The Conservative Government of Canada has changed the criminal law landscape for Canadians since taking power in 2006. They’ve taken a tough-on-crime stance, increasing the use of custody and the length of sentences for many crimes.
Here are some of the Conservative Government changes to criminal law and procedure for Canadians:
- significantly limited the Condition Sentence (house arrest) regime
- introduced mandatory minimums for a large number of offences
- limited and confused the credit for pre-sentence custody calculation
- introduced deterrence into the youth sentencing regime
- changed the adult sentencing process for young people
- reduced access to Pardons
Recently, the Huffington Post reported that Stephen Harper announced plans to introduce life sentences with no chance of parole, ever. The plan includes a process where the offender can apply to a Government Minister for release after 35 years.
Criminal law systems should make objectives and implement processes and sentencing regimes to achieve those goals. The administrators of the system should use evidence and empirical study to design programs that contribute to achieving the objectives.
The political process is a mix of achieving objectives and getting re-elected. If a program is cut (see this article about cuts to a sex crime prevention program) or created on the basis of political objectives like re-election, then the system is no longer a justice system, and instead merely a legal system.
If an offender must apply to a politician for release, then that offender’s justice system, and thereby our justice system, is no longer about justice or meeting crime reduction objectives and is instead about re-election or a political party’s brand. Harper’s announcement is a perfect example of the dangers of mixing politics and justice.
Michael Spratt is a criminal lawyer from Toronto with extensive experience looking at the intersection of politics and law. Please read Michael Spratt’s article about Assisted Suicide and Terrorism, two areas where the mixture of politics and law is toxic.
Some issues are so important and so controversial, says our government, that extensive consultation and analysis are a prerequisite for any legislation.
But not when it comes to terrorism laws that encroach on civil liberties.
Two separate and distinct debates on Parliament Hill are the latest example of the government’s distasteful politicking.
Canadian’s choose our political leaders, and those leaders make our laws. Ask yourself if these changes to Canada’s criminal law reflect your views. Do you think that the criminal justice system should be about justice and results, or about something else?
*note: The information on this page is not legal advice.