Thursday 25 March 2010

Were the acts of the government stupid? (Part I)

All governments, be they federal, provincial/state or municipal do stupid things but sometimes their stupidity knows no bounds. However, sometimes there are times when it appears on the surface that a government has acted in a stupid manner but when you look at their decisions closely, you finally conclude that their decisions weren’t as stupid as we thought.

This piece is about a serial killer in Canada and how the federal government dealt with him with respect to money. The killer’s name is Clifford Olsen. First I will give you some background information about him.

Olsen was born on January 1st, 1940. That would make him 70 years old at the time of this writing. He was born in Vancouver, the third largest city in Canada which is on the Pacific coast and is half an hour’s drive north of the US/Canadian border. Unbeknown to everyone except his victims, he had gone on a killing spree as a serial killer beginning in 1980 when he was 40 years old. Olson was an atypical serial killer in that he targeted both boys and girls. His victims were also of various ages.

On November 17, 1980, 12-year-old Christine Weller of Surrey, British Columbia was abducted by Olsen. She was found on Christmas Day. She had been strangled with a belt and stabbed repeatedly. On April 16, 1981, Colleen Marian Daignault, 13, vanished. It was five months before her body was found. By then, Daryn Todd Johnsrude, 16, had also been abducted and killed; 16-year-old Sandra Wolfsteiner was murdered on May 19 and 13-year-old Ada Court in April. Six victims followed in quick succession in July 1981. Simon Partington, 9, was abducted, raped and strangled on the second day of May. Judy Kozma, a 14-year old from New Westminster, was raped and strangled a week later. Her body was discovered on July 25 near Weaver Lake. The next victims were: Raymond King Jr., 15, abducted on July 23, raped and bludgeoned to death; Sigrun Arnd, an 18-year old German tourist, raped and bludgeoned the following day; Terri Lyn Carson, 15, raped and strangled; Louise Chartrand, age 17, the last victim identified, was murdered on July 30, 1981.

Olson, who had an extensive criminal history, was arrested on August 12, 1981 on suspicion of attempting to abduct two girls. By August 25, Olson had been charged with the murder of Judy Kozma, the 14-year-old girl he murdered in May of that year. I don’t know how the police learned that he killed her but he was facing a charge of first degree murder for killing her. Now he knew that he was going to be convicted of her murder and be sent to prison for at least 25 years so he decided to make an offer to the authorities; one that he figured they wouldn’t refuse. He offered to disclose to the police the whereabouts of all of his victims if the government gave his wife, $10,000 for each body he buried.

This was the first time anyone knew that there were more than just one murdered victim. He admitted to killing ten other victims. That shock hit Canadians like a hurricane going across Canada; sweeping us all off our feet. At no time in Canada’s history had anyone murdered so many victims. But equally shocking was the confirmation of the federal government that they were going to accept his offer and pay the money to Olsen’s wife. To most Canadians, it was akin to paying a murderer for his crimes. Many screamed, “Crime does pay!”

But you have to consider the option that the government had. If they refused, ten of those victim’s bodies may never have been found and more importantly, we would never have known that Olsen murdered them and eventually, he may have been released from prison to kill more victims. The parents of his victims may have simply believed that their children had run away from home. Then there would be the years of agony, hoping that someday, their children would come home.

Admittedly, they suffered the agony of knowing that their children had been murdered but that agony would not last as long as the one that would have continued year after year with hope that would forever be unfulfilled.

Olsen disclosed where the ten bodies were and his wife received $100,000. In January 1982, Olson pleaded guilty to 11 counts of murder and was given 11 concurrent life sentences to be served in Canada's super-maximum security Special Handling Unit in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec, which houses many of the country's most dangerous criminals. He was later transferred to other maximum security prisons where he sits alone in a cell out of reach of other inmates who would kill him if they could get their hands on him. Olson was classed as a dangerous offender, meaning he is not likely to ever be released from prison.

Why, you may ask, was he not sentenced to 11 consecutive life sentences instead of 11 concurrent life sentences? Unfortunately in Canada, that is the law however the current federal government is seriously considering changing the law so that a murderer who is convicted of first degree murder for more than one victim will serve his sentences consecutively for each person he kills. However, if a murderer is serving a minimum of 25 years before he is eligible for parole and he is later convicted of first degree murder for killing another victim, his 25-year minimum sentence will begin again with his second conviction.

