A Degraded Justice: Ontario’s Bill 117 A License to Perjury Submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Social Policy
The pressure to reduce work for limited pay results in an ever-increasing number of people who believe they can do a better job themselves by representing their own interests before the courts. The encouragement Legal Aid gives to the bulk tariff method of payment also creates a tremendous pressure to resolve the case by consent or plea-bargaining. “Plead them out – settle it out – move em out” – may well be the motto of lawyers representing legal aid clients. The sooner a case is settled, the more profitable a legal aid case becomes to the lawyer. This frequently results in severe dissatisfaction with the legal profession and a bitter aftermath of resentment towards the courts as well.
In Manitoba, 80% of all convictions obtained in the Family Violence Courts are obtained through a plea-bargain, accounting for approximately 50% of all charges coming before the court. The absence of an effective investigative process for domestic violence allegations raises the specter that many of these plea bargains are coerced from men who do not have the financial resources to defend themselves. The remaining 47% of domestic violence allegations in Manitoba were dismissed, as the criminal law has not found a way to convict people without substantiating evidence for the allegations being made.
A Few Final Thoughts
There can be no question that any contemplated law on domestic violence prevention must be balanced against the rules of natural justice which include due process and the right for accused to be heard. This is not the case in Bill 117, which steamrollers ahead with the idea that women don’t lie and men must be guilty if they are accused.
The relevant factor, of course, is that when you assume all abuse allegations are true, this kind of legislation decreases the right to due process in direct proportion to the degree of presumption made about abuse allegations. We therefore have the equation, if all women tell the truth, then all men lose the right to due process.
Here is another scary thought. Might Ontario’s Bill 117 encourage women to make false allegations in order to obtain all the rights and privileges on their side of the balance sheet. Certain provisions in Bill 117 might be used by some very unscrupulous women to literally steal the use of a man’s property using an allegation of domestic violence. Bill 117 would not give these rights solely to women in married or common law relationships. The Bill provides in paragraph 2(1)3, that “any person who is “cohabiting with the Respondent, or who has cohabited with the Respondent, for any period of time, whether or not they are cohabiting at the time of the application…” may make an application under the provisions of this Act. This includes parts 3 and 8, which provide for the eviction of the Respondent, or the “exclusive possession of the residence…regardless of ownership.” Bill 117 suggests that no woman would take advantage of a naïve man, by moving into his house for even a short while, in order to obtain exclusive rights to his possessions or his residential home. Frankly, I would suggest that Bill 117 would spawn such women, who might even make careers out of finding male dupes for their nefarious plans.
I would not want to suggest that all claims of domestic violence are false, but only that Bill 117 does not contemplate the possibility that some claims may be false. The irony is that this extreme elimination of due process for men may have the effect of placing women in danger,