Thursday, October 18, 2007

Crime, Crime, Everywhere a Crime

Stephen Harper's new New Government appears to have survived the throne speech so its next test will be on an omnibus crime bill - most of it being composed of legislation sent to parliamentary purgatory this spring. It will be a matter of confidence which seems fair enough to me, given the size of it and the fact that it's one of the original "five priorities" that still hasn't come to pass (fun fact - "The 5 Priorities" is also the name of Stephen Harper's garage band).

Among the proposed highlights:

-tougher sentences on gun crimes (NDP has pushed for this before)
-raising age of sexual consent to 16
-higher penalties for impaired driving
-reverse onus for repeat offenders of violent crimes
-dealth penalty for anyone who doesn't pay back their leadership debt in time (that one is just speculation on my part)

Now, I do think there's a chance the NDP or Bloc might decide to support this legislation, but let's assume they don't for a minute. That leaves Stephane Dion in the unenviable position of, yet again, having to give Harper a de-facto majority or of triggering an election.

And while I think a lot of experts would agree that there are some very bad and very unnecessary proposals here, at the end of the day, this is politics. And there's enough popular policy in here that I don't think this is the hill Dion wants to die on. If he was debating this legislation against Harper in front of a law class, he'd probably win (well, at least a french law class). But explaining to Canadians why you don't want to get tough on drunk drivers and gun crimes? That's a bit harder to sell.

So this one probably falls into the "live to fight another day" category. I would advise the Liberals to let this one through and I suspect they likely will.

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  • I'd agree...

    Never fight the Conservatives on Law & Order (at any level).

    Public perception has always been of Conservatives being the law & order party while the Liberals are viewed as the party that's sorta like that girl in high school that just wants to run around hugging everyone (but whom everyone talks about about being easy behind her back).

    The Liberals should fight an election on:

    -Climate Change
    -Foreign Takeover policy
    -Spending powers

    By Blogger Unknown, at 2:21 p.m.  

  • The Conservative government is now labeling opposition parties as obstructionist. This is, at best, ironic because it is this conservative government that literally wrote the book on obstructionism.

    It was just five months ago that the National Post discovered the manual circulated by Tory whip, Jay Hilll. To quote journalist Don Martin, “Running some 200 pages including background material, the document - given only to Conservative chairmen - tells them how to favour government agendas, select party-friendly witnesses, coach favourable testimony, set in motion debate-obstructing delays and, if necessary, storm out of meetings to grind parliamentary business to a halt.” (N. Post, May 17)

    Was the summer break so long that everyone has forgotten this?

    By Blogger Cresent_Heights_Guy, at 2:47 p.m.  

  • Cue Dion saying "Raising the age of consent is absolutely useless and the reversal of the burden of proof is demagogic. Furthermore (if that's part of his vocabulary), the money spent on tougher gun laws could be better spent elsewhere."

    And Harper to retort "Clearly the leader of the official opposition favours pedophiles and wants to keep career criminals on the street. Stéphane Dion doesn't care for our children."

    If Dion's the head of the cheerleader squad in HS like Ivan suggests, then Harper's the head bully who got turned down by the head cheerleader and vowed to destroy her.

    By Blogger jeagag, at 2:48 p.m.  

  • Pass it, let it languish in the upper chamber.

    By Blogger bigcitylib, at 3:09 p.m.  

  • People - all of these measures have already passed - with either liberal or NDP support - during the last session.

    The one exception is the dangerous offenders' bill - and Harper is a complete and utter idiot for pushing it.

    It places the onus on the offender to prove why s/he should not be considered a dangerous offender (and therefore get life in prison) once convicted of certain offences.

    While I suppose this legislation might be found to be constitutional, I highly doubt it. Right now there is a case before the SCC where the court must consider whether it is constitutional to force a young person to prove why s/he should not receive an adult sentence if convicted of certain offences. Quebec and Ontario have already found placing the onus on the accused to justify a lower sentence is unconstitutional. Should the SCC agree, that will mean this reverse onus is illegal.

    If Harper was smart, and not willing to waste taxpayers money, he would wait for the SCC decision before proceeding on this. Since he is a) not smart, and b) perfectly willing to waste tax dollars if he thinks it will get him votes, he wants to push with this now.

    I am not sure the liberals have to pass this legislation - after all it was the NDP who approved most of the tough on crime legislation during the last session. If they reverse position now, what does that say about them?

