Friday, September 21, 2007

End Justice Nightmare
By Robert Marshall

It is so sadly amusing. Listening to some highly touted experts talk about justice. That somehow concerns expressed by common folk have no basis in reality. That they are fostered by a story-hungry media riding piggy-back on right-winged extremists who cry the sky is falling.
Some experts may even be inclined to look at the stats, skewed as they may be, and backslap officials for a job well done. Very few see violent crime in a real light. So ubiquitous it becomes background noise. And like cancer, it can't happen to me.
But that's a numbers story and it takes more than that to define justice. A victim is more than a number. More than background noise.
In the aftermath of crime, victims can be set adrift on impossible-to-navigate waters. Left to their own devices like helpless orphans in a foreign land where common sense is both precious and scarce.
For many years, official justice has cast victims' interests and needs to the side. Through necessity those same people have bonded, organized and formed networks to help others like themselves who have been abused, raped or experienced the trauma of a loved one's murder.
Some of the many groups include Citizens Untied for Safety and Justice (CUSJ) that was put together in 1981 and unbelievably had to push an agenda trying to ensure the safety of children trumped criminal rights.
Victims of Violence (VOV) was founded in 1984 on the heels of the Clifford Olson sex-slayings. Nobody wanted listen to the parents of the murdered children. Officials belittled and battled them instead. Treated them like trash. When families needed the most help, justice failed spectacularly.
Manitoba Organization of Victim Advocates (MOVA,) started in 2000, is dedicated to improving a victim's lot. Even small things, like a room where victims and families can get away from the curious intrusion of the media during the infamous 10-minute -- real time, 1 hour -- breaks. Away from the chilling glares of a killer's supporters. Common sense perhaps but only an uphill struggle from MOVA made such a room a reality.
Families Against Crime and Trauma (FACT) was recently founded by Sandra Martin-Toners and Nina Rivet both of whom lost loved ones to violence.
Despite the last quarter century and the emotional tolls of many groups and individuals the same problems persist. Victims are lost. Sloppy communication abounds. Lawyers in their own worlds. Sentence calculation. The list goes on.
And with that FACT and their motto, "our tears will not compromise our strength," is spreading across Canada with their flag flying in B.C.
FACT's goals are nothing new. A justice system that balances accountability and sensibility with judicial independence. A respectful system that recognizes tragedy and goes beyond the hot wind of election rhetoric.
If justice defines us, what has happened to Canada? The true north, strong and free.
We are all responsible for the degeneration of our system. Our evolution has meant that someone whose job is to ensure righteousness, has no qualms about stomping on a victim and at the same time being gun shy with killers and drug dealers.
Losing a child to senseless violence must be the worst nightmare. Why must dealing with the justice system be a close second?

Robert Marshall was a police officer for 27 years. E-mail comments to to the editor should be sent to

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