Caledonia – Dark Days for Canadian Law Enforcement

Written by Harold McNeill on February 16th, 2012. Posted in Editorials

 Burning the Bridges of Canadian Justice

Homes were damaged or destroyed, public and private property destroyed, businesses bankrupted, ordinary citizens intimidated, threatened, attacked and one man left for dead with permanent brain damage, families torn apart, careers ended and, as a final insult, those same citizens, while trying to defend themselves, became the subjects of police “enforcement”. (the Image Gallery at the end of this post provides a solid visual of these events)

The Rape of Caledonia

Those who have read my posts, particularly in the Editorial Section, will know I am passionate about many subjects. Although I was a policeman for 30 years, you will also know I have never backed away from critizing the police when I believed the criticism was warranted.

A few months back, I made the mistake of reading a book titled: Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of fear and anarchy, and how the law failed all of us” by Christi Blatchford.  Blatchford, a respected journalist for both the National Post and Globe and Mail, spent many months researching, documenting and writing on the reign of terror that engulfed the good citizens of Caledonia. You might think these things only happen in some war torn country fighting a vicious dictator, but you would be wrong and in Canada, Caledonia was that place.


Who’s Accountable to Whom?

Written by Harold McNeill on February 6th, 2012. Posted in Editorials

The following is reprinted from an article written by Michael Byers and appearing in The Tyee on January 26, 2012.

I reprint the sections in which the author Michael Myers discusses with a German colleague the Canadian Parliamentary system vis a vis that of the German Reichstag. For the full article link here:

A View from the Reichstag: Who’s Accountable to Whom?

During a coffee break, a constitutional law professor quizzed me about Canada: “Is it true that your government has been shutting down Parliament?”

“Only temporarily,” I replied, explaining that Canadian prime ministers are entitled to ask the Governor General to prorogue Parliament. Stephen Harper first did so in Dec. 2008, in order to avoid losing a fiscal vote and thus his government. He did so again in Dec. 2009, in order to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of documents relating to the practice of transferring detainees to possible torture in Afghanistan. In both instances, the Governor General granted his request.

Nevertheless, Harper’s actions caused concern at home and abroad. As The Economist magazine observed on the second occasion, “The danger in allowing the prime minister to end discussion any time he chooses is that it makes Parliament accountable to him rather than the other way around.”

My German colleague seemed to share that view: “Didn’t the Canadian Parliament respond by declaring the government in contempt?”

“Not exactly,” I replied. The contempt of parliament ruling came later, in March 2011, after the government refused to provide MPs with detailed cost estimates for its crime bills. And while no other government in the Commonwealth had ever been found in contempt, Harper cavalierly downplayed the importance of the ruling, saying: “You win some, you lose some.”

Indeed, his Conservatives won a majority in the election that followed, which suggests that most Canadians were not particularly bothered by the finding of contempt.

“The real surprise,” I explained, “is that Harper does not appear satisfied with the extensive powers that are normally available to a majority government.”

I tell my German colleague about the government’s practice of invoking closure, with a frequency never before seen in Canada, to prevent elected MPs from debating major legislation such as the omnibus crime bill and a bill that will add dozens of new seats to the Commons.

About how, increasingly, the government moves the business of parliamentary committees behind closed doors, so that it can conceal embarrassing documents and reject witnesses proposed by opposition parties without fear of public censure.

Warning, with a smile

Finally, I explain how the Federal Court ruled in Dec. 2011 that a bill to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board was illegal because it violated a statutory requirement to poll wheat farmers first. No matter: the government adopted the bill anyway.

This led Peter Russell, the doyen of Canadian constitutional law, to warn: “Canadians should understand that at stake here is not just a technical point of law, but the integrity of parliamentary government.”

At this point, a wry smile crosses the German professor’s face.

“Professor Russell is right,” he says. “It’s all about understanding. Here in Germany, we sometimes learn our lessons too late.

While we are certainly no where near being turned into a dictatorship and the current government could fall (and will likely fall) in the next election, it is possible that several precedents will have been set by the current government that will be hard to dismantle. 

We should all be concerned when any of our governing parties choose to disregard the building blocks of our parliamentary system.

For Prime Minister Harper and the Conservatives, far to many blocks are being pulled from the foundation.

Harold McNeill 

Reference:  Who’s Accountable to Whom?


Ben Stein, My Confessions for the Holidays (Revisited)

Written by Harold McNeill on December 15th, 2011. Posted in Editorials


Including a Discussion of the Points
Raised in the Stein Article

Above Photo: The Nativity Scene is likely one of the most enduring Christian Christmas symbols and while Christmas trees are much more in evidence during the season, they predate Christianity by many centuries and were of pagan origin. Trees are now representative of both Christian and non-Christian cultures. Finally, Christmas songs, both Christian and Secular, have become as much a part of Christmas as the Crèche and the tree.    (October 15, 2017, 3800) (Jan 2018, 3842)

Victoria, British Columbia
December 16, 2011

This is a post about how the words of people can be bent and twisted to serve the special interests of those who seek to tear our society apart. If you have a few minutes see how the words of Ben Stein were used in this manner.


The above photo with Ben appears on the Web Site, A Livingdog.comThe letter purported to be by Ben Stein, is posted as it was circulated.  Although the letter does use some quotes from Ben’s article, they were only added to give authenticity to the post. The other highly inflammatory words were added by an unknown author. The entire letter was designed to incite hate.  My commentary follows:

Re: Ben Stein’s ‘Confessions for Christmas’ (Most posts title it “Confessions for the ‘Holidays”‘). I have used both.

If we use Facebook, Twitter, other social media, use email, we will often receive attachments such as this Stein article. Many will be forwarded without the sender having given much thought as to the content or, after reading the beginning paragraphs, generally agreed, so post or send to family and friends.  All kinds of misinformation and outright lies are passed along in this manner

While some of these forwards provide reasonable commentary, others, such as the Ben Stien Christmas Post, make some pretty outlandish and inflammatory comments. After re-reading this article a couple of times, it struck me there was no real sense of cohesion, it was as if separate, unrelated statements were strung together to make the whole. This made me wonder whether Stein even wrote and published this article.

After completing a search of the Web, I am now satisfied a great deal of editing took place with respect to the original comments recited by Stein on the CBS Morning Show back in late 2005.

It also became evident some of the statements attributed to Anne Graham Lotz (Billy Graham’s ministering daughter) were used to modify the original Stein document. The statements made by Lotz, as opposed to those by Stein, were very negative and cynical.

Further checks revealed the entire second half of the document was made up of comments written by a person or persons unknown, seemingly with the intent of inciting as much dissent as possible. Whatever the source, it is interesting these statements, some of which I now believe to be outright fabrications, appear to have gained a widespread following over the past few years given the number of ‘forwards’ received at my end.

As mentioned, this is not the first time articles of this type have crossed my desk. Often, after doing a bit of research, I have found many to be doctored and falsely attributed before being posted on the Web and then circulated by email. An example is statements purported to have been made by the Australian Prime Minister about Muslims and other immigrants entering Australia. While a few statements were correctly attributed, many of the most highly inflammatory were inserted and distributed by unknown others.

