After reading about that justice of the peace down there in Louisiana last week who refused to marry an interracial couple on moral grounds, I was feeling pretty smug and happy about not being American, as we Canadians so often do. That is, until I saw this story about a horrifically violent rapist who just absconded while out on parole in Calgary and I remembered just what a pathetic criminal justice system we have here in this country and how totally messed up Canada can also be.
Justice, Canadian Style
If you haven't read about this case already, be forewarned, it is quite disturbing.
A brief summary:
In 2001, Dean Robert Zimmerman was sentenced to jail for brutally raping, tormenting, and torturing his pregnant wife in an attack that lasted over 48 hours. He not only repeatedly assaulted her, but he also broke her nose and threatened to cut her unborn baby from her belly. And this attack took place while he was out on parole for the earlier violent rape of a 19-year-old woman.
Then, after serving less than four years in jail for that horrific attack, the guy was released and, on January 1, 2005, he committed yet another vicious attack, this time a nine-hour sex assault/torture session involving a toilet plunger and a 24-year-old Edmonton woman.
He pleaded guilty to sexual assault involving a weapon and forcible confinement and was sent away for—wait for it—40 whole months in federal prison.
Yes, that's right, forty months. That's three years and four months in prison for a savage sexual and physical assault and sadistic torture session. His third such conviction in a few short years to boot.
When exactly, one wonders, will the courts start considering this guy a threat to society and someone, perhaps, deserving of a real substantial prison sentence?
It's not just the courts though. The whole system is a joke. He was actually sentenced to six years—a rather insignificant sentence considering his crimes—but on September 29, 2009 he was released nearly three years early.
"But maybe he was reformed and repentant", you say.
Well, actually the National Parole Board describes him as a psychopath who is lacking remorse and empathy and whose violence towards women is escalating to a deadly level. Just last year they wrote that if released "There is a likelihood [he] would commit an offence causing serious harm or death".
And so they released him. And now he's skipped out on parole and is on the run.
Just the Facts
These are the facts: A man who refused prison therapy and remains an untreated, unremorseful, high-risk, psychotic, violent sexual offender was given early release last month (for the third time running).
Sounds like a perfect candidate for early release (and lenient sentencing) to me.
Hey, National Parole Board of Canada, how have those early releases been working out for this guy so far?
An Irrational, Nonsensical System
So, that about sums it up. Here in modern day Canada, you can violently brutalize, terrorize, beat, rape, and traumatize somebody for hours or even days at a time and then find yourself free on parole a few short years later, at which time you can do it all over again.
Perhaps next time this guy will get at least eight years? And maybe he can serve four or five of them this time?
The term "Canadian justice system" is simply an absurd farce and a cruel joke.
I'm not saying I want a brutal lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key system like the one they have down there in the States. But come on, Canada. This is simply disgraceful. How about a little common sense?
When a psychopath rapes and tortures three different women in three separate attacks over a period of less than a decade maybe, just maybe, after his third conviction he should be locked up for a little longer than just three years.
Or maybe it's just me? Is no one else sickened, repulsed, enraged, and ashamed by all of this?
And it's hardly the first case. In fact, I'd say that extremely lenient sentencing for serious violent crimes is actually the norm here in Canada.
An Even More Disturbing Case
This Zimmerman case reminds me of another equally bewildering case from almost three years ago now. In that case a man and a woman in Winnipeg were sentenced for the kidnapping, imprisonment, and rape of two young girls, aged 12 and 13. The 12-year-old was held for several months as a sex slave and drugged, raped, tormented, and tortured while the 13-year-old was also raped numerous times and eventually became pregnant.
Like Zimmerman, this couple showed absolutely no remorse and asked for no forgiveness. So, what kind of sentence do you think they received? Yup, you got it, two years for the woman and nine years for the man. Only about half to be served behind bars of course.
As Bob Dylan sang in "Hurricane", his rage-fueled song about a different sort of miscarriage of justice, "Couldn't help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land where justice is a game".
But then again...
Perhaps I just need to be a bit more positive and a lot less pessimistic. Because, in the immortal words of Meat Loaf, two out of three ain't bad, right? The "Canadian justice system" is, in fact, almost perfect: It's definitely Canadian and it's most certainly a system. All it's really lacking is justice.
No, screw that naive positive-thinking stuff. The truth is the Canadian justice system is a lot like Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band without Bruce Springsteen. The Sixties without the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Taxi Driver without Robert DeNiro. The Big Lebowski without the Dude. Rum and coke without the rum. Hawaiian pizza without the pineapple. Fawlty Towers without John Cleese. And The Colbert Report without Stephen Colbert.
Oh yeah, and Louisiana and the rest of the Deep South without bigots.
Mike Cowie is a freelance writer who writes about politics, music, film, travel, and much more. You can read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.