Frank Paul, a chance to make a difference

Picture the actions of a civil servant, a collection of civil servants in fact, that fail to protect the very public they are charged with protecting.   Actions that have the effect of hunkering down and protecting the status quo from an early start.   I draw to your attention the near murder of Frank Paul.

Frank was an alcoholic.  Frank was a mess most of the time it would seem.  He’d get messed up, sleep where he shouldn’t (and probably would rather not have) and would be a bit of a pain in the a**.   Frank got scooped one night by a couple of City of Vancouver Police Officers, who took him to the local lock up in Vancouver British Columbia.   After some time, it was determined that he’d be more trouble than he was worth, and so the decision was made to take him out of the local lock up.  Frank was really a mess that night, barely conscious.   The cops had to drag him out, and they did, and they dropped him back on the street.  Frank was dragged out of the lockup, clearly not aware of much of anything around him. Frank died of exposure a while later after he was left in a back alley.

Everyone denies responsibility, heck, no one today is really responsible for much of anything at all these days, but the matter just won’t go away.  The native contingent is asking something in the nature of  “what the heck, how could you drag him unconscious out of your cell block and leave him to die”.   Frank Paul was a human being.  A troubled human being to be sure, but a human being nonetheless.

The matter goes before the courts in a review, because the native contingent, and more and more of the public activist contingent, just won’t go away. In part, the review considers a background like:

“Although she had just arrived on the job, Crown prosecutor Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten said she was asked to review the file in 2001, but told the inquiry she didn’t even view the video until after she had handed in her legal opinion. She expected her boss, Gregory Fitch, to also review the file and add his opinion to her recommendation, which she completed in three days.  Understandably, DeWitt-Van Oosten didn’t expect to be the final word since she had just arrived on the job in Victoria and acknowledged her first assignment was to pass judgment on three of her superiors who had backed the no-charge stand.   “Everyone was more senior than I,” she said.  Yet Fitch, then director of legal services, rubber-stamped her report, adding none of his own thoughts or independent research.  Do I close my eyes and see Mr. Paul?” DeWitt-Van Oosten asked at one point during the trying interrogation she was put through.  “Yes. It was sad, absolutely, but my role was to engage in a legal analysis and I did that to the best of my ability, and ultimately reached the decision I did.”  Gillen acknowledged Fitch took far too long to finish his review of the file — dragging his feet for seven months after receiving Van Oosten’s report.  “You don’t have many cases like this,” Gillen said. “It’s an unusual case.””

These quotes are all drawn from an article on Canada.com at http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=6c999760-cae5-413c-a35f-1ee8a0be913d&sponsor=

There’s a lot of dressing up in this case, and the quotes above give a good feel to it.  You don’t have too many cases like this”  or “my role was to engage in a legal analysis….”   at the end of the day everyone in the Attorney Generals department for B.C. decided that nothing criminal had been done.   I’ve thought about this for some time, I’ve read the articles, and it’s time someone just said it.  What was criminal here was the absolute failure of the lawyers in the AG’s department in assessing this matter.  The police, well…. frankly it’s not real surprising they are a  bit dodgy, they have a culture that is all about the thin blue line and similar crap, but the AG’s department is the backstop, the office that is supposed to stop and set  a standard,  a place where someone says no, it’s not right.    This time, the entire thing went through hearings, and lo and behold, it would seem that everyone did their best.   Yep, no wrong doing here, good intentions and good faith and all that.  And…. at the end of the day, the police dragged Frank Paul out of the lockup in an unconscious state and left him to die on the cold and wet streets of Vancouver, and those responsible for review of that conduct… well, their role was to engage in a legal analysis, and that’s just what they did, completely divorced from any of the human condition that was Frank Paul.

Update January 2017.   In a bizarre turn of events, both of the crown officers cited above were elevated to the position of Justice (that’s a judge) in our superior courts.   Mr. Gregory Fitch sat on on the British Columbia Supreme Court from 2011 to 2015 at which time he was elevated to the Court of Appeal.   Ms. Dewitt-Van Oosten was elevated to the British Columbia Supreme Court in November of 2016.    In light of the foregoing rather surprising appointments, well, rather than making unpleasant observations, I will just hope that both can do a little more looking out for guys like Frank Paul this time around.   Don’t stand up for the status quo, stand up.

