The federal Conservative government’s omnibus crime bill passed through the House of Commons on Monday.
It is expected to pass through the Senate, which also has a Conservative majority, and become law before Christmas.
“It’s disappointing,” said Charles Stuart, co-ordinator of Northern Justice and Criminology at Yukon College. “This is really a flawed social policy.”
The 30-year “war on drugs” experience and multiple repeals now being filed for mandatory sentence legislation in the United States directly warns about aspects of the nine-in-one bill, said Stuart.
It’s interesting the Canadian government is doing this now, he added.
The 1980s had some of the highest crime rates in North America and that was when American politicians used ‘fear of crime’ techniques to get elected and create law and order legislation. But Canada never jumped on that bandwagon, Stuart said.
The most upsetting and ironic thing about this bill is that Canadians don’t need to look that far south to see problems.
Ottawa has led the way in areas of restorative justice and has produced massive amounts of consistent research proving how bad the policies in this bill are, Stuart said.
“Our government is producing the research and yet our politicians aren’t listening to it,” he said. “It’s almost morally corrupt. They’re just completely ignoring all the current research in the field that Canada has been instrumental in, globally.”
Even in the Yukon, specifically, Stuart is disappointed with the lack of political effort to stop this bill.
“Not more than 10 years ago, the Yukon was a world leader in restorative justice,” he said. “We really had some interesting potential here to create an alternative system to the standard.”
Most specifically, Stuart points to the bill’s changes for youth and mandatory sentencing.
Put simply, the bill lowers the age of “youth” from 16 to 14, meaning more youth will be put in jail at a younger age, said Stuart.
This ignores Canada’s own research on how prisons are “colleges of crime” and the more time spent incarcerated, at younger ages, the more likely people will re-offend, he added.
And mandatory sentencing is best described as “one-size-fits-all,” said Stuart.
“Regardless of whether you’re non-violent, mentally ill or a violent, repetitive offender, you’re treated exactly the same way,” he said. “Which essentially removes discretion from judges and shifts it to crowns.”
This will mean fewer people will plead guilty and the already over-burdened court systems will clog up, he added.
Stuart also points out the unintended consequences of the bill’s stricter rules on drug offences.
While it will effectively shut down small-time growers and dealers, it will only cause more large-scale, organized crime to take root, he said.
There will never be an end to crime and the need for prisons, but this bill ignores that all offenders are eventually released, Stuart added.
Prison is a temporary and expensive situation, and by focusing on it, governments divert resources from community systems, like probation structures, which will also still be needed.
As a criminologist, this new bill is interesting and will produce a lot of employment in the corrections industry, said Stuart.
But as a Canadian and a Yukoner, he has lost faith in a government he used to be proud of.
“Down the road, we’re going to turn back and say, ‘Oh, what have we done.’” he said.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at