Conservatives look to fill new session of Parliament with ‘tough-on-crime’ agenda



Victims of Crime Ombudsman Sue O’Sullivan wants a bill that gives victims the right to review a decision not to prosecute; the right to a recent photo of an offender at the time of his or her release; and the right for victims to have a say in plea-bargain agreements

OTTAWA — If you thought the federal Conservatives had completed their “tough-on-crime” agenda by now,  think again.

Justice policy plays to the party’s base of supporters, is hard for the opposition to attack, and ultimately tugs on the heartstrings of all Canadians who want to see victims helped and crimes prevented or punished.

What can we expect as Parliament resumes?

A Victims Bill of Rights

The Harper government has vowed to make the justice system more sensitive to the needs of crime victims. This bill marks the culmination of those efforts.

Victims of Crime Ombudsman Sue O’Sullivan wants a bill that gives victims the right to review a decision not to prosecute; the right to a recent photo of an offender at the time of his or her release; and the right for victims to have a say in plea-bargain agreements.

Critics are concerned about court costs and jurisdictional issues. University of Ottawa law Prof. Carissima Mathen says victims have “legitimate expectations” to be informed, but the justice system is supposed to be “impartial” and  “giving them more influence in criminal trials” is “not the way to go.”


Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act

First announced in August, the bill will include mandatory minimum and maximum sentences and those convicted on multiple counts will be required to serve their sentences consecutively.

This bill seeks to combat sex tourism by requiring convicted sex offenders to inform authorities of international travel. It will also create a national, publicly accessible, online database of high-risk child sex offenders, to replace a patchwork of existing databases.

Critics have raised concerns about mandatory minimums, saying they take discretion away from judges and contribute to prison overcrowding. Some say the database could lead to vigilantism: ordinary citizens taking the law into their own hands to punish perpetrators.

Cyberbullying and lawful access

The suicide of cyberbullied Dartmouth teenager Rehtaeh Parsons hit close to home for Nova Scotia-based Justice Minister Peter MacKay, who has promised to introduce “holistic” legislation to combat the problem this fall.

Details have not been released but a July report called for a new Criminal Code offence that would make it illegal to knowingly distribute intimate photos of a person without consent.

It recommends other Criminal Code offences be modernized to include language that takes into account the Internet and mobile phone age.

Police also want the power to compel Internet service providers to preserve information such as emails and text messages while law enforcement obtains a warrant.

Vehicular manslaughter

MacKay said he wants to change the Criminal Code offence for impaired driving causing death to “vehicular manslaughter” to better reflect society’s “abhorrence” of impaired driving. The changes would also include provisions to address drug impairment.

What’s likely to make a comeback?

The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act and Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act died on the order paper when Parliament prorogued. Both remain government priorities and are likely to be reintroduced where they left off.

The former seeks to keep certain mentally ill killers off the streets for longer by creating a “high risk” designation that would bar them from obtaining a discharge and limit their ability to leave hospital if they’ve been institutionalized. Critics call it a knee-jerk reaction to sensational cases, such as that of Greyhound bus beheader Vince Li, who was mentally ill.

The tobacco bill would create a new RCMP task force and make selling, distributing and transporting contraband cigarettes a Criminal Code offence. It also proposes mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders.

It does not address jurisdiction issues related to aboriginal reserves, where contraband tobacco businesses thrive, and First Nations leaders have raised concerns native youth will be overrepresented among those charged and that jail time will only make them hardened criminals.

What other issues may prompt federal action?

Mental Health and the challenge for corrections: Between yet another damning report by Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers and the ongoing inquest into the prison suicide of Ashley Smith, the federal government will be under pressure to do something about inmates with severe mental-health issues.

Sapers’ key recommendation is to transfer difficult inmates to provincial health care facilities that are better equipped to deal with behaviour such as chronic head banging, cutting and ligature use.

What discussions are ongoing and could become policy?

Fines for marijuana possession: The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) wants a new tool: the ability to fine people caught with 30 grams of pot or less. MacKay was initially cool to the idea but Harper said the government is “certainly looking at their proposal very carefully.”

DNA, the modern fingerprint: CACP president Jim Chu argues DNA should be “collected upon charge, not upon conviction” just as fingerprints are now. That would quickly exonerate the innocent, he says, and help link serial crimes together. At the very least, he wants break-and-enter added to the list of offences for which DNA samples are mandatory upon conviction.

