This letter was sent to my MLA, Premier and Prime Minister on May 9th 2006.
Gang violence continues in Calgary and with 117 arrests and 350 weapons charges, within hours these gangsters are set free so they can continue to TERRORIZE our city??? I am outraged and do NOT understand how and why this continues... what is WRONG with our Judges/Courts/Politicians??? Sentencing for MURDER in Canada is a JOKE and I am outraged as that it is minimized by Lawyers and Judges more and more and the fact that they have taken the lives of their VICTIMS and shattered the lives of their FAMILIES does not seem to matter. Does human life have NO more VALUE in our Country??? How can this be allowed??? What will it take to wake up our Politicians and our Courts???? When someone takes the life of another, their life should be taken as well, sane or insane, Murderers are DANGEROUS and should be locked up for their natural life??? Ask all those citizens who have LOST LOVED ONES to MURDER, the general public, Lawyers/Judges/Politicians have no idea what it feels to live with MURDER!!!
KNIFE VIOLENCE however is getting NO recognition at all, yet knives have become a 'weapon of choice'. Knives are easy to obtain and a part of every household and easy to hide... also a small group of people (Sikhs) are now allowed to carry them legally in the schools and in public... I AM OUTRAGED!!!! Very rarely does a murderer get charged with first or second degree murder if the murder weapon was a knife... in most cases sentences
are only a few months!
I'd like to introduce myself, my name is Steffi Stehwien and I am the Mother of AARON SHOULDERS. My beloved Son Aaron, was brutally attacked and stabbed in front of NYLA's Nightclub on August 17th 2003, he was an innocent bystander. Aaron was merely trying to stop a fight which started inside of the club, he was promoting peace. He was viciously beaten and then stabbed by an Asian gang (12 attackers) in front of many witnesses, he suffered for 15 long days and ultimately died from his stab-injuries. These witnesses including the staff of NYLA's are still not talking and there has been NO JUSTICE for my Son Aaron. His killer(s) are still free and living among us.... the violence continues! It has been more than 2 years and 6 months and Aaron's case has virtually gone cold with no hope of any arrests. I continue to read stories of violence where knives are the weapon of choice and this has to change. I have not heard anyone address knife violence, only Guns. A knife is a lethal deadly weapon, silent, swift and easily concealed. The damage is even more brutal and invasive than a that of a gun and yet this weapon is legal. Regardless of the weapon, the end result is murder, and yet our legal system has minimized this to the full extent. To add insult to injury this particular nightclub violated all rules pertaining to the safety of all patrons. Police were not called and my son was unarmed and suffered at the hands of these strangers, without any way of defending himself. This murder could have been prevented and I am outraged!
(Aaron Shoulders Surgeon quotes)
"Personally I have very strong feelings that there is absolutely no reason to carry a knife in the city. A knife can be every bit as deadly as a gun or a bomb, and I have seen too much evidence to prove that. The only reason I see for carrying a knife in the city is to kill, and I believe society has the right to protect itself against such behavior." -Andy Kirkpatrick, Foothills Hospital-Calgary
Steve Sullivan, president of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime said... "more people die as a result of knife violence", Sullivan suggested minimum sentences ought to be considered in cases involving all weapons, not just guns.
The issues that need to be addressed are:
1) Strict laws against Knives as well as harsh sentences for those who kill with Knives. MURDER is MURDER no matter what weapon is used! We need JUSTICE in Canada and this type of violence needs serious consequences. MP Gord Brown, introduced a bill in the House of Commons to strengthen penalties for knife violence. With knife violence increasing, this needs to be addressed and taken seriously. Bill C393 has been rejected over and over again and I am completely outraged!
This act proposes to create mandatory minimum sentences for carrying a concealed weapon and for manslaughter on an unarmed person inflicted with a knife that was previously concealed.
The act mandates a reduction in parole eligibility for both offences and creates a second or subsequent offence for carrying a concealed weapon, as well as including carrying a concealed weapon as an offence within the absolute jurisdiction of a provincial court judge.
The act would also provide direction to sentencing courts with respect to consideration and calculation of pre-trial custody.
The act provides direction to the National Parole Board with respect to supplying relevant information to crime victims, asserts the obligation of the board to not adjourn conditional release hearings without justification and creates a future conditional release eligibility consequence for offenders that waive scheduled hearings.
