And Canada has always been a leader in human rights issues.
Canadians may not realize it, but along with all the other things we export to the world, we also export our rights talk ... when the chief justice of our Supreme Court, Beverly McLachlin, visited a judicial training college [in] China, she found Chinese judges discussing Canadian Supreme Court cases." When I visited the Constitutional Court of South Africa, I discovered that the judges there make frequent reference to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The originality of Canadian rights culture may be obvious to South Africans, but it is not obvious to Canadians. (1)Our laws have been created on the traditions of France, Britain and the U.S., but the Canadian justice system was forged from our "rights" culture.
And it worked. Some may have wondered if "justice" was always served, but no one can argue with the results. Our crime rate is the lowest it's ever been, and before the Harper government scrapped the Court challenges program, the justice system was becoming available to a broader range of citizens.
So with the government proceeding so aggressively with it's new "law and order" agenda, which includes the building of more prisons, there is a reason for Canadians to be concerned.
I just had to listen to some perky news personality singing the praises of the Conservative plan to "crack down on crime." What crime? As mentioned, our crime rate is the lowest it's ever been.
Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews said Wednesday the federal government has plans to construct additional prison units. The Conservatives say the expansions will improve the protection, safety and security of Canadians. "Our government is proud to be on the right side of this issue — the side of law-abiding citizens, the side of victims who want justice, and the side that understands the cost of a safe and secure society is an investment worth making," Toews said. (2)If we really want to create a safe and secure society we need to create a justice system that is fair and balanced, with an emphasis on rehabilitation, not incarceration. This Old Testament eye for an eye, will only as Ghandi once said, "make the world blind".
And to make matters worse, they are expecting the provinces to help foot the bill, for something they neither want nor need.
The public safety minister says it's up to the provinces to find their share of the money to handle an expected surge in the prison population. Vic Toews says the federal government will spend $2 billion over five years to handle more prisoners due to stiffer sentencing laws — a figure the parliamentary budget officer argues will be higher. But Toews says he doesn't know how much it will cost the provinces, but they'll have to shoulder their share of the financial burden. (3)Shoulder our share. We don't want this. Why should taxpayers foot the bill for something we don't want? This money could go to so much better use.
This all leaves me with the most horrible feeling of dread. They are simply not listening. It's like we don't exist.
1. The Rights Revolution: CBC Massey Lectures, By Michael Ignatieff, Anansi Books, 2000, ISBN: 0-88784-656-4, Pg. 13
2. Tories announce $155.5M prison expansion, CBC News, October 6, 2010
3. Feds say provinces on hook for their share of extra prison costs, By: The Canadian Press, October 6, 2010