Home based informers?

I’m reading an article on Castanet.net, my local online news service, (the article is located at http://www.castanet.net/edition/news-story-135678-4-.htm#135678) about a youth in Alberta who is charged with “terrorism related” offences. In that article, there’s a quote:

“RCMP spokesman Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer said the force’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team handled the arrest. The team was established last year to simplify and streamline the collection, sharing and analysis of intelligence on potential threats to national security.
He said the investigation focused on safety and protection of the public. He would not provide more details.
“While it may be difficult for parents to come forward to the police, it is important for families and communities to contact police as soon as they suspect that an individual is being radicalized,” said Pfleiderer.””

I am astounded when I read this. To me the idea of informing on one’s family members is reminiscent of something out of Nazi Germany. Let us be very clear on this point, Sgt Harold Pfleiderer and the “Integrated National Security Enforcement Team” is in the business of prosecution. They are not about helping the person who’s become “radicalized”. What is “radicalized” in any case? Is that an all or nothing state or?? The good Sgt. and the team are about building a case and looking for the foundations for a conviction. They surely are not about looking into counselling or providing said family member with alternate viewpoints.

Now, I’m not suggesting that one stand idly by while one’s loved one heads off to the World Trade Centre with a trunk full of explosives, but there’s a broad range of view before we get quite to that point, and I don’t think I’d be phoning the “team” much before that.

New Hiring policies – Corrections Canada

So I’m reading the news the other day, and I come across this ad:
“Corrections Canada is now hiring for prison correctional officers. Officers will be tasked with the day to day duties of interacting with inmates and managing security. Corrections Canada is commited to maintaining a particular standard that has been established in the service. As such, applicants will be required to take an IQ Test as part of the application process. Corrections Canada regrets to inform that only those applicants scoring in the lower 50% will be eligible for employment. As well, only those candidates scoring in the bottom 10% will be eligible for management positions.”
As one would expect, other government agencies keep a close watch on the hiring practises of one another. Both the RCMP and BC Corrections confirmed that they had adopted this hiring policy decades ago.
😉

Shaw Cable – Fewer features for the same money?!?

So I get a call from a family member, she’s received a notice from Shaw Cable, which is her internet service provider. The notice provides in part:

Dear XYZ, [name deleted]

Starting on March 6, 2017, the following services currently included with your Internet plan are being retired:
Members.shaw.ca
Webspace
Photo Share
Video Mail

We understand that the information and assets stored on your accounts are important to you. You will continue to have access to the contents of your account until March 6, 2018. After this date, your contents will no longer be accessible. “

I looked and looked at the notice. For the life of me I cannot find a single mention of a price reduction. There’s links to click and all kinds of other help, but not one word about a price reduction?? How’s that? There used to be a lot of talk about the importance of using plain language. It’s clear that Shaw Cable has determined to shy away from that sort of thing entirely. Had they been interested in actually communicating clearly, they could have said something like:
Dear XYZ
In early March we are going to eliminate some of your services that we had contractually agreed to provide. This will reduce the overall value of our service to you. We intend to continue to charge you the same amount of money each month. Yes, that’s right, we’re going to do less for you and charge you the same amount. Thank you so much for helping improve our bottom line”
Yep, that’s what they could have said, and it would have been a lot more up front.

The necessity of vaccinations – don’t let the witchdoctors lead the way

I’ve lately heard some rhetoric against… of all things…. vaccinations.   Some examples:

  1.  A young guy that I used to work with just a few months ago told me that he had avoided vaccinations throughout his childhood years, believing that they were not “natural”.  He told me that he believes that a healthy balanced diet was what was needed, together with lots of sleep, and that vaccinations were really just an unnatural stopgap.  He tells me this is his opinion.
  2.  I heard from someone else that vaccinations are linked to autism.   The study that suggested this has been debunked for some time now, but continues to be referred to by those who refuse to stay current on science.

I’m all for a healthy lifestyle, and natural living, and whatever the heck it might be that you’re into.  I’m not at all for outright selfishness, and conduct that puts everyone else, and more importantly the children of others, at risk.    These assertions are put forward as “opinion”.  Opinion is considered thought, taking into account knowable information.   Opinion is not whatever stupid thing might fall out of the speakers mouth.

