Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tough on crime; tough on the opposition

Update: The Tackling Violent Crime Act was introduced this morning. Amendments from last session appear to be included, contrary to earlier reports. There is no reason why this shouldn't be passed quickly by both the House of Commons and the Senate.

* * * *

I applaud Stephen Harper getting tough with his omnibus crime bill - Some of the previous opposition amendments will be stripped out, no new ones will be accepted, and it will be a matter of confidence.

This is important legislation that Canadians demand. The political shenanigans of the opposition parties caused it to be abandoned in the unelected Liberal-dominated Senate last session.

My guess is that Stephane Dion will not only be forced to go along with this bill, but will also be expected to expedite its passage through the Senate. If the Senate obstructs democracy again, I don't know what kind of leverage Harper will be able to apply, but it would definitely provide an excellent example of why Senate reform is crucial.

There were two interesting letters in today's Post that are related to this bill. First we have one from James Morton of Steinberg Morton Hope & Israel, Toronto:

One of the key elements of Tuesday's Throne Speech was the omnibus Tackling Violent Crime bill. The controversy over the legislation is far more apparent than real. Anyone dealing with the justice system knows a major overhaul of the criminal system is long overdue--indeed, the strongest complaint that can be leveled against the proposed crime bill is that it does not go far enough.

The reforms proposed are, for the most part, straightforward and reasonable. A dangerous offenders bill that puts the onus on criminals convicted of three violent offences to show they should not be taken out of society is hardly a significant attack on civil rights -- to require someone thrice convicted of serious violent offences to explain to a judge why they should be released into society is not an onerous burden. Overall, these initial revisions to the criminal law are long overdue.



So let's see speedy passage. If the opposition wants to fight an election on this one, then go ahead and make my day!


Part of this omnibus bill is the move to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16, with a close-in-age exemption of 5 years. I really can't understand anyone objecting to this bill. However, it appears that Ken Erickson of Calgary doesn't like it:

I fail to see how raising the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 will protect young people from predators. If anything, it will lead to wrongful convictions and criminalize consensual relationships among youth. Even with close-in exemptions, this proposed legislation will drive sexual activity underground, away from the scrutiny of parents and friends. Given that there is no objective evidence to lend credibility to such legislation, one can only assume that the Harper Conservatives are playing to their religious base -- to the detriment of the country. Someone should remind the Conservatives that Canada is not a theocracy.

"This proposed legislation will drive sexual activity underground, away from the scrutiny of parents and friends"????

So, instead of a 40 year old jerk diddling a 14 year-old right under her parents noses, they might have to take a room somewhere? Is that what he's trying to say?

This legislation is designed to help convict predators. It is not going to punish the children. It is going to protect them. Coercion is often difficult to prove the way the law reads now. This will give police and parents an improved method to protect youngsters.

But Mr. Erikson's attempt to paint this as a religious issue is pitiful, really.

It's not the agenda of some wacko religious zealots, Mr. Erikson.

It's a matter of protecting children while they are still vulnerable. Why do you have a problem with that?

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I don't live in Ken's neighborhood.

Barbara said...

Raising the age of consent is important to all parents. Charles Adler was discussing this on his show a few months ago. Many people do not know that as a parent, I cannot legally do anything if my 14 year-old daughter is dating a 45 year old man. So, raising the age to 16 gives parents an extra tool in helping raise our kids through those critical early teen years. There is no negative to be found here.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Thank you Barbara. I would like to hear the opposition parties' objections to this bill.

Anonymous said...

Sucker! You fell for the bullroar of the Harper bobbleheads - sucker.

Harper is lying, again.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Ah, there we go. A comment from one of the more eloquent members of the opposition.

Matt said...

Even with close-in exemptions, this proposed legislation will drive sexual activity underground, away from the scrutiny of parents and friends.

He has a point here. When my friends and I were teenagers, we allowed our parents and friends to watch us in the act so they could scrutinize it to make sure we were doing it right. Don't all teenagers do that?

How anyone sees it appropriate to pay Ken to write this crap is beyond me.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

we allowed our parents and friends to watch us in the act so they could scrutinize it to make sure we were doing it right.

Well, some folks seem to think that may be the case.

How anyone sees it appropriate to pay Ken to write this crap is beyond me.

Well, it's just a letter to the editor, but it is a bit scary that anyone in Canada thinks like that.

Anonymous said...

How often have we seen adults attempt to do what's right for kids and it either gets bogged down is bureaucratic pap or looks great on paper but in practice is a joke?

I'm sure some fringe lobby will be on board protecting the 45 year old man's rights quicker than that of a parent protecting the 14 year old daughter.

Would this legislation stop teachers and students from having affairs?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Would this legislation stop teachers and students from having affairs?