There are several Web Sites that can be used as a means to check on the authenticity of articles such as this, one being: You can link to the discussion of the Stein article at Confessions.

With respect to the “Confessions” article, I do not think the majority of the statements serve to advance the interests of Christianity or of promoting “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men” as is befitting of the Christmas Season. I have taken time to address each statement with the hope that a few will again read the article and, perhaps, look at the statements from a different perspective.

Why, you might ask, would I take so much time to write a response to a transient item that flowed into my inbox? In short, I have a keen interest in many subjects and wish to clarify my own thoughts and beliefs. I do that best when I sit down and attempt to put my thoughts in written form as I have done for this post. Also, I wish to encourage people to take a less divisive approach to discussing these matters.

Many of you will likely have different thoughts on this particular subject or others on which I have written. I would appreciate hearing any comments you may feel inclined to share. You can do that at the foot of the article or, more privately, by email or FB, if you so wish.

Yours truly,

Harold McNeill

My Confessions for the Holidays

Stein’s article is now divided into three parts. In each part, whenever possible, the statements have been attributed to the author.

Part 1 Comments correctly attributed to Ben Stein although some were taken out of context.

Points Discussed: Joy of celebrating differences. Are Christians and Jews being pushed around? Have celebrities replaced God? Is the United States an explicitly atheist country?

Part 11 Comments correctly attributed to Anne Graham Lotz (daughter of Billy Graham). These comments were not part of Stein’s original article.

Points Discussed: Has God been pushed out of government and out of our schools? Did many people die after Hurricane Katrina (or the WTC) because God backed away from his people? Is that why so many people around the world have died in natural and man-made catastrophes?

Part 111 Comments by unknown authors inserted in the Stein article.

Points Discussed: Has the suggestion by Dr. Spock that spanking children is a poor method of discipline lead to a ‘permissive’ generation? Are children today killers without conscience? About spreading hate through jokes and inflammatory statements. Are times getting worse?

Part 1 (Stein)

Ben Stein: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are, Christmas trees.

Harold Response: The above photo shows Ben getting ready to celebrate Christmas. It looks to me as if the Santa hat has been photoshopped into the scene -perhaps not, as Ben is known to have a keen sense of humour.

Many of my family and ancestors were/are Christians and it does not bother me a bit to watch, listen, discuss or participate in the celebrations of others. No one should feel threatened unless they choose to feel threatened.

Many groups have different beliefs and traditions that are worth celebrating and we agree that respecting the beliefs of others, even when those beliefs diverge from our own, is important. This includes atheists respecting the beliefs of theists and vice versa. Highly inflammatory remarks from either side do not help.

Ben Stein: It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crèche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

Harold Comment: I agree. Most of the controversy about Christmas trees and other Christmas themes being excluded from the public
is largely created through unfounded rumour. Within those countries that celebrate the Christian Christmas, traditional practices permeate the culture. I know many non-Christians who participate and even attend Christmas church services because the words (for the most part), songs (always) and traditions (usually) are warm, welcoming and comforting.

Photo: President and Mrs. Obama stand with the White House Christmas Tree. Occasional emails and posts state Christmas Tree’s are either not allowed or have been renamed ‘Holiday Trees”. That is simply not true.

Ben Stein: I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Harold Comment: Ben, you are demonstrating a good bit of paranoia. Over the many years, I was a practicing Christian I never once felt threatened or ‘pushed around’ because of my beliefs. To the contrary, I met many, many wonderful people from many faiths as well as others who were non-believers. Not one person ever threatened or pushed me around. I bet not one of the Christians within our extended family have ever been ‘threatened’ or ‘pushed around’ because of their sincerely held beliefs. I am not sure why you should feel so set upon.

Canada and United States (the United States in particular) is far from being Atheist. Do you perhaps confuse ‘Atheism’ with an attempt by democracies to maintain a separation of church and state? Perhaps you consider everyone who is not a practicing Christian or Jew, to be an Atheist? In your original article, I did not see any reference to other theists.

Many developing countries that have faith-based systems are desperately trying to achieve a separation between church (or faith) and state in an attempt to remove the sectarian violence as various faith-based groups seek to control the political agenda. I think many religious leaders in democratic countries (Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc.) would agree it is important to maintain a fairly clear divide.

In Canada, Quebec is probably the best example of a Province that was largely run by a church as recently as two or three decades back. Quebec is now among the most secular of our Provinces. That does not mean religious groups have faded away, it just means that one particular group does not control the political agenda to the exclusion of all others. Freedom to participate (or not participate) in the religion of one’s choice is at the core of our democratic system. I think most would agree it would be wrong to use one particular religion or set of religious values as the framework for our system of government.

As for the USA, religion remains a ‘hot button’ issue when it comes to separation of church and state. You likely watched the multi-part PBS series “God in American”. The series tracked four centuries of conflict between various Christian groups and leaders as each sought to become the dominant faith controlling the country with their ‘particular’ brand of religion. That that long battle is still being waged tends to reinforce the need for maintaining a clear separation between church and state.

A present-day example of religion being twisted to political ends is highlighted in the current Republican leadership contest. The contenders are willing to say or do anything to woo the religious right into their camp. For the men and woman seeking the leadership of the party, it seems God is little more than a means to an end, that being leadership of the party and a shot at gaining the Presidency.

In Canada, the Conservatives have largely shelved the religious ideologies that were very much a part of their early platforms when it became crystal clear the majority of Canadians would not support any party that attempted to push those ideologies to the forefront.

Note: From this point forward, someone modified Stein’s comments by removing humorous references to two individuals known as ‘Nick and Jessica’ whose faces appeared on a cereal box cover. Instead, they became referenced as “celebrities”.

The following comment is the actual lead-in comment made by Stein in the CBS interview (it was not included in the forwarded article):

Ben Stein: Here we are at this happy time of year, a few confessions from my beating heart. I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I’m buying my dog biscuits. I still don’t know. I often ask checkers at the grocery stores who they are. They don’t know who Nick and Jessica are, either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they’ve broken up? Why are they so darned important? I don’t know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I don’t care at all about Tom Cruise’s baby.

Harold: Ben, I must agree. I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica might be and why they are so noteworthy. Maybe if I purchased more dog biscuits I might learn the answer. I like your sense of humour.

Following are the above comments as inserted in the Stein article and, at this point, a contrast to God is introduced:

Unknown Editor: Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

Harold: Now where did this come from? This transition appears to have been inserted in order to suggest the worshiping of “Celebrities versus God” as a means to ratchet up the rhetoric.

It is my guess, if you surveyed a large group of Christians, Jews, Muslims or any number of other faiths versus a similar sized group of non-believers, you would find an equal number in each group that placed celebrities far too high on a pedestal.

Whether we like it or not, celebrities, in one form or another, have been with us for centuries. While there is nothing particularly right or wrong with that, collectively we seem to pay too much attention to the words and actions of those with celebrity status.

Using Stein as an example, think about this for a moment. If an ordinary person wrote that which was written in in the original Stein ‘confession’, do you think it would ever see the light of day let alone be read on the CBS Morning Show? Probably not as the article was at best just some talk show humour by a “celebrity” guest.

