Winnipeggers gathered outside the Manitoba legislature on Nov. 8 to try and change the provincial government’s stance on Bill C-10.
Bill C-10, dubbed the “omnibus crime bill” and forwarded by the federal government, pushes for stronger drug penalties and mandatory minimum sentencing.
The provinces of Ontario and Quebec have spoken against Bill C-10 and have said they will not pay for the proposed changes. Manitoba Attorney General Andrew Swan supports the bill.
The John Howard Society of Manitoba organized the rally against the crime bill.
Protesters raised colourful signs with messages reading “Kill Bill C10,” “Jobs not Gangs,” and “Jobs + Education Not more Jails.”
Two young men climbed the steps of the legislature and unrolled a large black banner that read “Time does not stop Crime” in white letters and held it up for most of the rally.
Throughout the rally the crowd listened to individuals and organizations speak against Bill C-10.
Organizations present at the rally were the John Howard Society, B.U.I.L.D., Onashowewin Inc., the Elizabeth Fry Society, and Occupy Winnipeg.
The crowd chanted “kill the bill” between the speeches and walked to the Remand Centre chanting “jobs not jails.”
John Hutton, the executive director of the John Howard Society of Manitoba, explained that it is important to protest the bill because it is a significant step that will commit Canadians to spending a lot of money and will be very difficult to undo.
“We need to make our voices heard now,” Hutton said. “This is not a good bill; it doesn’t work, we can’t afford it, we need a solution to crime that works.”
Hutton said he hopes the provincial government heard what the rally was saying and reconsiders its support for the bill.
The John Howard Society has been speaking out on the issue of Bill C-10 since the middle of September and will continue to do so, said Hutton.
“I think that until [Bill C-10] is passed [ . . . ] into law by the Senate we just can’t give up the fight.”
Bob Godin, a participant in the rally, said it was important to get involved.
“We feel we can do more work in the community with the offenders than we can inside the walls,” said Godin
Godin said he thinks correctional institutions are already overcrowded and that if more people have to be housed in jails then it will mean more building, more money, and more cost to the taxpayer.
Cora Morgan, the speaker for Onashowewin Inc, said she thinks it is important to speak out because the bill would greatly affect the aboriginal community.
“There needs to be a voice for the people that are getting caught up in the jail system,” she said.
Morgan said that her objections to Bill C-10 are based on incarceration and minimum sentencing.
“Right now prison systems are just breeding more criminals.”
Morgan said she hopes the protest will make the Manitoba government reconsider their position on Bill C-10.
Alex Paterson, an organizer for Occupy Winnipeg who spoke at the rally, said he hopes for a bigger change.
“I hope the protest is the beginning of a resistance movement to the Harper regime,” he said.
Paterson said he has specific and ideological objections to Bill C-10. He said he believes the bill furthers a regressive agenda.
“All it’s going to do is make things worse,” Paterson said.
The concerns over the additional costs of the bill are not enough to oppose the federal criminal law amendments because costs would be borne by both levels of government, said Rachel Morgan, a spokesperson for the provincial government, in an email response.
“Manitoba welcomes the federal crime bill,” she said.
The bill will toughen federal laws that the Manitoba government has been pushing for, said the spokesperson, who also stated that the government’s stance on the bill remains the same following the rally.