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Standing Committee

November 20, 2011

….Two weeks ago I was with a group that spent most of the evening analyzing the problems of our justice system. We were wallowing in our pain, not always being “politically correct” as one member put it, but allowing each other to speak freely. At the end of the evening, I asked them what they would do create justice in our country.

To be honest, I expected that they would suggest changes to our criminal justice system similar to the bill we have before us today. I thought they would priorize safety at all costs, propose stiffer sentences, and advocate for more victim rights.

They didn’t. As we went around the circle, they all agreed that the answer to crime is to put more emphasis on the school system and other social programs. While not denying that we have to maintain prisons, they insisted that we as a society need to put our energy and creative thinking into giving our young people a better education.

….I’m thrilled to report that this past February we saw our own case finally brought to justice. For the first time, we heard the story. But the sentencing of the man who murdered our daughter did not satisfy our deep longing for justice.

….The trial brought out the truth, and it was the truth that healed us and set us free, not the sentencing. I still find no satisfaction in thinking that the man will be sitting in prison for the next 25 years. There is nothing life-giving about that, it is just sad.

In this short time, I can’t begin to give you a comprehensive critique of the bill but I do want to register my concerns with the potential for unintended consequences.

For example, even though it sounds wonderful to enshrine the victim’s voice at parole board hearings, I also worry about this. Could we be locking some victims and offenders together in a dysfunctional dialogue for the rest of their years?

Perhaps we need to include the victims at the beginning of the process, mapping out their healing journey at the same time as the guilty is being sentenced. Perhaps this should be at the discretion of the judge?

Furthermore, I wonder if we can afford to focus so many of our scarce resources on mopping up the past so that there are only crumbs left for the living who are struggling to find hope for the future?

As the Minister of Justice rightly noted earlier this week, beyond legislative initiatives such as Bill C-10, the Government of Canada is funding many creative, community-based justice initiatives that address the root causes of crime, support victims of crime, and help ex-offenders reintegrate into the community.

I would ask that you assign a greater proportion of your attention to this good work.

This is the month my daughter was abducted 27 years ago.
People often ask how we survived the impact of murder, how we eluded the grip of violence and held onto our joy. The winning formula for us was – love first, justice second.

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