JUSTICE – Crossing the hard line between the judiciary and politics

Frontier Centre for Public Policy

THE JURY TRIAL of Gerald Stanley for the murder of Colten Boushie marks a new development in criminal law. The trial itself was not unusual, a jury heard the evidence, deliberated, and acquitted the Saskatchewan farmer. It’s what followed the acquittal that is remarkable.

Brian Giesbrecht.

Immediately following the verdict, the most senior federal politicians, including the Prime Minister, waded into the controversy through social media, in a manner that clearly implied that the jury was wrong. The federal politicians sided with the Boushie family against the man the law says is still an innocent man.

The significance of this is only now becoming clear. Our criminal law system, with the jury at the centre, developed over the course of a thousand years.

Before Canada had a sophisticated criminal law system, justice belonged to the most powerful man, or the will of a mob. A despot could simply punish or kill a less powerful person at will, or a mob could seek vengeance when they chose to do so.

Very slowly, this primitive system changed. Trial by combat, or crude methods of judging a personʼs guilt or innocence through the use of magic were early steps in a process that finally produced the system we have today.

It is not a perfect system by any means, but far better than the crude “justice” it replaced.

But, there was one clear understanding that allowed this system to do its job. The politicians were to tend to their duties, and judges were to tend to theirs.

Just as it was improper for a judge to comment on political matters, it was completely inappropriate for politicians to comment publicly about court cases.

That is the long held convention that was so blatantly breached by the federal cabinet ministers, and the prime minister.

Was it done out of ignorance, or was it a clear case of virtue signalling for political points?

They did not say.

Does it signal the beginning of a new convention with politicians tweeting their disagreement with any court decision they donʼt like?

We donʼt know at this point.

Does it also give judges the go ahead to start directing their aim in their judicial decisions at political decisions they donʼt agree with?

That’s unknown  but if politicians are signalling that the gloves are off, that canʼt be too far behind.

I hope these politicians simply did not think before they tweeted. If that is the case, they should publicly apologize, and vow to keep their misguided tweets to themselves.

The late night tweeter to the south of the border should give them pause.

Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow with the Frontier Center for Public Policy.

About Mel Rothenburger (5441 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on JUSTICE – Crossing the hard line between the judiciary and politics

  1. Dawne Taylor // February 17, 2018 at 1:39 PM // Reply

    Ditto, Tony. And yes we must do better – the system must be changed. The racism in Canadian society must end. We can do better – and I think that’s what the politicians were trying to say. Only the die-hard Conservatives are trying to portray the comments as a comment on the verdict.

  2. Poor Mr Giesbrecht. He still thinks that there is no racism in Canadian courts .This outcome would have been just as unacceptable in the US if an all white jury had found a black man guilty in the same circumstances.The fact that the victim here is a first nations person must dictate that a jury of first nations individuals must judge him What ???? You don’t like that ?? Maybe you don’t think they would be objective and impartial .Who’d of thunk it ???
    Try to bare in mind that the legal system you exstoll came from an all white mostly British, society that knew nothing and cared less about any non white society.Don’t forget that the gov’t aided by this “supperb “legal system tried to exterminate or asimilate virtually all indigenous people around the world.The system has been flawed from day one and it’s time the flaws were erased.
    Maybe it’s time that federal and provincial ministers stood up and said “This system must be changed.Kind of like Trudeau the lesser did.Only a new vision of justice for all will do.
    Please open your eyes and mind to such things Mr Giesbrecht.

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