'They want to see the punishment fit the crime'
Matt Carter is a Ryerson University journalism student. He worked for the Toronto Sun before coming to CBC News Online.
When students in Mike Schiemann's Grade 6 and 7 class discuss the federal election campaign, the conversation invariably turns to the same issue: criminal justice.
Schiemann's brother Peter was one of the four RCMP officers shot and killed by James Roszko in Mayerthorpe, Alta., last March. The event has had a profound effect on the students.
"I know the Schiemanns. It felt like I lost a brother," says Jesse, 13, whose parents didn't want his last name used. "It impacted a lot of people. A lot of us were mad and a lot of us were really sad."
Jesse and his classmates at Faith Lutheran School in Edmonton will be taking part in Student Vote 2006, a Canada-wide mock election for elementary and high school students. Like most Canadians, they have concerns about taxes, health care and education. Unlike most Canadians, they are in the position to understand the pain of a violent crime. And they expect the federal government to do everything it can to prevent it.
"They seem to really grasp what's going on. They know what the parties stand for and they're all very opinionated," Schiemann says.
"In terms of justice, from a kid's level, they want to see the punishment fit the crime. If they do something bad at school, they're punished for that. So when they see a case where a punishment wasn't given out, or an appropriate one wasn't, it just doesn't make sense to them."
Soon after the election was called in November, Schiemann's students created their own election posters, identifying the campaign issues they felt were most important. Eleven-year-old Hannah, whose parents did not want her last name used, is one of the many students who identified criminal justice.
"I think that whoever is in the government shouldn't just let someone get out after six months," she says. "There should be harder punishments. The guy who killed the officers was convicted of numerous crimes and he got out. He shouldn't have got out. It could have been prevented."
Jesse likes the Liberals' idea of restricting access to handguns, but he is dubious. "I'm not completely sure [the ban] is going to happen. The Liberals have said they're going to do a lot of things, and a lot of them haven't happened."
His doubts about the Liberals are a direct result of the sponsorship scandal. "It's shown me the corruption in government and how money not going to things Canadians really want," he says. "I want to be assured that my family's tax money is going to the things that Canada needs, not to the prime minister's friends."
Jesse says he is still unsure who he will vote for in the mock election in January, but he seems to be leaning toward the Conservatives. He likes their pledge to cut GST, and their support of mandatory prison sentences for violent crime.
"I think that prison times need to have a minimum, not a maximum," he says. "I like how the Americans do it, how if your crimes add up you can get like 200 years. I think that makes sense. Here, what is it, 25 years? That's not life. That's a quarter of a life."
Hannah, too, will likely cast her mock ballot for the Conservatives. She believes they are more likely to support private schools like Faith Lutheran, and are best suited to prevent violent crime.
"We know all the Schiemanns," she says "I didn't know Peter well, but he sounded like a great guy. I wish I could have got to know him."
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