Susan's Speech to the Assembly at Occupy Toronto

Susan's Speech Against the Crime Bill at Occupy Toronto

My name is Susan Berry, I am here with RODC, Reclaim our Democratic Canada, a national group committed to restoring our democracy which used to make Canadians so proud.
We support the Occupy movement because it exposes the state of our damaged democracy, and because its participants are striving peacefully and collaboratively to find a coherent analysis of the problems , followed by practical solutions.

I came today with friends because we are excited about Occupy but we have started to hear murmurs that “Occupy” might be over in Canada.  The Media is telling us that parks are full of danger, we have worn out the welcome, are overrun by the homeless, and the movement is suffering from purposelessness.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Media is working VERY HARD to obfuscate the compelling reasons the Occupy movement has sprung up around the world, and all of its accomplishments to date.   

The rich have taken advantage of the disorganization and distraction of the middle class and the poor for too long.  Ordinary people are waking up from a collective depression and are responding in numbers and with creativity in the Occupy movement all around the world.  In a short amount of time, so much has been accomplished. 

Take the Keystone oil pipeline stopped in it’s tracks.  Delayed until a proper environmental assessment can be done.  Stephen Harper said U.S. approval of the TransCanada Keystone pipeline was a “no-brainer”– but it seems that he was wrong, because the White House had to listen the many saying  “NO” to corporate greed and environmental destruction. 

And we’re  sorry to disappoint you Mr. Harper, but we’ve only just begun. 

Canada’s task is to stop Mr. Harper from spending billions of tax-payers money building Mega-Prisons to hold the poor and disenfranchised.   And Occupy CAN stop it.

What is SO wrong about the Crime Bill?  Why should every Canadian, from every political party, socio-economic class, from every aspect of Canadian civil society, speak out against the Crime Bill?

It is because it is a bill that is not based on needs identified and supported by scientific and statistical evidence.  Our government’s decisions are being driven by an easily self-fulfilling ideology, by partisanship, and by attempts to appease certain groups for political reasons. 

I bet you are wondering just “HOW BAD is Bill C-10?”
While some parts of Bill C-10 have previously been tabled in Parliament, not all have been fully studied by Parliamentary committee; many parts are not yet properly reviewed or commented on because the time and length of Bill C-10 have not permitted an analysis of every aspect of Bill C-10.  This is VERY unusual for a criminal law bill.
The bundling of several critical and entirely distinct criminal justice initiatives into one omnibus Bill is inappropriate, (CBAC), and is anti-democratic.

Bill C-10 will not make Canadian society a safer society.  There is broad consensus among reputable Canadian criminal justice experts as to what is most effective in achieving a safer society.

What we know will help is a more health based response to the mentally ill and addicted instead of throwing them in jail, with more dangerous and skilled offenders, to hatch a new cycles of criminal behaviour.    We need policies and laws that recognize the historical, social and economic realities of aboriginal people;  a judicial “safety valve” to ensure justice in sentencing; and a policy of transparency in regard to the cost of any future criminal justice initiatives.

The Canadian Mental Health Commission is just finalizing intensive work to introduce a nation-wide strategy on mental health.  They are working on their final report as the government is rushing this bill through Parliament.  Without a doubt, this Crime Bill needs to be delay until a coherent strategy involving both mental health and the approach to crime can be developed.

I am certain that as we Stand Together Against the  Crime Bill we will be called soft on crime, willing to let young children be abused.  But the fact is I am not soft on real crime. I abhor real crime.  I want society to be safe and healthy.  But I don’t even know if the provisions in the bill to deal with Sexual Offenders will do that because they have not been commented on and are generally not well understood..   Who knows if they will work? 

Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said spending $2.7 billion over five years to reduce crime is too important not to pass even as the federal government looks to cut costs to deal with an uncertain global economy.

“How do you measure the cost of crime? Ask a victim whether this is required,” Toews told the Brandon Sun in an exclusive interview on Thursday. “They will say ‘absolutely’”.
While this is not a particularly excellent basis on which to determine approach cost spending with an objective to community and public safety, I am certain that I could find one or two victims of crime who will object to the passage of this bill.

All we need to do to find out if this bill is a good idea from any victims of crime to justify at $3 billion worth of government spending.  What if they say no?  Would you change course?  All the empirical evidence of past failed attempts to curb crime by building huge jails seems not to deter this wrong-headed approach.  One wonders whether this is really an attempt to reduce crime, or rather, a ploy to move us to a more authoritarian society where the corporations can do what they want and anyone who opposes them will be jailed.

Once I have presented Mr. Toews with something contrary to his trite remarks on the cost of the crime bill, I hope he will be open to changing his mind and hold on the passage of this bill without more input and debate.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson didn't answer the question and instead said his department estimates that crime costs society $99 billion a year and 83 per cent of those costs are to victims.

Steven Page, the Parliamentary Budget Chief has set the initial tab at $3 billion or more.  He has called the expense of the bill unprecedented also because it’s not budgeted for.  And at this time of fiscal restraint and global uncertainty, we need our governments to make the very best use of our tax dollars.


Lie down and take it because our flawed first-past the post electoral system gave Mr. Harper a false majority, and he wields his unyielding power without regard for democratic discussion and convention, fiscal restraint, true community safety and proper regard for the poor, homeless, mentally ill, addicts, Native and persons-of colour and male population that it disproportionally impacts.

Well, I suggest we ask our MPs that question.  Face to face, if possible. Because if  the MPs haven’t taken the time to hear out the experts on crime, then it is time to bring the debate to them.

How can we do it?  What can we do?

I would respectfully propose the following to Occupy:
Working speak out now, loudly, forcefully, bravely as an active democracy to win a Smart on Crime Approach.
We can turn the tide with a simple collective action on this issue, which is current in the media and connected to so many different groups and people.

Occupy can stop this crime bill by working with people in the Canadian Bar Association, Reclaim our Democratic Canada, the spiritual care organizations like the Unitarian Church, Anglican, Muslim, Hindu, Native and earth based social and physical care, our doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, correctional workers, mental health patients and workers, legalization and medical marijuana movement – end the war on drugs, victim’s rights groups, women’s shelters, pardons groups, people with criminal records and people who have be granted pardons or benefitted from some of the traditions of our “smart on crime” approach to community safety.  Oh, and anyone who pays taxes should be especially concerned!
We need to call on all mother, fathers, sisters and brothers to speak out against this bill.  

We need every taxpayer to say stop, before you waste more of our money. That’s what we need.

We need to live in an active democracy.  We need an AD campaign. An AD Campaign aimed at “Standing Together Against the Omnibus”.  I am seeing visions of street chalk, school bus like mailouts, cross Canada impact.  An Active Democracy Action.  Can we pierce through the collective fog and depression we are in?

Can we do it?  Yes we can!

RODC will be bringing our concerns to our MP on Nov 25.  We will ask our MP to meet with us, and some experts on community safety to discuss the crime bill and ask that the bill be delayed until the government has had adequate time to study all parts of the time and introduce their mental health strategy.      

We ask that, wherever you are, whomever you are, if you are concerned please find out more and book an appointment with YOUR MP on November 25 as well.
It’s that important that we do this together.
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