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Political justice

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Justice Minister Peter MacKay is adding another plank in the Conservative law-and-order platform that aims to keep the worst of the worst criminals in jail. Canada has laws to cover serial murderers and rapists, the criminals Mr. MacKay says the law would cover.

Clearly, the latest cinch to the law is to remove the discretion of judges, who hearing the evidence are paid to discern the most appropriate parole for those facing life sentences. The Tories in 2011 changed parole eligibility from 25 years for first-degree murderers, allowing the courts to stack eligibility. Last month former armoured-car guard Travis Baumgartner, who killed three co-workers, was sent to jail with no chance of parole for 40 years.

Whether Baumgartner ever gets out of jail -- a life sentence does not end, and he can be returned should he break parole conditions -- remains to be seen. No one expects rapist-murderer Paul Bernardo to get out of jail, as no one expected child killer Clifford Olson, who died in jail in 2011, to walk freely again. Both men were deemed dangerous offenders, a designation that results in an indeterminate sentence, with periodic review. There may be a scant few repeat murderers who can find the loopholes for an early release, which Mr. MacKay wants to prevent.

Pitching to fears of that rare occasion might score political points, but it will not make Canadians measurably safer.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 23, 2013 A10

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