Short Shafted: The Emmett Till Act

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There’s a great piece in the Sunday New York Times on  the FBI’s follow-up on Civil Rights era cold-cases in the wake of the passing of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act in 2007.  To date, little has been done to close cases, and the FBI’s work appears to be perfunctory.

Here’s the last update from the Department of Justice in 2010 where they claim to have made progress, but since then it would appear that the project has stalled.

However, if you look at the original legislation, you have to wonder if the Justice Department was ever serious about this project:   A scant $10,000,000 in annual appropriations, with a heavy focus on reporting and community relations. I don’t think congress was serious about truth or justice, they simply wanted to turn the page.

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UNC Chapel Hill: Physician, Heal Thyself!

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This week two local issues concerning criminal justice hit home for me in a very personal way.

On Tuesday, my ex-wife called me with a warning about our weekly child drop-off: “They’re on their way over, but be careful… we just got in an argument and the topic was rape.”

The subject was the recent allegations by students – current and former – at UNC Chapel Hill that the school administration has done little to protect victims of sexual assault, and indeed have gone to great lengths to cover up incidents of rape and sexual assault on campus.   My ex-wife argued that one student in question, who took it on face value that the school would comprehensively handle the investigation into her assault, was under some personal obligation to go to local law enforcement to report the incident. My daughters’ point was that the school was obliged to fully protect the student, victims of sexual assault are vulnerable, and the student was depending on the school to act in her best interest. I argued that I have been sitting on the fence about this issue because I really didn’t feel I had enough information to make a rational conclusion. My back-of-the-napkin take on it is that, by my count from what I read in the newspapers, there has been a problem with sexual violence on the UNC campus spanning at least a decade, but that the problem more than likely reached back much further than that; from my experience in these matters if UNC /Chapel Hill have a campus sexual violence problem,  the issue is systemic, and it is a very good thing that Federal authorities from the U.S. Department of Education are now being called in to review the matter.

This issue extends – at the very least – as far back to the rape and murder of Jeanne Clery in 1986 in a campus residence hall at Lehigh University. The case lead to the establishment of the Clery Act which requires colleges and universities to annually disclose campus security policies and campus crime statistics. The Act is monitored by the U.S. Department of Education, and those institutions that fail to comply risk losing Federal student financial aid programs (yes, a VERY big deal).

It is no secret that in the Cleary era many schools have attempted to game the system by under-reporting campus crime stats (Jerry Sandusky / Penn State), and that is exactly the issue at UNC Chapel Hill, and why the stakes are so high in this matter. Do colleges fudge numbers? Of course they do. In my own personal experience, I don’t have to be a statistician to notice that a simple Google scan of newspaper archives for the words “Lennoxville” “sexual assault” “Campus” “Champlain college” will come up with exactly two hits; my sister’s case, and a case at  Bishop’s college that police later claimed didn’t take place. 40 years, and exactly two incidents of sexual assault? That’s quite a record.

The second thing that happened this week was that an article appear in the UNC campus newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel that was ostensibly a “where are we now?” piece on the 5th anniversary of the Eve Carson murder, but really was about blaming the City of Durham for all of Chapel Hill’s problems.  That the piece by student writer Chelsey Dulaney is incendiary and mis-informed is just me being polite.  And I strongly disagree with UNC senior associate dean, Chris Roush’s brush-off assessment that, because the paper is student-run, it is merely a “learning lab”: all the more reason for responsible editorial oversight, isn’t oversight at the crux of all of UNC Chapel Hill’s current problems?

As a resident of Chapel Hill and 15-year proud employee with the City of Durham my first reaction was to weigh into the fray, even though that action might have caused me some personal trauma (I rarely discuss where I work on this blog). Fortunately I didn’t have to. In this morning’s Herald Sun the Durham Police Chief and Mayor did such a fine job of defending the Bull City that my actions and words are not neccessary.   My observation – and this is supported with the hard data presented in the police chief’s crime report delivered to City Council on Monday, March 4th (a meeting at which I was present) – is that Part I Crime in Durham has been drastically reduced in the last 10-years while the population has doubled. This is thanks to a police force and a community that understands that a better quality of life is everybody’s business, and we all contribute to the solution. As Mayor Bell says, “are we satisfied? No I don’t think we will every be satisfied.”. But we are hopeful.

