Ambitious

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: Slain man’s dad takes matters in own hands

WINNIPEG — Jack McLaughlin’s goal is to reform the country’s judicial system.
Frustrated with the justice he’s seen since his 20-year-old son was beaten to death outside a popular south Winnipeg bar last spring, McLaughlin has taken matters into his own hands.

A businessperson by trade, McLaughlin has incorporated a volunteer group called People for Justice and is already planning a mass demonstration in September that he hopes will draw 20,000 people.

“I’ve got a gut feeling this could turn into the biggest revolt against the government in Canadian history because they’ve underestimated the feelings of people towards the justice system,” McLaughlin said. “If it took my son’s death to get me off my derriere, so be it. But once I’m standing, I stay standing.”

But University of Winnipeg criminologist Doug Skoog said it’s a misconception among Canadians the justice system isn’t tough on criminals.

“We give out pretty harsh penalties in relation to other countries,” Skoog said.

Anthony McLaughlin’s death rocked the city last May. It was one of three murders on one of the bloodiest long weekends in Winnipeg’s history.

The University of Manitoba management student was in a bar fight at the Pembina Hotel that ended up outside the neighbouring Original Pancake House. Badly beaten, Anthony was taken to hospital where he died the next day.

Originally charged with second-degree murder for the attack, Tyler Cascisa pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter during his preliminary hearing two months ago. Cascisa has been under a form of house arrest for more than a year but is permitted to go to work.

He will be sentenced this month.

McLaughlin — who says his life has been turned upside-down since his son’s death — wants to see courts get tougher on criminals. That includes judges imposing harsher sentences and the federal government tightening up the Young Offenders Act.

“The only good I can see of what happened to our family is changes in the justice system,” said McLaughlin, who wants People For Justice to expand across the country. The group even has a Web site.

Study after study shows Canadians feel criminals are walking away from courts without being adequately punished when in fact 90 per cent of people charged with a crime are convicted, Skoog said.

It’s often the media that creates an impression the courts aren’t tough enough by focusing on cases in which sentences are seen as lenient, he said.

But don’t tell that to Darlene Rempel, whose 23-year-old son, Paul Rempel, was killed in downtown Winnipeg 17 years ago while walking home from a bar. The longest sentence any of the 10 thugs who attacked the man received was four years behind bars.

“It was great anger with the justice system that got me into this. At that time, there a great lack of communication between us and the system,” said Rempel, a founding member and executive director of the Manitoba Organization of Victim Advocates.

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