Monday, May 17, 2010

Federal Justice Issues

There have been a couple of new key Justice positions that seem to be nailed onto the Conservatives Justice Plank recently and I can't help but think they could have been coordinated to diffuse opposition or criticism.

The immediate trigger to this change has been the news that former junior Hockey Coach Graham James who was charged in 2001 has been out of prison and pardoned since 2007. It was also revealed that the notorious Karla Homolka - co-accused wife of suspected serial killer Paul Bernardo - is also soon (July 5) to be considered for her pardon. (Of the plea-bargain of the Crown in the Bernardo/Homolka case caused a huge public uproar at the time it became known - and a large part of that was a "soft-on-female" sentencing discount due to feminist-friendly infiltration of NDP Justice Minister Marion Boyd.)

1) Tightening the Rules for Pardons of sex offenders in the wake of revelations that Jr Hockey Coach Graham James who molested a number of boys received a full pardon in 2007.  The new law would render ineligible for a pardon any person convicted of a sexual offence involving a minor, or of more than three serious indictable offences. Other offenders would have to wait five to 10 years after serving a sentence before applying. Applicants would also have to demonstrate how receiving a pardon would help in their rehabilitation. In fact, under the new law, technically no one will get a pardon. The bill would replace the term "pardon" with the phrase "record suspension."

The reason? According to Mr. Toews, forgiveness "is not the business of government." He added that the new language would also better reflect the actual effect of a pardon and society's view of the long-lasting harm to victims. "The current system of pardons implies that what the person did is somehow okay, or is forgiven, or that the harm done has somehow disappeared."

2) Reintroduce the crime of Rape back into the Criminal Code (dropped in 1983 and "dumbed down" to Sexual Assault). The current term - despite being revised a few time - is too broad to specifically discern between the spectrum of offenses like inappropriate touching to brutal rapes. As the Government is also
tightening the rules on pardons - especially Child Sexual Abuse - it needs to be more specific on the classifications of crimes against a person.

Toews told a Senate hearing a that Rape was dropped from the Criminal Code in 1983 after lobbying efforts by women's groups on the basis that that calling it sexual assault would bring more complainants forward and would ease the stigma of the word for women in the court system, making it easier to convict perpetrators under the broader umbrella. Until 1983, the crime of rape was defined as sexual penetration of a woman. The replacement legislation split sex assault into three levels, to include acts ranging from unwanted touching to
violent physical harm.

However, he also said that collapsing rape, attempted rape and indecent assault into the offence of sexual assault was "perhaps the biggest mistake in criminal law that the Parliament of Canada has ever made." But the Government already has an ambitious Justice Agenda and changing the Criminal Code would fall under the auspices of the Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, rather than Mr. Toews.


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