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CEIC: Avant Charbonneau, souvenez-vous de la Commission Malouf?

En attendant l’enquête de la construction Charbonneau réunir à nouveau, j’ai pensé qu’il pourrait être une bonne idée de visiter les fantômes du Québec Renseignements publique Passé.

Premièrement, le Québec n’a pas connu de pénurie des enquêtes publiques, ou les appels à une enquête publique. Certains sont bien connus et font partie de notre mémoire collective récente, l’enquête de la Commision Poitras à la Sûreté du Québec, la crise d’Oka Mohawk, l’effondrement du viaduc de Laval.

Le Royal Trust Co. désormais “Whiskey Dix”

Mais qui se souvient Premier Godbout 1943 appel à une enquête sur les pépinières d’hôpital? Ou que dire de l’appel à une enquête de valeurs mobilières lorsque la Compagnie Trust Royal (devenu RBC) déplacé actifs de Montréal à Kingston, à la veille d’une élection générale? A critiques déplacer réclamés a été conçu pour améliorer les craintes économiques d’un Québec indépendant et destablized (Le Québec Saint-Jean-Baptiste Société a appelé “comme répréhensible et avec des conséquences plus graves toute action terroriste” .) Se souvenir de l’affaire Fredy Villanueva? Bien sûr, vous le faites. Mais qu’en est-il du rapport Wagner en service de police d’une force excessive lors de la visite de la Reine de 1964 à Québec? Se souvenir de l’enquête Otto Lang dans le contrôle du trafic aérien entièrement bilingue ? Je ne le pense pas.

 

Jérôme Choquette dans les années 70

Celui-ci a attiré mon attention. En 1970, Roy Fournier, alors président du comité libéral de justice, a appelé à une grande enquête sur les activités de la pègre au Québec, une notion qui alors premier ministre Robert Bourassa a suggéré “pourrait être une bonne idée». Fournier a coûté la pègre était devenu si puissant Québec que seule une enquête publique majeur pourrait vraiment régler le problème. Puis, ministre de la Justice Jérôme Choquette d’accord en disant que jusqu’à 30% des nightclubs de Montréal ont été contrôlés par le Mafia.The précédent premier ministre Daniel Johnson a prévenu que,

“La pègre a envahi un nombre alarmant d’entreprises légitimes au Québec et appelé à une action immédiate du gouvernement pour freiner les opérations de la pègre».

Ahh, ce qui est passé est un prologue!

Bon, je vais arrêter d’être insolent et arriver à ce qui est vraiment dans mon esprit. Oui, mon point est que Duchesneau, Amato, Tenti, etc … sont tous chante une chanson du passé, mais le vrai éléphant dans la pièce est l’Enquête publique de la Commission Malouf dans Jeux Olympiques de Jean Drapeau de Montréal en 1976, et que nous avons appris quelque chose de cette ?

Albert Malouf

Permettez-moi de planter le décor, et m’arrêter quand tout cela commence à sonner familier. C’est 1977 et le Québec se réveille au fait qu’ils n’ont pas obtenu ce qu’ils ont payé. Deuxième acte du maire Drapeau à l’Expo 67 était censé coûter aux contribuables 120 millions de dollars, mais le prix à payer pour les Jeux Olympiques ont atteint 1,6 milliards de dollars (c’est vrai, “The Big Oh” … la dette finalement pris sa retraite en 2006). Le Parti québécois sont frais hors de leur victoire provinciale première et René Lévesque (lui-même juste après avoir esquivé une enquête publique pour la fatale hit-and-run d’Edgar Trottier) lance une enquête sur les Jeux, en nommant le juge Albert Malouf à la tête d’un homme à trois commission. Parmi les résultats:

1. Tous les contrats de construction de plus de 1 million de dollars devait avoir l’approbation spéciale du gouvernement. Cette mesure de protection a été contournée par des entrepreneurs qui ont tout simplement demandé une augmentation des contrats multiples en vertu de 1 million de dollars.

