Tuesday, February 09, 2010

When the Crime is the Punishment

Lysiane Gagnon published an editorial in The Globe & Mail on January 29, saying "Can it be that in just four years, Stephen Harper's government has managed to change the views of Canadians toward crime and punishment?" citing an Angus Reid poll that found Canadians believe convicted criminals should receive tougher penalties.

Ms. Gagnon has it all wrong. Our judges are the reason Canadians are less tolerant of criminals, not the Harper government. For too long, our justices have handed down insultingly lenient sentences to criminals who have done real, terrible harm to the community. The Danyelle Snively case readily comes to mind.

This week, Antonio (Tony) Raco was sentenced to six months in prison for sexually assaulting two of his students in the 1990s. The Lakeshore mom who sexually abused her two-year-old son and broadcast the images over a webcam, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. These are ridiculously light sentences that, yet again, send the message that our judges have no idea how to deal with criminals who are actively harmful to our community. It's the flaccid, lethargic, inexplicable leniency of our judges that has Canadians clamoring for tougher sentences for criminals.

The Harper government -- of which I am no supporter -- cannot be credited with changing Canadians' hearts and minds on the subject of crime. Our experience has done that. Every new, egregious headline in the newspaper, announcing some other criminal has virtually "gotten away with it," solidifieds in Canadians' minds that we cannot rely on our justice system to provide anything but outrage among the law-abiding. When will we finally bring justices to the bench who share the community's values and sense of what's right and wrong? The wait has already gone on too long.

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