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Tory changes to crime bill echo Liberal amendments rejected earlier

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has proposed six changes to the omnibus anti-crime bill.

Chris Wattie/Reuters

The Conservative government is scrambling to alter its omnibus crime bill – just weeks after it rejected similar changes proposed by the opposition in a parliamentary committee.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews asked on Tuesday to make six last-minute amendments to the sweeping legislation, all to the portion of the bill designed to allow victims of terrorism to sue the perpetrators in Canadian courts.

The minister's changes sought to broaden the scope of the bill to include state sponsors of terrorism and affiliated groups, and closely mirrored a set of amendments proposed in committee by Liberal justice critic Irwin Cotler. All of those amendments were rejected by Conservative MPs without debate.

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House Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled on Tuesday that all of Mr. Toews's amendments were out of order, saying they should have been dealt with during the committee's clause-by-clause review.

"We're now in a bit of a dilemma, because now the government has finally come around to supporting these amendments, but now they've been rejected," Mr. Cotler told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday. "They didn't take the process seriously."

A spokesman for Mr. Toews said the changes came late because the government was still holding discussions with victims of terrorism after the committee ended its review.

"The minister had ongoing conversations, as we do, with stakeholders, and there was a belief the amendments should be put forward," Michael Patton said.

Jack Harris, the NDP's justice critic, said that if the Conservatives felt they needed further discussion on the bill, they shouldn't have limited the review.

"If they weren't finished, why were they rushing through this clause-by-clause [review]" Mr. Harris said. "Clearly they abandoned a reasoned approach for the sake of a political agenda."

The Conservatives imposed a time limit on the committee's review of the legislation, arguing that many of the opposition's nearly 200 amendments didn't support the spirit of the legislation and were wasting time.

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The government will have another opportunity to introduce the changes when the bill goes to the Senate.

The sweeping anti-crime legislation combines nine bills the Conservatives failed to pass in previous Parliaments, including new mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes and tougher sentencing for violent young offenders.

Opposition MPs have argued that the legislation has been rushed through Parliament.

"The evidence of the speed and the lack of consideration comes from the fact that they put these amendments in themselves at the 11th hour," Mr. Harris said.

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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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