2. Le projet a été entièrement contrôlé par un seul homme, l’architecte  Robert Taillibert.

3. La société qui a remporté le contrat pour le stationnement avec une offre de 3,7 M $ a déposé plusieurs contrat augmente et finit par se faire payer 9,7 millions de dollars. Et le contrat n’a pas été exécuté jusqu’à 6 mois après les Jeux ont été achevés.

4. Les entrepreneurs généraux du Québec, Formes-Viau Stationnement, Les Formes de construction du Québec, Sabrice Ltd, Dubé et Dube, Bombardier, Roski Ltd, Stratinor, tous fini par gagner des bénéfices disproportionnés aux services rendus.

5. Roski Ltd, une filiale de Bombardier, a remporté un contrat pour la fourniture de sièges pour les Jeux, même si son offre ne répondait pas aux spécifications établies par la Ville de Montréal.

Le gâchis est le mieux résumée par Ian MacDonald, qui en a écrit une colonne 1978,

“Quand il s’agit de commissions d’enquête du Québec n’est vraiment pas une province comme les autres.

Commissions nommés par le gouvernement à Ottawa et ailleurs souvent se conformer à la maxime du Canada de résoudre un problème en faisant disparaître, les demandes du Québec supposent généralement une vie spectaculaire de la leur. “

MacDonald se passe pour confirmer ce que nous savons déjà, les enquêtes publiques sont spectaculairement mise en scène des actes de théâtre politique. Ils coûtent beaucoup, et finissent généralement boucs émissaires les mauvaises personnes, et esquiver les vrais problèmes.

Dans le cas de la Commission Malouf, les recommandations ont été formulées à la veille de l’élection municipale de Montréal. Il a critiqué le maire Jean Drapeau, et tout le monde largement excusé reste, y compris le gouvernement libéral provincial au pouvoir au moment des Jeux, à la grande consternation de René Lévesque (certains fonctionnaires mais j’ai perdu contre ) …

ET DRAPEAU quand même réussi à gagner l’élection.

Dans la prochaine année, alors que nous regardons comme témoin après témoin est traîné devant la Commission Charbonneau, comme le PLQ, CAQ, PQ jockey pour la position, alors que nous attendons les recommandations de Kabuki cette pantomime, nous pourrions envisager l’ passé et ne pas mettre nos espoirs trop haut.

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Charbonneau Commission ( CEIC) Day 2: Valentina Tenti

The first English witness takes the stand today in Quebec’s construction inquiry (well, Italian with an awesome accent).

Valentina Tenti is a criminologist from the Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan and expert on mafia infiltration into the construction industry in Italy (her credentials here )  Again, more “painting the picture” today, no pointing fingers… yet.

Tenti is no stranger to Montreal / Quebec. She’s been a post-doctoral fellow / research assistant / visiting researcher at the Universite de Montreal since 2008. In February 2012 she presented to the Universite de Montreal’s International Centre for Comparative Criminology on the topic, Ethnic patterns and co-offending neworks in Italy’s illegal drug trade. In May she presented to Canada’s National Security Conference on the topic of corruption in the construction industry. 

You can actually see her entire one-hour lecture on Italy’s illegal drug trade here on YouTube here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNNUqqNJK4I

Tenti really started coming into her own after about an hour of testimony. Much more relaxed and confident. She spoke of how the Mafia / Cosa Nostra had a sense of entitlement, describing a “swearing in” ceremony (being “made” ) where blood was spilt over a religious object (just a tad of a flair for the dramatic). Mafia consider themselves honorable, loyal, obedient. Which tells you pretty much what they think of the rest of us. With an attitude like that is it any wonder they feel justified in exploiting the system? 

The mafia have honor, and we get hosed.