    If it does pass, I know a lot of defence lawyers who will be happily making a lot of money as this works its way through the courts.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 3:26 p.m.  

  • I assume you're not talking about criminal defence lawyers. Because that's not generally a particularly lucrative field. Especially not with respect to the types of crimes we are talking about.

    By Blogger Lawyer Kid, at 3:54 p.m.  

  • Murder rate down . . . attempted murders and knife killings up . . . does this mean more lefties are committing crimes???
    The logic being that lefties have trouble completing tasks and of course don't like guns so they use knives!!!

    By Blogger Oldschool, at 4:17 p.m.  

  • Lucrative is in the eye of the beholder, lawyer kid. Besides, I know a lot of rich defence lawyers. If you seriously believe a lawyer will not make money by fighting a case all the way to the SCC, then I suggest you find another profession. Most of the lawyers I know recognize this tough on crime platform will have no affect on crime rates, however they also know there will be a lot of work for them if this thing goes through.

    In any event, the costs will not just be to the lawyers - we will have to hire more prosecutors, court personnel, judges, prison guards (and build more prisons for that matter).

    By Blogger Gayle, at 4:20 p.m.  

  • There are only so many cases on one piece of legislation that can make it to the SCC. For the one that grabs this, sure, it's lucrative.

    I think your argument is stronger re: more work, more prosecutors, police, etc. How that is a bad thing is beyond me. Heaven forbid criminals are brought to justice.

    By Blogger Lawyer Kid, at 4:58 p.m.  

  • "There are only so many cases on one piece of legislation that can make it to the SCC. For the one that grabs this, sure, it's lucrative."

    And if the legislation passes it is also lucrative because it means more trials will be run (because why not if on the third conviction you will be DO'd anyway), not to mention the fact that more DO hearings will be held (I would guess we probably have less than 10 a year in Alberta right now).

    As for the rest - it is not necessarily bad so long as people know how much money this will cost in relation to how little this measure will affect our crime rate (and please do not tell me it will reduce crime - as a lawyer you should know better). So long as people are OK with higher taxes, or less money on health care or whatever else they have to give up in order to send people to prison for a long time (while the crime rate is not altered), then that is fine. It is their choice - I simply feel they should be given an honest choice.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 5:07 p.m.  

  • Gayle - From the legislative summary on the dangerous offender bill:

    On the other hand, it should be noted that in Mack, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt applies only where the issue is the guilt or innocence of the accused. It should also be noted that where the accused has been convicted, he or she is no longer an “accused” within the meaning of section 11 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter), and so the presumption of innocence guaranteed by paragraph 11(d) does not apply. In this case, the bill applies to people who have already been convicted. It therefore seems that the presumption of innocence could not be used to challenge the reverse onus that operates at the dangerous offender finding stage.

    By Blogger KC, at 5:28 p.m.  


    By Blogger KC, at 5:29 p.m.  

  • I don't like to nitpick (Well, thats a lie), but I assume you meant death instead of dealth.

    By Blogger Matthew Naylor, at 5:44 p.m.  

  • kc - tell that to the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Quebec Court of Appeal because that very argument failed in both courts when it came to whether a young person must prove s/he should not receive an adult sentence when convicted of certain offences.

    I am not saying it is unconstitutional. My point is that there is certainly a question that it is unconstitutional - and that very question is currently before the Supreme Court. You and I can argue about it all we want, the final decision will be made by the SCC in due course.

    I maintain it is irresponsible of Harper to push this legislation before this question is resolved.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 5:53 p.m.  

  • Pass it, let it languish in the upper chamber.

    Repeated warnings that it must reach the G-G before the summer break and an election if it doesn't on crime and term limits for senators as well.

    If Dion plays the hand that way he'd better find some other hill to die on before May.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:48 p.m.  

  • Gayle, there is a world of difference between reverse onus regarding a change of status from young offender to adult and reverse onus on dangerous criminals or reverse onus on bail for specific (weapons) crimes.

    The first scenario is not legally or morally relative to the latter.


    By Blogger lance, at 7:07 p.m.  

  • Gayle - Do you happen to know the name of that case?

    By Blogger KC, at 7:07 p.m.  

  • lance - cheers, but you are wrong. I am referring to the reverse onus contained in the Dangerous Offenders bill. The liberals have already passed the bail bill last time around.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 7:12 p.m.  

  • kc - the case is a youth case. Here is a link to an article about it:

    (sorry - try as I might I can never sort the proper way to do links).

