Women have always had a difficult, if not impossible time being heard and then once heard believed; that is of course, once they attained some rights. Even today in Canada, when a woman’s rights are violated; especially when the alleged violation is sexual mistreatment by a man. It is easy to understand that something needs to be done to change how women are treated when they come forward and accuse a man of sexual assault and then take the difficult step and go to court seeking justice, but is it every okay to take away the right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?
It is easy to see why Canadians would think so, when we learn in the news media of cases like:
Federal Court Judge Robin Camp, who during a court case asked a homeless teenage assault victim:
- why had she allowed the sex to happen if she didn’t want it?
- why couldn’t she just keep her knees together?’
- why hadn’t she taken more care to stay safe as she knew she was drinking?
And then realise that this same Federal Court judge has had a review launched into his conduct during a case in 2014, in which he acquitted Alexander Scot of rape. Four law professors complained he had a contemptuous disregard for sexual assault law, but even when, I factor in: 1994, Montreal: R. v. N. A.—Cultural Defence Applied to the Rape of a Minor; 1998, Montreal: R v. Lucien—Cultural Factors Raised by the Judge in a Case of Collective Rape; I still have to answer no to the question: Is it ever okay to take away the rights of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?
Recently in Canada, anytime a woman comes forward with an allegation of sexual assault against a man, the woman is automatically presumed to be telling the truth and the man is automatically presumed to be guilty; the need to go to court to establish guilt, or innocence has become moot, because he has usually been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, fired from his job, publicly humiliated and irreparable damage done to his character; all of which he has no legal recourse to seek remedy for. For example:
- CBC fired radio host Jian Ghomeshi after he was accused of sexual misconduct. They did not bother to wait and see if he was innocent, or guilty according to the law, but rather bowed to public outcry for somebody’s blood. With the exception of going to jail, being fined, or ordered to give the women who are accusing him financial restitution, what could the court do to punish him? Jian Ghomeshi lost his: job, reputation; future, all before his day in court. How could this be? The trial goes on as I type, and yet he has already been tried, found guilty and punished for his alleged, but not yet proven crimes.
- Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made the decision to permanently expel Newfoundland and Labrador MP Scott Andrews and Montreal MP Massimo Pacetti after getting the results of an independent investigation. What this means is that these men were accused, tried and sentenced behind close doors in secret. There was no official police investigation, no day in court and their accusers will remain anonymous while they will forever be disgraced and humiliated.
I am not talking about whether, or not it is obvious that the accused male is guilty, or that a majority of Canadians think that the accused is guilty, because their opinion should not matter: I am talking about the accused right to a fair trial, and the accused right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If we cast this right aside to lessen the burden on women who wish to come forward and report such an incident:
- where do we draw the line, and for what other crime will we cast this right aside for and for whom?
- will the accused have to prove their innocence rather than the accuser prove their guilt?
- will the accuser ever have to bring forth evidence, or is that now to be considered avoidable cruelty?
- will we do away with the right of the accused to face their accuser, in a court of law?
- will the Canadian public and press enjoy the same immunity a the crown and the presiding judge from the wrongfully convicted and punished?
Taking someone to court and proving your case was never supposed to be easy, because there are always two sides seeking justice; two sides who lives are at stake, and two sides with families and supporters depending on the justice system to do the right thing. I believe that once we begin to make the laying of charges for any crime easy, and allow for just one exception to the rule of law that demands that an accused has the right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law, for any reason, no matter how compelling; our justice system will falter and be subjected to a:
- loss to its’ integrity;
- rise in the number of intentional false accusations being levelled, for cause and effect in the court of public opinion, but never intended by the accuser to make it into a court of law;
- rise in the number of accusations that cannot be proven, costing people their livelihoods, marriages and reputations; unable to get any of it back once found innocent in a court of law;
- see an increase of accusations brought forward out of spite, or revenge.
Should women bringing a sexual assault charge forward be believed? I would say yes, but only to the point of opening up an investigation, and then she should have to face her accuser in a court of law; where both accuser and accused would present their evidence and allow for the court to render its decision based on the rules of law.
There can be no justice in Canada, while the guilt, or innocence of even one person is decided by public opinion and political opportunism…driven by news media coverage designed to get a greater market share; not ferret out guilt or innocence, or the advancement of justice for both the accused and the accuser, equally. All too often we do not see the harm in ignoring one person’s rights until it affects us, or someone we love directly. I would suggest that all Canadians remember that every accused person has someone who loves them and hopes that they will be treated fairly within the confines of the law.
I think that what needs to change is men’s attitude in general when it comes to women, if the protection of women and young girls is ever going to amount to anything more than a cruel joke. Men who have controlled the power in this country, have never respected women, because it has never been incumbent to their success; These men considered, or kept silent while a women’s value was set at a par with:
- house slaves, entitled to no civil, or moral rights, expected to cook, clean and do her master’s bidding without complaint;
- instruments of free sexual gratification, obligated to provide sex whether they wished to or not; by law a man could not rape his wife, because it was considered her marital duty, and no man would be put in jail for demanding and taking his conjugal rights;
- good breeding stock, expected to provide their husbands with strong sons providing the labour force needed to do the work in the fields, mines and all other necessary jobs for a successful community to survive, and healthy daughters to become the next generation of house slaves, instruments of sexual gratification and the good breeding stock for the next generation.
This is how women and young girls were viewed from Canada’s beginning to right now, and this is what I believe needs to end, if women are ever to be truly protected under the laws of Canada and treated as equals.