Statistics Canada released a new study last Thursday that found that 93 per cent of people surveyed in 2009 said they were satisfied with their personal safety from crime. According to Statscan, that’s about the same proportion of people who said they felt safe five years earlier, before the Conservatives came into power.  Last week, Members of Parliament got to debate the crime bill, after it had been examined clause by clause by the justice and human rights committee the week before.

Liberal justice critic, Irwin Cotlet, NDP justice critic Jack Harris, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May have proposed 88 amendments to the bill, most of them seeking to have clauses removed. However, Speaker Andrew Scheer determined that only amendments to issues that have not been debated by the committee can be proposed. The remaining amendments have been divided into five different groups to be debated on Tuesday, December 6.

The bill is in its third and final reading, and was tabled with the intention of having it signed into law by Christmas. The bill must pass through the Senate first, but will likely do so, as there are more Conservative members sitting than Liberal members.

Arthur spoke with Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro about Bill C-10.When asked why a non-violent criminal would be put in jail for the same amount of time or longer than a violent person or pedophile, Del Mastro was evasive: “Families are adversely affected by street drugs,” he said, “and those who target people, especially youth, will feel the full force of the law.”

Regarding the declining crime rate and the expense of Bill C-10, Del Mastro said that these measures are long overdue, and that the types of crime that the bill addresses have spiked in Canada, and that this can be seen in places like Peterborough.

According to the Peterborough Lakefield Community Police Annual Report for 2010, youth drug crimes decreased slightly, from 22 charges to 21, however, sexual assault charges grew from 7 to 10. Sexual offences in general in Peterborough rose by 3.6% and drug offences rose as well: cocaine by 30%, marijuana by 3.4%, and “other drugs” by 8.3%. These figures represent differences between 2009 and 2010.

Del Mastro went on to say that police are struggling to combat the prevalence of street drugs because people get arrested, released, and then are picked up on distributing again. “We need a justice system that makes sure these people stay off the streets.”

He also said that there is a distinction to be drawn between people looking to make a quick buck selling drugs, in a “predatory fashion,” and people who are addicted to the drugs. Bill C-10 does include a measure that offers drug treatment if the offender in a case is an addict, in which the sentence could be suspended or reduced if the offender undergoes and completes the treatment. He remarked, “We want to help them get their life back on track, so that they can be productive members of society.”

Del Mastro also said that CBC’s reporting on the crime bill has been falsely critical, and that “people who oppose strengthening prison sentences will latch on to anything to support their own beliefs.”