Mar 132013
 

On Feb 28 Brian Lilley, host of Sun TV’s Byline was in London to talk about his new book, “CBC Exposed.” I was on-hand to video the entire event which was hosted by the International Free Press Society (Canada). Introductions were by Mary Lou Ambrogio and before Brian took the stage we heard from Bjorn Larsen, President of IFPS, and Joseph Ben-Ami of the Meighen Institute. A Q&A followed were Brian answered questions on the CBC, conservatism, immigration and other topics.

Mar 012012
 

239 - Gunning for Liberals 168x100Sometimes an event encompasses so many of government’s problems that it becomes a lightning rod for condemnation by just about everyone.

From the National Post:

“Last week, Jessie Sansone of Kitchener, Ont., was arrested inside his children’s school when he arrived to pick them up after class. He was strip searched and thrown in a cell, while his wife was brought into the police station and his children taken by Family and Children’s Services. After several hours, Sansone was suddenly released with apologies, and told the entire ordeal was triggered when his four-year-old daughter’s teacher reported there may have been a gun in Sansone’s home. The basis of this allegation was a picture she’d drawn of her daddy shooting monsters and bad guys. Sansone is not a firearms owner, and the closest thing to a gun the police found after searching his home was a plastic toy.”

The victims in this story are of course Mr. Sansone, his wife, and their children.

The villains? Let’s make a list;

The teacher who upon seeing what must have been a remarkably rendered drawing for a four year old of a toy gun decides to tell the principle of the school of a potential threat to the welfare of the child.

The principal who calls Family and Children’s Services,

Family and Children’s Services who immediately call the police,

The police, who show up to the school in marked cars and uniforms who handcuff Mr. Sansone and take him away in front of children and neighbours to be stripped searched and held for hours,

The Superintendent of Education at the Waterloo Region District School Board, Gregg Bereznick, who defended the actions of his staff saying that educators are “co-parents,”

And Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty who defended the action of the school.

To be clear at the outset, any adult who has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child in their care is being mistreated by anyone should report their suspicions.

That being said here is what was wrong with the behaviour of all of the villains I have listed. They are insane. They are nuts. They are lunatics who should not be in the charge of children, arresting people, running school boards, or running a government. That’s my knee-jerk opinion of course. The same opinion held by almost anyone who has heard this story.

A more considered analysis would take the following form:

It is not unlawful for Canadians to own guns, even handguns under special permission. Therefore if a child draws a parent with a gun shooting monsters and bad people then the proper action for the teacher should have been, “That’s nice, dear. I hope he got them all.” Who among us, males especially, as children have not defaced their school work with drawing of tanks, jet planes dropping bombs, zombies and blood covered NAZIS? Of course the older ones among us remember a time when guns were thought of as weapons to defend ourselves and to hunt with. They still are but unfortunately around the late 1960s the liberal revolution of the state education system implemented a systemic program of indoctrination into the pacification of the populace. I remember as a School Board Trustee on the London Board that some Trustees would even correct other Trustees if they referred to the little dots preceding a point in a written document as “bullets.” They were told to call them “fuzzy dots” or something equally as inoffensive.

Such a dangerous philosophy as pacifism has disarmed us and has given many of us adults and our children the incorrect notion that guns, whether long guns or hand guns, are evil and that they should be abolished. Well that is of course wrong. Guns are tools which can defend your life and that of your family. If anything children are to be taught anything about guns it should be on how to use them. People should be allowed to buy and carry handguns. It flows from our basic right to our life that we have a basic right to defend it and there is no better means than a .44 strapped to your hip.

That leads me to the police. They could have stopped this witch hunt in its tracks by telling the principal that a drawing of a gun does not give them probable cause to arrest and strip search anyone. It does not give them cause to enter into anyone’s house and search it. They should have chastised the principal and the Family and Children’s Services personnel and directed them to stop wasting their time. But, unfortunately the police in this country have been led to believe, erroneously that they are the only ones who should be entrusted with guns. They believe, erroneously that they have an exclusive monopoly on their possession and use and that any civilian in possession of one is a danger to their children and the public.

