Wednesday, October 17, 2007

the omnibus crime bill

EDIT: OK, I watched the introduction of the bill in the house today, and it appears the "omnibus" part consists of legislation that's lagging behind from last session: raising the age of consent, tougher penalties for impaired driving, toughening bail provisions for repeat offenders, mandatory minimums (and something about having to prove why you *shouldn't* be detained before your trial if you used a gun) and classifications of dangerous offenders.

Mixed feelings here - while I obviously misinterpreted the articles I read and that sucks for me, it's much better for the country that ALL of the measures outlined below not be passed via one bill. I'd still prefer to see these five measures separated, though, their progress through the House last session notwithstanding.

Luckily, though it doesn't apply to this legislation as one bill, I can still happily stand by what I said about omnibus legislation in general, my mockery of the logical somersaults you have to do apply to the government's agenda on age of consent vs. youth offenders, and my blatant opposition to those ridiculous security certificates.

Below is the original post, lest I be accused of avoiding my mistakes.




OK, I realize that omnibus bills are sometimes a politically smart way of getting stuff you want passed passed, but a look at Ontario will tell you that lying is sometimes a politically smart way to get elected, and we're generally not in favour of lying to get elected, so the fact that something is politically smart obviously doesn't automatically override the fact that something isn't exactly moral.

The contents of the crime bill the government will be putting forward apparently includes:
- raising the age of sexual consent,
- increasing penalties for impaired drivers,
- toughen bail provisions and impose mandatory prison sentences on "gun crimes,"
- reintroducing security certificates*,
- toughen the Youth Criminal Justice Act,
- new initiatives on dealing with elder abuse,
- new initiatives on curbing identity theft,
- awarding police new powers to deal with drug dealers.
- funding the recruitment of 2,500 new officers.
Now there are a lot of VERY different measures in here. For instance, raising the age of sexual consent is a decision that depends on reasoning that more or less contradicts the rationale used when deciding to strengthen the Youth Criminal Justice Act - are youth responsible for their actions or aren't they? If you think someone who is 14 should be treated as an adult when they commit a murder, then why shouldn't they be treated as an adult when they make the decision to sleep with someone much older than them.

If all of the measures in this bill are important to Canadians and meeting their demands, then why not put them through individually and get a real mandate from Canadians, especially since Harper will be claiming a mandate after the bill passes?

The answer is that many of these measures are not popular, but there are enough issues that are very important to different groups that even if the Liberals weren't avoiding an election like the plague it would be fairly likely to pass. By forcing them though together the Conservatives can masquerade as if they've been given a mandate to pursue all of these proposals and pretend it wasn't all just to force through unpopular (and even unconstitutional) legislation via a few strong issues and bad Liberal polling numbers.


*The security certificates are a lapsed anti-terror measure that allows the government to detain non-citizens suspected of terrorist links without too much hassle, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, which I guess must not be a problem. I think Scott Reid broke ranks to vote against this last time, now he'll likely be required to vote the line on a confidence motion. Sad.

cross-posted to The Natural Society

5 comments:

insp.gadget said...

Raising the age of sexual consent is in response to the increasing sexual victimization of young persons by adults in Canada, and those abroad whom travel here specifically to enjoy the lower "threshold".

The "hassle" avoided with regards to security certificates is twofold. First, too much classified information must be provided otherwise, which can subsequently destroy ongoing projects and investigations related to the detainee. Second, as with ALL immigration matters, the burden of proof needed to detain, remove, or refuse entry to persons coming to Canada is almost ridiculous! You are an immigration officer working the border and want to remove a convicted murderer from Canada? His computer criminal record is not enough. Try getting a signed and notarized copy of his conviction from a court in some small town in India at 3am!!!!! Otherwise, you have to let him in or you "violate his rights"!

In most cases, visitors to Canada have nearly the same "right" to enter this country as we do. How do you overcome that?

Janet said...

I wasn't commenting on whether or not the age of sexual consent should be raised, simply commenting on the inconsistency in expecting a 14 year old to be treated like an adult, with full responsibility for their actions when they commit a crime but treated like a child, with no responsibility for their actions if they want to have sex with someone who is much older. In my opinion, you can't have it both ways.

