PM TRUDEAU SHOULD LEARN RE­STRAINT

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - COMMENT -

To the Edi­tor

In sug­gest­ing that the Stan­ley ver­dict has failed In­dige­nous peo­ple, the Prime Min­is­ter was sim­ply wrong.

The Prime Min­is­ter is en­ti­tled to his feel­ings and opin­ions – even the opin­ion which many share, that the sys­tem has failed In­dige­nous peo­ple. What he is not en­ti­tled to do, even in­di­rectly, is to un­der­mine the rule of law and the right to trial by jury, es­tab­lished by Magna Carta, over 800 years ago.

He is wrong to ques­tion the judg­ment of a court, par­tic­u­larly a de­ci­sion by a jury. The right to trial by jury and the duty of or­di­nary cit­i­zens to serve as ju­rors and be judges of the facts are fun­da­men­tal to our sys­tem of jus­tice.

What the Prime Min­is­ter should have done was to chan­nel ac­tivists like Saskatchewan Chief Kim Jonathon who pleaded with those gath­ered out­side the Bat­tle­ford court house, that though they were bro­ken by the news of the ac­quit­tal, they should re­main calm and peace­ful. And he should have chan­neled ac­tivist Niga’an Sin­clair, who speak­ing to a rally in Win­nipeg, called for peace­ful di­a­logue in the spirit of change and growth.

He could also have used Pres­i­dent Barak Obama as a role model. In 2013, the Pres­i­dent com­ment­ing on the shoot­ing death of Trayvon Martin, and the ac­quit­tal of the shooter, Ge­orge Zim­mer­man, spoke to the grief of the young man’s fam­ily and em­pathized.

He could have railed against the ver­dict. He stuck with com­pas­sion and calmly re­flected on the con­text of poverty, dis­crim­i­na­tion, violence, un­equal ap­pli­ca­tion of the law, and over-in­car­cer­a­tion which in­flu­ences the way African-Amer­i­can peo­ple view the jus­tice sys­tem.

The Prime Min­is­ter should back off from any hint that he is sec­ond judg­ing the Stan­ley ver­dict.

He should call on Par­lia­ment to ex­am­ine the law of de­fence of prop­erty. To strip the Stan­ley ver­dict to its bare — and as a lawyer, I am care­ful to say bare — es­sen­tials, we must ask whether a farmer or an apart­ment dweller has the right to use lethal force, to shoot and kill a tres­passer or some­one try­ing to steal his or her ve­hi­cle.

And Par­lia­ment should ask whether the right to de­fend one’s prop­erty is, or should be, put on the same level as the right to de­fend one’s life or the lives un­der one’s pro­tec­tion.

Fi­nally, Par­lia­ment must ask why In­dige­nous peo­ple are ex­cluded from serv­ing as ju­rors. Why do we al­low peremp­tory chal­lenges which al­low Crown and de­fence to ex­clude ju­rors with­out giv­ing any rea­son? How do we en­sure that ju­ries are truly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Cana­di­ans?

From Pres­i­dent Obama, the Prime Min­is­ter should learn how to talk about the his­tory of In­dige­nous ex­pe­ri­ence with the jus­tice sys­tem which par­al­lels the his­tory of African-Amer­i­cans. And from the Pres­i­dent and those In­dige­nous peo­ple who call for peace­ful di­a­logue and change, he should learn mod­er­a­tion and re­straint. If those who feel the pain of Colten Boushie’s loss can urge calm, we should ex­pect noth­ing less from Mr. Trudeau.

Peter Kirby LL.B. Kenora

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