As the police were taking Mr. Sansone into custody Family and Children’s Services were taking the children into their custody. And these are the villains we must watch the closest. While the police eventually let Mr. Sansone go with an apology, these were the words from Alison Scott, the executive director of Family and Children’s Services “We’re still investigating this one,” The parents should move out of town now that Family and Children’s Services have their eyes on their children.

Superintendent of Education, Gregg Bereznick’s comment about how teachers are “co-parents” has perhaps riled up people the most in this sordid affair. An educator definitely acts in loco parentis or in place of the parents as any adult does who is given temporary charge over a child while the parent is away, such as a baby-sitter. But in loco parentis does not mean that an educator can indoctrinate the child in contrast to a parent’s wishes. In loco parentis is restricted by the nature of the relationship between the parent and the adult given temporary charge of the child. In this case a teacher’s responsibility is to teach the child and not attempt to ferret out dirt on the parents so that the state can arrest them. Co-parenting implies an equal responsibility in the upbringing of the child. This is not the case. It doesn’t even come close to the case and any notion that a teacher might have that he or she is a co-parent of their student must be dismissed here and now and once and for all.

The raisson d’etre of the state education system is the political indoctrination of children. This case illustrates that purpose perfectly. My advice to any parent with a child in public school is to get their children out of there as soon as possible. If not, then I would strongly suggest that when your child returns home you ask them about their teachers and what they have learned and that you de-program them. At the very least teach them to be free thinkers and to suspect that anything a teacher tells them to be true is probably incorrect and that they must prove for themselves that it is correct.

Finally, to the biggest villain of them all, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. Although if Tim Hudak and the Conservatives, or Andrea Horvath and the New Democrats were in power I would addressing this to them as well because they are three peas in an intellectual pod. Get out of our children’s minds. Stop filling their heads with lies. Abolish the School Boards, put every public school up for sale and let parents have a choice in where they send their children and their tuition. Dismantle this indoctrination machine called the Public Education System and let Ontario children grow up unencumbered by your anti-intellectual, anti-reason, garbage spewed at them every day in the classroom.

(Originally aired on Just Right #239, March 1, 2012)

Feb 162012
 

237 - Interpol 168x100On February 4th a 23 year old Saudi journalist, Hamza Kashgari posted three tweets on his Twitter account referring to Mohammad.

 “On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”

Within hours there were tens of thousands of Twitter responses calling Mr. Kashgari an apostate and a blasphemer and that he should be executed.  A Facebook page was created to call for his execution with over 13,000 people joining it.

Fearing for his life, Kashgari boarded a plane for New Zealand on Sunday.  Unfortunately for him it had a stop-over in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country.  Upon landing he was arrested and repatriated back to Saudi Arabia.  Malaysian police in Kuala Lumpur said Kashgari was detained at the airport “following a request made to us by Interpol” the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities.

Interpol has issued a rather vague statement distancing itself from the case.

 “The assertion that Saudi Arabia used Interpol’s system in this case is wholly misleading and erroneous.

“(Interpol) has not been involved in the case involving a Saudi blogger arrested in Malaysia and   deported to Saudi Arabia. No Interpol channels, its National Central Bureaus in Kuala Lumpur and Riyadh nor its General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France were involved at any time in this case.”

It is difficult to determine whether or not Interpol was involved because the statement it released does not answer the question directly.

It says that it is misleading and erroneous that Saudi Arabia used Interpol’s system. Erroneous perhaps but how is it misleading? Did any other Muslim country ask Interpol to red flag Mr. Kashgari’s flight? They don’t say.

Interpol also refers to a “Saudi blogger” which may or may not be Kargashi who is a journalist and not primarily a blogger. There is a lot of evasion and possible misdirection in Interpol’s statement.