It would certainly be a criminal act for the teacher to have intercourse with a 14 to 16 year old.

OMMAG said...

That old age of consent thing goes way back to the days when it was more or less expected that girls would be married before they reached 20.

Further .... the societal Norms of the day considered 16 to be adult and 12 to 14 as acceptable ages for marriage.


This is an excerpt from : This Report to the parliament of Canada.
...............................
As pointed out in the 1984 Badgley Report on Sexual Offences Against Children, Canada has a long history of prohibiting sexual intercourse with young females, regardless of their consent. Only girls under 12 were absolutely unable to consent to sexual intercourse until 1890, when the age limit was raised to 14. With the advent of the Criminal Code in 1892, the strict prohibition against sexual intercourse was retained for girls under 14 (not married to the accused) and the law was strengthened to make an accused’s belief about the young woman’s age irrelevant. That age limit has not changed and remains in place today, with narrow exceptions for consensual activity between young persons less than two years apart in age.

Over time, the Canadian criminal law also provided qualified protection from sexual exploitation for females over 14. For example, the Badgley Report notes that seduction of a girl over 12 and under 16 "of previously chaste character" was made an offence in 1886. The offence was retained in the 1892 Criminal Code, in respect of girls between 14 and 16, and remained in force until 1920, when the offence was changed to prohibit "sexual intercourse." After 1920, the question of who was more to "blame" became an issue that could lead to acquittal but the offence remained in force until 1988.

In addition to those offences reviewed above, the "seduction" of a female under 18 "under promise of marriage" was made an offence in Canada in 1886 and amended in 1887 to apply to females under 21. In 1920, the offence of "seduction" (without reference to promise of marriage) was made applicable to girls "of previously chaste character" between 16 and 18.

From this it will be seen that a complete ban on sexual intercourse never did apply to girls over 14.
............. It goes on but you should be able to see the development (slow as it is) to recognizing that protection of young women is at the root of these laws.

The additional dynamic in our current era of social permissiveness is that not only girls but boys need some measure of protection by law.

What kind of a fool thinks it is wrong for society to protect children? Just watch who complains about this legislation....
another issue that provides the opportunity for the self described "Progressive" Lib/Left to demonstrate what they are all about.

jad said...

Mr. Erickson is either unaware of the provisions in the bill or being deliberately misleading. The bill contains a provision whereby a 14 year old girl with a boyfriend up to 5 years older will not be in contravention of the law.

As far as teachers are concerned, they are deemed to be in a position of authority vis-a-vis their students, so are already forbidden by law to have an affair with a student.

Matt said...

JOanne: Well, it's just a letter to the editor, but it is a bit scary that anyone in Canada thinks like that.

Whew. Any idiot with a pen and write a letter to the editor - I'm proof of that! I thought he was a journalist and briefly lost hope for the future of opinion columns in this country.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

OMMAG - Thanks for that, and you're right. These days young boys need protection as much as young girls.

Jad, good point about the teachers being in a position of authority. I'm not clear exactly what age groups that protects. I'm assuming that it wouldn't be a criminal act for a university teacher to seduce an adult student?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Matt, unfortunately there are some paid journalists out there who write columns that are more questionable than this letter.

liberal supporter said...

Jad, good point about the teachers being in a position of authority. I'm not clear exactly what age groups that protects.

Anyone under 18! Even if the teacher was 22, no close in age exemption as far as I understand.

Unlike in other countries where the age is the same as age of consent, 16.

Does this bill which wants to bring our age of consent up to 16, similar to other countries, also do away with the protection to 18, since other countries do not provide this?

liberal supporter said...

It would certainly be a criminal act for the teacher to have intercourse with a 14 to 16 year old.

But not a 16 year old?

Does 14 have any meaning still in the proposed law? What about 15 and 11 year olds? Close in age enough and it's ok?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

L.S. - I'm not clear on all the details, but I think the intent is to have more clout to be able to convict predators, because as it is, it can be difficult to prove coercion if the child doesn't cooperate with police.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joanne (True Blue) said...

Anon, perhaps you could find a less offensive way to express your indignation. Thanks.

Gayle said...

Joanne

You missed a few facts.

First - the age of consent bill is a bill that the liberal opposition attempted to fast track, without amendments, way back in March. In fact, the liberals have agreed to pass or have already passed much of this legislation. The conservatives delayed. The reason for this is because the conservatives wanted to paint the liberals as being "soft" on crime - which is hard to do when they are trying to pass your tough on crime legislation.

The legislation passed back in June, just before the House broke for the summer. It was at this point it went to the Senate. The House did not sit again until yesterday because Harper prorogued parliament, thereby killing his own tough on crime legislation. The Senate only had this legislation over the summer months - which is less time than the time the conservatives delayed it.

