Sunday, March 13, 2005

Will tragedy teach us anything?

The national mourning period for Constables Gordon, Johnston, Myrol and Schiemann is over; but the real mourning by family and friends will go on forever. It is now time that Canadians took a closer look at how we got to the point where an obviously dangerous person was allowed the freedom to continually defy lawful authority, threaten any and all with violence, and possess the lethal weapons necessary to murder four RCMP officers doing their duty.

Various groups will jump on their respective band wagons about the gun registry, or legalizing marijuana, or cracking down on grow ops, or funding for law enforcement, or the justice system, or whatever. Some good points will be raised and some hysteria will be evident. I'll try to do the former but, for me, the bottom line is James Roszko. It's not specifically about the guns, or the marijuana grow op, or the chop shop. It is, specifically, about James Roszko and the inability of the justice system to protect society against people like him.

Governments have hidden behind feel-good laws and programs, and deluded themselves and Canadians into thinking that they are protecting us. They are not, and until Canadians collectively wake up to that reality, we will keep sliding down the slope that Government has created in this area, as they have in many other areas, such as national defence and international security.

The Wendy Cukiers of the world will wag their fingers and say, "See, we told you we need stronger gun control laws". They will ignore the obvious and that is that this incident is a prime example of why the firearms registry is so fatally flawed and utterly useless. If Roszko's guns were registered (which I doubt), why was someone so obviously dangerous allowed to possess them? But, then again, Hell's Angels leader Mom Boucher was allowed to register his arsenal, no problem. If Roszko's guns were not registered (which I suspect), then what's the point? Dangerous people like Roszko will always have access to dangerous weapons and we need to concentrate on ways to get people like him off the street. It's not the gun, stupid, it's the person with his finger on the trigger.

Those who think that we should simply legalize marijuana will point to this and say that, "If marijuana was legal, the RCMP wouldn't have had to be there in the first place." Rubbish. Even if marijuana were legal, Roszko's "enterprise" would not be. Even if marijuana was legal and Roszko couldn't make money off it illegally, he would be doing something else, like crystal meth. It's not the marijuana, stupid; it's the guy dealing it.

Government has failed in their basic duty to provide safety and security for its citizens in some very fundamental ways. They reacted to a horrific crime by a deranged individual by blaming the weapon, rather than the killer. They brought in a firearms registry that does nothing about stopping the Marc Lepines, instead criminalizing law-abiding Canadians. They stick to their guns (pun intended), despite an almost incomprehensible escalation in costs, to very little positive effect.

This Government and the Ministers responsible simply cannot admit a mistake, apologize, and get on with doing their jobs properly. They say that they have limited future spending on the firearms registry. That is simply a lie. They have just diverted funding through other departments or called it something else.

One thing that doing their jobs properly would entail, in this case, is diverting the millions (and billions) wasted on the firearms registry to providing more funding for the RCMP. Like the Canadian Forces, the RCMP has been starved for funding for many years. Like the members of the Canadian Forces, the members of the RCMP continue to loyally and courageously do the best they can, in spite of the lack of Government support. They do it because they love their country and their community; and they have a sense of duty that most Canadians haven't even dreamed about.

The RCMP is undermanned and this played a role in the tragedy at Mayerthorpe. Off duty members were called in to assist; were they properly prepared? Although all members are well trained; like the Canadian Forces, the RCMP is suffering from reduced experience levels. What role did that play? The RCMP also suffers from a lack of adequate equipment, such as body armour that will withstand something more powerful than a handgun. I'm sure that all the decisions made that day were deemed to be appropriate by those who made them.

I suspect that a thorough investigation will expose many areas, such as equipment, training, experience, operational intelligence, and legal limitations to action, that conspired to make this a tragedy. Many of them will be rooted in inadequate funding. The Government will huff and puff about how much they value and support the RCMP. They will portray legitimate questions by anyone in Opposition as being somehow disloyal to the Force. They will refuse to talk about an on-going investigation for fear of jeopardizing their work - read, for fear of having blame laid where it belongs. In the end, the Minister of Public Safety will present the findings in a less than forthright manner, designed not to fix the problem, but to exonerate the Government. And, nothing will change.

Besides being starved for funding, the RCMP and all other law enforcement agencies are trapped in a justice system that has thwarted their efforts at providing public safety and has placed the rights of the criminal ahead of the public good. This has been largely the result of manipulation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by the legal profession and over-the-top civil libertarians. Before I get hung for such sacrilege, let me say that this is not a blanket condemnation of the Charter, lawyers, or civil libertarians. It is a blanket condemnation of those who abuse the Charter for profit or ride personal hobbyhorses at the expense of the public good. I also understand that "public good" can have many personal definitions.

When we have people like James Roszko, who had a long list of convictions for violent offences and very little jail time, as a result, there is clearly a breakdown in the principles of crime and punishment. It's easy to look back and declare Roszko a dangerous offender, but the evidence was clear before his final crimes.

During the last election, a corrections officer with nearly thirty years experience approached me. He had dozens of documented examples of the rights of violent criminals overriding the safety of both the officers involved and the public. Officers were not allowed to be armed when escorting convicted murderers on hospital visits outside the walls. Officers were not allowed to wear knife-proof vests; for fear that the inmates might think that they weren't trusted. The topper was the guy who had been let out on statutory release eight times after being sentenced to a collective thirty-seven years in prison for violent crimes, including the murder of another inmate. On his way to see me, the officer learned that this obviously extremely dangerous criminal had just been released for the ninth time. I haven't tracked the guy, but I suspect that he's back in jail after another violent crime and another conviction, just waiting to be released for the tenth time on an unsuspecting public.

I think that we all, including the Government, know who are the good guys who are the bad guys. What Government has done, with our tacit approval, is to allow the forces of irrational niceness to dictate public safety based on warm and fuzzy (and dangerous) liberal notions. The RCMP and other police forces are suffering the results of decades of such policies in their continuing commitment to selflessly do their duty on our collective behalf. By allowing Government to get away with it, we are all guilty of letting down the RCMP and police forces, in general.

We have three choices. Force this Government to fund law enforcement adequately and rescue the justice system from the grip of niceness. Or, exchange this Government for one that will. Or, accept that the inmates have taken over the asylum we lovingly call Canada and hunker down to life under an illusion of public safety. Because Option One will never happen, and Option Three is unacceptable, I vote for Option Number Two. How about you?


Blogger david said...

I agree with you. We must provide leadership and stand up for that which we believe. If the people of Canada wont vote for what we believe then we won't get elected. And for God's sake lets have it that what you see is what you've get. No more lying, conniving duplicitous cheating in the name of "good government". After reading your blog I was really glad to find out that yopu had stood for election. I wish you all the luck for next time.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

"Officers were not allowed to wear knife-proof vests; for fear that the inmates might think that they weren't trusted."

That is positively insane. What lunatic came up with that decision?

10:30 PM  

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