The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Manitoba Liberals duck shooting epidemic while voters duck bullets

The police were still collecting evidence at the scene of Winnipeg's latest murder, when Manitoba's Liberal Party candidates held a news conference to pitch their election platform.

Public safety? The crack cocaine epidemic? Gun control? Naww.

The Liberal Party's priority was more money to the Aspers for their stalled Tower of Human Rights Babble (\/) at the Forks.

That plus money to expand the national microbiology laboratory in Winnipeg, and more money for research at the province's three universities.

Oh, and money for farmers, and immigration, and aerospace, and wellness centres. And, an east-west power grid, and another overpass somewhere, and rainbows on your birthday.

In Manitoba, it was patronage politics as usual.
When shootings occur in ridings where the party gave up up before the election was even called, those voters don't count. Just keep ducking.

Halfway across the country, in Surrey, B.C., NDP leader Jack Layton had a news conference of his own and he was pitching a tough-on-crime message. In a complete 180-turn, the NDP now favours mandatory minimum jail sentences for gun crimes and tougher prosecution of teenagers who carry guns.

Since the Boxing Day random killing of a pretty teenaged girl in the heart of the Centre of the Universe, the federal NDP, and Liberals, have begun sounding like the Conservatives on gun crime.

But the Liberal dog-and-pony show on Friday underscores the depth of their sudden conversion to law-and-order: a mile long and an inch deep.

Selkirk Avenue isn't Yonge Street. And the Liberals aren't counting on many votes in that riding, anyway. The drive-by killing of an innocent boy attending a New Year's Eve party on Magnus Avenue just doesn't resonate the same as a drive-by in downtown Toronto. So let's leave the crime plank to the federal campaign, while we promise money, money, money.

Paul Martin was in Winnipeg on Tuesday where he launched phase two of his campaign by comparing his values with Stephen Harper's. Lets see...patronage, payoffs, kickbacks, and corruption, vs democracy, decency, free votes, and fighting crime. Yup, it doesn't get much clearer. No wonder turncoat Liberal John Loewen jumped parties to the one that better reflected his personal values.

Of course, Martin read off his checklist of his proposals to attack gun crime.
Ban on handguns. Check.
Mandatory minimum sentences. Check.
Attack Stephen Harper's patriotism. Check.

He even got away with it, because, as expected, the local election reporters regurgitated the message without challenge.

Ban on handguns? Well, handguns are already banned for everybody unless you're headed to or coming from a gun club. The headlines imply it's a national ban on guns. It's not. The Liberal plan is a patchwork ban; it's not mandatory and provinces can chose to sign on or sign off.

Mandatory minimums? The news stories rarely explain the Liberal plan is to double the sentences for only a few crimes such as trafficking and smuggling of firearms and the illegal possession of loaded handguns in public places.

And that doubling, means raising the minimum from one year to two years, so that offenders have to wait four months instead of 60 days to be eligible for day parole.

The law already calls for mandatory minimum sentences for up to 20 gun crimes.

When have you heard of anyone being sentenced on any of these charges?


s. 85(1)Using a firearm during the commission of an offence - 1 yr
s. 85(2)Using imitation firearm during commission of offence - 1 yr
s. 92(1)Possession of firearm knowing it is unauthorized
- 2nd conviction - 1 yr
- 3rd & subsequent convictions - 2 yrs less a day
s. 92(2)Possession of weapon/device /ammunition know its possession is unauthorized
- 2nd conviction - 1 yr,
- 3rd & subsequent convictions - 2 yrs less a day
s. 95 Possession of prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition (Hybrid offence)Indictment - 1 yr
s. 220 (a) Criminal negligence causing death with firearm - 4 yrs
s. 236(a) Manslaughter with firearm - 4 yrs
s. 239(a) Attempted murder with firearm - 4 yrs
s. 244 Causing bodily with intent with firearm - 4 yrs
s. 344(a)Robbery with firearm - 4 yrs

In Winnipeg, especially, we hear of dozens of arrests of people charged with using guns in robberies but no one seems to get a minimum sentence. Why? Because across the country 75 percent of the charges laid under the mandatory minimum provisions are stayed or plea bargained away.

We're still waiting for a reporter in Manitoba to reveal how many mandatory sentences were ever imposed in this province.

The Liberal Party has no faith in minimum sentences, so don't expect them to enforce their use. When Conservative MP's called for minimum sentences for gun and drug crimes following the shooting of four RCMP officers in Alberta, Attorney General Irwin Cotler dismissed them out of hand:

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, those who have looked into this tragedy have suggested that we should not draw any inferences on any specific policy like mandatory minimums in that regard. All the studies regarding mandatory minimums have shown that mandatory minimums are neither effective nor a deterrent. We are prepared to explore anything that will assist, but not that.

