Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer on Thursday promised that, if elected, he will toughen the punishment for those found guilty of child abuse with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
He told those gathered in a Montreal suburb that he will make sure sentences for those committing sexual crimes against children take into account the length and severity of the abuse, the Canadian Press reported.
Scheer, who is vying for the House of Commons in the fall federal election, said that the penalty should “fit” the severity of the crime and said survivors need to know that Ottawa will appropriately punish offenders.
“Under my leadership, a Conservative government will always put the rights of victims ahead of the rights of criminals,” the party leader said in a statement, added that those guilt of child abuse will “be behind bars, where they belong, for a very long time.”
The policy announcement received some positive feedback from those that identify as left-leaning or progressive as well as from his own conservative base.
Calling the announcement “a very brave stance for a Catholic to take”, Brad Fraser wrote “I look forward to Scheer’s persecution of the church for its centuries long record of raping children”, on Twitter.
Though Guelph’s Conservative riding association was quiet on social media about the announcement, other party organizations praised the decision as a much-needed reform for the justice system.
A criminal and civil rights lawyer, David Fai, responded to the announcement by saying that by fighting for minimum mandatory sentences, Scheer and the Tories are not respecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Courts have struck down mandatory minimums lower than he proposes,” Fai tweeted, fighting back against the reality of Scheer’s proposal to fix what the party leader sees as sentencing guidelines that fall short.
A spokesperson for the justice minister told CBC News that the “Criminal Code mandates serious jail time for those convicted of offences against children,” pointing to the example of 14-year maximum for sexual offences as well as life imprisonment for when a restricted weapon is used.
David Taylor continued, adding in his email response that “life sentences are also available in cases involving the kidnapping, forcible confinement and human trafficking of children,” also arguing that Scheer’s plan would slow down the justice system as defence lawyers went after minimums.
Thursday’s announcement is part of a five-part series of speeches that the prime minster-hopeful is making over several days to outline his views on the justice system, foreign policy, the environment and more, the Canadian Press reported.