By KERRY DIOTTE
As a federal politician, crime, justice and community safety are almost always at the top of the list of concerns I hear about from people.
These topics have especially dominated the news and the minds of many people I’ve talked to lately.
Just the other day I met with constituents in my local office, both of whom were crying out for changes to the way we seek to have safer communities.
One 77-year-old man complained he and his wife had suffered 54 break-ins or petty crimes in and around their Londonderry area home since 1990.
Few people were arrested for the offences, despite the fact that he’s got scores of surveillance video, he told me.
What’s more, he said their farm in Mayorthorpe was hit by thieves and vandals who made off with $40,000 in stolen goods and did $30,000 in vandalism.
The man is upset there aren’t more police resources to probe such crimes. He figures Canada needs to toughen laws to put repeat offenders away for longer stretches. “It’s become a justice industry,” he says. “It’s not justice.”
A retired veteran of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) I met with the same day echoed similar frustration with the approach to public safety.
His concern centres around a lack of resources from the federal government to deal with people released from federal prisons, deemed to be high risk to re-offend “sexually or violently.”
The former EPS officer who’s still active in the criminal justice system says these high-risk ex-cons have typically been kept in prison until the last day of their sentences and don’t get the benefit of statutory release.
The former officer told me a trio of city police detectives in Edmonton do their best to supervise an average of 30 of these high-risk offenders who walk among us — a high percentage of those ex-cons being sex offenders.
The retired officer argues more resources are direly needed to stop these hardest of hardened ex-cons from re-offending. As proof the system isn’t working, he brought me a list of eight such, hard-core ex-cons who indeed did re-offend.
Those re-offences include the aggravated assault of a woman confined to a wheelchair, sex assaults against children under the age of 16 and several homicides, he said.
“If these cases are going to remain the responsibility of policing agencies across Canada, they need proper funding from the federal government for training and adequate personnel,” he said.
To me, that’s a no brainer.
The concerns of these two men are the tip of the iceberg. Recently Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simons lamented that Canada has a “broken court system.”
Simons raised numerous concerns including that courts don’t have enough judges or other resources to deal with the workload.
I believe that’s particularly true because of a Supreme Court ruling called the Jordan decision. That ruling means accused criminals must get a trial is a timely manner or they must be released.
Canadians have already been shocked that several people charged with violent crimes didn’t get a trial fast enough and were released scott free.
Simons rightly a point out it’s a federal government responsibility to appoint federal judges and there are a whack of vacancies.
This is hardly news to our Conservative caucus.
We’ve been hammering at the federal Liberal justice minister for months now as vacancies for judges remained unfilled for no good reason.
When repeatedly questioned in the House of Commons by Conservative deputy justice critic Michael Cooper, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has blathered a lot of non-sensical excuses for the delay including talking about the fact we need to aim for “diversity” when hiring judges.
In my view, public safety can’t take a back seat when there aren’t enough judges appointed and people charged with murder and other violent crimes are walking free without being tried.
Another controversy keeping crime high on people’s radar was the recent defeat of Wynn’s Law by the federal Liberal majority government.
Backed by Conservatives, it would have closed a loophole in the law so that those applying for bail would have to have their criminal records and pending charges shown to a judge.
Liberals made a bogus argument that, somehow, disclosing someone’s criminal record or pending charges would bog down the justice system. Just TRY to figure out that loopy Liberal logic.
Violent crime has also been much on the minds of many in Edmonton, in part because the city had experienced more than two dozen homicides and 2017 is only half over. By June 29 the city had recorded its 25th murder.
The spike in murders was enough for police to call a news conference to ally public fears and reassure citizens the city is still relatively safe.
Given all these recent headlines, it’s understandable Canadians are worried about community safety and concerned not enough is being done by governments to assure the public.
Public safety should be a top priority for any government. Our Conservative opposition will continue to urge the Liberal government to fill vacancies in the federal courts and stand up for victims of crime and law-abiding Canadians.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts on these issues.