Leaders debate: Jane Sterk offers fresh ideas on crime and prohibition

Wow. That's all I can say after transcribing Green Leader Jane Sterk's comments on crime in today's televised debate.

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Whereas B.C. Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell and NDP Leader Carole James kept trying to outdo one another with their Republican law-and-order banter, Sterk stood out in stark contrast by emphasizing her opposition to prohibition.

“If more police, more prisons and more prosecutors was a solution to safer streets, the United States and China would be the safest countries on the planet, and they’re not," Sterk said in her opening comment on the issue. "We believe that the root cause of the gang violence that we see in the Lower Mainland and elsewhere in British Columbia is directly related to prohibition of substances. The last time we saw this kind of gang violence—this kind of murderous gang violence—was when there was prohibition against alcohol in the 20s and 30s. When that ended, the gang violence ended. So we need to get into prevention."

Sterk also said on more than one occasion that  we "cannot police ourselves out of social problems".

"So we need to create the social infrastructure to take care of people so we prevent them from getting into gangs," she said.

The NDP's James, on the other hand, said her party has put forward a plan for putting more police on the streets and creating a dedicated team of Crown prosecutors.

"We’ve doubled the number of police that are put forward in the Liberal plan," James said.  "We’re making sure our streets are safe. And we’re also going to make sure we focus on prevention to make sure we keep young people out of gangs.”

Campbell responded that his government has hired  more than  1,100 additional police officers since it was elected in 2001—and this year, another  168 officers have been added.

"Gangs are not welcome in British Columbia," Campbell said.  "We’re going to go after them with additional police officers. We’re going after them with additional prosecutors. We’re working with the federal government to make sure that they toughen the Criminal Code so we make sure our police officers actually have the tools they need. But you know, I think we should recognize the integrated task force we have are doing a great job on behalf of all of us. Over a dozen gang leaders have been put behind bars in the last few weeks alone. And that’s a real tribute to our police forces.”

James and Campbell then debated the meaning of the provincial budget, which called for a $10-million reduction in courts and prosecutors.  

That prompted Sterk to say that she felt she wasn't present in the debate because Campbell and James kept perpetuating  an argument that we can police our way out of social problems.

"It costs $55,000 to keep someone in poverty in this province," Sterk said.  "It costs $140,000 to hire a police officer. At some point in time, we have to look at the way we’re spending our money so that we start to have different choices and make different choices. We have to deal with prohibition. Get these substances out of the hands of the bad guys, and control the supply and distribution.”

Comments (34) Add New Comment
Janice
The best way to raise Canada's productivity and standard of living is to encourage young people to spend their days smoking pot and not giving a sh@t about anything. Good go Jane, you just lost a voter! Fresh idea? It's fresh crap!
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Marc Scott Emery
Anyone as myopic as you Janice was never prepared to vote BC Green for a second.

Repealing prohibition is the only way to stop the gangs, stop gang recruitment, deter police corruption, halt the disorder and decay in the downtown eastside. Enforcing the drug war keeps prices high which makes the drug market attractive to hundreds of thousands of young people. Jailing them only increases gang recruitment, as gangs run the jails in this province. Jails cost the citizen dearly for no improvement ion the street.

I'm surprised, Janice, you manage to get out and vote, because your mind is clearly unable to absorb rational ideas. Consistent with your ignorance, I urge you to vote BCNDP or BC Liberal.
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Dan Mick
I am amazed that so many think that prohibition works and that ending it and foccussing resorces on prevention and treatment is "encourag(ing) young people..." to do drugs all day. It is easier for youth to get unregulated substances like crystal meth than it is for them to get alcohol.
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Joseph Austin
Case in Point: COLOMBIA is the most dangerous country on Earth, and their streets are patrolled by their regular Army...as well as by Federal police with machine guns. A large portion of the world's cocaine comes from Colombia, and as long as the stuff's illegal, international drug cartels will be fabulously wealthy, and well able to bribe judges, politicians, police and soldiers to look the other way while they go about their business. Look at Mexico! Same problem there (though mostly they grow marijuana).

You can follow the American "Banana Republican" example, and create local economies in which beggars make a better living than people who actually work hard cooking your dinner, raising your kids and building your houses, or you could, instead, conduct yourselves like a civilized country. People turn to dope because there's nothing else left for them. And throwing addicts in prison only worsens the problem.

Even communist China has state-sponsored rehabs for addicts, job training and various social programs to help addicts in early recovery rejoin the real world...and in that respect, the Chinese are far more civilized, and have a deeper sense of social responsibility than us Westerners.