Now spice that original with some inflammatory and highly controversial comments and this cleverly rejigged article will draw far more attention. I have used part of this technique in the title of this post. It is now indexed on Page 2 of Google in an area that will provide a greater chance of a ‘hit’ than if I had titled it Harold McNeill Revisits Christmas Confessions. Like, who is Harold McNeill and what is his claim to fame? (Google Link)  Even as of October 2017 (7 years since it was posted) it is now posted on Page 1.

Part II (Graham-Lotz)

Statements made by Anne Graham Lotz, were not part of Ben Stein’s original comments. Along with other comments, they were added by a person or persons unknown and then first distributed before Christmas in 2005.

The following comments (properly attributed to Anne Graham Lotz) were made during a National TV show shortly after the WTC attacks of 2001 when Anne was being interviewed by Jane Clayson. Again, only parts of Anne’s comments were inserted and a few of the lead-in statements were altered by persons unknown.

Anne: In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Harold: I agree Anne. There are far too many tasteless, insensitive jokes, not just about religious groups, but also about other minorities (Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Aboriginals, etc). I have been guilty of the practice myself. In past centuries similar type jokes have been passed around. Which reminds me, did you hear the one about the Saxon Warrior…?

Many messages landing in my inbox since 2001 relate to Muslims, immigrants and generally visible minorities. In any case we both agree it’s not right and as for getting me thinking about the issues, your words have certainly accomplished that Anne.

Moderator Clayson: How could God let something like this happen? (regarding Hurricane Katrina) Note: The original reference was to the World Trade Centre attack of 2001, not to Hurricane Katrina. The comments made in the Clayson/Lotz interview were made well before Hurricane Katrina. Anne then continues with her original comments.

Anne: I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

Harold: It is my observation and experience that God is well represented in our schools. Just down the street from our home is the large Pacific Christian School and a little further on, the Catholic, St Andrews School.

I have spent time in both and they wonderful schools with motivated and caring teachers as well as attentive students. Across Canada Christian Schools and Universities seem to be well represented and well populated. I just read a report yesterday that over 600,000 kids attend Catholic Schools in Ontario. That is a sizeable school population for just one faith-based system in one Province.

Christine (our  youngest daughter) just finished two years of teaching Grade 6 (one of eight Grade 6 classes) at the Khalsa Sihk School in Surrey, BC. Students in the school study their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, as well as attending weekly prayer sessions. Many parents actively sought to have their child placed in Christine’s class even though she did not practice their faith.

One of the neat things Christine found particularly inspiring about the school was the fact they promoted the idea that a ‘belief in God’ was more important than the particular religious group to which one belonged. Not many faith-based systems are that generous.

Muslims, as well as many other groups, also provide private schools for members who wish to help their children become better acquainted with the history of their people and the beliefs of their forefathers. In Victoria, we have a very fine Chinese School (est. 1908) with about 300-400 students. This is a wonderful part of living in a multicultural society.

As for our Public Schools and Universities, it is true they do not hold prayer sessions or have religious studies (other than generic courses such as the History of Religion). This is done for a very good reason – if you wished to hold religious services, which God and what particular set of books would one study – the Koran, Bible, the Book of Mormon (this is an issue as the Republicans search for a leader), the Guru Granth Sahib or some other text and which prayers would be approved?

In Christianity alone, there are hundreds upon hundreds of belief sub-sets holding very diverse beliefs. I think it would be chaotic to give every system time to spread the word of their particular brand of faith in our Public Schools and Universities. What do you think?

Now, Ms. Graham, as for suggesting that God failed to prevent the tragedy of Katrina because “being a gentleman, he backed away” seems to suggest your God is a bit petulant. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson made similar claims about why the World Trade Centre bombing occurred. It must be nice to have the inside track to God’s thoughts about these tragic events.

Photo: Whether it was the 9/11 attack or Hurricane Katrina, the effects were the same. Hundreds of people died. Perhaps the woman in this picture was a Christian, perhaps not and her baby is certainly to young to understand the concept of God.

In the case of Katrina, as well as thousands of natural disasters that have occurred over past two thousand years, it seems someone is always compelled to list the cause as a ‘lack of faith’ and, perhaps, link that with God abandoning His people. Today more people are dying in single major events simply because there are now more people living on earth than having lived in the entire history of our planet.

In my mind, many hundreds of thousands of those who have died in the past, or will die in future catastrophic events, were or will be strong believers in Christianity, Judaism or some other faith teaching. Why would their God hold those hundreds of thousands of faithful responsible for the ‘misdeeds’ of others to say nothing about the thousands of innocent children that have died? I cannot believe any God worth his salt would hold children responsible for the sins of their father, let alone those of some stranger. To me, your statements are uncaring, insensitive, and not befitting of a woman who takes to the pulpit and purports to be a spokesperson for God.

December 17, 2011.
Dear Anne,

Today hundreds of men, women, and children were killed when a typhoon hit one of the Philippine Islands. By your way of thinking those poor people died simply because their God abandoned them. Do you think this is a reasonable assessment of your position for any of the hundreds of thousands of people that die each in natural disasters or is it just the people of the United States that fall into this category?

Part III (Authors Unknown)

As far as I can ascertain, everything from this point onward was either a modified version of what Anne Graham Lotz stated or was entirely made up by a person or persons unknown. Over the years several different comments, all along the same theme, have been inserted in what was purported to be the Stein confession.  As of 2017, the comment flow still remains on the original website, A

Author Unknown: In light of recent events…. terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Photo: Madalyn Murray O’Hair (note the correct spelling) was a well known American Atheist and founder of the Organization of American Atheists.

Harold: So you are not saying it was ‘everyone’ who was at fault, it was just Madalyn Murray O’Hair and perhaps others who held beliefs similar to hers. Personally, I think you are laying a lot of responsibility on that woman. She must have been a powerful voice in order to get God so upset that he backed away from everyone, including his loyal Christian and Jewish followers! Her tragic death had nothing to do with her Atheist beliefs.

On the final sentence of the paragraph, you make a good point. If theists and others would spend more time practicing the many good things that appear in the Bible or their particular books of teachings, and choose to love their neighbors as themselves, particularly those who do not share their beliefs, there would be a lot less strife in the world. Most of the messages in this crafted ‘Confessions’ article certainly does nothing to bring that value to the forefront.

Author Unknown: Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said okay.

Harold: Ok, I guess we are now leaving the Christian/Jewish discussion and moving on to a discussion about disciplining children.

I don’t particularly subscribe to Mr. Spock’s suggestions but he does have a message and he took the time to write a book about something in which he strongly believed. That’s not a bad thing to do and is far more than most of us will ever do. Thousands upon thousands of books have been written about child rearing.

At one point in my life, I taught a program called “Developing Capable People”. I liked the program message and so did the several hundred parents who participated in the series.
Spankings were not a recommended means of discipline, however, as individuals everyone is free to accept some points about parenting and reject others. The same can be said about Christian teachings.

Photo: Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903 -1998), a graduate of Yale University and an Olympic Gold Medalist, wrote his book “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” in 1946. It became an instant best seller with over 50 million copies sold worldwide after it was translated into 39 languages. He later wrote three more books about parenting and in each case, he was attacked a promoting ‘permissiveness’, a claim he soundly denied.

