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Enough of this ‘hug-a-thug’ approach


You can add the name Stefanie Rengel to the already enormous list of those stolen from us.
And what the heck are we going to do about it? Any outrage out there? Anybody planning a mass protest for tougher justice at Parliament Hill?
If we do nothing as usual, the next name to be added is out there right now, dreaming about his or her bright future.
Hopefully, it’s not your kid — but he or she will be somebody’s. In my 17 years as a reporter at this newspaper, there have been more than 1,000 homicides in Toronto, so I am pretty sure there will be more. Needless to say little has been learned — and even less done.
The list keeps on growing. Vivi Leimonis, Matti Baranovski, Jane Creba, Jordan Manners, Ephraim Brown and so many more young people who were victims of murder. They were all just kids who had their lives stolen from them.
It was the daughter of some cops this time. It can hit any family.
We should all heed the words of a man who’s been there, whose family was devastated by a brutal attack on his son eight years ago.
“This should be a wakeup call but we have had plenty of wakeup calls before,” a shaken Joe Wamback said yesterday. “One of these days, Canadians will have to speak up and say enough is enough.”
If we don’t, the murders will keep coming. And the list of victims will keep growing.
Of course we won’t listen. And Joe Wamback knows this first-hand.
“I remember people saying ‘enough is enough’ when my son Jonathan was attacked,” he said. “I remember them saying that when Jane Creba was shot. And now this. It is so tragic.”
Jonathan Wamback narrowly survived his ambush by 14 violent youths in 1999. Two anonymous attackers convicted of aggravated assault served five months.
That will show them! Obviously with all of the victims since then it was not much of a deterrent. Those criminals have been free for years. And you still are not allowed to know who they are or if they are now hanging out with your kid.
Wamback is not holding much hope that serious action will be taken by the courts in the foreseeable future. “Ever since that Canadian Youth Criminal Justice Act came in on April 1, 2001, I have called it Canada’s April Fool’s joke.”
The founder of the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation points out that the current case, involving a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy charged with first-degree-murder, will not likely end up tried in an adult court.
The Criminal Code, he said, does not allow for such a thing.
“What they are talking about is having them sentenced in adult court upon a conviction,” he said.
It may not happen and even if it does, he said, it doesn’t have any teeth.
“The most the law can sentence someone under is life in prison with parole after 10 years,” Wamback said. “And for people under 16 the most is five years.”
He added: “If they are convicted, these (teens) will never go to a penitentiary if they are under 20.”
In other words, don’t hold your breath that there will be tough justice in this case. Don’t think for a second there are other violent teens out there getting the idea there is tough stuff ahead of them should they follow this path.
In fact, according to Wamback, there could be some well-educated killers at the work station next to you in the future. Many of these murderers end up with university degrees, earned during down time in prison.
“And that will be courtesy of the taxpayer,” Wamback said. “Some of them can get up to $100,000 for their education and after they complete their sentences they’ll come out an engineer.”
So the two accused in this case have a future even if they are convicted. Young Stefanie is not as fortunate.
Ontario’s interim opposition leader, Bob Runciman, said yesterday, “The act still goes overboard to protect young punks.”
The former solicitor general says it’s time that in serious crimes the names of so-called young offenders be released and that stiff sentences go with convictions.
Wamback says those are two of the deterrents that could come out of this latest wake-up call.
“Canadians need to push for longer sentences,” he said. “This hug-a-thug approach doesn’t work.”
How many more names have to go on the list before our governments and public finally realize that?