Another New Brunswick legion building has been torched by arsonists, causing many veterans to wonder what's going on in that province. Royal Canadian Legion #60, 75 kilometres east of Fredericton on Route 105, was intentionally set on fire on June 14th, 2011.
Last June, Legion 93, located near CFB Gagetown, was lit on fire by an 18-year-old man, Wayne Heighton. He destroyed the gathering place for veterans of our many past conflicts, and the home of hundreds of priceless, one-of-a-kind military memorabilia.
Instead of charging Heighton with arson, which carries a maximum penalty of [fill in here], arson charges were dropped and Heighton was allowed to plead guilty to a charge of mischief.
Quoting the Canada.com story where this was reported:
On March 3, 2011, Wayne Heighton, 18, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of mischief. In exchange, the Crown prosecutor withdrew charges of arson.
Is New Brunswick's Crown Counsel Paul Hawkins smoking crack cocaine? Why on earth would he do that, when at the same time as he's prosecuting Lawrence Manzer for doing the RCMP's job? It makes no sense.
The National Post's Matt Gurney agrees. In his article "N.B. Crown prosecutor soft on crime, hard on veterans", he wrote:
Last year, a young man torched the Royal Canadian Legion Hall in the small New Brunswick town of Oromocto. Wayne Heighton, 18, pleaded guilty last week to a reduced charge of mischief. In exchange, the Crown prosecutor withdrew charges of arson. He’ll face sentencing in June.
What makes this story relevant is another date coming up on Crown prosecutor Paul Hawkins’ calendar — a trial date for Canadian veteran Lawrence Manzer, who was arrested and charged a year ago after coming to the aid of his neighbour, who had discovered three intruders on his property in the middle of the night. Manzer helped his neighbour detain the three drunk teenagers who were prowling the neighbourhood (which had recently suffered from a string of vandalism and property crimes that the local police had shown little interest in addressing, despite being called repeatedly). When confronting the three teenaged intruders, Manzer carried an unloaded shotgun. For that, he faces trial on charges of possession of a weapon dangerous to public peace.
Lawrence Manzer, the military veteran currently facing charges of "weapon dangerous" for defending his neighbours and his family against a marauding band of teenage vandals, is disgusted by the actions of New Brunswick's Crown prosecutors. (read all about his case in my Lawrence Manzer Case files and watch Katey Montague's video about it on YouTube)
In a recent email to me, Manzer wrote:
It was a year ago that our Legion was burned down in Oromocto, one
mischief sentence was given. The same crown prosecutor wants to charge
this veteran with protecting his neighborhood. Guess veterans aren't
liked in this town! A lot was taken away when we lost our legion, a
chance to gather as friends, some don't have the years I have left
ahead of me, what a shame.
It's truly reprehensible that our country views our veterans with such low esteem, and with arson charges dropped against the arsonist Wayne Heigton, is it any wonder that another Legion building has been torched? Hardly.
My first thought when Laurence Manzer brought the second fire to my attention was, "Where was Wayne Heighton and does he have a confirmed alibi?"
Dropping the arson charges against him is hardly an incentive for him to change his behaviour, is it?
Thankfully the second Legion building was empty and unused when it went up in flames.
That doesn't make it any less of a crime except, perhaps, in the eyes of New Brunswick's Crown Prosecutors like Paul Hawkins.
Shame on them.