On the other hand the Malaysian police have been pretty clear that they arrested the man due to Interpol’s involvement at the request of Saudi Arabia. If this is true then Interpol has a lot to answer for.

Here are some facts regarding Interpol:

It is not a police force. It does not make arrests. It is primarily a central hub of information between national police forces from 190 countries. It collects and relays information on individual criminals and suspects alerting police departments as to their whereabouts. It’s headquartered in Lyon, France and has several offices throughout the world. In Canada it shares offices with the RCMP in Ottawa. Canada’s annual contribution to their budget is $2 million.

According to Interpol’s website it does not involve itself in political or religious matters and follows the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights when determining when to get involved in disseminating information. Part of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights is the right to free speech which is contained in its preamble, and freedom of religion.

Clearly, if Interpol had any involvement in the arrest of this man for simply saying that he did not want to pray for Muhammad, and if Mr. Kashgari gets executed for his beliefs then Interpol should consider itself complicit in his execution. If such is the case, whoever was responsible for passing on to Malaysia the fact that Mr. Kashgari was on the flight to New Zealand must be held personally accountable.

Malaysia should not get off scot-free either. Their extradition of Mr. Kashgari, without any due process, back into the hands of the Saudis is unforgivable. They don’t even have a formal agreement on extradition with Saudi Arabia. Anyone traveling anywhere near Malaysia should take note that if at any time in their past they may have said anything about Islam which might be taken as offense they may end up being executed for it, thanks to Malaysia. Besides Saudi Arabia, a despotic, backward country of homophobes and misogynists which should be ostracized by the civilized world we can now add Malaysia to the list of pariah nations.

As for our own involvement in Interpol I think our government should demand a clearer statement from Interpol regarding this case, and if they find they were involved should seriously consider restricting the information it shares with this organization for fear that innocent Canadian be rounded up for their religious or political views.

To be sure, on the face of it an organization like Interpol which has been around since 1923 may very well play an important role in the capture of real criminals and terrorists but since many of its member nations are predominantly Muslim (including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran) then its commitment to non-involvement in political and religious crimes is suspect.

Feb 022012
 

235 - 12 Angry Men 168x100“Is it proper to compel someone to sit as a juror?”

The issue has come about due to a rather unusual event which took place here in London where 20 people were rounded up in the street and told to appear before a judge the next day as potential jurors.

Here is what happened:

On January 17th, three men were being tried for the serious offenses of assault, forcible confinement, and threats.  It had been over two years since the crimes and this was the third attempt at beginning the proceedings when the judge ran out of jurors having vetted over 130 already.  There was still one vacancy for an alternate juror called a talesman.  Not wishing to see trial delayed any further Justice Kelley Gorman ordered the Middlesex County Sheriff and the London police to round up 20 bystanders off the street and order them to appear in court the next day as potential jurors.

Here are the observations (from the London Free Press) of one of these hapless people, a mister Scott Johnston who likened his experience to bullying.

 “I was walking to my car on a darkened street corner when approached by a woman.  I was asked if I could be spoken to for a minute. I decline and politely indicate am in a hurry.  All of a sudden, out comes a sheriff’s badge pointed towards me and I am told that I “have to speak to her and that I cannot leave.

“At that moment, a uniformed officer who was standing a bit of a distance away walked over to the side of the woman and looked at me but said nothing.  I thought to myself that I have no option but to remain because if I tried to leave there would have been a chase or worse.

“I was asked two questions: Are you a Canadian citizen? Are you over 18? I answered yes. I was then presented with a piece of paper and asked for identification in the form of a driver’s license. I produced it and the sheriff started writing down my name and address information on a clipboard. I was informed I must show up in court the very next morning at 9:30 am for jury duty.”

These 20 people were being rounded up under a little used provision of the Canadian Criminal Code called section 642(1) Summoning other jurors when panel exhausted.  It reads:

 “If a full jury and any alternate jurors considered advisable cannot be provided notwithstanding that the relevant provisions of this Part have been complied with, the court may, at the request of the prosecutor, order the sheriff or other proper officer to summon without delay as many persons, whether qualified jurors or not, as the court directs for the purpose of providing a full jury and alternate jurors.”

