Monday, October 24, 2011

Conservatives table legislation to outlaw snowball throwing

Bill C-17 proposes a minimum three month jail term for snowball throwing.

Ottawa – The Conservative government introduced another controversial piece of law-and-order legislation in the House of Commons today. Bill C-17, Adam's Law, seeks to make snow ball throwing a criminal offence. The proposed legislation is named for Adam Olinivitch who spent an entire afternoon in hospital being treated for a bloody nose after being hit in the face with a snowball on February 12, 2009 . If passed, bill C-17 will implement a mandatory minimum sentence of three months in prison for throwing snowballs.

"The Conservative government is sending a strong message to snowball throwers across the country with this important piece of legislation," remarked Justice Minister Rob Nicholson as part of his presentation of Adam's Law. "On May 2nd the Conservative government was given a strong mandate by Canadians to get tough on crime and stand up for victims. This bill helps deliver on our campaign promises by setting meaningful consequences for criminals, and offering real support to victims."

The minister cited 500,000 incidents of snow ball throwing in 2010, with at least 40,000 cases of injury or psychological trauma being inflicted upon the victim, as well as "countless" unreported incidents.

Nicholson fought off NDP house leader Joe Comartin's assertion that snowball throwing has been on the decline for three decades. "Reporting levels for these types of crimes are very low," insisted the minister. "And we've made it quite clear to this House and to Canadians that we don't govern on the basis of statistics."
Although smaller in scope than the much-maligned Safe Streets and Communities Act introduced in parliament last month, the current bill has also drawn criticism from a broad range of criminal justice experts. University of Toronto criminologist Anthony Doob decried the bill for proposing to criminalize what he sees as  a national pastime. "I have studied criminology for 25 years, and I have never seen a government overstep its bounds so flagrantly in the realm of criminal justice as this government has. I mean, snowball throwing? Really? What's next, a ban on laughter? This is ludicrous." The National Bar Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and hosts of youth have also come out in opposition of the proposed legislation.

Although criticism of the bill is widespread, the union representing elementary school principles and vice-principles has taken a strong stand in favour of the legislation. "We have been lobbying government for years to institute a law of this sort. Snowball throwing has become an epidemic on the playgrounds of schools across Canada. No longer will a handful of bullies be allowed to terrorize their classmates. I commend the Conservatives for taking strong and decisive action," remarked Mary Coal, president of the Canadian Union of Educational Administrators.

Prime Minister Stepen Harper spoke out in the House of Commons earlier today, accusing opposition parties'  criticism of Adam's Law as "being soft on crime". "We are living in a time of economic uncertainty in which we can ill afford to allow the reckless behaviour of snowball throwing to go unchecked. It's bad for our communities, it's bad for the economy, and quite frankly, by not supporting this law the opposition parties are telling Canadians that they don't care about victims of crime."

When pressed by Liberal Justice critic Marlene Jennings to articulate the negative effect that snowball throwing has on the Canadian economy, Harper accused the Notre-Dame-de-GrâceLachine MP of attempting to play divisive politics. "We simply cannot afford to play games of this nature while Canada's economic recovery hangs in the balance," the clearly agitated Prime Minister objected.

The second reading of the bill is slated for early November, after which it will be sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for review.

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