We Must Avoid Weaponization of our Justice System
Over the past few years, I have watched an alarming trend developing in Canada and in other Western democracies, the politicizing and weaponization of our criminal justice system.
While this has long been a hallmark of dictatorships, it is a relatively new phenomenon in Western democracies.
This trend manifests itself in different ways. In some cases, those in power use the justice system to attack and weaken their political rivals or those they perceive as threats. In other cases, we see those who are rich, connected, and influential use lawmakers and influence legislation to insulate themselves from liability, essentially creating one law for the rich and another for the poor. Others still see those mandated to maintain law and order abdicate that responsibility, bowing to woke trends and placing political correctness over public safety.
Let’s look at a few examples.
The most glaring example in Canada is the seemingly never-ending court saga of Freedom Convoy leaders Tamara Lich and Chris Barber.
Lich and Barber stand accused of mischief, obstructing the police, and allegedly counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation for their roles in the protest.
Again, regardless of one’s personal feelings or view of Barber and Lich and the trucker protests, they have been charged with fairly minor offences. Yet, their unprecedented trial (initially scheduled for 16 days) has now stretched past 30 days and without an end in sight. I say unprecedented because 1) this was the first use of the Emergencies Act (I still think without justification) and 2) protesters who have engaged in similar or even in much more extreme actions and rhetoric have not been charged in like manner—think the Wet’suwet’en blockades of rail lines, the similar defiance of legal injunctions by protesters in Caledonia or the Winnipeg landfill, or the shocking acts of intimidation and antisemitism by pro-Palestinian protesters in recent days.
Moreover, in a country that routinely releases violent repeat offenders on bail (sometimes within hours of their arrest) the fact Lich served 49 days in jail prior to receiving a bail hearing screams politics. As does Crown Prosecutor Moiz Karimjee’s contention that he is seeking a sentence of 10 years for Lich—the average sentence for armed robbery is four years. As the federal Judge who eventually granted bail (incredulously) stated: “We’re not talking about sedition, we’re not talking about inciting a riot. We’re talking about mischief here.”
COVID-19 brought a slough of heavy-handed mandates by governments, mindlessly enforced by the courts and law enforcement. That the Supreme Court of Canada pre-determined and refused to hear any cases challenging COVID-related mandates without so much as a hearing show just how biased and politically motivated our judicial institutions have become.
Last week Canadians saw video of police arresting Rebel News personality David Menzies. Menzies was trying to ask Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland a question when a police officer stepped in front of him, bumping into him, then charged him with assault. It doesn’t matter what one thinks of Menzies or Rebel News—again, personal feeling and political passions are not legal precedents, nor are they the basis upon which one’s guilt or innocence are determined (at least they ought not be)—this was a Ludacris charge, as it would have been had it happened to a CBC or Toronto Star reporter—except it didn’t. The charge was later dropped but the encounter sent a clear message.
As did footage of Toronto Police officers refusing to disperse an anti-Israel blockade targeting a north Toronto Jewish neighborhood then later delivering coffee and donuts to pro-Palestinian protesters.
This pattern, and many similar incidents erodes the credibility of our justice system—and people’s trust therein.
All Canadians must enjoy equal rights under the law.
For our system to work—for democracy to survive—the judiciary and those in law enforcement must be independent and unbiased, executing the law equally and equitably, deciding cases based on their merits and without view to colour, creed, or political affiliation or position.
Only then can there be justice.
Only then can trust begin to be restored.