Crime and punishment are big news these days.
Wonder why. Maybe it has something to do with the wave of lawlessness spreading across the city.
The stats are hair-raising: Eighteen people gunned down since the beginning of the year, at least eight of them in gangland shootouts. In one bizarre variation on the theme, two guys fell out of windows to their deaths in the same week — on the same street!
Crime appears to be out of control, but punishment? That’s another story.
B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal likes to talk about his report proving conclusively that B.C. judges are no more lenient than their counterparts in other jurisdictions. The only problem is that other jurisdictions aren’t Colombia North. Vancouver is the drug capital of Canada and that makes it the gangland capital of Canada. And all the bullets flying around indicate that the criminal “justice” system is not equipped to deal with it.
As the body count mounts, the politicians are emerging from their long winter’s nap. As I write, the federal Tories have just introduced a bill that — if passed — will require mandatory life sentences for gangland murders. The B.C. government has appointed a “Crime Czar,” former deputy solicitor general David Morhart, who is now responsible for gangland crime in B.C. Lucky guy.
For those of us who have to live here and avoid getting caught in the crossfire, is this too little, too late?
For too long now, the punishment has failed to fit the crime. In December, for example, some guy named Sasan Ansari was given a five-year sentence for stabbing his buddy 30 times over an unpaid debt.
His defence? At the time, he was in a “dissociative state,” which produces unconscious, involuntary behaviour. Yeah, right. What’s “involuntary” about bringing a knife to the meeting, and then getting rid of it and cleaning up your car after the stabbing?
If this were unusual, we could let it pass. But the average sentence for manslaughter in this province is three to four years. And manslaughter seems to be the plea bargain of choice for accused killers. With time off for good behaviour, you’re back in the “hood” in no time.
These light sentences send the message that life is cheap. That’s not the only thing wrong with our justice system, but it is the virus that drives the epidemic. Ottawa’s move to attach life sentences to gangland murders is a start, but we have a long way to go before the scales are back in balance.