As far as spankings are concerned, I don’t think it is the best method to handle discipline but, I confess, I handed out a few during the time we raised four children. Our children, four in number, are no worse for it but I choose to think they simply overcame my bad example and it was the thousand other factors that were part of parenting that lead to what I think is a very good result.

Take a look at the extended family that surrounds our mother in the Introduction to this Blog. A lot of different methods were used to raise those children, some received spankings, others did not, yet they are all wonderful, caring people. It was the totality of the parenting, not just one particular aspect, that led to that result.

Just as a side issue, within Canada a man could physically discipline domestic help (usually a female) for poor performance and misbehaviour as late as the 1970s. The law was finally changed. Not many years before that those same men could discipline their wives for similar transgressions. We can observe that the discipline of woman and children is still prevalent in many male dominated societies. I think it is good that our society finally decided to make those acts illegal. Do you really think not spanking a child would lead to the downfall of our society?

As for throwing in the suicide bit, I find that is contemptable particularly as it never happened. A grandson (Dr. Spock’s son’s son) did commit suicide and while the full reason for that suicide has never been fully understood, it is reported in a biography that the young man, twenty-two at the time, was schizophrenic. Do you not think there may be a good many ‘god fearing’ Christians and Jews who wrote books on some aspect of religion and whose children later committed suicide for some reason or other? Would it be fair to suggest they did so because their dad or mom had written that book? I think not.

Author Unknown: Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Harold: During my lifetime (71 years next month) I have known a large number of the children within our extended family and over the decades have met hundreds of children and teens through sports, school, and my time in the police service. The vast (vast) majority were good kids and over the decades I believe kids have been steadily getting better. They are better educated, have much more experience in the world and have largely been raised by caring, thoughtful parents.

Yes, we still face many challenges, but for someone to make a general statement that children have “have no conscience … they don’t know right from wrong and … it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves” is simply wrong.

In thirty years of policing, I met some very bad people including a few young people who did terrible things and will be spending most of their lives in jail. An article appeared in the Times Colonist today (Dec 16, 2011) about one such person. Thankfully, I did not let that young man colour my view toward the majority. I hope the person who wrote this statement did not become a policeperson, social worker, teacher, or enter any of the other ‘caring’ professions.

Author Unknown: Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Harold: Whoever wrote this appears to be a very cynical Christian. Most of the Christians I know try to remain positive by focusing on the good things in the world rather than the bad. If we all tried a little harder to do that, do you not think the world would be a much more peaceful and caring place? Do you not think the world is gradually getting better?

Given a choice, who of us would prefer to live in any other past century, perhaps as a Christian in the Roman Empire, or during the Dark Ages? Perhaps, during the Crusades, or at the time of the Black Plague or one of the many other diseases that killed fathers, mothers, children, Christians, Jews, Atheists and others without discrimination?

How about during any of the dozens of centuries when death would was likely to visit sometime before a person’s late twenties, or even early in the last century when millions upon millions of innocent people were killed in just two World Wars? I think not.

While extreme poverty still exists in some parts of the world, a great majority of the people are much better off now than at any time in the history of our planet. The challenges we face will best be solved when Christians, Jews, Muslim’s, Atheists, Agnostics and others play the positive cards to which we all have access rather than taking the view that the world ‘is going to hell in a handbasket”.

What possible harm could it do to accent the positive rather than negative? We are all free to take issue with things we perceive to be wrong or with which we disagree, but we must do so in a respectful manner, not as a ‘rant’ as is so evident in most of this fraudulent Stein article.

Unknown: Are you laughing yet?

Harold: No, I most certainly am not. I was born into a world in which we have been afforded opportunities beyond our wildest imagination. It is and has been a life about which many in the world could only dream. Most of us have two pairs of shoes; we have freedom and can practice the religion of our choice without fear of persecution. For myself, I love the people in my extended family as well people in general and I have people who love me in return. What more could I ask?

Author Unknown: Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it. no one will know you
did. But, if you discard this thought process, don’t
sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is

Harold: I will forward this message as far as possible and I have no fear that anyone who knows me will think less of me for having done so.

Whoever crafted this message did so with a great deal of malice and, apparently, with the goal of sowing the seeds of dissent among people. I suppose in many ways that person has succeeded as this same message has been circulated far and wide at just before Christmas for the past six years.

What kind of person would surreptitiously build a message of despair and then use the names of relatively well-known persons to ensure the message gained widespread attention? That is nothing short of contemptible and we should, at the very least, attempt to correct this wrong by alerting others.

Harold McNeill

A few photos from Christmas in our Neighbourhood


Winnipeg versus Edmonton

Written by Harold McNeill on November 6th, 2011. Posted in Editorials


Murder Capitals of Canada?

November 5, 2011: Tonight, CTV Global National broadcast a legthy segment about Winnipeg being the Murder Capital of Canada.  Not long ago, Edmonton was tagged with that dubious distinction in a Globe and Mail article titled, “Deadmonton”.  Each month another city, perhaps Vancouver, Surrey, Toronto, London, Montreal, etc., have been tagged wtih similar headlines.

Even little old Oak Bay, (population 18,000), where I completed my policing career, could have been tagged as Canada’s “Murder Central” when, in 2007, five people died in a murder-suicide. For well over two years following, the media disceted that tragic event from every possible angle.

While even one murder is tragic, does that particular type of death deserve the TV minutes (and hours) and Newspaper column inches, it is given? Check the following Statistics Canada “Death List for 2008 and consider your risk factors:

Cancer……………………..70,568 (Lungs, Colorectal, Breast, Pancreas, Prostate, etc.)
Cardiovascular……………69,648 (Heart Disease, Cerebriovascular, Heart Failure,  etc)
Other Disease……………40,270 (Alzheimer, Diabetes, Kidney, Liver, etc.)
Respiratory……………….20,728 (Pneumonia, Influenza, etc.)
Mental Health…………….11,535 (Dementia, Depression, Schizoprenia, Bipolar, etc.)
Accidents………………….10,234 (Transport 2,848; Non-transport 7,294)
Infectious Disease………..4,796 (TB, Whooping Cough, Hepatitis, Intestinal, etc.)
Other Medical………………3,756 (Medical Complications, Pregnancy, Congenital, etc.)
Suicide  Suffocation……….1,678
Suicide Poison……………….935
Undetermined Cause……….685
Suicide Firearms……………..518
Suicide Jumpers……………..200

Struck  by Lightening……….160 – 190 (my addition from Web Search)

Killed by Stabbing…………..183
Killed by Shooting…………..167
Killed by Clubbing…………….31
Killed by Police……………….16
Killed by Terrorist……………..0 (25 year average)
Wounded by Terrorist………..0 (25 year average)

On that list, what do you consider to be your greatest risks?  Does it include murder or terrorism? Even if you choose to place murder on your list, Winnipeg consider this – the majority of murders are committed by criminals killing criminals (often drug and gang related), or relational (family members killing family members, as in Oak Bay), along with with occasional work place and rage related cases (e.g. mental health issues) rounding out the list.

