Safe & Secure Communities

The most basic responsibility of government is to keep its citizens safe. Our Conservative government toughened sentences, gave voice to victims, and ensured that law enforcement officers had the tools they need to keep Canadian communities safe. Since my election to Parliament four years ago, I have been a strong advocate for law enforcement, protection of the public and support for victims of violence and crime. As Prime Minister, I will make safe communities a centerpiece of a free and prosperous Canada.

Unfortunately, the Trudeau Liberals are failing us. From their plan to repeal mandatory minimum sentences, to their failure to appoint judges and modernize the judicial system in the face of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R v. Jordan, both the action and inaction of the Trudeau government are impeding access to justice and making our communities less safe. At this moment, there are people charged with serious offences having their charges stayed because of the Trudeau government’s inaction. We need a government that will put the safety of Canadians and justice for victims first.

As a Conservative MP, as a lawyer, but most importantly as the father of two young children, I view protection of the public as the most fundamental pillar of responsible government. The concept of “peace, order and good government” is central to our Constitution. I was proud of the Victim’s Bill of Rights created by our Conservative government to ensure the voice of victims is heard across our justice system. Advantages and shortcuts for criminals should never outweigh the rights of victims and the safety of our communities.

Rehabilitation should be a priority for non-violent criminals, but should be secondary to safeguarding the protection and safety of the public when it comes to violent offenders or those who prey on the vulnerable, like children and the elderly.

I will ensure that public safety, access to justice and fairness for victims are priorities of a government I lead.

Sincerely,
Erin O’Toole, P.C., C.D., M.P.

Background

In recent decades, the criminal justice system in Canada became unbalanced until the last Conservative government began to rebalance the system. Prisoner’s advocates, legal scholars and many politicians on the left tilted our justice system to focus almost exclusively on rehabilitation of offenders. Protection of the public, the rights of victims, personal responsibility and deterrence were often afterthoughts in a system that was fundamentally out of balance. This changed under the last Conservative government and the modernizing and rebalancing of the criminal justice system was a priority of the government, including anti-cyberbullying amendments to the Criminal Code and culminating in the passage of the Victim’s Bill of Rights.

The Principles of Sentencing found in section 718 of the Criminal Code express the considerations which guide our courts sentencing offenders. The list of principles includes denunciation of unlawful conduct and harm done to victims and communities, deterrence and promotion of responsibility. Yet these principles and the overriding duty to protect the public often take a back seat when the Liberals and NDP focus wholly on attempted rehabilitation, which is only one of numerous principles of sentencing.

Rehabilitation is an important part of our justice system, particularly for first-time offenders who may have committed non-violent property crimes because of their circumstances. However, when it comes to violent offenders who harm their fellow citizens and prey on the vulnerable the risks to public safety, promotion of personal responsibility, giving voice to victims and deterring recidivism should be paramount considerations; and rehabilitation should be a secondary consideration in cases where it is not likely to work. This is the line that should be drawn in our criminal justice system.

Protection of the public, justice for victims, denunciation and deterrence of criminal conduct and the promotion of responsibility should be paramount considerations whenever an offender uses violence against another Canadian and whenever children or vulnerable populations are targeted. Further, protection of the public should remain the most pressing consideration even in circumstances where the mental state of the offender is at issue. 

To keep Canadians safe, an O’Toole government will:

  • Reaffirm tougher penalties for violent crime: While courts have struck down some mandatory minimum sentences, they did not suggest that the concept of a mandatory minimum sentence violated the Charter. Therefore, we will reform the use of mandatory minimum sentences to put them in place only for the most serious of offences and permit either presumptive minimum sentences or full judicial discretion for all other criminal sentencing. This is the proper balance.
    • We will stand up for victims of crime, promote rehabilitation, prevent recidivism and deter violent crime by restoring or mandating minimum sentences for the crimes of Murder, Kidnapping, Aggravated Sexual Assault and any crimes against the state or conspiracy offences surrounding crimes against the state, along with their included offences. Crimes against the state would include Terrorism, Espionage or Treason under the Criminal Code or National Defence Act.
    • We will enact tougher penalties, including presumptive minimums, for drug-related crimes, especially crimes that involve trafficking drugs to minors and/or the use of a firearm.

 

  • Reform the Not Criminally Responsible (NCR) designation to ensure that the public is protected, victims are not re-victimized, and that those who commit heinous acts do not escape justice or walk free after a short period of time. And if an NCR designee is eventually granted some degree of liberty, it will be strictly supervised to ensure, for example, that medications are being taken as prescribed and that behaviours that power the cycle of violence are avoided. In cases of murder or aggravated sexual assault, a NCR offender will not be permitted to seek an absolute discharge for their crime. Protection of the public, prevention of recidivism and denunciation of the conduct should be the prevailing considerations in these cases, even when mental state vitiates the intent of the offender. Lives cannot be repaired and even a minuscule chance of reoffending means that the crime and the offender’s identity should not be hidden from the public record.

 

  • Restore section 230 of the Criminal Code, which deemed it second-degree murder if a criminal intentionally causes bodily harm in the commission of a crime, and the victim dies as a result of that bodily harm. An O’Toole government would be prepared to invoke section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights And Freedoms if necessary to ensure that promotion of responsibility, public safety and justice for victims and their families remain at the centre of our system of justice when it comes to the intentional use of violence in the commission of a crime.

 

  • Amend section 748 of the Criminal Code to not permit a free pardon or conditional pardon in cases of murder, aggravated sexual assault, sexual abuse of children and child pornography. We will work with the provinces to prohibit persons convicted of these offenses from legally changing their name. These changes will ensure that protection of the public and justice for victims remain paramount.