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Day 1: Charbonneau Commission ( CEIC ) Reconvenes

Not much today in the way of action. Chairman France Charbonneau set the table by stating the inquiry (#ceic) would look into connections to organized crime and biker gangs, but so far very little on specifics in the nature of “who did what”.  A lot of detailed information on the history of the construction industry by Louis Delagrave; a $5 billion industry, one in every $5 dollars in Quebec goes towards construction. That’s a lot of pie; if checks and balances aren’t in place that’s a lot of opportunity. We will see in the days ahead of us where this leads.

As a side note, I am amazed at the amount of transparency and access to information in this inquiry. I am sitting here in North Carolina, and I can watch live televised feeds of the sessions. The streaming is fantastic. The Quebec government is making every document produced by witnesses available on line with same-day uploads (see here). 

The last public inquiry in Quebec that I can recall of this magnitude was the Poitras Commission’s Public Inquiry into the Surete du Quebec in 1996 (The Matticks Affair). I wasn’t around for that, but it was nothing like this, you basically had to rely on media, or  wait for the published report to get any information. As an average citizen, I say, Well Done! We are tax payers, we should not be at anyone’s mercy when it comes to accessing information about the things that we pay for.

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Charbonneau Commission: Accept the price, take the blue pill, don’t complain.

The Charbonneau Commission, Quebec’s public inquiry into how construction contracts where awarded for public projects, is to resume tomorrow morning. The Montreal Gazette has two good articles on the story so far in this weekend’s paper. The first article asks how far will the Commission probe into the connection between big government contract money, organized crime, and the political process in Quebec.  The second article is an examination of how contracts were awarded in Montreal. The Gazette suggests a pattern in the process, which suggests a possible gaming of the contract system. Notably the top two constructions firms in Quebec –  Simard-Beaudry Construction and  Construction Frank Catania et Associés Inc.(both with links to organized crime) – most often were awarded contracts and managed to split the award pot almost 50/50 (approx. $60M each). Also, neither company bid on a specific contract when the other had decided to bid on it (one would not participate in the process if the other decided to engage). Finally, the Gazette also points out that some construction companies never won contracts.

I always find these stories of bid rigging kind of difficult to follow, so let me just lay out for you what is being suggested: Simard-Beaudry  and Frank Catania, Inc. would meet prior to bidding on contracts and mutually agree who would bid on what this round, and who would sit out. The company bidding would secretly meet with a contract rep with the government and agree on a price (the bid would be roughly in line with the cost estimate provided by the government). The company would pay the government contract rep some incentive secretly for his services. Other companies would be instructed by the lead company not to bid, or to bid with a figure significantly higher than the estimate price, in exchange the lead company would award sub-contracts to the lesser companies for sitting out or providing bogus bids.

In this scenario, everybody wins. The lead company gets greased by the premium above what the project truly would have cost, the government reps get greased with some sort of pay-off from the lead construction company, the lesser companies get greased with sub-contracts, and the other lead company sitting out this round gets greased in the knowledge that they will then take the lead on the next big government construction contract.  Oh, and one last piece of the puzzle; part of that lead company premium? That’s used to fund political campaigns; an equal portion to all parties, a manner of hedging your bets so that everyone is complicit and the status quo continues.  Everybody wins except the taxpayer; they wind up paying for a highway overpass that could have been completed at 1/3 of the price had the fundamental process of Western competitive economics been allowed to take place, and the contract awarded to the true low bidder.

And you wondered how Pauline Marois could afford that mansion on Ile Bizzard?

How do I know this is what has likely been taken place in Quebec construction for the last 100 years? My father worked in construction in Quebec all his life. That’s how.

I have often thought that if you wanted to get to the real bottom of Theresa’s death, you might need to take a long, broad look at the relationship in Quebec between politics and corruption and money. Some crimes aren’t cause-and-effect. Some crimes are wheels-within-wheels, and result from bigger systemic problems.  An inept police force, a lackadaisical  educational structure; these are systems that feed off Quebec’s political engine. If a province and it’s people accepts that $347 million is a fare price for not rocking the boat (and this is exactly the number The Gazette is suggesting) , and they would rather have that money going to maintain the sub-standard status quo in Quebec, just so long as everything continues to basically function in Quebec, albiet at a terrible level of service, then it’s alright that we use that money so that a very few people enjoy a higher standard of living. If that is true, then don’t complain when your morning commute is 10 minutes longer each year due to a continuous ballet of pilons; don’t complain when your CEGEP system is at the point of anarchy for, apparently, no reason; don’t complain when your police forces behave like thugs, and seem to be at odds with one of the fundamental tenants of law enforcement: protecting citizens.

