Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Good Con, Bad Con

Today's front page photo, Le Droit. Yesterday Harper spoke at a sparsely attended venue in Vanier Ontario for the purpose of announcing changes to the Young Offenders Act, with harsher penalties.

Angela Campbell, who specializes in children and the law at McGill University's law faculty, doubted Harper's proposal will curb youth crime. She called it a "hard-line, law-and-order approach that is very simplistic ,,,, People who believe that young people are committing more acts of violence will say 'that's a great idea.' However, the reality is that crime perpetrated by young people has actually diminished quite consistently in Quebec and across Canada."

There is no evidence that tougher penalties and naming teenage perpetrators has any dissuasive effect on their actions, Campbell said. Montreal lawyer René Binet said this approach is "more emotional than rational because there is no study that shows that tougher sentences lead to a lower crime rate."

Harper is posed with Theresa McCuaig and a picture of her dead grandson.

A Con-ning photo opportunity.

What's next? Gerry Ritz in a Ronald McDonald suit, cozying up to families holding pictures of their elderly parents or infants, killed by listeriosis?

Harper and his Conservatives are making public safety an issue in this election campaign. This may be their strategy for avoiding a debate on the hot-button topic of public health.

In today's Le Devoir, Brian Myles writes about punishment as a weapon of mass dissuasion. He points out that politicians (I would add, of the right-wing, so-con persuasion) are particularly fond of this solution.

Law-and-order statistics seem to indicate that in spite of screaming headlines and sensationalistic news coverage that offer little or no analysis, the increases in violent crimes committed by young offenders may not warrant the draconian measures advanced by the Conservatives.

It would appear this is more of the same-old same-old reactionary mise-en-scène for Harper and his gang-that-shoots-itself-in-the-foot, as a tactic to engineer a holy majority.

Update/September 24: Radio-Canada reports that the Québec Minister for Justice and Public Safety, Jacques Dupuis and Yves Francoeur, president of the police officers' union are opposed to the changes in the Young Offenders Act that were announced yesterday.

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