Lovers and Other Shenanigans

In Des Kennedy’s new novel, a border collie called Shep maintains the bemused attachment appropriate for most human affairs.  Kennedy appears at the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival July 19-22. REVIEW

#75 Pondering justice at Xmas

December 07th, 2017

I know Christmas is coming. Or, if you judge by the advertising, it’s already here. The blight of merchandising is upon us, so peace on earth, and good will to all men, women and people of less specific gender… I know we are supposed to go soft, be gentle with one another, have mercy.

But before I put up a tree, see how many coloured lights are still working and try to remember the lyrics of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, I just have to ruminate a bit more.

The TV news last night informed us that the young man charged in the death of a teen who was “swarmed” and stabbed, has been given a jail sentence of seven years. Subtract the time already served, this convicted killer will be out in about five years. Are any of us surprised the family of the victim is outraged?

“Swarming” is bullying.  Multiple people gang up on one person and hit, punch, kick, and, inevitably, do serious damage.  In this case, it was a fatal attack.

Remember, please, the sentence of seven years.

In Victoria, years ‘n’ years ago, Rena Virk was swarmed, assaulted, and killed. Several teens were arrested and charged. Kelly Allard was deemed to be the ring-leader and was sentenced to life. All these years later, she is still in jail.

Why? Why is a young man who used a knife given seven years, and a teen-aged girl is given, and is serving, life in prison? In each case, it was a swarming, in each case the victim died, and there is no doubt both cases were heinous. But one convicted killer gets seven years and the other is still in prison all these years later.

Is it because we, as a society, are more horrified when the violent offender is female? Are we more horrified when the victim is female? Why the disparity in sentences?

Traditionally, women are supposed to be the “gentler sex”. This is such eyewash one hardly needs point to women like Ilse Koch. Paul Bernardo is still in jail (and, by me, can stay there) but his partner, the woman who helped him rape and kill her own younger sister, is free. And Kelly Allard is still in prison.

Maybe it’s time we stopped bullying Kelly Allard. Yes, it was a horrible crime, yes, it remains shocking, and yes, for sure, it is unacceptable, but why the inequality in sentencing?

Well, okay, granted, Kelly Allard is no “lady.” She was defiant, she fired the bird at reporters and told them to (bleep) off, she was rude, and exhibited behaviour you wouldn’t want anywhere near your family. She’s not the only frightened teen to behave like that and it’s no excuse to keep her locked behind walls. So, she’s nobody you’d invite home for supper, that’s for certain. But why does our society choose to bully her and keep her in jail year after year when others who have done deeds as horrible, and worse, are enjoying the sunshine and can take their kids to the playground to ride the swings.

While in prison Kelly Allard was granted connubial visits with her boyfriend and, as a result, became pregnant and has given birth to a totally innocent child. So, what do we do? Do we take the kid away from her, put it in foster care even though we know our foster system is flawed almost beyond repair? Or do we sit like so many quarts of festering goat urine and allow this child to be raised in prison?

What did that little kid do that Santa will visit the provincial penitentiary to give the kid a candy cane and a present?

I’m not in favour of connubial visits. I’m red-necked and hard-nosed enough to believe if you’ve been found guilty of something so horrible you’re in maximum security, you’ve lost the right to connubial bliss. And if it is a “right” why is it not guaranteed to those who have not committed major crimes. There are a lot of lonely people in the world who might appreciate a connubial visit. Yes, that’s stupid, but so is the concept of connubial visits for prisoners convicted of taking someone else’s life.

Told you I was red-necked and hard-nosed.

The fact is, the visits were allowed, Kelly Allard wound up pregnant and now there’s a little kid living in the provincial penitentiary. At the same time a woman who was willing participant in the murders of several teens, including her own sister, is walking free and taking her children for ice cream. And a young man who stabbed a teen-aged boy to death will be out in five years.

Kelly Allard is being bullied — by us– and so is her toddler. If it all seems just a bit crazy-making to you, I agree. The Crown (in all its wisdom) has dropped the charges against Jamie Bacon, who was charged with being the master-mind of the slaughter known as The Surrey Six. And we aren’t being told why. I guess it is the opinion of the Crown that we are all too stupid to understand the reasons the leader of the Red Scorpions had his charges stayed.

I truly do wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy new year. And I am delighted to know families will be re-united, we’ll listen to the same sappy songs like I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and millions of mostly moms will fret over the turkey, but Christmas can also be a time for reflection.

Justice and Mercy, when you think about the origins of this holiday, are suitable Christmas subjects to ponder.

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Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.

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