Conservative government the one playing politics with crime
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Byline: Larry Campbell
Column: Larry Campbell
Source: Special to the Sun
I have had the opportunity to witness the impact of crime from a number of different perspectives over the course of my career -- as an RCMP officer walking the streets, as a chief coroner looking into death, as a mayor responsible to the residents of Vancouver, and now as a senator engaged in examining the merits of anti-crime legislation.
I understand the serious effects that crime can have on a community and its residents.
More prominently, however, I have become acutely aware of the way that the psyches of people can be compromised when their personal safety or the sanctity of their family's security is put at risk.
This is why I have no patience for those who use fear as a means to an end. I am regularly angered by the way the media sensationalize crime, often reporting an opposite interpretation of the facts, which state that Canada's crime rate fell in 2006 to its lowest level in 25 years.
In the same fashion, I am absolutely incensed by the way that the Conservative government is playing politics with crime, particularly when it comes to the Canadian Senate.
In recent weeks, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and several of his cabinet ministers have accused Liberal senators of holding up the government's proposed crime bills.
These claims are that much more offensive after the tragic shooting death in Toronto of 11-year-old Ephraim Brown, which has sparked individuals like Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to accuse our Senate caucus of stymieing the legislation for stronger mandatory minimum sentences.
Well, this tactic of political manipulation has got me angrier than hell, and I am not going to stand silent any longer. First, let me provide a couple of basic facts.
The Conservative government has introduced a total of 13 justice bills in the past year. Seven have received royal assent, two are still being debated in the House of Commons, and the Senate is working on the final four, all of which have been in the upper chamber for less than two months.
Five of the seven bills that have passed faced absolutely no amendments from the Senate, instead offering observations designed to guide both the House of Commons and Canadians in interpreting the new laws.
Truth be told, it is actually the prime minister who has shown a disingenuous concern for his legislative justice agenda by refusing to accept a deal from the Liberals to fast-track justice legislation, which has consequently left several bills flapping in the wind over the summer. Additionally, the possibility of proroguing when the House of Commons returns brings the prospect that all bills sitting before the Senate will be required to start over again at first reading -- if, that is, a senator reintroduces them.
Of the four justice bills in front of the Senate, there are several substantive concerns that must be addressed before they become law. For example, Bill C-22 makes no distinction between sexual predators and sexually immature teens when it comes to the potential of being classified as a registered sex offender, and Bill C-35 provides preferential treatment to criminals who commit violent offences that do not involve a gun.
Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister (a Conservative), stated that the Senate was to be a place of "sober second thought" so that legislation would receive proper, careful consideration before finally becoming law. Thus, it is my duty to provide a proper examination of the issues, regardless of whether a piece of legislation originates from a Conservative government or Liberal government.
Partisan politics has never served as my motivation behind assessing matters that relate to law and order and the safety of the Canadian public.
Falsely accusing Liberal senators of stalling legislation, using the death of a child for political gain, or triggering people's fears based on misinformation, is governance of the worst kind.
These tactics only serve to reinforce the cynicism Canadians feel towards politicians and increase the public's concern that government officials are not representing their constituents and communities.
It's time to be truthful with Canadians, to accept that those who represent other parties are not always the enemy, and for Harper to grasp the concept of cooperation for the greater good.