Pubdate: Mon, 9 Feb 2009
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun


Attorney-General Wally Oppal sounded as passionate as a local
politician can with the echo of automatic gunfire resounding across
the Lower Mainland.

"I am not deflecting criticism," he fumed again and

But it was hard to believe him, because he had little to offer that
could calm public fear.

He and Solicitor-General John van Dongen, the man responsible for
cops, have been deflecting criticism over and over again about the
gangland murder spree across Metro Vancouver.

As bodies drop right and left, as parents wonder if their kids are
safe at the local mall, they both say they share our pain -- but can't
do much.

That's not good enough.

Steve Brown, the brother-in-law of Ed Schellenberg, who was killed in
a Surrey highrise massacre, nailed it apropos Oppal, but his demand
should apply to van Dongen as well.

"He's got to come up with some sort of an answer, not the cliches
we've been hearing," he said.

"We have to hear something substantive and intelligent and meaningful
within 30 days or I'm just going to be carrying on my own campaign to
see that he's removed from office."

For these guys to stand up and say they understand there are
occasional bouts of internecine warfare in the underworld -- it's a
circle of life kind of thing -- is not good enough.

Last time I checked, we did not have even a handful of prosecutors
dedicated to gangs and certainly no judges have been seconded to any
special court to deal with gangbangers, even though people addicted to
their dope have a special assize.

And the lack of a regional police force is simply a

I bet those Bacon brothers are shaking in their boots to know the Port
Moody police have targeted them. They probably buy body armour at the
same store.

I also think Oppal is being disingenuous when he blames the feds and
Parliament for the problem of gangsters out on bail.

Let him produce a case in which one of his prosecutors asked for no
bail given the "danger to the public" and a judge refused, saying
"flight risk" was the only reason to deny bail.

He's right that the gang problem is complex, but from a legal
perspective, he has not given it enough visibility and focus. Neither
has van Dongen.

Van Dongen, in fact, is lucky Oppal has been out there deflecting as
much criticism as he has because his performance amid the current
smell of cordite has been abysmal.

Saying he's got some magic report to reduce the number of guns in the
hands of criminals but doesn't want to release it too soon is
downright bizarre.

No one has a solution to that problem as far as I know, and if he's
got one, get it out there!

But ultimately, where's Premier Gordon Campbell, former mayor of this
now gang-infested city? Why has he not spoken out and said it's time
to focus our attention on this scourge and root it out?

There is much more this government could do to combat the current
plague of criminal gangs.

Their rise is a direct result of the War on Drugs, which has driven up
the price of cocaine in particular astronomically since 9/11. And even
the tabloid press have come around to understand legalization is
probably the only real answer to the kind of blatant violence we are
witnessing across Metro Vancouver.

But that cure is a long way off.

In the meantime, there are other things we can and should do: assign
more police officers, designate more prosecutors, appoint particular
judges to hear cases involving gangsters and pressure Ottawa to change
the Criminal Code so judges can more severely punish gang and gun crimes. 
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