Today’s letters: ‘Tough on crime’ policies aren’t the answer in Canada

Saturday, March 30: The causes of crime are varied, and so too must be the solutions, readers say. You can write to us too, at [email protected]

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Harsh sentencing carries many costs

Re: NP view: Soft on Crime, March 23.

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The National Post’s “soft on crime” editorial that ran in the NP2 section last Saturday allows admittedly understandable emotions to trump reason. While there has been a rise in some crimes in the last year or two, the causes are many and varied and the sentencing ranges available to judges have not meaningfully changed for decades.

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The second paragraph of the editorial refers to “irresponsible advocates” who state that crime will magically wind down with free drugs, generous bail, light sentences etc. I have never heard anyone suggesting such nonsense. What many do argue is that harsh sentencing is expensive and has no detectable effect on crime rates. Sentences tailored to reduce the likelihood of recidivism make most sense for anyone receiving a finite sentence.  Allowing offenders to serve the last part of their sentence in supervised conditions designed to secure employment, education, housing and mental health supports, if needed, makes more sense than releasing offenders on the last day of their sentence without supports.

What is irresponsible is the characterization of some Supreme Court of Canada rulings. The court did not rule that four years in jail for shooting at a house was unconstitutional. Anyone doing that will almost certainly receive a sentence at least that long. What the court did rule was that the sentencing provision covered a few situations where such a sentence would be unjust. A provision making a minimum sentence presumptive, rather than mandatory, solves the problem.

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A drug dealer selling his poison to many would be unlikely to receive a sentence as light as one year but “drug trafficking” includes an addict sharing drugs with a fellow addict or an intellectually challenged individual talked into helping a dealer on one occasion for little or no profit.

The law is racially neutral but the social and other circumstances of our Indigenous people, for example, are different than for the majority population.

Crime statistics have been collected in the democratic world for well over a century. They appear to demonstrate that harsh sentencing costs a lot of money but has little or no effect on crime rates. What has been shown to deter crimes is a high likelihood of being caught. We also need to greatly reduce the time between arrest and trial. Let’s put our resources where they may actually be effective.

Bruce F. Simpson, Ottawa

Fighting crime is a complex task

The United States is well known for its tough-on-offenders judicial system with capital punishment still in place in many states. Yet it has the highest crime rate among developed countries. State and federal penitentiaries are expanding capacity at tremendous cost to citizens. It is well known that a high percentage of inmates have mental health problems, often founded upon sexual and other abuse and addictions.

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Rising crime is prevalent in most countries. Canada is trying to find ways to combat crime, perhaps with  more leniency where appropriate, but also by directing more money to mental health, addiction assistance and other help.  Harsher sentences are certainly important and necessary in some circumstances, but bringing them in across the board is not the answer. Capital punishment has been shown not to be a deterrent; the same is true with harsh sentencing. Until times improve we, the public and business, must take more care making ourselves safe with security measures as needed (motion detectors, video surveillance, community watch programs etc.)

Bob McRae, Aylmer

So should we just hang them all?

According to the NP editorial, “criminals … are not deterred by the prospect of spending time in jail.” What does that leave? Capital punishment for all crimes?

Robert Rose, Ottawa

YOW doesn’t decide which airlines land here

Re: Letter, Bring international flights back to Ottawa’s airport, March 26.

The letter-writer calls for the reopening of the Ottawa International Airport (YOW) to international flights.

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To clarify, YOW is open to international flights. Airlines decide where to fly their aircraft, not airports nor the government. Granted, for a period during the pandemic, the federal government did limit landing rights to the four largest airports in Canada: Toronto-Pearson, Montreal-Trudeau, Vancouver and Calgary,  leaving YOW with domestic flights only. We fought hard along with Halifax, Winnipeg and Edmonton airports to have all landing rights restored. We were delighted when the first flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. arrived on Nov. 21, 2021.

Since then, we have built back our U.S. and other international offerings significantly, including non-stop service to Paris-Charles de Gaulle, key transborder destinations such as Washington DC (both Dulles and National), New York, Chicago and Boston, multiple Florida airports, and numerous holiday favourites in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Another clarification is the notion that YOW is taxpayer-funded. In fact, the Airport Authority pays the federal government millions in rent annually, as a percentage of revenues generated. Airports in Canada are private, not-for-profit entities governed by boards of directors under federal regulation. They are not funded by taxpayers but are user-funded through fees charged to airlines and fees generated through concessions, parking, etc. Additionally, airport authorities levy an Airport Improvement Fee on all departing passengers. This pays for essential capital infrastructure and is added to airline tickets.

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Before the pandemic, YOW enjoyed non-stop service to London-Heathrow and Frankfurt on Air Canada. Service to Frankfurt was to be assumed by Star Alliance partner Lufthansa until COVID-19 upended travel. YOW sits between Montreal and Toronto, two significant hub airports whose markets are substantially larger and can often offer airlines better profitability than Ottawa-Gatineau. Our team maintains regular dialogue with airlines while providing data to demonstrate that ours is an important market worth serving.

Finally, our passenger composition has changed dramatically over the past four years: the concentration of business travel has shifted to leisure as the federal government and other employers work remotely. This change has impacted how airlines choose to serve Ottawa-Gatineau.

We continually seek new airline partnerships and network connections and are making important infrastructure improvements to provide an efficient, accessible travel experience. We are projecting significant growth over the next five years and beyond and will ensure that our airport is ready.

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Krista Kealey, vice-president, Communications, Ottawa International Airport Authority

Air Canada should connect us better to Europe

The letter-writer is right to call attention to the abysmal international air service out of Ottawa, although the situation is not quite as bad as he makes out. For instance, we have to thank Air France for operating five flights weekly to Paris.

