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Conservative's New Omnibus Criminal Bill
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
Shawn graduated with a law degree from University of Western Ontario. Shawn articled in Ottawa, specializing in criminal defence work. Since his call to the bar in 1991, he continues to practice in this area.

On Tuesday the Government tabled Bill C10 the Omnibus Crime legislation blending nine previous Criminal Bills that the Conservatives did not pass before the last election. This Bill is the result of the Conservative's promises to be tough on crime and they are pushing through with it now that they have the majority in parliament. This Bill puts a wide variety of offenders in jail for longer periods of time. The question is given the fact that we now have the lowest over all crime rate since 1973 do we actually need to spend billions incarcerating more people for longer periods of time.

The Bill includes a new list of mandatory minimum jail sentences for a range of drug, sex, violence and other serious offences, imposing a minimum jail sentence rather than leaving the sentencing options open to the judge who actually hears the case. There will also be much tougher penalties for all drug offences including a potential of doubling sentencing for growing drugs such as marijuana. Although this is intended to target organized crime the reality is that it will affect even a person growing as little as 5 or 6 plants with a penalty of up to a year in jail. There will be new tougher penalties for sexual offenders against children and new offences relating to the planning and enabling of se assaults against children. They plan to eliminate conditional sentences for a large range of offences. A conditional sentence is a jail sentence that allows the offender to serve it in his own home under strict house arrest terms. Conditional sentences allow the accused to continue to work, support his family, pay taxes, etc., while having their freedom severely restricted by forms of house arrest. The Conservatives are essentially trying to end that conditional sentence option.

The Bill eliminates or delays the eligibility for pardons for most serious crimes, as well as, increasing the costs of these pardons. Almost one quarter of Canadians have a criminal record, this Bill will make getting a clear name more difficult and cost more. Stiffer sentences for the youth who commit repeat offences or violent offences, this is being done theoretically to protect the public from "out of control" young offenders. An allowance for victims of crime to participate more actively in parole decisions with the presumption being that this will convince the parole board to keep prisoners in for longer periods of time; these are a number of the changes that the Conservatives are bringing in with this Omnibus Bill.

Virtually every single one of these reforms will incarcerate more people for longer periods of time at great cost to the tax payer. The Conservatives have not put a dollar figure on this Bill's cost but the estimates are that it will be in the billions. It raises the question "why?" Crime rates are the lowest they have been in over 35 years, obviously our present system is working. Why then spend billions more and incarcerate people for longer periods? This legislation is being opposed by the Canadian Bar Association and the Criminal Lawyers Association. I find it sad that ideology rather than facts are driving our government and the end result is at the very least questionable.

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