Interview with Minister Vic Toews, Minister for Public Safety, on ‘Crime Bill’
Montreal, September 22, 2011 – It was nice chatting with Minister Vic Toews as we discussed the recent Crime bill. A gentle and full of conviction to public service of Canada personality, Minister Vic Toews is the MP for Provencher, Manitoba and the Minister for Public Safety.
Before discussing the crime bill, I asked him to shed some light on the rumors about the conservative party not being for immigrants and the crime bill being just another measure to toughen up on immigrants.
“In fact, the immigrants supported our government during last election and a lot of our candidates are immigrants, who are not born here, like myself. Immigrants have realized that the conservative party actually represents like values as theirs,” replied Minister Toews.
Monika: The Statistics Canada actually indicates that crime rate has fallen by about 5% and the severity of crimes as well. Then why do we need to pass tough laws for crime? Could it be that the crime itself is being redefined or people have been passing through too many loop holes.
Minister Toews: Regardless of what the statistics indicate, there are still 2.1 million crimes being committed in Canada per year and that in itself calls for tough measures. Crime may seem on the low side relatively because the number of people reporting crimes has also decreased.
Monika: Considering longer jail terms, what is the surety that this will lessen crime?
Minister Toews: This will certainly lessen crime because the longer the criminals are in prison, lesser crime is being committed. It’s not that there are new criminals going to prison all the time. Most of the time, it is the same old criminals, mostly with mental problems, who commit crime repeatedly.
Now we also have a program in place that offers rehabilitation, education and treatment, whether that be physical or psychological. A large number of criminals with mental problems are seen in prison cells again and again. And they don’t belong there. We are seeking special treatment for them, either in institutions or in homes.
The parole terms are being revised for criminals because we want to make sure that once the criminals are out, they don’t commit crime again. And while they are in the prisons for longer periods, we look after their rehabilitation and education among other things for them to ensure their well-beings in the future.
Monika: With longer jail terms, can the government afford the associated cost of building more jails and hiring more staff? Though, it sounds like it will stimulate economy somewhat as well.
Minister Toews: Of course. Our government has suggested an estimation of total $2.1 billion over five years and the plans for 18 anti-crime measures to be at the cost of $631-million. This is well within our budget. The numbers are being escalated and taken out of proportion by our opposition and critiques.
Monika: Considering the statement that ‘the crime bill will find ways to crack down on terrorism’, what is your definition of terrorism, since terrorism can be home grown also?
Minister Toews: It’s a good question. We have some 4th or 5th generation Canadians with rather radical views who adhere to violence. Canada does not tolerate violence. So, any act that provokes violence and puts Canadians’ lives in danger will be dealt with following the Terrorist Act.
Monika: That leads to my next question. One of the measures in the crime Bill suggests that Canadian Victims of Terrorist Act can sue the perpetrators and supporters of terrorism in Canadian courts, including seeking compensation from foreign states. And the date for this redress is set at January 1, 1985.
Minister Toews: Basically that means that the victims of any tragedy, that took place prior to January 1, 1985, can take the perpetrators and supporters of terrorism to Canadian courts for trial. For example, the victims of 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing will be able to pursue justice in Canada since it seems unlikely for them to try it in Libya still under Gadaffi terror.
Monika: The victims on Flight 182 in June 1985 included 280 Canadians and it was the worst act of terrorism committed against Canadians. So, can the families of Flight 182 Air India Bombings take the perpetrators and supporters of terrorism to Canadian court to repeal justice? Can the parties to sue be individuals only or the nation or state as well?
Minister Toews: Yes. The victims can sue the individuals as well the nation or state that has supported terrorism. However, that nation or state has to be listed as such by Canada. And in both cases the proof is required.
Monika: I understand that unlike liberals, our government doesn’t want to legalize drugs. Just to clarify, do you find drug use crime to be related to offences committed against children, sex offences and leading to harsher crimes? Do you have any studies done on related subjects?
Minister Toews: No, we don’t have any such studies and I don’t think that the drug users necessarily molest children or commit sex offences, however, selling drugs to children is an offence. Sometimes, drugs are used to control tantrums in children or in adults.
Monika: But regardless, your government doesn’t want to legalize drugs.
Minister Toews: No, we don’t. Drugs are widely used among traffickers.
Monika: Regarding Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitations of Vulnerable Immigrants Act, former Bill C-56 is being called back. Doesn’t that bill infringe on the rights of foreign workers since their visa stamp will now be solely at the discretion of an immigration officer.
Minister Toews: On the contrary, the immigration officer’s intervention helps the foreign workers and newly arrived immigrants who might be facing ridicule or maltreatment.
Monika: Where does Crime Bill stand when faced with white collar crime and or human trafficking? A white collar is a ‘must accomplice’ in smuggling humans.
Minister Toews: The parole period on white collar crimes is being decreased. For example, the Earl Jones victims were appalled at finding out that he will serve hardly 1/6th of his sentence after he polished off all their life savings. So, yes, tough measures on white collar crime are also being applied.
Human trafficking is a form of dehumanization which we don’t tolerate and allow. There are bills in place to crack down on human smuggling as well.
Monika: Considering an overview of the Crime Bill, what is the role of general public in that?
Minister Toews: For the safety of Canadians, we want our streets and neighbourhoods safe. And people must call to report crime. Better job people do in reporting crime, more effective our approach becomes in combating crime.
Monika: Thank you very much for your time, Minister Toews.
Minister Toews: Thank you.
Dr. Monika Spolia