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Too Much Rotten Fruit In Canada’s Banana Republic

By Peter Carlyle-Gordge

Recently I was given the privilege of asking a direct question on camera as part of CBC’s National, the daily television news program that comes on at 10:00 P.M.

Everyone was trashing the corrupt Liberals and bemoaning what a lousy government we have kept electing for a dozen years, but my question was a bit different. 

In essence it asked: 

Why can a public spirited lawyer not commence a class action lawsuit on behalf of all taxpayers not against the government, but against the Liberal Party of Canada, which is a private organization?  Why cannot taxpayers sue to claim back the millions stolen from them and filtered back to the party?  And why can we not demand fines and punitive damages, possibly also going after the private assets of the most senior members of the Liberal Party executive?

I thought this was a worthwhile and original approach.  Alas, CBC TV chose an ageing lady lawyer who totally failed to understand the question.  She assumed I was talking about sueing the government, when I wasn’t.  Her answer suggested this approach was a no-hoper, almost beneath contempt.

If a private company can be sued by its product consumers or by its shareholders, why cannot Canadians sue the Liberal Party, which is an incorporated organization?  I am still waiting for an answer.  I am not a lawyer but I believe such an action could succeed.

As the Gomery Commission sheds more and more light on the lies and crimes of those presumed to be our rulers and betters, it is becoming increasingly clear that Canada doesn’t just need a new party in power. “They are all the same,” is the lament most often heard.  “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  That is all true.

What Canada really needs is a root and branch reform, a revolution almost, from top to bottom.  True, our system of government is better than that in, say, Zimbabwe or Sudan, but we are well on the way to becoming another banana republic joke on the world stage.  To make such profound changes everyone, including media and citizens, needs to get involved and take all this seriously.

Political parties - now legally funded by taxpayers whether we like it or not - have grown too big and powerful for their britches and too big and nasty for the health of Canadians.  Government has grown too big.  Taxation has grown too big.  Financial and political corruption have grown too big.  And political egos are now the size of Jupiter.  Like Pinnochio, far too many politicians now have noses several feet long.  But they are well paid for going along with the system and not rocking their disintegrating boat.

It is time for a rebalancing, for citizens to claw back some of the power their self-interested M.P’s have stolen from them and handed over to the Office of the Prime Minister.  This process has been going on for years under both political parties, but at no time was it worse than under Jean Chretien, who is even now going to court to try and silence the Gomery Commission.  We do indeed have a democratic deficit.

Anyway, why should a prime minister or a political party decide on who will become a judge or be appointed to the Supreme Court?  I can see no logical reason for it.

It is just another aspect of our evil patronage system, as are so many thousands of well-paying appointments to various boards, commissions and Senatorships.  Nor am I suggesting that the Law Society or Bar Associations should have the final say on who becomes a judge.  I think a non-partisan body composed of a cross section of normal citizens should make such appointments, perhaps in consultation with members of the legal fraternity.  Politicians should be kept entirely out of the process.

Allegations are already documented at the Gomery Inquiry, suggesting that leading lawyers who donated time and money to the Liberal cause were directly rewarded with judgeships. That has yet to be proven, but I personally accept that political business is and was done that way-- and not just under the Liberals. Legal payola.

Though I am still waiting for a public spirited lawyer to come forward and launch a class action lawsuit against the Liberal Party, I am not optimistic.  Such a man or woman would be forever in some political black book, a creature to be shunned and starved of any future government business.  But I live in hope.

Is our justice system fair?  Not at all.  Money speaks.  Miscarriages of justice occur with uncomfortable frequency.  Mistakes are made and covered up.  Policemen sometimes lie.  And some judges have closed minds and strong biases.  They are human and we are dealing with human nature and an imperfect system.  This is not to declare that all policemen, judges and Crown prosecutors are evil or biased or not interested in justice.

Many of them are, but they are cogs in a system which too often stinks of politics.  We have a vast (and, for some, lucrative) legal system, but I would hardly call it a true justice system.  Too often the guilty go free or with a mere slap on the wrist.  The needs of their victims are ignored and forgotten,  even though the effects of crime may leave them scarred for life.

And far too often the innocent are victims of an unfeeling legal system which comes up with flawed verdicts.  I need only mention Guy Paul Morin, Thomas Sophonow and David Milgaard, all innocent victims of a corrupt legal system.  Despite the serious errors made in their cases, no one in authority really pays.  They continue to collect their pay cheques and pensions.  The victims have to move heaven and earth, with some media help, to get redress or compensation for their wrongful convictions.

No one in authority really accepts personal responsibility.

Public inquiries may be called but the taxpayers are again on the hook for millions.  When David Milgaard was finally compensated with $10 million, it all came from taxpayers, not from his prosecutors and persecutors.  No one in the federal Justice Department was fired, despite dragging their feet to prevent Milgaard from ever getting a fair hearing in public.  Right now –35 years after the conviction—a public inquiry into the Milgaard case is going on in Saskatoon.  Taxpayers will be on the hook for around $2 million more to pay all the lawyers and inquiry staff.