Accept the price, take the blue pill, and don’t complain.

The Charbonneau Commission reconvenes tomorrow morning. You can watch it here.

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Surete du Quebec: you get what you pay for?

The heads of police unions in Quebec are expressing concerns about the high cost of police consolidations, as more and more small  municipal forces get rolled up under the umbrella of the Surete du Quebec.

There should be concern. At issue is not only the problem of double taxation (cities like Montreal that have not been consolidated are paying twice, both for the SQ and the SPVM), but also the fact that once consolidated, municipalities cannot go back if citizens find they were provided better services prior to consolidation.

The period of SQ consolidation began en masse back in 70s under a then newly elected PQ government. I can well remember that one of the cornerstone problems with the investigation into my sister’s murder was at the cause of consolidation. Small police forces in Compton and Lennoxville were swept up by the SQ. Both towns had been the prociding police authority in the area where Theresa went missing (Lennoxville) and where her body was found (Compton). The newly appointed Surete du Quebec had only assumed control for a number of years at that time, and the force, in coming to grips with its new authority, bungled many procedures during the investigation.

This is typical when give authority over to a homogenized force, instead of the locals who know the area and can respond to the specialized needs of a community. I would take the SPVM over the SQ any day (and the Peel Regional Police over the RCMP for that matter). In light of recent missteps in Saint John, New Brunswick over the investigations of the Richard Oland and the Bacchus Motorcycle Club murder , some have called for the dissolution of the Saint John force; they would argue that the Mounties should assume control. The results would be disastrous for the Saint John community, and you need only look at THIS to see what you  would get when you ask umbrella governments to take control of local problems.

The province of Quebec should think twice before considering any more consolidation of its municipal forces. At the very least, in the wake of the upcoming elections, candidates should be required to express their position on consolidation, as requested by police union representatives. More here:

Police give wish list to Quebec election candidates

BY CATHERINE SOLYOM, THE GAZETTE AUGUST 18, 2012
MONTREAL – The heads of the Montreal Police Brotherhood and the Quebec federation of municipal police have given their wish list to candidates in the Sept. 4 election.

At the top, a promise not to eradicate any more of the province’s municipal police forces, in decline over the past 10 years as the Sûreté du Québec takes over, and a quest for more funding for Montreal, with the lion’s share of demonstrations and organized crime.

At a news conference Saturday morning, Police Brotherhood president Yves Francoeur said residents of larger cities like Montreal are paying twice for police services: once for their own municipal force, and through their income taxes to support the SQ in the rest of the province.

But Montreal itself, like other cities of more than 100,000 people, receives no funding for police services from the province, Francoeur said, despite making up one quarter of the population of Quebec — and accounting for one third of its crime.

“It’s in the big cities that crimes are generally committed, it’s in the big cities that there are demonstrations, it’s in the big cities that street gangs are a big problem,” Francoeur said, suggesting all municipalities should be subsidized to the same extent: to cover 47 per cent of the cost of policing.

In Montreal, the student demonstrations over the spring cost an estimated $15 million, Francoeur said.

By the beginning of July, some officers had racked up 700 hours of overtime.

Denis Côté, president of the Quebec federation of municipal police, decried the expansion of the SQ at the expense of a thousand municipal police officers, as more than 100 municipal forces have disappeared in the last decade.

The process by which the SQ can take over from a municipal police force, as they did in the last year in Rivière du Loup, Ste. Adèle and St. Georges de Beauce, is “undemocratic,” Côté said. While a mayor must consult the public, the city administration can decide to ignore the public’s views, and a decision cannot be reversed if the population is dissatisfied with the service it gets from the SQ.

