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Quebec minister tries again to sway Tories on crime bill

A guard patrols a Toronto jail in February, 2011.

Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier is back in Ottawa Tuesday morning in a last-ditch attempt to convince the Conservatives to amend their controversial anti-crime bill.

With just two days to go before the House of Commons justice committee completes a clause-by-clause review of the bill, Mr. Fournier will meet with his federal counterpart, Rob Nicholson, to once again make his case for changes to the legislation.

The province is most concerned about the bill's proposal to toughen penalties for young offenders, which Mr. Fournier fears would diminish the justice system's focus on rehabilitation. He also wants Ottawa to allow the provinces to bow out of a measure to allow young offenders' names to be published.

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A spokesman said Mr. Fournier is visiting at Mr. Nicholson's invitation so the two could discuss the amendments in person.

The last time Mr. Fournier was in Ottawa to speak about the legislation, he accused the federal government of ignoring statistics in its efforts to toughen penalties for criminals.

"Science exists for a reason. At some point in the past someone discovered that the Earth was round," he told a parliamentary committee.

Several provinces, including Quebec, have suggested they would refuse to pay the cost of the legislation, which they say will put more people in prison for longer.

Liberal and NDP MPs have proposed dozens of amendments to the 208-clause bill, but none have so far have been accepted by the Conservative MPs who dominate the committee.

Last Thursday, Conservatives put forward a motion to end the committee's review of the bill by midnight that night, sparking angry words from opposition members and Mr. Fournier himself, who called the move "tough on democracy."

Eventually, the Conservatives relented, agreeing to extend the committee's consideration of the bill to Tuesday and Wednesday.

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In a letter to Mr. Fournier last week, Mr. Nicholson insisted that rehabilitation and reintegration of young offenders will still be foundational principles for Canada's youth justice system if Bill C-10 is passed.

But Mr. Nicholson's letter also suggested Ottawa has no intention of backing down on its plans for tougher youth sentencing, which he said are necessary to protect the public.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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