An opinion by a Toronto-based criminal attorney may reveal much of what is wrong with Canada’s criminal justice system.
Guess what? It’s not the article’s brilliance but the revelation that it displays a lack of understanding or even ignorance of the virtue of justice and principles of logic.
David Butt, a contributor to The Globe and Mail is probably as typical a practitioner of logic as one may find in Canada through its establishment media and politics.
Mr. Butt’s reportage of the verdict in the Colten Boushie case begins with:
(Gerald Stanley) testified that his gun went off accidentally, and the jury believed him, or at least had a reasonable doubt . . .. Typical courtroom stuff.
But, Mr. Butt then clarifies his position by rewriting as follows:
. . . a white man, was found not guilty of murdering Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man, by a jury with no visibly Indigenous members.
Suddenly sounds ominously different doesn’t it?
Well frankly no it doesn’t to a reasonable person. What it sounds like is that Mr. Butt is framing his argument by using irrelevant, emotionally charged terms to describe the jury verdict, a verdict reached I would speculate by more evidence than “the jury believed him.” If it were that simple I doubt whether a trial would have been necessary.
Mr. Butt then states that the absence of an “Indigenous” member on the jury in a “racially” charged case lets down all of “us”. In essence, like the protesters, most of the media and politicians following the verdict, this is tantamount to charging the members of the jury with “racism”. That is their payment for this service.
The opinion is loaded with similar leaps of logic. It should be read by anyone who wonders why the reaction to this particular verdict has been so completely emotional, that is, devoid of reason. It is a microcosm of one of the things that is completely wrong about Canada.
For example, this lawyer says:
Trials are meant to deliver social peace, and allow us to move on after acute tragedies tinged with controversy lead to serious criminal charges.
Wow. I thought it was crime not tragedies and controversy that leads to criminal charges. Fundamentally, there are two types of trials in western democratic societies: civil and criminal. Unlike civil trials which are about restitution for damages relating to civil wrongs and breaches of property rights, criminal trials are about punishment for rights violations. There is no restitution of any kind possible for Colten Boushie who is dead.
The criminal trial of Gerald Stanley is or should be a solemn affair. There is a process long-established by centuries of jurisprudence rather than ” . . . accumulated life experience and common sense” as Mr. Butt has written.
The trouble with common sense is that it isn’t all that common. It is a remnant of what was once a respect for logic and reason. It is adequate for the simple reasoning of a child but not for more abstract matters such as theoretical knowledge or the complexities of evidence at trial. I would have expected a professional attorney to argue his case in terms of reason, logic, jurisprudence, rights and maybe, the facts of the case.
Colten Boushie and four other individuals trespassed on Mr. Stanley’s farm while in an intoxicated state and were apparently attempting to steal or borrow without permission one or more vehicles. A conflict ensued in which Mr. Boushie was unfortunately killed.
Mr. Boushie paid too dearly for his own criminal actions and thus it seems his individual rights were violated. But that applies both ways. Boushie was violating Mr. Stanley’s rights as well. Did Mr. Stanley overreact and was the death accidental? The police were called and they gathered evidence. A criminal charge was made.
Now it might be that the jury selection process could be improved with the consequence that there may be more “Indigenous” representation in future but the criteria for selection cannot be based on such elements as race or racial quotas. Nor is it reasonable if the current process allows race to be a criteria.
This trial, the verdict and the reaction to it reveal at least one fundamental problem with the criminal justice system and with the policies and institutions of Canadian government: they rest on group identity. The consequence is perpetual conflict and pressure politics.
The evidence is in the reaction of Mr. Boushie’s family, lawyers such as Mr. Butt, much of the establishment media and craven politicians across the party spectrum, but most particularly from the prime minister. It is completely inappropriate for Mr. Trudeau and other politicians to be commenting on this verdict or entertaining the emotional demands of Mr. Boushie’s family of “justice” for Colten Boushie.
Justice is a moral principle demanding that man judge and evaluate the things and actions around him objectively. He can be wrong of course. It is the quality or insufficiency of evidence that allows for error.
So, this verdict might have been wrong due to insufficiency of evidence and it appears that it did not meet the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt”. However such errors would not be cured by racist adjustments to jury selection based on the identity of the victim or the accused.
And regrettably, any prospects for retrial have probably been incurably tainted by the intense, irrational responses of those in our society who ought to know better.