Critics wary of Ottawa’s omnibus crime bill

Daniel Brassard sits quietly at the back of a meeting room at Toronto’s Church of the Redeemer on Bloor Street.

He is listening intently to a panel discussion on the impact of Bill C-10 (the Federal government’s omnibus bill) that critics say gives carte blanche to police around the country to arrest and detain at will. Brassard, recalling his time spent in prison, is not amused.

“This feels like the dark ages,” he said. “I’m forever going to be judged for the things I did years ago. I’ve done my time, but I’m still paying for it.”

It’s Tuesday, October 18. The panel consists of members from Ottawa Victims Services, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, among others.

Caleb Chepsiuk is the director of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. As one of the panel members, he sees the new bill in the same light as most of his peers.

“This bill is a direct representation of the Conservative majority flexing their muscle,” he said. “It won’t create safer streets, it will create a culture of fear and disengagement from urban centres.”

Peter Russell is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto’s Department of Political Science. Though he agrees with most of what critics say, he says the bill was a long time coming.

“This shouldn’t surprise anybody,” Russell said. “This is an all-encompassing bill that is as comprehensive as it is vague. However, skeptics should keep in mind that the Toronto Police Service is very cognizant of their image at this time.”

Russell believes that the political fallout from the G-20 summit has left national police services bitterly aware of their public image. For this reason, he thinks the public shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

“I don’t think this will impact the law-abiding public that much,” he said. “The danger lies in what you don’t know. The cost of implementing this law at a time when we’re trying to find the funds to make our city function is just mind-boggling.”

Meanwhile Brassard remains defiantly optimistic.

“I can’t change who I am or what I’ve done,” he said. “I just hope that the government realizes that there are ex-criminals out there who have changed for the better and not hold it against us.”