When I first asked the question whether or not people should be compelled to sit as jurors I am willing to bet to anyone not familiar with these events that you might find it reasonable to receive a letter in the mail asking you to report in two to three weeks’ time, plenty of time for many of us to put their affairs in order, and report to the courthouse for jury duty.  You might also have expected that you would be given the opportunity to get out of jury duty due to extenuating circumstances.  And you would be right.  This is how it is usually done.  But many of those rounded up had missed trains (as Mr. Johnston had), or work, or had to arrange for baby-sitting, or any other myriad of excuses that 20 people might have had given the order to forget about what you had planned for tomorrow because you are going to court.

This Criminal Code provision, while an obvious attempt to allow for speedy justice, is unjust in itself.  What it does is take innocent people, subject them to force and given no option but to comply regardless of circumstance.

But is jury duty under any circumstances justified?

Consider this quote from Cicero:

“We are all servants of the laws in order that we may be free.”

By this I take it that the Roman Statesman was acknowledging the fact that in order to be free in a political context there must be laws, and by implication a system of justice.  If we accept this then must we accept to have our rights infringed upon from time to time as a price to pay for the enacting of this system of justice?

On the one hand I would agree that the right to a trial by a jury is a fundamental component of a system of justice.  The alternative would be that for every serious offense you are to be prosecuted by the state and judged by an employee of the state.  To be able to plead your case to a community of peers is a fundamental component of our judicial system.

But must we compel citizens to sit in judgment of us?  I don’t believe so and for the following reason, you are compelling someone to think.

Put yourself in the shoes of those 20 people rounded up.  Section 642(1) states that while it is the judge who gave the order it was at the request of the prosecutor.  So here you are, totally inconvenienced and possibly at great expense sitting in judgment of three people the same prosecutor wants you to find guilty. Do you think that it is possible that out of resentment for the actions of the prosecutor you find in the defendants favour just to spite the prosecutor?  In other words, the compulsion to attend has tainted your ability to think through the facts of the case without bias.

I would contend that only a jury made up of volunteers, properly compensated for their time, is able to properly consider the facts of any court case without bias for or against the accused due to the manner in which they were asked to act as jurors.

There are thousands of eligible citizens in this city willing and able to perform the function of a juror if they were treated with respect, if their rights were not violated, if they were properly requested to attend, if they were given opportunity to decline, and if they were compensated for their time.

Yes, by today’s law you may be able to lead a juror to court but you cannot make him think.  And that after all, is exactly why he is there.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #235, February 2, 2012)

Feb 022012
 

235 - Shafia Family 168x100This week a jury in Kingston, Ontario convicted three people of first degree murder: Afghan immigrant Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their son Hamed Shafia. Dead are Mr. Shafia’s three daughters and his first wife.

While the facts of the case were interesting in their own right, to me the most important feature of the trial was the labeling of the murders as either “honour” killings or simply just another case of domestic violence.

After the verdict was handed down the local talk shows gave considerable air time to a prominent local feminist. During that time she correctly pointed out that “This is about violence against women. This is about power and control.” I would agree with these obvious facts as any would. She then tried to pursued the listeners that there was no comparison between these killings and other common domestic disputes involving a dominating male over a female. Her claim was that any any distinction in culture or religion was irrelevant to the case. To her the fact that a man killed females is all that is of interest to this case and all that should be focused upon.

This is a superficial simplification of what is actually a much more complex affair. Yes, honour killings are typically men murdering their wives and daughters but it is not simply the same as any other domestic violence.

The reason for the crime is what is at issue here, not simply that a man killed another women (ignoring Tooba Yahya’s involvement) or that it is inherent in the male sex to want to dominate and control the female sex, which is a patent falsehood. Many feminists see this as simply a male-female issue ignoring or misidentifying the root cause of this kind of violence, that being the culture, the religion, or the philosophy of the killer. Why does one kill his wife or daughter? That is the question that can’t simply be glossed over with the pat statement that it is a lust for control by a man over women.

