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C-10 will bring more crime: Cotler

December 2011

In a brief presented to Parliament last October, the Canadian Criminal Justice Association—an independent organization whose members include police officers, judges, lawyers, victims and ex-offenders, criticized the Conservatives’ proposed Safe Streets and Communities Act, Bill C-10.

“This legislation does little to improve the long term safety of Canada’s streets and communities and several of the amendments it contains may create the conditions that will lead to increased criminal activity,” the brief read.

C-10 was adopted on December 5, on a day former justice minister and Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler called “a sad day for criminal justice.”

In a press conference, Cotler explained that C-10 is nine bills in one, each of which warrants independent debate. “If any questions were raised or critiques offered about the bill, the government repeated the mantra—as it has throughout this process—that it had a ‘mandate’ for its enactment,” Cotler wrote in an open letter.

Before the bill was tabled, Cotler said, Canada already had a serious problem of prison overcrowding, with some prisons at 200 per cent capacity. “The U.S. Supreme Court has found that overcrowding of over 137 per cent can even constitute cruel and unusual punishment,” Cotler wrote.

In the legislation itself, the requirement that corrections personnel use the “least restrictive measures” has been removed, generating constitutional concern. Cotler says it is a parliamentarian’s duty to ensure that prospective legislation adheres to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “No government has the right to enact unconstitutional legislation.”

Cotler says that studies have shown that the American-style “tough on crime” approach, with minimum mandatory sentences, has “a differential and discriminatory impact on vulnerable groups, such as our aboriginal peoples.”

“The government has yet to disclose the cost of legislation.” Cotler told

Cotler said the government’s fall and subsequent election call last spring were triggered by their failure to disclose this information.

“The issue of non-disclosure of cost is a form of contempt for Parliament as an institution,” Cotler said.



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