MacKay accepts the fingerprint argument, but recognizes privacy concerns surrounding the destruction of samples for those deemed not guilty. “We’re simply examining it at this point,” he said. “There’s no plans afoot to introduce legislation.”

The extradition process: Last month MacKay announced an internal review of federal involvement in the case of Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh. The Nova Scotia businessman had 17 convictions for crimes involving children overturned by the province’s appeal’s court due to delays in getting him to trial, in large part because it took more than a decade to extradite him from India. MacKay has said Canada needs to “reform and modernize how we extradite people.” This could be a first step.

Economics of policing: Ex-public safety minister Vic Toews kicked off a national discussion to find ways to rein in the high cost of policing and court administration. The Canadian Police Association is organizing another conference in Toronto. Stakeholders, however, say legislation is likely far off in the distance.

What do stakeholders want that’s not necessarily on the agenda?

• Canadian Police Association’s Tom Stamatakis is concerned about a cop killer who was granted an escorted absence from prison by a warden despite a negative parole board decision. When it first came to light, Toews expressed outrage and there was talk of a private member’s bill, or possibly a government bill, to address the issue. So far, nothing’s come of it.

• John Howard Society executive director Catherine Latimer said the court and corrections system is “overloaded” and prison overcrowding is a huge problem, particularly in remand centres where accused are locked up before trial. She was heartened to hear MacKay talk about reviewing pre-trial detention and bail provisions and hopes the throne speech will affirm that commitment.

She’d also like the government to unveil a new approach to the “war on drugs” that focuses on alternatives to incarceration for those with addiction and mental-health problems.

• Eric Gottardi of the Canadian Bar Association said he’d like the federal government to “reinvest in legal aid.” A recent CBA report found the federal government covers 20 to 30 per cent of the cost. It used to be a 50-50 venture with the provinces.





Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre



Dear Mr. Peter Mackay,
Your "Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act" sounds and looks like a political vote winner. What person in their right mind would ever object to "Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act".

This name, is extremely insulting to the Judiciary and hthose in the criminal justice system who put these sorts of criminals away. It leads the public to believe that the Judiciary cannot be entrusted with sentencing decisions. So why don't you come clean and just replace judges with clerks appointed by Mr. Harper to decide guilt or innocence as well?

The problem, Mr. Peter Mackay is that we have some really very nasty forms of Child Predators that are actually given criminal immunity. They are, the members of the legal profession mandated to protect children but end up abusing them.

Perhaps the worst example of a Lawyer being a Child Abuser is one Marguerite Isobel Lewis, a lawyer for the Corrupt Children's Aid Society of Ottawa who fabricates evidence in Child Protection Hearings to place a child with a child abuser.

Then you have the Child Protection Workers like Phil Hiltz-Laforge of the Ottawa Children's Aid Society who fabricates evidence to place a child with an abuser.

If you think that's bad, spare a thought for the male victims of domestic violence who have the misfortune to end up with Detective Peter Van der Zander of the Ottawa Police. He fabricates evidence to avoid laying charges and , refuses to photograph injuries so he won't have evidence to contradict his preformed conclusions based on gender.

We live in a legally corrupt world where the real criminals are often those mandated and sworn to protect and serve.

It's enough to make you want to puke.



Justice Minister Peter MacKay is perhaps the most credible minister in the Harper government and could be a hell of lot more credible if he used some of that legal training of his to do some legal reasoning before he opens his mouth with host of poorly thought out politically correct but legally naive ideas designed for public consumption and votes rather than improving our justice system.

When changes are proposed, they need to represent the best advice coming from all Canadian legal minds rather than what is dreamed up in Conservative spin masters.

Notice we never ever see the Conservatives concerned about Rotten cops or those who commit offences against the administration of justice.

In the mad mad world of conservative vote pulling, there is an always ever increasing jail population and ever increasing spending on policing and authorities rather than looking at cutting jail populations and reducing crime which does not register in conservative minds.

Fact is, one dollar on social solutions save ten dollars in jail costs.
When are we going to hear some real passion and vision from our esteemed Minister of Justice, the Honourable Mr. Peter Mackay.