HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Nunavut Justice Minister Denounces Tory Crime Bill
Pubdate: Thu, 02 Feb 2012
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2012 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Bruce Cheadle


The Conservative government's massive new crime bill runs counter to 
a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on aboriginal justice, Nunavut's 
justice minister said Thursday.

New mandatory minimum sentences will overburden the territory's 
courts and corrections system and fly in the face of Criminal Code 
provisions on the treatment of aboriginal offenders, Daniel Shewchuk 
told the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee.

"The government of Nunavut believes that taking away discretion from 
judges is not the right approach."

Mr. Shewchuk noted that the Supreme Court recognized restorative 
justice principles in the 1999 Gladue decision, which addressed the 
over-representation of aboriginal Canadians in prisons.

The omnibus Bill C-10 combines nine different pieces of legislation, 
covering everything from drug and sex crimes to young offenders, 
criminal pardons and the issue of Canadians jailed abroad.

It was rushed through the House of Commons last fall, but now faces 
renewed scrutiny in the Conservative-dominated Senate. The Harper 
government belatedly recognized that some amendments are required to 
fix flaws in the legislation.

Those flaws, however, are specific to one aspect of the sprawling 
bill that deals with suing state sponsors of terrorism.

But critics continue to pound away at the overall Conservative "tough 
on crime" emphasis.

"Bill C-10 will divert the financial resources we require to address 
the root causes of criminal behaviour and to fund rehabilitation 
programs to support a punishment model that will add further stress 
to our already over-burdened corrections infrastructure and our 
courts," Mr. Shewchuk testified.

While Mr. Shewchuk denounced the bill, the president of the Canadian 
Police Association testified that his membership supports it.

"We need stronger intervention that combines general deterrence, 
specific deterrence, denunciation and reform," Tom Stamatakis told 
the committee.

However Mr. Stamatakis did bolster one aspect of the argument being 
made by Nunavut -- along with Ontario and Quebec and some maritime 
provinces -- that the crime bill will create significant new costs.

He said police budgets are already "close to the breaking point."

"On behalf of my members, let me be clear that this legislation 
represents part of the cost of doing business for law enforcement and 
we hope that the federal government and their provincial partners can 
quickly come to an agreement on how to best address the funding 
concerns without any delays," said Mr. Stamatakis.

The police representative also managed to highlight Mr. Shewchuk's 
argument on the need for judicial discretion, albeit indirectly.

Liberal senators have spent the first two of 11 days of hearings 
repeatedly questioning the crime bill's stiff mandatory minimum 
sentences for those convicted of growing as few as six marijuana plants.

Mr. Stamatakis called the six-plant provision "a bit of a red herring."

"The other reality is that police officers' every day use their 
discretion in terms of what you're going to enforce and what you're 
not going to enforce," he told Sen. Serge Joyal.

Conservative Sen. Linda Frum questioned Mr. Shewchuk on Nunavut's 
opposition to new mandatory minimums for crimes that involve sex 
offences against minors.

"Knowing that there must be very high rates of sexual assault in your 
community, I don't understand why these mandatory minimums in that 
area are so troublesome to you," said Ms. Frum.

Mr. Shewchuk responded that victims have to be respected and sexual 
offenders need to be punished, but added that the Inuit have a unique 
tradition of community-based, restorative justice.

"The victims also want to be part of the sentencing system too," said 
the territorial justice minister. "I think you need to understand -- 
and even I don't understand it -- the societal values of Inuit and 
the way they deal with justice."

The committee plans to hear from 110 witnesses in its examination of 
the crime bill.
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