Open Letter to Stephen Harper Regarding Omnibus Crime Bill C-10

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For those of you concerned about the pending Omnibus Crime Bill C-10, there is an online petition to register your alarm. There may be other petitions (I don’t know the folks behind this one) but at this point I will sign my name alongside any co-beligerants who anticipate the harm of this bill. I wrote a letter to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson similar to the one to Mr. Harper below.  

You can access the on-line petition at:

Also – all of the information to write, email or contact Mr. Harper is on the government’s site. Hand-written letters are the most effective : To Contact Stephen Harper, click here.

Please note – though my political sentiments tend to be left leaning, this letter is not anti-Conservative or anti-Harper. It is honest concern about a particular bill that I think is extremely unwise and will be tragically harmful if passed as is.  Also,  I welcome supportive or contrary opinion below, but will delete comments that smack of vitriol or character assasination.

see also: Bill C-10: A Glimpse Into the Soul of a Nation?


Dear Mr. Harper,

I am deeply concerned about Omnibus Bill C-10.  It is my  wife’s research (as a social-work student at Booth University College in Winnipeg) that has refocused  my attention to the bill. The more I followed her work, the more concerned I have become.

Firstly, I believe there  are some good things in the bill – let me be clear about that. But there are also some alarmingly retrogressive policies that will undoubtably be a black stain on your leadership for decades to come if passed as is. For the love of God and your fellow Canadians, please slow the process of this bill down. Break-up the omnibus to its components and consider each individually and carefully.

Honestly… in the last election I was prepared, for the first time in my life, to vote Conservative. I tend to be a bit left leaning myself, but thought that at this particular juncture perhaps a conservative economic approach trumped other concerns. Also, I live in Conservative MP  Joy Smith’s riding and have deeply appreciated her noble fight against human trafficking. But in the end I could not, by extension, sign my name to a  bill that blanketly criminalizes the ill and the desperate when other measures are proven to be cheaper, more effective and more humane.

I have no need to demonize those who have different opinions than me. But please tell me… who is being served by taking away the power of judges to discern individual cases and sentence accordingly? Who is being served by harsh punitive measures for crimes that are rooted in addictions and poverty when prevention and restorative measures are proven to be far more effective? Who is being served by costly measures that disrupt family and community economies instead of promoting personal responsibility and community well-being?  We need a much more sophisticated and nuanced response to crime and public safety than what this bill will produce.

Frankly, I’m a little surprised that you, who shares the same Christian faith I embrace, propose to rule out discernment and mercy from the justice system. A broad-scope survey of Biblical history shows a slow but progressive movement away from a merciless justice which favours retribution to restoration.

Know also, my convictions come from lifelong experience of the Canadian Penitentiary system. My father was a protestant Chaplain who served roughly 30 years in federal prisons in  Drumheller, Stony Mountain, Edmonton and, toward the end of his career,  as regional Chaplain of the Maritime Provinces.  Dad is a thoughtful man who tends toward a more conservative ideology, but finds himself utterly bewildered and alienated from ideologies that do not honour or respect the long hard work of practitioners in the field, expert research or verifiable fact.

Mr. Harper, please reconsider.  I don’t believe you have the majority of Canadians’ support for this.  You certainly do not have the support of experts in the field.  Again, this administration will be well remembered for a costly mistake in judgement in support of structures that will have to be dismantled at great expense to the individuals, families and communities that make up our nation.

Meanwhile, I  do sincerely pray for your health and the well being of your beloved. I wish you every good success in the office with which you have been charged and I thank you for carrying the weighty burden the office demands.


Steve Bell
singer/ songwriter



23 thoughts on “Open Letter to Stephen Harper Regarding Omnibus Crime Bill C-10

  1. Thanks Steve. Politically i’m a red Tory and too am unable to support this legislation. I see a lot of fear and political expediency in this Bill, reactions against a few erroneous judgement made a few Judges.

  2. Wonderfully worded message! SOMEbody should pay attention to such a heart-felt sound of alarm.

  3. What divine diplomacy! I pray Mr. Harper takes notice, slows this down, and better consults with those in the trenches. Maybe an invitation to jam/sing with you might help ;p

  4. Well said Steve. Having recently walked through the Restorative Justice process as a result of my brother’s death in a motor vehicle incident, I am bewildered that so much political will is still supporting retribution. More voices must be raised in support of restoration. Keep up the good work. Lois.