2) Our legal system has become a revolving door. Sentencing is not long enough and re-offence continues. For some reason a person robbing a bank gets more time than a person who has killed another human being. Ironically, you also happen to see more of an outrage when an animal has been brutally beaten, neglected or killed, than when a person is innocently killed. That is what baffles me and unfortunately unless we as humans start standing up to what is wrong and stop glossing over and tapping the hands of those who are found guilty, this will continue and this makes me furious!
3) Gangs in Canada have gotten away with Murder for far too many years, therefore they have gained strength and continue to kill. Even if Police catch them, there are politicians and Judges who are saying we have no gangs! How can we address a problem if we are in denial. When these gang members are immigrants who come from war torn countries and who have no regard for human life, it puts us all at risk. Immigrants committing crimes in Canada need to be deported instead of hiding behind our pitiful laws. We are so adamant that we don't offend anyone, to the point of eliminating our religious holidays and re-shaping our laws etc, but ignore how badly we as Canadians are offended by allowing them to virtually get away with murder.
4) Our government has tied the hands of proper policing. We have a shortage of homicide and cold case detectives in Calgary. In the USA, homicide is called out to every assault investigation where a weapon is used. In doing this, evidence is not lost and a proper investigation can occur. Varying degree's of assault can turn to homicide at any moment. In Aaron' case no homicide detectives were called to the scene. At this point it was only viewed as an assault, which makes me wonder if evidence was lost.
\5) Accountability for club owners. If there are rules in place to ensure patron safety...who is enforcing it? When a fight occurs within a club, the police are to be called. Those involved are not to be thrown out into the street for the violence to escalate, which many times end tragically, as it did in my Son's case. Laws are only effective if they are enforced!
6) Racism still exists! My Son is bi-racial and unfortunately many have questioned that my son must have been in some sort of trouble. My son was respected by all his teachers, the principle and all his peers. He was a model student with a bright future ahead of him. He was looked up to by many and was a young man who promoted peace and loved to dance. His only mistake was that he wanted to dance and once he turned 18 he went to a nightclub to do so, unfortunately this was his last experience. The police reported a situation of 15-30 Asians with weapons, against 4 black unarmed youth. I heard comments that because my Son was black that he must have been at fault, that he was dealing drugs and that he must have been in a gang...My son was none of these things! It seems that my Son's case has become invisible, and I wonder how race plays an issue here. The most recent in Toronto on Boxing Day, where a 15 year old Caucasian girl was shot to death while shopping, received an outrage by Canadians all over and politicians all of a sudden took note. Aaron's murder received minimal coverage!
I will end this by saying that murder happens in this country because of the lawlessness and the minimum consequences that criminals receive. Even though my Son is dead, I still have young Grandson's and I truly fear for their future. In the meantime...WHO WILL HEAR THE SILENT CRIES OF OUR MURDERED CHILDREN... WHO WILL FIGHT FOR OUR GRAND-AND GREAT-GRAND CHILDREN... WHAT KIND OF FUTURE DO THEY HAVE???????
Sincerely wanting Justice and change...
I am asking for your Help!
Here are the responses I received:
Can we have permission for Dave Taylor to table this letter in the Legislature?
Bruce Miller (MLA for Edmonton Glenora – Edmonton.Glenora@assemply.ab.ca 780-414-1311) is the Opposition Critic for Justice. Our researchers in Edmonton have forwarded your email to his office and are working on this issue of knives, violence, killers without consequences. I do not expect that the answers to your questions will come quickly, but you have our attention and I certainly hope we will be able to help you.
Terry Rahbek-Nielsen, Office Manager
Calgary Currie Constituency
Dear Ms. Stehwien:
On behalf of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, I would like to acknowledge receipt of your e-mail, in which you raised an issue that falls within the portfolio of the Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
Please be assured that your comments have been carefully reviewed. In view of his interest in this matter, I have taken the liberty of forwarding your e-mail to the Minister, for his information and review. I am certain that he will wish to give your views every consideration.
Thank you for writing to the Prime Minister. For more information on the Government's initiatives, you may wish to visit the Prime Minister's Web site.
Executive Correspondence Officer
for the Prime Minister's Office