In the wake of the mass shooting at one of Toronto’s most popular and crowded shopping malls, the federal Conservatives say they have given Canada’s judges the ability to mete out tough sentences for heinous crimes and they expect them to be imposed.
“We’ve taken some very strong steps in respect of mandatory minimum prison sentences for firearms. We feel that those mandatory prison sentences are absolutely necessary,” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told reporters as he headed into the House of Commons on Monday.
“I think we have to be very, very clear in our direction, not only in the Parliament here but in the courts, that this type of conduct will not be tolerated,” he said, “and that very significant sentences will be imposed in these kinds of cases.”
Christopher Husbands, 23, has been charged in the Saturday-evening shooting in the food court of the Eaton Centre in Toronto’s downtown that killed 24-year-old Ahmed Hassan and left six others with bullet wounds. Mr. Husbands was under house arrest at the time of the outburst of gunfire. Two of the victims in the shooting are believed to be linked to criminal gangs.
The Tory government eliminated the national long-gun registry earlier this year but they point out that the registry would have done nothing to prevent this type of carnage.
“In this particular case, as I understand it, it was a handgun that was used,” Mr. Toews said. “These guns, of course, continue to be registered. People are supposed to be licenced.” And the government has imposed mandatory minimum sentences for people who commit crimes with hand guns, said the minister.
The federal Conservatives came to power in January of 2006, a month after the fatal shooting of a teenage girl near the Eaton Centre rocked the country. They have spent much of the intervening years rewriting laws and creating new ones to make sentences more harsh.
Françoise Boivin, the NDP justice critic, said Monday that, despite those changes, the problem of criminal gangs keeps growing. What are really needed are more police on the ground, said Ms. Boivin.
Other approaches that have been taken by countries around the world seem to have been more effective, she said. “I do think that we need to look into an approach that gets [these people] before [they] get inside a gang.”
But Conservative MPs insist their government’s approach is the right one.
“The police process is working as it should,” said Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver who represents a Toronto riding. The shootings at the Eaton Centre show that crime can touch the average person who is totally innocent, he said, and that is why the government has talked about the need for laws that are protective of the population.
Bob Dechert, a Conservative MP from Mississauga, just west of Toronto, said society must send a message that these types of atrocities will not be tolerated.
“It is just morally reprehensible to me, and I think to everyone, that somebody would brazenly shoot in a crowded shopping mall in the middle of the day,” said Mr. Dechert. “And that just shows that we do have issues surrounding crime in this country and we have to be vigilant and make sure that our laws are appropriate and send the right penalties to people who perpetrate these kinds of crime.”