Both Francoeur and Côté want electoral candidates to say what they will do to rectify the situation and to affirm they have no “hidden agenda” to put into place a single, national police force.

“The parties, both the Coalition Avenir Quebec and the Parti Québécois, are only talking about corruption, Yes, we have to talk about it… and find measures to eradicate it. But we’re saying position yourselves on other aspects (of public security),” Francoeur said.

“There are enough ex-police officers who are running for election to get a thought-out point of view on the issue from all the parties,” Côté said.

The CAQ’s star candidate, Jacques Duchesneau, was chief of the Montreal police from 1994 to 1998.

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The Serial Killer Ate My Homework

Watching some of these investigative reporters attempt to solve crimes gets as boring as watching American league baseball. No-one wants to single and bunt their way to victory, it’s all about the DH bases loaded home run, let’s hang it all to a serial killer and solve five crimes at once.

Israel Keyes

Take the case of Nancy West writing in a recent New Hampshire Sunday News article about murder suspect Israel Keyes. Keyes is being held in Alaska for the alleged kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig from an Anchorage coffee shop. Keyes is also apparently  a person of interest in the slaying of Essex, Vermont couple, Bill and Lorraine Currier, who were randomly abducted and murdered in June 2011 (apparently Keyes has told investigators the bodies could be found in a Vermont landfill).  The article (and apparently an impatient public, and capitulating law enforcement agencies) then attempts to tie Keyes to the disappearance and murder of Celina Cass, whose body was retrieved from a local river over a year ago, less than a quarter of a mile from her home. The evidence? Cass disappeared the month after the Currier murders.

Never mind that where the Curriers live in Essex, Vermont is a good five-hour drive on rough roads to where Cass disappeared in New Hampshire. Never mind that the psychological profile of someone who robs and kills a couple in their 50s is vastly different from someone who murders an 11-year-old. Investigators also note that Keyes owned a cabin near the Canadian border in Constable, New York. Let me put that in perspective for you; that’s three states, and over 300 miles. It’s like saying a person from Cornwall, Ontario is a suspect in a Sherbrooke, Quebec murder simply because there once was a penitentiary in Cornwall.

It gets better. The article also notes that the cases of Maura Murray and Louise Chaput remain unsolved in New Hampshire. 

Celia Cass

I’ll make this really easy for everyone. There is no evidence that Israel Keyes murdered Celina Cass (or Murray or Chaput). Cass was found a quarter of a mile from her house and was most likely murdered by a family member.

As I wrote about in my last post, through a long process of trial and error I have become a disciple of the least effort principle of Occam’s Razor. By all means keep your mind open for the unexpected, but also keep it simple, let the facts speak for themselves. The pressure and temptation to throw everything into some great unifying theory in criminal investigation is strong. I remember back in the Summer of 2005 I was working with NBC television to do a story for Dateline NBC on my sister’s murder. The producers were interested in exploring an angle between her case, and the then two new investigations into the twin disappearances of Briana Maitland and Maura Murray. The producers wanted myself and Geographic Profiler, Kim Rossmo to go on record and suggest that all the cases might be related, that their was a possibility that a serial killer had been operating across the American-Canadian border over a period of three decades. There was absolutely no evidence to support this theory. Rossmo explained that when establishing locus and territoriality in geographic profiling, the span of a serial predator quickly diminishes at a point of say, 30 miles. For someone to be operating in a playing field of several hundred miles is very rare, if not impossible. Some might cite Ted Bundy, but that was never really the case: Bundy travelled. In the case of the Green River Killings one of the major inhibitors to resolving that investigation was the temptation to tie too much together (to essentially make Gary Ridgeway and Robert Pickton one person). When we told the producers at NBC that there no evidence to support such a sensational theory they didn’t care. They wanted us to say it anyway.

Eventually we backed away from the Dateline story, and the producers were not interested in doing a show that stuck with the facts. I will admit that the temptation to give them what they wanted was there. Regardless if it was true, a Dateline story would have given my sister’s case International exposure. It could have led to information that could have solved the case. But the premise wasn’t true, it could have done more damage than good. And anyway, an American audience would do little to shed light on events of 3o-years-ago; what ultimately was needed was a program in the French language, produced for locals, by locals (which is ultimately was what we got).

