The events that have unfolded in Moncton, NB, over the past two days have been shocking.
Many have asked how someone could simply walk down the street carrying firearms, and just open fire when confronted. Sadly, as we have seen, it is all too easy.
No doubt some of our American friends might suggest that had the average citizen been armed, Justin Borque would have been (literally) stopped dead in his tracks.
Perhaps. But it is equally likely that there could have been more innocent victims, had any citizens aimed guns at him.
As it was, he opened fire on RCMP officers as they approached him. There was no opportunity to “talk him down,” to find out why he was walking the streets carrying weapons. He simply started shooting.
There have been, and will continue to be, suggestions that he suffered from mental illness, and various reasons why he engaged in this destructed behaviour. These reasons, whatever they are, are valid. But they do not excuse his actions.
An entire city of 70,000 — the same size as the Sault — was in lockdown for 30 hours. Schools, businesses and offices closed, transit pulled from the roads, hospitals locked-down.
Residents were asked to not communicate police movements on social media, so as to not provide any information to Borque.
I cannot imagine what those 30 hours were like.
Fortunately, Borque was captured, and the emergency has ended.
Now, the grieving can begin, and healing can start.
It won’t be easy, nor will it be quick.
What happens next?
Following the announcement of his capture, social and news media websites were filled with comments. Some expressed their gratitude to the RCMP for, as is their tradition, “getting their man.”
Others expressed their disappointment that Borque was still alive, that Police had not shot him on the spot. Still others suggested that spending taxpayer dollars to feed and house him for the rest of his life would be a waste, and a prompt execution would be a far better alternative.
I understand their emotion, but I cannot agree with their positions on this.
I am proud to live in Canada, in a society that no longer practices capital punishment. I am proud that we have a Justice system that, while not perfect, is fair.
One of the hallmarks of a fair and just society is an open and fair Justice system, one that we turn to to mediate our disputes, and to deliberate and pass judgment upon those who do not follow our laws.
In other words, we no longer take the law into our own hands.
I will admit that at one time, just over fifteen years ago, I wrote a fairly impassioned article supporting the death penalty for those who would kill law enforcement personnel: police or corrections officers.
My thinking at the time was that anyone who would choose to kill those whose duty it was to protect the citizens would choose to kill anyone, and that death would be the only proper penalty.
Since then, however, I have reconsidered the issue.
I do not believe anyone — individuals nor institutions — have the right to take another’s life, regardless of what crime they may have committed.
People talk of “justice” being done when a criminal is executed. This is not justice, it is revenge.
Capital punishment is not punishment.
When we broke rules as children, we were perhaps spanked, or sent to our rooms, or grounded, or had some privileges taken away. This afforded us an opportunity to reconsider our behaviour and perhaps make changes so that we could avoid punishment in the future.
The added benefit was that we learned, hopefully, that what we did was wrong.
By no means am I suggesting we send Borque to his room without dinner, and tell him to think about what he’s done. This is well beyond a childish indiscretion.
But to put him to death is no punishment whatsoever.
Leaving aside any arguments about heaven and Hell…
When one’s life is ended, that’s it, it’s over. What punishment is that?
Sure, the moments leading up to death might be frightening, but then it’s over.
I say a better fate would be to sentence him to life in prison — real life, until he dies of natural causes — with no possibility of parole.
The families, friends and colleagues of those who were killed will have to live with their loss and pain for the rest of their lives.
Why should Borque not have to spend just as long locked in a small, concrete-block room with bars on the doors and windows, knowing he will never again set foot outside the prison walls as a free man.
That is punishment.
Capital punishment is not a deterrent for others.
Yes, some will argue that statistics show that violent crime in jurisdictions that have, or have reinstated, capital punishment have declined. But that does not prove it is a deterrent. If it were, there would be NO violent crime.
No, to me true punishment comes from an extended period of isolation from society. For most crimes, that time might vary depending on the severity, but for murder, the only appropriate sentence is life.
What happens next?
I was truly saddened by comments from some people on both social media and on news sites that were derogatory towards the Police.
I know there are people who believe all Police are corrupt, or for whatever reason have a real hate-on for cops. Fine. I don’t agree, but you’re entitled to your opinion.
But there are times to articulate that opinion, and times to just remain silent.
A news article and public discussion about the wanton murder of three police officers is not the appropriate time.
Whatever your opinion of the Police, it is undeniable that in a situation such as Moncton, they will put their lives on the line to protect others.
At 7:30 pm on Wednesday the call came in that there was an armed man in fatigues walking down the streets of Moncton. Police responded and, before anything else could happen, five officers were shot, three fatally.
There are few who would willingly put themselves in harm’s way.
We might say that would would defend our families and loved ones, and would willingly put ourselves in harm’s way to do so. But would we do this for strangers?
Police officers do.
I, for one, am very grateful for the women and men who put on the uniform and, on a daily basis, put their lives at risk to make my community, and indeed my country, a safer place to live.
Heroes in Life.
But… that’s just my opinion.