Editorial – Courts swinging way too hard

Jeff Burgar

“I was so drunk I didn’t know what I was doing.”

“I blacked out from the drugs and don’t remember anything.”

Canada’s own highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada, said in 1994 such excuses were perfectly acceptable. Since that time, governments across Canada have tried to remedy that nonsense by rewriting our laws.

But our lawmakers are having little success.

Last week, we had two examples of courts making elected lawmakers and their laws irrelevant.

First: The Ontario appeals court overruled attempts by the elected Ontario government to fix the “drunk” law.

“No you don’t,” the Ontario court said. “You can be so drunk you don’t know what you are doing. We like what the Supreme Court said. So there!”

For the record, outside the cottage industry known as defenders of drunks and druggies, one will be hard-pressed to find any person who seriously believes being drunk or stoned makes it OK to break laws. Booze or dope or even an underdose or overdose of prescription drugs is no excuse.

Also for the record, most people are willing to forgive their brothers and sisters when no one is hurt. Not so willing when a crime or accident is easily preventable by not partaking. Even less willing when it’s a repeat offence. Hardly willing at all when people are hurt or killed.

But judges say otherwise.

So basically, after a person is found guilty, we have to lay a penalty to suit the crime. We rely on the integrity, intelligence and compassion of the legal system and those charged with maintaining the system to lay the appropriate penalty. We never, ever say, “Intoxicated makes it all OK.”

But, judges are saying exactly that.

Second: The Federal Court of Appeals killed Trans-Mountain pipeline. This time, the judges said the National Energy Board, [agreed internationally to be one of the best regulators in the world] didn’t do a good enough job. The court said the NEB should have thought about tanker shipments. The NEB did. Extensively, even though it was not in their mandate. The court just missed it or ignored it. No matter, the Appeals court would have found another trumped up reason. The Appeals court also said local and Indigenous people were not consulted enough.

Perhaps one of these days, some elected lawmaker will make a law saying exactly how much consulting is needed. But as we see more and more, [as in the “I was too drunk” story], laws mean nothing to courts. Unless of course, the law suits their thinking of what is right and what is wrong. In this case, what is “enough.”

Politicians have argued for decades courts are now in the business of making laws. Courts fight back by saying they are just “interpreting” the laws politicians are making. Reality is, courts are going far beyond the bounds of what any reasonable person would say is the court’s duty, or what is even common sense.

Or maybe, high court judges are just too drunk on booze or power themselves to really know or care their politics is getting horribly in the way of their proper duty and responsibility.

 

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