Friday, January 13, 2012

Parent of Murdered Child Speaks Out Against Bill C10

I urge people to read the following thoughts about tough on crime rhetoric and its history of ineffectually addressing community harm.  Its an eloquently spoken critique of the omnibus crime bill by the parent of a murdered child.
Retrieved from:

Victim Advocacy Group Emphasizes Need for Social Programs Not "Law and Order" Approach to Crime

Posted below are excerpts from the presentation to the Justice and Human Rights Committee hearings considering Bill C-10 by Wilma Derksen, Founder, Victims' Voice Program and Past Coordinator, Mennonite Central Committee Canada.


[...] I am here on behalf of the Mennonite Central Committee [... h]owever, I will be speaking to you as a parent of a murdered child. I am also here because the issues you are addressing are extremely important to me and my family.
My daughter Candace was 13 years old when she was abducted and found murdered six weeks later. We lived for two decades without knowing the details of what happened. I not only know the horror of murder, but I am also intimately acquainted with the aftermath of violence. From the beginning, I began working with other victims, and I learned that the emotional aftermath can be as threatening as the crime itself. It does and it can destroy us.
The attention focused on this bill reminds me very much of the time when Candace first disappeared. All I could think of was the murder and the need for justice and safety. It was very difficult for me to think or talk about anything else, but I had to learn. I had two other children who were alive and I had a husband who needed a loving wife. If I had waited for justice and safety, I would have had to wait for a very long time -- life would have passed me by.
I am still involved with other victims of crime. Two weeks ago, I was with a group that spent most of the evening analyzing the problems of our justice system. We were wallowing in our pain, not always being politically correct, as one member put it, but allowing each other to speak freely.
At the end of the evening, I asked them what they would do to create justice in the country. To be honest, I expected that they would suggest changes to our criminal justice system similar to the bill that we have before us today. I thought they would prioritize safety at all costs, propose stiffer sentences, and advocate for victims' rights.
They didn't. As we went around the circle, they all agreed that the answer to crime is to put more emphasis on the school system and other social programs. While not denying that we have to maintain prisons, they insisted that we as a society need to put our energy and creative thinking into giving our young people a better education and a better life.
I could share equally compelling stories from my work with offenders. My experience in the way my family and I chose to respond opened up opportunities to visit many of the prisons across Canada, from William Head Institution in B.C. to Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick.
I am thrilled to report that this last February we saw our own case finally brought to justice. For the first time, we actually heard the story of what had happened to our daughter, but the sentencing of the man who murdered our daughter did not satisfy our deep longing for justice. In some ways, we had already found justice in the joy of the good things that had come out of Candace's death and in the support of our community of friends.
The trial brought out the truth, and it was the truth that healed us and set us free, not the sentencing. I still find no satisfaction in thinking that the man will be sitting in prison for the next 25 years. There is nothing life-giving about that. It's just sad. And it's going to cost us probably $2.5 million.
In this short time I can't begin to give you a comprehensive critique of the bill, but I do want to register my concerns with the potential for unintended consequences. For example, even though it sounds wonderful to enshrine the victim's voice at Parole Board hearings, I also worry about this. Are we going to be putting pressure on victims? Could we be locking some victims and offenders together in a dysfunctional dialogue for the rest of their lives?
Perhaps we need to include the victims at the beginning of the process, mapping out their healing journey at the same time as we are sentencing the guilty. Perhaps this should be at the discretion of the judge. We can think about these things creatively.
Furthermore, I wonder if we can afford to focus so many of our scarce resources on mopping up the past so that there are only crumbs left for the living, who are struggling to find hope for the future. As the Minister of Justice rightly noted earlier this week, the Government of Canada is funding many creative community-based justice initiatives that address the root causes of crime, support victims of crime, and help ex-offenders reintegrate into the community. I would ask that you assign a greater proportion of your attention to this good work. [...]

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