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John Howard Society Letter to the Premier and Justice Minister of Manitoba

October 28th, 2011

Premier Greg Selinger
Attorney General Andrew Swan

On behalf of the John Howard Society of Manitoba, I am writing to ask that your government speak out against Bill C-10, currently being debated in Ottawa, on the grounds that it will have dire consequences for Manitoba if implemented.  In doing so, you would be joining the Quebec National Assembly, who have unanimously called for the bill to be withdrawn, and the Official Opposition in the BC legislature.

 As you know, Bill C-10 would impose a number of new minimum sentencing requirements, limiting the discretion of judges to impose shorter and/or conditional sentences for a long list of offences.  As these minimum sentences are all under two years, those convicted are most likely to be incarcerated in provincial jails.  Minimum sentences will also mean more trials and fewer pleas, resulting in more pressure on provincial courts and longer remand.  In short, Bill C-10 will have a negative and immediate impact on a court and correctional system that is already overburdened and working beyond capacity.

 Based on earlier research done by the Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Marks, we foresee that Bill C-10 will have a far greater financial impact at the provincial level, with the provinces likely to spend 75 cents for every 25 cents added to the federal government’s budget.  When asked where the provinces would get the revenue to cover these increased costs, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews indicated the provinces could use their transfer payments – leaving less for health and education.  I don’t think this choice is in keeping with the values of Manitoba or those of your government. 

 Lastly, the biggest fault of Bill C-10 is that locking people up longer doesn’t reduce crime, and may over time make crime even worse.  That is why the United States is currently moving away from the very strategy the federal government of Canada wants to embrace with this legislation.  What does work is prevention, addressing poverty, and creating more opportunities for employment, education and training – all things this government has shown a commitment to, especially in the inner city.  But if Bill C-10 passes, Manitoba will not have the money for these kinds of initiatives.

 I look forward to hearing your government speak out on this important issue, and to see continued support for the fight against poverty, under-education and unemployment in Manitoba.

 Sincerely,

 David Alper,

Chairperson, JHSM

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