If you are not a gang member or drug dealer, nor involved in an abusive relationship, not having an extramarital affair or otherwise cheating on a signifcant other; you generally experience good employer/employee relationships and are not given to fits of rage, there is little chance of your being murdered. The remaining few, include a stranger killing stranger as might happen in a rape, kidnapping, or robbery.

It is not my intention to downplay the tragic effects murder has upon the families those hurt by crime, I am just trying put the relative danger into perspective. From the Stats Can you can see that the great majority of dangers we face have nothing to do with crime or terrorism.

To best protect yourself when travelling to Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina, Toronto, Montreal or any other city or town in Canada for pleasure or business purposes, consider the following; Do not smoke and if you drink, or smoke the occasional joint, do so with moderation; When on the road, make sure to spend time exercising and eating properly; When driving, do up your seatbelt and, importantly, do not talk or text on your cell phone; If you get stopped for a traffic violation, do not deliberately bait the police officer and do not try to run; But, when walking, take care to look both ways before crossing the street and when pub hopping, be discriminating with those bar hook-ups.

An untimely death attributed to your failure to take these basic precautions makes you hundreds of times more likely to suffer a premature death than being murdered or seriously hurt by a criminal action on any one of the thousands of ‘safe streets and communities’ across Canada. Is that not a neat little phrase I picked up somewhere?

Now, when traveling by air and going through Canada’s Homeland Security and made to take off your glasses, shoes, empty your pockets, open your lap top, turn on your cell phone,Road Runner remove your belt, prosthetic arm or leg; given an electronic pat down or a full body scan; have your penknife, double sharpe, packaged toothpick, water bottle, knitting needles, fingernail clipper and scissors confiscated as well as each pill bottle closely scrutinized just as you see a bearded fellow wearing a turban boarding the aircraft, please don’t get all upset and fear for your life.

Cartoon (from FB Post of Marilyn Jeffrey – Richard Wyland). The Road Runner will eventually appear in various Police Notebook stories. 

Remember, it is thousands of times more likely2 that you would have been struck by lightening3 as you walked across the airport parking lot than being killed or injured on the flight you are about to take. When was the last time you worried about being hit by a lightening in an airport parking lot?

Fear of being murdered, raped, robbed, attacked by a crazed drug addict or blown up in a terrorist attack is created almost entirely through media, business and government hype4 that has no relationship too any clear and present danger. Rather than worrying about those things you are better to use the time to create a healthy lifestyle by eating and excercising properly – it could very well add years to your life and, at the same time, make your life much more fulfilling.

Harold McNeill

1. Statistics Canada “Ways to Die” pulled from National Post article of November 5, 2011.

2. The Top 8 killers of Canadians take 231,700 lives every year, the equivalent of 1,550 Boeing 727s, each filled to a capacity of 150, dropping out of the sky. Few headlines will be given to those deaths. Imagine now that just one of those airplanes was taken down by an terrorist bomb. Our society would be shaken to the very core and the case would create headlines for decades to come. In addition, trillions would spent in preventative measures.

3. Struck by Lightening: The Curious World of Probabilities by Jeffrey S. Rosenthal (Harper Collins, 2005).

4. Daily you seen samples of media hype. For a sample of political party hype read the next post: “Politics of Fear“.

Ways to Die

National Post

Homicides in Major Cities

City Murders


The Politics of Fear

Written by Harold McNeill on November 1st, 2011. Posted in Editorials

Cartoon - Politics of Fear

The Politics of Fear: Much has been written on how fear is used to manipulate, yet few seem to take the time to think about whether their fear is based on real time event (e.g. a man with a gun pointing it at you) or whether the fear is built from images or stories of others (manufactured fear).  Statistics make it clear that infrequent events (e.g. a man with gun, a terrorist attack) will cause more irrational fear than, say, smoking, something which will very likely will lead to serious illness and possible premature death.

February, 2015.  This post is brought forward as the amount of ‘fear mongering’ (mainly on terrorism in the present day) has increased exponentially as the Conservatives get ready for an election.  Today, February 27, six pages of the National Post carried terror related stories. It has been much the same over the past several weeks as preparations were made for introducing a new terror bill.  Several months back when crime legislation was on the agenda, the fear mongering included ‘crime, drugs and sex offenders’. Murdered, missing and abused aboriginal women (an ongoing crime problem) barely rated a mention by the government or the press. More will be said on that in an upcoming post.

First, this earlier post: 


Amalgamation in Greater Victoria

Written by Harold McNeill on October 25th, 2011. Posted in Amalgamation Posts, Editorials

Capital Regional District

Collage (L to R): (T) Langford, Sidney, Victoria, Saanich, Highlands,
(C) Esquimalt, (Malahat), (CRD) Oak Bay, Metchosin,
(B) Colwood, Sooke, North Saanich, Central Saanich, View Royal
(Link to Photo Album)

Link to a 2015 Research Summary on Police Force Size vs Cost/Efficiency
A Literature Review of the Amalgamation of Police Services in Canada
(This is a great summary for those wishing to learn more about whether the police in
Greater Victoria should be amalgamated)

Link to Next Post: Amalgamation in Greater Victoria: Questions and Answers

Link to Most Recent Post Directed at Young People:  Local Communities: Keeping the Spirit Alive

The Real Costs of Amalgamation (Time Colonist November 23, 2014)

Note:  By pure chance after writing Amalgamation: Question and Answer (link above) during a further search on the subject, an astounding discovery was made: The Bish Papers.  These papers, written by a renowned Economist and researcher into Public Administration, stripped away the veil of opinion and conjecture that defined the debate on Amalgamation to this point in time. You may still wish to read this post and as well as the Questions and Answers, howev, r the solid, reliable information comes from the papers written by Dr. Robert L. Bish.  Link here to:
Amalgamation: A Search for the Truth

1. October 17, 2014: Introduction to Updated Post

The Capital Regional District: With thirteen members spread over 2,340 km² the CRD is roughly three times the size of Calgary, and somewhat larger than the 1,800 km² GTA (the Amalgamated Six in Toronto). However, our population clearly considerably less.

 The CRD (including the Malahat), situated in a secluded corner of the Pacific Northwest, has within its small spread of 593,o59 acres filled with mountains, inlets, bays, forests, farmland, as well as an ocean border and dozens of streams, rivers. and lakes.  Almost every home in the region is situated no more than fifteen from long stretches of sun-kissed sand. Looking towards the eastern and southern horizons, you see snow capped victoria hiking trails mapmountains and a sprinkling of smaller islands around which killer whales, sea lions, seals and salmon entertain tens of thousands of visitors each year.

Trail Map: The CRD has a network parks connected by a seemingly endless series of hiking and biking trails that reach to every community from Oak Bay in the south to North Saanich, then west to Metchosin and Sooke. Because of the mild climate these parks and trails are heavily used year-long (double click to open the map).

The mild weather also draws large numbers of Canada’s top athletes to half dozen indoor and outdoor high-performance centers sprinkled across the region.

As part of the infrastructure, the CRD comes equipped with world-class hospitals, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, recreation and sports facilities, entertainment and shopping, virtually everything a growing family might desire, yet there is still plenty of room for singles and seniors who desire to become fully engaged in a healthy lifestyle. In a few words, the Capital Region is a pristine jewel in the Pacific Northwest that draws tourists and new residents from across Canada and around the world. Calgary also does that, but Oil Money is the game that draws the most people to Calgary.

