(This column was published in the North Shore News on Nov. 22, 2000)


Liberal justice reform promises not met

By Leo Knight

ON Monday morning a 17-year-old boy was stabbed several times in the neck while on his way into his high school in Calgary.  


His offence? It seems he owed the grand sum of $30 to another youth.  


Unable to pay the debt with cash, he paid with his life.  


The Canadian Alliance has tried to make justice issues a primary focus in this campaign. The Chrétien-led Liberals are quick to downplay any attempt to do this by saying, "What's the problem? The crime rates are dropping." The Liberal's own Web site even trumpets a lower national homicide rate as evidence they are providing good government.  


Although, what this or any government can do to affect the homicide rate is totally beyond any logical thought process. Yet, if it's positive, they did it. Just ask them.  


For seven years, we have been waiting for a new Young Offenders Act. For seven years the Liberals have been promising to bring in new legislation to address youthful crime. They are still promising. And promising. And promising.  


One of the planks of the Alliance platform is the mandated provision of DNA samples for people charged with a serious criminal offence. On the same day as the boy was killed in Calgary, I listened to Liberal MP Raymond Chan on the Bill Good Show talking about this specific issue.  


Chan actually said that he disagreed with this proposal because it took away the presumption of innocence. Huh? Now I realize Chan is a political lightweight, but to say something like that means he is either incredibly stupid or incredibly ill-informed.  


We have, in this country, a piece of federal legislation called the Identification of Criminals Act.  


For almost a century, police have been finger-printing criminals at the time of arrest in what is called the "booking" process. Is Chan saying the taking of a DNA sample is somehow depriving an accused criminal of the presumption of innocence, but the taking of fingerprints and photographs is not?  


While I'm on this topic, a Toronto newspaper interviewed another particularly forgettable Liberal MP on the same question. That bright light said he was against it because taking a forced blood sample would violate the person's right to privacy.  


Now pay attention closely. A DNA sample is obtained by taking a swab of the inside of a person's cheek. That's it. It is no more intrusive than sticking your tongue out for the doctor. In fact, it's probably a hell of a lot less intrusive than fingerprinting a particularly uncooperative subject.  


Fingerprinting tends to involve of lot of screaming, usually in pain, on the part of the person being printed.  


But why try and argue facts with the Liberals? If facts were an issue, they wouldn't even be in the race, let alone leading in the national polls.  


Even the prime minister just can't help himself. He gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, lobbying a man he appointed and could dismiss, to obtain a loan from the government-owned development bank, for a buddy of his and a former business associate.  


The fact his pal is a convicted criminal with a dubious financial track history that the bank didn't want to touch with a 10-foot pole seems not to have bothered the ethically challenged prime minister.  


Chrétien says the ethics commissioner has already cleared him of any wrongdoing. He shrugs and says anyway it's "normal operations" for him.  


In the first place, the ethics commissioner never looked into anything done by the PM in this case. That inquiry was aimed at a constituency aide for Chrétien. At the time that was done, PMO spokesman, Peter Donolo, stated the PM had not taken an active hand in the loan process. Another lie.  


Both Stockwell Day and Joe Clark have called for an independent investigation into the mess. Chrétien, for his part, describes the calls from both leaders as "desperate" and "hitting below the belt."  


This, from a man who has conducted an incredibly effective character assassination since day one in the campaign on Stockwell Day, the only serious challenger for his job.  


Another teenager died violently this week. What used to be settled with fists in the schoolyard now is taken care of with a knife or gun. Chrétien keeps promising to do something about it. But, what he has actually done is use the power of his office to help his friends.  


Are Canadians so foolish to give him another term?






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