Omnibus Crime Bill Off Target

Today, Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich – Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party of Canada, will put forward motions in the House of Commons to amend Bill C-10, with the intention of reining in the omnibus crime legislation’s worst excesses.

The Bill, which returns Tuesday to the House of Commons for debate at Report Stage, reflects strategies evidence has shown are not effective, and have been thoroughly discredited in every other jurisdiction in which they have been tried. And although C-10 will fundamentally alter the Canadian justice system, the government has refused to allow for meaningful debate in the House.


“In addition to removing judges’ discretion in sentencing and costing Canadian tax-payers billions of dollars to build the new prisons required to house additional people, Bill C-10 will disproportionately target already marginalized communities, and create a less compassionate justice system. These are changes that have not been adequately debated in the House of Commons,” said May.

“The amendments that I am tabling today will go a long way towards softening the Bill’s harshest effects. This includes handing a measure of control back to our judges by creating sentencing safety valves, such as removing mandatory minimum sentences for small quantities of marijuana. I would also like to see a transparent, annual review of the changes, so that both legal experts and the general public can analyze the impacts of C-10 on Canadian society,” May continued.

“Now, more than ever, we must resist the rush to judgment and contempt; and to punishment and pain. Working together, with a collective vision, we should ensure that every man, woman and child in this country is fed, clothed, educated, housed, and able to live to their full potential, not throw away our values and tax dollars on new laws that will further victimize and criminalize the most marginalized, poor, racialized and vulnerable Canadians. Too many women and children are victimized, criminalized and imprisoned,” says Kim Pate, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. “Jails are not the shelters battered women and abused children need. Canadians are telling us that they would rather see their hard-earned tax dollars spent on public housing, child care, pensions, health care, mental health services, public education, victims and other social services.”

“Judicial discretion has traditionally been a central pillar of our justice system. Judicial discretion allows sentences to reflect the particular circumstances of the offender, the offence, the community and the victims. The Criminal Lawyers’ Association is deeply troubled by the continued erosion of this discretion. Mandatory sentences, a one size fits all solution, inevitably results in unfairness,” said Michael Spratt, of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. “The evidence shows mandatory minimum sentenced do little to prevent crime or make our communities safer. The Criminal Lawyers’ Association welcomes the amendments as proposed by Ms. May. These amendments eliminate many mandatory sentenced, allow Judges the discretion to impose justice and fair sentences, including conditional sentences. The proposed amendments reflect evidence as opposed to ideology.”

“I hope that the government’s unprecedented use of time-allocation to shut down debate won’t mean that our proposed changes to the Bill will not be discussed. This is going to be the last chance for Members of Parliament to speak for changes to the omnibus crime bill,” said May.

“We are going to do everything we can to draw attention to the fact that this legislation unjustly targets Canada’s most vulnerable communities, including First Nations and people suffering from mental illnesses. It strips away judicial discretion and removes our traditional emphasis on rehabilitation. These are basic principles of the Canadian justice system. The bill will cost the Canadian economy countless billions of taxpayers’ dollars for an approach that even Texas admits doesn’t work.”