Tories take aim at prisoner transfers

OTTAWA — The Harper government introduced legislation Thursday to make it tougher for Canadians imprisoned abroad to serve out their sentences in Canada.

OTTAWA — The Harper government introduced legislation Thursday to make it tougher for Canadians imprisoned abroad to serve out their sentences in Canada.

The bill would expand the conditions prisoners must meet before being allowed to obtain transfers to Canadian jails.

Among other things, they would have to satisfy the government that they pose no threat to public safety, that they’ve taken part in rehabilitation programs, have co-operated with law-enforcement agencies and accepted responsibility for their crimes.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said the current law on transfers is tilted toward the right of criminals to return home. He said recent court rulings have made it difficult to block transfers except in cases where prisoners are deemed a threat to national security.

“Right now, the law emphasizes the interests of the criminal,” Van Loan said.

“We are rebalancing that law to take into account the interests of Canadian society.”

The proposed changes would expand the criteria that must be considered by the public safety minister in deciding whether to grant a transfer back to Canada. The new criteria would include whether a prisoner’s return could endanger public safety or threaten the safety and security of victims, family members or children.

“I believe there are sexual offenders or murderers or other types of offenders (who) could represent such a threat. It’s a case-by-case evaluation that is needed,” Van Loan said.

He did not explain how a transferred prisoner put behind bars in Canada would be a threat to public safety.

Van Loan said there are currently 241 applications for transfers from Canadians incarcerated abroad.

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