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Our Canadian Justice System is Failing (Part 4)

The purpose of a criminal justice system is threefold: to protect society, punish criminal offenders and rehabilitate criminals.   The two main goals of the justice system are to prevent crime and protect society.  The three main entities of the justice system are the courts, the police, and corrections.  Well, we can see that the goals of our justice system to prevent crime and to protect society are not working too well.  I would call the justice system in Canada a colossal failure.  

I was in Pelican Narrows a few weeks ago.  One of the residents there who drove me in from the airport told me that the people of Pelican Narrows are afraid to go out alone even in broad daylight and going out at night is very dangerous because of gangs: a person might get attacked by young guys in the gangs.  When I asked him what the population was in Pelican Narrows, he said, “I think it is about 3500.  There would be more but there is a shortage of housing.  Many people live in one dwelling while they wait for another house to be built or become available.” He continued, “Lots of people are leaving or want to leave because of the dangerous crime element in Pelican and the shortage of housing.   There are dangerous gangs in Pelican Narrows and younger and younger boys are joining these gangs.”  When I asked him how many police officers are in the town, he thought around 16.  They need more but they only have 16 now.  It totally baffles my mind that 16 cops in a town of 3500 cannot keep gangs of young kids under control and crime restrained.  It again reveals that our justice system is broken and failing.  Harold Johnson said in his book Peace and Good Order p. 137 that throughout his career he heard about justice system changes coming but never saw anything too significant.  He conclusion was, “It seems the system is too large, too cumbersome, and too entrenched to ever change.”

In the 1960’s, I was going to school in my home community in the Cariboo of British Columbia.  I recall learning in my history lessons about the Judge Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie. He was known as “the hanging judge”—although many historians feel he does not deserve that title. He came to British Columbia in the first decades after confederation. Begbie faced the challenge of dealing with frontier crime during the height of the gold rush in British Columbia.  The gold rush brought hordes of people seeking gold and many who could not find gold resorted to robbing those who did.  My grandparents shared that it was apparently getting very serious with ranchers and travellers getting robbed by immigrant gangs along the Cariboo gold trail from Ashkroft to Barkerville. The British Crown appointed Judge Begbie to bring some justice to the unruly Cariboo where there was seemingly no justice.  Between 1859 to 1872, fifty-two men were charged with murder. 38 were convicted and most of them were hanged.  The penalty for murder was hanging with no appeal.  The death sentence was also given for rape, high treason and some armed robbery crimes. Begbie was known for his unwavering sense of justice and retribution of crime.  As a result of his efforts, peace and security was brought to the Cariboo frontier and people felt safe again travelling on the lone trails between frontier towns.  

I recall sitting around our ranch house table when I was a little boy listening to neighbouring ranchers talking about a man from my home town of Quesnel who had been convicted of car theft for the second time. He was sentenced to Oakalla Prison for a number of days and then, before release, received 30 lashes. I remember one of the ranchers who used to work at Oakalla Prison describe how the spankings were given at the prison. I can remember thinking I never wanted that to happen to me.   It scared me just hearing about it as a young lad.  He informed us that when an inmate was receiving lashes, you could hear the screams of pain throughout the prison.  He said after those episodes there was no problem with misbehaviour in the prison. I also remember the former prison guard rancher saying that when that car theft inmate was released, he never stole another car.    

What Judge Begbie brought to the Cariboo frontier was 1. Deterrence 2. Restraint 3. Retribution and 4. Rehabilitation.   He brought justice to the Cariboo, punished the offenders, restrained crime and brought peace and protection to society.   It is recorded that Judge Begbie was a Christian man who would read convicted criminals their last rights. He also would read them a portion of the gospel and tell them there was a consequence to their crime and sin but there is also mercy if they would repent and call on the name of Jesus Christ for mercy and salvation.  He would point out that the thief who was crucified beside Christ on the cross was a convicted criminal but he called on the Lord Jesus for mercy and Jesus told him he would be with him in paradise that day.   “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).  The other convicted criminal scoffed and mocked Christ and, of course, did not go to paradise but a place for the unsaved dead called hell. Jesus talked of this place in Luke 16:23: “And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments.”

On that cross on Calvary’s hill 2000 years ago, the truth of the gospel was demonstrated as well as being a picture of justice. God’s justice demands that sin has to be paid for or that there is consequences for sin.  Unfortunately we also witness at the crucifixion the miscarriage of justice because an innocent man was executed.  At the crucifixion Christ has paid for all those who will trust him for the full payment of their sin.  There were two convicted criminals on either side of Jesus when he was being crucified.  The one mocked and rejected Christ as the Saviour and the other asked for mercy and to be remembered and he was remembered.   Behind those two convicted criminals are two long lines of all humanity.  One is the line behind the one who asked for mercy and the other line is behind the one who scoffed and rejected Christ as Saviour.  All of humanity is in one line or the other.  I want to ask: What line are you in?   You are in one or the other.   I used to be in the line behind the one who rejected and mocked Christ but at 21 years of age in 1977, after hearing Billy Graham preach the gospel, I called on Jesus Christ all by myself in my bedroom of my apartment.  That night the Lord moved me from the one line destined for hell to the line destined for paradise.  Every day I live, I am one day closer to the paradise he had promised everyone who calls to Him.  Romans 10:13: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:14: “How then shall they call on him in who they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher.”

Our society with no spankings and no consequence for crime and sin is causing our country to descend into moral chaos.  We have also lost the meaning and sense of justice. 

I went on three ministry trips to Liberia West Africa after their civil war ended in 2003.  The country was in total shambles.  There was no power to cities.  The country was broken with terrible atrocities carried out by tribal armies to each other.  When the war ended, with the help and intervention of USA Marines, they began to rebuild. There was no police force, no justice system, and very poor hospital and health services.  The schools were basically all destroyed.  It was something to behold.   I went there to do my little part to help in by preaching and bringing a container of supplies. One day when I was coming back to Monrovia bouncing along in a little car with a pastor at about sunset, we came to a little village.  We noticed a crowd along the road and could hear some noise as the pastor slowed his car to a crawl.  I asked him what was happening.  He said a man was being disciplined.  He said they were caning him.  Every village had elders, and the elders decide the punishment for offences. For more serious offences caning is given mostly to bad boys, sometimes to women too but not often.  It was called jungle justice.  The pastor told me the man was probably caught and charged with theft.  Without community discipline there would be chaos in the villages because there was no justice system after the war.  He said the government would probably take over all this discipline as soon as they could but what they would do will be driven by global NATO policy and wouldn’t work that well.  What would it take to fix their broken justice is what they were facing and we must ask what will it take to fix ours.

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The content of this article is solely the personal opinions of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Prince Albert Shopper.

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Wednesday March 13, 2024