Saturday, March 7, 2009

Crime Bill Death-Match: Bill 50 vs. Bill 201

Long time no see, Nation.

Before I get right into it, I wanted to touch very quickly on a couple of items that have crossed my desk in the past week-to-ten-days since we talked last.

Firstly, yes, I am aware that the much-lamented AlbertaTory dusted off his keyboard to make one last, gasping attempt at blogging before taking down his blog for good. I've been working on how to properly run a 3-4 Defence and balancing my approach to the running game as related to the passing game, so I didn't have a chance to read it - although, I understand there were veiled references to me in the piece. Can anyone "enlighten" me? We wish AlbertaTory all the best in his future endeavours - and we're in the market for a Defensive Co-ordinator. He knows how to get in touch...

Secondly, I was pleased and honoured to be able to take part in a great piece written by Trevor Scott Howell for FFWD Magazine this week, entitled "The Rise of Political Blogs". It was particularly humbling to be interviewed for the same piece that featured members of Alberta's blogging glitterati, including daveberta, the gang at AGRDT, and my Blog-father, Ken Chapman. Mr. Howell did a wonderful job taking my mental meanderings and forming them into something coherent - and he also blogs himself, so be sure to add him to your regular reads.

As a TOTAL aside - I'm hating the fact that most of the "heavy hitters" among Alberta's blogging community are in the Capital region. Come on, Calgary - where are your political opinions? As it stands right now, I *think* that Calgary could possibly field a BOWLING TEAM of bloggers (myself, djkelly, Kirk Schmidt and Shane from CalgaryRants). Do we need to lure CalgaryGrit back home?

NOW then, on to the Main Event of the Evening...

Regular readers of Capital Notebook, or people who, like myself, are cool enough that they read the Hansard for fun, will no doubt already be very aware of the civilized (mostly) steel cage match that has been developing since the Legislature came back into session between up-and-coming Liberal MLA and Twitterer (Tweeter?) Kent Hehr (Calgary-Buffalo) and Justice Minister Allison Redford (Calgary-Elbow). The ridings, for those of you wondering, are separated only by the lonely riding of Calgary-Currie, which (if things get any more heated between the 2) may be re-named "Calgary-Demilitarized Zone" in the redistribution. In all honesty, though, the exchanges have been for the most part respectful, and I was extremely pleased to see Hehr include in some of his questions to Redford the statement that he, in fact, applauds the government's support of Bill 50.

Much attention as late has been focused on the government's already-passed Bill 50 (Victims Restitution and Compensation Payment Amendment Act) and its implementation and effect on criminal activity, in contrast to Hehr's own Private Member's Bill 201, Traffic Safety (Vehicles with Unlawfully Possessed Firearms) Amendment Act.

The Liberal argument goes something like "Bill 50 is good, but it's not enough. Bill 201 fills in some of the loopholes".

The Tory argument goes a little something like "Bill 201 actually makes enforcing Bill 50 more difficult, and targets the wrong people".

Now, I'll let you read the bills for yourselves (Bill 50) (Bill 201) and come to your own conclusions, however I DO see the validity of both sides of the argument.

The Tories have argued against Bill 201 on the grounds that, for example, I might have my vehicle confiscated if my passenger is found to posses an unlicensed firearm. I just want to go on the record saying that if I suspect that the person riding "shotgun" in my car might actually HAVE a shotgun with him, I'm probably going to ask a few questions. Such as, "are you legally allowed to carry that weapon?". Or, "Have you recently robbed a liquor store with that gun?". Or, "Do you have any warrants I should know about?". I'm just saying.

So, of course, I'm going to argue to the judge, as a law-abiding citizen, that if my passenger turns out to have been carrying a concealed weapon that I didn't know about, well Your Honour, I DIDN'T KNOW HE HAD A GUN. And I'll be telling the truth. The problem being, of course, that every 2-bit thug who appears on the docket that day, charged under Bill 201, will make the EXACT SAME ARGUMENT. And it's very difficult to prove in a court of law what you did or didn't know, or have reason to suspect, or asked your passenger. Which now becomes a serious flaw in the legislation, since I wrongly lose my car (and gain a criminal record) for not being a better judge of character, while the gangbangers rightly lose their car for, well, being gangbangers.

The Liberals have a problem with Bill 50 in that it allows the government to seize the "proceeds of crime" (cars, guns, homes, boats, cash, and lots of other things that I don't have) and sell them to pay restitution to the victims of violent crime in Alberta. Which in and of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, the Grits concede. The problem that they have with the legislation is that it allows the seizure and sale of those proceeds BEFORE a conviction. Which begs the very relevant question: If my home is seized and sold under this legislation, and I am then found to be NOT GUILTY of the offence for which I was charged... how do I get my already-sold home back?

NOT going to happen, goes the response from the Justice Minister. The orders for seizure and sale have to come from a judge, which means the judge issuing the order would have to be satisfied not just that the offences are prosecutable and that a conviction is POSSIBLE, but that a conviction is ASSURED. The Liberals, depending on which one you ask, feel that either the government shouldn't be able to even SEIZE the items until a conviction occurs (which on a smaller scale is a ridiculous argument - the cops can't seize the drugs and paraphernalia they find on your person until you're convicted of posessing them?), or that they should be able to deny the accused access to their property until the prosecution for the offences runs its course (because, as we all know, a gangster who finds a notice posted on the front door to his gangster buddy's $4 Million home and a padlock on the front door will obviously obey the sign - being such a fan of the law - and go crash on his cousin's couch while the case takes 16 months to work its way through the courts).

Nation, neither one of these pieces of legislation is perfect - and there's a good reason for that. Because they CAN'T be. Legislation is imperfect by its very nature - written by imperfect beings, enforced and interpreted by imperfect beings. 2 well-educated, temperate judges can read the exact same piece of legislation and come to 2 completely and utterly different interpretations of what the law means and how it should be enforced - if at all.

That said, though, I applaud BOTH Minister Redford and the Honourable Mr. Hehr for their efforts to help curtail the crime that has more and more often found the front page of our local newspapers. Anything we can do to keep the bad guys away from the rest of us - and make them believe that crime does NOT, in fact, pay - is a good thing. Provided that in so doing, we don't also place an undue burden on the GOOD guys.

Ankle bracelets on dangerous offenders? Good.

Mandatory, trackable ID bracelets on ALL of us, for our own protection? NOT so good.

There IS a line between protecting us from the enemies of our civilized society and surrendering too much of our civil liberties to the state in the name of "the common public good".

Ask anyone whose families came here from Eastern Europe in the early-to-mid 20th century.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ES, I agree with the need for any legislation. Too bad each side wants to claim victory for the "better" bill. And as for bowling? Im in, lol. ( TwinkleToes Shane... )