The term, 25-year minimum doesn’t mean that he will be released after serving 25 years in prison. It simply means that it is after he has served 25 years in prison, he will be eligible to apply for parole. On average, first degree murderers serve at least 30 years in prison before they are released on life parole. There was a time when they could apply for parole after serving fifteen years in prison. That was called the ‘faint hope clause’ in the law. The murderer would appear before a judge and jury and the jury would decide whether or not the murder was to be released after serving only 15 years. If refused, the murderer must wait until he has served the remaining ten years before he can apply for parole. In 1997, Olson was denied parole, for which he applied under Canada's ‘faint hope clause". That clause is no longer available to first degree murderers. If you are thinking that someday, Olsen would eventually be released, forget it. That serial killer can apply all he wants but he will never, ever be released back into society. What member of the National Parole Board of Canada would risk being lynched from the nearest lamp post by irate citizens by suggesting that this serial killer should rejoin society again?

In 1980, while I was addressing the Seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders which was held in Caracas, I advocated natural life in prison for first degree murderers. Many of the states in the US that had capital punishment on its books, abolished that form of punishment and replaced it with natural life in prison without the possibility of parole. Some courts sentenced their first degree killers in a different way. In one instance where the killer was convicted of killing three persons, he was sentenced to 1000 years for each victim he killed, the sentences to be served consecutively. He appealed, saying that the sentences were grossly ridiculous. The court of appeal agreed and reduced the sentences to 500 years for each victim; those sentences to be served consecutively. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that while I was at that conference in Caracas, I pointed out in my speech to the delegates that there was a serial killer in Peru who was convicted of murdering 360 children and that he would only have to serve twelve years in prison for those crimes because that was the law in Peru at that time. Sure enough, twelve years later, he was released from prison.

Now let me tell you of the second instance in which the federal government of Canada acted with respect to money. Canadians were disgusted to learn that notorious serial killer is receiving $1,169.47 per month in pension payments from the federal government while in prison. What he is getting is his Old Age Security (OAS) Pension ($502.57) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) from the federal government that is put in a trust account in the child killer's name; an account which he cannot draw from. He is not receiving anything from Canada Pension because while he was in society, he didn’t contribute towards it. A Service Canada letter sent to Olson informing him that his GIS was approved in 2006 and as a result, he received his first payment, retroactive to 2005, of $7,735.41.

The Old Age Security Pension is a monthly payment available to most Canadians aged 65 or older. To be eligible to apply to receive benefits, a citizen must meet the eligibility requirements to be entitled to receive the Old Age Security Pension even if they are still working or have never worked. The person applying must be 65 years of age or older, must live in Canada and be a Canadian citizen or a legal resident at the time we approve your pension application and must have lived in Canada for at least 10 years after turning 18. As an interesting aside, my mother spend the last sixty years of her life in the United States as an American citizen but she was also a Canadian citizen when she moved to the states because she was born in Canada and spent more than twenty years in Canada after she turned 18. For this reason, she not only received her American Social Security Pension, she received her Canada Old Age pension also. She didn’t apply for the Guaranteed Income Supplement as she had lots of money and would have been in eligible.

Two thoughts come to my mind. The first one is; why would a man in prison receive Old Age Pension of $502.57? Well most of the prisoners in prison are eventually released from prison and like all old age pensioners; they are entitled to that money. But why would a prisoner still in prison be entitled to a Guaranteed Income Supplement on top of his Old Age Pension? That supplement is given to old age pensioners who cannot support themselves merely on the Old Age Pension they receive so they get a supplement that assists them financially. However, prisoners are given three square meals a day and a bed to sleep on and clothing to wear so it’s not as if they need additional money to live on.

Giving Olsen the Guaranteed Supplement is outright stupid and should be stopped and that money in his account should be clawed back. As to the Old Age Pension, that should be turned over to the Penitentiary Service since it is the penitentiary that is housing, feeding and clothing him. Let him have a small amount of money for incidentals and that should be all he gets. I think it's a travesty that the Canadian taxpayer is being forced to fund a trust fund for someone who has engaged in one of the most heinous crimes Canada has ever had. The action of the federal government in this matter is just unbelievable and outright stupid.

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