Legislative Report (25 July 2007)

We Must Avoid Another Whitmore Dilemma

People all across this nation felt a collective shudder of revulsion and contempt after reading the details of the crimes committed by Peter Whitmore. The case proves a number of points very clearly. First, it proves there is still evil in the world, and small town Saskatchewan is not immune from the harm this evil can cause. The second lesson from the Whitmore case is that Canada’s judicial system has a long way to go when it comes to protecting the public from habitual sex offenders.

The third lesson this case drives home is that Canada’s dangerous offender legislation is still seriously flawed. The case ended with the judicial system failing to declare Whitmore a dangerous offender. Most Canadians would agree that if the label doesn’t apply to Whitmore and his reprehensible crimes, it effectively applies to no one.

Most of the media coverage to date has chosen to ignore this flaw, concentrating instead on the laudable and commendable goal of sparing these young victims the ordeal and trauma of a criminal trial. What’s also being ignored is a solution to this very problem, languishing in limbo in a committee of the House of Commons.

Bill C-27 would have made it far easier for Crown Prosecutors to have Peter Whitmore labelled a dangerous offender. And it would have avoided placing these well meaning public servants in an impossible position: having to choose between a dangerous offender designation for Whitmore or forcing the victims to testify.

If passed into law, this bill would force those convicted of a third violent crime or sex offence to prove why they should not be classified as a dangerous offender. Instead of forcing the Crown to prove why it should be more difficult for the offender to be released because of the likelihood to re-offend, the onus would be on the person convicted to say why this label, and its consequences, should not be applied for the protection of the public.

There are those who have argued life in prison amounts to virtually the same thing as a dangerous offender designation. Mr. Whitmore will be ineligible for parole during the next seven years. Had he been found to be a dangerous offender, that designation would also have been reviewed after seven years. However, sentences are designed to reflect society’s condemnation of each criminal act, as well as to discourage similar crimes from taking place. There is a serious question raised that has not yet been answered: What message are we sending by not declaring Peter Whitmore a dangerous offender?

Perhaps a recent editorial in the Calgary Herald put it best:

By backing away from a promise to apply for dangerous offender status for convicted pedophile Peter Whitmore, in favour of a plea bargain that would see him eligible for parole in seven years, the Crown has abdicated its moral duty to seek the fullest justice for Whitmore’s young victims.

Extreme cases like Mr. Whitmore’s often don’t make for good law. However, Bill C-27 seems like a measured, effective response to the facts as outlined.

Saskatchewan people should be urging politicians, federal and provincial, to support speedy passage of Bill C-27.

If you have a question about this report or any other matter, just Contact Lyle.

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