This week in Parliament, our government introduced Bill C-10, omnibus crime legislation called the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
It incorporates a number of crime and public safety bills that were introduced and debated in previous parliamentary sessions but were not passed before the last election.
The main components of the bill are:
• The Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act (former Bill C-54), which proposes increased penalties for sexual offences against children as well as creates two new offences aimed at conduct that could facilitate or enable the commission of a sexual offence against a child;
• The Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act (former Bill S-10), which would target organized crime by imposing tougher sentences for the production and possession of illicit drugs for the purposes of trafficking with particular emphasis on trafficking to youth;
• Sébastien’s Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders, the former Bill C-4), which would ensure that violent and repeat young offenders are held accountable for their actions and that the protection of society is a paramount consideration in the treatment of young offenders by the justice system;
• The Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act (former Bill C-16), which would eliminate the use of conditional sentences or house arrest, for serious and violent crimes;
• The Increasing Offender Accountability Act (former Bill C-39), which would enshrine a victims’ right to participate in parole hearings and address inmate accountability, responsibility and management under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act;
• The Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act (former Bill C-23B), which would extend the ineligibility periods for applications for a record suspension (currently called a “pardon”) from three to five years for summary conviction offences and from five to ten years for indictable offences;
• The Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act (formerly Bill C-5), which would add additional criteria that the minister of public safety could consider when deciding whether or not to allow the transfer of a Canadian offender back to Canada to serve their sentence;
• The Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and related amendments to the State Immunity Act (formerly Bill S-7), which would allow victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators and supporters of terrorism, including listed foreign states, for loss or damage that occurred as a result of an act of terrorism committed anywhere in the world; and
• The Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act (formerly Bill C-56), which would authorize immigration officers to refuse work permits to vulnerable foreign nationals when it is determined that they are at risk of humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation or human trafficking.
Critics of the legislation are characterizing the government’s approach to law and order as punitive rather than preventive and lacking in compassion for marginalized people in our society.
I encourage you to consider the objectives of the legislation before you accept this view.
The Criminal Code sets out the laws of our society and therefore provides support for law enforcement and our courts in determining appropriate actions and punishment when those laws are broken.
With a sound judicial system in place our society can focus on prevention by identifying and addressing the root causes of crime including mental health, homelessness, poverty and addiction.
Our government is keeping its commitment to Canadians to improve the overall efficiency of our judicial system while finding the appropriate balance between criminals and victims.
It clearly communicates that those who commit crimes will be held fully accountable for their actions and that the safety and security of law-abiding Canadians and victims comes first in Canada’s justice system.
Anyone wishing to access the full text of the Safe Streets and Communities Act can do so at www.parl.gc.ca by following the “Bills” link on the main page.
Ron Cannan is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.