The feminist’s argument runs like this: since women are being killed in Canada as well as Islamic countries and since some Christian men have also killed their wives then the issue is not one of religion or culture but one of men and women.

Of course it is true, that domestic violence occurs in Canada to non-immigrants and that Christian men have been know to murder their wives or daughters. What is also true but is being deliberately ignored is that the prevalence for non-Muslim male-female violence in Canada is lower than similar violence in Muslim countries and that the reason non-Muslim men kill their wives or daughters is substantially different than the reason Muslim men kill their wives and daughters.

Shafia Family MurderA man and women get into a fight. Who do you think will come out the survivor? The stronger of the two of course (in most cases.) The fight could be over money, jealousy, housekeeping, what to watch on TV, drunken idiocy or any number of motives. Rare is it that a non-Muslim Canadian will kill his daughter because she went out on a date or chatted with someone on Facebook or didn’t want to wear a particular piece of clothing, or gave birth to a daughter.

Although honour killings are not exclusive to Muslim societies, the fact is that predominantly Muslim societies have a long tradition of treating women as property. Men often, quite literally get away with murder in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia because their tribal cultures, rooted in Islam, has given the authority over women to men.

Canadian Muslim, Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress published an article in the Canadian edition of the Huffington Post on December 7th called “A Man’s Honour Lies Between the Legs of a Woman.” In it he quotes the particular verse in the Koran, verse 4:34, sanctioning the right of a husband to beat his wife:

“Men are in charge of women by right of what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend for maintenance from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in the husband’s absence what Allah would have them guard. But those wives from whom you fear arrogance – first advise them; then if they persist, forsake them in bed; and finally, strike them.”

If we cannot acknowledge this part of the Muslim religion as being key to the second-class status Muslim men give women then it will be impossible to move towards true liberation for women in predominantly Muslim societies and Muslim families here in Canada.

Mr. Fatah goes on to say that Sharia law sanctions the stoning of women for adultery. A practice that is continued today in many Muslim countries. He cites Professor Shahrzad Mojab of the University of Toronto, who testified at the Shafia trial that women embody the honour of the men to whom they belong – first fathers and brother, later husbands.

“A woman’s body is considered to be the repository of family honour. Honour crimes are acts of violence committed by male family members against female family members who are held to have brought dishonour onto the family. Cleansing one’s honour or shame is typically handled by the shedding of blood.”

It wasn’t until 9/11 that many Canadians even heard of “honour killings.” But since then our focus has turned, as it has been forced to, to Islam and Muslim culture. Since then our knowledge of this common practice of the ownership of women by Muslim men has increased and we can properly address the situation.

Many of us correctly identify the murders based on the motive of keeping the family’s honour. For prominent feminists to disregard motive in the murder and abuse of women is only prolonging the suffering of these people. To fix a problem you must first properly identify the root cause of it. In the case of honour killings it is the religion and the cultural practices of the men and women who commit the murders. We can’t forget that women also take part in committing these honour killings.

It is ironic that in Canada we have people refusing to call something by its real name when in Muslim countries it is identified for what it is. In Pakistan, for example honour killings are known as “karo kari.” While the Pakistani government is supposed to prosecute these killings as they would any ordinary killing the practice by the police and prosecutes is to often ignore it. In a sense there are some Canadians who are ignoring it as well. Not the crime but the cause.

If we consider the problem of honour killings even further we understand that it is not simply a matter of religion or culture but of social metaphysics. In an article for the Objectivist Newsletter of November, 1962 (vol. 1 no. 11), Nathanial Brandon defined social metaphysics as

“…the psychological syndrome that characterizes an individual who holds the consciousnesses of other men, not objective reality, as his ultimate psycho-epistemological frame-of-reference.”

