Words from the Canadian Superior Court Judges Association… but do they really believe?
“No one in Canada is above the law. Everyone, no matter how wealthy or how powerful they are, must obey the law or face the consequences.”
Canadian Superior Court Judges Association ‘The Rule of Law‘
Time for some honesty and reality
There are times when, despite being over 60 years old and a former police detective, I feel like a naive boy scout to have had the solid faith I once had in our Canadian justice system.
My faith was not blind, but I believed that despite the weaknesses in our system, Canadians could be assured that there were no protected classes, and that no one was truly above the law. I no longer believe that.
In my life as a police officer, I twice said the words “I am arresting you for murder” – a phrase that not many of my fellow Canadians have spoken. Not many police officers have said those words once, let alone twice.
I have arrested police officers, priests, teachers, politicians, judges, nurses, bus drivers and school-aged children for everything from unpaid parking tickets to extortion and murder.
The Privileged Classes
And, rarely over the years, I’ve seen some from the privileged classes walk free from solid criminal charges when there was no logical reason in law for that to have happened.
As a young police officer, I very occasionally had some senior colleague or Crown Attorney take me aside and awkwardly explain that some charges were about to be withdrawn even though the evidence was solid. That stopped a couple of years in when I found my footing – when I passed my 18 month probationary period. (Absolutely, I can understand the plight of young articling lawyers asked to look the other way.)
I recall one meeting with the Senior Crown Attorney at 80 The East Mall, Etobicoke courts. My fellow officers and I ‘politely suggested’ that a certain junior Crown should resign after serious criminal charges had been withdrawn for no valid reason – other than the apparent wealth and connections of the accused.
The junior Crown Attorney resigned that evening. I was a young motorcycle cop, just 23 years old. My friends were of the same generation: but together we stood firm and forced the ‘Old Boys’ cabal to respect the Rule of Law.
At the same time, I admit to having put quite a few people in taxis when I could have arrested them for drunk driving. I’ve also poured more than a few baggies of marijuana and other substances into the sewers rather than ruin some young person’s life or career. The vast majority of Canadians understand and accept that this kind of discretion comes with authority.
There are limits, though. When the charges are serious and the evidence is solid, Canadians expect the police and the justice system to act. Canadians will never accept a two-tiered justice system where the powerful, connected and wealthy place themselves above the law.
Do all the members of the Canadian Superior Court Judges Association truly believe and attempt to meet the standards set out on their association’s webpage? They should.
“Our laws embody the basic moral values of our society. They impose limits on the conduct of individuals in order to promote the greater good and to make our communities safe places to live. It is against the law to steal, to injure another person, to drive recklessly or to pollute the environment, to name just a few of the countless ways the law is designed to protect us. We are said to be ruled by law, not by those who enforce the law or wield government power. No one in Canada is above the law. Everyone, no matter how wealthy or how powerful they are, must obey the law or face the consequences.”
“Court decisions are based on what the law says and what the evidence proves; there is no place in the courts for suspicion, bias or favouritism. This is why justice is often symbolized as a blindfolded figure balancing a set of scales, oblivious to anything that could detract from the pursuit of an outcome that is just and fair.”
“Despite their independence, judges are accountable for their actions and decisions. Hearings, trials and rulings are open to public scrutiny, so justice is seen to be done and citizens and the media can discuss and criticize the work of the courts.”
Canadian Superior Court Judges Association