All things being equal, it would be difficult to find anyone in the CRD who would rather live, raise a family or retire elsewhere in Canada. Yet, despite this abundance, one member of the CRD family is constantly agitating to change the governing and administrative structure. To accomplish this they would amalgamate some or all of the parts into one unit with the goal of achieving ‘economies of scale’ and ‘efficiency’.   To provide some balance to their negative campaign, this article is being updated.


RCMP Face Lockout in British Columbia

Written by Harold McNeill on September 29th, 2011. Posted in Editorials

RCMP Strike 2
RCMP Members Face Lockout in BC (file photo)

The following ‘alternate’ news report was written after the recent dust-up between BC and Ottawa over RCMP contract services in BC. In the following ‘News Release”, our political leaders have been given Management and Labour Association roles befitting the dispute:

1 Vic Toews, Federal Minister for Public Safety (Conservative), spokesperson for the powerful Federal Employers Group2 administering RCMP contracts across Canada.
Shirely Bond, Solicitor General for BC  (Liberal), the spokesperson for the BC Employees Group providing service across BC.
3 Jaspir Sandhu, an Ottawa based, Public Service Safety Critic (NDP), a left-leaning group supporting Employees.

For Immediate Release

Victoria, British Columbia
September 28, 2011

RCMP Threaten Strike

In a surprise move yesterday, the RCMP in Ottawa, operating under the direction of the Federal Employers Association (a Conservative Group) threatened to withdraw all contract policing services in British Columbia.  The threat comes at a particularly bad time as any widespread disruption of police services could have an adverse effect upon the fragile economic recovery.

A spokesperson for the RCMP Employers Association, Vic Toews,1 stated the employers have already negotiated contracts with employees in Alberta and Saskatchewan and that employees in British Columbia will simply have to follow suit or the services of the RCMP will be withdrawn in British Columbia.

Toews stated: “They (AB and SK) find the (contract conditions) to be reasonable and now the other provinces will have to make the decision, whether they want to go with the RCMP as their provincial police or whether they want to do something else and that’s their choice.”

A spokesperson of the British Columbia Employees Association, Shirley Bond2, was taken aback by the statements, stating her group will not bow to the pressure tactics any federal employer group.  Bond stated negotiations have been ongoing for the past two years but the employers have been increasingly intransigent, particularly since signing contracts in Alberta and Saskatchewan. It appears to be another case of divide and conquer on the part of the RCMP Employers Association.

According to Bond, a key issue in British Columbia is gaining back control from the employers. Over the past contract period, the employers have simply been running the shop and the employees are no longer willing to sit back and accept that as the status quo.

Jasbir Sandhu3 a public service safety critic (in opposition), stated: “Is pulling police off the streets of British Columbia part of (the employers) tough-on-crime agenda?”  Other spokespersons with the employees stated that if the RCMP Employers Association in Ottawa follows through with their threat to pull police off the streets of British Columbian, the Employees will seriously consider moving back to a ‘made at BC, Police Service?

Many other employee groups across the country are now backing Bond, stating the federal employers have gained far to much control and, in addition, the ongoing political infighting and scandals that have wracked RCMP have emanated from the highest levels in Ottawa, and that is detracting from the high standards British Columbia desires to promote within the police service.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, it would not be surprising to see the majority Conservatives who run the Employers Association, might lock-out the RCMP in BC if they don’t sign off on a new contract within the next week or two.

Harold McNeill

RCMP Take a Ride

Shirley Bond and the BC Union of Municipalities served notice on the Ottawa based RCMP Employees Group that unless they return to the table for some ‘good faith’ bargaining, they will be sent packing. The RCMP could be out and a Provincial Force on its way in as early as the New Year.
Globe and Mail.


Crime and Punishment: Ideology Trumps Reason

Written by Harold McNeill on September 25th, 2011. Posted in Editorials


Most Recent: Texas Conservatives Reject Harpers Plan

News Flash:  October 28, Times Colonist (A2), Pot Laws Fuel Gang Wars. An Angus Reid poll shows very little public support for maintaining tough laws against marihuana.


Too often Governments are driven by ideology rather than reason and common sense of which the recent introduction of the Omnibus Crime Bill (C-10) is another example. In an earlier decade, the Liberals walked a similar path with their Long Gun Registry5.

While “let’s get tough with crime” resonates well within the general population, governments Harold in 1966must seek to avoid painting all criminal transgressions with the same brush.  Paedophiles, child pornographers, rapists, murders and other violent criminals clearly fall into a different category than do those who commit property crimes or are involved in the use or distribution of soft drugs.

Photo (1966): The author spent thirty years working the front lines as a police officer as well as studying criminal justice and law reform issues both at University (BSc, 1974) and as a private interest. After retiring in 1994 with the rank of Detective-Sergeant, the author continues to study and write on crime and punishment issues.

For Canadians, we have only to look south of the border to see the impact of broad-spectrum  “tough on crime” initiatives such as “three strikes and your out” and “mandatory minimums”, to see the results (Ref: Graph 4; Pie Chart 5).  We are even being warned by many legislators and legal scholars in the United States against following in the footsteps of the USA. It is certainly not a path we want to follow, yet a portion of Bill C-10 charts just that course.

I encourage each of you to take a few minutes to read or scan this article and consider the arguments made for taking a more reasonable approach.

Harold McNeill
Victoria, BC
October 2011

1. Law and Order

All Canadian political parties, even those with the slimmest chance of becoming the governing party at the national or provincial level, play the ‘law and order’ card as a means to gain votes. A ‘Safe Streets and Communities’ or a ‘Tough on Crime’ strategy always plays well in a world explained in thirty-second news clips of random, isolated, violent, but infrequent criminal acts, many of which occur in other countries. It is made to appear these criminals are ruling the streets within every community.

Statistical trends, (local and worldwide), expert opinions, experience with crime suppression legislation in other jurisdictions and basic ‘reason’ have little impact when it comes to changing well-established beliefs about crime. For politically expedient reasons, governments likewise choose to ignore the evidence.

For example, crime in Canada, with few exceptions, has been in steep decline (also Charts 1, 2, and 3) for twenty years largely due to the changing demographics of our society – older people simply do not commit as many crimes. The governing Conservatives seem not to recognize this fact, nor do they seem to understand that our entire justice system from prosecution offices, to the courts and jails, is currently bursting at the seams. Without making any of the changes listed in Bill C-10, the current system requires a tremendous injection of funds just to maintain the stability.

That pressure, along with ongoing cutbacks in Provincial and Federal spending in an attempt to reduce deficits, has resulted in hundreds of accused, many charged with serious offences, have had their charges dropped for want of prosecutors, judges and courtrooms. In protest, dozens of prosecutors across the country (many in Quebec) have walked away from the system. Even at current levels of conviction and sentencing, finding room for new placements in Provincial and Federal institutions has reached a crisis point.

2. Why Violent Crime Initiatives May Fail

While Bill C-10, the Omni-Bus Bill currently before Parliament, suggests it represents a ‘get tough’ on ‘hard’ crime, the package could well have just the opposite effect because the vast majority of those affected by C-10 will be those committing non-violent and victimless (‘soft’) crimes.

