Responding to critics who say he’s needlessly cracking down on low-level offenders like recreational marijuana users, federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson defended his omnibus crime bill before lawyers in Toronto last week.
“The major part of it, and there are two major parts of it, deals with the subject of drug trafficking — not drug possession, not the individual who has unfortunately become addicted, not somebody experimenting on a Saturday night,” Nicholson told members of the County & District Law Presidents’ Association in Toronto for its annual plenary dinner on Wednesday.
“I appreciate all my critics who will say that he’s going after six guys that have got six plants in the kitchen, but we’re not going after the guy with six plants in the kitchen.
We’re going after the people who are in the grow-op business for the purposes of trafficking.”
Despite concerns from the legal community that the proposed bill C-10 is too stringent, Nicholson said the legislation sends the right message.
“We send out a very clear message to the people who try to bring illegal drugs into Canada . . . and I think if you look at the provisions of the act, we send the correct message: if you’re in the business and part of organized crime that brings drugs into Canada, you’re going to be facing jail time.”
Nicholson also addressed concerns about the new law’s implications for judicial discretion and the expansion of mandatory minimum sentences, something he said falls within the government’s responsibility as legislators.
“It’s our job. We provide that guidance.
We don’t decide whether or not an individual is innocent or guilty but we give them parameters.”
At the same time, Nicholson touted several additional changes in the works, including an overhaul of the rules for citizens’ arrests and a new commitment to addressing elder abuse.
“There hasn’t been great change to citizens’ arrests and the rules with respect to self defence in 172 years, so it’s probably due for an overhaul,” Nicholson said in his speech to CDLPA members.
“So what you will see when you see the bill introduced to the House of Commons is it will clarify, and I think simplify for everyone, in terms of what their responsibilities are and their ability to protect themselves and their property.”
In terms of elder abuse, Nicholson noted it’s a topic that has come up regularly. “On a regular basis, you can expect that we will be making changes to it with respect to elder abuse.
But we have a very busy legislative agenda and we’ll be in a position now over the next number of years to be able to introduce these things with . . . greater certainty as to whether they will be passed, and again I’m very proud to be a part of that.”