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Photo by Mico Mazza

Students show their contempt for omnibus crime bill

DESPITE FREEZING TEMPERATURES and snowfall, the Young Greens at the University of Ottawa dressed up as policeman and prisoners, taking turns being locked up in mock jail cells—all to protest Bill C-10, the Harper government’s omnibus crime bill, on Tabaret lawn Dec. 2.

The bill, also known as the Safe Streets and Communities Act, consists of nine separate bills that aim to reduce crime in Canada. It has received criticism from experts and politicians alike for being unjust and ineffective.

“This is a bill that combines nine separate bills that all deserve their own debate and their own discussion individually,” said Emma Dickenson, a member of the Young Greens and assistant to Elizabeth May, Green Party leader. “Some aspects of the bill are reasonable … but then there are other parts of it that are completely cruel and will end up being a dangerous and expensive mistake.”

Between 10 and 15 protesters decorated jail cells made out of metal fences with signs reading, “This punishment doesn’t fit the crime” and “Upholding democracy is sexy.” Dickenson explained the protest aimed to keep the government accountable.

“We’re here just to create a dialogue and start discussion and make people aware,” she said. “We’re voicing our opinions on what we believe to be very flawed legislation and a perversion of the democratic process.”

Dickenson said one of the problems with the Conservative government is the lack of debate in the House of Commons and inability of members of Parliament to voice their opinions and concerns.

“Ultimately, I do feel that members of Parliament have forgotten their job—that they were elected to represent their constituents, not their parties, and definitely not their leaders,” said Dickenson.

“And we’d like Stephen Harper to lay off a little bit and stop punishing his caucus for not toeing the line,” she added. “We’ve seen examples … where members [of Parliament] are not toeing the line and agreeing with the leader; they get booted out of the caucus.”

Protesters pulled pedestrians off the sidewalk and asked them to stay in the metal jail cells while explaining their cause.

“We wanted to have a visual,” said Dickenson. “We had two mock jail cells and inside we had newspaper articles that tell you more about the bill and give opinions of a lot of stakeholders and interest groups that are not happy with the passing of this bill.”

Annalisa Harris, third-year political science student at the U of O and member of the Young Liberals, also supports the protest. She said there’s a need for political parties to work together if there is a common cause, like Bill C-10.

“I’m out here because we want to show that political parties can work together for a better political justice system,” she said. “We all agree that C-10 is not the way to go.”

—Jane Lytvynenko