Justice on the frontier of civilization

Brian Jones
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As if the world can get any more off kilter, it seems Texas is now a paragon and exemplar of the fair meting out of justice.

The cowboy state — along with its little Canadian cousin, Alberta — has long been ridiculed as a backward, redneck, violent vestige of hickdom that has not yet been settled by civilized man.

How strange then to witness, among other things, vigilantes roaming the streets of London, formerly one of the earthly centres of culture and commerce.

By the fourth day of rioting, some Londoners — apparently frustrated and sickened by news footage showing Bobbies standing around watching buildings burn without moving a boot to apprehend the arsonists and looters — reportedly took the law into their own soft British hands and went forth to protect their neighbourhoods from marauding thugs.

Call it frontier justice, in one of the birthplaces of colonialism. How quickly we descend, indeed.

Taking action

Canadian smugness has disappeared as speedily as the English sense of superiority. Two months ago, we could have looked down on the Brits with all the snootiness usually directed at Texas — which, after all, gave the U.S. not one, but two presidents Bush.

But that, of course, would have been before the non-hockey related riots by non-Canucks fans that pulverized parts of downtown non-violent Vancouver.

Looking at Tottenham’s trouble this week, you could wonder how so many Vancouver Canucks fans are vacationing in London at the same time.

Charges for the Vancouver vandalism have been extremely slow in coming. In London, flames flicker as cops stand motionless, possibly trying to decide whether to roast wieners or marshmallows.

Meanwhile, in Texas, the justice system hums along with the precision of a four-part chorus of singing sheep farmers.

This week in San Angelo, Texas — a small city due west, fittingly, of Waco — a jury sent polygamist and fundamentalist Mormon leader Warren Jeffs to prison for life for sexually assaulting his 12-year-old “bride.”

He also received a 20-year sentence for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.

News reports were unclear about how many of Jeffs’ “wives” were minors. Maybe five. Maybe a dozen. No matter. Texas justice was admirably decisive. One 12-year-old. One life sentence.


Abetting molestation

In Canada — supposedly a more enlightened and advanced place than Texas — people convicted of sexual assault can still be sentenced to mere house arrest. It is a cruel and unusual punishment — from the point of view of victims — that has become increasingly controversial.

Controversy has swirled for years around Bountiful, B.C., site of a Canadian branch of the fundamentalist Mormon sect. There, the issue is polygamy.

A court is grappling with the issue of whether polygamy should be allowed under the constitutional right to religious freedom, or whether polygamy is actually an institutionalized form of sexual and physical abuse and exploitation.

(A quick quiz for the learned judges: name one country in which polygamy is practiced that you would want your daughter to go live in.)

Reports have stated that about two dozen underage girls have been sent from Bountiful to the U.S. to be child brides. It is unclear how many of these girls fell under the sway and body of Warren Jeffs.

Regardless, Canada surely has laws against aiding and abetting the molestation of children. But no charges have been laid. Once again, the controversy in Canada centres on arguing about the length and breadth of freedom of religion.

Texans are more skilful at drawing a division between freedom of religion and child molestation — it took the jury in San Angelo less than 30 minutes to bring in a guilty verdict against Jeffs.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at

The Telegram. He can be reached by email at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Vancouver Canucks, The Telegram

Geographic location: San Angelo, Texas, London, Alberta U.S. Canada Bountiful Vancouver Waco San Angelo

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Recent comments

  • Daniel Corbett
    August 13, 2011 - 02:17

    Brian, Excellent article! I couldn't agree more with regard to what is happening in Texas and BC. With regard to London being the center of culture and commerce, don’t shout too loud about that, thousands of us ran away from the commerce aspect of that harsh reality hundreds of years ago. Oh! With regard to sexual abuse of minors, how is that issue being resolved at home in Newfoundland?