About the Conservative Omnibus Crime Bill
The federal Conservatives have made anti-crime measures a cornerstone of their political and legislative agenda since they were first elected in 2006. Although they have passed other anti-crime legislation, now that they have a majority government and can more easily get legislation passed, they have wrapped up nine anti-crime bills that didn't get passed in previous sessions into this single 100-plus-page omnibus legislation. The bill covers laws on drug possession, young offenders, pardons, conditional sentences, minimum and maximum sentences, human smuggling, sexual exploitation, support for victims of terrorism, and transferring Canadian offenders back to Canada.
These may all sound like good things, but there are a lot of details in a bill of this size. The government has limited debate on the bill by using time allocation to push the bill through more quickly. Although they allowed quite a few witnesses to appear, briefly, before the committee examining the bill, they accepted just one single minor amendment at committee stage in the House. The standard response to any criticism or suggestions on the serious topics in this massive piece of legislation is the glib refrain that the critic is "soft on crime" or "advocating for criminals."
In the 2011 Canadian federal election, the Conservatives promised to pass this legislation in the first 100 sitting days of the 41st Parliament, which gives them until March 16, 2012.
Official Title of the Omnibus Crime Bill
An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts
Official Short Title
Safe Streets and Communities Act
Date Omnibus Crime Bill Was Introduced
September 20, 2011
Minister of Justice
Status of the Conservative Omnibus Crime Bill
Passed in the House of Commons on December 5, 2011. Passed by the Senate with 6 amendments and referred back to the House on March 3, 2012. Passed by the House on March 12, 2012. Received Royal Assent on March 13, 2012.
Summary of Omnibus Crime Bill
The main measures included in the Omnibus Crime Bill are:
- Protecting Children From Sexual Offenders - Imposes tougher mandatory minimum and maximum penalties for sexual offences against children under 16. Also creates two new offences involving conduct that could facilitate the commission of a sexual offence against a child.
- Increasing Penalties for Serious Drug Crimes - Amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to set mandatory minimum penalties for drug offences carried out for the purposes of organized crime or targeting youth. Also doubles the maximum sentence for the production of marijuana and other Schedule II drugs from seven to 14 years and provides higher maximum penalties for date-rape drugs. Makes exemptions for drug treatment programs.
- Tougher Sentences for Violent and Repeat Young Offenders - Emphasizes the protection of society as a fundamental principle of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Expands the definition of "violent offence;" requires the Crown to consider an adult sentence for youths 14 to 17 years old convicted of most serious violent crimes; and requires the consideration of lifting the publication ban on names of young offenders convicted of violent offences. Also prohibits the imprisonment of young offenders under 18 in adult correctional facilities.
- Restriction of Use of Conditional Sentences - Conditional sentences are sentences of less than two years that can be served in the community (house arrest for example.) These amendments to the Criminal Code provide a new longer and clear list of offences for property and other serious crimes for which conditional sentences would not be available.
- Increasing Offender Accountability - Amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to increase the rights of victims of crime to participate in parole decisions. The offender disciplinary system is modernized and a requirement is introduced to have a correctional plan for each offender. The amendments also increase the maximum number of full-time Parole Board of Canada members from 45 to 60.
- Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes - These amendments to the Criminal Records Act are designed to prevent the most serious criminals from getting a pardon in Canada. The term "pardon" is replaced with the term "record suspension." Ineligibility periods before an application can be made for a pardon (record suspension) are increased, and some people will be ineligible to apply for a record suspension at all, including those convicted of a sexual offence with a minor.
- International Transfer of Canadian Offenders Back to Canada - These amendments add criteria for the Minister of Public Safety to use when deciding if a criminal should be granted a transfer back to Canada.
- Supporting Victims of Terrorism - A new Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and amendments to the State Immunity Act allow victims of terrorism to sue in a Canadian court individuals, groups or foreign states believed to be responsible for acts of terrorism with a connection to Canada.
- Protecting Vulnerable Foreign Workers - Amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act make it possible to deny work permits to foreign nationals at risk of being exploited or abused. Those who might be vulnerable include victims of human trafficking, exotic dancers or low-skilled laborers.