POLITICS

Manitoba justice minister wants tough charges for violent crimes

01/20/2012 01:27 EST | Updated 03/21/2012 05:12 EDT
WINNIPEG - Manitoba's attorney general is pushing for tougher charges for those who commit knife crimes, carjackings and home invasions.

Andrew Swan said he'll be pushing for harsher penalties for these violent offences in particular when the country's justice ministers meet next week. Premeditated crimes involving knives, violence carjackings and home invasions all put lives at risk, he said.

"Manitobans are entitled to be safe in their homes, in their communities, on their streets," he said. "Both home invasions and carjackings, in my view, are serious breaches of peoples' right to be safe."

There should be mandatory, minimum sentences for premeditated knife crimes, Swan said. Manitoba would also like to see both home invasions and carjackings declared as stand-alone offences in the Criminal Code, he said.

"Those two crimes don't actually exist in the Criminal Code right now," Swan said. "Even though they are prosecuted and people are charged with robbery or assault as the case may be, we believe that doesn't really reflect the seriousness of the offence."

Manitoba will also be seeking an increased federal contribution for legal aid, Swan added. With the anticipated passage of the federal Conservative omnibus crime bill, Swan said the province expects to see more demand on the program.

Where Ottawa used to cover half the legal-aid funding, Swan said the federal government now only contributes about 18 cents on the dollar.

"We want a real dialogue," Swan said. "We need the federal government to step back in and not simply be in the rear-view mirror as we take on more and more costs of the legal-aid system."

Manitoba will also be proposing Criminal Code penalties for unlawful use of body armour and fortified vehicles, he said.

Justice ministers meet for two days next week in Charlottetown.