Teenagers as young as 14 who are convicted of serious crimes such as murder would face stiffer sentences - including the possibility of life in prison - under Conservative Party proposals that would bypass a Supreme Court of Canada decision that made it more difficult to sentence youths as adults.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said yesterday a re-elected Tory government would overhaul the Youth Criminal Justice Act; in effect, imposing adult sentences on some young offenders and no longer shielding their identity. He said his government would raise maximum sentences for young killers - currently 10 years for first-degree murder and seven years for second-degree - and hand down 14-year sentences for other violent crimes now subject to two- or three-year terms.
The new sentences would affect youths 14 and older in most of the country. But in a nod to Quebec, where the Tories need to win seats to form a majority government, Conservative aides said the law would apply only to those 16 and older in that province, where the justice system and public sentiment favour rehabilitation.
This is the worst kind of pandering all around. First, Harper plays on voters' fears of crime, using people who can't vote, who are in need of protection - children - as the bait. Few voters imagine it might be their children subject to this injustice; for too many people, it's easy to vote to lock up other people's kids.
But at the same time, Harper kisses more Quebec ass. This reminds me of the anti-choice crowd who cries "Abortion is murder!" then whispers "except in cases of this, this or that". If it's murder, it should never be OK, right? But they don't care about this so-called murder; they care about punishing women for living modern lives.
If we're all in danger of 14-year-olds who are running amok committing violent crimes, aren't Quebeckers also in danger? Shouldn't Quebec 14-year-olds be subject to the same treatment? But we're not in this danger, none of us are. And if we were, does punishing teenagers more harshly prevent more crime? All evidence shows it does not.
One of the hallmarks of an enlightened society is the understanding that children are not miniature adults. Children need special help and special protection if they are to become healthy, productive members of society. It's everyone's responsibility to try to make that happen - one we fail far too often.
When a 14-year-old commits a violent crime, he or she needs help. Locking a child up - for life? - will only produce more violent children, who, if they live long enough (which too often, they will not), will become violent adults.
But then, the point of a "tough on crime" plan like this isn't to prevent crime. It's to scare people who are afraid of the modern world and pine for a return to some mythical good-old-days, when people who couldn't behave or wouldn't conform were swept locked up, or swept away and ignored. To scare them into voting Conservative.
A party that purports to stand for family values but favours locking up 14-year-olds for life - but not some other 14-year-olds whose parents might not vote for them - is not to be trusted.
Of course, we know that Mr Harper's Conservatives don't care about other people's children. Two words: Omar Khadr.
And I'm tagging this post with "biogtry" and "poverty and class", because whose children do you think would get locked up? Rich, white kids?
I'll also add that the day after the Liberals unrolled their platform - for a Richer, Fairer, Greener Canada - the Globe and Mail splashes this tough-on-crime bullshit across their front page. Last week they used a Harper anti-Dion quote - without quotation marks or attribution - as a headline.
Don't forget: the game thread is still open.