    By Blogger Gayle, at 7:14 p.m.  

  • If the age of consent change means that a 16 year old can be locked up for making it with a 15 year old, then that is reason enough this should be voted down.

    However, from what I hear on CBC radio, the NDP and BQ have already said they will vote for it.

    Glad I am not a teenager anymore.

    By Blogger Ian, at 7:59 p.m.  

  • Gayle

    I don't know how to imbed links either, but you can at least go to and make the long ones shorter, so they don't break over the line.

    By Blogger Ian, at 8:00 p.m.  

  • Umm, actually Gayle, the HoC passed C35. The Senate didn't.

    By Blogger lance, at 8:05 p.m.  

  • Umm lance - when did I say otherwise.

    While you were reviewing that bill, perhaps you noticed that the Senate did not get it until June, which did not give them a whole lot of time to review it before summer break, and then wouldn't you know it, Harper prorogued, thereby killing it.

    This bill spend longer in the HofC before Harper finally agreed to pass it (because the liberals tried to fast-track it months before it was passed) then it spent in the Senate before Harper killed it.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 10:08 p.m.  

  • Do you have the cites for the Court of Appeal Case? I recall hearing somewhere they'd try not to pass the reverse onus bill until after the SCC rules.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:25 p.m.  

  • If the age of consent change means that a 16 year old can be locked up for making it with a 15 year old, then that is reason enough this should be voted down.

    Unfortunately for anti-Conservative scaremongers, it does nothing of the kind. The bill has a "close in age" exemption.

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 10:52 p.m.  

  • TIH - glad to hear it. I did a little reading after I posted and see that the closein age provision stipulates "less than 5 years older". Seems prudent.

    By Blogger Ian, at 12:29 a.m.  

  • Mark

    Try here:

    By Blogger Gayle, at 1:31 p.m.  

  • This might be easier:

    2006 CanLII 8871 (ON C.A.)

    By Blogger Gayle, at 1:33 p.m.  

  • Second hand goals
    And wearing last summer's clothes
    The only thing substantial is his girth.
    While waiting for a time
    When it is safe to run
    Harper just throws spitballs at the screen.

    I call it pure chicken, the throne speech. It is recycled promises that never amounted to much (2 years from now we may have some nice sketches of a Corvette sized mini patrol boat, part of a 25year program, and thirty more Rangers walking around at a closed mine site dock) almost all of which have already been market tested. Nobody disagrees with this crime stuff except the criminals. And it is all petty crap. Yet this is thrown out amid a crowd of I-dare-you comments that will only go down well late at night in one or two dismal Calgary bars.

    Just look at the situation. The economy is hot, unemployment the lowest ever, the dollar is leaping fences,surplus floods out prior surpluses, Dion looks like he is having one disaster after another, the war chest is impossibly flush, business is driven by the unholy alliance of the media and the remanents of the business council is declaring Harper most Prime Ministerial, and the pundits, receiving no direction, are ready to pronounce it an act of genius if Harper leaves his house and turns to the left or to the right in heading for a bus stop. How can they possibly miss? But Harper and his groupies are still scared stiff of the word Election. So they rush out to fire off a whole series of ill tempered snarls at the Liberals, but rush back into the war room even quicker to feverishly study polls.

    So now we have the flip side, with the Cons working hard to lose and the Liberals doing as much damage to themselves as they can in order to win.

    The Game is afoot Watson!

    By Blogger Unknown, at 2:14 p.m.  

  • Agree 1000% - this would be lunatic to go to an election on.

    And Dion's not crazy, or an idiot. I suspect you're right - it will be supported.

    And hey, that's a positive: "We worked with the CPC to get tough on crime." It doesn't have to be a negative. I think the smartest possible thing right now would be to say, "This is an outstanding bill - we'd present the exact same if we were in government. Love it, let's do it."

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 4:33 p.m.  

  • Might be good idea to get reverse onus nonsense amended in Senate and see if Harper wants to try to make election issue out of wet squib - who among public will feel Harper's willingness to have election over holidays is justified by what seems to them mostly arcane minor point of law - burden of proof. However, no party whose name is "liberal" can have so little self-respect as to pass as is legislation that is clearly silly, wrong-headed, contrary to all liberal and legal principles and destined to be overturned in the courts. I think it would be just too cowardly to knowingly pass unconstitutional legislation, likewise with "Senate reform" (sic).

    By Blogger Eugene Forsey Liberal, at 7:55 p.m.  

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