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article imageOp-Ed: Canada’s Bill C10 — Mandatory sentences for bestiality and more

By Paul Wallis     Nov 15, 2011 in Crime
Sydney - Canada’s controversial Bill C10 is generally described by civil liberties groups as a recipe for filling prisons. The Canadian Bar Association doesn’t like it at all. What’s really interesting, however, is the sheer scope of Bill C10.
Bill C10 is an old-style American “tough on crime” piece of legislation. It could be interpreted as “How many ways can we find to lock people up”. Bill C10 amends various other acts, notably the Criminal Code and its sentencing provisions.
Here are a few examples of the law as it now stands according to the Parliament of Canada web page. These laws do leave a few things to be desired:
Clause 11: Existing text of section 151:
151. Every person who, for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of 16 years
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of forty-five days; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of fourteen days.
(Clause 14: Existing text of subsection 155(2):
2) Every one who commits incest is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
This one’s particularly interesting. It involves inciting someone under the age of 16 to have sex with an animal:
(Clause 15: Existing text of subsection 160(3):
3) Notwithstanding subsection (1), every person who, in the presence of a person under the age of 16 years, commits bestiality or who incites a person under the age of 16 years to commit bestiality is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Now tell me- What sort of stir-crazy “life is a series of meetings” lunatics consider this section part of making the streets of Canada safe? Has there been an upsurge in cases? Is an upsurge expected?
At this point, if you bump into a 15 year old cousin on a braking bus, and say anything which could be interpreted as inciting sex with an animal, you’d be looking at up to 24 years and 45 days. The net cost to the public for your criminal rampage, not including legal fees, would be about $2.5 million.
OK, here’s the rub- Bill C10 adds more dimensions to these penalties. The bestiality section is a good example:
(3) Despite subsection (1), every person who commits bestiality in the presence of a person under the age of 16 years, or who incites a person under the age of 16 years to commit bestiality,
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years less a day and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months.
Interesting, isn’t it? If you’re not guilty of (a), you can be locked up anyway for (b).
There’s a lot of sex in Bill C10. Some of it appears to relate to updating laws relating to offences against children, but older laws are also getting a makeover:
Clause 19: Existing text of section 170:
170. Every parent or guardian of a person under the age of eighteen years who procures the person for the purpose of engaging in any sexual activity prohibited by this Act with a person other than the parent or guardian is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months if the person procured is under the age of 16 years; or
(b) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of forty-five days if the person procured is 16 years of age or more but under the age of eighteen years.
Bill C10
(a) to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year if the person procured is under the age of 16 years; or
(b) to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months if the person procured is 16 years of age or more but under the age of 18 years.
In this case, Bill C10 is tougher than its predecessor on the subject of the clause- and selling your kids still isn’t as bad as incest in terms of sentence lengths. Maybe it’s a sort of statutory wink at that go-getter entrepreneurial spirit which turns kids into living wrecks by the time they’re 20.
Canadians are well aware, but foreigners may not know, of the Harper government infatuation with building prisons. Australians and Americans in particular will be thinking of the “private prisons” racket which became so fashionable in conservative thinking back in the 90s.
The Harper government hasn’t said a word about privatization, but the correctional services union is worried. However- If there’s no intention to privatize, it means a massive increase in the cost of law enforcement and huge hit on the revenue base- More taxes and/or less services, in effect, to pay for the prisons.
The private prisons theory is based on the belief that the public, suckers that they are, will continue to pay under contract for prison services, and people who like making money can have some. It’s a sort of bastard relation of the security industry, for people who can’t be bothered earning a living.
The corporate side of this Prisons R Us building frenzy is hideously underreported in the media. What’s also interesting is that previous Canadian experiments in private prisons have been staggeringly unsuccessful. This is a report from 2007 from straight.com:
On April 27, 2006, the Ontario government announced the end of a bizarre venture. Canada's first large privately run prison, a 1,200-inmate maximum-security superjail in the cottage country north of Toronto, was a failure and would be taken over by the province.
The Penetanguishene-based Central North Correctional Centre was a striking attempt at getting in on the controversial private-prison craze that has swept the United States, where for-profit businesses now run approximately 150 prisons housing about 150,000 inmates. Ontario's five-year experiment with the concept, launched with much fanfare in 2001 by Robert Sampson–at the time the law-and-order Tory correctional services minister–ended amid revelations of flawed security, inadequate prisoner health care, and higher reoffending rates once the privately housed inmates were let back out into the world.
Pentanguishene? Great name for a policy, isn’t it? From what my Canadian friends tell me, must have done wonders for property prices in cottage country, too.
Ironically, the Americans got out of this mode a long time ago, after prisoners created under US federal laws started filing class actions against unsafe prisons and winning. The prisons were costing US states about 7% of their budgets, which is a possible scenario for Canadian provinces.
At the rate C10 is going, Canadian streets will be safe, because there’ll be nobody on them. People could be at more danger from the laws than the crimes.
The current Toronto Star article written by Trinda L. Ernst, President of the Canadian Bar Association defines the present state of opposition to Bill C10. It’s articulate enough:
The Canadian Bar Association, representing over 37,000 lawyers across the country, has identified 10 reasons why the passage of Bill C-10 will be a mistake and a setback for Canada:
1. Ignoring reality. Decades of research and experience have shown what actually reduces crime: (a) addressing child poverty, (b) providing services for the mentally ill and those afflicted with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, (c) diverting young offenders from the adult justice system, and (d) rehabilitating prisoners, and helping them to reintegrate into society. Bill C-10 ignores these proven facts.
The other nine reasons deserve to be read, too.
As a former government sector person myself, I can add one further thing to this opposition to Bill C10- Any policy which isn’t tested and ignores expert opinions will fail, and fail miserably and inevitably and at great cost, in more than money. It will overload the Canadian legal system and achieve precisely nothing, or less.
Postscript: I don't even have space to address the issues of appropriateness of sentences, judicial discretion, or other obvious topics. Ms. Ernst does a good job of defining the legal issues.
** A disgusting expression, but when new penalties are "created", you "create" prisoners.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about canada harper prison policy, canada criminal code sentencing bill c10, canada bill c10, criminal law canada bestiality, privatization of prisons
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