Yesterday’s release of the Conservative government’s proposed omnibus crime bill, relatively benignly named the safe streets & communities act, wasn’t exactly met with resounding approval by either the legal profession or the Canadian public in general.

Shortly after the bill’s multipronged release in Toronto and Montreal, the Canadian Bar Association came out swinging, saying “the bill’s approach is contrary to what is known to lead to a safer society.”

handcuffsThe CBA takes issue with several aspects of the proposed bill, including mandatory minimum sentences and overreliance on incarceration, constraints on judges’ discretion to ensure a fair result in each case, and the bill’s impact on specific, already disadvantaged groups.

The CBA and other critics also feel that lumping so many crime bills together, many of which have failed in Parliament before in the last five years, is a bit of an end run around the democratic process. Dumping such a wide range of issues together in one bill means careful parliamentary study of the bill’s component parts is highly unlikely. As well, if there are parts that other parties agree are good, they still have to pass what they don’t agree with because of the all-or-nothing aspect omnibus legislation.

On Monday, Law Times will provide an in-depth analysis of the reaction to the bill from the legal community. But overall, the costs, increased incarceration while crime levels are decreasing, and doing away with judicial discretion on sentencing seem to be the main sticking points.

Groups representing victims of crimes appear to be the only ones really pleased with aspects of the legislation. Electronic privacy advocates expressed relief that the bill does not include anything on online spying, but they expect it to come, possibly in copyright legislation.

There has been quite a lot of reaction in the Twittersphere. Here’s a few choice ones, some from members of the legal profession plus a few others.

Brenda Cossman (@brendacossman), a law professor at the University of Toronto: Safe Streets & Communities Act - I’m worried, about many things, but 1 of them, is how it might capture teens and sexting.... Tweens, teens and sexting. Stay tuned for my critique of criminal omnibus bill....the more I read, the more nervous i get.

KirkTousaw, (@kirktousaw), a lawyer and advocate for cannabis policy reform in Abbotsford, B.C.: #omnicrime does not target org crime, will affect mostly small timers, addicts, medpot patients. Expensive failure not a Canadian priority. New Tory “crime” bills do not target organized crime, will not make us safer. Could media stop uncritically regurgitating CPC talking points

Justin Samlal (@justinsamlal), a conservative political and government relations consultant working with Pure Strategy Group: Thank the Universe that “Lawful Access” was omitted from #omnicrime. What garbage that was.

Parliament Hill reporter Kady O’Malley (@kady): [NDP MP Joe] Comartin doesn’t think anything in the #omnicrime bill will deter crime; it’s ideological, not based on evidence. #hw

Kevin Kindred (@KevinKindred), lawyer, activist, cruciverbalist, bon vivant in Halifax: Oh, crime. If only there were more of you to be tough on. #omnicrime

Daniel Brown, (@DanielBrownLaw), Toronto criminal defence lawyer: The crime rate is on a 20 yr. decline, yet sweeping Tory #crime bill promised to be only ‘the beginning.’

Sean Krausert (@thatpovertyguy), a social justice activist in Canmore, Alta.: Less $ re social services + less judge discretion + mandatory min. + creating more criminals = MORE #poverty in Canada.

Chris McLaren (@mistermclaren) in Cambridge, Ont: Omnibus crime bill: fact-ignoring ideological symbolism or cynical diversion of public funds to impending corporate prisons? #whypickjustone

A member of the Twitterati in St. Eleanors, P.E.I. masquerading as William Henry Pope, the former editor and judge (@williamhenrypope): Incensed about the omnibus bill? Why!? They didn’t even re-introduce the death penalty or prison torture. Yet.

The Fake Steve Harper (@ThePMSaidSo): Everyone is so surprised by my crime omnibus. Don’t you remember I told you that you wouldn’t recognize the place when I was done with it?

What do you think about the proposed omnibus bill?

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