One of the things about living in Canada is the constant debate over the purpose of the justice system
A constant struggle between retribution and rehabilitation.
Proponents of retribution indicate that we need to use sentencing as a deterrent, and use the US as an example. Of course the problem with that is that the US has one of the highest ratios of imprisonment in the world.
Proponents of rehabilitation argue that the societal cost of imprisonment is too high, that as an advanced and just society we want offenders to return as contributing members of society.
Of course there is one case that throws the wrench into all of this:
For those that don’t recall, Robert Latimer killed his severely disabled daughter to end her suffering. After various trials and appeals, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for 10 years.
The problem is that those champions of the rehabilitative system were completely silent over the last 10 years. The federal NDP would jump up and down and celebrate about eviscerating the Young Offenders act, yet for this man, who all would agree is no risk whatsoever to re-offend, they remained completely silent.
Those proponents of the rehabilitative system, whether MP, MLA, citizen should all hang their head in shame.
If you want a rehabilitative system, it should be rehabilitative for all. How many times have we seen lenient sentences for offenders on reduced charges of second degree murder or manslaughter. If offenders receiving those sentences ( most of which have a criminal past) are candidates for rehabilitation, why not someone with no criminal past, and no risk to reoffend?
And this is why there is a conundrum. We see absolutely brutal murders like Bernardo, Pickton and Williams and think we need to have retribution and then we look at Latimer and realize the need for rehabilitation.
So why did Latimer get such a long sentence? Some say a dysfunctional Parole Board wanted to send a message.
Well they sent a message alright. A message that our justice system is broken and needs some real fixing.