Friday, January 06, 2006

Conservative Vision of Law and Order - Close but needs some polish

Following on PM the PM promising to ban handguns or crime or something else he can't really deliver after the tragic shootings in Toronto, the Conservatives have come out, in Toronto, with their version of a revamped justice system.

Given that it looks like the NDP might just hold the balance of power in a Conservative minority, let me help out my Conservative friends by indicating the stuff we could go for and the stuff we think is silly.

From the article:

"The Tories' security platform also includes proposals to:

1. Shut down the federal gun registry. - Well, it has cost way too much money, but it might be better just to implement a cheaper alternative within CPIC. Some police forces still think this is a good idea.

2. Raise the age of consent to 16 from 14 years old to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. - We already have laws in place to prevent adults from sexually exploiting teens. The Mulroney Conservatives dropped the age because young offender facilities were filling up with 17-year-olds whose only crime was having sex with or getting a blow-job from their 14 and 15 year old girlfriends. Have we had a spate of 14 and 15 year old being sexually exploited since then? You realize we can pass laws that protect these teens from exploitation while still allowing them to consent to sexual activity, right? If you don't want your 14-year-old to have sex, try education and parenting. Or prove our current criminal santions against sexual exploitations aren't working. This is nothing more than pandering to the social conservative, religious right. It is not good social policy.

3. Sentence anyone 14 years old convicted of a serious violent crime or repeat offence as an adult. - Wait a minute, didn't you guys just say that a 14-year-old was not mature enough to consent to sex? But they are somehow mature enough to be liable to adult criminal sanctions? This is another case of "we already got one" - the Young Offenders Act already has (and always had, actually) provisions for transfering to adult court in cases where the offender had the maturity, determined on a case-by-case basis. Its even been used. Sending every 14-year-old who commits a serious offence to adult jail is enrolling them in crime school (read "Go Boy!" by Roger Caron for a shining example) and will seriously raise our crime rate in years to come. This was the effect of the old Juvenille Delinquents Act and was one of the reasons it was replaced. Sorry, again this is pandering to the so-con, religious base. Make up your mind - either they are mature enough or they aren't.

4. Re-establish the Canada Ports Police to combat drug smuggling. - Good idea.

5. Allow border guards to carry sidearms. - As long as Canada Customs and the officers themselves are good with that, go for it. Keeping in mind when I worked for a summer as a border guard in Sarnia, these guys were more about taxes and duties than security. The Mounties did the security stuff. Times change, of course.

5. Expand the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to allow it to spy overseas. - This one is going to need a little more explanation. Given the CSIS gaffes with Air India and Mahar Arar case, there had better be some damn good oversite before we let these guys do this. And I'd sure like some costing to make sure this is worth it.

Harper also said
"...the Conservatives would invest in programs to help at-risk youth avoid
getting involved in gangs and drugs...mandatory minimum prison terms of
between five and 10 years for major firearms offences, and a minimum sentence of
five years for people convicted of possessing a loaded restricted or prohibited
weapon, such as a handgun. There would be no more conditional sentences, or
so-called house arrest, for serious gun crimes, he said. "


That's good and, escept where I have indicated some issues above, this matches what Jack Layton said after the shooting on boxing day:


"These crimes remind us that we must get illegal handguns off our streets
in Toronto and across Canada. To do that we need tougher border controls,
tougher sentencing for weapons offenses, and tougher anti-gang policing,
prosecutions and sentencing.
We need more effective witness protection
programs, and more compassionate victim assistance. We also need to get tougher
- much tougher - on poverty, unemployment and social exclusion"




In otherwords, except for a few glaring points, the NDP can probably work with the Conservatives on this. We may have to debate 'aggrevating circumstance' versus 'mandatory minimums', but the idea of tougher sentences is still there. Add that to the Accountability Act and Electoral Reform and we might have a pretty productive session.

Hell, I'll bet some of the Liberals could back this stuff.

Update:

The NDP has released their crime and justice plaform as well. Kinda familiar, eh? What do you think? I know Candace is impressed and she is not usually that impressed with us lefties.

Upper Date:

For the record, the one part of my own party's platform I don't agree with is the reverse onus legislation. This is a clear violation of the Charter, as per R. v Oak. Despite the hysteria and concern around gun crime, I firmly believe you are innocent until proven guilty and I can't agree with imposing that kind of rule, even for bail. I don't think that kind of limit can be justified in a free and democratic society. Sorry if this upsets my fellow Dippers, but there it is.

The rest of the platform, of course, is very well done.

