– Leisha Senko, staff
It’s often been said that the erosion of democracy is a subtle, creeping process, one ignored by the average person or veiled by those in charge. After a largely muted response to the Conservative’s recently passed C-10 Crime Bill, this theory has never felt more tangible. It is an amendment which will ramp up prison sentences, create more mandatory minimums sentences and leave fewer options for non-violent offenders. The question that a precious few are asking is, ‘who exactly is this benefiting?’
The answer, unsurprisingly, isn’t the average citizen. For the statistically literate, it’s pretty clear that violent crime rates have been vastly decreasing over the last decade according to Statistics Canada. On top of this, simply glancing over the legal system to our south and juxtaposing the USA’s perilously broken three-strike-and-you’re-out structure and draconian sentencing policy with their inordinately high incarceration and re-offense rates, it becomes obvious that treating those who break the law in any way as irrevocably broken, doesn’t make for a better society. In fact, the only gains here seem to be economic and political.
Bills of this nature are pandering attempts, cheap and noisy, aimed straight at a demographic which is easily scared and caroused into bending to this new and unsubstantiated narrative. Fear is a powerful tool, and although handing someone who has six marijuana plants in their basement a sentences of six months in jail should appear ludicrous, if you paint this individual as a thug or a thief or a monster, it becomes easier to justify these unjustifiable steps. By colouring anyone who does not agree with you as a friend to drug dealers, a sympathizer with pedophiles (which has been stated) or someone unsympathetic to victims, rhetoric becomes the overbearing voice, drowning out a well thought-out rebuttal and securing reelection.
Once again this type of language is becoming stronger and more persistent. The idea that criticism is unpatriotic, that complexity is unnecessary and that a sound bite can sum up a massive issue should be terrifying. The mainstream press in Canada is certainly not blameless for this mess, with reporters flatly reciting releases, wanting to remain ‘impartial’ and ‘neutral’ on what the Crime Bill means, limiting themselves to only the most basic facts when it came to the processing of C-10. No one in the mainstream, CTV, CBC —you name it, took time at 6pm before the final vote was cast to dissect competing claims and flush out where reality lay. This is disheartening on a number of levels.
So, instead of moving in a positive direction for the country, we are left with this bill. One that will take the power away from judges in terms of discretionary sentencing, give people fewer rehabilitation options and in general put more people in jail, for greater periods of time, because of less serious offenses. How is this progressive? How is this acceptable? How did this happen? The truth is that eyes weren’t watching. A package was placed before us, wrapped in a soothing parchment that claimed safety, but no one bothered to unwrap it to see what was underneath, or at least no one bothered listening to the faint voices that did. Now we’re finally being forced to look at the contents, dissatisfied and mortified by what was under our noses the whole time.
Time will pass, and as crime rates are unaffected, as more prisons are constructed and contracts are awarded to building companies, janitorial staff and canteen services to look after a new swarm of “criminals” that we ourselves have created, let us think long and hard about exactly how far unreasonable rhetoric, unjustifiable fear and willful ignorance can get us. The answer, unfortunately, is pretty damn far.