Since it seems a bit difficult to make the importance of this stuff clear I’m thinking  a series of questions might help lead to a sensible conclusion:

  1.  How many people do you know who have died of tetanus poisoning, also known as lockjaw?   Roughly 59,000 people died in 2015 of Tetanus.  It’s almost unheard of in the western world.  Why?  Immunization.
  2. How many people do you know who have died of whooping cough?   It’s a highly infectious disease.   In 2015 roughly 58,000 people, lots of them young children, were killed by it.  Again, it’s almost unknown in the western world, except in pockets where religious kooks won’t get their children vaccinated.  Vaccinations put this one away for most of us.
  3. Met anyone that’s had smallpox?   In the 1700’s in Europe it’s estimated that 400,000 people per year died of smallpox.  You won’t see it now, there has not been a known case since 1977.  That’s right, not since 1977, because the disease was eradicated with.. get this, vaccines.    Before that the disease had existed for hundreds upon hundreds of years, killing millions of people, and we got rid of it.
  4. Seen any survivors of polio walking around?   Also a disease almost unknown in the western world, but still active in developing nations.  The disease causes muscle weakness that can be lifetime crippling.

These diseases are a public health threat to everyone, and particularly to babies and children.  You may be able to avoid these, just as you may be able to avoid the flu or a cold.  We’ve all had the flu or a cold, all of us.  Maybe not very often, but we have all had them.   Saying you’re going to live a healthy lifestyle and that will be as good as a vaccination is to straight up be putting your head in the sand.   Even an ostrich does not actually put its head in the sand.   Be part of the solution, and prevention, and get your vaccinations.  Get your kids vaccinated to so that they’re not a health threat to others and can live long enough to do their own research.

 

 

* – thank you to the nice people who have worked to establish Wikipedia.org.  It’s a site that greatly speeds research, though fact checking is still necessary.

 

Maxime Bernier – he too just doesn’t get it

A work in progress, started on August 25, 2018

As of August 2018 Maxime Bernier was very nearly elected the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.  That’s the head guy of what is essentially a two party system in Canada, operating in the federal (nation wide) sphere.   He lost, and over time posted a number of comments, and in late august of 2018 purported to leave the conservative party to start his own party, entitled the Mad Max party.   Are you kidding me??/  Maxime Berniere is frightening.   His comments are everything about Canada that Canada is not.  What is astounding is that he was very nearly “guy number one or guy number two”.   It’s essentially a two party system in Canada, and he almost made it to the top spot.   What the heck happened???????????   I’d like to talk about some of his recent posts:

In August of 2018 he “tweeted”:

“3/ The vast majority of Canadians rightly expect immigrants to learn about our history and culture, master one of our official languages, and adopt widely shared Canadian values. Instead of spending M$ on multiculturalism programs, we should focus on integration.”

Why would the majority of Canadians “rightly” expect immigrants to “master” one of our official languages?    With the greatest of respect the writing and spoken language skills of many persons that I meet that have been born and raised in Canada are quite poor.  Mastery?  Not a chance.  What if a new immigrant learns enough to get by day to day?  Is that okay?  That’s what my grandparents on my fathers side did.  They certainly didn’t master the english language, or the french language either.They lived here for roughly 40 years after they came over.   They worked hard, paid their taxes and committed no crimes that I’m aware of.       That’s a great member of the community.   If we accept Maxime’s view, they didn’t do it right.

How about learning about our history and our culture?  What is our culture?   It’s a pretty diversified thing that is not easily defined.    How many of those of us who were born here can readily explain the process by which laws are passed in Canada.   The current premier of Ontario Doug Ford was not able to when he was asked.  How many are able to explain what the division of powers is?  Or how the Constitution came to be?   These are things that are pretty fundamental to our history, but frankly I say that the majority of Canadian’s don’t have much of an understanding of.  Is that pretty awful?  NO!  It’s just fine.  I don’t care, and I hope that others don’t care, about how detailed someone’s knowledge of Canadian history is when I assess whether they are a good citizen.   It doesn’t matter at all.   I think about whether they contribute to our community and refrain from causing harm to others.

