Monday, September 29, 2008

Philosophy gap

As Steve V points out, the Conservative war room might want to figure out how they're going to run damage control on this one. (Emphasis mine)
Canadians would be unwise to follow the Conservative plan for harsher jail sentences, up to life imprisonment, for young offenders, warns the retired judge who shone a spotlight on the flawed youth justice system.

Merlin Nunn issued a landmark report on youth justice two years ago that Stephen Harper claims supports "many" of the Conservatives' newly unveiled proposals to toughen the youth justice law.

But the former Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice took issue with the Tory proposal to boost jail sentences for young offenders, including ratcheting up the maximum youth sentence for murder from 10 years to life in prison, and up to 14 years for other violent offences.

"They have gone beyond what I did, and beyond the philosophy that I accepted," Judge Nunn told The Lawyers Weekly in an interview.

"I don't think it's wise," he added, speculating "it might be politically appealing to people who say 'these kids should all be in jail'."

This is the same Judge Merlin Nunn to whom Harper is constantly referring when telling everyone that his "tough on kids crime" is the result of a study.

Except that the philosophy is completely different. Judge Nunn expanded with this:

But Judge Nunn says he disagrees with the Conservative plan to scrap the existing law for more severe sentences and more jail time. Such a move would fly in the face of expert testimony at his commission of inquiry that punitive sentences don't deter crime, he said.

"Sentencing the child to a longer term just takes away a lot of the opportunity to rehabilitate the young kids," he explained. "There is no proof that long sentences are going to do anything except sometimes make things worse because the young kid sentenced to a longer term in prison, (to be served partially as an adult) in an adult prison, is going to come out. And he may very well be a lot worse than he was when he went in."

Judge Nunn defended the present law's focus on rehabilitation. And for the small number of youths in Canada who commit murder, the Youth Criminal Justice Act already allows prosecutors to ask for adult sentences of life imprisonment. If such offenders are sentenced as youths, their sentences top out at 10 years.

"The young offenders' law in Canada is a very good law -- Canada is miles ahead of most jurisdictions," he insisted. "The reason why I say it's good is that probably 96 or 97 per cent of the kids that get in trouble with the law, don't ever get in trouble again."

And there it is....

The complete philosophical disconnect that should answer at least one question: "Why is the Harper government not pursuing repatriation of Omar Khadr?"

It doesn't matter that whatever happened in that compound on 27 July, 2002 was actually a combat action where defining "murder" would be extremely difficult, particularly since American troops were firing small arms and throwing grenades. It doesn't matter that eyewitness reports of the combat action of 27 July, 2002 are wildly contradictory. It doesn't matter that Omar Khadr's family is a blight on Canada. It doesn't matter that the US military investigation into the combat action of 27 July, 2002 has been reviewed more than once to clarify facts and reconcile witness contradictions.

It does matter that Omar Khadr was an illegally procured child-soldier and any involvement on his part was the result of influence by adults. It does matter that Canada had already signed the UN Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict on 12 February, 2002 with the only reservation being applied to Canadian Armed Forces voluntary recruitment at age 16 with parental consent. It does matter that Omar Khadr, while not absolved of his actions, is entitled under international agreements to rehabilitation and exemption from the actions of a military tribunal. It matters that Omar Khadr was fifteen years of age when he allegedly threw a grenade in a combat action.

But not to the Harper crowd.

Harper's mangling of Merlin Nunn's recommendations to suit his own ideology is a testimony to Conservative dogma. Pure bloody-mindedness.

It's how they prove they're big and tough. They hate anything that isn't them. And they don't do difficult. Everything has to be black and white and if you're a kid going off the rails, the only solution the Conservatives offer is jail.

If you're a kid sucked into some whacked-out religious group of militants that the Harperites don't like, you can rot in jail, forever. It makes them feel strong. It shows everyone that they are mean.

It makes you wonder what they want to do when a baby pukes on their shoulders.

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