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Prime Minister Stephen Harper follows Governor-General David Johnston out of the Senate chamber after the Speech from the Throne on June 3, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper follows Governor-General David Johnston out of the Senate chamber after the Speech from the Throne on June 3, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

PM vows to rush 'comprehensive' slate of crime bills into law Add to ...

Having shed the fetters of a minority government, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is promising to move quickly to implement the slate of Conservative law-and-order legislation that died when the election was called.

"The government of Canada has no more fundamental duty than to protect the personal safety of our citizens and defend against threats to our national security," Governor-General David Johnston said in the Throne Speech on Friday.

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"Our government," he said, "will move quickly to reintroduce comprehensive law-and-order legislation to combat crime and terrorism."

There were at least 10 bills addressing justice and public-safety issues the Conservatives had introduced but not managed to pass into law before government fell in late March.

Mr. Harper promised during the election campaign they would come back as a single piece of omnibus legislation that would become law within 100 sitting days of Parliament.

It is unknown which of the bills will be included. They are a varied lot with wide-ranging ambitions. One would impose mandatory minimum sentences for a slate of drug crimes. One would prevent judges from imposing house arrest for a number of serious property and personal crimes. Three would increase the ability of police to conduct electronic surveillance.

Some are controversial for the increased number of people they would put behind bars at a time when crime rates are dropping.

But the Throne Speech indicated the government is keen to build further on its law-and-order agenda.

"Our government will continue to protect the most vulnerable in society and work to prevent crime," Mr. Johnston said. "It will propose tougher sentences for those who abuse seniors and will help at-risk youth avoid gangs and criminal activity. It will address the problem of violence against women and girls."

The omnibus bill will likely come first.

Anthony Doob, a criminology expert at the University of Toronto, said bundling bills together will make it very difficult for parliamentarians and others to suggest changes and modifications. "Putting it all in a big omnibus bill makes sure that nobody really gets a chance to grapple with it," he said.

But some people don't believe any changes will be needed.

Joe Wamback, a victim's rights advocate who was invited by the government to attend the Throne Speech, said he is aware of all of the bills that could potentially be in the omnibus legislation and "there isn't one there that I have any reservations about whatsoever."

Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, who founded the Murdered or Missing Persons' Families' Association after the 2002 murder of his daughter Julie, agrees.

"These are bills that will sentence people, with the right sentence , when it's a serious crime," Mr. Boisvenu said. "That's why we want to pass that bill as just one omnibus bill because a lot of those bills have been sitting in the [House]or the Senate for the last year."

But Eric Gottardi, a Vancouver lawyer and member of the national criminal justice section of the Canadian Bar Association, said lawyers are concerned with the rushed legislation.

"It really undermines a lot of the legislative process and it shortcuts a lot of the analysis and consideration that some of these bills are going to get," Mr. Gottardi said.

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