Thursday, March 01, 2007

Government Sanctioned Criminals

If you’re going to be the victim of a crime in Canada make sure you don’t reside in Ontario.

An Ontario agency meant to help victims of crime and their families financially instead treats them "like rats in a maze," a scathing report released yesterday said.

Here are a few shocking examples the report highlights:

“"They were cold and callous. They showed no understanding or empathy," Devine said of the people she dealt with last summer when she asked for emergency cash to bury her 33-year-old daughter, Deborah, who had been strangled and set on fire.”

Eva-Maria Devine, a blind retiree, could afford to bury her murdered daughter or buy groceries. Not both.
She describes her experience with the provincial board that is supposed to help victims of crime with a single word: "Hell."

From the same article, “Jeffrey Downes, a Toronto man, died three years after being brutally attacked and the board still hadn't gotten around to his compensation hearing.”

How convenient. Guess they can toss that file out now.

- Al Almeida, whose daughter Naiomi, 5, was raped and murdered in 2001, leaving him shattered by grief and unable to work, was "treated as though he was a con artist trying to scam the (board), rather than as a survivor of a horrific crime," said the report, titled Adding Insult to Injury. Even when Almeida and his young son were on the verge of eviction, the board refused to confirm his compensation had been granted and was waiting to be processed.
"They asked me why I believe I'm a victim. How can they ask that?" said Almeida, who watched Marin's news conference in Toronto.
"We're talking about a five-year-old that was kidnapped, raped and murdered while I slept in the next room. I feel like I let my daughter down as a father."

Can you imagine living with that guilt?

One thing I’m getting really sick of is that when we know there’s a problem with something we set up some committee to study it and make reports. For example, we know in Canada that EI has a huge surplus of cash but there are numerous examples of people who are unemployed consistently have a difficult time getting funds, having to wait an extended period of time before benefits kick in, get no assistance with retraining and only receive 55% of their normal salaries… AND they still have to pay EI insurance premiums on the paltry sum EI gives them. Meanwhile, Alberta has a labor shortage – more jobs than people – while other people are unable to get work elsewhere.

I mean, you’d think EI would get off their ass and assist people in relocating or send them west to look for a job. And if they succeed, hurrah. It’s the best for everyone.

No, no, can’t do that. Let’s just send them home to watch daytime television and get depressed when they can’t find work.

Look, I’m certainly not NDP. I don’t believe in taxing people to death and racking up huge debts. I think in essence it’s best to give people a hand up than a hand out. I don’t want to create a system where people are dependent on programs to survive forever.

But sometimes you just have to chuck all of that out the window, and when people are the victims of crime they are dealing with grief and shock that is beyond what anyone would ever want to have to face. I mean, a woman’s daughter is killed and set on fire – bad enough she has to face that fact. First, losing a daughter. Losing a family member is hard enough for anyone, but especially parents losing kids. But to lose your daughter to such a vicious murder. And then you have to deal with planning a funeral and making all those choices you never thought you’d have to make, those choices you prayed to God or pleaded with fate to never have to face…

And you’re left destitute and the one agency that’s supposed to be there to help you treats you like a criminal.

One of the things I’ve done more of with What Burns Within is look at the victims. To show how what they’ve had to face is affecting them. There’s no such thing as victimless crime – something we’d all do well to remember – and a lot of crime fiction lacks the development of the victims. I certainly didn’t do as much there in SC as I could have.

If anyone wants a stellar example of a book that really breathes life into the victim I recommend Mark Billingham’s The Burning Girl. Well, all of Mark’s books are pretty damn good at showing both sides of the equation…

You know, only a matter of months ago I was ranting about how Ontario was treating families with autistic children. Since I spent more than 20 years of my life living there I feel justified saying that the Ontario government sucks. I’m not saying other governments in this country don’t suck… It’s just that McGuinty’s Liberals have earned special distinction on my shit list today.


Steve Allan said...

It was my understanding from watching Bowling for Columbine that there was no crime in Canada.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well, I've certainly heard some people scoff at the idea of realistic Canadian crime fiction because nothing bad ever happens here.

Like pig farmers killing 49 prostitutes. That could never happen in Canada, right?

Guess Michael Moore never heard of the Taber school shooting, or the Montreal Massacre either.