It is well established the Criminal Justice system, from the courts to the prison system, are presently under considerable stress. As the system becomes further clogged with non-violent cases (e.g. property crimes, marihuana distribution and possession, ‘grow ops’, etc), the prosecution of more serious crimes (e.g. rape, murder, robbery, child molestation, paedophiles, organized crime, gangs, etc.) may be delayed. Considerable publicity has been given to dozens of cases involving extremely violent criminals are now walking the streets after having their cases thrown out due to extreme delay.

The sections of C-10 that will pose the greatest challenge are those related to ‘mandatory minimums’3 and, to a lesser extent, removal of conditional sentences (house arrest). Minister of Justice Rob Nicholsen, stuck in a position of having to justify the initiatives, often fumbles when asking about the legislation.2 Little wonder – in another decade, Mr. Nicholsen was vice chair of a parliamentary committee that came out strongly against ‘mandatory minimums’ the rationale being that it would unduly hamstring Judges dealing with complex variables in many criminal cases.

Who are the persons most affected in this new world order of crime and punishment? It will be Pot Plants on Deckthose convicted of non-violent, ‘victimless’ crimes such as cultivating pot (as few as six plants) and those involved in the distribution system. In some instances, the mandatory minimum penalties for pot offenders will exceed those applicable to child sex offenders. If this sounds unreasonable, take time to research the mandatory minimums legislation.

Photo: These pot plants, on the deck of a rural Salt Spring Island rental residence in British Columbia, were part of a larger ‘grow op’. Under the proposed legislation, just the plants on the deck could result in a year of imprisonment for each of the residents who appeared to otherwise be law-abiding, productive citizens. The details of this case will be published later in the Police Notebook Series. Photo by the author taken during a 1980s investigation.

3. That Ubiquitous Weed

Since the 1960s, marihuana has continued to permeate all socio-economic levels of our culture but, as with many laws, it is those at the lower levels who most often get caught up in the law enforcement web. Today, pot is a multibillion-dollar enterprise4 in Canada with British Columbia at the epicentre. With ever-increasing demand, particularly in the United States, there are now so many ‘grow ops’ throughout the Southern Interior and BC Coastal Islands, the RCMP and other police agencies have largely given up on large-scale enforcement as being a waste of scarce police resources (ref: CBC radio interviews with RCMP officers in the Kootenays, late September 2011).

Even with less emphasis being dedicated to marihuana enforcement across Canada, more than 18,000 individuals, largely small-time growers and distributors, are still convicted each year. In the future, a majority of those persons will be subject to mandatory minimum sentences that will require thousands of new prison cells and staff for which few contingency plans have been made or money allocated. Granted the Federal and Provincial Governments have budgeted considerable money for new prison space and personnel, but that is being done to relieve current over-crowding partially caused by other, recent, ‘law and order’ revisions(e.g. removal of the ‘two for one’ provisions, etc.).

4. The United States Experience

In both the short and long term, mandatory minimum sentences will not change behaviours any more than did prohibition in the United States stop people from purchasing and consuming alcohol.  What it will do is create an influx of individuals into an already stressed court and prison system. As most of those convicted will be held in Provincial facilities, the costs will become the entire responsibility of the Provinces, the costs of which is estimated to be in the order of ten billion. When this finally dawns on politicians, particularly those in British Columbia, there is bound to be a backlash as us now evident south of the border.

Today, in the United States, we are beginning to see many highly placed Republicans (who make our Conservative leaders look like raving socialists) admitting the ‘get tough on crime’ initiatives that began in the Regan era and perpetuated by ongoing administration, have been
a failure. (Ref Charts 4 and 5). Even with extremely harsh penalties, demand for pot has grown exponentially. Many US States are now rescinding or relaxing the laws in an effort to salvage their justice systems. Dozens of other States will soon follow suit. To see Canada embarking upon a path the US began walking over two decades ago makes no sense what-so-ever.

By way of comparison, if we were to lock up as many people in Canada as they do in the United States, our prison population would move from its current level of roughly 45,000 to an extraordinary 210,000-245,000.  ‘Scare’ tactics’, yes, perhaps, but that is the reality of using ‘prison’ as a primary means of bringing compliance to all criminal laws without regard to type, just as they have done in the United States over the past 30 years.

5. The Hidden Victims of “Tough on Crime” Legislation

To carry the costs of the new ‘tough on crime’ legislation, money will need to be diverted from other parts of the system and, as is often the case, programs for the mentally ill, disadvantaged and disabled are frequently the first targets. It has long been established these persons make up a disproportionate share of prison populations and slashing programs Raeside Cartoonwill invariably create new challenges that will put more pressure on the courts and prisons.  It is a vicious cycle destined to spiral downward as has happened in the United States with their ongoing ‘war on drugs’, ‘war on crime’ ‘war on terror’ and ‘three strikes and your out’ strategies.

Cartoon: Adrian Raeside political cartoon in the Times Colonist on November 12, 2011. 

The other groups seriously affected by overzealous imprisonment are the families of those incarcerated (usually men), who are left to fend for themselves. You might take a hard approach and say ‘tough luck’ that is the result of making bad decisions, but the reality is, many sent to prison would have otherwise been law-abiding individuals who held jobs and were supporting families (reference the grow op picture above taken on Salt Spring Island).

Even if the Conservatives come to admit the path is not sustainable, billions will have been wasted (as with the Long Guns Registry) and tens of thousands of lives affected as the Government attempts to reign in the crime and punishment tsunami they continue to unleash. When removed from power, as they certainly will during some future election, another party will be given the opportunity to reverse the direction but, unfortunately, will likely implement costly ideologies of their own.

Will there come a time when facts, reason and ‘common sense’ prevail over ideology? Probably not, as long as we allow ourselves to be seduced into believing our lives are endangered by murders, rapists, paedophiles and internet prowlers, drug traffickers, terrorists, organized gangs and others that, we have been confidently assured, are lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce on the innocent and unsuspecting.

October 2011


Incarceration Rates: In the United States, in 2008, approximately one in every 31 adults (7.3 million) was behind bars, or being monitored (probation and parole). In 2008 the breakdown for adults under correctional control was as follows: one out of 18 men, one in 89 women, one in 11 African-Americans (9.2%), one in 27 Latinos (3.7%), and one in 45 whites (2.2%). Crime rates have declined by about 25 percent from 1988-2008.[13] 70% of prisoners in the United States are non-whites.[14] In recent decades the U.S. has experienced a surge in its prison population, quadrupling since 1980, partially as a result of mandatory sentencing that came about during the “war on drugs.” Violent crime and property crime have declined since the early 1990s.[15]  

While the argument could be made that the dropping “crime rate” in the US was due to locking up more criminals, that argument would disregard the fact that crime has been dropping in every democratic country. The number sent to prison in all other countries is just a fraction of the number sent to prison in the USA, therefore, one might infer that other factors are at work.

