Opposition criticizes government's plan to scrap any chance of parole for country's most brutal murderers
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
The Harper government's proposal to remove the possibility of parole for the most brutal murderers will do nothing to improve public safety, critics say.
The government's priorities this parliamentary session include ensuring that a "life sentence means just that, a sentence for life," House leader Peter Van Loan said Monday.
Opposition parties are critical of what they see as the government's obsession with punishment at the expense of any interest in rehabilitation or outreach programs.
The life-means-life sentence would apply only to the most serious murder convictions, such as multiple murders and murders involving sexual assault.
"The purpose of prison is to rehabilitate and make society safer," NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison said Tuesday. "Punishment is not the solution for safer communities."
Liberal critic Wayne Easter said no hope for parole removes any incentive for good behaviour among inmates, which would put prison guards at risk.
Easter said the Tory proposal would change the spirit of the justice system.
"This government just believes in penalties."
Criminal lawyer Ian Carter said the law would definitely face constitutional challenges. Plus, he says, it's unnecessary.
"As of now, you can be eligible for parole, but that doesn't mean you'll get it," he said, explaining that the "worst of the worst" — the Paul Bernardos — don't get out.
Carter also said evidence showing harsh penalties deter crime is "very limited."
The legislation is expected by June.