Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Aug. 22, 2011)


Moving forward - it's great


 By John Martin


Like most people, I sometimes have trouble discarding things for no other reason than they've always been around. There are some clothes and books I just won't let go of even though I'll never wear or read them again. Nostalgia, sentimentality and other factors sometimes make it difficult to part with that which we've grown up and been accustomed to.

But there's a world of difference between a couple boxes of clutter and multi-billion dollar programs and institutions that are demonstrably ineffective.

The CBC is a prime example. It is irrelevant in the digital age and contributes virtually nothing that is not already accessible elsewhere. No one watches it and its homegrown programming, for the most part, is pathetic. Yet we continue to devote billions of dollars to an institution that played a crucial role in a Canada that no longer exists. If there were no such beast, there would be absolutely no demand or interest to develop anything even remotely resembling the CBC. Such an institution could never be justified or defended in this day and age and the concept would be immediately dismissed. But many consider it near treasonous to pare it down, let alone dismantle it altogether.

It's the same story with our health care system. It's broken and is hardly the model that others formerly looked upon with envy. Every other government service and function suffers on account of how much money is spent on our flawed health system. Yet it is considered the height of anti-Canadiana to even discuss meaningful reform. Sure, we tinker with it here and there. But any talk of a complete reformation of health care is completely off the table. If it were a car, you'd scrap it in a heartbeat.

If it were a dog, you'd take it for that one last drive to the vet. But we continue to cling, with much passion, to the present system out of some notion of Canadian identity rather than any confidence or evidence that it's the best possible model of delivery.

This is why many of us were so relieved, and somewhat bewildered, to see the federal Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson, hold his ground and defend the government's omnibus crime legislation during an audience with the Canadian Bar Association. The legal community is probably more adept at the art of inertia than any other constituency. Almost any reforms to the legal system are automatically met with howls of outrage and indignation. But Nicholson stared down a room full of people who have a history of getting what they want and didn't blink.

We should be unequivocally clear about one thing. The government's criminal justice legislation is far and away the biggest overhaul of the justice system since the introduction of the Criminal Code. It's a generation overdue- but it's finally happening. We've known for decades that the justice system fails miserably in its two overriding mandates. It doesn't deter. And it doesn't rehabilitate.

The soon-to-be-passed legislation may not be perfect. There are a couple areas that will likely have to be revisited. Fine. We can revisit them and make the necessary adjustments. In the meantime, a system that is flawed beyond description is getting a top to bottom makeover. Predictably, lawyers, judges, activists and academics are screaming bloody murder.

No doubt they don't want the government tampering with the CBC or the health care system either.

Put me down as ecstatic!

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


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2011