Pubdate: Wed, 13 May 2009
Source: Powell River Peak (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Peak Publishing Ltd.
Author: John Weston


I was amazed at the courage of many of the people who testified 
before hearings of the Justice and Human Rights Committee in 
Vancouver on April 30. The committee of MPs which represented all 
four parties, heard from local mayors, law enforcement officials, 
victims of crime and self-confessed criminals.

The committee learned of the tremendous toll that gang violence is 
taking on the Lower Mainland, in terms of murder and mayhem committed 
against innocent victims ["Drug policy ineffective," December 5, 
2007]. We learned of the massive economic cost required by increasing 
law enforcement measures. It was sobering to learn of the 
sophistication of gangs, their international reach and the insidious 
ways in which they undermine our social norms and prey upon our youth.

As in most dark stories, there were rays of hope. The committee heard 
from one outstanding woman, Michelle Miller, from Resist Exploitation 
and Embrace Dignity. Miller lives in the Downtown Eastside of 
Vancouver, a choice she has made to enable her to stand 
shoulder-to-shoulder with prostituted women to help them throw off 
oppression and drug dependency. We also heard from Amir Javid, a 
young North Shore resident who has turned from a career in gangs to 
one of campaigning relentlessly among young people, persuading them 
away from gang life. We also heard from a reformed criminal who has 
come back from decades in jail to care for homeless people.

The federal Conservative government has made safe streets a priority. 
In the past three years, six bills have been enacted to combat crime, 
including the Tackling Violent Crime Act. The government now has six 
new bills before the House to target gang violence by: imposing 
mandatory minimum sentences for offenders of violent crime; making 
sentencing provisions for violent crime more appropriately fit the 
crime; and aiming to deter auto theft. The law enforcement officers 
who testified generally applaud the direction of our government. I am 
confident that this time at least, the Liberal Party will support our 
efforts to make our streets safer.

John Weston, MP, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom