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John Howard Society Press Release

John Hutton of the John Howard Society and I have been exchanging emails discussing the omnibus crime bill that is currently creating so much debate. He recently forwarded me the press release from the association urging parliament to reject the bill. I am reposting it for anyone here who would like to see that there is a lot of effort being put into stopping this bill.

For Immediate Release

 Manitobans Oppose the Omnibus Crime Bill

 A broad based coalition of Manitobans is calling on local Members of Parliament not to support the federal government’s crime omnibus bill. 

“Although it is a federal bill, it will have a huge impact on provincial corrections which are already severely over-crowded, especially here in Manitoba.  Two years ago, the union representing Correctional Officers reported that Manitoba Jails were housing 600 inmates more than they were designed for, and despite building more jail cells, overcrowding has gotten worse since then”, observed John Hutton, Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Manitoba.  “Yet here is the federal government poised to force the provinces to house even more inmates in overcrowded jails when there is no evidence to show that this would even reduce crime on the streets – and a great deal of evidence to show that it won’t.”

 Aboriginal people make up 12% of Manitoba’s population and represent approximately 70% of those who are incarcerated. “The proposed changes in the omnibus, would further entrench the marginalization of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada without offering any meaningful or tangible benefit, while making the existing challenges even worse”, observed Jessica Dumas, from the Southern Chiefs Organization. 

Proposed changes to the pardon legislation, contained in the omnibus legislation are of particular concern.  “A provision in the omnibus would prevent anyone with more than three indictable offences from ever getting a pardon”, Hutton stated.  “This could potentially affect hundreds of thousands of Canadians, placing an unnecessary obstacle in the way of those trying to move forward and live crime free lives.  This could actually make us unsafe”, Hutton concluded.

 A board member of the John Howard Society, Barrett Fraser, who has a number of previous convictions but is now successfully pursuing a career in marketing, responded to the omnibus by asking “when do I or 400,000 other people stop being ex-offenders and start becoming citizens?  Isn’t society better off when ex-offenders are able to resume meeting their responsibilities in the community like I’ve done?”

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 For further information please call:

 John Hutton (and Barrett Fraser),

John Howard Society of Manitoba

204-775-1514 (315) or c) 204-612-4570

Jessica Dumas, Southern Chiefs’ Organization

204-946-1869

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Bill C-10 Backgrounder

A coalition of Manitoba organizations is calling on Manitoba Members of Parliament to not support the proposed omnibus crime bill on the grounds that it does not create safer streets or communities and will create dangerous conditions in Manitoba jails endangering inmates and staff alike. 

The coalition is also opposed to so much legislation bundled together as a single bill so that most Canadians won’t fully understand the details of what their government is proposing to do, let alone how much it’s going to cost them.  Therefore the coalition will be commenting on the bill component by component with regular, weekly releases.  The first area of concern is the part of the bill dealing with changes to the pardon process (formerly C-23B).

As proposed, the omnibus bill would double the waiting period for most of those wanting to get a pardon, and make it impossible for anyone with more than three indictable offences to get a pardon, ever.  Given that under the current system, 96% of those receiving a pardon never re-offend there is no need to change the rules. In doing so the government is placing further obstacles in the path of those who are trying to live crime free lives.  Taking away the prospect of a pardon – ever, would be a major blow to hundreds of thousands of Canadians, who would be penalized in terms of finding employment, advancing their career and even volunteering in their child’s school as a result.  Last November, John Howard Society of Manitoba board member, Barrett Fraser, appeared in front of a House of Commons committee looking at these changes and asked “”when do I or 400,000 other people stop being ex-offenders and start becoming citizens?”  Rather than make us safer, the omnibus bill could make us unsafe if it prevents ex-offenders from becoming productive citizens.  Fraser, now a successful executive, tax-payer and home owner who has been living crime free for years, would not qualify for a pardon under the new rules as he was once convicted of more than three indictable offences.

Chris Courchene, another ex-offender told the same committee last fall, that he joined a gang at the age of 11 and spent several years in and out of custody as a young adult.  He is now living crime free and needs a pardon in order to complete his apprenticeship and support his family as a tradesperson.  He too would not be eligible for a pardon, should this legislation pass.

None of the proposals related to pardons in the omnibus bill have any direct benefit to victims.  For example there is no voice or role for the victim in the pardon granting process proposed.  The current law already contains a provision that requires the offender to show that getting a pardon would be in the public interest and anyone serving a life sentence is already prevented from getting pardon.

Denying a pardon to anyone who has even a single sex conviction which the omnibus would do in a number of situations is completely unnecessary from a safety perspective.  Even with a pardon, under the current rules anyone seeking to work or volunteer with children or other vulnerable persons will be red-flagged during a criminal records check if the offence was sexual in nature. 

Over three million Canadians have a criminal record for which they have not received a pardon.  Bill C-10 could keep tens if not hundreds of thousands from ever putting their past behind and significantly limiting their ability to support themselves and others. 

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The members of the coalition opposing the omnibus bill, Bill C10, are

            BUILD Winnipeg,

            Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Kenton Eidse, Employment Counsellor

Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba

John Howard Society of Manitoba

Initiatives for a Just Community

Ken Kuhn, retired Chaplain, CSC

Ogijiita Pimatiswin Kinamatwin (OPK)

Social Planning Council of Winnipeg

Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO)

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