Harper could have simply made a motion that all bills introduced during the last session be reintroduced at the same stage as when they left. That would mean most of this legislation would be at the senate, now. He has chosen to do otherwise. This cannot be justified on the basis of public safety - surely you are not protecting the public by delaying the passage of these bills even longer? This is about politics - pure and simple.

Only one part of this bill has not been approved by any opposition party and that is the dangerous offenders bill. The problem is that the issue of whether it is constitutional to put the onus on the accused in these circumstances is currently before the SCC. Two courts of appeal have already found this type of reverse onus unconstitutional.

What Harper should do is wait for the result of that case. If he does not, and the legislation passes, we are in for years and years of litigation on this bill before it gets to the SCC. With years and years of litigation comes millions of tax dollars spent on the court system. Does that make sense?

It gets even more interesting. The NDP support the increased sentences on gun crimes, but I think they do not support increasing the age of consent (I stand to be corrected). If Harper introduced these bills separately he would certainly see them pass - but because he put it into one package he ensured he had elements that neither the liberals nor the NDP could support. Again - an interesting political move, but I am not sure how this increases public safety. Obviously Harper is more concerned about politics (and having that election he so desperately wants) than he is with our safety.

As for the person in authority thing - there is no age limit. A university prof could be charged with SA for seducing a student if that prof abused his or her position as a prof in order to seduce the student.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Thanks, Gayle. I'll defer to your 'experience in the field' knowledge. I have a few questions, but no time now. I hope you check back later on.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

but I think they do not support increasing the age of consent (I stand to be corrected)

Gayle, I've heard that too. Why do you suppose that is?

Gayle said...

joanne

I think it is because they feel that young persons should have autonomy over their bodies, though that is pure speculation. After all, this legislation only attacks consensual relationships.

I am torn on this one myself. Working with vulnerable youths as I do, I support the change. I have met far too many young girls who have "boyfriends" in their 20's, 30's and 40's. There is no question in my mind they are taking advantage of the immaturity of these girls.

At the same time, I understand the point that if we recognize 14 year olds as being too immature to make appropriate sexual choices, why are we so quick to impose life sentences on them?

Obviously my answer is that we should not impose life sentences on 14 year olds, but I doubt you would agree ;).

Anonymous said...

Gayle..do you know how long advocates have been trying to get the 'age of consent' changed?
A lot longer than 2 years.
Are you able to back that up with quotes from Hansard to clariy your statement that the Libs were trying to fast track. Interesting in light of the fact that they were not interested in doing anything about it when they were in government.
Just putting it out there.

Gayle said...

I do not have the quotes from Hansard. I just remember that the liberals put forward a motion in March (or maybe April) where they proposed that several pieces of legislation be fast tracked, including the age of consent bill. That motion was voted down by the conservative and NDP. It was actually appropriate that it was voted down because it was procedurally illegal, but that does not change the fact the liberals were on record with stating they supported the bill.

I will try to find the link but I am certainly not going to do it tonight.

And yes I agree it could have been done earlier, but then the liberals passed a number of crime bills, as well as dealt with a massive deficit, poor economy etc while they were in government. They cannot do everything.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

At the same time, I understand the point that if we recognize 14 year olds as being too immature to make appropriate sexual choices, why are we so quick to impose life sentences on them?

Are you referring to the legislation to get tougher on the Youth Criminal Justice Act?

Personally I see that as an invalid argument. One is protecting the child. The other is sending a message that children cannot be used in criminal acts because they will suffer serious consequences. Parents need to be teaching their children that crime is not a good way to get ahead.

But I didn't know that kids would be getting a 'life sentence'. Could you please provide a link? Thanks.

Gayle said...

Joanne - the current youth justice legislation allows for a person as young as 14 to receive an adult sentence for homicide. The conservatives do not need to do anything if that is all they want. I think what they really want is to ensure all such youth get an adult sentence, with no ability to apply for a youth sentence instead.

Anyway - check this link out:

http://canada.justice.gc.ca/en/ps/yj/repository/index.html

Gayle said...

From the site:

"The YCJA contains significant changes regarding adult sentences:

The transfer process is eliminated. Instead, the youth court first determines whether or not the young person is guilty of the offence and then, under certain circumstances, the youth court may impose an adult sentence.

A pattern of repeated, serious violent offences is added to the list of offences that give rise to the presumption of an adult sentence.

The age at which the presumption of an adult sentence applies is lowered to 14. However, provinces have the authority to set the age at 15 or 16.The effect is that if a province chooses to set the age at 16, there would be no change from the YOA.

If the Crown notifies the youth court that it will not be seeking an adult sentence for a presumptive offence, the court cannot impose an adult sentence.

