Dalhousie law students decided to take a stand against Bill C-10, The Safe Streets and Communities Act. On Dec. 5, students voted in favour of joining the Canadian Bar Association in opposing the bill.
More than 60 students attended the Dalhousie Law Students’ Society general meeting. The resolution calls for the LSS to release a public statement opposing the bill and encouraging other law student societies to take action.
“As student leaders, we’re here to support students the best way we can,” says LSS president Scott Lennox. “We wanted to take a stand with our collective voices.”
Dan Manchee, a second-year representative on the LSS board of directors, proposed the resolution at an LSS board meeting Nov. 21. He says he wanted students involved in advocating for human rights.
“I wanted to get students participating in the debate,” says Manchee. “Edmund Burke said, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ We have to try to do something. This action could pay off over time more than we think.”
Dal students are not the only ones voicing their opinion. University of Windsor law students hosted a public forum Nov. 23 and held a letter-writing campaign against the bill. Students also presented a letter to Dave McKenzie, chairman of the House of Commons standing committee on justice and human rights.
“Anytime young people are speaking out in non-violent ways is good,” says Trinda Ernst, president of the CBA. “We need to encourage young people to get involved and be knowledgeable about the legal system.”
Bill C-10 is a comprehensive criminal reform bill aimed at increasing minimal jail sentences for various offences and decreasing the availability of conditional sentences. Various groups have publicly denounced the bill including the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
“The bill goes against reason, fact, and experience,” says Alayna Kolodziechuk, a third-year Dal law student. “A majority government should not be an excuse to bully bad policy through to law, and I am embarrassed and disheartened by the government’s failure to properly consult experts and stakeholders.”
The CBA completed a 100-page report outlining the negative consequences of the bill. In the list of 10 reasons to oppose the bill, the CBA points out the bill’s adverse effects on the mentally ill, Aboriginal Peoples, and youth. Research has shown programs aimed at child poverty, mental health programs, diverting youth away from adult incarceration, and prisoner rehabilitation are more likely to reduce crime.
“This goes far beyond politics,” says second-year law student Chelsey Roy. “The scientific and statistical evidence overwhelmingly suggests that this new legislation will cause more harm than it will prevent.”
Students hope that their public statement will make a difference.
“As future members of the legal profession, we are in a particularly unique position to take a stand against this,” says Roy. “I hope other law student societies across the country will at least consider doing the same.”
Julie Sobowale is a third-year law student at Dalhousie University.