Surrey Liberal MP Ken Hardie says he will push for dangerous offender status for Daon Gordon Glasgow if he is convicted in last week’s shooting of Transit Police Constable Josh Harms at the Scott Road SkyTrain Station.
Glasgow got a break from the Court of Appeal in April 2015 when his nine-year manslaughter sentence for the 2010 shooting death of a man at a Surrey McDonald’s was reduced.
Although considered the prime suspect in the Jan. 30 shooting, in which Harms, 27, was hit twice in the arm, Glasgow at press time had not been charged in connection with it.
He is in custody, Surrey RCMP Elenore Sturko said, as authorities pore over information.
“Everyone’s trying to close their loop on finding out what’s happening,” she noted of public interest in the case. “It’s so high profile that everybody’s following along.”
Surrey RCMP Corporal Elenore Sturko. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey RCMP has not said much about what led to Harms getting shot, but Glasgow was wanted on an alleged parole violation at the time, having been on mandatory release from prison since October after serving two-thirds of his sentence.
Transit Police Constable Josh Harms. (Transit Police photo)
“What we do from here is we keep an eye on it, keep an eye on the evidence,” Hardie, MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, told the Now-Leader on Wednesday. “If there’s a conviction, then I’m going to personally push for dangerous offender status, because if this person is into recidivism in a big way, well we just don’t want to give him another chance, do we?”
The intention of statutory release, which occurs two-thirds into an inmate’s sentence, is to ease the offender into society, under supervision, instead of putting he or she back on the street the day their sentence expires, with no supervision.
It is there to “kind of provide a bridge between being inside and being out in free society again,” Hardie said, noting that mandatory statutory release, brought in by prime minister Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government in 1992, requires convicts “to live up to certain conditions.”
Serious parole breaches must be met with serious consequences, Hardie added.
“I don’t think the public would accept anything less.”
The transit officer’s shooting, following high-profile violent crimes committed by recidivists in Surrey over the years, has once again triggered outcry over mandatory prison release.
Federal Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, in Surrey last week, said his party has a “comprehensive plan to make Canada safer” that introduces multiple steps to address issues such as bail reform, “so that dangerous and repeat offenders aren’t just able to get right back out there in the streets.”
Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer. (File photo)
“We deserve to be able to live in communities where we don’t have that fear and that apprehension,” he said. “When we see incidents, as we have unfortunately here in Surrey, tragic shootings, a rise in crime, Canadians want to see action.”
According to the Conservatives, Canada’s prison system spends $60 million annually on jobs and skills training for inmates but the government doesn’t measure how effective the programs are. A Conservative government, the party’s website indicates, would “conduct an audit of all correctional services programs to make sure inmates are ready to rejoin society upon their release.”
Hardie noted that 60 to 70 per cent of statutory releases are “completed successfully, in other words the person goes through, there’s no problems. When there is a breach of the conditions it’s usually something fairly minor, commission of a non-violent offence, not doing what they’re supposed to do – checking in or whatever.”
“Although one bad apple sort of blows the importance of stats out of the water,” Hardie conceded.
According to federal government statistics concerning violent crimes in 2016-17, Hardie noted, 0.8 per cent of people who were on statutory release actually committed a violent offence.
Ken Hardie, Liberal MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells. (File photo)
“So this is relatively rare. That means nothing of course to the officer in this case, who was shot, I mean if the guy proves to be guilty of that offence,” he said.
“Clearly, there are some bad actors. That’s been proven, the fact they’ve been caught and convicted again. There’s a point at which somebody’s got to look deep into the toolbox and say, ‘What can we do to get these people out of circulation as much as possible?’ Part of that is not just simply the rule of law, but using the law more as a bit of leverage. In a situation like this, I would propose that if the person is found guilty, that we go for dangerous offender status. Even if the courts throw it out, it sends a message, right, that this guy, if he’s let out again, if he doesn’t clean up his act, then that is the next step no doubt.”
Hardie said he’s not aware of any Liberal plans to address mandatory release in this election year, when Canadian voters go to the polls on Oct. 21.
“Not that I’ve seen, not that I’ve seen,” Hardie said. “What we’re going to do is what we’ve tried to do all along, which is look at the actual data. Are we dealing with a very small thing, important nonetheless, or are we dealing with widespread issues?”
