Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Political power play will end up in the penalty box
As you can tell by my perfect postseason picks
(11 for 11 in NHL playoff series so far, need the Sharks to beat Red Wings to keep the streak alive!) I much prefer the hockey arena to the political one.
That being said, Manitoba Tory leader Hugh McFadyen
has been firing some political pucks this week that have certainly got my attention.None more so that Sunday's bombshell, in which McFadyen promised Manitobans that electing his party into power will mean the end of Legal Aid funding for convicted gang members. (Read story HERE
)Oh, and by bombshell I really mean "absolutely absurd announcement".
Who is he kidding? In an effort to cash in on the current crime craze, McFadyen has gone way offside by vowing to do something that must have every constitutional lawyer in this land salivating.Not to mention an entire justice system - judges, defence lawyers and Crown attorneys - who are all too aware of recent cases of wrongful conviction and some of the lessons that have come out of subsequent inquiries.I don't recall ever hearing it suggested that refusing people's right to a lawyer is a move in the right direction.This idea may look good on paper to some, but there is no way it would ever survive a court challenge.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees "every arrested person the right to retain counsel without delay".McFadyen thinks the way around that is by noting the Charter doesn't go on to extend that counsel guarantee to taxpayer-funded Legal Aid.So what exactly is McFadyen thinking will happen the first time some unemployed, welfare-collecting gang member who qualifies for Legal Aid gets arrested and needs a lawyer, only to be denied under the Tory plan?
Don't forget, Legal Aid carefully screens out who qualifies and who doesn't. There's no middle ground here.In McFadyen's world, I suppose we would just have the gang member represent himself in court. Or else a bunch of good-hearted defence lawyers with plenty of time on their hands will simply volunteer to work the case for free.Of course, neither of those scenarios is plausible. What will actually happen is a series of costly, time-consuming legal challenges.
And judges, refusing to have their courtrooms turn into a three-ring circus with a self-represented accused, will simply exercise their power and appoint a private bar lawyer to represent the accused.At a much higher rate, by the way.Don't mistake my criticism of this idea for having a sympathetic heart for poor, down-and-out gang members. I certainly don't.McFadyen made some solid justice announcements earlier in the week, especially with regards to building a new medium-security jail and hiring hundreds more cops, prosecutors, judges and support staff.But the Tory leader is just plain wrong if he thinks this radical Legal Aid idea is actually going to solve existing problems in the system. It will simply create more.
I think he needs to call a time out and go back to the drawing board.www.mikeoncrime.com