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September 22, 1995 Halifax Herald

Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

Welcome to the age of blaming others, or personal experiences suffered in life, as root causes for the misdeeds we commit. Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

Its bad enough having to abide the modern practice of people pointing the finger of responsibility elsewhere when major or minor things go wrong in their lives; but if I hear another excuse given by, or for, the heartless monsters who have committed appalling crimes against their own children or the children of others, or for that matter, other adults, I'll blow a gasket!

In the past year or so, we have been inundated with accounts of incidents where defenceless children and adults have been deliberately starved to death, drowned, blown to pieces, beaten to death, strangled, and so on, by conscienceless killers. And into the recounting of the details of many of these brutal incidents there has been injected by the defense a negative experience suffered by the assailant or assailants, which implies that their culpability for murdering innocent people should be lessened!

Enough! No excuse can be made, short of incurable insanity, for a person who commits a brutal and unprovoked murder. And further, apologists who firmly believe that all criminals can be rehabilitated should come to grips with the reality that we have residing among us psychopaths who inflict pain and commit terrible crimes for the personal pleasure it gives them.

Among the recent horrors committed by psychopaths, the ones committed against children have been exceedingly brutal. And from among these, probably the most monstrous one committed recently in North America - followed closely by Lorelei and Steven Turner starving their son John Ryan to death, and Susan Smith drowning her two sons - is the one where Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka torture and later murder two innocent teens.

During Bernardo's trial, in addition to the in-depth recounting of the ghastly details of the crimes, watching the spectacle of two demons trying to lessen their personal responsibility by blaming each other was very repugnant. She claimed he did the killing, and he claimed she did. Who cares which one is more responsible? The fact is that both participated in the abduction, rapes and subsequent murders of two kids, and the killing of Karla's sister; and both deserve as punishment to be locked away for the rest of their natural lives.

Unfortunately, this isn't going to happen. Already, Homolka has set herself up with a sweetheart deal that will see her walk in twelve years or less for her part in the commission of these hellish crimes. As far as I'm concerned, Karla's sentence is one of the most blatant miscarriages of justice this country has ever seen. Then Bernardo gets a life sentence where parole is a future possibility. Justice done? Hardly!

In the matter of the growing fashion of people refusing to accept personal responsibility for their actions, what helped create this trend? In my opinion, our inability to control the dictatorial and paternalistic tendencies of government is high among the root causes.

As an example, Celeste McGovern, in an essay entitled "On Trial, Canadaís Justice System" (published in the August 1995 issue of Reader's Digest), quotes Solicitor General Jean-Pierre Goyer as having said in a 1971 speech to the Commons, on the Liberal government's agenda for the justice system: "We have decided to stress the rehabilitation of individuals, rather than the protection of society." Imagine the arrogance of a government that would dare to make a public declaration to the effect that the overall safety of the country's citizens was secondary to its agenda for social experimentation. It also displays in an explicit manner the traditional contempt held by many politicians for the will of the electors.

In view of the growing regularity in which horrors are being committed against innocents by psychopathic monsters, itís time we demanded that government reverse the philosophy advocated by Goyer in the 1970s, and return to the top of its agenda the protection of society. A good start in this direction would be for it to amend the criminal code to the extent that it would guarantee that adequate and definite punishment is awaiting those who commit violent crimes. And reinstating the assumption that all persons involved in the commission of violent crimes are equally responsible for the deaths and injuries stemming from them should be another top priority. We don't need the spectacle of perverted and unrepentant psychopaths trying to escape personal liability by pointing the finger at each other.

For all the innocents who have died in the game of unwarranted social experimentation, letís offer a prayer. Then, letís take up a pen, or deliver the word personally to our MPS, that we will no longer continue to tolerate being placed in a second-fiddle position to the interests of the violent criminal element in this country. What kind of country is it, anyway, where heartless and violent criminals get more consideration than the law-abiding?

Daniel N. Paul

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DANIEL N. PAUL

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