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article imageCanada's Justice Minister: No parole for worst offenders

By Arthur Weinreb     Oct 19, 2013 in Crime
Halifax - During the present session of Parliament, the government intends to introduce legislation to deny any possibility of parole to those who are considered the most heinous offenders.
Speaking to reporters in Halifax yesterday, Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced a proposed change that would deny the possibility of parole to some criminals; the worst of the worst multiple offenders. A life sentence would mean life in prison.
In describing the proposal, MacKay said it would only apply in extremely rare circumstances. "This would have a very narrow application. We're talking about the absolute worst, violent, multiple offender."
When asked to give an example of a person who would fit into this category, the Justice Minister mentioned Paul Bernardo. The schoolgirl killer is not only serving life sentences but has also been designated a dangerous offender. Such designation pretty well guarantees the killer will never be released.
When asked why eliminating parole for some offenders is necessary when they have been declared dangerous offenders, MacKay said the proposed legislative change is an attempt to close all loopholes.
The penalty for first-degree murder is life with no possibility of parole for 25 years. Since the Conservatives took power in 2006, they abolished the "faint-hope clause" that allowed an application for parole to be made after 15 years, even when the minimum period was 25 years.
The minimum parole eligibility period used to be 25 years no matter how many counts of murder a person was convicted of. In March 2011, legislation was brought in allowing the 25-year periods for multiple offences to run consecutively. As Digital Journal reported last month, Travis Baumgartner was the first person to be sentenced under the change. Baumgartner, an armed guard, killed three of his co-workers and seriously injured a fourth in order to rob his employer. He was sentenced to life with no possibility of parole for 40 years.
The proposed change has its critics. Eric Gottardi, of the Canadian Bar Association, said taking even a remote possibility of parole away from prisoners would make them care less about what happens to them and their fellow prisoners. This would result in an increased risk of violence.
Neil Boyd, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University, said, "It's all about catering to the fearful and the angry. It's symbolic, it's not going to have any effect on the crime rate." And Anthony Doob, a criminologist at the University of Toronto mentioned Clifford Olson who was in his 70s when he died in prison from natural causes. Doob said, "What you have to remember is that the 'most heinous' people don't get out."
The Minister did not indicate when this change will be introduced.
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