What are “widely shared Canadian Values”?  Let us be careful here, I’ve recently seen a number of internet videos where Canadian’s are yelling things like “why don’t you just go home”! to slights like not being served in the language they like, or being commented on when they park ridiculously.  I’m not entirely clear what those values are, since those most likely to offer comment on them seem to be the most obnoxious amongst us.  Canadian Values are, in my respectful view, respectful of most values, provided that they lead to no harm of others.

Also in August of 2018 he tweeted:

“1/ Our immigration policy should not aim to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada, as radical proponents of multiculturalism want. Of course, society is transformed by immigration. But this has to be done organically and gradually.”

As I understand it, Maxime resides in a community with very little diversity indeed.   Is he really suggesting that the goal of someone’s immigration policy is to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada?  Who?  Who is doing this dastardly thing?   I think Maxime is propping up a straw man here.   Where’s the master plan or who’s the master planner that’s trying to forcibly change this character?

As part of the same string of tweets in August of 2018:

“Successful immigration depends on social acceptability and the maintenance of social harmony. Many people have asked how do I know that there is “too much diversity.” When I see that half of Canadians believe immigration levels are too high, I know we’ve reached that point.”

What the heck is “too much diversity”??   Who defined that one when they asked the question?   Is this sort of saying there’s too many people around who don’t look like me?   Or that don’t sound like me?  Or maybe that don’t share my particular faith in whatever deity makes me feel secure?  Actually, that’s apparently not the question they were asked at all.  Maxime says that half of Canadians believe that immigration levels are too high, and then concludes “there’s too much diversity”.    What if all the immigrants looked and sounded like Maxime, but there were a huge number of them?  Would he conclude that there’s too much diversity?

Then he tweeted, also in August of 2018:

4/ Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong. People who refuse to integrate into our society and want to live apart in their ghetto don’t make our society strong.

Still is August of 2018, and tweeting some more:

“3/ But why should we promote ever more diversity? If anything and everything is Canadian, does being Canadian mean something? Shouldn’t we emphasize our cultural traditions, what we have built and have in common, what makes us different from other cultures and societies?”

Here’s where Maxime goes astray again.  He’s seeing Canada as a static thing.   He’s suggesting that we’ve reached a point of “being” Canada, or “being” Canadian.   No society is a static thing.  No person is a  static thing.  We are all continually being informed and developed by our experiences.  He’s trying to hunker down and make everything stay the same, everyone stay the same, and he’s promoting hatred against others to do it.

Maxime Bernier left the conservative party in August of 2018.   He’s now started his own party.    It’s absolutely frightening that he was very nearly elected as the leader of a major political party.  I would hope that very few indeed would be prompted to follow this obvious racist xenophobe.

Disastrous Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario

2018.09.11  Sometimes democracy has some real problems in it’s outcomes.   Case in point, Doug Ford.   This is a guy who ran for the position of Premier of Ontario.   Ontario is the second largest province in Canada, and has roughly 40% of the total population of Canada.  Ontario carries some weight so to speak.  Then…. along comes Doug Ford.   Part of his platform..??  Let’s reduce the minimum price that beer can be sold for in Ontario to 1 dollar plus deposit.  Really?  That’s part of his platform?  That’s the most transparent and superficial thing I think I’ve heard of in a long time.   It’s an obvious attempt to appeal to the guy who would otherwise not be all that likely to vote.   It’s a way to expand the voting base.   During the campaign a reporter asks him if he can explain how a bill gets passed and becomes law and  he replies with

“You know something my friend, we can run through that,” Ford said. “And I know this is a gotcha question and everything because that’s your game, big smile on your face.

Then..  can you believe it?  It worked!   He got in.  So now what does Ontario have?

Ontario has a Premier who within weeks of getting into office takes steps to cut the number of City Councillors in Toronto in half.   Now have in mind that Doug’s extensive experience with city council, prior to being elected as Premier of the Province of Ontario was a grand total of one term in office.    This is a guy with a pretty limited political background.   It’s absolutely obvious that he has quite an axe to grind with the City Council for Toronto.

