MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCING: GOOD OR BAD?

Now that the Conservative government in Ottawa has tabled its mandatory minimum sentencing legislation, the critics are coming out of the woodwork. It must be noted that many of these critics were the same people who decried the last government’s inability to curb the violence on our streets.

Some of the accusations that are being leveled at Vic Toews, the Conservative Minister of Justice, are that our jails will now become overcrowded, we will have to spend more on prisons, and there will be a huge increase in trials once the ability to plea these thugs out of the system has been severely limited. It seems to me that all of those things are attractive pluses to the new legislation, not drawbacks.

Critics of the new legislation claim that this new stance on gun toting criminals will not reduce crime. Now, if memory serves me, there have been a great deal of thugs in the last 24 months involved in some of Toronto’s gang violence that were known to police, and more than a few were awaiting trial on other gun related charges or were out on parole. I do know one thing for sure. The one’s who died on our streets at the hands of those criminals would beg to differ on whether minimum sentences are useful.

Let’s look at this another way. As a Canadian, a father, a son, and a brother, I truly care not if this law will reduce crime or not. It would be nice, but that should not be the only reason for enacting it. The simple fact is that we have been way too soft on these menacing gunmen. The thought of them actually serving time in a prison somewhere is very appealing. Their victims are shown no leniency and are made to serve their entire sentence whether it be a violent death, immense pain and suffering, or permanent physical disability.

During the last election, all of the opposition parties, with the exception of the Bloc, mentioned minimum sentencing to some extent. If this is not a deterrant, then why was it in their platforms? Was it simply a chance to increase their own political currency at the cost of others? It appears that the only party that believed in what they were preaching is now running the country.

NDP justice critic Joe Comartin suggested that Canada’s courts may strike down the new legislation as too harsh. It is now unmistakably clear that to some on the left side of the political spectrum the ideas of law and order, consequences and penalties, and punishment and incarceration are simply unacceptable. For a politician to stand up and in all seriousness state that these new measures to protect Canadians are harsh and untenable simply highlights why the NDP Party must never be trusted to run this nation.

We must remember that going into the last election, the NDP Party proposed a four-year minimum sentence for illegal possession and sale of restricted firearms and a four-year minimum sentence for importing illegal guns. In fact, when Jack Layton was asked what the NDP would do to get tough on crime he said, “We think it’s time for minimum sentences on gun crimes, and for importing guns.”Where exactly do they really stand?

As for the will of Canadians being ruled once again as unconstitutional, that will simply reiterate the need for some serious judicial reform and constitutional changes as well. Can you imagine a court ruling some real punishment and consequences for the actions which some choose to do as unconstitutional? We must get a grip and remember that those criminals waving guns in our faces and shooting innocent bystanders are doing so of their own free will. Stiffer penalties are not inhumane. These perpetrators will know full well what the cost of using a gun is before they use it. No one is tricking them.

In amongst the opposition’s complaints were the questions as to how much was going to be spent on new prisons and nice fresh sheets for all of those new beds. Early estimates peg the cost at upwards of $240 million, which simplified, is one eighth of the cost of the current gun registry, the one that criminals have decided to not use. As for the claims that stiffer sentences have not been proven to make our streets safer, I will add that neither has the gun registry. Not one iota. As for prisons, I can’t remember the last time somebody staying in one shot an innocent shopper on Yonge Street, or a woman standing in line to buy dessert.

Opposition leader Bill Graham, now comfortable in his condemnation of all things Conservative, was quick to get on board the bandwagon in opposition to this new bill which the majority of Canadians favour. Graham said what is missing is “a balanced approach,” including ways to tackle the root causes of crime. “We see nothing of that here. We see only the repressive side,”said Graham.

On the other end of the Liberal spectrum comes Dalton McGuinty, the man that Bill Graham says should epitomize what the Liberals stand for and who they should look to for guidance in the next election. Mr. McGuinty has announced his full support for the new legislation, saying the measures will “make a real difference when it comes to promoting safety for our families and our communities.”

It must also be noted that our police officers have welcomed such legislation after begging for it for years.

As the Tories are only in a minority government position, a lot can be learned in the next few weeks. We will see which of the opposition parties will vote for this bill, even though they claim it is flawed, (should one vote for a bill one calls flawed?), and we will see which of the parties is intent on standing in the way of some real changes to our justice system. One can spew forth rhetoric ad nauseum in the House, but when it comes to real change, Canadians are demanding it. Let’s see if any of these other ‘leaders’ has the fortitude to cause this bill to fold.

When the votes fall, remember that each of these parties suggested they would get tough on crime. Now it is time to show Canadians if they were serious, or just fishing for more votes.