Law Union calls on Ontario to resist Harper’s regressive Omnibus Crime Bill

In the aftermath of an Ontario court striking down another “mandatory minimum sentence” last week, Ontario lawyers and legal rights advocates are urging Ontario’s Attorney General, Hon. John Gerretsen, to take steps to mitigate the impact of the federal government’s new crime legislation before it begins coming into force on August 9, 2012.

The Law Union of Ontario has written to Attorney General Gerretsen asking for the Minister to comply with the spirit of two Ontario court rulings by resisting the measures implemented under Bill C-10, the “Omnibus Crime Bill”, through provincial policies. 

The Law Union of Ontario letter calls on the Attorney General to:

  • Instruct Crown prosecutors to give serious consideration to consenting to probation in place of jail sentences; 
  • Encourage Crowns to pursue other reasonable offences that preserve judicial discretion in sentencing instead of those carrying mandatory minimums;
  • Direct Crowns to seek non-custodial sentences for non-violent offences and for offenders who do not pose any public safety risk; and,
  • Promote greater reliance on mental health and addiction diversion strategies, similar to measures expected in Quebec that promote treatment over imprisonment.

For youth in the system, the Attorney General should:

  • Direct that a young person’s name only be made public in exceptional circumstances;
  • Relieve prosecutors of the obligation to demand an adult sentence for someone under 16;
  • Ensure that all players in the youth justice system receive proper training on the new provisions and objectives of the Youth Criminal Justice Act; and,
  • Ensure that alternative measures/diversion provisions are available for populations that face special challenges.

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services has estimated that the Omnibus Crime Bill will cost Ontario more than $1 billion in infrastructure-related costs alone, and more than $50 million annually in additional operating expenses for new jails and correctional institutions. This is an enormous cost for policies that increase repression a do nothing for public safety and increase the risk of re-offending.

 The Law Union of Ontario letter has been endorsed by:

  •  Africans in Partnership Against AIDS
  • Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
  • Criminal Lawyers Association
  • Defence for Children International
  • Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Ryerson University
  • Frontline Partners with Youth Network
  • HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)
  • Toronto Police Accountability Coalition 

To endorse this call, email your name/organization and email address to:  

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