Upper Upper Date:

Amber Jones from the Progressive Bloggers has an excellent, well reseached piece that warns against increasing sentences as the solution to crime. While I think in the instance of gun crime, we need to boost sentences, she is right for crime in general. And this piece further shows the need to have the right social programs in place to really prevent crime - support for the poor, well-paying jobs and real prospects will prevent far more crime than a few extra years in jail. My hope is that the program's Jack Layton and the NDP call for as part of this platform make it so the sentences never need to be used.

25 Comments:

At 7:26 PM, Blogger D. Martin said...

Interesting; I heard the speech on cpac. Harper's plan appears to follow the socially conservative ideal of being tough on crime. I do, though, think it somewhat sensationalist. In his speech he spoke of initiating his policy especially in Toronto. However, Manitoba has a higher murder rate. I think he is just playing to the emotions of the Torontonians after the shooting.

 
At 7:39 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Yeah, but it does essentially match what Jack said. I'm certain its possible to get tough while still doing the preventative stuff.

Also notice I thought the real so-con stuff was quite silly. Just laying the groundwork...

 
At 9:51 PM, Blogger DazzlinDino said...

Actually, that's a pretty good assesment I think. One thing the BPoC debates has taught me is how to be open to ideas and criticism.

The idea of raising the age of consent is a tough issue, the whole idea of "drawing a line" somewhere always makes for an issue I guess, and I understand where your coming from there.

but judging by the rest of the assesment you made, your gonna make a pretty good Conservative in the near future......lol.....:P

 
At 10:27 PM, Blogger Mike said...

LOL,

I'll play along with the "tough on crime" stuff so long as we can also get some good social programs to prevent the crime in the first place. Very little crime when there is very little poverty.

 
At 11:16 PM, Blogger Candace said...

OK Mike, we will have to agree to disagree on the age of consent. EITHER 14 is old enough to be mature enough to decide have sex and recognize a criminal act when I commit one, and stand trial as an adult, or 16 is.

This seems to be an either or on both sides.

Which would you pick?

 
At 11:45 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I was wondering when you'd show.

Candace, here's my take on it:

Teenagers should be treated for what they are - not quite adults but not quite children. Therefore, a little freedom tempered with a little protection. So 14 is the age of consent for other teens, but you are protected from old perverts and those who would exploit you by specific sections in the code dealing with that. And that's what we have - for the purposes of pornography, prositution, or if you have a position of trust or authority, or if you lure on the internet or if you use false pretenses to extract consent, then the age is 18. Teens have sex. Lets not crinimalize natural behaviour (even if as parents we don't like it), but at the same time protect them from exploitation. In other words, we don't need to raise the age of consent, we already have adequete laws protecting kids from older perverts and raising it will only criminalize the teens themselves. If you don't want your daughter having sex at 14, honest sex education and a good relationship will work way better than the criminal law anyway. That's what I will do.

On the other side, the same idea applies - at 14 we realize that you are somewhat responsible for your actions (up to 5 years) but that you haven't quite got the maturity to be a full adult. So you don't get the full punishment, only part. Of course if it can be proved that you are mature enough, you can be transfered to adult court. Once again, we already have this in the Young Offenders Act and have had that ability since 1984. Maybe Crown Attorney's don't use it enough. You'd have to take that up with the Province - Administration of Justice is a provincial responsibility. But they get a punishment and that punishment can be made to match the seriousness of the crime.

So, for 4 years, from 14 to 18, we give them a little freedom and a little repsonsibility so they can ease into adulthood. Before that they cannot consent to sex and cannot be held liable for criminal actions. After that they are fully liable and fully free (and responsible).

I think the mix is quite age appropriate and frankly, it works. Any exceptions are also dealt with within the law - really mature criminals can be transfered to adult court and any non-age appropriate sexual behavior is protected against by the criminal law.

So, for me there is no contradiction. I don't expect you to agree with me, but I hope you understand where I'm coming from. I used to work with disturbed kids and young offenders and the system does work pretty well for most of them. You just never hear a headline like "Teen bully does 3 years for assault - never re-offends" but that happend all the time.

 
At 8:16 AM, Blogger Sara said...

Sawed-off shot guns are banned too but that didn't stop a man from using it on Preston St. in Ottawa New Years Eve.
I think all the party's should get together and make one big ruling. This is the only way to stop it. One idea won't do it but maybe if all the ideas were put in place something might happen.

 
At 8:22 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Sara,

Hence my post - I am suggesting ways in which the NDP and the CPC could cooperate. There is no rule that says you can't be tough on crime on one hand and still have good social programs to prevent said crimes on the other. That's what Jack Layton is saying in that quote.

I don't remember hearing about the sawed-off incident. did they catch the guy?

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger Nastyboy said...

In otherwords, except for a few glaring points, the NDP can probably work with the Conservatives on this.

