Little Fish in a Giant pond

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

May He Rest in Peace

Click the above picture to see one of my favourite memories of the star with strong canadian connections.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Bad Decision or Bad Journalism?

I was back home for a little while this weekend, and while I was there I couldn't help but noticing the following story in the local newspaper:
It appears that Ontario Superior Court Justice, Jospeh Donahue, made the decision to acquit a man accused of posession of child pornography, based on the fact that he did not posess a large quantity of it and because he felt that the crown had failed to prove that the accused knew that it was there.
I hate to be critical of a judge for making any decision (particularly since I may find myself pleading in front of the man some day!). The fact is that judges have to make tough calls every day. All too often they hold someone's life in their hands. In this case, the judge had to decide whether or not to convict someone of one of the most despicable crimes to our society. Such a conviction carries with it a terrible social stigma. In fact, if he had been convicted, even his fellow prisoners would likely hold him in such a low estem that it may be necessary to keep him in isolation from the other inmates for his own protection.
Aside from my first year of law school, where we learned a few basic principles of criminal law, I haven't studied criminal law an awful lot. I am scheduled to take Advanced criminal law, and criminal procedure next semester. But for now, let me be the first to admit that my knowledge in this area is not the greatest. Still, I think I have been able to get the gist of things from the article. Now anyone who has ever seen an episode of law and order knows that the burden of proof is always on the prosecution in a criminal trial, though the burden can be reversed under certain circumstances, (such as when the accused does not deny having commited the criminal act, but wishes to present a defence, such as insanity, involuntary intoxication, etc.).
In the present case, it is difficult to tell from the article but it appears that the accused might have used a defense of called absence of mens rea. This basically means that there was no "guilty spirit", no intention to commit the crime. If this is the case, it means that the accused does not deny that the child pornography was in his possession, but denies having had any knowledge of it being in his posession. Effectively, it means that the defense must present sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the evidence presented by the Crown does sufficiently prove that the accused knew about the incriminating materials being stored on his hard drive and CDs.
Now it stands to reason that the simple presence of child pornography on the accused's hard drive and CDs alone implies that he knew it was there unless it was put there by someone else. The question now becomes, how likely is it that someone else could have put it there? Any evidence that defense could have put forward to support that it is likely, would no doubt have been helpful. Evidently the facts and evidence in this case did not convince justice Donahue beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused knew that the criminal materials were in his possession.
The article does not mention anything about what kind of evidence was presented by the defence (if any), which kind of makes me uneasy. Were there any expert witnesses who could have testified that this material could have been accidentlaly downloaded? Was there any evidence to suggest that other people might have had access to his computer? I am willing to accept that it's entirely possible that perhaps the defence presented nothing of the kind and perhaps Justice Donahue simply wasn't satisfied anyways.
The reason I'm writing about this is just to illustrate the heavy responsability that lies on the shoulders of every journalist when reporting an event, but particularly in reporting decisions made in the courts. Decisions can sometimes be hundreds of pages long, and journalists have only a few paragraphs to summarize them in. It reminds me of my favourite legal quote from Lord Hewart "it is ... of fundamental importance, that justice should not only be done; but be manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done." Journalists have the difficult task of bringing the essence of a decision to the public, so that they in turn can decide for themselves. It is a task I do not envy.
The author of this article does not appear to be deliberately biased, but at least on the surface it does appear to be missing something, though it is entirely possible that this could simply be because there was nothing more to add. I don't cast judgement on either Justice Donahue or the journalist in this case, but somewhere along the line, it appears to me that someone has made a mistake.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

No good deed unpunished

Maybe Green Day was right after all, perhaps nice guys really do finish last. That certainly seems to be the lesson some would take from some of the reactions I've seen to Stéphane Dion's decision to allow the Conservative government's throne speech to pass.
The general impression seems to be that Dion "blinked", or backed down in the face of Conservative toughness. From my point of view, nothing could be further from the truth. Dion is well aware that now is not the time for a third federal election in 4 years. Has everybody forgotten how many provincial elections have already occured this year? Is anybody else aware that there is currently a provincial election going on in Saskatchewan?
Some are suggesting that Dion's decision came as a result of our party's recent poor showing in Outremont, as well as unfavourable polls, but this strikes me as being rather unlikely. The last thing that the Liberal party needs right now is to be branded as the party that forced yet another expensive election.
Whether we Liberals like it or not, Canadians voted for change in 2006 and they want to see us give Prime Minister Harper a chance. If they don't see him getting that chance with a minority government, they might just decide to give him a majority government and see what he does with the country.
Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe are as hungry for an election as Harper is. Both declared their intentions to vote against the throne speech without even waiting to hear it, leaving the ball in Dion's court. Dion listened to what Prime Minister Harper had to say and ultimately decided not to throw the country into an election. Is that so bad? Let's try to remember that it was the throne speech and not an actual bill. Had the PM actually been trying to slip through a confidence bill that all three opposition parties absolutely could not support, then I would say it was time for an election. Perhaps, a new session of parliament might actually get some important bills passed, such as the amended Clean Air Act.
As it stands the Conservative agenda contains several matters that the PM intends to call matters of confidence. If the Prime Minster comes right out of the gates with a confidence bill that no opposition party can support, he may just find that is he who suffers the backlash for triggering an early election.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A great victory, now what?

