Between Conservative ideology and Liberal and NDP reluctance, as evidenced during recent debates on the Gun Registry and the treatment of young offenders, the Bloc Québécois is the only party that stands up to ensure that justice protects the public and that it does not serve to further an ideology, without being lenient, as seen with the abolition of automatic parole after one-sixth of the sentence has been served.
Quebeckers like respect and dialogue. A belligerent foreign policy, where solidarity gives way to threats and law to force, is against our values. The Bloc Québécois does not hesitate to say: when it comes to justice, Stephen Harper’s Canada is downright disquieting and even dangerous".
- 2011 Bloc Québecois Election Platform, p. 19.
Since 2006, the Bloc Québecois has been the voice in opposition that has most often opposed the Conservative punishment agenda that privileges incapacitation, deterrence, denunciation and a particular vision of proportionality over the pursuit of rehabilitation. With that said, their recent involvement in the drafting and passage of the Abolition of Early Parole Act - a law which eliminated eligibility for all first-time, non-violent 'offenders' to be paroled and supervised in the community at one-sixth of their sentences in the name of Vincent Lacroix and other 'white collar criminals' - signals the degree to which the Bloc is willing to engage in populist punitiveness when it suits their electioneering needs.
While much of their 2011 election platform (read here) is not focussed on 'just us' measures, the Bloc has committed to oppose attempts to eliminate the long-gun registry, resist attempts to limit the sentencing discretion of judges, and encourage the rehabilitation and reintegration of youth into society, while also supporting getting "tougher on organized crime, street gangs and white collar criminals" (pp. 20-22).
Given the lack of specific measures the Bloc would support to achieve these penal policy stances, a few points of clarification are required. For instance, if the party wishes to preserve judicial discretion, how does it reconcile this position with their recent support of the Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act which included mandatory minimum sentences? Is this not an example of restricting judicial discretion? And does getting 'tougher' on the other categories of 'crime' listed above also mean that the Bloc will again sacrifice its position on judicial discretion in the future? If so, what is the justification and does an emphasis on sentencing serve to prevent such harms from taking place or restore what victims have lost?
Given the Bloc's proclivity to attack the Conservatives for their ideological stance on how to address the complex conflicts and harms in our communities that we call 'crime', their willingness to make use of the same taglines and adopt sentencing measures in certain cases that fly in the face of their broader position on such issues requires, in my view, an explanation. Then again, maybe not in a political climate where sucking and blowing at the same time is par for the course.