Criminal Omnibus Bill (Safe Streets and Communities Act)

The Safe Streets and Communities Act, S.C. 2012, c. 1 (Bill C-10), has been extremely controversial.

Combining amendments from nine separate bills that had failed to pass in previous sessions of parliament, Bill C-10 makes fundamental changes to almost every component of Canada’s criminal justice system:

  • New criminal offences 
  • New and increased mandatory minimum sentences 
  • The selective elimination of conditional sentences 
  • Increased pretrial detention and new, harsher sentencing principles for young offenders;
  • Longer waiting times before individuals can apply for pardons 
  • Increased barriers for Canadians detained abroad who wish to serve the remainder of their sentence at home

The Bill also introduces some changes outside the criminal justice system:

  • Amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act would grant the Minister of Immigration broad discretion to deny work permits to any foreign national who is ‘at risk of abuse';
  • Amendments to various pieces of legislation to allow victims of terrorism to sue certain foreign entities and governments for damages

Justice critic Jack Harris stated “We think it will lead to more punishment but not safer streets, not a deterrence against criminals and in fact there will be more victims, more crimes and less safety on our streets.”

Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has concerns with several aspects of the omnibus crime bill, including mandatory minimum sentences and overreliance on incarceration, constraints on judges’ discretion to ensure a fair result in each case, and the Bill’s impact on specific, already disadvantaged groups. 

“The impact on northern residents, Aboriginal people and people with mental illness will be especially profound,” 
says Dan MacRury, of Sydney, Nova Scotia, chair of the CBA’s National Criminal Justice Section. The CBA believes that the Bill will make already serious criminal justice system problems much worse, with huge resource implications.

CBA Section released a position paper stating that bundling several critical and entirely distinct criminal justice initiatives into one omnibus Bill is inappropriate, and not in the spirit of Canada’s democratic process.

“Even more important than our concerns about the process is our concern about the general direction of these initiatives. The CBA is committed to public safety, and there is broad consensus among reputable Canadian criminal justice experts as to what is most effective in achieving a safer society. 

In our view, the initiatives in Bill C-10 go in a contrary direction. They adopt a punitive approach to criminal behavior, rather than one concentrated on how to prevent that behavior in the first place, or rehabilitate those who do offend. As most offenders will one day return to their communities, we know that prevention and rehabilitation are most likely to contribute to public safety.”

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the implementation of the various aspects of legislation will be “spaced out” over a period of time.

In force information

The Safe Streets and Communities Act, S.C. 2012, c. 1 (Bill C-10), received Royal Assent on March 13, 2012. 

The sections that require proclamation to be brought into force are 
listed here, and so far, there has only been one proclamation.

P.C. 2012-559 brings sections 135 and 136 of the Act into force as of  May 3, 2012. They are amending sections 3, 10(1) and 10(2) of the International Transfer of Offenders Act.

However, some sections also came into force upon Royal Assent – sections 32(2), 48, 108-146, 148-159, and 161-165.

Amending the Criminal Code:

s. 32(2) replaced Paragraph 515(6)(d) of the Criminal Code with the following: 

(d) with having committed an offence punishable by imprisonment for life under any of sections 5 to 7 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act or the offence of conspiring to commit such an offence.

Amending the National Defence Act:

s. 48 replaced Subparagraph (a)(ii) of the definition “designated offence” in section 153 of the English version of the National Defence Act is replaced by the following: 
       (ii) an offence punishable by imprisonment for life under subsection 5(3), 6(3) or 7(2) of the 
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or

Amending the Criminal Records Act:

s. 108-146 – in summary, it substitutes the term 'record suspension' for the term 'pardon'.

Amending the DNA Identification Act; the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; Limiting Pardons for Serious Crimes Act; National Defence Act; Youth Criminal Justice Act:
s. 148-159

And Transitional Provisions:

s. 161-165

Detailed information on the status of the Safe Streets and Communities Act, S.C. 2012, c. 1 (Bill C-10), can be found here



May 7, 2012