Letters Sept. 17: Judges and unpopular decisions; government neglect to blame for health crisis

Judges ponder factors we might not know

Recent op-eds and letters have suggested that “perhaps the time has come to defund our judges” and that we “get the judges we put up with.”

It is a foundational principle of the Canadian criminal justice system that all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all accused persons the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause.

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The Supreme Court of Canada has made it clear that people who are charged with criminal offences are entitled to be released on bail, with conditions if appropriate, unless their detention is necessary.

This is the law that judges and judicial justices apply in bail courts every day across British Columbia, while considering the unique circumstances of each alleged offence, each accused person, and the plan for that person’s release into the community.

Judicial independence and the principles of fundamental justice, which are essential to a functioning justice system, require judges to be free from political influence or public opinion.

It is essential to remember these principles when looking at the actions of an individual judge in an individual case.

We can’t know everything about a case, an offender, or all the factors the judge was required to consider in their decision. If judges miss a public safety issue, there is a mechanism for Crown Counsel to appeal decisions.

While you may disagree with a judge’s decision, that does not mean they are doing it wrong or don’t care about their communities.

Aleem Bharmal, Q.C.
First vice-president
Canadian Bar Association
B.C. Branch

A quick lesson on the rule of law

To say I found Lawrie McFarlane’s commentary in Islander on Sept. 12 disappointing is an understatement. While I can appreciate that Dr. Bonnie Henry want us to be kind, incorrect and unfounded attacks on our judiciary cannot be tolerated and require a swift response.

I have been a lawyer for more than 30 years and while much of my current practice is consensual dispute resolution, I have had the privilege of appearing in all levels of courts in British Columbia.

While I have not always agreed with every decision that has been made in those courts, if a case is wrongly decided, there is an avenue of appeal.

I was trained never to repeat a statement I did not agree with as then it became mine. As a result, a number of erroneous and, in my view, unconscionable statements made by McFarlane will not be repeated. However, “disregard” and “inadequate thought” are not reflective of the work done by our courts.

It is unfortunate that our education system does not require any courses in civics and the makeup of our constitution. The courts are part of our constitutional right.

Rather than a “right to bear arms,” we have the right to “peace, order and good government.” Our judicial system, like the rule of law, is fundamental to peace and order.

McFarlane’s article illustrates a lack of understanding of the rule of law. The rule of law is really very simple: The law is known, accepted and no one is above it.

A pedestrian stepping off the crosswalk, believing that a car will stop at the red light, is an example of the rule of law.

If you do not like the law, lobby for change or become a legislator.

Our judicial system is one of the finest in the world. Our judges are not above the law and they apply the law, in difficult cases, every day of the week.

It is unfortunate that it is easier to write an inflammatory article than do some research into the reasons behind judicial decisions.

Mary E. Mouat, Q.C.
Victoria

Who can keep our community safe?

Re: “Catch and release,” Sept. 16.

In Esquimalt, a man who is a convicted kidnapper and sex offender attempted to break in to a woman’s home. Fortunately, neighbours prevented whatever atrocity this man had in mind, and then the police did their job.

The next morning the guy is released, albeit with some restrictions, with the hope that he adheres to them. His history indicates that this isn’t likely to be the case.

The neighbours and the police did their job. Why can’t the courts do their part in keeping our community safe?

It is no wonder that the police whose lives and well being are often at risk become disheartened. They do not have the support of the judicial system, and in fact as in this case, it has actually betrayed them.

We can’t blame them for asking: “what’s the point?”

Greg Robinson
North Saanich

Great care from doctors and nurses

With all the negative press swirling around our health-care professionals, I, like others have done, felt I needed to write of my recent experience.

Last month my husband was admitted first to 7B and then to ICU at Victoria General Hospital, where he sadly died. Throughout his admission his care was beyond question. Everything was clearly explained, all questions answered.

Despite being obviously very busy much of the time, the staff were always caring, compassionate and supportive. If ever our health-care workers needed support it is now, in these troubling times, when the system is being stretched to the limits.

Angela Moore
Sooke

Years of neglect by governments

Re: “Parksville man dies while family on 911 half-hour hold,” Sept. 15.

Not much makes my blood boil these days, but this article came close. Having had the experience of watching my husband of 40-plus years die of tachycardia, in spite of paramedics and firefighters arriving in just minutes, was the worst experience of my adult life.

My heart goes out to the family. I can imagine their pain. Could his life have been saved by first responders had they been able to get to him sooner? No one will ever know. But my reason for writing this letter is to deter readers from blaming the medical professionals who are doing the best they can in today’s conditions.

It has taken many years of neglect by successive federal governments and 16 years of a provincial Liberal government, which have failed to recognize that hospitals and their medical staff should be a priority.

Using the excuse of having a balanced budget as being more important than people’s health. This of course is done at the expense of average taxpayers and the working poor, who are struggling to get by while taxes for the top earners are decreased and rich companies are given handouts; enabling them to give massive bonuses to their top executives and shareholders.

Something is severely wrong with our system of government when a rich country, such as Canada, is not able to cope with this current emergency. Hospitals and medical staff have been underfunded and undervalued for years.

With the federal election in just a few days, I urge all voters to take a serious look at the voting records and speak with the candidates in their ridings before casting their ballots. We should be asking them each where they stand in increasing federal health transfers to B.C.

Jane McAndry
Langford

We all make choices on how we will depart

Re: “Parksville man dies while family on 911 half-hour hold,” Sept. 15.

It is wonderful of the family to call attention to the need for more ambulance service and trained paramedics. But as a retired registered nurse and senior citizen, I feel that the public should also consider the reality of our health-care system.

This man had signed a do-not-resuscitate request when he knew he had pancreatic cancer. Although the doctor had guesstimated that he could live to Christmas, had the family done any online research to understand the progression of this cancer?

What percentage of patients have lived more than six months after diagnosis?

The man had taken control of his remaining time by signing the do-not-resuscitate order. He exited as he wanted and even an ambulance arrival might not have allowed more time than what he had requested.

Perhaps if his family had talked him through his final moments they would feel more at peace.

We all must face this question in our final years. Whether we are religious, spiritual believers, medically trained, or cherishing every moment with our children and grandchildren, there is a level of acceptance that death is at the end, no matter what.

So we must all choose how we want to exit. Do we want “no heroics,” dying with dignity when our bodies have failed us, or living in a nursing home so we can reach 100? Everyone has a choice!

Joan Wilson
Duncan

Hard to relate to anti-vax arguments

I am really annoyed at the anti-vaxxers, which include my sons, and cannot relate to the reasons they and others have, regarding their choice not to get vaccinated.

Although, restrictions have been put in place for those who refuse the shot, there should be even stricter rules for people who think they are above the law, so to speak, in making this decision with hearsay from the uneducated media regarding this pandemic.

The restrictions for anti-vaxxers should hit below the belt, and although this is a country of free choice, free choice is only going to prolong the ordeal for the ones who are following the advice of the knowledgeable.

Anti-vaxxers are only echoing the fractured, unreliable chants of social hysteria.

Valerie Bellefleur
Victoria

Some measures save lives, other measures take lives

Re: “Forced vaccinations are just the start,” letter, Sept. 16.

I see now why there are people against vaccinations. They equate measures that save lives with those that take lives.

It would seem that intellectually they are incapable of adding one plus one and getting two.

Bill Gibson
Victoria

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