It Could Get Worse

Campaign Against Crime Bill Goes Viral

As Occupiers across North America were ripped from their tents, protesting students were maced on their own campuses, and police flexed their brass brutality, an equally insidious and serious news story was, until last week, flying under the media’s radar.

The Conservative Government’s omnibus crime Bill C-10, ironically named “The Safe Streets and Communities Act,” is currently being rushed through Parliament. To be frank, this bill is a huge fucking deal, with serious fiscal and social implications for our penal law system.

If you dig liberty and justice in this country, you need to start paying attention. Now.

It’s worth noting that this piece of ill-considered legislation has the Canadian Bar Association—representing over 37,000 law practitioners across the country—urging MPs to vote it down. The lawyers aren’t alone. Noted criminologists, policymakers, and even Republicans from Texas are taking issue.

Nope, that last part wasn’t a typo: even Republicans from the United State’s toughest crime-fighting jurisdiction believe this bill is a bad idea. That should tell you something.

The “tough on crime” provisions in the omnibus bill—which blankets law over young offenders, child sex offenders, drug crime and immigrant law—actually go against years of research on crime reduction and prevention, and will inevitably divert funding away from rehabilitation and community-based healing initiatives.

Also worth noting is that, under this bill, 80 per cent of university students could be considered criminals for recreational drug use, according to the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy. Up to 20 per cent of us would be liable to a mandatory two-year minimum sentence in a federal penitentiary for simply passing around drugs at a party.

One could go on and on about how backwards and heavy-handed this bill is, and how it will disproportionately affect youth and at-risk groups, but an onslaught of published articles have recently been doing just that.

Specifically, “10 Reasons to Oppose Bill C-10,” written by the Canadian Bar Association and published in The Vancouver Sun and Toronto Star last week has been especially resonating with Canadians as it straightforwardly breaks down the situation.

Closer to home, indie media darlings The Duty Myth, alongside the Forget the Box collective have started their own viral campaign, called “It Could Get Worse… Don’t Let It.”

Modeled after Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project that was created to support LGBT youth, the pair hopes Canadians start making and sharing videos and spreading awareness about the real implications of the policy.

With a healthy sense of urgency about the gravity of this issue—as C-10 could be going through a first reading as early as Thursday—the duo said they had to mobilize quickly to “cut through constitutional talk and legalese, to make this issue real for people.”

“It’s getting ploughed over by other news,” said Jordan Arseneault, a founding member of It Could Get Worse.

“This is Old-Testament, fire-and-brimstone justice they’re calling for, but it’s been swallowed. Protesting has occupied the news agenda over the last few weeks, […] and we hadn’t seen anything street, anything pedestrian about [the bill] to make people actually realize how serious this is.”

Spending the weekend filming ‘omnibusters’ of all stripes speaking up against the Bill—including one of the “McGill Four,” NDP MP Laurin Liu and Montreal director and Mirror film critic Mark Slutsky—the team hopes that generating interest will make a difference.

The Conservatives in the House, meanwhile, have been riding this bill through fear-mongering without fact-checking—wringing their hands and framing the debate around “rapists who prey on children,” and “individuals who grow drugs and sell them to children and sell them near schoolyards.”

Any MP demanding, you know, evidence of this hyperbole or testimony of experts is written off as “soft on crime” and in cahoots with child molesters. If you’re a masochist, or otherwise interested in witnessing this exercise in futility, the entire, infuriating MP play-by-play can be found at openparliament.ca.

“But even though there’s a Conservative majority, MPs are still responsive to their constituents,” argued Jason McLean, of FTB. “Harper removed the Internet [and electronic surveillance] provisions from this bill because of the public backlash, so if we can generate outrage for the entire bill, there’s a chance we might be able to stop it.”

Launching on Monday, It Could Get Worse hopes their videos will connect with people, get posted and re-posted, and inspire folks to mobilize or make their own.

If the bill continues its course of wild unpopularity, the Conservatives will have no choice but to slow the heck down on this one, argue the omnibusters.

“Call your MPs, talk to their secretaries, email them and sign petitions. If you’re a student from another province where there is a strong Conservative base, call your parents, send them the videos, call your auntie, your grandma,” encouraged Arseneault.

“They were probably rad at some point too, long before their mini van and mortgage, and they might sympathize that our generation could be criminalize for something as minor as pot use. […] Occupy your parents and your MPs. Tell them to get with it.”

Plans are in the works for a cross-Canadian day of action on Thursday thanks to the efforts of the folks of leadnow.ca . To see the omnibuster videos, post your own, or learn more, head to itcouldgetworse.com .

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