The election isn't even over and the dippers are already talking about working together with the CPC. Could this be the start of a beautiful friendship? A new golden age of co-operation in politics? The healing of the east/west rift?

Nah...

 
At 11:10 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Nasty, you are such a pessimist!

;)

Honestly, though I fundementally disagree with (c)Conservatives on many things, I agree with them on many others. Also, as long as the corruption stench hangs over the Liberals (rightly or wrongly), they cannot get things done - they are too divisive and polarizing to be productive in parliament. Even though we disagree, at least there is some modicum of respect between the CPC and the NDP based on principles and that is the basis for finding consensus. The Liberals need to clean house and spend time in opposition before they can do that. James Bow has it right over at his blog.

We can't get anything done at all if all we focus on is corruption and we can't focus on anything else so long as the Liberals are in power.

Even if the CPC passes stuff thats unpopular, they will get voted out and those things replaced. Its why we have democracy.

 
At 12:01 PM, Blogger AC@43 said...

Mike .. your making some sense, but don't rule out the "stench of corruption" from any party that comes to power. I agree, the Chretien Liberals (by the way I include Martin and all his cronies in that group) have been in power to long and have to be removed from power, but .. look at history, any party (so far it has only been the Liberal and the old PC party that have held power) that has been in power (with a majority) to long becomes corupt. Canadian history is riddled with scandels that have brought down governments.
Dippers also have to remember that the "Conservatives" are not the party that our parents voted for... this is the "Reform" party under a new name and image but still the "Reform" party.
Look how Harper came to power in the new party, Belinda's old boy friend back sliding on promises, then handing the party to Harper. This is the group your thinking of siding with .. This is why I'm still waffling on my vote.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Oh I know this very well Andrew, I was in University when Sinclair Stevens and Mulroney stunk the place up and a certain chair jumping young Liberal from Hamilton was that go getter from sector 7G and everyone's rebellious darling.

Right now, the stench from the Liberals is overpowering and even overpowers the reek from the rotting so-cons in the old Reform party.

I have found, as you point out, that one generally acquires this stink from having a majority government. Since we aren't likely to see that, this is a golden opportunity to see that we never do again. The CPC Accountability Act along with Ed's 7-point plan, which inhcludes a move to PR, will ensure that outright majorities are rare and relegated to the dustbin of Canadian political history. If things work out, we will have a new system that is more regionally and democratically responsive (I like MMPR), with fixed election dates, meaning we will now have stable coalitions, rather than unstable minorities or dictatorial majorities, which actually get things done and are a little better at resiting the corruption. If things don't work out, we will have another election.

I prefer to think of this kind of cooperation as the Provisional Government or the Interim authority. When its done, we will return to our regularly scheduled animosity and ideological battles, only in a better, more accountable system. And by then, the Liberals can truly say they have cleaned up and changed and join in the fun.

Don't worry about them pressing a so-con agenda. Between the Bloc and the NDP and whatever Liberals are left, there will be plenty of centre and left voices to stop them. Don't be afraid of change.

 
At 4:42 PM, Blogger Sara said...

I agree with you Mike! We can agree on certain things, and agree to disagree on others... Thank you for being so reasonable.
Yes, they caught the guy with the sawed off shotgun.

If the NDP give me a meeting, I'd be more than happy if you came. That's only if the NDP will listen to my ideas.. we'll have to wait and see... good luck

 
At 5:48 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Sara,

Who are you trying to meet with?

I'm in Nepean-Carleton. Are you meeting with someone from National Office?

Anyway, good luck. I hope you get at least to meet with your Candidate in Kempville.

 
At 3:26 AM, Blogger Candace said...

Mike, the challenge that I have with the age of consent at 14 is just this: The police subtract 2 years (the length of time to get to court), so if a 12 yr old is caught with a 20 yr old, they won't press charges, because by the time it gets to court there's a good chance that, at 14, the girl won't want to either (a) testify or (b) be seen as someone who put an old beau in jail. A friend of mine got it from the horse's mouth when her daughter took off for a few days & was found at her boyfriend's apt (long, sad story about the mixed up girl, you may have read my post on it). So by raising it to 16, it would then effectively become 14.

Which is pretty screwed up, isn't it?

 
At 3:38 AM, Blogger John Murney said...

Good posting Mike, good food for thought.

 
At 9:36 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Candace,

Not only is that screwed up, its wrong. The age of consent is the age at which the offence occurs, not the age at trial. Also, the Canada Evidence Act is pretty clear that you don't need the victim's testimony if you have other evidence (like finding her in the apartment).

The law is pretty clear. If the local police and Crown Attorney are not pursuing this becasue of reasons you give, then you have a problem with your provincial Attorny General or Solicitor General. If the (provincial) agencies vested with enforcing the criminal law and imposing sentence won't follow the existing law, then changing the law won't do anything.

