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Feature Article - September 15, 2005

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Feature Article

September 15, 2005

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Gray MerriamLegaleseGeneral information and opinion on legal topics by Rural Legal ServicesNature Reflectionsby Jean GriffinNight Skiesby Leo Enright

What's wrong with this picture?

editorial by JeffGreen

When people in Arden were informed last week by the OPP that Kelvin John Fischer, a convicted pedophile whom they describe as a high-risk offender, has taken up permanent residence just outside the village, they reacted in fear and anger.

At a public meeting early this week, some people talked about how important it was for parents to street proof their children, and the idea of establishing a kind of block parent program came up. Others made it clear they didn’t want to leave it at that. They want to figure out how they can run Kelvin John Fischer out of town. They pointed out that since his release, he has been forced to leave at least two other communities, so why not push him out of Arden?


The way the Police Services Act is set out, the OPP was obligated to provide a limited amount of information about Kelvin John (Johnny) Fischer to residents in communities where he takes up residence. There are rules about how much detail they can go into when informing the public, and there is a certain protocol around how this information is to be circulated.

The way the process of informing people about the potential danger posed to the public by high-risk offenders is seriously flawed.

People are told point blank, “you have a danger in your midst”. They react in typical fashion. They band together to rid themselves of the danger. This can be done by giving the individual the cold shoulder; harassing him in verbal ways; or resorting to crime themselves in order to remove him. This happens time and time again, in community after community.

Presumably the goal of the criminal justice system in these cases is to provide protection for the public and provide an opportunity for high-risk offenders to somehow establish themselves in the outside world so that the risk they pose diminishes over time.

Doing nothing more than turning the offender into a target has the effect of moving him from community to community, thereby constantly shuffling the danger down the line.

Any concept of rehabilitation, counselling, reintegration into the community has already gone out the window in this case.

Work has been going on in recent years to try and establish community reintegration for sex offenders. There are projects throughout Canada aimed at limiting the risk of recidivism among sexual offenders through what are called “Circles of Support and Accountability”. This is complicated process, requiring work on the part of the offender and the community.

The literature on these programs indicates that they only work when the offender is capable of empathy for their previous victims and do not deny their involvement in the offences. It is quite possible that Kelvin John Fischer is one of those individuals for whom rehabilitation is not viable, but we have no way of knowing that.

What we do know, however, is that the people in Arden and surrounding communities have been told there is threat. They have been told where the threat comes from, and told to protect themselves. They have reacted in typical ways, given the information they have been given.

For his part, Mr. Fischer has three strikes against him in Arden already. The situation is untenable on all sides.

One other thing has been made clear. The Sharbot Lake OPP detachment exists in name only. The OPP have handled this exclusively from Perth and Smiths Falls.

If this situation had taken place ten years ago, I believe there would have been a presence at that meeting in Arden from the Sharbot Lake detachment. The police may have had little to offer the people, but they would have known the meeting was taking place and would have made someone available in order to provide a calming influence, even if it only meant watching the meeting from the back of the room, a silent reminder that it is unwise to make veiled threats in public meetings.

The changeover that has taken place within the OPP has created a bureaucratic service that is far removed from the little communities in Frontenac County. This is not the fault of any of the individual officers involved, who continue to do their job, as defined by the OPP’s current operating system.

But it is a failure of the policing service. - JG

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