The test for an adult sentence requires the court to determine whether a youth sentence would be of sufficient length to hold the young person accountable. The accountability of the young person must be consistent with the greater dependency of young persons and their reduced level of maturity. If a youth sentence would be of sufficient length to hold the young person accountable, the court must impose a youth sentence.

A young person under age 18 who receives an adult sentence is to be placed in a youth facility unless it would not be in the best interests of the young person or would jeopardize the safety of others."

Gayle said...

The presumption of an adult sentence is the issue that is currently before the SCC.

OK - I am off now.

chester said...

Good to see the Liberals staking out the "not opposed to sex with fourteen year olds" segment of the population.

That'll go over real well in the 905 belt.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Thanks, Gayle. I'll have to digest all that, but I do appreciate your input.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

More on the new legislation here - Three strikes, but with safety valves.

Gayle said...

chester - what part of "the liberals attempted to fast track the passage of the age of consent bill" do you not understand?

liberal supporter said...

gayle: As you know, there is no statistically significant correlation between what biff (chester) says and what anyone else says. A software program containing a compendium of current talking points, coupled with a keyword recognizer would do about as well. So if you mention age of consent, you would receive a response such as you did.

We don't see biff over here too often, because joanne is a lot quicker to delete his stuff. One of the few kinds of "intolerance" I agree with. You've seen how he tries to pin the censor label on RT when RT gets sick of the BS. He tries it here too I believe, but gets deleted.

Hahaha!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I make no apologies for any deletions.

}-)

Joanne (True Blue) said...

And yes I agree it could have been done earlier, but then the liberals passed a number of crime bills, as well as dealt with a massive deficit, poor economy etc while they were in government. They cannot do everything.

... and meeting Kyoto targets.


(Sorry, just couldn't resist.)

Joanne (True Blue) said...

the current youth justice legislation allows for a person as young as 14 to receive an adult sentence for homicide.

I would think this is very rare, but you're the expert. I don't even know many adults who actually serve 'life' sentences. Most are out on parole after several years; depending on the severity of the crime.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

"the liberals attempted to fast track the passage of the age of consent bill"

I'm not doubting you here, but I would love to see some kind of reference or something.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

BTW, here are some of the MP's who were not in favour of raising the age of consent. (Warning - Link from gay magazine).

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Gayle..do you know how long advocates have been trying to get the 'age of consent' changed?
A lot longer than 2 years.


That's right. In 2005 a Conservative MP tried to raise the age of consent, but the bill failed because most Liberals voted against it.

Gayle said...

Joanne

CHeck out this link:

http://www.liberal.ca/story_13224_e.aspx

Liberals state they are once again prepared to fast track the crime bill. You will see they say they did that last March but were blocked by the conservatives.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Gayle, thanks for the info, although I question the impartiality of the source. ;)

Gayle said...

Joanne - it supports what I have been saying all along. At the time this happened they had a whole discussion on it on MDL.

Besides, if the liberals are going to post an outright lie on their website - one that could easily be refuted if it were a lie, don't you think the conservatives would have pointed that out by now?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Gayle, if the Liberals are so 'tough on crime', why didn't they propose any of this legislation themselves when they were in power?

Brian in Calgary said...

Gayle, Joanne has hit the nail on the head. The Liberals had almost 13 years to get tough on crime. For most of that, they had a majority in the Commons, and for the last year and a half when they had a minority, they surely would have had the support of the Tories if they were serious. So, tell me, what exactly did the Liberals do to get tough on crime when they had the chance?

Gayle said...

The liberals were the party that first passed minimum penalties for gun crimes. The liberals created the DNA data base. The liberals revamped the entire drug legislation by abolishing the Narcotic Control Act and bringing in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which increased the available sentences for drug traffickers. They also passed mandatory weapons prohibitions for drug traffickers.

The liberals amended the Criminal Code to allow for long term supervision of sexual offenders even after they have completed their offences (a section that is used very often by the police). These amendments also permit supervision and control of individuals who are involved in a criminal organization.

The liberals amdended the bail provisions of the Criminal Code to make it more difficult for certain offenders to be released.

The liberals created the Youth Criminal Justice Act which provides for lengthier sentences for serious violent offences than those available in the Young Offenders Act.

The Liberals passed anti-stalker legislation.

The liberals strengthened victims' rights by giving them standing in the courtroom during the sentencing process (allowing them to give their victim impact statements in person rather than in writing). Victims also have access to certain information about youth offenders that is not available to the general public.

These are but a few examples I was able to come up with off the top of my head.

During the same time period they liberals fostered a strong, vibrant economy and balanced the budget.

Gayle said...

Correction,

"The liberals amended the Criminal Code to allow for long term supervision of sexual offenders even after they have completed their offences..."

the last word should be "sentences", not "offences".