And as for this:
In most cases, visitors to Canada have nearly the same "right" to enter this country as we do. How do you overcome that?

I haven't found a way to reconcile opposition to everyone having the same rights to move to and from our country with opposition to racism (mobility rights restricted specifically because you're not from Canada)... so I'd say embrace it, don't "overcome" it.

There's a good argument to be had that criminals give up their rights to mobility by committing crimes, but if someone is a fugitive abroad then we ought to be searching for them at and within the borders, but I don't see how that justifies circumventing the right to know why you're being detained and the right to be set free after a certain amount of time, especially when these decisions are based on your country of origin.

When someone is being detained I wouldn't want the burden of proof to be anything but very high, as much when they're from Canada as when they're not.

Ryan R said...

Two different sets of questions, and then an argument...

1. Should it be legal for a 20 year old man to have sex with a 14 year old girl? Do you see nothing the least bit predatory, or worrisome, about such "consentual" sex? How many 14 year olds are mature and strong enough to handle a sexual relationship with an adult?

2. Are most 14 year olds mature enough to have a decent understanding of basic right and wrong, and hence to realize that killing a person is wrong, and terrible destructive in general? If so, is there any particular reason why we shouldn't treat them the same as we treat adults who kill?

With these two different sets of questions in mind, I now make an argument.. it is logically weak to argue that all adult acts become properly comprehended and understood by adolescents at exactly the same time.

For example, driving a car is an adult act, and we don't let 14 year olds drive cars (last I checked in any way). Should we start allowing 14 year olds to drive cars simply because some of us want to try 14 years old as adults for killing people?

When I was 14, I realized that killing is wrong, and that killing another human being is a very adult act, ideally left to soldiers fighting just battles or cops in self-defence.

However, at the same time, I wasn't ready to drive a car when I was 14.

Treating all adult acts the same - arguing that all adult acts become achievable and fully comprehensible for adolescents at the same time - that's the logically weak position in my view.

I don't see logical somersaults here. Actually, I see common sense.

Now, as to whether or not the bills should be passed seperately... I can't really fault the Prime Minister for taking advantage of a truly spineless Liberal opposition.

marginalizedactiondinosaur said...

Raising the age of consent makes old farts who want to molest young children face the consequences of their actions,

Charging the young makes them responsible for their actions not the same thing.

Why do 60 year olds need to be able to have sex with 14 year olds.

being responsible isn't the same as defending oneself vs a predator.

Janet said...

1. Should it be legal for a 20 year old man to have sex with a 14 year old girl?
Yes.

Do you see nothing the least bit predatory, or worrisome, about such "consentual" (sic) sex?
Not if it's consensual. I don't see something inherently wrong with an age gap in a relationship, and I don't think 14 year olds are too stupid to know what's going on with sex.

How many 14 year olds are mature and strong enough to handle a sexual relationship with an adult?
There was a time when it wouldn't be strange to be married off and maybe have kids when you were 14. That isn't to say that that should be the norm, just that it's stupid to say that there is some kind of inability for a 14-year-old to handle a sexual relationship.

2. Are most 14 year olds mature enough to have a decent understanding of basic right and wrong, and hence to realize that killing a person is wrong, and terrible destructive in general?
In the overwhelming majority of situations, yes. They're 14, not four.

If so, is there any particular reason why we shouldn't treat them the same as we treat adults who kill?
None that I can see.

The driving age argument is more persuasive, partly because the market would enforce it - you'd likely have trouble getting a 14-year old driver insured - but growing up in the country I know a few people who drove when they were 14 and even younger and never had any problems. I'd probably say that with a licensing system and insurance in place an age restriction on driving is a redundancy.

But if you think 16 is the age, make it ALL 16, from the age of consent to adult treatment in criminal offenses to the drinking age. Don't be treating someone as an adult when they do one thing and as a child when they do something else. If they can be held responsible for actions they commit with their bodies, there's no reason they should be restricted from making decisions, even bad ones, about what to do with their bodies.