The winter of 2011 was a busy time for the Conservative government as they moved towards an inevitable meeting with Governor-General David Johnston to affect the dissolution of Parliament and return to the people to ascertain the will and the wishes of Canadians.
It is not entirely ironic that contempt charges leveled by the opposition parties against the government focused on the paucity of financial details in respect of Stephen Harper’s numerous law and order reforms, becoming a lightening rod for yet another federal election. Not surprisingly, crime and justice issues tend to polarize the electorate.
The Department of Justice produced no fewer than five bills that became law mere weeks before the election was called. Three new pieces of criminal law are particularly noteworthy.
In February Bill S-6 “Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act” repealed the “faint-hope clause” which gave offenders convicted of murder an opportunity to apply to be released from prison after serving 15 years, rather than completing their lengthier sentences.
The faint-hope process was never a slam-dunk as applicants were first vetted by the Chief Justice in the Province where they committed their offence, who determined whether a jury should be convened to hear the case and make a decision. That “perk” is now vanquished.
On March 3, 2011 Canada’s Attorney-General Rob Nicholson announced the passage of Bill C-2 called “An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service”.
This new law compels suppliers of Internet services to the public, including electronic email, hosting services and social networking sites to become law enforcement’s cyber eyes or suffer fines ranging from $1000.00 to $100,000.00.
Who can quarrel with a law that protects young children from abuse? It’s a motherhood and apple pie issue. Or is it an unnecessary interference with privacy rights?
A few days later “The Protecting Sentences by Ending Sentencing Discounts for Multiple Murderer’s Act” became law. This new law provides our judges with a direction to impose sentences that reflect the severity of a crime. Where there are multiple victims, the Court is encouraged to impose consecutive sentences for each victim. Prior to this legislation, a serial murderer would receive one life sentence instead of a life sentence for each of his victims. For example, Clifford Olsen is serving one life sentence for raping and murdering 11 children in British Columbia in the early 80’s. Robert (Willy) Pickton likewise.
This legislation still leaves discretion to the trial judge to impose concurrent sentences, (sentences that run at the same time) however, either way the Court must issue written or oral reasons explaining their decisions.
Many Canadians will be cheering these new laws, as I am. Victims of crime are victimized twice; once by their offenders and the second time by our laws and judges. These recent reforms may begin to instill a sense of confidence in Canadians who have lost faith in the criminal justice system.
Yet others will complain that more criminal laws will only produce more criminals with longer, more expensive prison sentences, imposing greater financial hardship on hard-working Canadians.
The Liberals held their noses and supported the elimination of the faint-hope law and the move towards consecutive sentences for serial or mass murderers. If these new laws are as repugnant as the Liberals allege, let’s see if they repeal them if they get the opportunity. Methinks the Liberals know that decreasing crime statistics mean nothing to the general public and that “tough on crime” is the flavour of the year.
I say if you commit the crime, you do the time, 2011 style.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang