City council once again wants something done about prolific offenders.
The last try didn’t fly but this one might because it fits with a report on Canada’s justice system published last week by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. The institute ranked B.C.’s system near the bottom of the pile, 10th out of our 13 provinces and territories.
B.C. “significantly under-performed” in most areas. We have more criminal code incidents per police officer than the Canadian average, the lowest rates in solving crimes (violent and non-violent) and when cases do get to court, almost half the charges are dropped. We have more than our share of property crimes, breaches of probation, failure to comply with court orders, along with high levels of Indigenous people in jail and low criminal legal aid expenditures. There’s more, but you get the idea. The report is based on 2016 data from Statistics Canada, can’t blame the NDP for this one.
Question: Does the current situation have anything to do with former Premier Gordon Campbell’s decision to close 24 of the province’s 68 courthouses and 45 Legal Services Society offices in 2002? The closures were a cost-cutting measure to help balance the budget. There were warnings at the time about long term consequences, but the cuts must have made sense to the government.
We ended up with a system that’s said to be great for lawbreakers, not so good for the rest of us. NDP government take note, when you’re dealing with budgets, take long-term impacts into account.
The Canadian Bar Association of BC is asking the province to fix what they call a “fraying justice system.” City council should back their request. A better justice system might not only solve the prolific offenders’ situation, it might get Williams Lake out of the dangerous city category.
Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian and book author.