LIBERAL PARTY OF CANADA
Occupation: Retired provincial court judge
Family: Wife Laura, two teenagers from current marriage and two adult children from former marriage
Provincial Court Judge John Reilly took early retirement from his job because of his concerns about changes the Conservative Party of Canada has planned if it wins a majority in this election.
“I am running because I want to speak out against the Conservative justice initiative that will create mandatory minimum sentences,” says Reilly.
“It’s just wrong. I think the legislation itself is more criminal than many of the people that they’re dealing with.
“In my view, those justice initiatives will put thousands of people in jail who don’t need to be in jail and the costs will be in the billions of dollars and the cost in dollars and cents, in my view, is going to be insignificant in relation to the social cost.”
Ninety per cent of people who come into the criminal justice system commit one offence and never come back, says Reilly.
Mandatory minimum sentences puts first-time offenders in prisons, creating a new class of criminal, he says.
“In jail, they get enrolled in gangs, they lose their jobs, they often lose their relationships. People whose lives could be salvaged are turned into criminals, and that’s the social cost,” he says.
Secondary to but not separate from the Conservative Party’s justice proposal is the influence of poverty and lack of education in creating new criminals, specifically on First Nations reserves such as Morley, located on the Eastern Slopes just east of Canmore.
Investment in education on First Nation reserves is much lower than provincial standards, with a disproportionately high ratio of children ending up in prison as adults, says Reilly.
“These justice initiatives of the Conservatives will affect the poor more than anybody else. The reason aboriginal people are so over-represented in the criminal justice system is because they are so over-represented amongst the poor.”
Reilly says there is no blanket solution to what he describes as a complex set of problems.
He would like to see Canada adopt the provisions of the Kelowna Accord, which he describes as a comprehensive plan for the social betterment of aboriginal people, created under former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin.
“(Conservative leaders) Stephen Harper promised that, if he was elected, he would continue the work of the Kelowna Accord, and he reneged on that.
“Dysfunction in aboriginal communities has to be dealt with on a community by community basis,” says Reilly.