Political agitators excluded, ordinary Chinese don't live in terror of the police as Americans do! Criminalizing everyday, minor rule-breaking and witch-hunting one's own people is mostly common in the U.S., the U.K. and (sorry) Canada.
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Steven James
Prohibition results in increasing criminal activity because it really doesn't affect consumption. Instead it turns the consumer (the user) into a criminal and turns the market into a criminal enterprise.
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John Davis
LOL, why am I not surprised

RT
www.anonymity.ru.tc
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Steven H
The best way to raise Canada's productivity and standard of living is to imprison people who spend any part of their day smoking pot. I don't give a sh@t about anyone who chooses to use drugs. We should take away their houses, their jobs, and put them all in labor camps. It worked before for Germany in the 1940's, we can do it too. We can return Canada to the glory days of 1950 when no one smoked pot!
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Brendan Pecana
Shame on the NDP for going the police state way too. The BC 'liberals' (masked republican like conservatives) have ruined Vancouver with a police force that behaves like the gestapo. And there is no accountability for the police, so they are worse than the actual gangs. In fact, they are a gang with far too much unquestioned power and 'toys'. And now they want even more cops instead of tackling the root of the problem(s)? Vancouver makes me ashamed to be Canadian. Welcome to the Olympics..
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Rob
Sorry Janice, your way of thinking isn't fresh crap, it's stale crap. I'm sure there's a nice cave for neanderthals like you.
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William
Prohibition obviously does not stop the demand for drugs, as we can see when so many citizens are arrested for possession and others for distribution. So when the demand cannot be satisfied through legal means, what happens? A criminal market appears. This illegal trade is what allows gangs to operate simply by supplying them with sufficient funds. If you end prohibition and create legal markets where violence is no longer a successful business strategy, then gangs lose their funding and fall apart.
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James
That's right, trust in our fellow man is the answer, minding our own business is the answer, lenient punishments is the answer. The more lonely and disenfranchised people are the more likely they are to not care about each other and to commit crimes. We have to bring people together.
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Aaron
@janice

Janice, I'm 24, Smoke a lot of pot and happen to make 50k/year working as a software developer.

You don't know what you're talking about at all, prohibition doesn't work, pot doesn't make you lazy.

Stop spreading lies.
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Jim
@Janice: You're absolutely right. Look at that loser pot smoker Michael Phelps. Only 8 gold medals and several world records.
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Michaelc
To see what happens when you end prohibition, google Portugal + Drugs. They decriminalized drugs 5 years ago because their drug war was bankrupting them, and today they have one of the lowest rates of drug use in Europe.
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david b
This all makes sense to me. Good points Sterk.

@Janice: It sounds like you're unaware of how easy it is to get pot in BC currently, despite it being illegal. If anyone wants it currently, they can get it. The issue is about 'who controls it'.
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Janice again
Hey Marc Emery, hasn’t the DEA put you in a nice cozy cell in Alabama, yet? I hear Mexico repealed prohibition and the gang violence is only a small problem, now, with hundreds of gang related drug shootings, annually. For your information, I might vote Green even if you don’t get extradited to face the music before the election ... nobody is going to remember you when you are rotting in jail and don’t expect your stoned out chilled out buddies to come to the rescue.
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paul horne
i don't believe janice is up for debating on this issue. perhaps she's stoned.

the suggestion to legalise has come up before. anyone who seriously advocates it would be the first target of the drug cartels of course. but getting murdered by the cartels aside, once any government takes it over there'd be an army of bureaucrats, government inefficiency would set in, all the bureaucrats would be permanently stoned, no records would be kept & taxpayers would have to subsidise it. only a courageous politician would advocate creating another underperforming government agency.
legalising it may be the answer. the current situation clearly isn't working.
... paul, melbourne, australia
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Sam Zaharia
I think this is a fabulous idea. Let the revenues from government distribution be spent on treatment and policing what's left of the problems, which would be minimal compared to what we're dealing with now. Take the power out of the hands of criminals and get a real handle on our social problems. Our current system will never work as long as gangs can sell to the ever growing prison market. Meanwhile taxpayers are on the hook for the costs of feeding and housing that market. Our so called justice system just makes it easier for criminals to sell drugs and recruit more soldiers to their cause.
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Janice
You people have really fried your brains on drugs and can't think rationally anymore (Sam and Paul). I just told you that marijauna is legal in Mexico and drug crime is rampant. Your solution, do the same as Mexico in Canada, clever.
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Fred Bran
"I just told you that marijauna is legal in Mexico and drug crime is rampant."

First of all, it isn't legal in Mexico: small amounts have been decriminalized. Secondly, you have no concept of time: it has been a week, and drug crime was rampant long before the measure. Who can't think rationally? Looks like it's you, Janice. Everyone else makes sense in here except you. All you are doing is preaching war and violence, because you hate drug users, and you want to see them harmed and hurt. Take a step back and examine your motivations. Do you see anyone here advocating locking *you* up in prison for your private personal lifestyle?
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