Justice undermined by Legault
The justice system in Quebec, which is the very foundation of our democracy, is crumbling, and François Legault is doing nothing to support it.
Its failure to adequately fund the courts risks, in the long run, costing society even more and discouraging police, victims, prosecutors and judges.
In a series of decisions, the Supreme Court of Canada has reminded all provinces and territories, as well as the federal government, that a criminal trial must be held within a reasonable time, or the accused will be freed.
In 2016, the Jordan decision codified these strict deadlines.
This is not new and it is well known by our Minister of Justice.
The presumption of innocence
We have the presumption of innocence as a basic principle of our criminal law.
The presumption of innocence is broad and includes, in our system, the right to be represented by a lawyer, the right to confront the testimony of the prosecution and the right not to be compelled to testify.
The burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt rests with the prosecution.
This presumption of innocence also means that the trial cannot be unduly delayed.
If a defendant is forced to wait, especially in prison, for years before trial, the presumption of innocence is worthless.
Lack of resources
In other words, as we say in English,Justice delayed is justice denied(to delay justice is to deny justice).
In the Jordan decision, the Supreme Court simply warned all ministers of justice in the country that they had an obligation to provide the financial and material resources necessary for this presumption of innocence to be respected in practice.
In Quebec, we have a glaring problem with the lack of resources and the underfunding of our justice system.
Our prosecutors are grossly underpaid compared to their Ontario counterparts, clerks and other staff are sorely lacking in our courts, and there are not enough police resources.
If everyone can understand the importance of taking action when our schools are full of mold or the emergency room is overflowing, the justice system seems further from our priorities, more abstract.
A fight to defend
Imagine that in your neighborhood there is a shootout with injuries.
The police are doing their job well.
By putting their own lives at risk, some police officers manage to save others. They make arrests.
Prosecutors build their case and prepare victims to testify. Then nothing. Everyone is waiting, waiting, waiting.
Then they learn that the defendants will be released because their trial has been delayed too much for lack of resources.
This situation will repeat itself thousands of times in Quebec over the next year, because the Legault government refuses to follow the order of the Supreme Court and provide the necessary resources.
The Chief Justice is valiantly defending the foundations of our free and democratic society.
Those who cherish our justice system know that Madam Justice Rondeau deserves support.