Forum for Discussion and Debate on the Lawsuit, University of Ottawa

The Court’s Targets

In All on 2013/04/18 at 07:25

by Wayne Sawtell

I have attended a few of Denis Rancourt’s court hearings for the defamation case being waged against him with the unlimited financial support of the University of Ottawa. Denis said afterward that compared to hearings in which no one showed up to support him the judge and even the prosecution to a certain extent showed him much more respect, more than zero, which is not hard.

They actually took his legal arguments seriously and addressed what he said: that should be par for the course in a Canadian court of law, one would think. The bare minimum, really. Although Denis is the target of the lawsuit, it is worth bearing in mind that the public, those of us who show up and those of us who read the reporting on the case, are also a target, in a way. We are a target for propaganda of the system.

At one point in the trial, Denis was trying to make an argument and the prosecution interrupted with an objection before he could make his point. I noted how the judge, looked over at us in attendance on the defence’s side of the court room, and went out of his way to explain that normally he would cut Denis off after an objection like that, even though in my opinion it had no merit; however, the judge said that since Denis was not a professional lawyer he was going to let him continue and make his point just for the sake of being open-minded and fair, of giving Denis every chance to make his defence so that he could not claim the process was unfair. I really felt like someone was trying to convince me of something, kind of like when those people knock on your door and explain what a great deal it would be for you to switch over to their gas company and abandon the terrible provider that you are presently with.

It reminded me of a time I was in court to contest a speeding ticket, which is generally a hopeless cause. There were about 30 of us defendants there in court that day, all contesting speeding tickets given by the same police officer. For the first one, she got up and made her case for why she gave the defendant a ticket. Then the defendant stood up for his turn and pointed out that the police officer had failed to explain how the radar gun worked and how it measured the speed of cars. This was in the 1990s when radar guns had come into use relatively recently.

The judge then made this big, enthusiastic speech about how defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and that the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are guilty. “Law enforcement has to dot their i’s and cross their t’s,” I remember her saying to the court as she ruled in favour of the defendant. I then had some hope of success. For the next defendant, the police officer said essentially the same thing, but twice over, not correcting the mistake she had made with the first defendant. However, the judge commended her on doing a much better job and pronounced the defendant guilty.

She proceeded to rule the same way for the remaining 28 or so defendants, even though the police officer made the same inadequate argument each time. The system not only raked in a lot of cash that day but did so while impressing upon people how fair it was! Maybe they used the cash to buy the emperor some new clothes. Naw! They probably thought about it and decided it wasn’t necessary.


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