Prime Time Crime
(Published in the Abbotsford News week of Feb. 23, 2004)
Drug Problem more than self-inflicted
By John Pifer
The screaming headlines told us, as newspaper headlines often do, something that we all already knew, or should have known – Vancouver and British Columbia have a serious illegal drug problem.
The statistics do not lie. Drug charges across our country were up by more than 40 per cent in just 10 years (1992 – 2002); and with 544 charges per 100,000 people, our province chalked up nearly twice the national average of 295.
What the statistics did not provide were the numbers of addicts and drug dealers who had moved to British Columbia in that same period to take advantage of the lax laws and weak-kneed judges who treat them as though they were merely jaywalkers, rather than peddlers of death and despair to our children.
No, we’re not talking here about marijuana and the possession of a few joints. Whilst it is true that charges relating to marijuana represent fully three-quarters of the volume of cases, with society as a whole “lightening up” (and lighting up, I dare say); it is not surprising to see no harsh treatment from the bench when pot is involved.
However, when reports persist that show repeat offenders who are selling crack cocaine, heroin, crystal meth and other such poisons are also being mollycoddled by the men and women in the high-falutin’ robes, it is time to call for an end to such insanity.
Being caught with a joint or two is one thing; spending a million dollars (from money raised by selling illegal drugs, of course) to buy three first-class homes in the high-rent district to set up an elaborate marijuana grow-op or a crystal meth laboratory is quite another. Yet our judges appear reluctant to make the distinction; and they appear to be hesitant to make an example of the organized-crime profiteers behind this obscene exploitation and contamination of our society.
Far be it for this humble correspondent to suggest for a moment that some judges may be indebted in any way to those same drug-peddling lowlifes, or even to wonder if Hizhonor’s new Mercedes or yacht or island cottage is truly affordable, even on that lush taxpayer-funded salary.
Not surprisingly, it seems harder to find statistics that show just how many more organized crime members have moved here to oversee their operation of running the bulk of the illegal substances through B.C., including that supposedly innocuous marijuana being shipped internationally daily by the ton.
Or one could ask who in Ottawa or Victoria was behind the insane decision to end the need for Vancouver Port Police at a time when massive drug shipments were increasing? Who decided to let the inmates run the asylum, so to speak?
Don’t hold your breath expecting any kind of answer to those questions. After all, drug trafficking and drug smuggling are the biggest, most lucrative cash businesses on the planet next to dealing in weapons, and with so much cash and so little accountability, anyone in a position of authority asking for those answers is likely to wind up either dead or wealthy.
Sadly, wealthy seems to have been the preferred option, all too often.
So take your statistics and your screaming headlines, roll them into a Zig-Zag with a little B.C. Bud and smoke ‘em. They are of no use for anything else.
Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at email@example.com.
The following letter to the editor was sent in reaction to the above column.
Published in Abbotsford News week of Mar. 01, 2004
Pifer column went beyond valid criticism
Editor, The News:
I am writing in response to a recent column by John Pifer ('Drug problem more than self-inflicted,' Viewpoint, Feb. 28).
I am not writing to suggest that the criminal justice system is beyond criticism.
Everyone who is a steward of the criminal justice system needs to remain mindful that the system is there to serve the public.
If laws need to be changed, government should be encouraged to change them.
In the case of criminal law, this means the government of Canada, as the federal government has the exclusive power to make and change the criminal law.
But Pifer's column went beyond valid criticism of the justice system.
While anyone should be free to criticize the outcomes of the justice system, it is not fair to make personal attacks on judges who are applying the law.
In our free and democratic society, judges preserve a system based on the rule of law.
To do so, they must be able to adjudicate cases independently according to law.
Personal attacks on a particular judge or the judiciary threaten that adjudicative independence. If a judge fails to apply the law, then his or her decision can be appealed.
And if we disagree with the law, we should try to change it.
But attacking judges who in good faith are applying or trying to apply the law is unfair and, to the degree that it is intended to pressure judges to decide cases other than according to law, is a threat to the independence necessary for each person to be afforded a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.
Speculating that judges may be indebted to anyone is irresponsible.
I would have expected that as editors you would have avoided the use of your publication for such an unwarranted tactic.
B.C. Attorney General and
Minister Responsible for