Friday, May 14, 2010

Victim's rights. . . . WTF?. . . . .

So you have no doubt seen and been nauseated by our Minister of Public Safety going on about what he calls "victim's rights.' This phrase is almost entirely meaningless but the Minster continues to use it ad nauseum n ever interview and public appearance. As I said yesterday it doesn't take a genius to understand that a 'right' is something that the state 'allows' you to do, the word applies to a choice that you can take advantage of like the freedom of speech, or movement etc. Thus a victim of a crime has very few possible 'rights' in relation to a crime committed against him or her. You could claim that victims should have the abstract right to see justice done but really the only technical 'right' a victim could have would related to retribution in  some way; like the right to make a victim statement, to speak as a witness against the person who committed the crime, or even the right to financial restitution whether from the state or the perpetrator of the crime. Outside of this, you it is difficult to imagine what 'rights' the state could bestow upon victims of crimes.

Yet you will constantly hear Vic Toews and other right-wingers talk about 'victim's rights.' Why is that? The answer is, of course, politics. One of the primary political strategies of the Right in general is to foment fear and animosity in society. Thus they love to talk about crime because there is a certain segment of society that wrongly believes that crime is out of control and that people are out there getting away with murder. Thus you will hear Vic Toews say crap like "unlike liberals and socialists, I am in favor of victims rights and not criminals rights." A completely meaningless statement, particularly given that Mr. Toews and his government have actually made no attempt to expand the few rights that victims actually could exercise. Rather, this is part of a strategy to further foster fear and keep people's attention focused on a meaningless political ploy that will not change crime rates and will cost billions of dollars.

As a society we can, if we choose, erode the rights of people who are accused or convicted of a crime. Given the startling number of wrongful convictions that have taken place in the past generation, I for one, think people who are accused or convicted of a crime need to have certain very clear rights which are well protected. And by all means, we can have a rational discussion about bringing the victims of crime into the process in much the same way that traditional justice systems have like those used by our First Peoples. As long as that discussion is not driven by the politically motivated 'tough on crime' nonsense which will only serve to cost billions and do nothing to crime rates.

If you want a justice system to actually reduce crime, every serious professional will tell you that you need a genuine system of rehabilitation and reform. Instead Harper and Toews want to take us down the road of California which has an unbelievably high rate of incarceration, very high rate of recidivism, and is helping to bankrupt the state. But the present government is actually reducing rehabilitation efforts and looking to just throw as many people in jail as possible with minimum sentences. This may satisfy people desire for revenge but is poor social and fiscal policy.

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