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FIRST READING: Canada’s chronic inability to keep its most dangerous citizens behind bars  


Quebec man Simon Houle allegedly got back to assaulting women just days after a conditional discharge for sexual assault

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This summer has yielded no shortage of signs that Canada seems to have a chronic inability to keep its most dangerous citizens behind bars.  

B.C. is currently conducting an official probe into what’s been called its crisis of “catch-and-release” incarceration. The effort was prompted by a desperate plea from some of the country’s most left-wing mayors, including Victoria’s Lisa Helps. In a data-heavy letter, Helps and 12 others mayors from B.C.’s largest cities said that a handful of “prolific offenders” were singlehandedly responsible for “putting extreme pressure on police resources, and eroding the sense of public safety and trust in the justice system.”

A chart accompanying the letter showing how more than 11,000 negative police contacts in B.C. are thanks to just 204 prolific offenders.
A chart accompanying the letter showing how more than 11,000 negative police contacts in B.C. are thanks to just 204 prolific offenders. Photo by BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus

It’s a problem that’s similarly been noticed at the federal level. Just last month, the federal government launched a new program to “reduce recidivism” among Canadian offenders, noting that “nearly one in four people who have been incarcerated reoffend within two years of their release.”

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It’s a rare day in Canada that doesn’t yield an instance of an offender racking up new victims soon after a discharge from prison. Or of an offender being handed a sentence of only a few months for a crime that inflicted serious and irreversible harm. While a comprehensive list is impossible, below we rounded up some of the most notorious examples from just the last 30 days.

In early 2021, a 24-year-old woman was walking through Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood when she was tackled from behind. Although thrown to the ground, her screams fortunately caused the attacker to flee. This week, a B.C. court decided that the man responsible, 59-year-old Robert Ferrey, would not only dodge prison time, but may not even incur a criminal record as a result of the attack. “It gives a message that male violence against women can continue with impunity,” Battered Women’s Support Services executive director Angela Marie MacDougall told Global News following the sentencing.

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It sparked outrage from victims’ advocacy groups earlier this month when Quebec man Simon Houle was granted a conditional discharge after sexually assaulting (and photographing) a sleeping woman at a friend’s home. Although prosecutors had sought an 18-month sentence, a judge went with the discharge on the grounds that a criminal record would make it difficult for Houle to travel for work. The outrage has only deepened after reports that Houle apparently celebrated the discharge with a trip to Cuba, where a woman alleges that he subjected her to “aggressive” groping at an all-inclusive resort.

In January, a 25-year-old Mexican national was standing in line at a Downtown Vancouver Tim Hortons when a man began “repeatedly” stabbing him in the back for no reason, according to a police report. The victim survived, but with life-altering injuries. The assailant, 28-year-old David Morin, had multiple prior charges for violent crimes, including a 2017 incident in which he raped a woman at axepoint in a Prince George hotel room. Morin’s sentence for the Tim Hortons stabbing, handed down in June, is three years.

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Just three days after being released from custody for sexual assault, 21-year-old Joshua Graves stabbed an Ottawa mother and her two daughters in a June 28 attack. Only one of the women would survive, albeit with serious stab wounds. Graves was shot and killed by police at the scene. The rampage happened on a Monday. Four days prior, Graves had been in court on three counts of criminal harassment, assault, and sexual assault against a schoolmate.

On Saturday July 9, a man broke into a random East Vancouver woman’s home and sexually assaulted her, according to Vancouver Police. The victim was able to escape only by jumping out of a window, with the fall breaking her leg. The accused is Howard Lethbridge. The 32-year-old has been in front of a criminal court 43 times since turning 18. One of the most recent was for uttering threats, although his record is replete with assault, theft charges and breaches of probation.

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IN OTHER NEWS

The Ukrainian World Congress is seeking a last-minute court injunction to stop Canada from supplying Russia with turbines needed to ensure the proper operation of its Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline. The turbines have been stranded on Canadian soil ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when they became subject to sweeping federal export sanctions targeting anything that could conceivably assist the Russian government or military. But this week, Canada acceded to German demands to violate its own sanctions regime and return the turbines in order to guarantee continued Russian natural gas flows to Western Europe. Although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously cited Canada as a close friend and ally, on Monday he accused Ottawa of bowing to a “terrorist” Russia.

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For plunging whole swaths of the Canadian economy into darkness on Friday, Rogers has offered the above compensation (after initially trying to credit just two days’ service). Note that this is only for Rogers subscribers, so you still get nothing if you’re just some poor sap who couldn’t get through to 911 or access your ATM. Here’s a guess that this offer may not fully assuage public or government outrage. On Tuesday, the CRTC put out an unusually heavy-handed letter demanding a “comprehensive explanation” from Rogers as to how the outage happened.
For plunging whole swaths of the Canadian economy into darkness on Friday, Rogers has offered the above compensation (after initially trying to credit just two days’ service). Note that this is only for Rogers subscribers, so you still get nothing if you’re just some poor sap who couldn’t get through to 911 or access your ATM. Here’s a guess that this offer may not fully assuage public or government outrage. On Tuesday, the CRTC put out an unusually heavy-handed letter demanding a “comprehensive explanation” from Rogers as to how the outage happened. Photo by Facebook/Rogers

The Council of the Federation – the super-fancy name describing the twice annual meeting of Canada’s 13 premiers – wrapped up Tuesday in Victoria. Canada’s various sub-national jurisdictions may not agree on much, but all 13 unanimously agreed that Canadian healthcare is a horrible crumbling disaster. Although the 13 may have discussed any number of creative solutions to the problem, one of the most popular was a proposal for Ottawa to give them all more money

Pierre Poilievre, whose commanding lead in the Conservative leadership race has never been in doubt, has been found to be really, really in the lead as the result of a Postmedia-commissioned Leger poll. Of respondents to the poll (who were all registered Conservatives), 48 per cent pegged Poilievre as their favourite, followed by just 14 per cent who preferred the second-place contender, Jean Charest. And the results were particularly bleak for the other three candidates: Three per cent for Leslyn Lewis and one per cent each for Scott Aitchison and Roman Baber.

Lest the travails of Canadian politics get you down, here’s a quick reminder that our petty little disagreements are laughably small in any cosmic context. Above is one of the first images released from the James Webb Space Telescope, and it features some of the most distant objects ever witnessed by human eyes. Some of the points of light in this image are estimated to be as far as 13.3 billion light-years away. This means that you’re looking at light that was first emitted roughly nine billion years before our own planet was even formed.
Lest the travails of Canadian politics get you down, here’s a quick reminder that our petty little disagreements are laughably small in any cosmic context. Above is one of the first images released from the James Webb Space Telescope, and it features some of the most distant objects ever witnessed by human eyes. Some of the points of light in this image are estimated to be as far as 13.3 billion light-years away. This means that you’re looking at light that was first emitted roughly nine billion years before our own planet was even formed. Photo by NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

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