Final Payoff: The True Price Of Convicting Clifford Robert Olson|
by Ian Mulgrew
Judgement At Stoney Creek
by Bridget Moran
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|Scales Of Justice
by David Wilson
OVER THE PAST 20 years, Canada`s criminal justice system has come under attack on many fronts. Highly publicized inquiries into RCMP misdeeds in Quebec and the wrongful imprisonment of the Micmac Indian Donald Marshall in Nova Scotia have captured the public`s attention, and have forced many Canadians to question their long-standing assumption that police forces and judges deserve unquestioning loyalty and support. Final Payoff and judgement at Stoney Creek tackle the shortcomings of the justice system in British Columbia from distinct yet interrelated perspectives.
Final Payoff, by the award-winning journalist Ian Mulgrew, is a thoroughly researched and highly readable book about Canada`s most infamous serial killer, Clifford Olson. It traces in graphic detail Olson`s 1980-81 killing spree in British Columbia, and chronicles the circumstances surrounding the decision to pay him $100,000 in return for revealing the location of 10 of the victims` corpses. In telling the story of this complicated police investigation and controversial "final payor, Mulgrew successfully draws on his many contacts within B.C.`s police and judicial establishment (for years he was the Globe and Mail`s West Coast bureau chief). And in his trademark rapid-fire style, he manages to piece together perhaps the most detailed and forthright examination yet of the entire Clifford Olson saga. I was, nevertheless, put off at times by Mulgrew`s penchant for hyperbole and generalization. In the book`s preface he makes the hugely exaggerated claim that Canada`s prisons are "filled with similarly anti-social beings [as Clifford Olson]" -- a generalization that lumps a lot of mean, violent, but far from sociopathic cons in with a man whose level of amorality is far from common. Moreover, there are sections of Final Payoff that positively seethe with the sarcasm of a smirking tabloid column. This is particularly the case when Mulgrew takes broad swipes at the investigation of Olson`s killing spree from the smug perspective of one who -- after the fact -- has all the information at his disposal.
Although Mulgrew should be lauded for the intensity with which he has pursued the Olson story, Final Payoff could have done with fewer sarcastic gibes. Mulgrew might also have taken on the tough question of whether, as Pierre Trudeau commented, it was "better to make that payment or have Olson still a suspect, but free to go around and be in a position where he could murder other children in British Columbia."
In Judgement at Stoney Creek, Bridget Moran tackles a far less well-publicized struggle for "justice` that took place in the interior B.C. town of Vanderhoof. The book narrates the events surrounding a judicial inquiry into the death of a pregnant native woman, Coreen Thomas, who was struck and killed by a car driven by a white man as she walked home from a street dance. Moran draws on her awareness of the racism, mistrust, and ignorance that have long marked the relationship between native and non-native residents of Vanderhoof to describe the events that turned a routine inquiry into the flashpoint for feelings of unresolved anger and injustice.
Judgement at Stoney Creek is a wellcrafted book that sensitively captures the many conflicting sentiments brought out by the inquiry into Coreen Thomas`s death, and Moran is to be congratulated for the way in which she deftly incorporates the views of a host of participants into her narrative. Moran won a number of awards for a previous title, Stoney Creek Woman: The Story of Mary John, and she will undoubtedly receive her fair share of accolades for this work.