EDITORIAL – Public safety must start coming first in parole board decisions

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE system is arguably the most progressive in the world but that’s not always a good thing.

Our Canadian philosophy is that nobody is beyond rehabilitation. That’s why we have no capital punishment in this country. That’s why parole boards lean toward releasing those convicted of criminal offences back into society whenever they feel they possibly can.

Sometimes, they get it wrong. The horrible murders in Saskatchewan — 12 people died and 19 were injured — brought new attention to the parole system when it was learned that killer Myles Sanderson had a history of violence that included 59 prior criminal convictions since he was 18, including assaults, threats and robbery.

His life had been marked by drug and alcohol abuse. He’d been convicted of violent assaults several times. Yet, last February, the national parole board decided he wouldn’t be a threat to society and cut him loose. In an astounding twist of logic, the board reasoned that his release would “contribute to the protection of society” by helping his rehabilitation.

Unbelievably, he wasn’t regarded as a threat to society.

But he didn’t live up to the conditions of his release and had been unlawfully at large since May.

We’ve had some experience with parole board proceedings right here in our part of the country.

The cases of David William Shearing, now known as David Ennis, and Allan Schoenborn are well-known here. Both are multiple murderers, and both are examples of the limitations of the rehabilitation principle.

The sad fact is this: Myles Sanderson’s murder spree is a prime example of how public safety has taken a back seat to that principle of rehabilitation. The pendulum has swung too much in favour of the criminals to the tragic detriment of the public.

The decision to release Sanderson will be reviewed by the Parole Board of Canada. There is one obvious conclusion the review must reach: public safety has to start coming first.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9652 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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