Two Vernon councillors believe changes to Canada’s justice system need to be implemented to help with issues municipalities face surrounding homelessness, addictions and mental health.
Akbal Mund and Kelly Fehr were reacting to a recent article by The Morning Star that had fellow Coun. Scott Anderson calling for the City of Vernon to follow Penticton’s lead, through enforcement and a zero tolerance attitude, and make Vernon no longer a “free-for-all for trouble-makers.”
“We have a fellow in Surrey who is out on the streets again five years after killing someone and he goes and shoots a transit officer,” said Mund, referring to the case of suspected shooter Daon Glasgow, alleged to have shot and wounded a transit officer Jan. 30. Glasgow was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2011 for fatally shooting a man inside a fast-food restaurant in Surrey in 2010. Glasgow’s sentenced was reduced to 8.5 years in 2015, and he was granted statutory release on conditions in October 2018.
“You think we have small issues, think of that one. A person kills somebody and is back on the street in five years. We gotta fix the justice system. It’s got to be fixed long before we can deal with problems at the lower level about somebody standing on a corner looking a little different than someone else who somebody doesn’t like. It’s not going to work. They’ll be out on the street again. You can arrest somebody as much as you like. It becomes a waste of resources and money.”
In Vernon, Mund said there are business owners who don’t want to press charges against people caught doing something illegal in their store. That’s part of the problem.
“If you arrest somebody and they don’t want to press charges, how do you deal with it?” said Mund.
Fehr, co-executive director of the Turning Points Collaborative Society, whose goal is “to promote and lead effective, just and humane responses to the causes and consequences of crime and poverty by working directly with individuals, service providers and the broader community,” said the justice system needs a “major, major overhaul.”
“It’s a great punishment tool, but it’s not a rehabilitation tool,” said Fehr. “Until we really start focusing on our justice system, it’s not going to have any impact.
“We can lock up as many people as we want but if we’re pumping out better criminals and sicker people, we’re not doing our community a decent service.”
Fehr said the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP’s focus on nabbing prolific offenders is great and just, but those offenders, he said, are coming out of custody with very little rehabilitation.
“This is a big challenge,” said Fehr. “Until we deal with the justice system, municipalities and the RCMP have major, major challenges. We have to bring other groups like correction services into the fold and be part of the solution.”
Vernon and Penticton, and, really, the entire Okanagan Valley, have been dealing with issues with street-entrenched population and criminals affecting businesses with their actions.
Anderson, in a conversation with The Morning Star late Monday, softened on the zero-tolerance approach.
“That was my short-hand for getting tough on the troublemakers,” he said. “Zero-tolerance carries a lot of baggage with it. I would not go out and say zero-tolerance is a serious proposal.
“There is no magic bullet here. There’s no way you can stop it but you can certainly mitigate it and we can mitigate it a lot better than we’re doing.”
What Anderson would like to see is the city implement the 40 recommendations made by city-created Activate Safety Task Force, of which he sat on for the city along with Coun. Brian Quiring.
“Every single one I’d be in favour of implementing,” he said. “A comprehensive attack like that will actually make a difference. But there is no answer to make everything turn into Sunnyville.”