Cotler gets it — almost
By Arthur Weinreb, Associate Editor
Canada Free Press
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
The shootings in Toronto this summer have reached proportions that even the federal government can’t ignore it. The Liberals has announced that they will be holding a summit on gun crime. The Conservatives, undoubtedly in an attempt to show that they are not simply the Liberal-Lite party, said they will be creating a task force. In a move that will achieve as much as these summits and task forces, NDP leader Jack Layton doesn’t appear to be planning anything regarding the use of guns on the streets of Toronto’s largest city. And Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe--well, he just wants his own country; one with Toronto not in it; an idea that is beginning to look more and more appealing.
With the escalation of gun crime, came more calls for minimum and harsher sentences for both those who use guns or who are found in possession of them. These moves have been constantly rejected by Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and the Liberals. Cotler has long spoken out against minimum sentences arguing that they do little to deter crime. According to the Justice Minister, people are deterred not by the length of any sentence that might be imposed but by their chances of being apprehended.
It may sound at first that Irwin Cotler is just passing the buck. The feds have their own police force, the RCMP, but their main duty is to serve and protect the Liberal Party of Canada. Real policing comes under municipal and provincial jurisdictions. But even so Justice Minister Cotler does have a point.
Jail acts as a great deterrent to those who will never commit a serious crime and will never be faced with the possibility of being incarcerated. To those who have been going in and out of jail from a young age, the thought of spending more time behind bars is no big deal. And it would be surprising if any of the current crop of Toronto’s disadvantage young people (ie. the shooters) had not been in jail prior to taking out their first victim. The thought of going back to jail is not a deterrent.
Someone once described the thought of going to jail as similar to being told by your mother that you’re going to go to summer camp for a month next summer. You spend all winter worrying that it will be horrible. Your mommy won’t be there to tuck you in at night. Nor will she be there to make you a sandwich if you get hungry at night. You won’t be able to watch what you want to watch on television or play video games anytime you feel like. Then you go to camp and everything that you thought ends up to be true. Except that it is never as bad as you thought it would be. And the next winter, when you’re mother tells you that you will be going to camp for two months next summer, you think to yourself, well, I managed to handle one month; I can handle two. On the other hand, if someone knew in the morning that if they did something later that day and there was a good chance that they would end up behind bars that evening, they would probably be deterred from committing the crime.
Where the Justice Minister misses the point is that when it comes to the use of handguns in Toronto, deterrence shouldn’t even be a factor. There have been handguns on the streets of Toronto for years. If B ripped off A in a drug deal, A would perhaps take a gun, walk up to B and shoot him to death. Looking back, those seemed to be the good old days. Now it’s quite common for the bad guys to fire off numerous rounds, not at who they are trying to kill, but in the general direction of that person or persons. Sometimes they hit their targets but they are just as likely to hit a toddler or a mother in a sandwich shop. And these guys don’t give a second thought to the innocent lives that they ruin.
While Irwin Cotler is no doubt right that minimum or harsh sentences will not deter a shooter, a 25-year-minimum sentence for firing off a gun in an area where people are will remove this human refuse from society for 25 years. If enough of them are removed, perhaps the city will become just a little safer for the law-abiding residents of the city of Toronto, especially those who are forced to live in gang-riddled areas.
But no one should be under any illusion that tougher sentences are on the horizon. The politicians will have their summits and their task forces and the shootings and killings will go on and on.
Arthur Weinreb is an author, columnist and Associate Editor of Canada Free Press. His work has appeared on Newsmax.com, Men's News Daily, the Drudge Report, Foxnews.com and The Rant. He can be reached at
© Canada Free Press 2005
Canada Free Press