Harper, Calgary Police, and Violent Crimes in Calgary: Part 1

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Harper, Calgary Police, and Violent Crimes in Calgary: Part 1

Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a big fan of Stephen Harper or his Conservative cronies, but it isn't simply a political divide that has me seeing red after he took the stage in Calgary to talk about the criminal justice system. My problem with Harper's approach isn't purely ideological, and in fact I'd be happy to strip ideology completely away for a second to take a look at what Canada and the City of Calgary truly needs if we're to remain in—or regain, perhaps—our position as one of the safest, fairest, and more friendly places in the world.

On an entirely practical level, eschewing principles in favor of real-world outcomes, the criminal justice approaches Harper advocates—and the approaches he promises to sometimes rabid fans who are too busy cheering him on to take a look at the facts—simply don't work.

As reported in the Calgary Sun, Harper believes that the reason crime exists is because criminal aren't being punished harshly enough. I'll let the PM give it to you in his own words:

"The entire [criminal justice] system was focused on the welfare of the criminal, ignoring the victim," according to Harper. "There have been too many stories where someone has committed and been convicted of a terrible crime and they literally would get a slap on the wrist. The basis of our justice system is someone is innocent until proven guilty. We got to a place where someone was innocent after being proven guilty."

Ignoring the fact that a literal slap on the wrist is not a government-sanctioned punishment for any crime I'm aware of, and putting aside—momentarily—the fact that we've seen more automatic presumptions of guilt during Harper's government than in any other period since the Charter was enacted, what he's saying is that Canada (and Calgary specifically) has grown so soft on crime that we're letting convicted criminals get away without any punishment, while crime victims have to huddle in fear because they have no protections and no rights.

His is an attitude he's maintained throughout his near-decade as prime minister, despite the fact that much of the country has voted in a non-Conservative government and is clearly looking in other directions for real answers that work. Yet anyone that's ever represented a criminal defence client, worked as a Crown prosecutor, or has been in any way involved in the day to day functioning of our criminal justice system knows this to be absurd. Penalties, some of them quite harsh, do exist and are handed down many times a day, and programs for victims are abundant.

More to the point, even if Harper's assessment of Canada and Calgary's criminal justice system were correct, the changes he's calling for won't produce the outcomes he claims to seek.

Continued in Part 2.