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Old 11-21-2007, 04:17 PM   #10
wouldu like some tinfoil?
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Join Date: Apr 2005
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another scathing article

FISH FOOD: Tories are soft on crime

Murder is murder, whether it's state sanctioned or someone like me," Ronald Smith, the Canadian on death row in the U.S. recently told CTV. He has a point. Harper's reversal of the long-standing Canadian policy to request the commutation of the death penalty of Canadians convicted in the U.S. is consistent with his general disregard for due process in the justice system, his assault on the judiciary and his soft and ineffective justice agenda.

In addition to this reversal, Harper's assault on the judiciary and due process includes: (1) An election campaign speech in which he warned of Canada's liberal judiciary, which later forced Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin to take the unusual step of speaking publicly to defend the integrity of the judiciary. (2) The dismantling of the Court Challenges Program, which had assisted Canadians in asserting their Constitutional rights. The idea of minority rights protected against majority rule doesn't fit with Harper's public pandering. (3) The addition of a police representative on the committee that selects our judges, giving the government a majority on those committees. (4) Tabling a bill calling for high mandatory minimum sentences, effectively removing judges' sentencing discretion in some of the most sensitive cases. The list goes on.

Amid all this, there was a release of a shocking video of the taser-murder of a Polish immigrant at the Vancouver International Airport. Part of a rash of recent RCMP misconduct-the extent of which has not been made public because the RCMP investigates itself -it depicts four uniformed officers confronting a man who is lost and confused in an airport, but who did not pose a lethal threat, by shocking him twice with a taser gun and then wrestling him to his death. Even if state-sanctioned murder was appropriate in the case of Ronald Smith, what about in the case of the Polish immigrant and numerous other victims of the RCMP?

The first bill Harper passed in the last parliamentary session was the Accountability Act. It is time that the RCMP is made accountable. The first bill that he has passed this session, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, contains provisions that will have effects counterproductive to its title, including the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences and raising of the age of sexual consent. Mandatory minimum sentences have the potential to turn one-time violators into life-long criminals by eliminating the judges' discretion to diagnose particular offenders on a case-by-case basis. Raising the age of consent for sexual activity will add nothing to existing legislation by way of protection against sexual predators, but may have the effects of criminalizing teenage sex and hampering the ability of teenage girls to seek medical advice.

Harper's populist approach to justice is both too narrow and too reactive. It is too narrow in the sense that it is limited to violent crime and excludes other matters of social justice, including protection of vulnerable groups such as the poor, children and aboriginals. It is too reactive in the sense that it focuses almost exclusively on dealing with crime after the fact, rather than focusing on the roots of crime. In effect, by failing to tackle the causes of crime proactively through social programming, Harper's agenda is soft on crime. The Conservatives recently ran ads attacking Liberal leader Stephane Dion for acknowledging the difficulty of setting priorities-not an ideal sound byte for a political leader, but certainly a reasonable view in light of Canada's diversity. I would much prefer a leader who is honest enough to acknowledge the problematic nature of agenda-setting than one who demonstrates by example his inability to set legitimate and effective priorities.

Harper should affirm Canada's opposition to all forms of state sanctioned murder, including the reinstatement of our policy of opposing the death penalty, create a truly independent and powerful agency to oversee the RCMP and commission a full public inquiry to investigate police misconduct in this country-including, but not limited to, taser use-and make recommendations for restoring integrity to

the RCMP.
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