He explains,

“There is an invisible killer loose in the world. It has claimed more victims than any other disease in history. Yet most of its symptoms are commonly regarded as normal. That is the secret of its deadliness.

“These symptoms may be observed all around one: in the lives of all those who are dominated by an obsessive concern with gaining the approval and avoiding the disapproval of their fellow me.; who lack a self-generated sense of personal identity and who feel themselves to be metaphysical outcasts, cut off from reality; whose first impulse, when confronted with an issue or called upon to pass a judgment, is to ask not “What is true?” but “What do others say is true?”; who have no firm, unyielding concept of existence, reality, facts, as apart from the judgments, beliefs, opinions, feelings of others.”

This defines the perpetrators of honour killings. They seek honour in the approval of others, be it their family, their friends, or their tribe. While this syndrome crosses all religious and cultural spectra it is more prevalent in those countries lacking the history of individual freedom we enjoy here in the West.

It is this syndrome which must be argued against when dealing with the warped sense of honour which would cause a parent to kill a child or a man to kill his wife because of any perceived shame they may have brought them in the eyes of others.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #235, February 2, 2012)

Dec 082011
 

Cristian Fernandez 168x100There is an increasingly alarming trend in society today and that is the practice of punishment which is excessive to the crime.

The Canadian government’s Omnibus Crime Bill has passed third reading in the House and has moved onto the Senate for its rubber stamp approval.  One of the more disturbing elements of the Bill is the provision for mandatory minimum sentences to be meted out to cannabis users and growers; sentences which are longer in some cases than those given to child rapists.

Mandatory minimum sentences have the effect of rendering a judge impotent in his furnishing a sentence fitting to the crime and its circumstances.  With mandatory minimums in place a judge can basically only pass judgment on whether or not a person is guilty or innocent.  The punishment for many will be prescribed by law regardless of any mitigating circumstances which legislators cannot be privy to. They have determined that regardless of circumstance a criminal must serve a certain amount of time for a certain crime.

These mandatory minimums are a reaction to past lenient sentences handed out be liberal judges to hardened criminals.  On that face of it alone one could somewhat agree with the reaction.  But that is only one facet of the problem.  The particular offences our government has chosen to apply mandatory minimums to are non-violent offences such as growing, or possessing a plant, cannabis.

As offensive as these changes are to our criminal justice system it could be much worse.  Marc Emery, the Prince of Pot, a Canadian citizen turned over by the Canadian government to a foreign power, the United States, for selling cannabis seeds by mail to Americans, a crime punishable by a fine in this country, is serving five years in an American prison for his actions.  From his prison cell in the Yazoo City Correctional Institution in Mississippi Marc has posted to his blog several  examples of outrageously excessive sentences given to some prison-mates, most of whom, like Marc, are in jail for non-violent drug related offences.

Christopher Norman – sentenced to 21 years, 10 months for conspiracy to distribute five kilograms of cocaine.

First time offender, Jacob Esquibel – 21 years, 3 months for ‘Possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.’

Travis Rogers – 21 years for conspiracy to distribute 500+ grams of methamphetamine.

Antonio Andrews – 48 years – Convicted of being a felon in possession of firearms.  The guns were not used in any way and no one was harmed.

Cedric Jones – Conspiracy to possess and distribute crack cocaine. – Mandatory life sentence.  No drugs were ever found on his person nor were any amount specified in his indictment.

Nathan Carter – Possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine – Life without parole.

Bryan Jones – Conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine – sentenced to life without parole PLUS FIVE YEARS!

Billy Wheelock – life without parole for possession of 99.64 grams of crack cocaine.

Curtis Bell – Conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine – Life without parole.

Marc concludes his blog post with this warning:

“In Canada, the cruel mandatory minimums for cannabis and drugs soon coming into law will be augmented by the on-going appointment of Conservative judges to the courts.  This situation will produce much longer and harsher sentences, fill the jails, increase the debt, expand police powers, reduce the safety and freedom of the citizens, escalate the drug war, raise drug prices, increase the lucrative nature of the drug trade, and drain the taxpayers.”

