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Rob Shaw: BC NDP attempt to dodge blame after Surrey woman's death

Eby points finger at feds, but can't escape accountability
BC NDP facing scrutiny after repeat offender charged in tragic murder

It was only a few months ago that the BC NDP took a victory lap on the issue of repeat violent offenders, having successfully led the charge to get Ottawa to reform federal bail rules to include new “reverse onus” provisions on certain offenders.

“Today we moved one step closer to ensuring safer communities across Canada, including here in B.C.,” Attorney General Niki Sharma said in September, when the House of Commons passed the new restrictions in Bill C-48.

Not convinced at the time was then-BC United MLA Elenore Sturko, a former RCMP officer, who said the changes would fall short of truly addressing the issue, by not being tough enough on a variety of offences.

Turns out, she was right.

Sturko was front and centre last week to again highlight the failures of the justice system in the death of Tori Dunn, a 30-year-old woman who was killed during an apparently random home invasion in Surrey on June 16.

The man charged with second degree murder in her death had a long list of prior convictions in Ontario, and a string of more recent theft, weapons and violent offences in Vancouver.

He was charged with allegedly stabbing someone at a Surrey SkyTrain station in late May, let out on probation, arrested again three days later for violating that probation by possessing knives, let out again, convicted of a probation breach June 5, sentenced to 10 days in jail, and then charged with allegedly attacking and killing Dunn the day after he was released from prison, according to a timeline compiled by court records from the CBC.

Dunn’s family stood beside Sturko at a press conference last week to denounce the failure of the revolving-door justice system.

“We want to know why the judge in this case allowed a violent offender back into our community to take Tori from us in the prime of her life,” said her father, Aron Dunn.

Sturko, now with the BC Conservatives, reiterated her concerns that the BC NDP’s directives to Crown prosecutors on prolific offenders, its much-touted internal task force on the issue and its celebrated victory on federal bail changes have, essentially, been failures.

“The opportunity that was given to someone to go out and take the life of a bright young woman in the prime of her life is simply unacceptable,” she said.

The issue of prolific offenders remains a politically sensitive one for the governing BC New Democrats. It’s tied into a host of other controversial provincial reforms, including decriminalizing drugs, that critics say have made the B.C. public less safe.

A string of awful cases have put the NDP on the defensive on the issue again, and again, and again, for almost two years.

The NDP has tried blaming the previous BC Liberal government for eliminating a small prolific offender case management pilot project 12 years ago, with a budget of $120,000 — as if that is the source of all the province’s woes.

The government also created 12 regional hubs of dedicated prosecutors, police and probation officers, in a “Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative.” Yet there is no mention of how this new system failed to detect or act upon months of revolving-door problems on the man charged with Dunn’s murder.

Dunn’s father just wants answers.

“Although I can’t do anything for Tori today, I’m hoping the change brought about by this could save other families from going through what my family’s going through,” he said.

Premier David Eby pledged to find answers — elsewhere.

“Whether it's the judge's application of the law or whether it's the law itself, this case cries out for ensuring that the federal government is looking at this,” he said.

“This is their responsibility. This is their law. Our provincial prosecutor said please don't release them, and the court said he's released under the federal law.

“So we need the federal government again to pay attention to what's happening in British Columbia and to make sure that they're responding to cases like this that shake the public's confidence in the justice system.”

At this point though, it’s getting harder and harder to buy that excuse.

The BC NDP have been in power for seven years, led the charge for federal changes to bail rules, and enacted a host of provincial reforms on the issue of prolific offenders.

If those are failing to work — and it sure looks like that’s the case — at least some of the blame lies with them, provincially.

Rob Shaw has spent more than 16 years covering B.C. politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for Glacier Media. He is the co-author of the national bestselling book A Matter of Confidence, host of the weekly podcast Political Capital, and a regular guest on CBC Radio.

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