Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced that a re-elected Conservative Government will build on its tough-on-crime approach by ending sentencing discounts for child sex offenders, doubling the victim surcharge and making it mandatory, and expanding drug-use monitoring in prisons.
“Our Government has made standing up for victims of crime a priority,” said Harper. “A re-elected Conservative Government will build on our accomplishments in this critically important area to ensure all Canadians feel safer in their communities.”
The Conservative Government recently passed Bill C-48, which eliminates sentencing discounts for multiple murderers. Previously, criminals convicted of more than one murder could be given concurrent sentences, with the effect that serial killers and other multiple murderers would serve, in effect, only a single sentence, irrespective of the number of actual victims. Bill C-48 implements consecutive sentences for these crimes so that the harm suffered by every victim is reflected in sentencing.
A re-elected Conservative Government will expand this principle of consecutive sentencing to offenders who commit sex offences against children, including offences related to making, distributing, possessing or accessing child pornography. Harper stated that “we must ensure that punishment of these heinous crimes better reflects the devastation caused to children and their families.”
“We will also amend the Criminal Code to double the federal victim surcharge and make it mandatory,” said Mr. Harper. “In too many cases, courts are routinely failing to impose the fine they are supposed to levy against criminals — a fine that is intended to help support victims of crime.”
The Criminal Code dictates that the victim surcharge is supposed to be imposed unless an offender can prove undue hardship, but recent studies show that courts are waiving the fine in a large majority of cases, with no apparent justification, resulting in less funding to support victims and more lenient sentences for offenders.
“Finally, we will take steps to reduce or eliminate drug use in prisons by expanding monthly drug tests to ensure that 100 per cent of federal prisoners are tested annually and ensuring additional charges for possession of illicit substances”, said Mr. Harper. “Concrete measures to end drug use in prisons will improve rehabilitation prospects for prisoners, and make the federal prison system safer for both guards and inmates.”
Mr. Harper noted that these measures will add to the important list of law-and-order initiatives undertaken by the Conservative Government over the past five years. “Despite the best efforts of Mr. Ignatieff and his Coalition partners, the NDP and Bloc Québécois, to obstruct and defeat our tough-on-crime legislation, we will continue to stand up for victims of crime and Canadian communities.”
The Harper Government has a strong record of pursuing an aggressive tough-on-crime agenda, believing that criminal law should be more victim-oriented and that sentences should reflect the gravity of crimes committed.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Government is focused on ensuring that our communities remain safe and that criminals are put behind bars. Despite the opposition and obstruction from the Ignatieff-led Coalition, we have a successful track record of passing legislation that is making our communities safer, such as:
- Toughening sentencing and bail for serious gun crimes.
- Strengthening the sentencing and monitoring of dangerous, high-risk offenders.
- Cracking down on street racing and drug-impaired driving.
- Abolishing the faint-hope clause that allowed early parole for murderers.
- Raising the age of consent to 16 years to better protect 14- and 15-year-olds from sexual predators.
- Strengthening the National Sex Offender Registry and the National DNA Data Bank to better protect our children and our communities from sexual predators.
- Strengthening measures to protect children from online sexual exploitation.
- Eliminating Old Age Security payments to prisoners.
- Ending the practice of giving criminals 2-for-1 credit for time served in pre-trial custody.
Stephen Harper’s Government has also tabled legislation that will introduce mandatory minimum penalties for sexual offences against children — legislation that died when the Ignatieff-led Coalition called an unwanted and opportunistic election.
With today’s announcement, the Harper Government continues its efforts to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society against harm and exploitation. We are proud of our record, but believe that more must be done to protect children against dangerous sexual predators.
We also believe in putting victims’ rights first and making sure that their voices are heard in the justice system. It was the Harper Government that created the Victims’ Ombudsman and continues to pursue an agenda that advances the rights of victims. The Criminal Code of Canada currently allows for a victim surcharge to be applied to a criminal’s sentence at the discretion of the trial judge, but the fine is not imposed in many cases.
Stephen Harper’s Government also believes in holding offenders accountable for their actions and removing any obstacles to rehabilitation. We believe that drugs represent such an obstacle and are far too easily accessed and used in correctional facilities. Only a small percentage of inmates currently undergo random drug tests every month, and failure to pass a drug test does not currently carry any consequences for an offender.
A re-elected Conservative Government will:
- Introduce consecutive sentences for sex offences committed against children and for offences involving child pornography.
- Ensure that the current victim surcharge is doubled and made mandatory.
- Crack down on drugs in prisons by increasing the frequency of drug tests in institutions and introducing consequences for those who test positive, including denial of parole.
Consecutive Sentences for Offences against Children
The Conservative Government recently passed Bill C-48, which eliminates sentencing discounts for multiple murderers. Previously, criminals convicted of more than one murder served concurrent sentences, which meant that serial killers and other multiple murderers could, in effect, serve just a single sentence despite having been convicted of multiple murders. Bill C-48 mandates consecutive sentences for these crimes, so that the harm suffered by every victim is reflected in the sentencing process.
Expanding the use of consecutive sentences to sexual offences committed against children will ensure that sexual predators who victimize children serve real time behind bars and will not be able to rely on serving time concurrently. Every victim matters and we will not allow the criminal justice system to treat victims and their families as if they don’t count.
Improving the Victim Surcharge
The Criminal Code dictates that the victim surcharge is supposed to be imposed unless an offender can prove undue hardship, but recent studies show that courts are waiving the fine in a large majority of cases, with no apparent justification.
Doubling the victim surcharge and making it mandatory will raise funds for victims and allow them to receive the assistance they require. It will also send a signal to criminals that they are expected to compensate their victims.
More Drug Tests for Prisoners
Drug use among prisoners dramatically reduces their chances of rehabilitation. Tackling drug use and the drug trade in federal prisons will greatly increase the success of rehabilitation efforts, and will go a long way toward making the correctional system safer for both guards and other prisoners.
We will ensure that every federal inmate undergoes drug testing at least once a year; that prisoners in possession of illicit drugs face appropriate additional charges; and that parole applicants who fail drug tests are denied parole.
Canadians have a choice between our tough-on-crime agenda that puts victims first and the Ignatieff-led Coalition that is soft on crime and defends the rights of criminals.
Michael Ignatieff and the Coalition are forcing this election — our fourth in seven years — because they are focused on gaining power at all costs, rather than on the priorities of Canadians. Stephen Harper’s plan is about putting the rights of victims first; protecting our society’s most vulnerable; and making Canadian communities safer places to live, work and raise a family.