Police in Abbotsford investigate the scene of an Aug. 17 gang-related drive-by shooting that left a 23-year-old man with a gunshot wound to the leg.

Police in Abbotsford investigate the scene of an Aug. 17 gang-related drive-by shooting that left a 23-year-old man with a gunshot wound to the leg.

ELECTION 2015: Tories talk tough on crime, justice

Key Conservative reforms have been rolled back by the courts

Innocent victims slain over the past year in Surrey and Abbotsford, along with dozens of gang-linked shootings, have made crime a hot topic in the federal election campaign.

All three major parties have promised to add more police to fight gang crime, including Liberal and NDP vows to immediately deploy 100 more Mounties in Surrey.

But the Conservatives continue to project themselves as toughest on crime.

Leader Stephen Harper has vowed to reintroduce a lapsed “life means life” bill to take away any chance at parole for the worst murderers.

It comes on top of earlier reforms, like the stacking of parole eligibility periods so a quadruple murderer can now be made to wait 100 years for a shot at getting out.

Other key changes have reduced the scope to use house arrest rather than jail, and reduced parole leniency for non-violent offenders.

But the Harper crime agenda has been reined in by the courts, which have limited government attempts to impose more minimum sentences, most notably striking down mandatory three-year terms for gun crimes.

The government also tried to erase the practice of granting double credit for remand time served in jail before trial, but the Supreme Court has allowed judges to continue to grant 1.5 days credit for each day served.

“The Supreme Court’s decisions have hobbled or at the very least bridled the Conservatives’ law-and-order agenda,” SFU criminologist Rob Gordon said.

He’s among the observers who warn the lock-em-up-longer approach threatens to cost Canada billions of dollars more to imprison convicts, as well as more protracted fights in the courts that will mainly benefit constitutional lawyers.

One of the newest Conservative campaign promises is to create a list of gangs to make prosecuting members easier without first having to prove in each case that the group is a criminal organization.

Gordon doubts it will work because, in the case of the Hells Angels, not every member of the gang is involved in serious organized crime.

“In Surrey, this is even less worthwhile because the groups active in the last six months don’t have names,” Gordon said. “They don’t run around with banners saying they are members of this, that or the other organization.”

Other new Tory promises pledge two-year minimum sentences for fraudsters with multiple victims unless there’s full restitution, and easing the burden of evidence in prosecuting drunk drivers, although it’s unclear whether that would reverse B.C.’s recent shift from impaired prosecutions to roadside penalties.

Despite the intense spotlight on warring gangs, criminologists like Gordon point out crime rates have actually been declining for decades.

“Crime is falling and so is the rate of severe crimes,” he said.

The reason isn’t Conservative policy, he said, but societal changes, particularly the demographic shift that’s left proportionally fewer young men who are most prone to crime.

Technology has helped. There are more theft-resistant cars, alarm-protected homes, and video cameras poised to record crimes than ever before. And youth who were once more apt to find trouble outside may be increasingly diverted now by online distractions that keep them indoors or staring at screens.

“There are pop-ups of course, in particular in spots like Surrey, which all has to do with the illegal drug trade and the failure to deal with that,” Gordon said.

What would work to further cut crime?

Gordon lists marijuana reform and an end to the Lower Mainland’s patchwork system of RCMP and municipal police jurisdictions.

Advocates have repeatedly called for more wraparound services to help intercept and rehabilitate prolific offenders, as well as better addiction treatment, education, gang prevention initiatives, and even anti-poverty measures like housing for the homeless.

Gordon said such social policy strategies hold promise, but don’t resonate with voters as well as hawkish rhetoric, and politicians who propose them may be denounced as soft on crime.

The NDP would decriminalize marijuana, while the Liberals and Greens would legalize it and tax it.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has said he may repeal some mandatory minimums on sentencing, which he said should be reserved for serious and violent offences.

Liberals have pledged to tighten access to handguns and restricted firearms, and devote $100 million a year to anti-gang task forces to target gun and gang violence.

The NDP have said they’d strive to emphasize rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair has also pledged $250 million for a police recruitment fund and to invest $40 million to reverse cuts to shelters for women fleeing violence.

Guns seized from Metro Vancouver gang members after coordinated raids this spring by anti-gang police. Contributed photo.

 

Just Posted

Hundreds gathered at Surrey’s Holland Park Friday (June 11) in memory of the Muslim family killed in London, Ont. on Sunday (June 6). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Educating public ‘exhausting,’ says White Rock Muslim Association past president

Asad Syed says public needs to be more vocal in their condemnation

The City of White Rock turns 63 today. (file photo)
City of White Rock 2020 annual report available for review

Report to be discussed at June 28 council meeting

People were lined up around the fields at a drop-in vaccine clinic at Newton Athletic Park on Tuesday (April 27, 2021), which is one of the high-transmission neighbourhoods that are being given vaccine priority. This clinic was one of at least three to open in the city on Tuesday. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s weekly cases continue to drop, push for 80% vaccination rate citywide

BCCDC reports 263 cases for Surrey the week of May 30 to June 5

Fleetwood Park Secondary School’s 2021 commencement ceremonies were held over the course of two days, June 10 and 11. Grads went through a small, distanced ceremony in groups of four, with up to four members of the grad’s household. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s 2021 grads find creative ways to celebrate in another year of COVID-19

This year’s Grade 12 students were unable to have any large-scale events

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read