The director of Simon Fraser University's School of Criminology says the Harper government's Safe Streets and Communities Act is "pure political theatre."
"It has nothing to do with sound social policy," Dr. Robert Gordon proclaimed at a public forum on crime, held Tuesday night at the Surrey campus. "Sorry if I've offended anybody here. Too bad. Because that's what it is - it's pure political theatre. It's costing us a fortune and we haven't seen the bill yet."
"Let me just say I'm neither NDP nor federal Liberal," Gordon added. "Don't start attaching political labels to me; I try to speak with a clear voice."
The Tories introduced the Act last September, heralding it as comprehensive legislation that targets crime and terrorism while providing "support and protection" to crime victims.
It re-introduced nine other Tory crime bills that died in previous parliamentary sessions.
"First of all, it's a statute that contains nothing that's new," Gordon said. "It's a composition that was a product of failed attempts to throw out various statutes through parliament, that failed."
"What it became was simply a mechanism for re-electing the Conservative federal government, giving them a majority. I don't think its impact was clearly thought through."
Gordon figures the Tories' intention was to mobilize popular sentiment using "panic around crime" in order to "herd the electorate in a certain direction, and of course it worked perfectly."
The SFU professor found it "fascinating" how Ontario and Quebec responded to the Act.
"Within a matter of weeks of the bill passing, Ontario and Quebec were up in arms about the costs - who's going to pay for this? What are the numbers? There were no answers to those questions. Clearly the major impact is going to be felt by the provinces, and by the taxpayers of the provinces."
While some portions of the Act are useful, he said, there's also a lot of "wobbly stuff."
An example of "wobbly," he said, is the impact of removing judicial discretion in key areas of sentencing, "playing into the idea that somehow the judiciary is soft on crime.
"It's a very popular myth, I think amplified by a handful of curious decisions made by judges, not just in B.C. but elsewhere," Gordon said.
"But it is only a handful. Look at the routine sentencing practices of judges across Canada. You won't find much to substantiate the claim."
The forum was hosted by Surrey North MP Jasbir Sandhu, NDP critic for public safety. The panel also included film maker Mani Aman (Footsteps Into Gangland), Surrey RCMP crime prevention coordinator Colleen Staresina, South Fraser Community Services executive director Shayne Williams, Pathfinder Youth Centre Society executive director Ruth Lee, and Newton-North Delta NDP MP Jinny Sims.
About 50 people attended. Harry Batalia was among them. His daughter Maple, 19, was murdered on the third-level of the campus's parking lot, close to where the forum was held. A participant might well have parked in the same stall where the SFU health sciences student was shot dead while returning to her car, in the early morning hours of Sept. 28, 2011, after a late-night study session.
Police are still looking for her killer. "That kind of a rodent should be exposed to the community," the grief-stricken father said. "He's a devil, he's a monster, he's an idiot.
"I brought my daughter at the age of six months into Canada to bring about a better life for my two daughters but I never knew she would get seven bullets in the back for doing nothing wrong."
Batalia wanted to know what's being done to prevent a similar shooting there.
Staresina said that since the shooting, police have been working closely with Concord security and administration at the mall.
"They've added more cameras, they've done more patrols, they've done everything humanly possible. But I think people need to understand that there is a drift of evil, sometimes, and no amount of protection or cameras or security is going to stop that."
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