Dealing with prolific offenders

'Catch and release' concern

This week is a non-sitting week for the House of Commons, allowing MPs to be back in their ridings to meet with, and hear the concerns of, local residents.

One of the challenges of public office is, while some concerns may fall exclusively under the jurisdiction of local, provincial or the federal government, other concerns overlap and fall under several jurisdictions.

I raise this point because one serious concern I am hearing about from many communities in our region is prolific criminals and what many are calling our “catch and release” justice system.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, as well as Kelowna-West MLA Ben Stewart, have met with me to share information and convey concerns, as have many residents who seek answers to what remains a thorny issue.
In almost every community, there is a small but very well-known group of offenders who commit serious crimes on a habitual basis.

A recent news article from one community summarized the situation well: “A judge granted a prolific offender bail in court on Wednesday afternoon, giving him one more chance to abide by his conditions after being arrested multiple times for allegedly failing to meet them.”

The offender in question is reported to already have 60 convictions over the past decade.

The police are also extremely frustrated. In some situations, these criminals will commit crimes within hours of being released while they await trial.

When you hear from victims, it is devastating. One mobility challenged senior had her motorized scooter stolen from a secure underground garage. It was not insured and she cannot afford to replace it. The senior has now become house bound and her quality of life has deteriorated immensely.

The person (believed to be) responsible was caught, charged and immediately released and is again (believed to be) committing crimes within the community.

At the provincial level, the B.C. government has admitted it is aware this is a serious problem but have no ideas about how to resolve it. Attorney General David Eby has announced the government will hire two experts to come up with ideas about how to take action on this serious problem.

Fortunately, in our Conservative Opposition caucus, we have a new MP with significant experience in this area. Frank Caputo, MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, is a former Crown prosecutor with experience in corrections, who also served as a law professor at Thompson Rivers University.

He recently tabled Private Members Bill C-274. When he introduced the bill, he noted roughly 5% of offenders commit 90% of the crimes that use police resources. Many of these criminals commit these crimes while awaiting trial for other crimes.

Bill C-274 proposes to create a “presumptive detention” for criminals accused of three or more indictable offences with a maximum penalty of five years or more. This would not be a mandatory requirement, however, it would allow judges more discretion to keep serious criminals in jail where they cannot continue to re-offend.

If a judge felt there was an exceptional reason or circumstance for a habitual offender to be released, they would still have the discretion to release the person.

This bill will not resolve all of the challenges our local communities face with crime, but it most certainly could assist local law enforcement in dealing with serious, re-offending criminals. I was proud to second Bill C-274.

My question this week:

Do you support this proposed legislation?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Is it time to drop vaccine passport for air travellers?

Drop vax card for air travel?

Back in January 2021, when the idea of a “vaccine passport” that would (allow) vaccinated (Canadians) to travel and have access to various public amenities and services first emerged, the idea was strongly opposed by Prime Minister Trudeau.

As he stated (at the time), the idea of a vaccine passport was, and I quote directly, “fraught with challenges” and would have "divisive impacts on community and country."

As we know, the prime minister reversed his stance against vaccine passports and used them as a wedge issue during last year’s pandemic election.

Indeed, as Trudeau himself confirmed in January 2021, the implementation of the vaccine mandate has indeed created divisive impacts.

Fortunately, in all Canadian provinces, residents who are vaccinated and not vaccinated can now enjoy equal access to public and private amenities and services with one glaring exception—air travel, which is a federally regulated sector. It still requires proof of vaccination in order to fly.

For those who are vaccinated, which is the majority, this is not an inconvenience, although it has added to more congestion and some delays at many Canadian airports.

However, for those who are not vaccinated it has, and continues to, cause serious hardship in many situations.

For many who are unvaccinated it means being unable to see loved ones or to care for a sick or elderly parent in another part of Canada. It means holidays alone.

These are not just cases of people who want to travel for a vacation. I have heard of husbands and wives being separated overseas and adult children separated from their parents who are in hospice. It is often heartbreaking.
As the official Opposition, we have raised this concern in Ottawa.

While the government continues to insist it is “following the science,” it has shown no such documentation to support the continued enforcement of this exclusionary policy.

For the record, I am fully vaccinated and have supported vaccination throughout the pandemic.

My question this week:

Do you believe it is time for the federal government to lift the vaccination requirement for train and air travel or is this something you would like to see remain in place?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Repeal of mandatory minimum sentences questioned

More judicial discretion

One of the first terms I became familiar with when first elected as a Member of Parliament, was the “Ottawa bubble”.

