Critics call Tory omnibus crime bill 'undemocratic'

Susan O'Sullivan, federal ombudsman for victims of crime, is seen in Ottawa, October 18, 2011....

Susan O'Sullivan, federal ombudsman for victims of crime, is seen in Ottawa, October 18, 2011. Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency

Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 1:35 PM ET

The Conservative government is leapfrogging proper scrutiny in its rush to pass its omnibus crime bill, MPs at the Commons justice committee were told Tuesday.

Eric Gottardi, with the Canadian Bar Association, cautioned portions of the "complicated and important piece of legislation" have received too little consultation as the Tories move to pass it within the first 100 sitting days of Parliament.

"It is, in our respective view, undemocratic," he said.

A series of witnesses packed the committee room Tuesday to pick apart various elements of the tough-on-crime legislation before it moves to final reading in the House of Commons.

Critics derided the bill as a "legally illiterate" and costly piece of legislation that will do little to make Canadians safer.

"The evidence is overwhelming that putting more people in prison for longer periods of time have no salutary effect on public safety," said Michael Jackson, with the Canadian Bar Association.

Victims' rights groups, however, argued it didn't go far enough in protecting those harmed by violent crime.

"The balance between offenders rights and victims rights is stark and unjust," said the federal ombudsman for victims of crime, Susan O'Sullivan, calling for a review of victims' access to parole hearings.

MPs also got an update on the estimated cost of the bill to the federal prison system.

Don Head, Correctional Service of Canada commissioner, said his department would need a budget boost of $34 million over five years to handle the capital and operational costs of the bill. The figures don't include costs to the provinces.

It's not the first time the Tories have come under fire for speeding the Bill C-10 through Parliament.

They faced criticism for limiting debate on the bill in the House of Commons after the Liberals pushed to delay the legislation.

The omnibus legislation combines nine separate justice bills into one.


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