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.