One further and chilling example of an excessive punishment is the case of twelve year old Cristian Fernandez of Jacksonville, Florida.

This young boy, just into puberty, pushed his toddler brother.  The two and a half year old suffered a head injury which was ignored by his mother who only reported the injury after several hours.  The boy died two days later but doctors claim that he could have been saved had the mother acted quicker instead of taking time to download music on her computer.

While the mother is being tried for her negligence what is tragic is that young Cristian is being tried as an adult for murder.  If he is found guilty the mandatory sentence is life with no chance of parole for 75 years.  Did I mention that Cristian is only 12 years old?

My reaction to these sentences is in no way a comment on the serious nature of some of the crimes, nor on the fact that some of these people deserve to be punished for their crimes.  My reaction is strictly to the excessive and barbaric treatment these individuals are experiencing.

We often pass proper moral judgment on the behaviour of the governments of uncivilized countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or North Korea.  The stonings, beheadings, public amputations, and torture that so-called “criminals” receive in these countries go beyond the pale.  But given the current trend in Canada and the United States to increase sentencing for non-violent crimes and putting 12 year old children in jail for life we are not far behind these medieval countries and catching up.

Dec 022010
 

polygamyThe recent court case of Winston Blackmore and James Oler of Bountiful, B.C. has ignited considerable debate over the practice of polygamy and of the definition of marriage.

The issue can be examined from many angles.  There are moral, religious and legal arguments for and against polygamy.  However, I particularly found interesting the growing list of non sequitur arguments.

The cases in Bountiful and similar cases in the United States seem to focus, at least with the public, on perceived violations of the rights of the women or children involved or on the authoritarian nature of the husband or of the church elders.

It is claimed that because some of these wives were married while under the age of consent therefore polygamy should be illegal.  Or, because the women entered into the marriage without fully being able to consent due to either their age or intense pressure from their church, then polygamy should be illegal.  The fact is that these non sequiturs can apply to monogamous marriages as well and are no

The real issue is not the perceived rights abuses in any particular case, but whether or not the state should recognize polygamous marriages when it comes to such matters as the legitimacy of the children, the obligation of raising children, the disposition or sharing of assets should the marriage fail and the couple or couples separate.  In other words the only reason the state should take an interest in the definition of marriage is when children and property is involved during a dispute.

Historically, the institution of marriage was often very informal and did not require the sanction of either a church or the state.  In some cases all that was required to be married was for the couple to simply say to each other “I marry you.”  They then acted as a household or a family.

As it stands now consenting adults can and do enter into all kinds of conjugal relationships.  A man does not need state approval to share a bed with as many women as he pleases or even to have children by these women.  Likewise a woman can share her bed with whomever she pleases.  People can co-habit and enjoy sexual relationships with people of any number and of any gender.  It is not the state’s business.  This is as it should be.

If I were a libertarian I would say that this is all that is required of the state.  To stay out of the affairs of consenting adults and let them live their lives as they choose.

But I am not a libertarian and there is a definite role that the state has to play when it comes to what kinds of unions or marriages it will officially recognize.

While historically marriage has taken many forms, from the casual “I marry you” to the elaborate and codified marriages we see today there has been one lasting aspect of marriage that must involve the state.  That aspect is marriage as contract.

When a man and a women marry they have, in all cases, committed themselves to shared obligations and responsibilities.  In most cases it centres on the raising of children.  You may share your bed with anyone you please but once a child is born as a result then there are obligations which the state must be witness to in the event that either parent reneges on their responsibility to the child and the other parent.

I’m willing to bet virtually everyone who is listening to this and who is married has never had to show their marriage certificate to anyone ever.  That is until there is a dispute which causes separation, divorce, the splitting of property or the custody of a child.  Even then, I wonder how many judges have tested a claim to responsibility by demanding the certificate of marriage be shown to him.  My marriage certificate has lain untouched in my safety deposit box for 23 years.

