Rural crime needs legislative change, not more lip service.

The trend is evident on all levels of government. Politicians talk big but do little on the pressing issues of today. They make excuses and hide from any and every issue that may involve taking a solid stand on something or actually acting rather than speaking.

We see this with Trudeau’s cowardice on the Trans Mountain pipeline issue, we see this with Calgary city hall tossing the Olympic question back and forth like a hot potato and we see this provincially as citizens desperately seek action rather than more words on the rural crime epidemic which is gripping the Alberta.

Last night I attended a rural crime watch meeting for the MD of Foothills at the Okotoks Centennial Center. The room was packed and it was standing room only as hundreds upon hundreds of concerned citizens came out in hopes of seeing some solutions to the rural crime problem.

I have been a local crime watch member for years and have attended a number of meetings. I have never seen a turnout like this.

The best way to describe the mood in the room would be to say concerned and frustrated. People are not eager for blood. People do not want to take the law into their own hands. People are however feeling that the system is failing them while they live under siege from criminals.

There were a number of speakers from different levels of government (though no provincial or federal elected officials for the area were present).

There was a senior bureaucrat who came down from the Alberta Justice Minister’s office. He spoke at length of the new $10 million investment from the Alberta government to combat rural crime and how it would be applied in a number of ways from increasing the number of police and prosecutors to plans for local crime reduction strategies. It was appreciated and was informative but it does feel like a drop in the bucket. Having 39 new cops is great but when we are speaking of a region with well over 100 detachments, the impact will be limited. Again though, it was appreciated and it is understood that policing alone will not solve this crisis.

We had a number of RCMP officers from the detachments that cover our MD (Turner Valley, Okotoks and High River. They read out local crime stats and explained the large area that they were tasked to cover. They are doing what they can but again are limited by the resources that they have and the area that they have to patrol.

Before the local crime watch presidents came up to speak, a pause was taken to introduce Edouard Maurice and his wife Jessica Maurice to the room as they were sitting in the front row. There was no need to explain who the Maurice’s were or why they were there. The room exploded into a standing ovation and applause that lasted several minutes. If anybody was wondering for a second how local sentiment was regarding using firearms to defend one’s family and home was that doubt evaporated in that moment.

Eddie Maurice and family have been victimized twice. Once by the criminals who invaded their home and a second time by the Canadian justice system which has treated them as criminals for defending themselves. They never wanted to be in this situation and did not choose to become the symbol for local victims of rural crime but that is what they have become.

Rural crime has been a growing issue in Alberta for years but it is the tragic situation of the Maurice family that brought this issue to such a head.

The rural crime watch presidents then took the floor and spoke to the development and initiatives of their organizations. It was informative and many new members signed up. Crime watch organizations are great groups that help proactively prevent crime. Their expansion is one part of the many required to reduce rural crime levels.

Next up was the question and answer period. This was where the frustration was clear from both the audience and those trying to respond to the question. The theme was the same as I have seen at prior meetings. People ask what they can do in the event of a crime and the answer from the front is to tell people to call the police, cower, wait and pray that the criminals don’t mean any physical harm to the residents during the 40 minutes or so before an officer arrives at the scene. This just won’t cut it.

I know that no police officer or official can counsel a person to grab a firearm when their home has been intruded upon. I know damn well that no amount of threats or finger wagging at public meetings will prevent home owners from defending themselves and their families with whatever means are at their disposal when push comes to shove and that includes firearms.

We are at an impasse.

Crime is on the rise. Insurance companies are now starting to refuse coverage to many residents because they are getting robbed too much. Last night one of the officers said “stuff is just stuff”. Sorry officer but that is simplistic bullshit. That “stuff” which is being stolen over and over and over again is often made up of the tools of the trade for the homeowners. They need that “stuff” to make a living and we can’t expect people to let themselves go bankrupt as they remain chronic victims of thieves. They should have the right to defend their “stuff” and their person and they will no matter what you tell them.

I am no legal expert but I would say that it is pretty clear that a jury of Maurice’s peers will quickly acquit him. That was made clear as hundreds of his peers applauded him last night.

Despite the likely hood of an eventual acquittal, the Maurice family will still endure years of stress and expenses all for trying to defend their home.

Do we expect every family that defends themselves from criminals to endure this? Well, if we don’t change the system that is what will happen.

If folks keep getting acquitted by juries, then clearly the law is wrong. We need to change the laws and that is where we need those ever elusive people we call elected officials to get involved.

We need to address stiffer sentencing for repeat criminals. The police at last night’s meeting repeatedly pointed out that the majority of the crimes are being committed by a small minority of chronic criminals. If that is indeed the case, it is time that we stopped releasing that small minority. Catch and release doesn’t cut it.

Addiction is a big factor in driving many criminals. We need effective investment in addiction treatment and mental health. That will take some political will on the part of government.

We need to look at a Canadian version of legislatively entrenched Castle Doctrine which will protect people who defend their homes. This will take some discussion on things such as property rights and rights to self-defense which are some pretty complicated and touchy issues (again why elected officials hide from them). Well, tough issues or not they need to be addressed. That’s why we pay em the big bucks.

While there was no native factor involved with the Maurice case, it is simple fact that a huge amount of the spike in rural crime is in areas within 50 kilometers or so of native reserves. Native issues terrify politicians like no other but like it or not they are not going away. They are getting worse. We need to revise or scrap the entire Indian act and the failed reserve system before we see improvements on those socioeconomic catastrophes that we call reserves. A pretty tall damn order but it needs to be done and we have to start somewhere.

Crime watch meetings and local organization are great. That is about all we can do as citizens to change this crime epidemic however. The rest is in the hands of our elected officials and many of those officials appear bound and determined to sit on those hands.

