RM
Letters

Letters@GlobeAndMail.ca, CH'town Guardian, others

Editor,

I wonder if your paper has space for a word or two in defence of Mr. Campbell, as he faces what appears to be universal opprobrium for his recent charges of impaired driving.

First, I should note, I am not in any way a fan of Mr. Campbellís political party or his policies - actually, I am quite opposed to basically everything he stands for. However, I would contend with him on that field in a fair contest concerning issues of substance and import, rather than see him tossed from the game for what is, in my view, a minor charge.

Please let me explain. I know what I will say goes directly against the grain of Politically Correct thought of the last couple of decades - but PC thought has erred before - we donít burn witches anymore, for instance, and I suspect that at some time in a more civilised future the current persecution of people who have a couple of drinks and drive home will be regarded with the same sense of disbelief as that misguided policy. What the MADD people and their followers have been preaching is the punishment of people for what amounts to a thought crime, in their opinion - that is, when we look at it calmly rather than hysterically, we must acknowledge that no actual damage has been done to anyone or anything, no property stolen or destroyed, nor was any such crime intended - the MADD people and their supporters simply contend that the person they are after MIGHT have committed some terrible crime if they had been allowed to continue driving, and therefore they should be severely punished for that uncommitted but nonetheless TERRIBLE crime. Some people who drink and drive have accidents, therefore all people who drink and drive shall be punished. Examined in black and white fact rather than colourful hysterics and slogans, the legal or logical ratio is non-existent, but that has never deterred fanatics.

This has always struck me as a very Draconian idea, a punishment FAR outweighing any actual offence, and it is done in no other aspect of Canadian law that I am aware of. If we catch someone speeding - an activity which leads to many accidents and deaths - the police give him or her a ticket, which will lead to a fine and maybe a few demerit points, and send them on their way. Running a stop sign or red light? Same thing - very dangerous activity, leading to many accidents etc - but a ticket and fine the usual punishment. But stop someone at random and suspect that person has had a couple of drinks, even if their driving is otherwise faultless - and no little ticket and fine and word of warning, but the very sword of Damocles falls on their head! - suspended licence, huge insurance increase, fine and maybe jailtime, and, probably worst of all for most people, public ridicule are the basic punishment. And for what? What has the person done that is truly more serious than the person caught speeding or running a red light? There has been no accident, no injury, no property damage, no intent to do so - there is certainly an increased risk of such accidents from speeding or running red lights or drinking while driving - but at what point in time have we as a society sat down and debated things, and said that we will punish people severely for crimes they might commit, or risky behaviour? This is identical to the notion of Orwellian thought crimes, and which most people regard as a police-state idea unsuitable for a democratic society, which we profess to be. With no actual crime to punish, our intervention must be limited to warnings.

But somehow, over the last few years, it has been decided for us (I donít recall ever being asked to vote on this) that severely punishing some people for a crime they have not committed, do not intend to commit, and in all likelihood will never commit, is acceptable in our democratic society.

It seems to me that a more rational approach would be to treat drinking and driving like any other driving misdemeanour where no actual accident has occurred, with recognition that there are varying degrees of severity, as with speeding - a person driving 110 kph in a 100 kph zone gets a small fine, but a person driving 110 kph in a 35 kph school area may well face a severe fine and possible suspension of the licence. Why not the same sensible, incremental approach to drinking and driving, where no accident has occurred?

Please note - everything I say above is in relation to non-accident situations - if a drinking driver or ANY driver causes an accident through any form of personal carelessness, including such things as drinking and driving or reckless speeding or running stop signs or having a fight with their spouse on a cellphone while driving, they should face the full weight of the law for their behaviour, including special sanctions for willfully acting carelessly, and lengthy imprisonment for accidents involving death or serious injury to other parties. But they should NOT face such serious penalties when no accident has occurred - a warning must suffice, perhaps given more weight by a fine or demerit points for more serious forms of risky behaviour that we really do want to discourage. But you canít hammer people for something they have not done!!!

Please people - letís go no further down this very dangerous path which, given this precedent of severe punishment because someone THINKS you MIGHT commit a crime, will lead quite inevitably to the adoption of many other kinds of thought-crime legislation, wherein people are punished not for what they have done, but for what someone fears they MIGHT do. And, as with any slippery slope, it will be a lot easier to get there than to get back to freedom, once the thought-police are in control.

Thank you for your time -




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