By far one of the most contentious moves by the Harper government, and let's be honest because that is really saying something, is the Safe Streets and Communities Act. The SSC is an aggressive new addendum to the Criminal Code that will replace pardons with "record suspensions," hand out mandatory minimums for some drug and sexual related offenses, increase prison terms for those charged with marijuana-related crimes and roll back the ability of judges to sentence offenders to house arrest.
The controversial act has been called out by many who believe that some of the bill's more draconian measures are taking us down a road of extreme crime and punishment more in line with the U.S., which I believe currently has over 7 million people under correctional supervision (in jail, on parole, or probation). The United States, as reported in a 2008 article in the New York Times, has five per cent of the world population, but 25 per cent of the world's prisoners. In fact, in 2008 the U.S. had 2.3 million people in prison, which was about 700,000 more people than China had incarcerated. China.
Needless to say, the building and administration of prisons in the U.S. is an industry, and that seems to be the idea the Harper government wants to bring to Canada. Perhaps between the combination of the jobs created and the people incarcerated unemployment rates will really go down. But I digress.
You know who else isn't a fan of The Safe Streets and Communities Act? Our own MP Frank Valeriote. Valeriote is putting together a petition for the consideration of the House of Commons and rallied some local support for the cause. Check out the press release from Valeriote's office below.
GUELPH – Thursday afternoon, concerned citizens of Guelph gathered at the constituency office of Guelph MP, Liberal Frank Valeriote to express their opposition to the Conservative omnibus crime bill."In my many discussions with law and order professionals: Guelph’s Chief of Police, correctional officers, prosecutors and probations officers, we have come to the same conclusion that our crime policy must be evidence based in order to be smart on crime,” said Valeriote. “We all agreed that spending more money to incarcerate is far more costly and much less effective than spending money and focusing on preventative programs for mental illness and substance abuse.”The omnibus crime bill, comprised of a number of earlier justice bills, just wrapped up hearings at a special legislative committee after a gruelling 20 hour clause by clause examination of the bill. Liberal Justice critic, eminent lawyer and former Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Irwin Cotler, P.C., MP introduced 38 amendments in an attempt to correct some of the more glaring errors in the legislation; however, each was defeated by the Conservative dominated committee. While there are parts of the bill that Valeriote supports, Conservatives demonstrated an unwillingness to amend the misguided parts.“We cannot stand idly by as the Conservatives try and implement a model that we already know has failed,” said Nora Chaloner, Chair of the Guelph chapter of Council of Canadians. “All of this money that is being diverted to build mega-prisons and lock up more Canadians would be better spent, in this time of fiscal restraint, on meaningful social justice programs.”“The Conservatives made it clear that they will not listen to opposing voices or opinions on their ideological quest to change the face of Canada,” said Valeriote. “Guelphites and all Canadians deserve a safe space where they can make their opposition known to these important issues, and I am glad that I could provide my office today to make sure these voices are heard in Ottawa.”“My office is always open to concerned citizens,” continued Valeriote. “Activism and advocacy were the primary reasons I ran for Member of Parliament in the first place. I cannot make truly informed decisions without the contribution of these engaged members of our community.”Frank Valeriote will be presenting petitions from the group to the House of Commons in the coming weeks.