  5. Steve
    A well written letter. And obviously a matter that has longed weighed on your heart. Sadly I remain much more skeptical about the research of experts in most fields of social science. These days defining objectivity in that broad area seems hopeless.,
    I do have have a caveat re: your posting however. Are you intending to address the multitude of other political concerns we confront, especially the general chill in the Canadian air toward social policy that is not left leaning? You will get general support as perhaps you should for this posting, but suppose you take your present fine social activism efforts and add to them an eloquent plea for the rights of the unborn addressed to Mr. Harper and posted on your web site. That I suspect might be less acceptable though to my mind equally as needed.
    As a public person with a following where do you draw the line with what issue to go public with. It is a heavy challenge. Now that you’ve made a personal political statement public how are you going to select what other pressing political or social matters to address? The pressure is there. I’ve just suggested one. I’m sure others will present more.
    I wait to see more additions to the web site.

    Ian Shaw

    reply: Ian – I don’t speak out publicly (as I’ve done here) on most things that concern me, and I do not consider myself an activist. But there was an inner energy behind this one that I couldn’t ignore. It’s the same way with me in concerts – out of the 150 songs I can choose to sing next, a single song will present itself with great force and I know I’m supposed to do it. Whenever I ignore that prompting, the energy for the concert quickly diminishes and I find myself struggling to finish. It was the same with this. The older I get, the more I’m learning to attend to that inner voice. I’m not here to take on every issue but to heed the voice when it speaks.


  6. Can’t imagine where you find the time to write such a thoughtful letter with such eloquence and finesse. Trust it’s not to late and that something will challenge Prime Minister Harper to slow the whole process down and allow more time for committee to execute ‘due diligence’ and let those who have the voice and experience to play this out. Simply far to important to rush without more debate and dialogue. And all of this is said from someone who did vote for the conservative party in Atlantic Canada.

  7. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for this and for listening to your inner prompting. I sent a letter several days ago, too. We can pray that he listens.

  8. Steve – you have NOT quoted any section from the Omnibus Bill C-10 to reference your claims. I have searched through this bill in order to find the disturbing sections that you refer to and I am not having any success. It’s a long bill – please help me!! I did see a number of items that make sense (i.e. victims of terrorism, protection FOR YOUTH from sexual and drug exploitation, section on drugs – which does not appear to be what the URHI claims it to be).

    Perhaps a discussion about what Canada needs would be more beneficial than merely raising alarm.


    Lyle – What has opponents of the bill concerned are the implications of mandatory minimum sentencing which rules out provisional sentencing for certain crimes. This means that judges can’t rule community service or other provisional measures for crimes that are not violent and where deemed more appropriate to the situation. This places a lot more people in prison (at young ages) which statistically creates more career criminals. It necessitates the building of more prisons and guarantees increased stress (from overcrowding) on what we already have. The costs of maintaining people in prison is enormous and the cost to families is incalculable. If one looks at who, in particular, the weight of this measure falls on (disproportionately from the ranks of the poor and the mentally ill) it’s hard not to be cynical. We need prisons certainly, we need to protect the lawful from the lawless, but we need to be able to discern between who is willfully criminal and who is situationally criminal. In the second case, addressing the situation (prevention and rehabilitation) is less costly, more compassionate, and spreads the burden of inequality over the whole of society instead of letting it fall on the few.

    All the opponents to the bill I’ve encountered believe there is much in the bill that is good – but presented as an omnibus, the bad gets passed with the good.


  9. Thank you, Steve, for writing that thoughtful letter. As a Chaplain with more conservative leanings I am still concerned that the intent of this bill is punitive not restorative and based on research, does not, in fact, make our public safer but more fearful. Thanks for you courage to speak out.

  10. I’m sure this bill has come about because the public has become quite weary and oftentimes disgusted at the weak sentences given to people who commit vicious crimes, often leaving the victim with serious injuries , including brain damage. On the other hand, I think discretion and common sense needs to be used by judges in sentencing – this often seems to be sadly lacking. I also think that we should listen to the Americans regardling their experiences with punitive justice versus sentences that focus on rehabilitation.. Maybe we can learn from their experience !

