Pubdate: Tue, 08 Nov 2011
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2011 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Bruce Owen


About 250 people rallied against the Harper government's omnibus crime
bill outside the Manitoba Legislative Building today.

Speakers and people in the crowd said the anti-crime measures in the
bill, currently before Parliament, will only put more people into jail
for minor crimes and ratchet up prison costs at the expense of social

Former city police officer Bill VanderGraaf, who now represents Law 
Enforcement Against Prohibition, said the bill is a form of bullying 
particularly against medical marijuana users.

The federal bill if passed as is will jail people for six months for
growing six marijuana plants, critics charge.

"The whole war on drugs is a failure," VanderGraaf said. "Everybody
knows it. The Harper government doesn't seem to get it. And obviously,
the Manitoba government doesn't seem to get it."

The rally, hosted by the John Howard Society, was held to sway the
province from supporting the federal bill. Last week Attorney General
Andrew Swan said the Selinger government supported the bill because of
some of its anti-crime provisions, despite the acknowledged higher
costs to the province of keeping more people in jail and for longer.

John Hutton, executive director of the John Howard Society, said he'll
meet with Swan Wednesday to voice his concerns about the bill.

Others said the province and Ottawa could do more to reduce crime by
going after its root causes like poverty and substance abuse.

"I think they're on the wrong side of this fight," said Shaun Loney,
executive director of BUILD, a program that takes young men, most with
criminal records, and trains them to insulate properties for energy

Loney said the American experience with high incarceration rates
hasn't work.

"They're actually closing jails down. They're finding that if they
invest in treatment and employment they're actually saving money. I
think the NDP is trying to out-conservative the Conservatives."

Inmates at the Winnipeg Remand Centre have also chimed into the
debate. Their thoughts have been posted online at
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.