Trudeau tweet provokes debate on mandatory minimums

- November 12th, 2013

The first one to take a kick at this week’s political football was Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who said on Twitter on Sunday he would be prepared to reconsider some of the mandatory minimum sentence provisions brought in by the Harper government over the last few years.

Ok. Interesting idea. Tell me more. Which, in Trudeau’s view would be the most likely mandatory minimum sentence (hereinfter known as MMS) provisions to roll back?

He didn’t expand on this on Twitter, so I e-mailed Trudeau’s press people yesterday morning with this message:

Yesterday, M. Trudeau was on Twitter responding to questions from his followers.

One asked:
Would a Trudeau-led federal government reconsider the slew of new mandatory minimum sentences recently rolled out by the CPC?

and M. Trudeau replied:
I (and the Liberal party) trust the Judiciary to do their jobs well, so yes. — Justin Trudeau, MP (@JustinTrudeau)

Any chance of just fleshing that out a bit? Are there any particular MMS provisions that a liberal government would reconsider?

Thank you for the help.

 

Didn’t hear anything by lunchtime so I telephoned. Spoke to the person I’d sent this message to, drawing her attention to the e-mail. Waited.

Sent the e-mail again late in the afternoon. Waited. Nothing.

Oh well.

In the meantime, in the absence of any other details from Trudeau, the Conservatives assumed the worst — that Trudeau would reverse all mandatory minimum provisions — and swung into action.

An e-mail was distributed to the Press Gallery in Ottawa Tuesday morning by one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s communications staff:

Our Government brought in mandatory prison sentences for serious crimes. Under Justin Trudeau’s plan to repeal our recent mandatory prison sentences, the following serious criminals would face lighter sentences:

  • those who traffic, produce and import date rape drugs;
  • those who provide sexually explicit material to children;
  • those who sell drugs to children;
  • those who operate hazardous meth labs;
  • those who commit drive-by shootings and other serious gun crimes;
  • impaired drivers;
  • those who steal cars for a living;
  • and child sex offenders.

Today in Halifax, Minister MacKay will respond to Justin Trudeau’s commitment to repeal our Government’s mandatory minimum prison sentences for the most heinous crimes.

And MacKay did just that, riffing off points he would later tweet out:

So far, still nothing from Trudeau but about the same time on Twitter, one of MacKay’s predecessors as Justice Minister, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, was explaining his opposition to MMS 140 characters at a time:

Well, that’s interesting. But wait a minute — in 2005, then Justice Minister Cotler actually tabled legislation [Press release here] which included harsher punishments for some crimes, such as crimes committed with a gun, and those harsher punishments included mandatory minimum sentences. Slightly inconvenient, that, isn’t it Professor Cotler?

Cotler is providing to a link of a speech he gave at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Nov. 23, 2011 in which he explains how he came to change his views and how he now opposes mandatory minimums. And remember Cotler is a jurist, a lawyer and so his speech here is made with less of an eye towards the politics of mandatory minimums —  public outrage over the 2005 shooting of Toronto teenager Jane Creba — and more towards some of the issues a judge might consider if she was ruling on the constitutionality of a mandatory minimum sentence. It’s worth reading.

And, sure enough, right on cue, we have a court today, in Ontario, where mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes have been struck down as unconstitutional because they constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.” I bet my bottom dollar the Harper government — Minister Mackay — appeals this ruling to see what the Supreme Court has to say about it.

Of course, I’d still like to hear what Trudeau might do were he to become prime minister.

Categories: Justice, Politics

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7 comments

  1. Joseph says:

    So its cruel to throw killer in jail on a minimum because a judge in their discretion said it violates the perps rights?
    And Cotler has decided now that his opinion has changed, that we can’t put limits on these judges to the determination of guilt or innocence.
    The man has been drinking something.

  2. Larry says:

    Mackay is as smart as Ford, all talk no action on anything he does

  3. TickedVet says:

    To bad we didn’t have a mandatory minimum for competency for elected office.

    That would pretty much eliminate Justin from running ….though I’m sure this year’s production of “A christmas Carol” at the grade school level would go over swimmingly if he was in charge of the production.

  4. Gary Wilson says:

    So, let me see if I got this story …

    Trudeau confirms by twitter that he trusts the judiciary to do their jobs and that he’d thus then reconsider the slew of mandatory minimal sentences recently rolled out by the CPC.

    Reporter from Conservative media organization assumed—what he would describe as “the worst”— that Trudeau would reverse all mandatory minimum provisions — and swung into action. He responds with multiple tweets about Trudeau’s intention to reverse mandatory minimum provisions.

    Reporter seeks more information from Trudeau’s camp. Gets no response.

    In the meantime, the Conservatives assume—what the reporter describes as “the worst”—that Trudeau would reverse all mandatory minimum provisions, and swing into twitter outrage. The reporter excuses the assumptions based on the absence of any other details from Trudeau. In absence of clarity, it is apparently reasonable to jump to—what the reporter calls “the worst” case scenario.
    Former Justice Minister Irwin Colter tweets 5 fact based arguments against minimum sentences.

    Reporter tries to play “got ya” with Irwin Colter by citing 2005 tabled legislation. Colter replies views have changed. As have most people capable of critical thinking who have followed the data on minimum sentences.

    So in the end, the pressing outstanding question for this reporter is what would Trudeau do if PM. Seems reasonable. I’d like to know, too. But funny the far more glaring and obvious questions don’t seem to come to his mind: why does the Harper government continue to support these clearly failed, detrimental and expensive policies? Has nobody in the Harper government looked at the data on harsher and minimum sentences? If not, why not? If so, why do they choose to ignore clear evidence? Why do they choose to waste tax payers money on policy that fails? Why do they insist on justice polices that increase crime? Why against all evidence, experience, reason and logic does the harper government insist on NOT reversing mandatory minimum provisions? Why does this reporter call reasonable and sound policy direction for criminal justice policy (eliminating mandatory minimum sentences) “the worst?”

    • Blake Dunlop says:

      Gary, this “reporter”, as you call him, is no longer a reporter. He is now a propagandist shill for the Tory Dictator Harper & his monkey minions. He now lacks any credibility to be called “reporter”!

  5. Doug says:

    If there is no mandatory minimum for these serious crimes maybe they should do away maximum sentences

  6. Franco says:

    Figures you’re more concerned about the comfort and well being of the convicted than you are about keeping the convicted off the streets.
    Critical thinking you say?

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