Well, the numbers are in, and the people have spoken. We Liberals are feeling pretty good about ourselves right about now. We managed to take 71 seats, compared to only 26 for the Conservatives and 10 for the NDP. In all, we managed to capture approximately 42% of the popular vote. Liberals across Ontario should be proud of the great work we've done, considering the strong campaign that was expected from John Tory we really managed to exceed expectations. While it's true that a poorly run Tory campaign was a big help, the October 10th results are a major endorsement of the McGuinty government.
Here at Ottawa U, we managed to hand a crushing defeat to the NDP, in spite of that party's best efforts to pass itself of as the party that best catered to student interests. Of the eight polls considered "campus polls" we managed to win every single one, and in several cases actually collected double the ballots cast for the NDP. While it should be noted that six of the 8 polls are actually for certain residents of the Sandy Hill neighbourhood, a large portion of these were students. The remaining two polls consisted entirely of students living on campus, and were both easily won by Liberal candidate Madeleine Meilleure.
Still, we Liberals should not be so quick to break our arms patting ourselves on the backs just yet, since this week's results actually reflect a small decrease in voter approval. Our majority at Queen's Park has been reduced from 72 seats won with 46% popular support in the 2003 elections. Still, governing a province is not easy, and when you actually have a record in office to defend, an opposition party is bound to steal away a seat or two. When you consider all of the hype that was created by the creation of the health tax, the results actually show that we have done a good job of getting our message across.
I cannot say that I am pleased to see that MMP was so handily defeated. I rather expected that it would not meet the formula required to pass, but was sort of holding out against hope that it might obtain a majority of votes so that the present government might be encouraged to continue searching for a more acceptable form of democratic renewal. Oh well, the people have spoken. Still, all that the results of the referendum really say is that at least for now, the people who voted prefer the First Past The Post (FPTP) system to MMP (or perhaps just didn't feel comfortable with MMP). I sincerely hope that Premier McGuinty will continue for ways to add proportionality to our system. As pleased as I am to see so many Liberals in office, it just doesn't seem fair that we should have 42% of the popular vote and 66% of the seats at Queen's Park.
No matter what, I am most displeased with the voter turnout. I am aware that there has been a growing trend of voter apathy throughout the western world, but somehow I just can't wrap my head around the lack of interest in this particular election, with a referendum to change the way we elect our MPPs one would think that voter turnout would be at least at a normal level. Oh well, I suppose there's only so much that can be done.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

So I guess this means Hell has finally frozen over!

Admittedly, I am not foremost among Bush-haters (or Bush-lovers), but this one had even me floored:

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Est-ce que les principes du RPM sont incompatibles avec les intérêts des Franco-Ontariens?

Plusieurs blogueurs ont déjà soulevé la question de l'impact sur la communauté franco-ontarienne qui pourrait avoir lieu si la province adopte le système de Représentation Proportionnelle Mixte (RPM).

Une de mes très chères amies qui se trouve dans le camp appuyant la préservation du système traditionnel a affiché sur son blogue une copie d'une annonce par rapport à la décision de l'Assemblée de la Francophonie de l'Ontario (AFO) de recommander le rejet du système RPM.

L'AFO semble avoir basé sa décision sur deux facteurs importants: 1) La diminution du montant de circonscriptions va mener à ce que les communautés francophones vont devenir encore plus minoritaire dans leurs circonscriptions; et 2) Puisque les moyens employés par les parties pour choisir quels personnes seront sur leurs listes de candidats pour les 39 sièges "proportionnels", sera pour les parties de choisir.

En ce qui concerne le premier point, je crois que bien que certaines communautés francophones risquent de devenir encore plus minoritaire dans leur circonscriptions, d'autres pourront devenir encore plus nombreux, cela pourra varier selon où sont tracés les lignes géographiques. Par exemple, si on a 3 circonscriptions ayant chacune une population composé de 50,000 personnes, dont 20,000 (40%) sont des Francophones. On pourrait retracer les lignes de ces circonscriptions pour créer 2 circonscriptions ayant chacun 75,000 personnes dont le premier aura 10,000 (20%) francophones et l'autre aura 50,000 (66.6%).

En ce qui concerne le deuxième point soulevé par l'AFO, les Francophones comptent toujours pour environ 5% de la population ontarienne. Lors d'un scrutin électoral, 5% peut facilement faire la différence entre quel partie va former le gouvernement et ceux qui siègeront en opposition. En Ontario, aucun autre groupe linguistique n’est aussi nombreux que les Francophones. Il me semble alors qu'une partie sensible cherchera à séduire ces votes, en s'assurant soit d’avoir beaucoup de Francophones qui se présentent comme candidats dans des circonscriptions où ils ont une forte chance à gagner, ou en plaçant des candidats francophones dans des positions élevés sur leur liste de 39 candidats.

Il est aussi à noter que les Référendums au Canada sont de nature "consultatifs". C'est-à-dire que le pouvoir ultime repose chez le législateur (le Parlement et les Assemblés législatifs provinciaux), mais les résultats d'un vote référendaire crée une forte obligation politique. Il est donc toujours possible que Queen's Park puisse modifier le système pour que la représentation des groupes minoritaires parmi les listes de 39 candidats soit obligatoire. Donc, si le vote réussit et les Franco-Ontariens craignent toujours une manque de représentation, ils pourront toujours faire recours à leur forte pouvoir politique et constitutionnel pour modifier le système.

En bref, je ne crois pas que les Franco-Ontariens seront nécessairement désavantagés par le système de RPM, pourvu que ce système soit introduit avec considération pour les voix francophones. Ceci veut dire que bien sure les Francophones vont devoir demeurer vigilants pour ne pas perdre leurs droits, mais ceci a toujours été le cas pour ce peuple, et rien ne pourra le changer. La communauté Franco-Ontarienne existe de nos jours car elle est forte et résistant à l'assimilation, tant que ceci ne changera pas, ils existeront pour toujours.