With, to the chagrin of the BC Tourism people, Peter Van Loan having helpfully labeled Vancouver as “Canada's gang capital” last week (I suggest we stick with 'Supernatural British Columbia' on the license plates), his boss Stephen Harper was in town today to
capitalize on public concern about gang violence introduce considered legislation aimed at addressing the problem.
And, almost as importantly, appear tough and decisive on crime while painting the opposition, particularly those lilly-livered Liberals, as soft on crime pansies that want to hug thugs and, I don't know, bake them cookies or something.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper insists tougher sentences included in the anti-gang legislation the Conservatives tabled on Thursday will deter crime but said he expects opposition parties will "parrot" critics of the measures because they believe in "soft-on-crime" policies.
Speaking in the Vancouver area, which has seen 18 shootings in the past month, Harper said the Tories received the Canadian public's backing in the last election to ensure violent criminals face strong penalties.
"The truth of the matter is, those who say that the tougher penalties on perpetrators will not work don’t want them to work because they don’t believe in his kind of approach," he told reporters.
"We know that we’re going to hear these critics, and we know that we’re going to hear the opposition parrot some of these critics because they all believe in soft-on-crime policies."
Yeah, that's right, people that oppose conservative crime policies actually WANT people to get shot and what not so our philosophical beliefs can be proven correct. Ladies and gentleman of Canada, your Prime Minister. Be proud.
But wait, what's this, in the next paragraph in that CBC story:
Shortly after the prime minister spoke, the Liberals and NDP announced they would support the bill in principle, while also criticizing the Tories for not going far enough in terms of crime prevention.
Oh, snap! How do you like them apples, Steve? We'll see your tough on crime, and raise you a you should have done it sooner AND do something about prevention, you old crime softie you.
You know, I may still be surprised but from what I've read so far, I have no problem with what the Conservatives seem to be proposing in this legislation.
The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code would make any gang-related homicide a first-degree murder charge, as well as create a new charge for drive-by shootings that would carry a mandatory four-year minimum sentence upon conviction, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said.
The bill will also seek to increase sentences against those convicted of assaulting police officers with a weapon or causing bodily harm to a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Sure, why not. That's all fine with me. But if you think this is going to do anything to actually help the gang problem in B.C's Lower Mainland, you're on crack. Longer, tougher sentences. Sure. But are you under the impression gangsters don't know drive-by shootings, assaulting cops and running drugs is illegal? Do you think they're going to look at a longer sentence and decide 'yeah, it's not just worth it?' I really don't think so. They're aware it's wrong. They're aware of the risk. Make the sentences as long as you want. It may make the public feel better, but the impact on gang violence will be negligible.
It's not an either/or, prevention or tougher sentences, like Harper tries to make it. Why can't we do both? If we want to be truly effective, we need to. Ask yourself, would you rather throw the murderer in jail for life at taxpayer expense, or prevent them from turning to a life of crime in the first place. With the latter, not only do you save taxpayers the cost of incarceration but, well, you also save one taxpayer's life.
Frankly, a more effective thing that could be done to deal with BC's gang problem, and this is more something that needs to happen at the local level, would be to have one, single police force for the entire Greater Vancouver area. The mish-mash of different police forces, municipal and RCMP, that cover the area today is part of the problem. A single force would be more effective at dealing with a problem that crosses municipal boundaries.
Here's Liberal MPs Dominic LeBlanc and Ujjal Dosanjh reacting to the Conservative legislation. As a former BC Premier, and particularly as a former BC Attorney General, Dosanjh has some insight here.
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