 

  • Stand up for victims of crime by:
    • Enhancing our last government’s Canadian Victims’ Bill of Rights, which gives victims the right to information regarding status and outcome of an investigation, by:
      • Bringing greater accountability to investigations by establishing a reporting system for sexual assault cases where a victim is also given a summary of the investigation within 90 days of a charge being laid or a decision to not lay a charge; and
      • Providing provincial and federal attorneys-general with annual statistics from these investigation summaries to enhance transparency and encourage thorough and zealous investigation of sexual assault complaints.
    • Promoting the increased use of the Victim Surcharge to enhance programming for victims of crime and support for victims of sexual assault including legal advice and counsel; and work with the provinces to provide judges with discretion to impose surcharge options such as community service.
    • Continuing the last Conservative government’s support for victims through Youth Advocacy Centres such as the Sheldon Kennedy Centre in Calgary and the Boost Centre in Toronto.

 

 

  • Close the Holes in the Porous Border with the United States. The Liberals aren’t taking seriously the problem of hundreds of illegal immigrants jumping the border. We need to protect Canadians – and the migrants who are risking their lives in winter weather. It’s time to get serious about securing our border by:
    • Fixing the loopholes in the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, and
    • Providing more federal resources to stop illegal border jumping,
    • So that people are no longer jumping the border to cut in line ahead oflegitimate refugees who are playing by the rules and fleeing real danger.

 

  • Target and increase penalties for smuggling and using illegal weapons in the commission of a crime. Unlike the Liberals, who target law abiding firearms owners, we will tackle violent crime.

 

  • Tackle Rural Crime: Rural Canadians are increasingly afraid in their isolated communities that have reduced presence from law enforcement. Drug abuse problems and the economic fallout of the Liberal Jobs Crisis have increased the threat of violent crime in once-peaceful areas. Rural border communities in Manitoba and Quebec are witnessing growing numbers of illegal border crossings that could increase in coming months. Canadians should not face extra risks because they are located further away from urban centres.
  • An O’Toole government will work with the provinces, especially in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta to deploy additional RCMP resources to rural and border detachments based on the statistical increase in rural crime and illegal border migrants from the United States.

 

  • Reform Justin Trudeau’s ill-conceived and poorly executed plan with respect to marijuana which has led to illegal storefronts, uncertainty among law enforcement, and potential international treaty violations. An O’Toole government will protect the public and minimize adverse health impacts from this irresponsible Liberal action.
    • If the Liberal legalization plan has not yet come into force by the time of the next election, an O’Toole government will instead move towards decriminalization of marijuana once there is a reliable, court-admissible technology to test for impairment as recommended by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Policy, including then-Police Chief Bill Blair.
      • Law enforcement would retain the discretion to ticket for possession of marijuana in cases such as use near a school or repeated public impairment.
      • This approach would better protect the public and allow Canada to maintain its international treaty obligations.
    • If Trudeau has created a legal marijuana industry by the time of the next election, an O’Toole government will take action to minimize the adverse health and public safety impacts of this decision.
      • This will include the introduction of tough penalties for marijuana-impaired driving (particularly for repeat offenders) and ensuring that law enforcement has the ability to test for impairment.

 

  • Tackle the Opioid Crisis: The recent wave of deaths from fentanyl and other dangerous opioids show their profound risk to public health and safety. British Columbia has been at the vanguard of this crisis and it has overwhelmed police, public health and social agency supports. It is a serious health crisis that needs a rapid and dedicated response beyond what has been seen to date.
    • Enhance training and resources and training to law enforcement to increase their ability to contain the rapidly expanding and lethal drug epidemic.
    • Provide additional support and funding to the Canadian Armed Forces to use their healthcare assets and personnel for an immediate response to an acute public health emergency to help stabilize the situation in conjunction with provincial and municipal responders.

 

 

  • Support Wynn’s Law which thankfully has now passed second reading in the House of Commons, changing the Criminal Code to require that the Crown disclose an assailant’s criminal history and outstanding charges during bail hearings.

 

  • Make it an offense to violate parole conditions and place onus on parole officers to record and report all violations.

 

  • Repair the damage the Liberals have done to the judicial appointments process which is particularly egregious in light of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R v. Jordan. Victims are re-victimized as dozens of judicial vacancies and slow court proceedings are leading to people accused of violent crimes having their charges dropped or stayed. An O’Toole government will recognize that it is in the interests of both victims and accused persons that a trial take place within a reasonable time and will speed up the court system by:
    • Expediting the filling of all judicial vacancies and pledging that any future vacancies will be filled within 45 days.
    • Modernizing court procedure to simplify proceedings, minimize procedural delays, paperwork, fees and requirements that clog the court system and are not required for a fair trial.
    • Working with all Attorneys-General, Defence counsel organizations, and judges, to amend the Criminal Code to give judges discretion, subject to specified criteria, to hold a Preliminary Hearing only in complex or unusual cases.
    • Mandating that all Judicial Appointments Advisory Committees (JAAC) include members from the public, law enforcement and victims’ rights organizations in the composition of panels that recommend lawyers for judicial appointment.

 

  • In the event that the Private Members Bill currently proposed by the Honourable Rona Ambrose is not enacted, implement legislation to the same effect, namely to require new judges to complete comprehensive sexual assault education, require the Canadian Judicial Council to report on continuing education in this regard, and require courts to give written reasons in sexual assault cases.
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