Let’s make justice an issue.

In federal and provincial elections, we hear ad-nauseum about the basic core social program issues such as healthcare, education, childcare etc. While those issues are of importance, somehow the critical issue of justice reform in Canada always falls far down the list of electoral priorities.

 In our current federal election, we seem to be hearing more about real or perceived gaffes on the part of parties and candidates than we are hearing about any issues. I don’t care if a cartoon puffin pooped on Dion. I don’t care if Layton apparently smoked a joint once. I do however care about Canada’s failing “justice” system and I am hearing next to nothing from all of the parties on this issue.

 In Calgary we are hearing about our lapse system from local journalists and our clearly frustrated Chief of police due to our streets having turned into a war-zone in the last few months with increasing shootings caused by chronically released gang members. Due to the election results in Alberta being a foregone conclusion, “local” issues such as Calgary crime are not making the political radar with federal parties. Every major city is facing the same problems with scum on their streets yet our politicians are still stuck on motherhood and apple pie issues such as maternity benefits or ill-conceived environmental policies.

 It is refreshing to hear Calgary police Chief saying it like it is though it is sad that he has been pushed to such a point of frustration as he is. Chief Rick Hanson has the unenviable job of trying to keep Calgarians (and his officers) safe in a growing city while our justice system works it’s hardest to release violent criminals back into our midst. How must it feel for a police officer to risk his/her life in apprehending a criminal only to see that criminal released often within months? How must it have felt to see the blinded, innocent, 24 year old victim; Jose Ribeiro Neto taken to hospital after having been shot in the face by a man who had attempted to kill two police officers not long ago?

 Hanson was blunt about some of the idiotic “solutions” that our “justice” system has come up with for violent crime. The waste of resources in the gun registry clearly grates on him despite how many pointy headed criminologists claim that police forces love it. Below are some quotes from Chief Hanson.

Chief Rick Hanson:

I can tell you he’s got one of those feared prohibitions from possessing firearms.

There’s a little bit of sarcasm there.

Personally, I’m tired when politicians trot out the same tried and tired old solutions. We’re going to ban certain types of weapons or make it more restrictive. They’re not getting it. They’re not getting it. These are criminals, these are criminals who use illegal means to perpetrate illegal activities.

Get off the backs of the duck hunters. It’s about criminals who are bringing guns into the country illegally. These are unregistered and any of these weak-kneed solutions that speak to tired old suggestions for problems that aren’t our problems today, there’s no sense even talking about them. We need substantive solutions.

What quality of policing, what type of policing, do the citizens want in Calgary? For too long now every time something happens people say: ‘What are the police doing? How does that happen?’ Guess what? This isn’t Kansas any more, Toto. This city grew. 

  And changes to the justice system aren’t going to happen overnight. It’s taken us years to get to a point where the system is comfortable with taking a person who is in court charged with shooting somebody and releasing him into the community hours later.

  Our politicians rarely listen to folks such as Chief Hanson who has worked directly with criminals for a lifetime. Instead, our justice system continues to take the recommendations of ivory tower academics and folks from the John Howard society who rarely leave their gated communities and who’s hearts bleed them anaemic.

 Sadly those hearts never seem to bleed for the victims of crime who suffer when violent animals are released into our society.

 I was directed to a treasure trove of documentation of “Canadian Justice” at the site Justice Canada Monitor.

 The work at that site is excellent and they have documented some of the (and there are plenty) more heinous examples of Canada’s lapse sentencing and repeat offenders.

 I strongly suggest that people spend some time on that site looking at some of these issues in detail. I will highlight some of the headlines that they carry below.

Peter Whitmore – Released long-time child molester abducts and sexually assaults two Saskatchewan boys

Jurgen Sheitz – No jail time for molesting 10-year-old girl

Teen commits armed robbery while out on bail for the same crime

Michael Jeffery Plante – Man who crashes stolen pickup, critically injures victims and leaves scene of accident will serve less than two years

Meir Mariani and Lee Cochrane victim Matti Baranovski – Youths serve eight months and one year for savage beating death

Steven Taylor – Gruesome sexual sadist and murderer granted parole, police association outraged

Fred Sheppard – Man who beat wife to death paroled four years into sentence

Serena Davenport – No jail time for intent to distribute over 15,000 images of child sex abuse

William Herbert Maurice Harlos – Eight months for massive stash of child porn, including a baby being abused

Dean Zimmerman – Paroled sexual offender ties woman up, sexually assaults her for nine hours

Sadly the list goes on and on and on.

Another excellent thing pointed out on the site is how Canada’s statistics have been manipulated to seem as if the reformation of criminals has been successful in Canada.

The Statistics

Many repeat offender statistics in Canada are deceptively low. One of the reasons for this is that Corrections Canada excludes provincial statistics from their rates (federal and provincial correctional departments do not currently share information with one another). An offender serving time in a federal jail who had previously served time in a provincial jail would not be labeled a repeat offender. Out of 310,000 convictions in 2002-03 only 4281 offenders were sentenced to a federal prison. In addition, Correctional Services statistics do not take into account conditional sentences or other non-prison sentences, which have grown in popularity. Finally, Correctional Services rates do not include offenders that have been free for more than three years. In light of these factors, it is easy to see just how misleading these statistics can become.

The few studies that do attempt to track prior convictions across jurisdictions peg recidivism at alarmingly high rates. Six out of every ten convicted offenders aged 18 to 25 in 1999/2000 had at least one previous conviction, according to a new pilot study of court-based recidivism in seven provinces and two territories. Among these repeat offenders, 72% had multiple prior convictions. Nine out of ten offenders sentenced to a federal corrections facility (meaning at least a two year sentence) had at least one prior conviction either in adult or youth court. (Source: Statistics Canada)


 Those are the real numbers people. 9 out of 10 federal convicts had a prior offense!!!

 We have warning indicators with these violent offenders. One of which is a long string of convictions. It does not take a string of degrees to realize that we must incarcerate these scum for longer periods. Reform efforts for violent and sexual offenders are an utter failure. The recidivism rates are unacceptable and the protection of society must come first. Instead the only heated justice debate I remember hearing recently is whether or not convicts should have the right to vote.

 Voters must speak up and politicians must begin to listen.

 I unfortunately do not hold much optimism as fewer and fewer people even bother to vote much less pay attention to the issues.  All the same, we can’t give up on this. Public safety is far too important.