Boisvenu comments objectionable, but…

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I hate when I find myself siding with someone I fundamentally disagree with, because it always makes me feel a little dirty. Like I need to quickly run and take a shower…

Toula's Take

But that’s exactly what I found myself doing, when the Twittersphere exploded after Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu’s controversial comments about having ropes in the prison cells of convicted killers.

It immediately brought to mind what American writer and all-around funny man, Tim Seidell, (@badbanana on Twitter), tweeted: “For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. Plus a social media overreaction.”

This is what Boisvenu told reporters: "Basically I think that every murderer should have a rope in his cell and he can decide on his own life. But I’m against the death penalty."

He blurted this while in the process of defending the government’s much-maligned C-10 crime-fighting omnibus legislation before a meeting of the Conservative caucus.

The response was, of course, immediate and damning. Everything from “stupid” to “irresponsible” to “reprehensible” was thrown around by ordinary citizens, journalists, political pundits, suicide-prevention experts, and the Opposition.

The Opposition’s outrage left me unmoved, since that’s pretty much the raison d’être of an Opposition; to oppose and be outraged by mostly everything the government does.

The outrage coming from Canadians, though, left me a tad perplexed. While Boisvenu’s comments were far from appropriate (considering the fact he sits on a committee studying criminal law), and also illegal (counselling or encouraging someone to commit suicide is an offence under the Canadian Criminal Code), I’m not particularly disturbed by his statement.

It was clearly a statement made someone who has strong opinions on the subject, and has never pretended otherwise. Boisvenu is a politician, but he’s also the father of a daughter who was kidnapped, raped, and then murdered by a repeat offender. I can sit here and claim that my views on capital punishment wouldn’t change, if someone close to me was brutally murdered, but I don’t know, and in all honesty, neither do you.

Let's not forget that there are many in this country who share his views on victims’ rights, and there is nothing inherently wrong with publicly debating these fundamental issues. Recent Angus Reid studies on how Canadians feel about the death penalty may surprise you. A whopping 62% of Canadians support the death penalty for murderers. A resounding 65% of Quebecers do so, as well. Not so far removed from Americans, are we?

For the record, I’m against the death penalty, but in favour of freedom of speech. I'm also in favour of assisted suicide, so watching a nationwide debate instigated by someone who belongs to a political party that advocates tougher criminal penalties, yet won’t reopen the debate on assisted suicide, left me a little bemused. So convicted killers should have the right to die, but a terminally ill person can’t?  

The response was, of course, immediate and damning. Everything from “stupid” to “irresponsible” to “reprehensible” was thrown around by ordinary citizens, journalists, political pundits, suicide-prevention experts, and the Opposition.

This is why journalist Molly Ivins used to say: “Democracy requires a certain relish for confusion.” Navigating life, I would add, does so as well.

What can be debated is whether Boisvenu should be sitting on a crime bill committee, potentially allowing his personal views to influence public policy. What can be debated is whether it’s dishonest of Boisvenu to be touting financial savings as a reason, while at the same time trying to introduce a very expensive C-10 crime-fighting bill. What shouldn't be debated is his right to express his opinion; even if we don't agree with it.

Crime in this country has actually declined in the past few years, yet the Conservatives are touting a bill that will increase prison and expenses associated with policing. The crime bill will cost Ontario taxpayers alone more than $1-billion in increased police and correctional service costs!

Many Canadians fear the crime bill will only succeed in adding inmates to already-at-capacity prisons, forcing judges to incarcerate people whose offences and circumstances may not warrant time in custody, and will increase the number of people on parole, adding to the caseloads for parole officers. More importantly, most Canadians fear that it won’t make this country safer; only meaner.

As for the Quebec man who just filed a criminal complaint against the senator.... As objectionable as his comments may have been, there was no real violation of the Criminal Code.

If enough people in this country are appalled by what he said and what he believes in, the only thing Boisvenu truly managed to prove with his comments is that, if you give a man enough rope, he will indeed hang himself. Yeah... pun intended.





Organisations: Conservatives

Lieux géographiques: Ontario, Quebec

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