In November 1999, 16-year-old Julie Surprenant disappeared from a Montreal bus-stop. Less than two years later, 14-year-old Julie Bureau went missing

Julie Surprenant’s father, Michel

from her home near Sherbrooke, Quebec. Then ten months later the body of 27-year-old Julie Boisvenu was found in a ditch near Sherbrooke. She had been raped, beaten and strangled to death. The press quickly tried to suggest that the cases were somehow linked. Their evidence? The girls were all named Julie. I’m not joking. I remember the La Presse headline, Les Trois Julies, and I myself got caught up in this hysteria. So what happened? Julie Surprenant was abducted and killed by serial offender Richard Bouillon who, on his prison death bed, confessed to a nurse that he killed her. Her body has never been found. Julie Bureau was a runaway who resurfaced three years later, apparently living under everyone’s noses in Sherbrooke.  Julie Boisvenu was murdered by Hugo Bernier, who is currently serving a life sentence. Bernier was a repeat offender, but not a hardened criminal like Bouillon.

This brings me full circle to the cases on Briana Maitland and Maura Murray. Both disappeared

Maura Murray

within a month of each other eight years ago. Both disappearances involved abandoned automobiles on lonely forested highways. Both were young, attractive women with their whole lives ahead of them. For years investigators, the media and the public have tried to link the cases. It took the first year and a half before investigators officially dismissed any connection, wasting valuable resources and time.

The cases are vastly different.

Murray appears to have been under numerous stressors that could have given her a reason to runaway. She may be living somewhere else, or she may have been in despair and perhaps died in the woods. Maitland’s disappearance seems to be linked to foul play. Friends and associates to this day are not talking. She may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Where Maitland’s investigation appears to have stalled, the Murray case has received fresh interest with the creation of a blog by investigative journalist James Renner  ( apparently to the dismay of the family unfortunately). Nevertheless, Renner appears clear-headed and dedicated to sticking to the facts of the case. I hope both cases soon find their resolutions.

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Beverley McLachlin – Go The Distance

In a rare display of self-awareness, the chief justice of Canada’s Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin acknowledged that Canadians were disenfranchised from their justice systems, and the country risked losing the interests of its citizens to cynicism and lawlessness (well she didn’t say that, I did).

Speaking at an annual conference of the Canadian Bar Association, McLachlin stated,

“Being able to access justice is fundamental to the rule of law. If people decide they can’t get justice, they will have less respect for the law… They will tend not to support the rule of law. They won’t see the rule of law, which is so fundamental to our democratic society, as central and important.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin

This may be a wake-up call to the Canadian justice system, but is this a surprise to anyone? When every sports event (victory or defeat) is greeted with wholesale riots and plundering? When students take to the streets over a $300 unpaid debt?

Yes, the American justice system is overly litigious, but if Canada had even a modicum of its power I wouldn’t be sitting here blogging about what should have happened 34-years-ago. My parents would have sued the institutions responsible for my sister’s sorry outcome; an inept  education system, and a corrupt justice system. But these institutions are teflon, and our legal system gives us no recourse but to resign ourselves to bitter complacency.

McLachlin’s comments are a welcomed breath of fresh air, but toothless without any ideas for reform. I truly hope someone takes up the torch and holds Ottawa’s feet to the fire on this one.

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Press Conference from Pierre Boisvenu: Pretty Impressive

Translation of Pierre Hugues Boisvenu’s press conference this morning on the Conservative agenda for crime and crime victims. I must say I am impressed. I has done exactly what he said he would do, and in short time. And I agree, the Bloc has been nothing but a political gadfly: No ideas, no road to lead us out of this mess. Bravo:

• Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Thank you for coming.

• I would like to especially thank the invited guests for their presence and their support in this announcement.

• I am very proud to be here today, as a member of this government that believes, like most Canadians, that our correctional system and our parole system must first take into account the security of our population.