2 “We do not use statistics as an excuse not to get tough on criminals.” That was federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s astonishing response to Statistics Canada’s finding in July that crime rates in Canada now stand at the same level they did in 1973.  Another point being periodically made by the Justice Minister is that crime is ‘under-reported’.  While that is true, that under-reported crime is generally of the non-violent type (car prowling, break and enter, etc).  In the period of 1960 – 1990, during my time in service, police statistical collection methods were not nearly as refined as they are today meaning the amount of unreported crime back then was much larger than now. This suggests the drop in crime over the past 20 years is even greater than that reported.

3 Estimates vary widely, but, on average, 20,000 metric tons of marihuana are consumed in the United States each year.  Of that, 10,000 metric tons are imported with less than 10% of the total being intercepted by various police agencies. This is likely about the same as the seizure rate for alcohol during prohibition. About 60% of the marihuana produced in Canada is exported to the US with the lion’s share coming from British Columbia’s 15,000 to 20,000 grow ops. While many are small-time operations for personal use only, there hundreds of consolidated operations.  Police seizures in Canada run at about the same rate as that in the US, perhaps a little less as our local, provincial and national police forces have greatly scaled back enforcement in recent years.

4 For a good roundtable discussion including US Justice Department Officials on the subject of ‘Mandatory Minimums’ proposed for Canada, go to CBC Radio, The House

5  In the mid-1990s, the Liberal Government, after a few tragic events including the senseless killings at École Polytechnique (1989) and Concordia (1992), began an all-out push for mandatory long gun registration. Applauded by many citizens and police organizations, it was little more than an ideological platform designed to project an image of strength for law and order.

Once the path was charted and the idea accepted by the public, particularly those in urban areas, it was tabled in the Commons in 1995, implemented in 2001 and became mandatory in 2003. From the beginning, costs spiralled from millions to billions and not a shred of evidence was ever produced to show it made for ‘safer streets and communities.’  One good thing that could be said about the legislation was that it focused on prevention as opposed to detention, a strategy Governments seldom pursue.

Always staunch law and order populists, the Conservatives were unalterably opposed to the legislation as were their rank and file members, mainly those in rural and western constituencies. In order to appease the grassroots, the Conservatives vowed to remove the registry as soon as they gained power. Now having a majority, the registry will soon become a historical footnote. After billions were spent on the registry, the streets and communities across Canada will be just as safe as they were before the legislation became law.

I. Canadian Crime Rates

Crime Rates Graph

Overall, crime in Canada has been dropping since the early 1990s, a fact known by every police agency and reported by every media outlet. A challenge that remains – some types of violent crime continue to rise (murder is not one) so combined statistics can be a bit misleading. Because non-violent crime (property, marihuana and other victimless offences) is dropping at a significant rate, one wonders why Bill C-10 focuses far more heavily on those soft crimes than on violent crime.

2. Homicide Rates in Canada

Graph Homicide Rates

The homicide rate (number murders per 100,000) in Canada has been falling for decades and are now at the lowest rates since the late 1960s.  This does not mean other aspects of violent crime are not rising. The challenge, Gangland killings (as with the recent killing of a gang leader outside a Kelowna casino) always gains major news coverage across the country. It is this coverage, and the heated rhetoric that follows, which makes it seem that murder is out of control.  While every killing, gangland or otherwise, is cause for concern, we should not be lead to believe that these crimes are increasing in Canada.  Take a look at the following graphic. While this is a narrow snapshot, it generally reflects the situation in the listed countries.

3. Homicides World Wide

  Bar Chart of Homicides by Country

While even one murder is one too many, Canada’s legislative and policing strategies over the past few decades, as well as an ageing population, is apparently paying dividends.  In the United States, on the other hand, after implementing the most draconian measures to combat crime and drug use, have remained singularly ineffective. If we and our government think that by locking up more non-violent offenders, violent crime will be reduced, they (and we) will be wrong. In fact, it is just as likely to have the opposite effect.

4. Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences1 in the USA

Incarceration Numbers

After viewing the two US Justice Department Graphs (above and below), it escapes me how senior bureaucrats and politicians in Ottawa, could not help but wonder if widespread use of “mandatory minimums”is the route we should follow in Canada.  Whereas the percentage of inmates in Canada serving time for drug-related offences stands around 22%, the number in the US is 52% and rising. Imagine the effects on our society if we were to Americanize our justice and prison system!

5. Percentage Incarcerations Rates by Crime Type

US Stats

In 2006 the United States had the highest incarceration rate in the world at 573 per 100,000 (in 2010 it stood at over 700 and was still climbing) with lock them up and throw away key Russia, running a close second. The U.K (#99), Australia (#104), Canada (#123) and other Commonwealth Countries are in the range of 120 – 160 per 100,000. Your comments on the analysis outlined in this blog post
would be most appreciated.

September 28, 2011.  National Post Article:

It is exceedingly difficult to find articles and commentary in support of the omnibus criminal-justice bill, however, one appeared in the National Post, September 28, 2011 (page A13).  Written by Benjamin Perrin, a law professor at UBC and senior fellow at the MacDonald-Laurier Institute, he does about the only thing one could do to justify the full bill – he plays to the parts that have high public support.

In the article he highlights sections related to violent or morally repugnant crimes, items such as making and distributing child pornography, sexual assault of a child (various sub-sections), predatory paedophiles, date rape drug offences, etc. and uses those sections to indicate the entire bill has widespread support.

Mr. Perrin well knows that few, if any, would be opposed to the changes he highlights and most would support heavy penalties against those convicted of such offences, yet those offences are relatively infrequent occurrences within Canada and it is not those sections against which there has been an outpouring of public concern. Mr. Perrin has carefully avoided making any mention of the sections which will have the greatest overall impact and which will tend to swell our prison populations.

It is disingenuous of Professor Perrin, a supposedly intelligent man holding a full professorship at a respected University, to use his title and position to mislead the general public about the overall impact of the bill.

I would hazard to guess the Conservatives will, as they enter the debate, attempt to paint any who oppose the bill as ‘soft on crime’ and willing to let child abusers, porn distributors and others who commit horrendous crimes, walk free.


7. Liberals and the Big Guns – A History Lesson

In the mid-1990s, the Liberal Government, after a few tragic events including the senseless killings at École Polytechnique (1989) and Concordia (1992), began an all-out push for mandatory long gun registration. Applauded by many citizens and police organizations, it was little more than an ideological platform designed to project an image of strength for law and order.

Once the path was charted and the idea accepted by the public, particularly those in urban areas, it was tabled in the Commons in 1995, implemented in 2001 and became mandatory in 2003. From the beginning, costs spiralled from millions to billions and not a shred of evidence was ever produced to show it made for ‘safer streets and communities.’  One good thing that could be said about the legislation was that it focused on prevention as opposed to detention, a strategy Governments seldom pursue.

Always staunch law and order populists, the Conservatives were unalterably opposed to the legislation as were their rank and file members, mainly those in rural and western constituencies. In order to appease the grassroots, the Conservatives vowed to remove the registry as soon as they gained power. Now having a majority, the registry will soon become a historical footnote. After billions were spent on the registry, the streets and communities across Canada will be just as safe as they were before the legislation became law.


February 25, 2016  (1190)



  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

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  • Harold McNeill

    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

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    September 18, 2019 |

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