Hardie said Canadian politicians do not make decisions on who’s released, who’s paroled, who’s on statutory release or who’s transferred.
“That’s how Vladimir Putin keeps control of the people, seriously. ‘Hey, it’s the gulag for you, Charlie.’ But the fact is when we see something that appears not to have worked well, or simply just doesn’t pass the reasonable sniff test, then it is up to the government and the minister responsible to ask for a review.
“We use evidence, and we fix the things that actually need fixing,” Hardie said, “instead of running off, and making broad sweeping statements, then coming up with policy on the fly that ends up getting turfed out of the Supreme Court of Canada, which has been the Conservative record all along.”
Karen Reid Sidhu, the executive director for Surrey Crime Prevention Society, oversees 428 volunteers and a staff of 12. She says she has “utmost confidence” that Scheer, if elected prime minister, will “ensure that repeat offenders are held accountable and they’re going to be looking at getting tough on crime. It’s about time.”
Government’s primary focus is to keep society safe, Sidhu said. “It’s not to allow criminals to be released on light sentences when they’re charged with manslaughter.”
Karen Reid Sidhu, executive director Surrey Crime Prevention Society. (File photo)
“I believe that the federal Liberals right now don’t take that as serious as they should,” Sidhu said. “I’m hopeful that we can really re-evaluate the provincial and federal laws to ensure that people like those who are violent offenders are never back on our streets. In my opinion, and I know that I speak for a lot of people, unless there’s a clear demonstration that this person has been rehabilitated and they’re no longer a threat to society, they should not be out on the street.
“I hope he never sees the light of day,” Sidhu said of Harm’s unproven shooter, “but I have zero confidence in the current government making that happen so let’s see what happens in the election.”
She doesn’t agree with mandatory release and thinks the parole board “should have the autonomy to look at the big picture and if they feel that this individual is still a threat to society, they should have the ability to approach the court to review the case and there should be a review process for that.”
Linda Annis, a Surrey city councillor (Surrey First) and the executive director of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers, said society needs to “get tougher” with repeat offenders.
“It’s not just something that’s happening in Surrey, as you know, it’s something that’s happening throughout Canada,” Annis said. “It’s the court system, and the whole parole system — I think we need to get a little tougher on these individuals and not get them released quite so quickly.”
Linda Annis, Surrey city councillor (Surrey First) and executive director of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers since 2004. (File photo)
Dr. Robert Gordon, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University, says he hasn’t taken note of anything “sensible” in the political parties’ platforms. “And I haven’t looked because it’s almost invariably rhetoric,” he explained.
“When you get closer to an election there’s steep increase in the rhetoric.”
The problem that “dogs this whole area of course is the exceptional case,” Gordon said. “Because they are unusual they get covered more extensively and people think the sky is falling.”
He said when it comes to violent crime in Canada, in places like Surrey, “there’s a background roar, there’s a dull roar. It has its normatives but every so often there are spike activities.
“What’s the recidivism rate? We can only guess. Even with dangerous offenders. You can say it, but whether it’s accurate or not is highly debatable,” Gordon said. “There is mandatory release, but at the same time it’s not free of limitation. People get put of jail, but they’re then loaded into the parole system if they’ve not completed their sentence.”
Dr. Robert Gordon, Simon Fraser University criminology professor. (File photo)
He said it’s the ones who’ve completed their sentence and then “released scott-free who are the problem.”
But those on mandatory release can also be “problematic,” Gordon noted, as “there aren’t the eyes in the correctional service to keep a proper watch on them. That’s a personnel, that’s a resource issue. So if we could solve that, we could drag the crime rate down even more but the focus has to be on the high-risk individual.”
Gordon says there are two schools of thought on this.
“One is well, we’ve got dangerous offender legislation. You use it, 500 or so dangerous offenders cooling their heels within the Correctional Service of Canada’s warm embrace is quite reasonable and we could probably pack more in, but that’s expensive,” he explained.
“The other is protective incarceration is not useful when time comes to get rid of the person, and put them out, and it’s far better you try to break them into living in the community in a lawful and productive manner.
“So, the two schools — lock ‘em up, throw away the key — well, we’ve got the mechanism for that, if you can show that this person is a dangerous offender. The other is ordinary, if you like, and that is we like people to serve their time in communities, get them back into the workforce so that when their release comes along, they’ve finished their parole, they’re actually doing something productive.”