Doug Ford brings forward the legislation to make this reduction, and the Court tells him in no uncertain terms that the legislation is unconstitutional.  His response..   he says he’s going to use the Notwithstanding Clause in the Charter.   CBC gives a pretty nice explanation of the Notwithstanding Clause here.  I’ve gone on about the Charter from time to time here.    It’s a very important document that sets out the absolutely fundamental freedoms that we in Canada enjoy.   Those rights are synonymous with what it is to be Canadian.      The very idea of invoking the notwithstanding clause to override the fundamental rights of Canadians on an issue such as the size of the City Council of Toronto is astounding.  The idea is reflective of a shocking pettiness, an immediate willingness to use the “nuclear option”, and a complete failure to understand the real meaning behind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Disastrous Doug Ford is indeed a disaster and he’s only in the first months of office.   His conduct perhaps puts him in commonality with President Donald Trump in that they have similar styles.   Surely no one in Canada thinks that’s a good thing?   Given his performance thus far I would hope that the next time around the polls even the beer drinkers of Ontario have the good sense to kick him beyond the curb and out to the street.

2018.09.12 Today I learn that Doug is complaining that the courts have usurped the function of the legislature.  Doug still doesn’t get it.  It’s not about the courts trying to usurp the legislature.  It’s about a premier of a province only attempting to use the notwithstanding clause in the most compelling of public circumstances.    Trying to pursue a tiff with the City of Toronto City Council is not a compelling public circumstance.   The size of the city council is the business of the people of the City of Toronto and were the people of Toronto all that concerned they could bring that forward by way of a plebiscite or something similar.

A reply to the Trolls, anonymous gives me the last word

I’ve occasionally been a news figure.  That’s not by choice.  I’m a fairly quiet guy, but I do believe in speaking up.    About 4 years ago I appeared in front of Vernon City Council on a bylaw to ban all pro MMA (Mixed martial arts) events in Vernon.   This was reported in the online news, and attracted several comments, including:

 

Did everyone miss the irony of the fact that the only person to speak in favour of MMA events is someone with ties to organized crime?

I have considered some of the comments for some time. Wow, almost 4 years in fact. That may seem a little petty, not having much else to focus on in life? I’m not suggesting that I’ve non-stop been thinking about this, but when people come out with clever and anonymous comments those comments have an effect. I think an explanation is in order.  Here it is:

I was well aware of the parallels that could be drawn as I made the comments that I did before city council. When I went to this council meeting I had hoped to be as anonymous as I could. I didn’t wear a sign or badge that said “gang lawyer”. I walked in quietly, tried to keep my head down in case anyone recognized me, and didn’t plan on saying anything. I had heard that city council was going to vote on a matter that concerned me, being a ban on professional mixed martial arts. Now say what you will about gangs and mixed martial arts, but I just don’t see them as being synonymous. Apparently the police in Vernon do. They are concerned enough that they make a secret presentation to council that got this whole thing started. We don’t get to hear what the concerns that they had are, that’s all “in camera”, meaning you’re never able to know it. I just heard they were having a vote to ban any MMA professional bouts in Vernon, and I thought “hey I like MMA, I think it’s a heck of a sport.” I’ve watched hundreds of matches on the TV, and have been able to attend one while on holiday in Mexico. I had tried to attend another in Vernon but the match didn’t go ahead. I believe the reason it didn’t go ahead was a lack of ticket sales? In all of those matches that I’ve watched I’ve never seen a gang symbol of any sort that I recognized. I haven’t heard any slogans/phrases that seemed to be associated to gangs, not a single one. There was never, at the close of hundreds of matches that I’ve watched, an announcement of the victory of this or that gang. I hear more gang associated stuff from professional wrestling, and no one in the world ties anything of meaning to that. The ghost of Al Capone did not call me up and say “hey, gang lawyer who’s been disgraced publicly, run down to city hall and try to oppose this bylaw that prevents our gang fund raising.” What kind of strategy would that be?? It in effect undermines the very thing you’re trying to accomplish?? Yes, I knew that. I’m not dull witted. So I went to the council meeting with every intention of being as anonymous as I could, but hoped to be in silent support of whoever might speak up against what I see as a really misguided and discriminatory bylaw. I sat quietly in my seat, I got there early as I thought that the mixed martial arts clubs in town (small struggling businesses to be sure, no sign of gang involvement that I’ve been able to detect) might put in a good presence and I wanted to be able to sit down as my back hurts if I stand for too long. I had thought there would be some lengthy debate. What happened….. No one showed up and no one stood up. Not one person spoke up. They asked if anyone had comment and there was complete silence. None of the members of Vernon city council said anything in opposition, none of the pubic said anything, silence. I looked around, and looked around, and the time to make any reply was about to be gone, so I stood up. I knew full well the parallels that would be drawn. I expected that I may well be recognized and ridiculed due to the “gang lawyer” association, but I really thought this bylaw was discriminatory and misguided and surely someone should say something???? So I did. I spoke for about a minute and a half, and talked about how I enjoyed the sport, and that there were clubs in the city that practised this very sport, to become skilled, and in some cases become professional, and how the money that was involved was so very small at the level that we would see here in Vernon, not ever even coming close to covering gym costs, and it fell on utterly deaf ears. The “in camera” presentation by the RCMP apparently had devastating effect. I was not asked a single question. No one else stood up and spoke, and Vernon city council voted 100% in favour of the bylaw, and there’s not been a professional mixed martial art bout in Vernon since then.