Marriage is, for the most part, a civil agreement which is recognized by everyone tacitly, unquestionably.   That is if you went to a garden party and introduced someone as your wife who would even think of challenging you on the fact.  It is a word of mouth arrangement that is almost never tested or contested until one of the couple acts in contradiction to the contract: by acting adulterously, by running off with the kids, by seeking divorce and claiming that your collection of Beatle’s albums is actually hers.  That is when we need the state to act.

It is for this reason, I believe, that many states have been reluctant to recognize marriages other than the traditional one-man/one-women kind.  Because no matter how many women you are married to a child is only born of one woman and fathered by one man.

In a polygamous relationship if there is a disruption in the contract say for example if the husband dies, do the other wives have a legal responsibility to rear the children of the other wives?  If a wife divorces her bigamous husband can she walk away and let him and his other wives take care of the children she had by him?  If there are no children involved and a polygamous marriage breaks up, how shall the household’s assets be divvied up?

The complex web of responsibilities in any non-traditional marriage can be a legal nightmare.  That is why the state has a right to decide whether or not to recognize a non-traditional marriage.  This is not to say that such marriages cannot exist de-facto as they often do, it is recognition of the fact that for legal purposes, in a society that respects contracts, the definition of marriage be limited, or the very least clearly defined.

Should we fine or jail people who have open marriages, polgynous marriages, polyandrous marriages or gay marriages?  I would say no.  But I believe that when people enter into such relationships they ought to realize, from the outset, that should some dispute occur which requires the courts to decide ownership of property or custody of children the outcome may not be one that they could expect given their intent to enter into a relationship not recognized by the state.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #179, Dec  2, 2010.)

May 062010
 

The incidents of criminal trials being conducted out of the eyes of the public or the press seem to be increasing and if the rate publication bans continues justice in this country may become a thing of the past.

Ayn Rand once wrote, “Justice is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake the character of men as you cannot fake the character of nature, that you must judge all men as conscientiously as you judge inanimate objects, with the same respect for truth, with the same incorruptible vision, be as pure and as rational a process of identification – that every man must be judged for what he is and treated accordingly…”

Now, you might think that I bring up this quote to refer to a juror’s judgment of the accused but I don’t.   I bring it up as a reminder that a judge must judge a juror with the same standard that he judges an accused, with respect for the truth and with “incorruptible vision.”  A judge must assume that the character of a potential juror is not going to be corrupted by information he may get of a case before it is heard.

If the only pool of people we select for juries is the one populated by people who do not read newspapers or watch the evening news or are up to date on current affairs then the quality of jurors is not going to reflect the general populace.  Such an ignorant juror may not be among the peers of the accused and that would be unjust.

It should suffice that a judge ask a potential jurist is he capable of judging a case based solely on the evidence provided at trial and to disregard any hearsay or innuendo gathered outside of the trial.  If there is no reason to consider that the jurist lacks integrity then the judge should accept that jurist’s word.

Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer said during the trial of Jorrell Simpson-Rowe, the first person to be tried in the death of Jane Creba, that “The fact remains that the public has a right to know.  The public has the right to fairly evaluate whether justice has been done in any given case.”  I would agree.

Justice Peter Cory wrote in 1989 “The courts must be open to public scrutiny and to public criticism of their operation by the public.”  Such criticism is impossible if details of the trial are hidden behind the shroud of a publication ban.

Justice Lyman Duff wrote in 1909, “It is of vast important to the public that the proceedings of courts of justice should be universally known.”

Are there any instances when the details of a trial should be blacked out?  Yes, but I suspect that these instances are very rare; possibly in cases where evidence may affect national security, or perhaps when there might be a clear threat to life.  Otherwise the openness of the courts is essential to justice being done.

(Originally aired on Just Right show #150 May 6th, 2010.  To download the show visit http://www.justrightmedia.org))