11/09/2011 11:10 EST | Updated 01/09/2012 05:12 EST

Protesters Decry New Omnibus Crime Bill


About 300 people rallied at the Manitoba Legislature Tuesday to protest the provincial government's support for the federal government's omnibus crime bill.

Bill C-10 combines nine pieces of legislation and cracks down on drug and sex offences.

The new bill brings higher maximum sentences for certain drug convictions, toughens child exploitation laws, and makes protection of society the primary objective of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The Safer Streets and Community Act means people convicted of certain crimes would face potentially longer prison sentences.

Among other things, the new law also provides for:

- The elimination of house arrest (conditional sentences) for a new list of serious offences.

- A higher cost and more strict eligibility criteria for applying for a criminal pardon, and an elimination of pardons for some serious or repeat offences.

- New offences concerning the distribution of pornography or the use of telecommunications to facilitate sexual crimes against children.

- Measures to protect the public from violent young offenders, including in some cases adult sentences and the lifting of publication bans on the names of violent young offenders.

Tuesday's rally was organized by the John Howard Society, which helps offenders re-enter society after jail. Spokesmen for the organization say Manitoba should join Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland who oppose the federal bill.

Newfoundland and Labrador has said it can't afford the extra costs that would come with the new crime law. Quebec's justice minister has called the legislation a "Band-Aid solution" and also says the province will refuse to absorb any added costs. Jean-Marc Fournier said Bill C-10 will actually cause more crime, not less, because it is an unbalanced piece of legislation that doesn't focus enough on the rehabilitation of criminals, particularly young offenders.

Manitoba Attorney General Andrew Swan says Manitoba supports the bill, particularly the young offender provisions.