What exactly is the “Ottawa bubble”? It can have a variety of different meanings.

From my own view, it describes how the culture and perspectives on Parliament Hill are often very different from what exists in many Canadian communities.

An example of this are the current record high gasoline prices.

For many Canadians who are forced to commute for a variety of different reasons, the added costs are, in some cases, adding hundreds of extra dollars to their monthly fuel bill.

From families already struggling with higher grocery bills and other inflationary cost increases, along with the rise in interest rates, I have heard reports that some households are out more than an extra $500 per month—money they cannot afford.

When we (the Conservative Opposition) noted the federal government was cashing in with GST on gas and diesel as fuel prices rise, we proposed to temporarily suspend the GST on fuel sales. But our motion was defeated as the Liberal/NDP partnership literally laughed at us while voting against this motion.

There was little recognition from the prime minister about the effects that rising gas prices are having on families and commuters.

Another example of the “Ottawa Bubble” in action pertains to crime.

I hear immense frustration from many communities upset by chronic offenders who continue to commit crimes only to be released back into the communities where they re-offend.

That was one of the reasons why we have mandatory minimum penalties for crimes at the federal level to ensure, for certain types of crimes, there was a mandatory penalty that had to be applied.

However, recently the Trudeau Liberal government introduced Bill C-5 that proposes to repeal 14 different mandatory minimum penalties under the Criminal Code.

What are some of these offences proposed to be repealed? Examples include using a firearm or imitation firearm in the commission of offence, possession of a firearm or weapon knowing its possession is unauthorized and possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition.

It is also proposed to repeal mandatory minimum sentences on discharging firearms with intent, discharging firearms recklesslessly, robbery with a firearm and extortion with a firearm (if not part of a criminal organization).

To be clear, Bill C-5 does not suggest there should not be penalties for these offences but rather that penalties for these offences should be entirely at the discretion of a judge, to allow for more “flexibility.”.

The Liberals point to the fact that between 2007-2008 and 2016-2017, Indigenous and black offenders were more likely to be admitted to federal custody for an offence punishable by an minimum mandatory penalty.

In 2020, despite representing just 5% of the Canadian adult population, Indigenous adults accounted for 30% of federally incarcerated inmates. The proportion of Indigenous offenders admitted with an offence punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty has almost doubled between 2007-2008 and 2016-2017, to 26% from 14%.

The Liberals have stated the intent of this bill is to “target” the data that shows the higher level of these incarceration rates.

My question this week:

Do you support repealing mandatory minimum sentences in favour of more judicial discretion in sentencing?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Do we need a national pharmacare program?

Polls and pharmacare

If you are in public office, polls are increasingly part of the territory.

Governments themselves increasingly pay for polling data. In 2020 it was revealed the Liberal government tripled its spending on polls.

One of the reasons why governments spend your money on polling is to determine what decisions and policies will be more politically popular with certain voting demographics.

As an example, right before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the “pandemic” election last year, polling by Ipsos revealed roughly 80% of Canadians supported the idea of mandatory vaccine mandates. More than 70% supported the idea of vaccine passports.

As we know, Trudeau campaigned heavily on these things during the election, despite previously rejecting the idea of vaccine passports, claiming they would create "divisive impacts on community and country."

Another poll, this one from Angus Reid and reported by the Financial Post, also caught my attention. It showed 86% of Canadians support a national pharmacare program. This of course was one of the announced objectives in the recent deal made between the Liberals and the NDP in Ottawa.

A recent Leger poll, however, asked the question differently. If a national pharmacare program came with a hike in the GST to pay for it, support drops down to just 40%, (according to the Leger poll).

The purpose of my column this week is not actually about polling, despite the increasing use being a topic of interest. It is actually about the promise of a national pharmacare program, as promised by the Liberal/NDP agreement.

Although pharmacare is a provincially funded and delivered program, I seldom hear complaints from (constituents) about the lack of availability of drugs or coverage from those in need. That is likely because B.C. already has its income-based, fully functional Fair Pharmacare program that works well and B.C. (taxpayers) are already paying for it.

That was a point raised by Premier John Horgan, who on behalf of all provincial premiers, has publicly pointed out federal transfers for health care are the priority to deal with surgical backlogs over new federal program spending, such as pharmacare.

This is consistent with what I hear from constituents with increasing alarm. The long surgery waitlists and lack of family doctors are pushing our provincial health care system to its limits.

My question this week:

Where do you see a greater need—more doctors or a national pharmacare program?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Dan in Ottawa articles

About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the official Oppositions's finance critic.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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