Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona

Never forget that the Edmonton Sun, apparently a goodly portion of its readers, sundry Tory politicians from across the land and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation all think that what Canada needs is more systemic racism, abuse of power, retaliation against people who dare to exercise their right to criticize powerful officials and “unconstitutional policing.”

All of them, at any rate, up to now have seldom missed an opportunity to sing the praises of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, the 3.8-million-person Arizona jurisdiction that includes the city of Phoenix, for his notoriously thuggish practices.

As of yesterday, thanks to the U.S. Justice Department, we know what Sheriff Arpaio has really been up to: “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos” that “reaches the highest levels of the agency,” interference with the U.S. government’s three-year investigation into his illegal practices, fostering “a culture of bias,” abuse of prisoners, many of them completely innocent, including solitary confinement for those who fail to understand commands in English, inadequate investigations, and “a chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations,” among other things.

One of those other things included a sheriff’s deputy intentionally running down a Latino driver with his squad car during what I guess you’d call a “routine Arizona traffic stop.”

Remember, this isn’t some faint-hearted lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union making these accusations — it’s the federal Justice Department that’s calling Sheriff Arpaio’s efforts the most egregious case of racial profiling in U.S. history.

Moreover, the New York Times reported yesterday that a separate investigation of Sheriff Arpaio’s office by a grand jury is focusing on the accusations of abuse of power in his department.

As a result of the Justice Department investigation of systemic racism and profiling by the sheriff’s deputies, the U.S. government will no longer provide any information to the department about the immigration status of anyone it stops for a traffic offence, civil infraction or other minor matter. And it seems as if there is no shortage of Latinos stopped in Maricopa County (or, as the Sun would have it, Caricopa County) because the basis for their investigations are often such things as people not speaking English or reports of gatherings of people with “dark skin.”

That may be the worst thing that happens to the department, but one gets the sense that before long “America’s toughest sheriff” himself may be wearing a bubble-gum pink jump suit and chowing down on roach-infested baloney sandwiches in what was formerly his private Gulag. If only!

But back in the day, this kind of thing never seemed to fail to leave the great minds of the Canadian right giddy and a little weak-kneed with admiration. The mere thought of chain gangs filled by women or, even better, children had them breaking out in a light sweat and panting heavily.

Last August, for example, the Sun ran one of its unscientific little on-line opinion polls that asked, “Do you think Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s brand of ‘tough love’ justice would work in Canada?” Of course, “tough love” is a bit of a misnomer under the circumstances — “systemic hate injustice” would be more like it, but whatever. Either way, close to 80 per cent of the idiots who bothered to respond thought it would work just dandy.

Then there was Kevin Gaudet, Executive Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (which, it cannot be said too many times, consistently acts against the interests of Canadian taxpayers), who was found panting in the pages of the Sun back in 2010 about how Sheriff Arpaio “has the right ideas which Harper’s government would do well to consider.”

Apparently Gaudet had his knickers in a twist because inmates in federal correctional institutions in Quebec were served ice cream, and because some notorious prisoners were still collecting their Canadian pensions. So from this he concluded, “what Canada’s justice system needs is less ice cream and pensions and more of what Sheriff Arpaio is serving up.”

You know, outright abuse of prisoners, who may be innocent, on the basis of their race, not to mention people just walking down the street. Well, this is what passes for wisdom at the “taxpayers federation,” which apparently hasn’t noticed how much Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new prisons are going to cost us actual taxpayers. (Hint: more than the tents Sheriff Arpaio uses for jails.)

The CTF seems to like this story so much, they dash off a press release any time an inmate is served something with sugar in it. I don’t recall them getting similarly excited about the decision of some genius in Ralph Klein’s government to punish the inmates in Alberta jails by taking away their colour TVs and replacing them with black and white sets — which, because nobody makes black and white TVs any more, cost taxpayers extra!

Oh well, I guess this kind of right-wing drivel makes as much sense as invading Iraq to get revenge for an attack on the United States by Saudi Arabians from Germany — leading to the insane nine-year war that was declared over the same day Sheriff Arpaio’s troubles hit the media.

And all this in an effort to make Canadian cities as safe as the more heavily populated free-fire zones in the U.S. Southwest.

Think about that the next time you’re tempted to pay attention to these people’s prescriptions for how to turn Canada into a better place. Just remember, they know almost as much about economics as they do about criminology!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...