• Like them, I am a proud member of this government who, when he was elected for the first time, promised  Canadians might adopt an approach different from that of the previous government. When the Bloc says  that our government has a hidden agenda on justice and public safety, I always ask myself where was the Bloc in the last two election campaigns?

• We believe that the public wants the punishment of serious offenders to match the seriousness of their crimes, and that the rights of Victims should have priority over the rights of criminals.

• Victims have expectations and want the government to keep its promises, particularly those of
making our neighborhoods safer and to keep dangerous criminals in prison.

• Canadians demand more rigor in the rehabilitation of criminals and the recognition of the right of victims to speak. This is what we do. The victims have a voice in Parliament, and it is good.

• I am pleased to announce that our government continues to fulfill its promises. Today, we have presented an important bill to amend the principles of the Corrections Act and the setting of conditional release, and thus put an end to the automatic advanced release of criminals, and increase the effort of rehabilitation.

• I remind you that all the measures announced today are the measures I have advocated as president  founder of AFPAD.

• The bill aims to ensure that a single principle will override all others in the present correctional system, including decisions related to parole release: “THE PROTECTION OF THE COMPANY”.

• The “protection of society” will become the principle directive and the fundamental objective of the correctional system and parole system. Victims will express themselves more and our cities safer. I
recall that one of the first principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the right to security. We will show that principal respect.

• In the present system the criminals get a break in early parole through the review process. To explain,

• Criminals who have committed  non violent crimes may get parole after serving  sixth of their sentence, and parole  after the third of their sentence. Therefore, a thief, a drug dealer, or someone who commits fraud is likely to be met by a victim on the street sooner, much sooner. This situation frustrates judges and police officers working hard to remove these criminals from circulation.

• Even if the Parole Board believes that the criminal is likely to reoffend, it is obligated to grant freedom.

• Under the current system, a criminal sentenced to twelve years prison is almost automatically delivered into semi-freedom into a community after only two years of incarceration, and given full parole after only four years.

• The public wants change and that is what our Government is committed to.

• The legislation would also ensure that the courts intend to force these criminals to repair the harm caused to their victims. The possible imposition of penalties tougher for these criminals is only part of the solution.

• The legislative measures our government has presented will eliminate the accelerated review so that offenders serve a larger portion of their sentence in prison before they are eligible for early release.

• To further analyze these early-release cases, our government will increase the number of permanent Commissioners from 45 to 60.

• Additional modifications will be made to the Corrections Release Act to confirm that the primary purpose of the Corrections and Parole systems is foremost the protection of the population.

• This bill is consistent with the principals of  the Service Review Committee CSC, established by our government in 2007 to reform the prison system.

• We have made a commitment and we will respect it today. We ensure that offenders will assume greater responsibility towards their rehabilitation.

• The proposed amendments introduce a Parole merit system. The changes proposed by our government will also allow police to arrest without warrant any offenders who appear to not respect their conditions of parole.

• Finally, the changes proposed by our government demonstrate that the rights of victims are the real priority.

• Victims should be heard, in particular, in the correctional process. The bill presented today will allow victims to have a voice.  For example, the  right to participate in the VAC Board Hearings and to make statements will be enshrined in this Act;  Victims will have access to information on the temporary absence with escort and transfer of offenders;  Victims may obtain information on the participation of an offender in rehabilitation programs;  Victims will know if an offender has been found guilty of serious breaches of discipline in a correctional institution.

Finally, as requested by the AFPAD, we announce creation of a National Advisory Committee on matters relating to victims, which will be co-chaired by the Ministers of Public Safety and Justice Canada.

• Ladies and gentlemen, our government has promised Canadians that new approach would be adopted with respect to the correctional system  and to make public safety  a priority, to require criminals to meet their commitments, acts and to recognize the rights of the true victims of crimes.

• Help and support for victims rests with the provinces. We need to remind the critics of our Government  from the Bloc Quebecois of this fact.

• We can reaffirm that no other  Government has gone so far in recognizing the primary rights of Victims Of Crime over the rights of  criminals.

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