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.

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.”




May 3, 2009 at 10:28pm

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!

Marc Scott Emery

May 3, 2009 at 11:28pm

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.

Dan Mick

May 4, 2009 at 10:07am

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.

Joseph Austin

May 5, 2009 at 3:27am

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.

Steven James

May 5, 2009 at 5:02am

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.

Steven H

May 5, 2009 at 6:04am

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!

Brendan Pecana

May 5, 2009 at 6:18am

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..


May 5, 2009 at 8:40am

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.


May 5, 2009 at 8:42am

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.