From the editor
// Sarah Vitet

You are stupid. You are a complete moron with no ability to think for yourself, identify propaganda, make up your own opinions, or demand the truth. At least, that's what the government seems to believe.

In light of the recent Conservative omnibus crime legislation, it is especially important to be aware of what is the truth and what is propaganda. The Tories are no strangers to twisting reality (and are quite fond of using out-of-context quotes in their attack ads), and their nine new crime bills are no exception.

According to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, "We’re not governing on the basis of the latest statistics; we’re governing on the basis of what’s right to better protect victims and law-abiding Canadians." How they came up with their "basis" is somewhat vague, though. Crime rates in Canada have been trending downward for the past 20 years, and the success rate of parole is high, between 71 to 84 per cent. There is also strong evidence from the US that shows mandatory minimum sentencing and longer prison stays actually raises the rates of violent re-offences, and does not lower crime. Fear mongering is easier for the public to digest than hard facts, though.

As pointed out by Ethan Baron in the Province, the omnibus crime legislation also has very skewed priorities: "A pedophile who gets a child to watch pornography with him, or a pervert exposing himself to kids at a playground, would receive a minimum 90-day sentence, half the term of a man convicted of growing six pot plants in his own home," explains Baron.
The Conservative anti-drug morality agenda is being pushed to extremes, and it is going to mean that a lot of non-violent offenders are put in prison, at an annual rate of $60,000 to $70,000 per inmate. With an already underfunded health care system and public sector, weak environmental initiatives, and a rising national unemployment rate, increasing prison spending is completely out of touch with reality.

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has also expressed serious concerns regarding the omnibus crime legislation. A press release on their website quotes the chair of the National Justice Section as saying that northern residents, people with mental illness, as well as Aboriginal people in particular will be negatively impacted by the legislation. “The Bill’s approach is contrary to what is known to lead to a safer society,” says the press release. The CBA has over 37,000 lawyers, law teachers and law students as their members.

The most obvious contradiction that the Tories stand by is their fervent anti-marijuana stance, though the arguments against marijuana prohibition are both vast and conclusive. In addition to having practically no health risks (this is emphasized when compared to alcohol, tobacco, fast food, and pollution) and despite proven health benefits, there is the glaring fact that keeping marijuana illegal actually increases organized crime. Small growers are shut down by fear of prosecution, giving all the power to large-scale criminal enterprises.

According to Statistics Canada: "Cannabis cultivation, otherwise known as marijuana grow operations, has more than doubled over the past decade, from 3,400 incidents in 1994 to more than 8,000 incidents [in 2004]." The Conservative government continues to create new legislation to turn marijuana into a societal threat, while ignoring all evidence to the contrary.
The BC Marijuana party website sites an RCMP study that confirms marijuana as the largest funding source for organized crime. "This report confirms the conclusion of the Senate," says the BCMP, "that the prohibition of marijuana is jeopardizing Canadian society by handing control of a massive marijuana market ($10 Billion in BC alone) to organized criminals." Making any in-demand product illegal promotes organized crime, as shown during the alcohol prohibition in the US, where the number of federal convicts rose by 561 per cent. If the Conservatives wanted to lower crimes rates and make society safer, they would decriminalize marijuana.

As the justice system affects us all, it is essential that we scrutinize our policy-makers and any legislation that is presented. Even the titles of the proposed bills are misleading and reactionary: "The Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act"; "The Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act”; or "The Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act." How could you possibly oppose those bills? It is only when you look closely at what they effect that the truth is revealed: the latter bill not only affects organized drug crime, but people who produce substances for their own personal use (such as cannabis oil, which is explored in David Gauthier’s article in this week's opinions section). Legislation that should be protecting citizens is, in reality, putting us at risk, though propaganda rhetoric is being used to conceal the truth. Perhaps Darwin has the best words of caution for this national predicament:

"It is worthy of remark that a belief constantly inculcated during the early years of life, whilst the brain is impressible, appears to acquire almost the nature of an instinct; and the very essence of an instinct is that it is followed independently of reason."
—Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 1871

// Sarah Vitet, editor-in-Chief

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