Getting Tough on Crime
The Conservative government made justice a front-page portfolio last week by tabling new tough-on-crime legislation. The proposed changes to the criminal code would “make murders connected to organized crime activity automatically first-degree,” “create a new offence to address drive-by and other reckless shootings with a mandatory minimum sentence of four years” and “create two new offences for assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm and aggravated assault against a peace or public officer.” According to the government, organized crime accounts for nearly 20 per cent of all homicides in the country.
The announcements came after a rash of gang-related crimes in Vancouver and the surrounding area. The Prime minister made a special trip to British Columbia for the occasion where he called “on all MPs who are serious about fighting violent crime to quickly pass this legislation so that the people of Vancouver, and all Canadians, have the protection they deserve.”
Justice has always been one of the key planks of the Conservative platform. Harper made crime an issue in each of the past two elections. In 2006 he proposed mandatory jail time for a handful of crimes including drugs and weapons charges. Many believe the Conservative’s proposition to have children as young as 14 tried as adults cost them their majority in the last election.
Even though crime coverage has been increasing in recent years, Canadian crime rates are actually falling. According to Statistics Canada (StatsCan) crime was at a 30-year low in 2007, and incidents of violent crime reached their lowest point since 1989.
Since Harper has never been given a majority, he’s never been able to pursue his justice agenda to the fullest. His more American approach to crime doesn’t sit well with Canadians, and is partially to blame for his election results.
The Conservatives are still feeling the pain of the coalition crisis. That they’ve decided to take a stand on crime is a sign that they’re trying to get their groove back. Though the new proposals wont be matters of confidence, their politically loaded nature will be sure to stir up debate. Whatever happens this week will likely be one of the themes of the next election.
The new policies are part of a long series of indicators that Harper’s Conservatives are out of touch. The type of criminal this legislation is meant to deal with probably doesn’t watch the news and they probably don’t keep up-to-date on the latest amendments to the criminal code. People usually aren’t thinking about the consequences when they lean out the window and start poppin’ caps. Establishing mandatory sentences will put more people in jail, but will it really lead to a reduction in criminal instances?
The Conservative’s should start approaching crime like they do the economy, by looking at the supply side. The best way to keep criminals off the streets is to make sure kids don’t become criminals through social programs and the like. The government is always talking about how they want to reduce government spending, but they seem to forget that community centers are cheaper than penitentiaries.