Tag Archives: Mandatory minimums

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s Mandatory Minimum of Hypocrisy

“In 1988, Mr. Nicholson vice-chaired a Parliamentary committee that released a report recommending mandatory minimum sentences not be used, except in the case of repeat violent sexual offenders. The committee found, based on testimony and the U.S. experience, that the law didn’t work and increases prison populations” reports The Hill Times.

That is a very sensible position. As sexual offenders of any kind do pose a threat to society mandatory jail sentences are necessary not only as a deterrent but also to remove those individuals from society. As drug addiction only harms society because prohibition raises the price of drugs allowing gangs to thrive and more than 2/3 of government funding of the “War on Drugs” goes to enforcement with very little going towards treatment/prevention mandatory minimums for drug offenses are ineffective and regressive.

Rob Nicholson of 2006-2010 has spent his time in government attacking the Liberal Party of Canada, falsely, for being “soft on crime” for opposing the same failed policies that Rob Nicholson of 1988 opposed. The Winnipeg Free Press and the Toronto Sun have both recently taken Stephen Harper’s do nothing government to the woodshed blaming Liberal Senators for the Conservative Government’s own “dumb on crime” approach.

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From “Record doesn’t support PM’s claim that Liberal senators have blocked crime bills” :

Nicholson insisted the record shows “the Liberals are soft on crime.” He accused Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff of making a show of supporting tough legislation in the Commons but then allowing Liberal senators to “obstruct, delay and gut some of our most important measures.”

But he could point to only three specific bills: C-15; C-26, a bill to crack down on auto thefts; and C-25, a bill to end the practice of crediting convicts with two days of time served for each day spent behind bars before trial.

C-25 is not, perhaps, the best example for the government to dredge up. After a mere 19 days in the upper chamber (compared to 36 days in the Commons), the so-called “Truth in Sentencing” act was in fact passed by senators last Oct. 21. It received royal assent the following day.

Yet, after all the badgering of supposedly foot-dragging senators, cabinet decided it could wait four months – until Feb. 22 – to actually bring the law into force.

“They could’ve made it effective the next day,” Liberal Senate leader James Cowan said in an interview.

“If ever there was an example of the facts differing from their rhetoric, that’s a pretty good one.”

On C-26, Nicholson complained the bill has been “stuck” in the Senate for six months.

But the six-month tally doesn’t take into account the fact that the bill was handed over to the Senate just before Parliament broke for the summer. By the Liberals’ count, the bill had actually been before the Senate for 38 working days by the time of prorogation – four days fewer than it took to get through the Commons.

Indeed, the Senate has regularly spent far less time examining and voting on bills than the House of Commons, which has taken as much as 95 days on some crime legislation that never got beyond second reading debate.

Given the government’s own foot-dragging, Cowan questions whether Harper is really serious about passing his criminal justice agenda, or simply wants an excuse to keep reintroducing measures that allow him to bash the Senate and accuse the Liberals of being “soft on crime.”

“It makes you wonder if they’d rather talk about it than actually do it.”

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From “Harper not so tough on crime“:

Of those, 11 were sitting somewhere on the Commons agenda, and only three bills were anywhere near the Senate at the time of their demise.

One of those three, one repealing the so-called “faint hope” clause for lifers, arrived in the Senate less than two weeks before the place went dark.

The second bill that died in the Senate when Harper prorogued parliament dealt with auto theft, and went to committee in the upper chamber the week before the Christmas recess.

The third piece of legislation lost in Harper’s official lights-out provided mandatory minimum prison terms for anyone caught with more than five marijuana plants.

That bill was so urgent that it first was introduced by the Conservative government in 2007, but was killed by Harper’s calling of the 2008 election. It was resurrected, debated and died again when Harper recently shut down parliament.

Thank goodness the prime minister has stuffed another five political pals in the Senate.

The world will surely be a safer place.

