Proposed law could treat serious offenders lightly

If Bill C-75 passes in its present form, criminals of various kinds will almost certainly be heartened and emboldened by the prospect of lighter penalties.

I was impressed, and also puzzled, by our Prime Minister’s eloquent address to the Paris Peace Forum recently. He said, “When people believe the institutions can’t protect them, they turn to easy answers like nationalism and populism, closing borders and xenophobia.” He may quite legitimately have had in mind our neighbours south of the 49th Parallel, but some of his government’s policies could soon have a similar effect here.

In March of this year the Canadian government introduced Bill C-75 with the intention of “hybridizing” 131 indictable criminal offences. According to former Minister of Justice, Rob Nicholson (Cons.), “The government is essentially watering down very serious criminal charges by adding a possible summary conviction as a prosecutorial option. This could result in a penalty as low as a fine for what was an indictable offense with a penalty up to 10 years.” Inexplicably, big city media have given scant attention to this 302 page omnibus bill, but if passed, it could undermine the protections of the value system that undergirds our way of life.

In a submission to the House of Commons, Professor Christian Leuprecht of Royal Military College and Queen’s University, emphasized the far reaching nature of the Bill. “The classification of an offence,” he said, “has long been understood to signal how serious the offence is; implicitly, then, hybridization sends a message that these offences are now less serious than they used to be.”

Most of the changes may not create problems, except for further clogging the provincial courts. Others though will dilute what was guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter, as most Canadians know, was bequeathed to us by an earlier Trudeau, the father of our current Prime Minister.

Before we offhandedly decide this isn’t important to our cozy lives in a nation that experiences relatively little serious turmoil, we really should look at several offences targeted for hybridization. One of the most troubling is sexual exploitation. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, “Canada is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sexual trafficking.” The possibility of lenient sentences would almost certainly exacerbate an already unacceptable situation.

Equally disturbing is the plan to hybridize abduction of children under age 16. Having spoken in recent months with several mothers who have lost children to international abductions, I have a sense of the deep heartache they and their families continue to experience. One told of the pleading of her children in court, expressing their fear they would be taken to another country and never be permitted to return. The Charter guarantees everyone “the right to life, liberty and security of the person.” To reclassify abduction of children and try it as a summary offence seems contrary to this guarantee.

Another proposed change is also incomprehensible. At a time when houses of worship in both Canada and the U.S. have come under serious physical attacks, the government intends to hybridize “obstructing, or violence to, or arrest of officiating clergy.” A similar attempt was made a year ago with Bill C-51. More than 65 leaders from faith organizations including Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews and Christians signed a letter opposing it. Thousands of ordinary citizens sent letters protesting the bill. Now the government is trying again. This seems to suggest a lack of regard for religious leaders and their followers.

I spoke by phone last week with David Guretzki, Vice President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), located in Ottawa. EFC has longterm relationships with public policy officials, and is at times invited to speak to Parliamentary standing committees regarding significant social issues. I have found their perspective to be fair minded. “It is EFC’s opinion,” he said, “that some of the proposed changes devalue human life and dignity, care for the vulnerable, and freedom of religion.”

If Bill C-75 passes in its present form, criminals of various kinds will almost certainly be heartened and emboldened by the prospect of lighter penalties. We could then all become more vulnerable, and have less faith in our institutions to protect us. Only a massive protest by Canadians will persuade the government to rethink this Bill and assure us that Charter rights still are for all citizens.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pacific Coastal won’t open until community is ready

The company has suspended operations until further notice

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Celebrations continue for Tsilhqot’in Nation after court victory against Taskeo Mines Ltd.

Supreme Court of Canada upholds 2014 decision rejecting New Prosperity mine on May 14, 2020

UPDATE: body of missing man located

Jerret Snow was last seen May 19

COVID-19: B.C. grants aim to stabilize sexual assault recovery programs

$10 million fund not yet ready to take applications

B.C. mom’s drug-pricing petition on behalf of son garners thousands of signatures

Petition geared to gaining access to new medicines drew support of Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl

‘Paralyzed by fear’: B.C. woman details anxiety, grief at Italian relief hospital

Sheila Vicic spent two months in Italy as the country grappled with COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry given new name in B.C. First Nation ceremony: ‘one who is calm among us’

The provincial health officer was honoured in a May 22 ceremony at elementary school in Hazelton

CAMH survey looks at binge-drinking, financial anxiety during COVID

Alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism for those whose careers may have been sidelined due to the pandemic

Half of Canadians say governments are hiding something about COVID-19: poll

More than a third of people believe the virus was created in a lab

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Most Read