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May 11 2010

I break character for a moment

This is not a political or law blog. There are enough of those out there, and I don’t consider myself informed enough to give a meaningful opinion on the law. However, this story made me upset:

The federal government is moving once again to scotch the Criminal Code’s so-called faint hope clause, which allows killers to seek parole up to 10 years earlier than normal if they can satisfy a jury that they’ve reformed.

“Tough on Crime” is a catch-phrase we hear often in political debate. Conservatives are supposedly tough on crime, while “hug-a-thug” (doesn’t the right wing come up with such clever names?) Liberals are weak-willed and think that the criminals should have more rights than the victims.

I am not pro-crime. However, I want to see my government pass legal legislation designed to actually reduce crime, not simply increase punishment for those who don’t have good lawyers. Actions like this one by the federal government do not serve to lower crime, they are merely optics designed to dupe people who only pay attention to sound-bytes into thinking that their lives are somehow being made “safer” by keeping people in prison longer.

Never mind the fact that people get bounced out of prison due to over-crowding, or the fact that people with longer stretches in prison are more likely to re-offend than those who are granted pardons based on genuine reform. No, let’s take away the motivation that convicted people might have had to demonstrate some improvement. Let’s make sure that the people in prison stay bitter, resentful and come out far more dangerous than when they went in. That should fix everything. And don’t worry about the cost, it’s only 7-10 billion dollars over 5 years, also known as twice the annual national aid budget.

This is what gets me so upset about Conservativism, and politics in general. Policies get made that aren’t designed to make anyone’s life actually better; it’s done to get votes from the people who are probably least qualified to hold an opinion. Leadership isn’t about following the uninformed will of the masses; it’s about showing people why your policies will make their lives better. All this is to say nothing of Harper’s recent bill that refuses to allow foreign aid dollars to fund abortion. He says he doesn’t want to “divide Canadians” by bringing up the abortion debate.  It’s pretty clear that he’s perfectly happy to divide Canadians, since there has been no debate except among the right wing. All of sudden though, there’s a debate! Presto! Gee Whiz! I wonder how that happened…

Recently, Ontario premiere Dalton McGuinty announced a bold new approach to sexual education, designed to teach kids the facts about sex and sexuality early in their schooling. As soon as I heard about it, I sent him a letter telling him that although he was sure to get a lot of flack from people for “teaching kids to have sex” and “usurping the role of the parents”, that this was a courageous and admirable step to make changes that work. Of course, the very next day he pulled a complete about face and announced that the program was going back on the shelf. If you believe in something, fight for it. Don’t let people’s meanest and least-informed instincts deter you from the right cause by using fear tactics. There are some things that are more important than getting re-elected.

Anyway, I will get back to my usual topics of discussion. I just felt like talking about this for a second.

2 comments

  1. 1
    Ian

    I’m with you 100% on these issues. It seems like so few politicians care about enacting rational legislation that has evidence to back up what it claims to do. We know this “tough on crime” approach is doomed to fail; we know the “war on drugs” doesn’t work; we know abortion must be part of any comprehensive women’s health initiatives. And yet the theocratic wing (which is in power) of the Cons seems to have final say over what gets passed. If only we had an effective enough opposition that was willing to work together to kick the losers out.

  2. 2
    crommunist

    Thanks for your comment, Ian. The answer, in my mind, seems to be getting people to start caring about these issues. Grassroots-type stuff. Most people seem to be pretty complacent when the government screws up; except the right-wing nutjobs who always manage to come out in force.

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