They walk the Cadman path to justice

By Wallace G. Craig
North Shore News
Apr 01, 2009

It is ordinary, quiet folk who constitute the great proportion of Canadian society; a solid base of people who give definition to our nation by maintaining and preserving moral and ethical characteristics handed down to us by so many dutiful generations. Today, ordinary people have internet communication at their fingertips. With it they may combine together to make grassroots politicking a major factor during an election: coalescing in support of independent candidates; opposing specific government programs; or simply raising Cain against servile party hacks seeking renewal of their sinecures.

In my opinion, the finest example of a grassroots activist is the late Chuck Cadman, a working-class man who fought for real justice for victims of violence.In 1992, Cadman’s 16-year-old son Jesse was randomly attacked and murdered by several young men. Cadman moved beyond the ordeal of never-ending grief, became a tireless victim’s rights advocate, and ultimately won a seat in the House of Commons where he consistently fought to reform youth justice until he was stricken with cancer leading to his death in July 2005 at age 57. On July 2, 2005, Sandra Martins-Toner’s 16-year old son Matthew Lee Martins was robbed and murdered at a Skytrain Station in Burnaby. A year later, in July 2006, though still grieving over her son’s death, Sandra and her husband David Toner began a mission to help other people who had suffered the horror of the murder of a family member. Sandra and David started a grassroots organization Families Against Trauma & Crime (FACT) to bring people together in order to pressure the federal government to bring the full weight of the criminal law against violent offenders. In the early days of FACT, I was invited to a meeting in their modest home in southeast Vancouver. About 10 people were there, and I was peppered with questions about criminal justice. As I answered them, the realization came to me that I was the only one present who had not lost a family member in the worst possible way: murder. Yet throughout our conversation they remained even tempered but very passionate about the need to improve our justice system.

FACT has successfully lobbied for improvements to security at all Skytrain stations; presented proposals to the federal and provincial law ministers for changes that will assist victims of crime and families of victims; engaged in radio and television interviews; and provided peer support for others families victimized by murder.  I believe that Sandra Martins-Toner and David Toner have begun to walk the Cadman path to justice. Another of today’s grassroots activists is Langley’s Steve Brown, a gas contractor, in partnership with the late Ed Schellenberg until Oct. 17, 2007. Brown lost contact with his partner late that day and in the evening was informed by police that Schellenberg had been brutally murdered by gangsters during his last service call to a suite in a Surrey apartment building. Schellenberg and another innocent, Chris Mohan, were victims of cold blooded murder because they chanced upon a gangland execution of four known criminals.

Since that fateful day Brown has worked tirelessly, along with Chris Mohan’s mother Eileen, to learn how our criminal justice system functions, particularly bail release, plea bargaining, sentencing and parole. He now advocates changes that will deter gangsterism in Canada. Brown has been a frequent guest on radio and television and in newspaper interviews where he comments on what he calls “the madness in our courts” and the “flaccidness of our politicians.” And his no-nonsense approach to reforming justice has led to meetings with provincial Solicitor General Van Dongen; federal ministers, Solicitor General Van Loan and Attorney General Rob Nicholson; and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In recent correspondence Brown said “I do not hide the fact that, always, lying just
below the surface, how raw and angry I am at what has happened to Ed Schellenberg and his family. In my view, the people running the justice system have made it all about themselves and have foolishly abandoned the absolute of bringing offenders to justice to bring closure to their victims, the families of victims and society at large. This absolute is a fundamental principle that forged our democracy in Canada. It is too important to leave to the legal profession to squander.” Brown, too, has begun to walk the Cadman path to justice. David Marley of West Vancouver was first contacted by Cadman in the mid-‘90s (when Marley was still practising law) about commencing a civil action against the provincial government concerning the murder of his son. Cadman approached Marley because of a civil action Marley was pursuing on a pro bono basis for Paul Glover, a citizen in the best sense of the word, who had been 260 viciously beaten when he tried to intervene in the vandalism of his neighbour's house by a group of teens.

Over the years Marley had acted as legal counsel for Cadman and his wife and they became friends. Marley was one of the people who encouraged Cadman to enter politics. “Years later,” Marley told me, “when his Conservative Party nomination was essentially stolen by the sign up of ‘instant party members’, I urged him to run as an independent candidate. When he decided to do so, I raised a large percentage of his campaign funds from friends of mine across the BC Lower Mainland, none of whom resided within his constituency, but were people who had come to admire Chuck and
what he, as one individual, could accomplish in Parliament. “In the year or so before he died, Chuck and I embarked on one last, extremely important initiative together, the "Nicholas Chow-Johnson case". With the help of Derek Cave, a top flight personal injury lawyer and West Vancouver resident, who was prepared to act without fee, we were able to bring Nicholas's three assailants to justice in
the civil courts. In the result, Nicholas and his mother, Grace Chow, were awarded over $5.8 million against the three punks. Collection of this money is being pursued. Nicholas' assailants are learning a whole new meaning to the term ‘debt to society. “I believe in the primary importance of citizen initiatives and I subscribe to Edmund Burke's 18th Century dictum: ‘No man made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

Marley is running as an independent candidate in West Vancouver Capilano in the upcoming provincial election. No matter the outcome, Marley is on the trail blazed by Chuck Cadman.