So there’s my explanation. I don’t see too much that’s “Ironic” in that, but I guess if you’re desperate to find it and very clever maybe you’ll get there. I note that there has never been, to the best of my knowledge, a professional mixed martial arts event in Vernon, so the whole thing is a bit of a tempest in a tea pot I guess. The one that tried failed due to a lack of ticket sales.

What’s a Rat? Nuances in language matter, even here.

I’ve heard comments many times about this or that person being “a rat”.  It’s a term that says they are the lowest of the low, deserving of utter contempt, but it sure gets thrown around liberally.   I’ve heard it in jail and on the street used to apply to any witness in a trial, or anyone that calls the police.  Now I appreciate that many of those that throw the term around are not exactly artisans with the language.   We’re not talking a lot of University graduates here.   The thing is that the term “Rat” does have a specific meaning.  Firstly, lets talk about what a rat is:

A rat is someone who is complicit in a crime, by reason of having had actual involvement in the offence, who then provides evidence, including statements, tips, written notes, recordings, or any information whatsoever to investigatory authorities for the purpose of assisting himself in escaping legal jeopardy.   A rat is one who will do anything to save himself.    A rat is, respectfully, a despicable person not because they are “telling on” someone, but because of their motivation.  The motivation is to extricate themselves form the same legal peril, in effect to throw their partners to the wolves so as to be able to run away.

 

Sometimes it’s more effective to define a word by what it is not.  Let’s have a try at that.   What is not a rat?

  1.  A rat is not a member of the public who phones in about a witnessed crime.  They’re a witness to a crime and don’t have any involvement in it.   They’re the ones that are supposed to call it in.
  2. A rat is not a criminal who tells on other criminals whom they are not involved with to get payments from the police or to sewer their competition.   They are people who don’t follow the code (almost no one does) and they’re despicable persons, but they’re not rats.
  3. A rat is not a person who is the victim of a crime who then tells police about it.  This includes criminally involved people who are for example beaten up by other criminals.  If he talks to the police he is not following the code, but he’s not a rat.
  4. A rat certainly is not a victim of a crime who is a member of the general public.   They’re supposed to turn to the police.
  5. A rat is not a criminal who is involved in a crime and then feels badly about it on a moral level and tells the police about his involvement as well as the involvement of his co-conspirators.   This is the one that is really a fine line.    Timing is usually the key part here, where the person goes in to police (or their priest, or counselor)  to tell them of what occurred prior to any investigation when they have no reason to think they’re going to be caught, that’s a moral decision, or a lot more likely so anyway.  Contrast this though with the conversation with police in the context of the crime being investigated, where the police say something like “we know you’re not the bad guy, you need to tell us about this”.   Once the person knows that it might go better for them and then rolls over on their buddies to secure that benefit, bang, they’re a rat.   They’ve made it.   Rats are indeed despicable persons but they’re their own kind of despicable person, they’re a rat, and deserving of contempt.