Some of my own documents and taped interviews have been included as part of the official Milgaard Inquiry because I spent the early years of the 1980’s travelling round Saskatchewan trying to unearth new information that would help Milgaard prove his innocence - something I firmly believed in, based on all I had read and heard.  Though I was certain on grounds of logic and reason that Milgaard could not have been guilty, it took another fifteen years to get him freed and even longer to have his name cleared and proper compensation negotiated. 

I doubt the $2 million inquiry will do anyone much good or lead to much change.  It will benefit the lawyers and other professionals drawn into it, but I doubt anyone directly involved in causing the miscarriage will suffer financially.  The Saskatchewan government insisted for decades that it convicted the right man and only Science, in the form of incontrovertible DNA evidence, finally cleared Milgaard and convicted the real murderer, Larry Fisher.  Taxpayers are even paying for a lawyer to represent Fisher’s interests at the inquiry, even though he has lost all appeals of his conviction because the evidence is there to nail him once and for all.

If you still believe our legal system works and is in no need of a major overhaul, consider this: public spirited lawyer Jerome Kennedy, who practices in Newfoundland, helped bring to light several high profile wrongful convictions for murder in his province.  Kennedy helped win the freedom of three men who had been wrongfully convicted.

He believes in justice and in undoing wrongful convictions. On the eve of the Lamer inquiry in 2003 into three notorious miscarriage of justice cases (which Kennedy had worked on), he said that some trial judges “don’t know what they are doing” and that’s one reason for wrongful convictions.  “Part of this is as a result of political appointments,” he said.  “Part of it as  a result of intentional or unintentional biases-in other words, the forming of a belief in guilt before all the evidence is in.”

In other words he was saying what everyone knows: some judges are incompetent on matters of law and owe their jobs to political pork barreling; and some assume a person charged with an offence may be guilty.  Many members of the public have a similar view.  Kennedy was annoyed that the inquiry into miscarriages refused to examine the crucial role of judges in miscarriages. He was exercising his Canadian right to freedom of speech.

His “crime” of questioning the integrity of judges brought a swift response, even though he had not tarred all judges.  Chief Justice Derek Green of the Newfoundland Supreme Court complained to the Law Society and it launched an inquiry into Kennedy’s remarks, a move that threatens him with professional discipline for allegedly slurring the judiciary.  In his complaint Chief Justice Green said the comments could destroy public faith in the impartiality of judges.

Wakey, wakey Judge Green!  The public already has grave doubts about the competence and impartiality of many judges, prosecutors and police witnesses.  These people are not above scrutiny and if asking pointed questions about the obvious amounts to contempt of court, then so be it.  Any disciplinary hearing is a total farce, a case of circling the wagons to suppress freedom of speech.  The Law Society is basically a union which is using intimidation and threats to silence what in my opinion is fair, necessary comment.

There is a growing disconnect between the public and the judicial system.  Common sense is ignored.  Mr. Kennedy could face disbarment for upsetting the Chief Justice.  Or he could face suspension and have to pay a huge legal bill to defend himself.

As his law partner Bob Simmonds noted: “It is unbelievable that the law society would proceed with this complaint. Critical comments are made about lawyers all the time.  Does it mean that, as counsel, we have to keep our mouths shut?  If it does, I’m in the wrong profession.”

Some lawyers and judges deserve the contempt of the public.  They are not up to the job and everyone knows it.  I have sat through several trials where this was clearly the case.  An incompetent judge screws up because he doesn’t know the law - then, hopefully the Court of Appeal sorts out the mess later.  Or not.  Defence lawyers also screw up which is another reason Canada has an alarming number of serious miscarriages of justice.

Judges have been given a vast amount of power over our lives and they can cite anyone for contempt of court, jailing or fining them.  But most critics are not attacking our theoretical system of justice.  They are attacking those who seek to pervert and undermine it through sheer incompetence or bias.  Respect has to be earned by those operating the system.  It cannot be ordered by draconian decree or threats. The same is true of governments, especially corrupt ones that cling to power by bribing us with our own money.

Theoretically, our judicial system exists for the benefit and protection of society.  Judges are there to interpret and uphold the laws of the land, passed by politicians.  Some of the laws they are asked to uphold are, of course, woefully lacking in common sense.  The Youth Offenders Act comes to mind.

The judicial and legal system is also supposed to act as a check and balance on the powers of the legislators, should they attempt to seize too much power or undermine the constitution, as Richard Nixon did. But what happens if their independence is tainted and the politicians become their paymasters, offering judgeships as a reward for party political help and loyalty?

That is exactly the question we now have to pose, given the allegations made at the Gomery inquiry.  Did some become judges strictly for their donations of time and money to the Liberal Party of Canada?  And if that party is shown to be operating as a criminal entity, engaged in graft, corruption, theft and money laundering, what would that say about everyone associated with it, including those appointed to the bench?

I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

The truth may one day set us all free.

Veteran journalist/author Peter Carlyle-Gordge may be reached at  


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