The usual targets for when things go wrong in the world of crime and violence is to go after the practitioners–the police. They are the easiest targets and let’s face it, some of the criticism is well-earned, but is primarily because it is easier to hit a target you can actually see, one that doesn’t move or speak out.
The police are just part of the triumvirate that make up the legal system. The other two-thirds is filled to the brim with game players who rather adroitly keep themselves out of the spotlight. They hide behind a wall of prosaic language, in the proverbial ivory tower, seemingly immunized from those in the lower echelons of our democratic society. They are thought to be and continuously portray and market themselves to be the rationale ones, able to see beyond the emotional. Their years of schooling place them in the realm of the learned, the all-seeing, and therefore by definition, they are indispensable. The law is their master, they answer to no other. They are of course our lawyers and Judges.
Despite the fact that the employment opportunities are dismal, we continue to churn them out of our schools in great numbers. It is a group so apparently cherished and beyond reproach that we even allow them to govern themselves, despite the fact that the rest of society ranks lawyers in the bottom rungs of ethical and needed professions.
Jeremy Bentham, a philosopher and English jurist said that the “power of the lawyer is in the uncertainty of the law”. Over the years I have grown to appreciate a great many of the lawyers who were part of my criminal investigative work world. They often guided me, sure they frustrated me, but in the end they were indispensable for their ability to interpret some of the rulings and case law that emanated from the various levels of courts. Jean Giradoux a french novelist (if I can be forgiven for including another quote), said that “no poet ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets the truth”. They were my interpreters, the translators of those words that spewed forth in those often endless rulings, which at times seemed to be unbound to common sense.
Most lawyers also have a goal of becoming a Judge thus enshrining their wisdom and status and allowing them to bask in lucrative salaries and pensions, with limited hours, and often their own dining room. Have we reached a time though where these Judges should be held to account? Should they not be made to explain some of their judgements in some form of public forum? In the U.S. they are often elected, which forces them to confront the public sentiment, but that can be a little overdone and creates some of its own problems. We may not want to go that far. However, in Canada we have the other end of that spectrum where decisions are made and the Judges and lawyers are placed above the fray. Their perceived wisdom over-riding any need to demonstrate their reasoning.
There also seems to be a growing trend over the last number of years, maybe decades, where there have been some decisions where the lawyers and judges seem to be playing a little outside the sandbox. The laws, or more accurately the interpretations of laws, are sometimes getting warped, pushed or pulled by some outside reasoning or personal belief. This allows them to go where no one has gone before and outside the articulated lines. No longer the interpreter of the laws, they are becoming the guides.
Does any one doubt the left leaning nature of Canada’s Supreme Court? Do you think that is just a coincidence, or do you think that a left progressive agenda is part of their current individual make-up. It is human nature to a certain extent, although they will go to their death beds denying it. Watch the televised question periods of the Supreme Court before you come to a conclusion. You will see a hallowed chamber, solely filled with nothing but lawyers and judges. It is convivial with constant allusions to “my honoured friends”. There is no one else there. It is a politically correct forum, and you quickly become aware that only a “progressive” agenda will get a receptive audience from this particular panel of Judges.
So what has incited my semi-rant? Two cases in the last few weeks have caught both my eye and my ire. Neither case would be considered earth-moving, however they are examples of what I believe to be Judges trying to lead rather than follow.
The first is a case that came in front of Judge Michael Valente, who presides in the courts of the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario. This case concerned the city trying to remove a homeless encampment of about fifty persons from city property. The Judge made many references to the “Adams Rule” that was from the BC Court of Appeal (BC- the homeless shelter capital of Canada). Justice Ross in the previous Adams decision said that “the government cannot prohibit certain activities on public property based on its ownership of the property if doing so involves a deprivation of the fundamental human right not to be deprived of the ability to protect ones own bodily integrity”. I am sure you have had to re-read that a couple of times, but it would seem that the Judge believes that the government can’t deprive you of a right to be deprived of an ability.
