During a round table held in Toronto yesterday, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson laid out his government's future plans
for their tough law-and-order agenda. The Justice Minister said the Conservatives will introduce bills to provide increased penalties for those who sexually assault children and will enhance the rights of crime victims.
In addition to increased penalties for those who sexually abuse children, the government plans to introduce legislation to better track known child predators who are released into the community. The Tories also plan to change the law dealing with the release of persons who were charged with violent offences and found Not Criminally Responsible by reason of a mental disorder. The proposed changes will make safety of the community the primary criteria of their release from secure medical facilities.
The government also plans to introduce a Victims Bill of Rights that will encapsulate all laws dealing with victims into one federal statute. New proposals will also be introduced allowing victims to more easily collect restitution from those who have committed crimes against them.
Other upcoming changes include legislation to attempt to streamline procedures for bail and extradition by the greater use of technology in the criminal justice system.
In making the announcement, Nicholson said, "Restoring Canadians' confidence in their justice system has been an important priority for our Government."
Present at the round table was Sheldon Kennedy. Kennedy, a former National Hockey League player who was sexually abused in his teens by coach Graham James, is one of the founders of Respect Group
. The aim of that organization is to "eliminate abuse, bullying and harassment by inspiring a global culture of respect."
After the new proposals were outlined, Kennedy released a statement
saying, "I couldn't have imagined, 16 years ago, when I disclosed my abuse, that we would be talking about these issues so openly and with such commitment to make positive change for victims. I thank this Government and Minister Nicholson for understanding offenders need to be brought to justice, victims need a louder voice in the criminal justice system and child victims need more support."
Speaking about child predators, Nicholson is quoted in CNEWS
as saying, "Their punishment for these crimes must reflect the devastation they cause in the lives of children and their families. We intend to remedy the situation and ensure that sentencing takes into account each young life that has been devastated by a sexual predator."
Although no details were given as to what changes will be made in child sex abuse cases, many, including University of Ottawa criminologist Michael Kempa
, believe it will be accomplished by reducing judicial discretion and making more use of mandatory minimum sentences.