Citizens protest proposed crime bill

Canadians concerned over the federal government’s tough on crime stance took their message to the politicians Thursday.

A handful of citizens rallied outside Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder’s office on Victoria Crescent Thursday

A handful of citizens rallied outside Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder’s office on Victoria Crescent Thursday

Canadians concerned over the federal government’s tough-on-crime stance took their message to the politicians Thursday.

Armed with copies of a petition signed by more than 29,000 Canadians, citizens rallied outside 160 MP offices across the country – including Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder and Nanaimo-Alberni Conservative MP James Lunney – protesting the Safe Streets and Communities Act (Bill C-10) currently working its way through Parliament.

The bill calls for mandatory minimum sentences, tougher penalties for drug offences, tougher penalties for sexual offences against children, stiffer sentences for violent and repeat young offenders, an end to conditional sentences, an elimination or delay in eligibility for pardons for serious crimes and more.

The rallies, organized by the activist group Leadnow.ca and Reclaim our Democracy Canada, drew a handful of supporters at both Crowder’s office on Victoria Crescent and Lunney’s office at Dickinson Crossing.

“Stephen Harper will tell you he was voted in to be tough on crime, but he’s not speaking for all the Canadian people,” said Barbara Kohlman, rally organizer at Crowder’s office. “Putting people in jail with longer sentences has been proven around the world not to work. But our government is not listening.”

Kohlman said there are parts of the bill Leadnow agrees with, including harsher penalties for sexual offences and serious crimes.

“But we can’t support it the way it’s written right now,” she said. “They’re going to send teens to jail for shoplifting or growing a few pot plants. That means a criminal record that could ruin their lives.”

Bob Kopiyaka of Nanaimo attended the rally over concerns mandatory-minimum sentences for non-violent crimes is going to put people who shouldn’t be there in jail.

“There is no crime crisis in this country. We have the safest streets in the world,” he said. “This bill will fill up our jails and could cause the crime crisis it’s supposed to address.”

Both Crowder and Lunney were in Ottawa Thursday, but Kohlman handed Crowder’s constituency assistant a copy of the petition. No copy of the petition was given to Lunney’s staff.

Kohlman said the public is not as knowledgeable on the crime bill as it should be.

“This is one of the times Canadians cannot stand idly by,” she said. “The government will know they don’t have the support of all the Canadians by what we are doing.”