I note that Canadian Law does in part make allowance for the dangers of persons who fall into the category of rat, and also of persons from a variety of other risky in terms of reliability witnesses, though those witnesses do not fall into the the category of “rat”.    In a decision entitled

Vetrovec v. The Queen, [1982] 1 SCR 811, 1982 CanLII 20 (SCC)

the Supreme Court of Canada says that in addressing evidence from such persons in the course of a jury trial:

I would hold that there is no special category for “accomplices”. An accomplice is to be treated like any other witness testifying at a criminal trial and the judge’s conduct, if he chooses to give his opinion, is governed by the general rules.

[page 831]

I would only like to add one or two observations concerning the proper practice to be followed in the trial court where as a matter of common sense something in the nature of confirmatory evidence should be found before the finder of fact relies upon the evidence of a witness whose testimony occupies a central position in the purported demonstration of guilt and yet may be suspect by reason of the witness being an accomplice or complainant or of disreputable character. There are great advantages to be gained by simplifying the instruction to juries on the question as to when a prudent juror will seek some confirmation of the story of such a witness, before concluding that the story is true and adopting it in the process of finding guilt in the accused as charged. It does not, however, always follow that the presiding justice may always simply turn the jury loose upon the evidence without any assisting analysis as to whether or not a prudent finder of fact can find confirmation somewhere in the mass of evidence of the evidence of a witness. Because of the infinite range of circumstance which will arise in the criminal trial process it is not sensible to attempt to compress into a rule, a formula, or a direction the concept of the need for prudent scrutiny of the testimony of any witness. What may be appropriate, however, in some circumstances, is a clear and sharp warning to attract the attention of the juror to the risks of adopting, without more, the evidence of the witness. There is no magic in the word corroboration, or indeed in any other comparable expression such as confirmation and support. The idea implied in those words may, however, in an appropriate case, be effectively and efficiently transmitted to the mind of the trier of fact. This may entail some illustration from the evidence of the particular case of the type of evidence, documentary or testimonial, which might be drawn upon by the juror in confirmation of the witness’ testimony or some important part thereof. I do not wish to be taken as saying that such illustration must be carried to exhaustion. However, there is, in some circumstances, particularly in lengthy trials, the need for helpful direction on the question of sifting the evidence where guilt or innocence might, and probably will turn on the acceptance or rejection, belief or disbelief, of the

[page 832]

evidence of one or more witnesses. All of this applies equally in the case of an accomplice, or a disreputable witness of demonstrated moral lack, as for example a witness with a record of perjury. All this takes one back to the beginning and that is the search for the impossible: a rule which embodies and codifies common sense in the realm of the process of determining guilt or innocence of an accused on the basis of a record which includes evidence from potentially unreliable sources such as an accomplice.

Sometimes the Supreme Court of Canada gets it wrong but I think they did a pretty nice bit of work on this one.  I note however that they don’t draw a moral distinction in terms of the particular category of the person giving evidence.  In my view there is one.

 

 

Donald Trump, the USA and a trade war with China

It’s September of 2018 and a few days ago Donald Trump imposed tariffs on numerous goods imported from China.    I believe his reasoning is that he is trying to work out a trade agreement that he sees as being more fair.  As I understand it he warned that China had “better not” retaliate.

I’m thinking that Donald is failing to understand a couple of important aspects of China.

a) One of these is the importance to the Chinese of respect and the concept of saving face.  They’re not going to be bullied into anything and they’re not going to be shamed by a “better not” kind of statement.   “Better not” is the kind of thing one says to a child, and China is not going to be anyone’s child.

b) China is not a democracy.   The power of the General Secretary in China is established by the Constitution of China, and that Constitution specifies that China is ruled by the Communist Party of China.   That gives them all the say, and they’re not looking around every 4 years for re-election.   That’s how things like the Tienamen Square Massacre took place.   The students of China had started protesting, and for a time were allowed to, and eventually the rulers of China sent in the military and killed many of them.

With this in mind, I say that in the event that the United States foreign policy becomes one of having a trade war with China, the Government of China is I think quite prepared to keep up that battle until it’s people starve in the street before they’ll be willing to come to a table they’ve been forced to.   I do not however believe that the President of the United States is prepared or able to take matters to that limit.   I certainly don’t think that the american public is willing to support a stand that drags things to that point.   Heck, they’re all shopping at Walmart because it’s a bargain.  With a trade war Walmart won’t have near the bargains.