New Conservative Bill Seeks New Criminal Penalties for “Mischief,” Not Just Vandalism, Near War Memorials
If only there was a way for the news media to search through this country’s voluminous laws before writing a story. Oh wait, there is.
Bill C-217, tabled by David Tilson, sets up harsh punishments for vandalizing war memorials.
This is yet another in a long string of ways in which the Harper regime is trying to play up its great love of the military, despite the fact that its cavalier mismanagement of the military’s procurement programs, in particular, now easily exceeds even the depths of incompetence plumbed by the Chretien Liberals. This summer it emerged that Minister Peter MacKay’s office was apparently unable to run even a simple truck purchase contract in anything like a reasonable time. That contract was said to be “urgent” in 2006; it still hasn’t been signed.
Anyhow, the war memorial vandalism law. As it happens, it’s already illegal to vandalize a war memorial, or pretty much any other public structure, as you may recall from the infamous urination episode a few years back. Under Section 430 of the Criminal Code, penalties for destroying or damaging property range from summary conviction to jail time, with no mimimum sentence but a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.
What Tilson’s law actually does is carve out specific coverage for war memorials (as opposed to other structures), and then set up minimum sentences for them: a minimum $1000 fine for a first offence, a minimum 2 weeks in jail for a second offence, a minimum 30 days in jail for the third offence. CBC was impressed by the 10-year maximum penalty, but that was already in the act. So the first question, I suppose, is: why are war memorials alone receiving special treatment? All part of the Conservatives’ faux-he-man militarism, I suppose.
Somewhat more disturbing than this, though, is that the section of the Criminal Code being amended here isn’t a vandalism law, it’s a mischief law. In Canada, the mischief law includes vandalism but is also conceived of considerably more broadly. I’m sure you can imagine (particularly if you have experience with protests) what other non-vandalism-related activities might fall under section 430, now amended with special minimum punishments for war memorials:
Everyone commits mischief who willfully
(a) destroys or damages property;
(b) renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative, or neffective;
(c) obstructs, interrupts, or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or
(d) obstructs, interrupts, or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.
I’m not entirely sure what would constitute a lawful enjoyment of a war memorial, but I’m sure Vic Toews would be happy to explain.Tweet