Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Feb. 11, 2008)


Senator not smarter than a 5th grader


  By John Martin

There is now one more reason to eliminate the Canadian Senate and her name is Sharon Carstairs.  Sharon is the leader of the Liberal majority in the Senate and given the type of leadership she’s demonstrating, its no wonder the only Canadians who don’t believe that the Senate is a joke are the one who think it is an outrage.

The Senator’s underwhelming performance was brought to my attention through correspondence she had with Sandra Martins-Toner.  Sandra is the mother of 16-year-old Matthew Martins, who was brutally murdered in 2005. A 28-year-old man, and his 23-year-old girlfriend randomly attacked Matthew while on his way to meet a friend at a bus station.  Since then, Sandra founded Families Against Crime & Trauma (F.A.C.T.), a victims’ rights organization that addresses our flawed justice system on many fronts. 

She recently wrote a letter to Opposition Leader, Stephane Dion; a copy of which was forwarded to Carstairs.  In the letter, she implored Dion to encourage the Liberals to pass the crime bill that is now before the Senate.  The legislation addresses violent crime, dangerous offenders, criminals who use guns and other issues of urgent concern.

Dion didn’t respond, but the Senator did.  She wrote: “The Senate of Canada must examine this bill carefully to ensure that it is the right thing to do.  While violent crime rates are actually declining in this country this is of little comfort to you and your family who have suffered a terrible tragedy. I give you my personal promise that we will do nothing to delay this bill beyond what is necessary for a thorough study.”

What on Earth is she talking about?

Even the most cursory research would show that while overall crime has slightly fallen, virtually every category of serious violent crime is on the upswing.  Attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, robbery, kidnapping and forcible confinement are all increasing.  Violent crimes for youth are reaching their highest numbers in decades.  The only reason violent crime rates overall aren’t through the roof is because minor assault, the most common offence accounting for more than 60% of all violent offences, remained stable. 

It would take a couple of minutes to access Statistics Canada reports confirming the rise in most all types of serious violent crime.  Numerous other sources of data showing similar trends are readily available.  My students dig this stuff up every day.  Yet the leader in the Senate, with assistants and research staff doesn’t have a clue what’s going on across the country.   And she’s going to decide if this bill “is the right thing to do.”

The Senate is supposed to be the place for sober second thought; the place where legislation receives proper attention and careful study before it becomes law.  Now we find that the individual most responsible for delaying the passage of the bill is completely ignorant about the issues surrounding the reasons for the legislation in the first place.

The Senate is an inept disgrace and considering the leadership of Sharon Carstairs in this failed institution, it’s little wonder.

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


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2008