4.11.1 True justice, Real security

It is all about our communities. Safe, strong, and vibrant communities are at the heart of the Green Party’s vision for the future of Canada – a Canada where we share responsibilities and respect for each other.

We are dedicated to responsible governance that protects our country and our fellow Canadians. This commitment shapes our approach to tackling crime, delivering justice, reducing recidivism, protecting Canada’s borders, and combating terrorism.

The Green Party is also a practical party. In all our policies we seek to avoid over-the-top rhetoric and partisanship, and focus upon tackling the important issues. We take this same pragmatic and level-headed approach to the tough issues of criminal justice.

Canada is not in the midst of a crime wave.

In fact, the incidence of violent crime is down. Despite that fact, the Harper Administration has forced through a series of laws justified as necessary for ‘law and order.’ The sloganeering is aimed at increasing public fears of violent crime.

These laws, first legislated in the 2011 Omnibus Crime Bill C-10, and then through a series of more targeted changes, many of them presented as private members bills from Conservative MPs, have executed a transformational change in Canadian criminal law. Canada has now embraced the failed ‘mandatory minimum sentence’ approach tried and abandoned in jurisdictions like Texas.

The impacts are being felt at the provincial level with increased costs and over-crowded prisons, leading to more failed policies like double bunking.

Greens support smarter investments to further reduce crime through better programs in youth activity and early childhood education.

Still, even with the crime rate going down, we would all like to feel safer on the streets and in our own homes.

We do have problems in the justice system. Many Canadians see a disconnect between the severity of the crime, the length of prison sentences, and the availability of parole. Many Canadians support restorative sentencing that promotes a sense of responsibility in the offender and secures amends for the victims of crime. Additionally, many Canadians recognize that offenders are often unaccountable to the community upon their release from prison.

The Green Party will meet these challenges. We will ensure that those who break the law are held responsible and the needs of victims are recognized and accommodated.

Our vision is of a legal system that is effective and fair, connects with communities, is simple and transparent, as well as fast and effective – while maintaining Canadians’ traditional commitments to justice and the rule of law.

It is also true that the Green Party does politics differently. One of the things this means is that we strive to get at the root of problems in our society and take a more integrated approach to governmental action. For example, it is not uncommon for Green candidates to speak about health care, affordable housing, and education when asked about problems of crime. We are always seeking to get at the root of a problem.

Greens understand that true justice and real security cannot stand alone, out of our social and cultural context. We are committed to addressing underlying causes of crime such as poverty, racism, and inequality while ensuring offenders are dealt with fairly by means of proportionate sanctions. We believe a responsible government will see the big picture and have well-integrated policies that truly prevent crime and truly protect our communities.

The Green Party advocates for practical and integrated measures that will make Canada a safer place for raising families, being active in the community, and being productive in the workplace.

The first defense in reducing crime is to keep young people from becoming criminals. Green Party programs to alleviate poverty, to legalize marijuana, to increase physical fitness and sport, as well as investing in community health, will all pay big dividends in reduced crime.

The test for when a crime crosses that societal line in the sand will be when the perpetrator has been violent. Violent offenders must face more serious consequences, in setting bail, in sentencing, and in parole terms. On the other hand, the Green Party has consistently highlighted the high social and financial costs of incarceration, opposed fixed minimum sentences, and supported opportunities for holding offenders accountable outside the prison system.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Repeal all the Harper era criminal laws creating mandatory minimum sentences;

  • Review the Young Offenders Act to ensure it is not an inducement to youth crime, while retaining its core principle, that youth should not be treated as hardened criminals;

  • Revise laws to increase penalties for domestic violence and ensure protection for the victims and survivors of domestic violence;

  • Improve the Victims Bill of Rights to include the Marcy’s Law provisions from California (ensuring victims are fully informed of their rights);

  • Ensure meaningful and appropriate resources are available for communities that wish to use restorative justice and community healing programs in which wrongdoers make reparation to victims and their communities;

  • Oppose any attempts to privatize prisons in Canada;

  • Dedicate resources to computer crimes specialists combating the online sexual exploitation of children through child pornography and Internet luring. The RCMP must have the necessary resources and tools to tackle this problem on a national scale. The Harper era legislation fails to provide tools, while intruding excessively on privacy rights of law-abiding Canadians;

  • Focus on education and meaningful work for offenders while they are incarcerated in order that they might pay at least part of the costs of their crime and housing in jail, as well as become better prepared for reintegration into society upon their release. Restore, wherever possible, the prison farm system;

  • Provide guidance for judges making bail determinations to avoid release for violent crimes when there is a risk of re-offending. Those who post bail also need to be held accountable if the accused does not show up in court. Money pledged as bail must be collected;

  • Restore merit as the primary criterion for selection of judges through the use of balanced review panels where no one political or ideological viewpoint is dominant.