"That" has suddenly become an option, as suddenly as you can say 'election'.

Watching the Liberals and NDP turn into gun-fighters is as comical as Stephen Harper in his Brokeback Cowboy outfit.

It's obviously that despite their attempts to say what they think the public wants to hear, they just don't get it. The day after Paul Martin's speech in Winnipeg, Free Press columnist Lindor Reynolds wrote about a youth worker in the Inner City who's quitting in defeat after five years.

"The gangs are getting stronger.You've got 12-year-olds making $900 a month running drugs. They get all the pizza they want. They can play video games all day. How you going to convince that kid to go to school?" he asked.

The same day, in a must-read op-ed piece for the Globe and Mail, former gang member Michael Tripper wrote what motivated him in the thug life.

"Walking down Milton Street toward downtown Montreal, it hit me. Why should I be deprived of the things that make life enjoyable simple because I didn't have wealthy parents? A mere chance of life determined that my life was a horror show. I was poor through no fault of my own---and so I had a right, no, an entitlement, to take for myself what others had only because of their random occurrence of their birth."

Doesn't that sound exactly like a Liberal in the making.

Yet, this is the subtext that rules the Liberal and NDP tough-on-crime platforms. We can't blame the poor for joining gangs. They just want what everybody else has---without working for it or having to waste time studying in school. (Okay, we just added that last part.)

Ex-gang member Michael Tripper made the best argument yet for stiff mandatory minimum sentences."I feared getting caught, but I could set that against a return-on-investment calculation: what would the punishment be? Was it worth the gain? Given the lax laws of the time, my friends and I even spoke of murder as being something we could get away with."

This was in the mid-70's, and he speaks of the laws then. These days you almost have to beg to be put in jail.

Two people have been arrested following the Yonge Street shooting. It turns out the unnamed 17-year-old boy was out on bail for possession of the proceeds of crime, obstructing police, mischief, assault, failing to comply with the conditions of his release, and aggravated assault, charges accumulated over the past year and a half. His companion, Andre Thompson, 20, has been charged with breaching a probation order that he not own, possess or carry a weapon. Thompson recently got out of jail where he was serving 30 days for robbery. Yes, 30 days.

The day he was arrested for robbery, he was in breach of a curfew imposed on a 2004 assault conviction. He was originally charged with carrying an imitation firearm during the robbery, a crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence. It was stayed when he pleaded guilty to the robbery, along with charges of assaulting a police officer and breaching the curfew. It turns out that the same day as the Manitoba Liberals news conference, police were investigating still another suspected shooting in Winnipeg.

A man was brought to Seven Oaks Hospital after flagging down an ambulance. He said he had been shot at in his car at McPhillips and Jefferson around 2 AM. and appeared to have been grazed by a bullet. Before he could be examined by a doctor, he rushed off in a car with a group of friends who had driven up to the emergency doors.

So in the first week of 2006,
- one man was shot and killed and three people wounded on Magnus Avenue,
- one man was shot in the leg on Main Street at Machray an hour earlier,
- one man was shot and killed on Selkirk Avenue, and
- one man was shot at on McPhillips at Jefferson.

And none of this registered on Manitoba Liberal radar. {For those unfamiliar with local geography all 4 shootings occured in the city's North End.}

After the press conference, Liberal MP Anita Neville had a beef with the gathered press. She blamed them for making the Liberals look bad by making such a big deal of the Income Trust Scandal.

Poor Anita, as clued out as ever.

The press did its best to ignore the income trust story. It was bloggers who dug into the story and exposed the evidence of a leak out of Ralph Goodale's office.

Now that the RCMP, the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission and possibly the Ontario Securities Commission are investigating the leaks, the press can't turn a blind eye anymore.

And the Income Trust Scandal is days old. In yesterday's scandal, the RCMP announced they had been asked to look into suspicious spending by a Liberal-funded organization fighting the Quebec referendum in 1995.


And tomorrow, or sometime soon, you'll read about the next scandal already making news on the blogosphere---involving, of all things, the gun registry, the Liberal Party's last big plan to fight gun crime and win an election.

It seems that the federal justice department awarded a contract worth $380,000 to the Coalition for Gun Control, which claims to represent anti-gun groups and municipalities.

* The money then went to a lobbyist whose job was to lobby the federal solicitor general, Treasury Board (hello, Reg Alcock), and Privy Council to fund the firearms registry.
* The lobbyist, lo and behold, was the deputy national director of the federal Liberal party.
* And her company is a regular donor to the Liberal Party.


The Canadian Shooting Sports Association has asked the RCMP to investigate the propriety of a government funding a party member to act as a lobbyist to convince the government to do what it wanted to do all the time.

After Adscam we all wondered if any of the billion or two spent on the gun registry wound up in Liberal Party coffers.

Maybe we need mandatory minimums for politicians.

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