It is, however, a disgrace that Air Canada, the “national airline,” fails to provide direct service from the nation’s capital to a major European hub.

Thomas Frisch, Ottawa

Tell us why flood infrastructure failed

Re: Councillors urge city to ponder ways to protect against urban flooding, March 19.

This article on urban flooding following the heavy storm on Aug. 10, along with calls for a city mitigation strategy, was long overdue.

It was implied in the article that neighbourhoods with ageing infrastructure were most vulnerable, but in at least one instance it was new infrastructure that appears to have behaved badly.

Severe flooding through basement sanitary drains occurred after water from the supercharged storm sewer escaped into the sanitary sewer line along one segment of sewer infrastructure installed between 2020 and 2022 in Fisher Heights. The back-flow lasted for approximately six hours after the storm ended. Most homes in the adjacent neighbourhood were unaffected, though a few experienced seepage through their foundations.

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Local residents have asked our councillor to arrange for city engineers to explain in detail what happened, and to consider measures to guard against a recurrence. Examining the performance of the city’s most recent sewer infrastructure replacements in response to the Aug. 10 “stress test” might be useful in guiding future development. All residents would like to feel confident that new city infrastructure will protect against future flooding, not amplify it.

Lesley Chorlton, Nepean

This tear-down is a no-brainer

Re: He wants to demolish three dilapidated Lowertown houses. One problem: They’re heritage, March 19.

Well, Mr. Mayor and councillors, do we or don’t we have a housing crisis? Tearing down 13 decrepit rental units and constructing 24 new replacement units should be a no-brainer if we do. What say you?

Ken Imerson, Greely

Truck traffic isn’t just passing through

Re: Letter, Why is Ottawa a trucker short-cut? March 23.

The letter claiming that Ottawa bridges are merely a shortcut for trucks transiting to or from more distant locations is off the mark. The results of actual traffic studies by Sustainable Solutions/Solutions durables are on the web at:

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“Contrary to popular belief, the majority of these trucks are not simply transiting through the National Capital Region from Quebec,” the study says. “The majority of the truck total either begins or ends (or both) their journeys within this region.”

Wayne Mitchell, Ottawa

Ontario budget has the wrong focus

Re: Ontario anticipates $9.8B deficit amid limited GDP growth, March 27.

Premier Doug Ford claims that Ontario’s new deficit budget will help Ontarians with their “affordability problems.” Among the features of the new budget are auto insurance reforms, extended gas tax relief, eliminating the licence plate renewal fee, banning new road tolls and freezing driver’s licence fees.

Ford should remember that many of those who have the greatest affordability problems cannot afford a car. Others do without a car because of environmental concerns. These people will get no help at all from the government’s featured deficit-building measures.

In contrast, if those dollars were used to subsidize and improve public transit, our neediest citizens would benefit. Even those who have a car can often save money by using a subsidized public transit system instead of that car.

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Dave Parnas, Ottawa

Governments must end these deficits

I cannot believe the provincial government produced a budget showing a huge deficit. Do politicians not realize they cannot continue to produce deficits? These have to be repaid at some  point in time and are costly to carry with interest rates at their current level.

Governments of all stripes need to live within their means and find cost savings. There is only one taxpayer and that taxpayer is getting tired of the cost of carrying government debt.

Stan Painter, Kanata.

Officer shouldn’t have been punished

Re: Const. Pierre Fournier docked 10 days’ pay for discreditable conduct over shoving match with teens, March 26.

Police Const. Pierre Fournier should have been commended for intervening in serious misconduct by “defiant and aggressive teenagers” while off-duty. The decision to punish the wrong parties and scapegoat a respected police officer is both shameful and unacceptable.

Not only does it provide no deterrents for reckless young people disrespecting law and order, but it severely damages property rights and encourages repeat offenders.

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Decisions like these undermine the entire system. This deserves an immediate appeal and review.

Don Pajot, Constance Bay

Const. Fournier went above and beyond

Reading the story about Const. Pierre Fournier, who has been docked pay because he intervened in an incident at a local gravel pit that has been an ongoing issue for area residents and the owners, has left me very concerned.

The officer stepped in, on his own time, to try to stop a bunch of law-breakers. Trespassing is a serious crime.

I fear, because of the way he’s been treated by his own employer, that the next time an officer sees this kind of crime, they will just turn a blind eye and walk away.

Instead of docking this officer’s pay, give him a bonus and possibly a promotion for showing duty above and beyond.

D.J. Phillips, Gloucester

Clear away red tape for Gazan refugees

Re: Israel motion could make it harder to get Gazans out of conflict zone, Marc Miller says, March 20.

Whew! For a minute, it looked like Marc Miller, the immigration minister, might have to fix his flop of a program bringing Palestinian refugees to Canada. But Parliament’s March 18 vote calling for a two-state solution has let him off the hook.

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The immigration minister (who voted in favour of the motion) said ruefully that Canada would be naïve if it doesn’t think Israel won’t retaliate by making it more difficult still for refugees to leave Gaza. It’s hard to see how it can get much worse than the zero applicants the Liberal government has so far welcomed.

Miller has capped the number of refugees at a measly 1,000, compared to about 200,000 for Ukrainians; required applicants to provide bizarre information like what scars they have; and told them to get their photos and fingerprints in Cairo, even though Egypt has closed its border with Gaza.

If an applicant was able to round up everything, and file it, he or she might get a code to proceed to the next stage of the application: it’s first-come, first-serve.

Now, in a Kafkaesque twist, we hear that people who did manage to escape to Egypt before reaching the second stage of their application are no longer eligible for it. Because they are no longer in Gaza.

We can’t do much for those trapped in Gaza but we could start by clearing away the razor-wire tangle of bureaucracy.

Jenny Green, Ottawa

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