Hard and soft

by Yule Heibel on July 1, 2003

Yesterday I went to the Oak Bay Police as well as to the Victoria Police to report the hate mail I received. At the Oak Bay police station there is just a small window where you check in with whoever is on duty. A woman in front of me was finishing up when I entered, after which I had the place to myself. In contrast, the Victoria police station is much larger, housed in a modern building with a somewhat intimidating reception area, and it’s of course a bit busier, with a very different “clientele”: distraught parents reporting run-aways, completely strung-out junkies hallucinating about having lost “property” (a purse containing money) in the station, that sort of thing. I was helped at both stations (I went to Oak Bay first because they already had opened a file on this matter, and I went to Victoria because that’s where the crime occurred), but in both instances I had to explain what a blog is. It was a bit of the blind leading the blind, or one techno-peasant explaining to another, but the letter was the main thing, and the police took that very seriously indeed.

On the subject of law: for the second time in less than a week, I had Canadians express incredulity, after I mentioned that I had lived in Massachusetts for 17 years, at the verdict handed out to Chante Mallard. First it was my dentist’s assistant last Thursday, then it was a police sargeant yesterday. They both spoke of it with some amazement, and wondered whether I had any insights into what makes the American justice system tick. (I don’t.) The sargeant told me an interesting story: a couple of years ago, a drunk driver and his drunk companion hit a cyclist head-on when their pickup truck crossed into the on-coming lane. The cyclist was thrown into the air and over the pickup, landing in its back. The driver realized what had happened, but fled the scene. Meanwhile, all the emergency vehicles arrived at the scene of the accident and found only a bicycle, but no victim. The search was on for the pickup. The police found it fairly quickly, but, tragically, the cyclist was dead. Worse yet, the men had already moved his body and were looking for a way of disposing it. But their sentence? Just under 3 years in jail. Arguably, they deserved a stiffer penalty. As for the Texas case: the dental assistant, who is dark-skinned, and the sargeant, who is white, both believe that if Mallard had been white, her sentence would not have been as severe.


Goyo July 2, 2003 at 1:28 pm

Dear Yule: My wife Dawn went to have her criminal record check done
recently. It’s required by law to be bonded to work as a resident care
attendant. Oak Bay Police do the search for free. Victoria does it only
on one day of the week, and charges some fee. There are some advantages to
the high taxes here in Oak Bay, I suppose some would say… Peace, Gregory

Yule Heibel July 2, 2003 at 2:05 pm

I think it’s $50 in Victoria. The property taxes in Oak Bay & Victoria are about the same, ratio to house-value wise. I think it’s mostly a case of more crime and poverty & substance-abuse problems in Victoria, which costs the city more money. Victoria has one of Canada’s highest crime rates for B&E and other theft, doesn’t it?

PS: I forgot to say that Chante Mallard in Texas got 50 years, and the other incident (receiving a c. 2yrs, 8mos. prison sentence for killing a cyclist while DUI) happened right here in Victoria. On that note, in Vancouver, the two Sikh extremists (both Canadian citizens) recently convicted of killing 329 people by blowing up an Air India jet 18 years ago got the equivalent of a slap on the wrist. I think the difference btw. Canada & the US is of course one of attitude, but also of economies. In the US, the prison system is a major employer in many regions of the country, and jails have to keep getting fed with felons, for the longest possible sentences, lest the local economy go down the tube. Likewise, the military is a big business in the US. Comparatively, Canada doesn’t spend real money on these things, and the economic incentive to keep feeding these apparatuses is missing. I think this in turn means that attitudes get enflamed less easily, or that politicians and/ or economies are more resistant to demagogic outrage. There’s less on the line. This is just a theory of course. But the differences in attitude toward so-called “law & order” issues are striking, despite the similar susceptibility on the part of the population to be outraged. I always think you have to follow the money to figure those kinds of things out.

Goyo July 2, 2003 at 7:07 pm

+++ Yes, it is fifty in Vic., and one can only go and get it done on
Wednesdays. We can both confirm that the police are more polite in Oak Bay.
+++ And now, for something completely different, I see that George Jonas,
a friend of Barbara Amiel and Conrad Black who writes in the National Post,
the Asper family-owned flagship newspaper with ‘national’ pretensions to significance,
has called Zundel ‘the obnoxious Holocaust denier, who may be a despicable nuisance but hardly a security threat under any reasonable definition of the term.’ I wonder if
George Jonas would hold such libertarian views if he was the recipient of death threats? +++

Anonymous August 25, 2005 at 1:25 pm

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