OCRCC Letter to Senators

The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres 
1515 Rebecca Street, Suite 227, Oakville ON, L6L 5G8  905-299-4428 
Website: www.sexualassaultsupport.ca 

December 13, 2011 
Re: Omnibus Crime Bill, Bill C-10 
Dear Senator, 
The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) works toward the prevention and eradication of sexual assault. The Coalition recognizes that violence against women is one of the strongest indicators of prevailing societal attitudes towards women. Our membership includes sexual assault centres from across Ontario, offering counselling, information and support services to survivors of sexual violence, including childhood sexual abuse and incest. 

OCRCC is writing concerning the Omnibus Crime Bill, Bill C-10. We are deeply concerned about this bill, as we believe that it ignores extensive evidence about effective ways of making communities safer. 

We are also concerned about the ways in which the law and criminalization can affect different populations of people unequally. Women’s experience of crime and of being in conflict with the law is different than that of men’s: the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada notes that more than half of all charges for which federally sentenced women are convicted are non-violent, property and drug offences. Property offences account for around 32% of all court cases and 47% of all charges against women. One reason why women account for 5% of admissions to federal penitentiaries is because they are far less likely than men to commit or to be convicted of serious crimes of violence which result in sentences in excess of two years.

Despite the fact that women perpetrate less serious and less violent crime, the realities concerning who is incarcerated will undoubtedly change if the Omnibus Bill is passed.

As women’s advocates, we know that law and criminalization can affect different populations of women differently as well. Marginalized populations of women − such as Aboriginal women, young women, homeless or transient women, women with mental health issues, or women with a history of addictions − face more complex barriers simultaneously when accessing the criminal justice system, as well as when in conflict with the law, or proceeding through the criminal justice system2. Women marginalized by race, education and socioeconomic status are also over represented in prisons: while more than 80% of women in Canada have progressed beyond grade 9, for example, amongst women prisoners, the figure is closer to 50%.

As anti-violence advocates, we acknowledge that women and minorities “experience different crime patterns, prejudice and bigotry, hiring and salary inequities that lead to different life stresses and ways of coping”. Indeed, eighty percent of all federally sentenced women report having been physically and/or sexually abused. This percentage rises to 90% for Aboriginal women. 

Clearly, social location and social context is operant in issues concerning women in conflict in the law. Yet Bill C-10 aims to impose mandatory sentences and limit judicial discretion that may allow for acknowledgment of this context. Bill C-10 has been rushed through the House of Commons without proper attention to its costs, consequences, and the legitimate concerns of our provinces, First Nations, women, youth and countless other individuals, organizations and experts. If Bill C-10 proceeds unchanged, it would radically shift Canadian justice away from prevention and rehabilitation, and towards punishment and exclusion at a great social and financial cost.

OCRCC asks that the Senate review all of the Bill’s consequences, and consider alternatives that are proven to reduce crime. We ask that you pay particular attention to: 
The limiting of judicial discretion created by mandatory sentences, a change that will put too many people in jail.

The limiting of judicial discretion created by mandatory sentences that will further limit the rights of Aboriginal peoples to manage their own justice systems 
The amendments proposed by Quebec and others that would make sure that as many young offenders as possible are rehabilitated into society, instead of being criminalized in prison.

The many measures in Bill C-10 that will put people in prison who do not belong there, including women experiencing addictions and mental illness.

The many measures in Bill C-10 that will put people in prison who do not belong there, including marginalized populations of women 

OCRCC believes that education and information goes a long way toward the prevention of violence. Together, we will make a difference.


Nicole Pietsch 
OCRCC Coordinator 
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