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Though Justice Minister Nicholson has had a change of heart on mandatory minimums, Canadians have more than enough evidence to be certain that Stephen Harper will be maintaining the mandatory minimum of hypocrisy required to be part of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Canada’s “Sober Second Thought” Give Conservatives A Hangover

A Brief Digression on the Senate:

When Senate reform is discussed in Canada there are only two dichotomous solutions that people put forward. They are: electing the senate or leaving it as it is, or, abolishing it or leaving it as it is (these policies have be put forward by the Conservatives and the NDP so it isn’t surprising they are bad ideas.) For some reason Senate reform is no longer about actually reforming the senate. Senate discussions are really Senate-Election or Senate-Abolition debates.

The Senate, as dubbed by John A. Macdonald, should give legislation a “Sober Second Thought.” This means that they should examine bills passed by parliament with great scrutiny.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, at a time when he did not have the confidence of the house and knew he was about to be defeated, appointed 18 Conservatives. This group did contain some good candidates but was mostly filled with hacks, fundraisers, failed candidates and Mike Duffy. This angered a lot of Canadians (though surprised none as Prime Minister Harper had long abandoned even lip-service to accountability and reform) as it seemed to out of place in our modern, democratic society. The Senate has 105 members who represent 4 regions of Canada and get paid $130,400 a year even if they miss most of the sessions. The senate has a quorum of 15 out of the 105 which encourages low attendance. Videos recently surfaced of senators behaving petulantly, yelling at each other. There are problems with the Red Chamber and its inhabitants.

The solution, however, should not be to get rid of the Senate just because there are some flaws. Canada’s senate can provide stability and a long-term view of legislation that a parliament cannot.

An Ideal Senate:

Appointed: During the prorogation of parliament, Prime Minister Stephen Harper went on television and lied to Canadians. He told Canadian citizens they directly elect their Prime Minister and what the Liberals-Bloc-NDP were doing was “undemocratic.” The Reform/Alliance elements of the Conservative Party along with the NDP have a very unnuanced view of democracy. They believe that elections magically produce accountability (a George W. Bush foreign policy pillar.) Having an appointed senate actually has many advantages. Senators who are appointed don’t have to worry about election which means they can focus on doing their jobs. They can effectively represent their region of Canada without being a populist demagogue. Appointed Senators, though still representing parties, don’t have any reason to be partisan so they can work together with members of other parties.

10 Year Terms: Life time appointments were a good idea at the time but there should be limits. A term of 10 years would allow senators to look at every bill in terms of the “big picture.” The Senate should provide stability. There should be no term-limits on Senators. If a member of the senate is doing a good job they should be offered another term.

Requirement to be Appointed: Senators should be the “best and brightest” Canada has to offer. To ensure they preform their legislative functions to the best of their ability Senators should have to meet a high standard. Seators should have a minimum of 10 years experience serving their country: as a MP, MPP, MLA, Lawyer, journalist, judge, teacher, professor, ambassador, civil servant, member of the armed forces, or “Canadian of distinction.” A “Canadian of distinction” would be any Canadian that meets the criteria to receive an “Order of Canada.”

Attendance: Currently the quorum for Canada’s Senate is 15 (out of 105.) This should be raised sharply and Senators that do not attend a majority of sessions should be punished.

Every party: The House of Lords in the United Kingdom has Senators from all of the major parties in it. Canada’s Senate should have members from every party in it proportional to the current parliament when it is time to replace senators.

Regions into Provinces: The Senate is currently divided into four regions. The Senate should not be like the United States Senate with 2 senators per states as they leaves many underrepresented. Canada’s senate should be proportional to population but divided by province not “region.”
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Thoughts on Bill C-15/Mandatory Minimums:

- Mandatory minimums don’t deter anything. A drug dealer who is actually making money from selling drugs deals with guns/gangs ever day, do you think they actually care about being in jail?

- The only people punished by the mandatory minimums in bill C-15 are 16-year-old kids with one pot pant in their bedroom who can get 6 months.

