In response to their concerns, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has stated that they "have been active partners in this push for legislation. They are the ones who came to us and said, 'We need this legislation'. So they are our partners, in terms of not only the crime-fighting agenda but the cost... Those are their responsibilities as well. And I believe they are - many of them are - prepared to shoulder the responsibility" (read 6 October article by Bronskill).
With implications that will likely range in the billions of dollars, the cumulative impacts and financial costs of new federal sentencing measures were not listed as a major agenda item for discussion at the October 14 and 15 Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Meeting of Ministers responsible for Justice in Vancouver (read press release). The only passages of the press release that suggests that such discussions may have occurred include a reference to "an overview of recent federal legislative initiatives" and a remark that "Ministers emphasized the need to work collaboratively on criminal law reform".
Having been invited by the Provincial-Territorial Heads of Corrections to provide an overview of the report I submitted to them and their federal counterparts regarding current prison construction initiatives this past May (read 31 May presentation notes), where I warned them of the challenges they can expect to face as they are left to absorb the influx of new prisoners serving longer sentences with fewer chances of release prior to their warrant expiry dates, I am surprised that the costs of incarceration was not item number one at the recent FPT meeting.
The fact that one year removed from the tabling of the Changing Face of Corrections Report (read press release from the 2009 FPT meeting) - which has yet to be released to the public despite my efforts to obtain this multi-jurisdictional taxpayer-funded study through access to information requests (read 5 May post) - this issue was not on the official record of high-level FPT meetings is puzzling. This leads me to ask the following questions:
Are the provinces and territories worried that discussing the costs of incarceration with the federal government could result in their being labelled 'soft on crime' and that is why they are now remaining silent (at least publicly)?
Are the provinces and territories simply asleep at the switch, and are not taking the avalanche that is heading straight towards their prisons seriously?
In either case, in the months ahead Canadians will likely hear about more cases of violence and deaths inside prisons, labour disputes and budgetary quagmires from coast-to-coast-to-coast as a direct result of our current race to incarcerate.
And while governments will say "pay no mind to the rabble... go back to sleep" (listen to "Pet" by APC), we should be worried about the powder keg that will eventually explode and awaken us from our collective slumber.
My information request (number JUS-10-57) filed with the Nova Scotia Department of Justice to obtain a copy of the Changing Face of Corrections report was denied in full on 20 October 2010 pursuant to section 12 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act as "disclosure of this report could reasonably be expected to harm relations between the Government of Nova Scotia and other provinces in Canada.
Again, Canadians do not have a right to know about the contents of this report (read 5 May 2010 post).
Another case of democracy in action.