Caledonia proves some criminals are more equal than others
NationalPost.com – FullComment
Jan 7, 2012. Rex Murphy
Justice is not, as the maxim has it, blind. Not in Canada, at least. Lady Justice very definitely peeps out from under the blindfold when it comes to certain groups. Choices of when to enforce the law, and when not to, and upon whom it will be enforced, sometimes are made according to skin colour. It’s something we were supposed to stop doing decades ago, when racism fell out of fashion. But now we’re doing it again — this time, under a “progressive” banner.
In fact, maybe Lady Justice wears her emblematic blindfold these days — not out of determined disinterest — but because she’s just a little ashamed. She doesn’t want to see what’s happening to the values she once embodied.
Consider Ontario, and the now undeniable double standards that were applied to crimes committed in or near the town of Caledonia. These have been detailed quite furiously by Christie Blatchford in her 2010 book Helpless. Yet Premier Dalton McGuinty has remained silent on the subject. Which is odd: If it was a worthy policy to treat the white citizens of Caledonia one way, and the aboriginal protestors and blockaders another, why would he or his Attorney General not take pride in explicitly justifying such two-tier criminal-justice policies to the world?
I suggest it is simply because the Ontario authorities, including the Premier himself, recognize that with Caledonia they were not applying any bold principle. They were making it up as they went along, motivated by pure political cravenness and a desperation to avoid another Ipperwash.
The federal government has much to speak up about, as well. Have we heard from Stephen Harper’s government, which usually has much to say on the subject of law and order, about where it stands on the unequal application of the laws in Caledonia — the apparent decision to treat the natives by one rule, and the town’s citizens by another? You would think that, having brought the former Ontario chief of police, Julian Fantino, into his cabinet, Mr. Harper would at least have ordered Mr. Fantino for some account of his stewardship during Caledonia. But that, it seems, is not to be.
In every clash between native rights and the rights of those who are not native, the penumbra of embarrassment is wide and stifling. No one wants to state, out loud anyway, that what we used to call the rules are no longer the same for everybody; that sensitivity to the cultural or historical condition of some groups will — tacitly or otherwise — skew the application of justice.
This evolution of the law — if we can call it that — is not confined to strict matters of criminal enforcement. We see a shadow system of laws that have varying application in the whole human-rights apparatus in Canada. There we find that there are categories of people (sexual, racial, religious) for whom remedy against “offensive” behaviour is promised. Belong to one of the designated categories and a kind of justice is available for you, via the tribunals and commissions, by virtue of your category. You will be supported financially in seeking your “rights.” Fall outside the categories, however, and you are very much on your own.
In some cases, your solitude will be found in a hospital bed: Consider Sam Gualtieri, the white Caledonia-area contractor who was smashed with a two-by-four by Richard Smoke, an aboriginal man squatting in a residence where Mr. Gualtieri was working. The sentencing judge obeyed the Supreme Court of Canada by taking into account the collective experience of native peoples — the result of which was imposing on Smoke what almost everyone believes to be an extremely lenient sentence. As Ms. Blatchford explained in a recent column, “the court was told [that Smoke’s] grandparents had residential school experience” and that “native students at his high school had been affected by racism.”
According to the law, of which the Smoke case stands as a microcosm, the collective experience of a group may nullify or greatly diminish the particular responsibility of a particular member of such a group. This is, at least to this layman, a very new form of legal logic.
However these historical situations came to be, whatever the benign intentions behind setting up our two-tier legal system, its ultimate effect is to delegitimize the law in the eyes of Canadians. It stokes resentments, which — under the current climate of political correctness — are not openly expressed and debated, and thus tend to get sharper and more disagreeable as time passes.
Benevolence that results in notably different treatment — the “bigotry of low expectations” as it is called — is a false benevolence. It leads, ineluctably, to the territory of Orwell’s famous taunt in Animal Farm: All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. No such system of law can own the respect of a citizenry.
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