My only post on this topic.

A word or three-hundred of explanation and a rebuke. This will make me unpopular with a whole swack of people posting of late. But frankly there is some consciousness raising that needs to happen.

First the Rebuke:

You have to stop dog-piling on the criminal justice system just because you don’t like Jian Ghomeshi. Your “opinion” about what should or shouldn’t happen is based on a misapprehension about what that system is. You also do a terrible disservice to the people working in it who — for the most part — struggle very hard not to fuck up people’s lives. You’ll want to not piss on defense attorneys, this will save you some cognitive dissonance should you or someone you love need one later.

And now the explanation:

The expectation that the justice system is about the “victim” is to fundamentally misunderstand what the courts do (in Canada). Whether or not someone is a victim is only incidental to the court process.

When you are charged with a crime it is not a crime against the victim but against the Crown. It is the King (or Queen’s) peace which is being upset by a crime. The actual violation of the body of a person is, from this perspective, the unfortunate corollary to this.

The reason for putting crime in the context of the head of state is two-fold (as far as I can see): 1) It is an expression of the state’s supremacy over all its dominion (subjects and property) and 2) As a way to ensure that we avoid the kinds of blood feuds that chew up entire generations.

The courts are only interested in a) whether a crime can be said to have been committed against the interests of the state b) if the person accused of said crime is absolutely guilty of the offense and c) the restitution that can be extracted from the accused if found guilty.

When we start looking to the justice system for justice vis-a-vis the victims, we’re mistaking who we understand the victim to be with who the justice system understands that victim to be.

In the context of Jian Ghomeshi, once a police investigation begins, this is no longer about complainant x, y, or z (no matter how grievously harmed they may be). It becomes about the accused. It has to be that way. It has to be that way because the consequences of a conviction extend beyond a complainant’s sense of closure. In fact, closure is sometimes impossible. The victim of a sexual assault or murder cannot have those things taken, returned. The consequences of a conviction are the decimation of yet another human life (the accused) which may not do anything to alieviate the suffering of the victims. This is something which is cutely forgotten by the law and order crowd (until the cuffs are on them) but also sometimes by progressives.

The trial of Jian Ghomeshi (if there is one) will not be about any of the complainants. The moment they issue a statement to the police they stop being human beings and become witnesses. They are objects of the court. They become “exhibits” of a particular sort. Of course they are going to be torn apart. But here’s the kicker, just because they will be made out to be liars does not mean we have to accept that.

A wiser, more subtle legal mind, pointed out to me that what will come out of the trial is not a finding of “he/she is a liar”, but a finding of truth based on a rather abstract sets of rules. That truth will be a finding about which story holds up better. If, as a society, we believe Ghomeshi’s accusers we need to make the collective effort to support them through the trial. To make them understand that we believe them. (I believe them.) That a finding of “not guilty” or similar acquittal is not a repudiation of their story. Because it isn’t.

We should be talking about how to reform our legal system — to be sure. But don’t expect the current system to conform to your beliefs about who is or isn’t a victim, and how they should be treated. That system is specifically designed not to care in the way that you want it to.

Is it patriarchal? In many of its features, yes, absolutely.
Is it Just? Yes, but in very limited ways, and imperfectly so.
Am I making excuses for it? Absolutely not, been bitten by that dog, I want it dead too.

Legal Aid Battle Pits David Cameron Against his Brother

Legal Aid Battle Pits David Cameron Against his Brother

Legal Aid is in crisis. It is in crisis in multiple jurisdictions and iterations. Legal aid is the perhaps one of the most essential protectors of rights in the courts outside of the work of actual lawyers. Despite this, Legal aid cannot get adequate funding to do the work it does. This inadequate funding came to a head this week when Andrew Cameron QC successfully argued for the dismissal of a £4.5 Million fraud case on the grounds that his clients could not get a fair trial due to lack of legal aid funding. That decision has now been over turned by an appellate court stating that the courts are no place for a industrial dispute between the government and the professions. The courts themselves seem divided on the nature of the crisis. Is it an industrial dispute or something more fundamental?

My belief is that the phrasing of the problem as an industrial dispute is a dishonest characterization of a problem which has plagued the British justice system for the past 20 years. The UK has undertaken many reforms in attempts to get ahead of the access to justice problem. Some jurisdictions have even tried to figure the problem out on their own. However, these attempts have effectively collapsed under the weight of a justice system that increasingly must deal with the criminalization of more facets of daily life, and must do so in the context of shrinking public funding. Austerity and Criminality are not separate phenomena, they are intimately linked. Those most damaged by austerity policies are often those most likely to find themselves in front of the courts. The same is true here in Ontario. We need to watch this fight unfold. Its outcome will likely show us the contours of Ontario’s own access to justice problems. 


Marcus Gee

Gee — for the record was all for Ford. He’s turned Judas now.

The end of the line for Toronto’s rogue mayor – The Globe and Mail

The farce of humane executions …

The two men who were scheduled to die are very likely horrible people. This isn’t about them. It’s about the fact that US states are prepared to break their own rules and violate the sanctity of human life as they try to enact vengance in the name of that sanctity.

BBC News – Oklahoma to review procedures after botched execution

The Idea of Canada is Dead.

There was a long standing myth concerning what it meant to be Canadian. Of course like all political imagery it was contrived and selective in its historical referrents. But here we have further proof (if ever it was needed in these dark days) that the idea of Canada as the go-to country for peace keeping has been effectively snubbed out in less than a generation.

We’re now arms dealers and isolationists.

Canada opening heavy arms sales to Chile, Peru – National |

Alphabetizing is obsolete?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has this quirky piece about how literacy is changing. The problem is that it’s premise (that tradition aside, ABC’s could be learned BAC) is simply wrong. While a searchable world makes certain kinds of literacy less important, the underlying structure of that world is governed by rules which rely on numeracy and alphabetical ordering. If you lose those, you may as well start banging rocks together to make fire.

Just realized what the day is. Jaysus. Nevermind.