Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Mar.  2, 2009)

With Conservatives like this who needs Liberals?

By Bob Cooper



As juicy election issues go this recent spate of gang murders in the Lower Mainland was a gift from heaven.  The Conservatives never had it so good.  The Opposition wouldn’t dare fight them on this and even they were calling for stiff measures.  All the Conservatives would have to do is play their cards right and they could call an election tomorrow and be majority-bound.  BC’s Solicitor-General and Attorney-General went to Ottawa to meet with the Justice Minister and fix some very basic problems which have plagued the justice system for decades.  At the same time, the Prime Minister flew to Vancouver so you know they consider this important.

Everything was perfectly stage-managed.  After a ride on the new train, the PM stepped onto the platform where the press was eagerly waiting to hear how the government was going to stem this rising tide of bloodshed.  The RCMP even kept a murder under wraps for 24 hours to avoid upstaging him.   Now that’s service.

They had success firmly in their grasp.  It was so simple, all they had to do was produce.  Well, it’s a good thing the PM wasn’t driving the train considering how far his crime fighting efforts missed the mark.   He announced stiffer penalties for certain drug & gun crimes, new offences for attacking peace officers, and making gang-related homicides automatically First-Degree Murder.   He emphasized that “Part of the difficulty we have in Ottawa is we are dealing with 30 to 40 years of criminal-justice policy that has been going in the wrong direction”.

While the latter part of the statement is true, to say they are ‘dealing with’ the situation is a total falsehood.

For instance, gang-related murders are almost always First-Degree on their own merits and it’s already a crime to attack peace officers or to possess guns or drugs so the rest is just window-dressing that doesn’t come close to addressing the problem.  Don’t get me wrong, stiffer penalties are fine if for no other reason than the message they send to the courts, but it’s all for naught if major flaws in the rest of the system make it virtually impossible to gather evidence, make arrests, keep gangsters in custody in serious cases, or convict them.  It’s like a doctor trying to treat a hemorrhage in the femoral artery with a couple of band-aids and an aspirin.

The Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General had come to Ottawa seeking long-needed amendments to the Bail Reform Act, Privacy Act, issuance of Search Warrants, among other things.  These would address some of the basic problems and at least give the police and the Crown half a chance to do their jobs.    It sounds like the Justice Minister hadn’t given these measures a thought.  He was described as being ‘on board’ but gave no further commitment.  Why not?  Pick your excuse.  Let’s take a poll on it first.  It might offend Quebec.  The timid eunuchs at the Justice Department are afraid of a Charter Challenge.  On it goes.  The other thing they sought was leadership and they were badly disappointed on both fronts.

Then I picked up the National Post this morning to read how the same federal government brought a dangerous Toronto gangster back to Canada a few days ago from Sri Lanka.  They claim they were bound by an agreement made by the previous Liberal government (the best friend the Tamil Tigers ever had) when he was deported in 2005.  Oh, and we paid for his flight back as well.  Reminds me of the famous debate between Brian Mulroney and John Turner where Mulroney went after Turner on patronage appointments arranged by Trudeau.  Turner sniveled and said “I had no choice”.  Mulroney countered, “You had a choice, sir” and secured a Conservative victory in one phrase.

He then went on to disappoint the same way the present government is doing.   If Harper were a real leader he would fire everyone who was involved in this sorry mess, including cabinet ministers.  Bound by an agreement?  (Sound of shredder in background) ‘Sorry son, that was then and this is now.  Don’t like it?  Sue us’.  That they honour agreements with dangerous, foreign criminals while breaking promises to Canadians speaks volumes. 

A couple of weeks ago I received a form from the Conservative Party seeking a donation.  I forwarded it to my local Conservative MP along with some of the same problems outlined in this column and told her that until they fix them not to bother asking me for another dime.

Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2009