Criminal acts 1:
the Canadian true crime annual.
Toronto: Macmillan, 1994. 199pp, paper, $14.95.
ISBN 0-7715-9068-7. No CIP.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Neil V. Payne.
UGLY VIOLENCE IN VANCOUVER
It was all a set-up. Parminder Chana got a phone call in his car at 9:00
p.m. from a friend, saying he had to see the man right away, and they
should meet at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia salvage yard
in New Westminster, where the twenty-one-year-old worked as a night
security guard. When Chana got to the yard, he was wrestled to the ground and
stabbed, and the following morning his body was found floating in a ditch
nearby. His throat slit, his fingers amputated and his body stabbed
Four days later, Chana's seventeen-year-old girlfriend, Jassy Benji,
jumped to her death from the Pattullo Bridge, leaving a suicide note that
read: "When Parmar died, I died."
In the trial, the court learned that Jassy's brother, Rajinder, had
killed Chana because he frowned on his sister dating the man. Faisel Ali
Dean was convicted of second-degree murder after his girlfriend admitted
that he had bragged to her about holding Chana down while Rajinder Benji
stabbed him. Faisel was expected to be sentenced in February.
Gould has set himself the task "to try to capture a year of Crime and
Justice in Canada." This is a large job that could provide a
valuable source of information for both interested readers and students
studying a wide range of related topics.
The author collected his information from a systematic reading of
Canadian newspapers, then distilled the data into a brief chronological
account of each case.
The book itself is organised chronologically, with each case
assigned to the date it came to the author's attention -- in some cases
the date of the crime, in others the date of an arrest; in some the trial
date, or the date of a trial judgement. Each case, once started, is
reported to its completion before another is started.
Interspersed on the pages, with no apparent organization, are
occasional boxes of interesting information about Canadian law, public
opinion, survey results, statistics, and so on.
The book is written in a breezy, fast-paced style that makes
interesting light reading -- like a supermarket tabloids. Criminal
acts 1 is certainly entertaining, but anyone hoping to use it as
a source of reliable information will be totally frustrated.
There is an endless stream of facts, statistics, and quotations in
this book, yet nowhere is any source cited. The "tens of thousands of
newspapers'' searched for information all remain nameless. Surveys,
studies, and sources of statistics presented, if identified at all, are
vaguely attributed to "an Angus Reid poll," "a Statistics Canada
release," or "according to Canada-wide studies."
There is no index provided to names of the accused or the victims,
the type of crime, categories of statistics, or anything else. Readers
searching for a particular case must scan every page to find the
Criminal acts 1 is replete with unsubstantiated
opinion, editorializing, and emotional catch-phrases. And since the
sources are not cited the reader has no way to evaluate whether the
account is complete, fair, or even truthful.
Karla Homolka graces the cover in living colour beside a brilliant
yellow upper right corner that promises the book "chronicles the
Homolka/Bernardo case." That was no doubt good for sales, but it fails to mention that coverage of the case only goes as far as Karla's conviction
and the media ban.
The idea of Criminal acts is a good one, and the book
could have provided a valuable summary of crime and justice in Canada, a
starting point for many essays and assignments, or a quick reference to
the basic facts of any case or issue in Canadian law. With solid
research, factual rather than opinion-based reporting, careful citing of
sources, and an extensive index, this could have filled a very real gap
in the information available in this area of vital concern.
Unfortunately, in its present form, if it were a Grade 10
assignment, it would earn a "D" and the comment, "this assignment is
poorly organized and incomplete -- I know you can do much better."
Neil V. Payne is a teacher-librarian at Kingston Collegiate in
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
The Manitoba Library Association
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