Has Vic Toews Improved Public Safety?
With current media focusing so much on the poor implementation of the Safe Streets and Communities Act (formerly Bill C-10: The Omnibus Crime Bill), it can be easy to forget how or why it even came into existence. Wasn’t this all about public safety? How did this happen?
In 2010, the Canadian public was made aware that Graham James, a man convicted of sexual assault on a minor, had been pardoned in January of 2007. Under the law at that time, this was admissible since enough time had passed since his conviction in 1997. When more victims began to come forward, they were cut by the idea that this man had already been pardoned. Prime Minister Harper denied his governments knowledge of the pardon, and recommended that his Public Safety Minister Vic Toews draft up the reforms to ensure that the parole board would always put public safety first.
The reforms Vic Toews put forward had little to do with research or statistics on lowering crime. Instead, they acted as a statement that our government would always care for the feelings of victims in this country first and foremost. Do we think that’s the right thing to do? No. It’s a political move, not a step forward for justice. We do not agree with the way things were handled, and believe that Canadians are no safer for it. It’s not all bleak however. Let’s take a look at one or two positives.
What did Vic Toews get right?
Under the old rules, child sex offenders were able to be pardoned, but their names were never taken off the list of known sexual offenders. If they applied for any position involving vulnerable people such as children, the elderly, or disabled, they would be immediately flagged.
This left room for error. Under the new rules, those found guilty of a sexual offence involving a child are never eligible for a pardon. This is the right call for public safety. Even as we fought the new act, this portion of the bill was highlighted to be written up as its own separate addendum.
If you have an absolute discharge on your public record and you remain crime free for one year, the record of absolute discharge is automatically cleared. The same goes for conditional discharges after three years. This has been the case since July 1992, and is not new.
So why give credit to Vic Toews for this? Well, the “tough on crime” approach has increased a lot of waiting periods, and made it harder for a lot of people to clear their name. In this case though, he left a good thing alone. That’s something to be grateful for at least.