Prime Time Crime
(Published in the Abbotsford News week of Oct. 11, 2004)
25% More for Judges would be an Injustice
At a time when federal government workers across Canada are striking for a 3% wage increase, and BC’s public-sector unions are gearing up to fight a provincial election to get better wage deals – say 5% -- from their beloved NDP, one group of public servants are poised to receive no less than a 25% increase in their already-considerable salaries.
Provincial court judges are underpaid, according to an allegedly independent commission, which recommends that the salaries for the 140 or so judges, currently paid more than $160,000 per year, would be steadily increased to take them to $202,000 in 2008.
In its report, the commission intones that the super raise is justified in order to keep pace with other provinces and the Supreme Court justices. “Judges must be paid salaries that adequately reflect their essential importance to the proper functioning of our constitutional machinery.”
There is no argument in this corner that judges are important and essential people in our society, and that they deserve to be well paid. Before they get their noses further into the public’s trough of taxpaying dollars, though, let us consider whether our esteemed members of the judiciary are actually meeting the “proper functioning” part of that pompous statement from the report.
Quite frankly, in this province and across Canada, there currently appears to be such a lack of proper punishment fitting the crimes, that our society is functioning as if on a life-support system. Decisions from various judicial benches or parole and immigration boards have let pedophiles, illegal-drug dealers, car-racing killers and other criminals get off virtually scot-free.
How can “proper functioning” describe judgements that have seen child abusers who caged their foster children for years receive light sentences, or brutal women-hating macho jerks being fined but not confined, released to assault again? How can “proper functioning” describe the revolving door on Vancouver courts for repeat drug offenders, who view their puny fines as a nuisance, or merely the cost of doing their illegal business? How can the majority of our citizens feel safe and secure, or have any respect for judges who seem to care more about the “poor, misguided” lawbreakers than they do about the victims and their agony?
How have we allowed our society to reach the point of doling out heroin and cocaine in shooting galleries supposedly sanitized because they are called “safe-injection sites”? How has the silent majority become so silent that those who condone such ludicrous actions as helping junkies to remain junkies get everything they want … and more?
Could the erosion and deterioration of our values be traced to the fact that so many of us believe that justice is not even being considered these days, let alone done? Could some of these appointed judges on their lofty perches be out of touch with what Joe and Jane Six-Pack consider fair and just punishment? Could they be more concerned about what their political masters who appointed them want, than they are about what the people want?
Well, yeah, they could!
Now, the last time this humble scribe dared to ask questions in this corner about our (in)justice system, a threatening letter was received from no less an exalted person than the province’s attorney-general, Geoff Plant. Not for the first time in my 35-year career as a journalist, editor, broadcaster and/or investigative reporter, your faithful correspondent was accused of bringing the justice system into disrepute, or at least treating it with less than obsequious, ass-kissing respect most others do.
Guilty as charged – then and now.
Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at email@example.com.