People should only be subjected to prison when there is risk to society or a strong need for deterrence.

We need to stand up and tell Harper that we don't support his "Tackling Violent Crime" bill, aka C-2. You can email him at

See also:

* Canadian Department of Justice report
* Police Line Do Not Cross

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