What Do We Expect From The Law?

What Do We Expect From The Law?
Posted by CN Staff on April 06, 2003 at 15:12:04 PT
By Mindelle Jacobs -- Edmonton Sun
Source: Edmonton Sun
If you think our drug laws are too harsh, companies that foul the environment get off too lightly and using a cellphone while driving should be illegal, now's your chance to speak up. The Law Commission of Canada, an arms-length government agency, wants to know whether Canadians think our laws have kept pace with changing values. 
At the same time, by the way, the federal Department of Justice is embarking on its first comprehensive review of the Criminal Code since it was enacted more than a century ago. "The reflex to criminal law is not always the best strategy," Law Commission of Canada (LCC) president Nathalie Des Rosiers noted last week when the commission's discussion paper was released. "Have we come to rely too heavily on the law to deal with unwanted behaviour?" The discussion paper, What is a Crime? Challenges and Alternatives, suggests that, indeed, we do resort to the law far more often than is necessary. The paper (on the commission's Web site) notes that many observers argue that criminal law should be the tool of last resort to solve social problems. "Do we have the right mixture of policies?" the paper asks. The LCC believes the criminal law approach has its limitations and we should explore alternative strategies to combat unacceptable behaviour. The most visible contemporary example of the gap between what we expect from the law and what is actually achieved is the marijuana issue. Tens of thousands of Canadians have been charged with pot possession over the years but vast numbers of people still smoke up. The law is supposed to deter people from engaging in unwanted conduct but criminalization has "had no significant deterrent effect," the LCC paper says. If the criminal law is supposed to impart a "powerful symbolic message," as the LCC suggests, Canadians apparently think the law is an ass when it comes to marijuana. But this is what happens when you have a law that is, in many cases, out of sync with Canadian beliefs. The LCC once described the Criminal Code as "a hodgepodge of anachronistic, redundant, contradictory and obsolete provisions." It added: "The end result is that Canadians living in one of the most technologically advanced societies in human history are being governed by (law) rooted in the horse-and-buggy era of Victorian England." Not a comforting thought, is it? The notion of harm is often used as a basis for defining what constitutes crime, the LCC paper points out. Yet the state's response to potentially harmful activity is riddled with contradictions. "Some of these actions are criminalized, others are regulated and some are simply frowned upon. Why?" asks the LCC. It's a good question. Tobacco and booze can kill you but they're legal. No one ever died from marijuana but it's illegal. Keeping alive terminally ill people who are in excruciating pain or whose quality of life has shrivelled to nothing is considered a social good. Helping them commit suicide is a crime. "What do we expect from criminal law?" the LCC asks. "Are these expectation realistic?" The discussion paper also examines other strategies that are used to deal with unwanted behaviour. Regulation by professional bodies and industry associations is an alternative to criminal sanctions. But the disadvantage, says the LCC, is "the longstanding perception that corporations receive preferential treatment and that the harms they create are ... dismissed as the cost of doing business." We also use public education campaigns and community support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, exit strategies for hookers and dispute resolution to change people's conduct. "Many observers suggest that communities may be more effective than the criminal justice system," says the commission. I agree. But it's your turn to get on the podium. Watch out for the lobby groups on your way up. Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB) Author: Mindelle Jacobs -- Edmonton SunPublished:   April 6, 2003 Copyright: 2003 Canoe Limited PartnershipContact: letters edm.sunpub.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Illegal Drugs: Just Say Maybe Redefining a Crime - Toronto Star
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Comment #2 posted by puff_tuff on April 06, 2003 at 22:31:16 PT
Law Commission of Canada 
Press Release Commission of Canada 
Discussion Paper : What is a Crime? Challenges and Alternatives
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on April 06, 2003 at 16:22:06 PT
Important E-Mail News from Steve Kubby
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:Monday, April 7, 2003CONTACT: Michele Kubby, 604-885-7651 (Working media only, please.)KUBBY REFUGEE HEARINGS RESUME ON APRIL 8THVANCOUVER -- Steve and Michele Kubby will be back before the Canadian Refugee Board this Tuesday to seek political refugee protection. Mr. Kubby was previously granted a 30 day postponement due to medical problems brought on by his arrest last April.Several high profile witnesses will be testifying on behalf of the Kubby's. Including Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray, Grow Guru Ed Rosenthal, and Prop. 215 co-author/attorney Bill Panzer.The Kubby Refugee Hearing will resume at 10 am, 300 West Georgia Street, Vancouver. Under doctors orders, the hearings will only be held for three days per week, five hours per day. The hearings are scheduled to end on April 17, 2003. Schedule of Witnesses:April 8th, 10 am - 4 pm Steve KubbyApril 9th - no hearingApril 10th - 10 am to 11 am Angel McCleary Raich          12 pm to 1:30 pm Judge James Gray          2:30 to 4:30 pm Ed RosenthalApril 11th - 11 am Dr. Joseph Connors of the BC Cancer clinic. Afternoon, Mary Leverette of the Oregon Medical Marijuana ProgramApril 15th - 10 am to 12 pm Pete Brady, journalist          1 pm to 4:30 pm Bill Panzer, defense attorneyApril 16th and 17th will be spilt up between Dan Sattersberg representative of Washington State's medical marijuana program and Christopher Cattran, Placer County Deputy District Attorney and former prosecutor of Steve and Michele Kubby.
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