  11. Amen Steve!! Having went through the system myself i met many wonderful christsian women who had made mistakes, most of which were linked back to transgressions against them by the male figures in their life during their childhoods. I have always been proud of our current system and its respect for psychosis and mental illness and focusing on healing and reintegration into society rathen then locking you up and throwing away the key. Canada has always been a country full of HOPE, even among those involved in criminal activity, 99% of them want out, they want a normal life, they HOPE and they PRAY and if this bill is passed i believe it will not only hurt the HOPE of our criminals but of their families and loved ones as well. The bible teaches us to love one another, turn the other cheek and to repent and become just. We need to be given a chance at this and in ontario at least, our jails are full of social workers, psychologist, psychiatrists and other people to help you deal with the reasons behind what got you there in the first place and to help set you up in the best possible way for your release. I do not believe my Lord would punish me for my wrongdoings while suffering from an llness and although we do need to be held accountable i dont think we need to be punished, we need to be guided the way our loving Father would guide us and we need more true social support upon release, not just a PO but someone like a social worker or therapist to help you deal with the traumas that led to your transgressions in the first place. This would also bring more jobs to rural communities (like kenora) and would aid in keeping people on the right track. You said it in your story about Drumheller that there is an honesty within prison walls that doesnt exist on the outside world because there really is no bias as everyone knows they are there for a reason. We need to keep Canada’s hope alive and our faith in the justice system should not be shaken. Thats my two cents!

  12. The mercy you give will be the mercy you receive. November 9 1984 is when the lord showed me mercy by giving me the faith to hear Him and respond to His request of love to have a relationship with Him. I have worked in street and prison ministry since 1991 to the present and have seen many men and women respond to the love Jesus offered to them. i have seen Restorative Justice work. I have seen hardened individuals change and become the man or woman they were meant to be. I have living in my household two men who received that care and love and they responded with a resounding Yes to the love of jesus and the people who believed they deserved
    another chance. i stand with all who believe this bill should be prayed and thought out more. God so loved us that He gave us another chance!

  13. Dear Steve:
    Good for you. I totally agree with you and I am thankful that you make your voice heard in such a respectful and clear way. Greetings to your mom and dad.


  14. Thank you, Steve, for sharing this open letter. Sometimes we feel that we won’t be listened to when we voice our opinions, but you have motivated me to write to my own MP. Thank you for giving permission to use some of the ways you have expressed yourself. It is clear and yet respectful of those in authority.

  15. Well said and well written. We should however be careful to distinguish between retribution and jjust punishment. I prefer to use the latter. Some areas of the bill should be changed.

  16. Thanks for posting your letter and joining in the campaign against Bill C-10. Discernment is a cornerstone to justice. Well written letter.

  17. I too am very alarmed at this bill. No more pardons? But by the grace of God he has pardoned me. This is a move towards big prisons and heavy handedness…..very sad and very scary.

  18. Steve ; unlike you , I tend to be right-leaning in my political beliefs as I know a great many Christians are . Every government is subject to making mistakes but I am not so sure this is a mistake. I think there can be errors made with sentencing with the bill as is but I also see a huge lack of judgement on the sentencing now , our prisons are hotbeds of discontent & rampant drug use and , yes , I know that for sure because I know a number of guards. Gangs run rampant in our prison system. I don’t see a lot of rehab & re-integrating into society. Sherriff Joe Airipio(?) in Arizona has the right way to approach convicted felons. A tent city in the desert , no air-conditioning , no fancy meals , 3 tv stations & hard work. These people are there for a reason & we need to treat them that way . I believe in humanitarian causes as much as you do , but , man , I just can’t see making these people more comfortable or Molly-coddling them is going to rehab them. I grew up in the 50s & 60s and was involved in the drug scene & it was a choice , not a disease . We need our young people & our older people to start accepting accountability , personal responsibility. I’m not sure what the answer is but I know that the current system does not work & something has to change . Some of these light sentences for outrageous crimes need to change & we need to get control of what happens in our prisons. In Manitoba , there is actually a law that says if you are native & charged with a crime , that has to be taken into account . How ridiculous can a society get ? I will say this for sure – if we don’t get some kind of control in our prison system & get punishments that fit the crime , sooner or later Canadians will rise up & say ” enough is enough “

  19. Hi Steve,

    We just saw you in concert tonight in Chilliwack…….really enjoyed your music and dialogue!!!!!!
    I appreciate your stories especially your involvment in prison ministry. I have worked for CSC as an RN for 16 years, most of those in a maximum security facility. I deeply agree with restorative justice and so I would appreciate hearing about the concerns you have with C10.

    Regards, Keith Schroots

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