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If Martin wants to reduce neighborhood crime, he should build jails, not gyms Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 09 January 2006

Paul Martin vowed in Monday’s leaders’ debate to revoke Ottawa’s right to opt out of any Charter of Rights ruling by the courts.

He promised to amend the Constitution so that the federal government loses its Section 33 Charter right to contradict the courts -- the much-discussed but never-federally-invoked “notwithstanding clause.”

This man is becoming such a tangle of contradictions he’s hard to take seriously.

Only a week before, in the fall-out from the Boxing Day murder on Yonge Street, Martin said he would revoke the right of anyone accused of a gun crime to get bail unless he could first prove himself innocent.

But pretrial presumption of innocence is an explicit Charter right (under section 11d). Bail is another (11e).

So Martin is saying one week that he will pass a law to revoke bail, and the next week that he’ll revoke the government’s right to do so.

You really get the sense he’ll say anything at all.

Besides, the main problem with armed gangsters is not that they can post bail before trial, it’s that nothing much happens to them afterward, especially if they’re young and Jamaican, as most in Toronto are.

What makes the Liberals’ new hard line on crime less than credible is everything else they say -- and continue to say -- about the problem.

For the past half-century it has been a Liberal dogma (shared by federally-appointed judges, prison wardens and parole boards) that “poverty causes crime.”

If only young Johnny had been given adequate recreational facilities as a child he would never have started dealing drugs.

If only young Lamont had been put in a federally subsidized professional daycare as a toddler, he wouldn’t be out there today looting and shooting.

You will search in vain for actual evidence that anyone robs and kills because he’s hungry, or that lenient paroling of convicted gangsters enriches poor neighborhoods. In fact the evidence in the U.S. over the last generation is quite the opposite -- crime causes poverty, and keeping criminals in jail improves neighborhoods.

But Martin is nothing if not Liberal. He said in Winnipeg last week, “We will work with community leaders to give hope to young people [i.e. gangsters] who so desperately seek it. When you talk to them, it is the sense of exclusion that they identify as a root cause of the void too many seek to fill by turning to violence.”

It’s interesting that fewer and fewer Ontarians buy this gobbledygook.

Maybe they are recovering their sense of “responsible government,” which holds men like Paul Martin accountable for specific tasks.

The constitutional tasks of our federal government are to pass effective criminal laws, to appoint competent judges, to run penitentiaries and parole boards properly, and to select good immigrants.

There’s nothing about “working with the community.”

If Martin wants to build useful community facilities, the Constitution indicates jails, not gyms. If he wants to help Toronto reduce shootings, he should talk to his Immigration minister, not to west-end gangsters about the “void in their lives.”

Gyms, counseling, youth programs and drop-in centres are all matters of local, and therefore provincial, responsibility. If Ottawa has extra money for these purposes, it had no business taking that money out of the community in the first place.

Dare we hope that Torontonians are slowly becoming capable of such rigorous thought?

- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.

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