EDITORIAL: Our parole system devalues ​​public safety


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The senseless shooting deaths of Toronto police officers. Andrew Hong and auto repair shop owner Shakeel Ashraf, along with the injuries of three others in Mississauga on Monday, were shocking but not surprising.

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Not when it happened in the wake of the senseless stabbing murders of 10 people in Saskatchewan – all but one on the James Smith Cree Nation reserve – a week before this tragedy.

In this rampage, the victims were Thomas Burns, Carol Burns, Gregory Burns, Lydia Gloria Burns, Bonnie Burns, Lana Head, Christian Head, Robert Sanderson, Wesley Petterson and Earl Burns Sr. Eighteen others were injured.

None of these victims were “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

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Their now-deceased murderers — whom we won’t name — were in the wrong place at the wrong time, because they should have been in jail given their history of violence and parole violations.

Year after year, Canadians are learning of cases of violent criminals who should have been in jail given their long criminal records and numerous parole violations, being put back on our streets to commit more violent crimes.

No legal system can eliminate crime.

But what is happening today is the inevitable result of sentencing and parole reforms by federal governments beginning in the 1970s, first by the Liberals, but embraced by the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats at the time.

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What happened was made clear by the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau in a statement to Parliament on October 7, 1971 by then Solicitor General Jean-Pierre Goyer.

“For too long now,” said Goyer, “our punishment-oriented society has cultivated the mindset that demands that offenders, regardless of age and regardless of offense, be placed behind bars. …

“As a result, we have now decided to emphasize the rehabilitation of individuals rather than the protection of society… Our reforms may be criticized for being too liberal or for failing to protect society against dangerous criminals. Indeed, this new rehabilitation policy will probably require a lot of effort and will involve certain risks…”

This philosophy has been the fundamental tenet of our criminal justice system ever since.

Nothing will change until we make public safety a more important goal of sentencing than rehabilitating the minority of violent criminals who cannot be rehabilitated.


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