Original Article with the CBC
As I was cruising the news this morning, I decided to avoid the usual subjects that were titillating the class, most of which involved the birth of babies in less-than-ideal circumstances, to put it lightly and mildly. I was reading about the eviction of the Occupy protesters from their park in New York, when a New Brunswick headline caught my eye.
Douglas Stewart, a 52-year-old man from Moncton (which is about two hours or so from home), was sentenced either this morning or yesterday evening after having plead guilty to the collection, access, and distribution of the largest collection of child pornography ever ceased by law in Canada. He was given 5 years for the collection, and four and a half years each for the other two offences. That's 14 years total, which at his age would leave him 66 and in dire need of an identity transplant.
The thing is, the judge in question ordered that the sentences be served concurrently... meaning he'll only actually spend five years in jail. Hardly a fitting punishment, considering the crime. While I am aware that such crimes are often punished by the guilty's prison-mates, I do not condone that sort of behaviour, nor do I consider it justice.
And, while crimes against children generally make me incandescent with rage, I'm afraid there is a larger issue at hand here, something which runs a little deeper than a mentally-ill man being overly coddled by the state. The majority Conservative government lead by Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently enacted legislation that amended the Criminal Code, the federal crime laws. In particular, the amendment framed changes to drug legislation that included longer sentencing for trafficking in narcotics, including marijuana. Under these new rules, it's possible to spend longer in jail for possessing less pot than you could smoke on a sunny Friday afternoon than for holding a child pornography collection including 4.5 million explicitly sexual images of children, some of which are as young as two years old.
I'm not advocating that anyone smoke marijuana or make use of harder drugs, but it seems surprising to me that the political party which brands itself as Canada's moral pulse cares more about people trying to tune out for a few hours than little girls being sexually exploited. Now, admittedly, that argument is a bit of a strawman, but I think it is a relevant one. If the drug problem in Canada is as problematic as everyone seem think it is, it still can't possibly be more of a crisis than child pornography. To amend the Criminal Code to stiffen penalties for one without even addressing the other sends a very different message.
And before anyone asks, I'm not a Liberal. I'm not a Green, either, or a New Democrat. I'm not a member of a political party or especially strongly aligned with any particular one. I'm what you might call an independent. I vote the issues that matter to me. This isn't about the Conservative Party. This is about the balance of the law in Canada, and the things we seem to consider just. If anyone believes, for even a moment, that a collection of pornography of that size and grade could be collected without harming the children involved, I would suggest that person does not know nearly enough about the issue, and should consider an education on the matter. And if anyone believes, for even a moment, that the drug problem is a bigger problem than taking care of children in this country, than we as a society need to examine our consciences.