Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of Aug. 22, 2005)

Meth Producers Get Another Break From Do Nothing Liberals

  By John Martin

The federal government, when confronted with intense pressure to act in a particular area, typically falls back on a sure fire way to avoid responding.   They propose to study the problem and make recommendations.  Sometimes a judge or former Premier gets a hefty contract to look into the issue.  Other times there’s a royal commission that guarantees a dozen or so loyal Liberals and several Liberal friendly law firms will make an awful lot of money for generating a big report that no one reads.

Health care, Aboriginal issues, education, whatever.  The results of these commissions and inquiries are always the same.  Lots of advice.  Lots of gratitude for all the hard work of those involved.  Headlines in the press for a day or two.  And not much of anything else.  The report collects dust for a while and then hits the shredder.

But when it comes to issues involving crime and public safety, the government can’t even be bothered to strike one of these bogus inquiries.  Rather, they make it look as though they actually care what’s going on in our neighborhoods by simply raising the maximum sentence for whatever it is people are demanding something be done about.  Child pornography, street racing, sex with underage prostitutes, home invasions, and now crystal meth.

It always goes down the same.  Some high profile government members will call a press conference, line up a bunch of police behind them and introduce the new penalties.  Penalties that supposedly prove this government is serious about stamping out one social ill or another.  The most recent announcement regarding upping the penalty for producing crystal meth to life in prison is truly laughable.

No one even gets close to the maximum penalty presently in place.  The Supreme Court of Canada, the Law Reform Commission and the federal government have all ordered judges to impose the least restrictive sentence where ever possible.  People get fines for trafficking heroin, community service (that they never complete) for sexual assault, and now, in a sickening display of how far we’ve fallen, those convicted of manslaughter are becoming more and more likely to be sentenced to two years or less.  Not jail time – but house arrest!  

The federal government has made it clear they don’t want people going to jail and incarceration should always be a last resort only to be imposed when any other sanction is out of the question.  And when jail time is given, it is to be at the low end of the continuum.  And if that weren’t enough, the system has been reconfigured to ensure that offenders are released as soon as legally possible unless there is an undue risk to the community.  And even then, the system seems quite willing to play the odds by letting people who warrant secure surroundings, do their time in halfway houses.  It’s only a matter of time till one of them goes for a walk and tragedy strikes again.

The newly announced maximum sentence of life behind bars is proof that the federal government has no interest in interfering with those who deal in misery, wasted lives and death.  “Drugs are a health issue – not a criminal matter.  Drug dealers have rights too.  Just give them their drugs and everything will be fine.”  Blah, blah, blah.

Every one knows sentences will continue to be at the low end and jail time will be an anomaly on that rare occasion where it is actually imposed.  Even then, you can usually cut that number by 70% to get a good idea of how much time will actually be served.

Hey, maybe the government ought to have a royal commission into that while we’re at it.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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