- Crime rates in Canada have been dropping over the last 5 years. Manitoba reported a rate of 4.5 homicides per 100,000 population in 2008, the highest among the provinces. New Brunswick’s rate of 0.4 was the lowest in that province in 40 years as well as the lowest in the country. The way Prime Minister Harper and his party talk about crime you would think Canada has devolved into an anarchic desert like in Mad Max.

- If the Canadian Government legalized and sold marijuana (the Marijuana Control Board of Canada) we could gain millions of dollars every year (help pay down the Harper-Deficit) and our policemen could spend their time/resources fighting a drug that actually harms people like crystal-meth.

Conclusion:

There are currently 54 Liberal Senators which is a majority (5 other senators are Not Conservative.) Prime Minister Harper was willing to use an obscure piece of parliamentary code when he prorogued parliament, the Liberals should be using the Senate (a less obscure but equally misunderstood) to smack down idiotic/ineffective legislation like Bill C-15. The Senate should be protecting Canada’s interests and Bill C-15 would not help Canadians in any way and would be detrimental to some Canadians.

Many Conservative policies seem like they were thought of while drunk/high, thank God the Senate is here to provide a sober second thought.

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VANCOUVER — Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson slammed the Senate Wednesday for not pushing through new legislation implementing mandatory jail terms for drug producers, smugglers and traffickers.

Nicholson toured a mock Vancouver marijuana grow-op with police and firefighters Wednesday before telling reporters that the holdup in passing Bill C-15 was risking the lives of Canadians.

“Drug labs and grow-ops are a sign of gangs and organized crime activity, and their presence threatens the safety of B.C. neighbourhoods and, in particular, our children,” Nicholson said. “They also lead to more crime and gang violence on our streets and more risk to law enforcement officers as organized criminals fight to establish and protect their turf.”

He said the proposed law would be a deterrence to those willing to set up clandestine labs and grow-ops.

“I have been calling on (Liberal Leader) Michael Ignatieff to do something this summer about the holdup we have in the Canadian Senate. I had a hard enough time getting that bill through the House of Commons and then when it got to the Senate at the beginning of June, we found it impossible to even get them to debate it,” Nicholson said.

He said he had held briefings with Vancouver police and fire department officials about the ongoing gang problem in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

“It is fraught with dangers. There are many, many safety concerns,” Nicholson said. “C-15 imposes mandatory jail terms for drug producers and traffickers who target our children. We take aim at those who import-export drugs, people in the grow-op business, people who produce methamphetamines, heroin, other drugs — we send out the correct message to them — that if you get involved in this kind of activity, you are going to jail.”

Acting deputy fire chief Tim Armstrong said the number of drug labs is on the rise in Vancouver.

“We are seeing these laboratories in highrise apartment buildings downtown, in three-storey walk-up buildings, residential homes. They are really popping up anywhere,” he said.

Vancouver police Insp. Brad Desmarais said the labs and grow-ops “are profit-making businesses.”

“They represent often a significant profit line for organized crime,” he said.

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A Representative of Conservative Party of Canada speaking on the need for the “War on Drugs”:

Stephen Harper Seeks to Fill Canadian Prisons and Waste Tax-Payer Money


– Mandatory minimums fill our prisons. This costs more of tax-payers money.
– Mandatory minimums don’t deter anyone from using drugs.
– Mandatory minimums tie judges hands and fly in the face of judicial discretion.
– Mandatory minimums punish teenagers, not gang members.
– Mandatory minimums have a disproportionate effect on drug addicts, the poor, the young, blacks and other minorities.
– Mandatory minimums don’t help a drug addict with their problem, it just makes their addiction worse by compounding upon it with jail time.

It is very disappointing to hear the Liberals are going to vote for this legislation. True courage is standing up against failed policy that is detrimental to Canadians even though you know you will be painted as “soft on crime.” We need to change the debate on this, prevention, treatment and decriminalization work. It is Stephen Harper who is wasting tax-payer money and adding to Canada’s drug problem. It is Stephen Harper who is “soft on crime.”