By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady
The tragic shooting of a Haldimand County OPP officer on Dec. 27 is still on people’s minds, but our pragmatism sets in as sadness continues. The question of why this tragedy occurred beats on the brows of Ontarians – on Canadians.
I’ve been receiving emails, telephone calls, and private messages from Ontarians who are sad and angry. Constable Greg Pierzchala was an upstanding young man with a bright future in front of him. He chose a career to uphold the law. The law that ultimately failed him.
I join our citizenry and policing officials in ratcheting up calls for changes such as bail reform. To protect police and the public alike, we must strengthen the laws governing bail and sentencing to end what we know as ‘catch and release.’ We must also take significant steps to ensure illegal guns from the United States do not make it to our streets. These measures will go a long way to safeguard our communities, protect our men and women in uniform, and encourage badly needed recruits.
Last week, Canada’s four largest police unions teamed up to find solutions to address the “growing wave of violence against police.”
“Everything will be on the table – from bail to sentencing, to enhancing Crime Stoppers, to a growing and chronic shortage of police officers,” the unions said, adding they’ll consult with their members, communities, and citizens.
Those four police unions can add my name to their team roster. I will continue to push the powers that be as I have already been doing. At the end of November, I called on Ontario’s Solicitor General to lobby the federal government to crack down on the illegal guns entering Canada from the US, and I called for harsher sentencing and a bail system reform.
Sadly, there have been five Canadian police officers killed in the line of duty since September. In the latest avoidable tragedy of Constable Pierzchala, one of two individuals charged in his death, Randall McKenzie, was on bail at the time of the shooting. He was up on gun-related charges and under multiple weapons bans. I believe Constable Pierzchala would be alive today had the justice system held McKenzie in custody.
Regarding protection, the system tips in favour of the accused, not the public and police.
Again, I am not alone in this sentiment. The Canadian Police Association, the Police Association of Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police Association, and the Toronto Police Association issued a collective statement pledging to take action to safeguard police officers. The statement from the associations read: “As four of Canada’s largest police associations representing more than 60,000 members, we are saying today what we are sure most Canadians are feeling: Enough is enough.
“We cannot allow the deaths of five of our members to go unchallenged. Instead, we can and must honour their sacrifice by identifying the issues that led to this unacceptable wave of violence.”
It will take teamwork from all levels of government, police associations, and citizens to effect real change. The political will to get tough on crime must be coaxed out of the province and feds using pressure from all of us.
The unions summed it nicely: “Our members need to be safe. Our communities need to be safe. The system needs to change. And it needs to change now.”
Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk