Pubdate: Fri, 27 Feb 2009
Source: Williams Lake Tribune, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Williams Lake Tribune


B.C. politicians agree on one thing - the federal government needs to
get tough on gangsters.

Attorney General Wally Oppal and Solicitor General John van Dongen
were in Ottawa Thursday to seek all-party support for reforms they say
are urgently needed to cope with violence on B.C. city streets. Their
list includes 21st-century wiretap legislation, tougher bail
conditions and an end to "two-for-one" credit for time served awaiting

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is winging his way to Vancouver to
announce his own solutions for what his public safety minister has
termed the gang capital of Canada. Reports out of Ottawa say it will
include a mandatory first-degree murder charge for gang-related
killings and new mandatory minimum sentences for serious drug crimes.

Premier Gordon Campbell was to meet with Harper about justice issues
Thursday, after they were to make an infrastructure funding
announcement in Burnaby.

"I haven't seen exactly what they're proposing to lay out," Campbell
said. "I can tell you that we're very specific - we have to deal with
bail issues, we have to deal with gun issues, we have to deal with the
remand issue, we have to deal with disclosure, we have to deal with

Campbell and Oppal stressed that issues such as double credit for time
spent remanded in custody have been pressed for years.

Van Dongen and his predecessor John Les have warned that professional
criminals with strong evidence against them will delay their trials,
knowing they are shortening their sentence each day they stay in
remand. Remand cells are overflowing, and trials take months or years
in overburdened courts.

Opposition critics accused the B.C. Liberals of inaction on organized
crime until gang warfare erupted in Metro Vancouver and a provincial
election loomed.

"Tomorrow the Prime Minister is coming to B.C. to announce an
anti-gang strategy," NDP leader Carole James said Wednesday. "While
he's here, our top cops, the Solicitor and Attorney General, are
headed in the other direction - going to Ottawa. Why can't this
government get its act together around fighting gang violence?"

Van Dongen said with a minority government in Ottawa, any Criminal
Code changes will need support from the Liberals, the federal NDP and
the Bloc Quebecois. He and Oppal are meeting with representatives of
all federal parties.
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