Excerpts from Question Period debate in the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 on prolific offenders.
P. Milobar:To be clear, the fingers are pointing at the Attorney General and his failed catch-and-release system. And it rings very hollow, and for very good reason, when we hear the Attorney General try to deflect.
The B.C. Liberal government? We acted on prolific offenders. The prolific offender program involved intensive supervision, linking offenders to services, as well as increasing enforcement. The results included a 40 percent reduction in reoffending rates. But believe it or not, the now Attorney General actually opposed that prolific offender program, and he opposed the action on prolific offenders directly.
This is what the Attorney General had to say when he was the head of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, on October 25, 2011, in the Vancouver Sun. He said, “We have serious concerns with the results of this program and are continuing to investigate the aggressive policing tactics” — a program that dropped prolific offender reoffending rates by 40 percent. Is this why the Attorney General refuses to take action on prolific offenders and instead insists on going down the road of his catch-and-release system?
Hon. D. Eby: I know that the opposition, when they were in government, grappled with the issue of chronic offenders. And I accept that we have a different approach than they did when they were on this side of the House. Our approach includes 500 complex care beds for people with serious mental health and addiction issues.
When I was out in civil society groups, I had to fight tooth and nail for any kind of housing other than a mat on the floor — never mind mental health services. And if the member is here to say that they cared more about resources for Crown counsel and resources to address these kinds of issues on the criminal justice side, let me give that member just one fact.
In the last year of their government, they increased Crown counsel resources by 0.9 percent. In our first year of government, we increased Crown counsel resources by ten times that, to 9.6 percent. And since being in government, we’ve increased Crown counsel resources by 35 percent. That’s leadership.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Kamloops–North Thompson, supplemental.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
P. Milobar:Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The end result is that under this Attorney General’s catch-and-release system, people don’t feel safe in their communities. Prolific offenders are running the streets right now. There is zero trust that this Attorney General is taking any meaningful steps, both on the prolific offender side as well as with police. In fact, the Attorney General has a long history of anti-police comments. He literally wrote a handbook titled How to Sue the Police when he worked at the Pivot Legal Society.
In 2011, he opposed a successful prolific offender program, saying he had serious concerns with so-called aggressive policing tactics. He said you have to take police statistics with a bit of a grain of salt. Yet we’re supposed to trust his statistics when everyone acknowledges that crime is running out of control and he says it’s actually dropping. His record over the last five years is a 75 percent increase in the rate of no-charge assessments.
Once again to the Attorney General, when is he going to address prolific offenders instead of his failed catch-and-release system?
Hon. D. Eby: It’s almost like we didn’t just have an all-party committee that agreed on a radical overhaul for policing in our province.
When I wrote that book, families who had loved ones who were killed by police had to rely on police investigating themselves to address that issue. Work that I did, along with many other people, ended that system and forced the previous government to bring in the independent investigations office so that families get satisfaction.
Getting tough on crime doesn’t mean a blank cheque for police. It means addressing the core issues. Police are not going to be able to address — and they tell us that — the mental health and addiction issues in our communities. Under that government’s watch, homelessness tripled. That is not a policing issue. It is a public order issue, but it is not a policing issue. Shame on them for not addressing those social issues that drove the issues we’re facing today. We’re addressing those issues….
T. Stone: New reports show that 241 calls to police are abandoned every single day. British Columbians simply can’t get through to the police four out of every ten calls. That’s up from 25 percent from the same time last year.
While the crimes people face every day are under-reported, the Attorney General would rather undermine police data to protect his catch-and-release system. This is a pattern of behaviour. In the past, the Attorney General has claimed that the Vancouver police department has a history of “releasing misleading information.” The bottom line here is that people have lost faith in the Attorney General’s catch-and-release system.
When will the Attorney General take action to get prolific offenders off of our streets?
Hon. D. Eby: I’m so glad that the member stood up to ask this question. I’m busy finalizing a letter to him.
He did an interview on CFAX on April 28 where he made some absolutely outrageous allegations about me, about Crown counsel and about the administration of our criminal justice system. He said that I changed B.C.’s charge assessment policy…. He used my name “changed the charge assessment policy years ago to essentially implement a much higher standard that’s required before charges can actually be approved.”
I have an article from 2014 from then Attorney General Suzanne Anton defending the exact same charge assessment standard that we have today.
He alleged I have a new full disclosure policy that forces police to have full disclosure before charging murderers, insinuating that Crown counsel is allowing murderers to go into the community because of a policy I made. That MOU, drafted under the B.C. Liberals, amended twice under the B.C. Liberals. The exact same policy. The idea that it would prevent hard-working Crown counsel from protecting the public from murderers is absurd. It is absurd. He needs to apologize to Crown counsel for making such an allegation.
In the last year he sat around the cabinet table, he signed off on a budget of a 0.9 percent increase for Crown counsel, which we’ve increased ten times in our first year of government. That didn’t stop him from going on CFAX to say we’re underfunding Crown counsel. He said they’re overloaded with files. They have 20 percent fewer files because crime is, in fact, down.
Hon. Speaker, if he wants to stand up and apologize to Crown counsel, I think he should.
Mr. Speaker: Opposition House Leader, supplemental.
Mr. Speaker: Members, let’s hear the question.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members, order. Let’s hear the question.
T. Stone:Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
The only person that owes British Columbians an apology is this Attorney General for being soft on crime.
There is chaos taking place on our streets all over this province, and it’s on this Attorney General’s watch. He has tools at his disposal, and he’s choosing not to implement them. Crime is through the roof — violent crime. People don’t feel safe in their communities, and this Attorney General has the audacity to suggest that members of the opposition — who are highlighting the concerns of British Columbians, highlighting the concerns of mayors — should apologize?
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
T. Stone:I don’t think so. He needs to apologize.
I know it’s uncomfortable for the Attorney General, who’s soft on crime. He should apologize for that too. In addition to opposing programs to address prolific offenders, the Attorney General has a history of dismissing the severity of crime.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
T. Stone:I know these are inconvenient truths that the members of the opposite are not wanting to hear. They dismiss the fact that people don’t feel safe walking down their streets in broad daylight. Assaults are through the roof. They can laugh; British Columbians aren’t laughing.
In 2011, the Attorney General said we should cut police funding because: “I simply think we’ve hit the point where crime is at a low and acceptable level.” He continues, to this day, to claim that crime is acceptably low. Last week in this House, he said: “I disagree with the member that the statistics show that things are getting worse.”
But despite his denials, serious crimes are on the rise all across this province. In Vancouver, violent crime is up 7.1 percent. Stranger assaults are up 33 percent, over four attacks per day. Arson is up 49 percent. There is a huge increase in glass breaks, which are up 48 percent, and the police say that glass companies can’t even keep up.
When will the Attorney General acknowledge that his catch-and-release system is a failure? When is he going to step up and take action to protect British Columbians so they once again feel safe in their communities?
Hon. D. Eby: The lack of credibility of this member goes all through his remarks. I have stood in this place and agreed with the opposition that there are serious issues that need to be addressed. I have agreed with them that we need to be creative within provincial jurisdiction. I have an announcement coming within the coming days about exactly how we’re going to do that.
Yet he stands up and insists the opposite, just like he stood up on CKNW and said: “They” — referring to Crown counsel — “can’t actually approve charges in a suspected homicide.” Just like he stood up and said, using my name, that I changed the charge assessment policy years ago — totally false, completely fictional.
So when the member stands up in this place and makes a series of further allegations that I don’t take this problem seriously, he’s wrong on that too.
Source: B.C. Hansard.