Somebody is going to die soon. Whether it will be a homeowner or a home invader is really the only question. Warning us not to defend ourselves won’t work.

Perhaps our elected officials need to ask themselves “Will this be easier to deal with now or when we have a body cooling in a farmyard and another homeowner under arrest?”.

The issue isn’t going away and it isn’t getting any better for waiting. If the elected officials won’t act rather than just talk the citizens will be working hard to replace those officials and I look forward to helping them in that. Let’s hope our local politicians find their courage before it comes to that.

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Enough is enough! Its time to put the Olympic question to the taxpayers.

The timing couldn’t be better for the announcement that the ski jumps at WinSport will be torn down.

I am not celebrating the end of those jumps. I grew up in Banff and was a ski jumper until well into my late teens. It is a fantastic sport and unfortunately while jumps were common in Canada in the past, they have simply faded away over time. Part of the reason is that the very finite dollars that are out there for winter sport infrastructure get pissed away on political vanity projects rather than on good facilities that will actually serve the needs of athletes.

Let’s face it, the Calgary ski jumps are shitty and dangerous and they have been since day one. I am speaking from direct experience here. The area is heavily prone to crosswinds which swirl through the bowl making it terribly dangerous to use the bigger hills. The exposed site in low elevation mean that snow conditions were usually awful with icy and dangerous landings on artificial snow.

Due to the dangerous nature of these jumps, the 90 meter jump was only used for two years after the Olympics. For the last 28 years or so, the jump has served as a popular spot for small wedding receptions and has been one of the most expensive zip-line launches in the world. It has not been used for ski jumping.

Why was that jump built there then? Weren’t there experts who could have warned the Olympic committee of the time that the location was terrible for the jumps?

The answer is yes. The committee was told repeatedly not to put the jumps on that hill. As a jumper in the 80s, I remember keenly watching the discussions. The bottom line is that the committee didn’t want to see more venues going outside of the city limits so they ignored the experts and put the jumps into that terrible location. That led to the white elephant that now resides there which will be torn down soon.

Many look back at the 88 Olympics with rose colored glasses and forget how little of an actual long term legacy it left us. It was a heady time and was one hell of a party but it didn’t leave us much to hang on to afterwards.

The 90 meter jump only lasted a year. Apparently Nakiska is no longer up to snuff for Olympic events and of course the Saddledome has been considered obsolete for over a decade. Hell, even Olympic Plaza is falling apart with the bricks that donors bought fading to the point where their names can’t even be read.

There were still some good developments. The biathlon facility in Canmore is still popular and will remain so until the firearms are banned and the bobsled track while now obsolete, has been a valuable training site.

Let’s not exaggerate the value of the “legacy” of the Olympic games as we have been. What is left behind is really of very limited value and we are seeing that today.

Calgarians have been feeling increasingly railroaded by the Olympic cheerleaders on city council and in the administration since day one. As leaks continue and the story keeps changing, it becomes increasingly clear that the entire bid process has always been a stacked deck and it is quickly falling apart.

The twisting, turning from Olympic proponents has been getting frenzied as they see their multi-billion dollar vanity project at risk of vanishing due to a push for a plebiscite. They know damn well that a majority of taxpayers do not support this expenditure and are becoming enraged at the prospect that the great unwashed masses may get a direct say in this matter.

The bottom line is that some city councilors think that taxpayers are too stupid to be given the chance to vote on that issue. “How dare those peons try to choose how we will spend their money!”

Councilor Jyoti Gondek:

“In my opinion a Yes/No plebiscite is going to be meaningless in a project of this complexity.”

Translation: this is too complex for the dim electorate.

Councilor Shane Keating:

Plebiscites attempt to boil down complex issues into a simple “yes or no” question. If only life were that simple.

Actually Shane, in this case it is.

Councilor Gian Carlo-Carra:

It’s not fair to ask everyone to become an expert

Uh huh. Then why do we have general elections? I mean, in those circumstances we are asking people to inform themselves on all of the issues and expecting them to make a choice.

Why is a yes or no plebiscite suddenly too complex to entrust voters with?

Mayor Naheed Nenshi:

Somebody’s got to pay for it. It’s two million bucks and it’s not going to come out of the existing budget, so you’ve got to find the money.

Nenshi has no interest in letting this pet project go to a plebiscite. He is however more politically wily than his council compatriots and has instead suddenly decided to become a fiscal conservative.

When it is considered that Nenshi happily tossed millions towards the stacked “Olympic bid exploration committee” and now another $2.5 million towards a “bid corporation”, his sudden reticence to spend less than two million to let taxpayers decide has the distinct scent of bullshit about it.

The question is a simple yes or no. Do taxpayers want Calgary to host the 2026 Olympic games or not?

There is no better way to have broad public engagement on a straightforward issue than a plebiscite campaign.

Just think, proponents and opponents will have time to put their cases forward and at the end of the campaign the stakeholders will make their decision. How could the public not be informed after such a campaign? Would there not be plenty of studies, stats and information presented over that time? Oh yeah, some think the public are too stupid to wade through all that. I disagree.

Why is there supposedly not enough information in anyway?

Just what the hell has that gold plated committee been doing?

The committee created a 5,700 page report. How much more damned study do we need?

The bottom line is that those opposed to a plebiscite on an Olympic bid know damned well that the tired and taxed electorate will probably reject the bid.

That’s democracy. Learn to make a better case for your pet project or drop it.

In the end the question isn’t whether Calgary should host the 2026 Olympic games or not. The question is whether Calgary city council and administration really actually want to represent the wishes of taxpayers or not. I fear I know the answer.

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