In Kitchener this homeless encampment is costing the city about $80K per month to police and the necessary continuous clean up. 95 % of the homeless in this case are drug users and is often the case, do not want to go into a shelter where they can not freely use. One user in the Kitchener case was quoted as saying that he “found it difficult to be around other people in the shelter who were very judgemental”. As Colby Cash writing for the National Post said in hearing this comment: “the vibes must be right”. The Kitchener judge also drew from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (source is the United Nations who have become the go-to agency for any go-to cause, including the Indigenous) that said that every person has “the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of himself and his family…including…housing and medical care”.
Accepting this UN standard wholly, the Judge ruled that the bylaw in Kitchener violated Section 7 of the Charter of Rights in Canada. Section 7 states that everyone has the “right to life, liberty and security of person”. This is a stretch to say the least. Also, if anyone has been to a homeless encampment it would behoove you to leave believing that they were not better situations that would have been more adequate for “health and well-being”. Was the Judge giving the homeless property rights when he stated that they were “not to be ejected..from a particular space..that they have extensively demarcated for themselves”? It would seem so, although the Judge said he wasn’t but only placing a duty on government to provide shelters. Needless to say the ruling is being appealed by the Provinces, even B.C. who actually have to foot the bills and deal with the issues surrounding the homeless encampments.
The other case comes out of the top court in the land, the Supreme Court of Canada, on a ruling to do with mandatory minimum sentences. This case involved Mr. Jesse Dallas Hills, who intoxicated, on prescription meds and with a snoot full of alcohol, went on the street armed with a baseball bat and a rifle. He swung his bat at a passing vehicle, and then shot at it. He then smashed in the windows of a parked vehicle; and then having not done enough damage, decided to shoot multiple shots into and through a nearby house, where a father was with his two children. The family took shelter in the basement until the police arrived.
Lawyers for Mr Hills argued that a 4 year minimum sentence constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” under Section 12 of the Charter. The lawyers challenged and used as their hypothetic example that under the current laws that a young person firing a paint ball gun at a house could face the minimums. Of course their hypothetical was not at all a case that could be compared against Mr Hills case. The severity of Mr. Hills crimes did not come close to the mischief example they cited. They further argued that there was too much of a wide spectrum of conduct which could quality under the mandatory sentence guidelines. Therefore the sentence was “grossly disproportionate” to the circumstances.
The Court, seemed to accept the petitioner’s reasoning whole heartedly. They agreed and allowed the appeal. Thus, in one fell swoop, the Supreme Court have thus removed what police believe to be one of the greater deterrents in the fight against firearm offences and gang activity. That is the fear of going to jail for a proscribed period of time. Once again the private rights of an individual overwhelming the public right to living in a safe environment.
These rulings often have dramatic effects on the society we are a part of, they truly affect lives.
Should they be held accountable? It would seem logical. What and how that would happen is the bewitching problem.
Let’s consider the fact that 11 of the 37 cabinet ministers are lawyers? In Canada lawyers make up 0.85 % of the approximately 16,000,000 working people in this country. However, they represent 29.7% of the Cabinet. In the jargon of today they are clearly “over-represented”. Lawyers are running this country, whether it be sitting on regulatory bodies or advising the clients in government or corporations, or filing your agreements to buy a house. And we are not watching them and we lack insight.
As I publish this today the Supreme Court of Canada is sitting on a civilian case brought by an Indigenous member of the Vuntut Gwitchin band, who is challenging the need to be a resident on a Reserve before one could run for their local government. One of the secondary issues stemming from this case is whether or not the Charter of Rights is applicable to the Indigenous and their forms of “government.” In this case the First Nation is arguing, believe it or not, that it actually never consented to the Charter during its self-government negotiations with Canada, and therefore does not apply to them.
The Supreme Court is in a tough spot. They want to appease the Indigenous clearly, that is their liberalized pattern, but even they are stumbling with giving pseudo-governments the ability to deny those under their purview to live outside the Charter rights and freedoms which is guaranteed to all Canadians. One can expect a confusing and legal web of explanations to try and reach some middle ground. Again, it is lawyers, and more lawyers, appearing before Judges deciding a fundamental constitutional issue which could affect how this country is shaped and how it is governed.
We need to be watching them and we need less of them.
I rest my case.