That situation is just unacceptable. You may want to file with your provincial Ombudsman or the Edmonton Sun. Your provicial authorities are ignoring the law.

 
At 3:27 PM, Blogger shmamber said...

Hey very interesting, to say the least, not that I agree with everything you say either, but you have done some research. I would love for you to read an article I have on my blog....

http://www.progressivebloggers.ca/blog/diary.php?cmd=diary&id=339

if that doesn't bring you to it, then go to www.progressivebloggers.ca and search for my diary Amber Jones.

Let me know what you think.

 
At 3:39 PM, Blogger Mike said...

That's a fantasitc peice of research. And although it seems not to show here, I agree with most of it. I do think that for the specific instance of gun crime, we need a moderate increase, as Jack suggests.


I have no illusions that these increases will prevent crime, but I hope they will clean up the streets a bit. Teh only way to prevent crime are good jobs, good social support and better prospects. Jack covers that too. My hope is that will work so the sentences will never have to be used.

Thanks for the post.

 
At 3:46 PM, Blogger Sara said...

I've talked to Ed Broadbents office on info for split income and Peter Stoffer in N.S. I am waiting for someone to let me know when they can sit down. The Kemptville candidate will not answer me at all. My conservative candidate does and so does the one in center Ottawa. I've had great response from Conservatives and avoiding from NDP also ignorance from the Liberals! I've met Jack Layton and he promised to talk about it but never did. Do you see what I'm up against now? If you get a chance do some digging on income splitting...

 
At 6:56 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Sara,

Send me a direct e-mail (look in my profile) and give me the details on what you want from "income splitting" and what you mean by it.

I'll see what I can did up, but I won't mak any promises - I'm just a supporter, not a big wig or anything.

 
At 3:34 AM, Blogger Candace said...

Mike - re: offense at age it occurs vs. court.

The problem is not with the law. The problem is with getting the child/teen/quasi-adult to testify against. More often than not, they refuse (it's not "cool" or they are still with the guy or whatever). So cops have learned the hard way to focus on those cases in which a conviction is more than a slight possibility. The police did not refuse to make a charge, they just sat my friend down to discuss the realities. Given the circumstances, it was agreed by pretty much all parties that a charge wasn't going to do much more than create more strife in a family already torn. If you want specifics, search my site for the post "the sad story of S." (and 2 1/2 years later, they were right. There is no way she would testify against and frankly is not in shape to testify about jaywalking let alone statutory rape, which is probably called something else these days).

While this particular case has it's own peculiarities, the fact that the cops sat the mom down for a "come to Jesus" talk speaks volumes. They were not even vaguely happy to have the conversation; it was a reality check.

What this highlights, though, is the police's (probably grammatically incorrect) frustration with our justice (using the term loosely) system. Can you imagine doing your job to the best of your ability only to have the results tossed? or bargained away?

Very frustrating. But it does create that very real dilemma, and I can't fault the cops for it.

 
At 7:24 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Candace,

I'll look that up. Sounds interesting.

I agree with your assessment of the police frustration. I've seen it here. But again, that falls squarely on the provincial Attorneys General for not properly enforcing a current law. Changing the criminal law at the federal level won't help if the provinces enforce it in strange ways. If a girl is not going to testify at 14, she isn't going to do it at 16 - raising the age won't really make that much of a difference, except the cops will suddenly be arresting and charging an inordanant ammount of 17-year-old boys for getting to 2nd base. Imagine their frustrations then.

While I appreciate that using crinimal law makes us sound tough and like we are doing something, it is somthimes incapable of doing what we hope and can even make matter's worse. This is one of those times.

 
At 8:29 PM, Blogger Sara said...

OK, I will. Check out my last blog. I viewed it like I was a mom who was trying to find a daycare system through National Daycare. You'll be surprised to see what I found.

 
At 8:34 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Income splitting...

2 parent income pay less than one parent income. Of course they have to with the current tax brackets.

If you have 2 parents one making $35,000 a year and another making $25,000 a year.
One parent making $60,000 a year. Now that sounds bad well if one makes that much money then whats there problem right? Wrong now a days you know as well as me that houseing, gas, utilities etc.. plus children makes one income of $60,000 a lower middle class family.
Working poor they are called, living pay check to pay check.

The reality is the tax brackets are significantly higher on the once income worker basically they are being punished for keeping one spouse at home. If income splitting was in place then they would save anywhere from $4000 to $7000 a year.

The government does not have to pay higher incomes to stay home they just have to stop taxing them so much. The lower income earners can be subsidized to stay home if they chose. Why not? They pay more than that to subsidze them in the National daycare program. You will see that on my latest blog.

 

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