Pubdate: Mon, 24 Jan 2005
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2005 Southam Inc.
Author: Cristin Schmitz, CanWest News Service


OTTAWA - Criminals who use syringes as weapons should be punished as 
severely as those who use guns, say provincial justice ministers who are 
also lobbying Ottawa to create a new crime of "inhalant trafficking" and to 
boost penalties for drunk drivers who ride with children.

The three novel proposals are part of a packed agenda provincial and 
territorial ministers responsible for justice will pursue today and 
tomorrow in Ottawa during their annual meeting with their federal 
counterpart, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler.

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Michael Baker said police in his province are 
finding that robbers and other felons have been changing their weapons of 
choice since 2000, when Parliament enacted a law requiring judges to impose 
prison terms of at least four years for crimes committed with firearms.

"Unfortunately there seems to be a growing trend for people to threaten: 'I 
have a syringe and I have got HIV and give me all your money.' Of course 
this form of theft is no different than threatening somebody with a gun -- 
from the point of view of the person being terrorized, the effect is the 
same," said Mr. Baker. "So we believe that it is very worthwhile to look at 
whether use of any kind of weapon, whether it's a gun or a syringe, is 
something that should be included with a minimum sentence."

Manitoba Attorney General Gord Mackintosh said he will push for increased 
penalties for drunk drivers who transport children, even for cases where no 
accident occurs. "Thirty-five U.S. states have done this already," he said. 
"It's not enough that judges may from time to time consider child 
passengers as an aggravating factor [in sentencing]. Children deserve more 
.. when an impaired driver essentially has a child as a captive."

Manitoba and other western provinces are also lobbying for the creation of 
new sanctions targeting "inhalant traffickers" -- people who sell common 
household products such as adhesives or glue remover knowing they will be 
used as intoxicants.
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