The recent crime wave sweeping through our city has put people on edge. From the murder of Harvey Sanderson, a man with brittle-bone disease, who was assaulted by two individuals and later succumbed to his injuries, the warnings of increased gang violence to the disturbing increase of arsons and shootings, Winnipeg feels more unsafe than ever.
Why is this crime wave happening in our city? Some people are speaking out about their belief that one clear and undeniable factor is the weak, soft-on-crime policies that were promoted first by the federal Liberals party and here in Manitoba by the provincial NDP.
Previous Liberal governments created a justice system that put the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of victims. There were cases in which murderers and violent sex offenders were released back into the public after serving only a couple of years in jail. There is no excuse for this. In my opinion, the justice system under the Liberal party failed to be accountable to victims of crime. It was forgotten that a justice system must focus first on preventing crime and protecting those who follow the law. Years of a slow erosion of the justice system has meant that it has taken time to get our house back in order, but with the upcoming overhaul, our federal justice system is improving.
Here in Manitoba it’s a different story. The provincial NDP’s lax approach to enforcing our laws has created an environment for crime to flourish. Recently the NDP government even deleted outstanding arrest warrants, which is a profound failure of their social responsibility to keep us safe.
You have a right to expect that if someone commits a crime against you that they will face serious consequences and that what they did to you will not be forgotten or deleted from the records. More importantly, you have a right to expect that the laws will be strong enough to deter and prevent crimes from happening in the first place.
The bottom line is that those who purposefully murder an innocent person or commit a violent sexual assault should face serious consequences. This is a common sentiment, but unfortunately there are still those who focus only on the rights of criminals, while ignoring the rights of victims.
It’s easy to favour weak prison sentences in abstract terms. We all think people should get a second chance, so the idea of locking someone up for life seems harsh to some. When we think of our own family and friends, however, we can see things in a different way. We can imagine how we would feel if one of our loved ones were murdered or violently assaulted. We probably wouldn’t favour weak sentences in that situation. The truth is that every crime has a victim, and those victims have families and friends who love them. One terrible crime devastates countless lives and the consequences are felt throughout years and decades.
By introducing mandatory minimum sentences, which ensure that people found guilty of serious crimes face a fair and realistic amount of time in jail, the Conservative government is making a clear statement that those of us who follow the law will be protected and that our laws will be enforced in an unbiased and objective way.
This will bring our justice system back into balance. This balance recognizes that rehabilitation is important and must be a part of any justice system. There are individuals who commit crimes and are able to learn from their actions and become productive members of society. However, rehabilitation cannot be the sole focus of our justice system. Our justice system must first and foremost protect us and prevent crime so we can live with a feeling of safety and security.
With a Conservative majority government, there is a new normal for the Canadian justice system. After many years, our justice system will finally be based on common sense and realism.
Spencer Fernando is the Comment Editor for the Manitoban.