“The courts are not a thought police,” said Justice Kevin Phillips as he released Tamara Lich on bail.
When freedom runs through your veins, the notion that political vendettas can be settled by unjustly imprisoning dissidents scares any liberty-minded person. Many people are duly concerned about the growing distrust in our institutions across the country. From the government to mainstream media, there has been a steadily growing lack of trust in these institutions amongst everyday Canadians.
An independent media and an objective judiciary are important parts of a healthy democracy. The media accounts of Tamara Lich’s trial and the Trucker Convoy were disgraceful. Outright lies and propaganda was spread through mainstream media outlets accusing demonstrators of being in cohort with Russia, that the organizers were involved in plots to overthrow the government, and that children on bouncy castles were in harm's way. But despite the fear-mongering claims of the Liberals and their friends in the media, Tamara was charged with mischief – not sedition.
Many of us were shocked to learn that the judge that presided over Tamara’s bail was a former Liberal Party candidate. The fact that she did not recuse herself from what was a politically charged situation was shocking to many observers. Tamara applied for a bail review however, and was subsequently released by a new judge.
While out on bail, Tamara sought permission to accept an award at a ceremony and was permitted to attend the event. It is alleged that a Crown prosecutor who had been found to have donated approximately $17,000 to the Liberal Party, argued that Tamara breached her bail conditions for attending the pre-approved event.
In an extremely well-reasoned decision, Judge Phillips reminded us that the purpose of bail is not to impose a sentence on a person before they get a trial. Judge Phillips, looked at whether Tamara is likely to re-offend, thereby dismissing the political grandstanding on all sides.
This is what he said (emphasis added)
“..no court would ever seek to control the possession or manifestation of political views. The courts are not a thought police. We seek only to control conduct to the extent that certain behavior will violate or likely lead to violation of the law. Here, the objective was to keep a highly problematic street protest from reviving or reoccurring.”
“The court must be careful to make sure that bail terms are tailored to only the issues pertinent to interim release and not stray into punishment before trial. What rules are necessary to lower the substantial likelihood of further criminal offences to a tolerable level? Likewise, what release conditions, in all the circumstances, would have the effect of making incarceration unnecessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice?”
As a lawyer, I feel pride in reading this decision and knowing that we still have an independent judiciary. But sadly, we are witnessing the erosion of institutions brought on by a corrupt government that throws around money to control the media, shamelessly interfered with an RCMP investigation, invoked the Emergencies Act without instruction from the police, and some would argue that much of this corruption is fueled by a Prime Minister who openly opines that people who disagree with him should possibly not be tolerated by society at all.
And so it is no surprise that an impartial judge has to remind the Liberals that a court’s role is to judge criminal activity, not divergent political viewpoints. Judge Phillips' decision clearly highlights the problem with judicial actors taking on the role of political activists. This is why I believe that we need to expand the current diversity training provided to judges to include political beliefs as well.
We need rules in place that demand judges and crown prosecutors can’t even have the appearance of political bias, and where there is an obvious political affiliation, that person should declare a conflict and recuse themselves from the case. Ms. Lich’s initial trial should have never been before a judge who was a former Liberal candidate; and, the crown trying to revoke her bail should have never been a big Liberal donor.
It is imperative that we restore confidence in our institutions. The fact that so many Canadians were referring to Tamara as a “political prisoner” and that the judge had to admonish the prosecutor regarding the distinction between a bail and a sentence, highlights our declining democracy. It underscores the insecurities and concerns that people are feeling about impartiality of decision-makers within our institutions. The fragility of our democracy has brought many people who fled communism and dictatorship regimes to tears.
If we are going to be the party of the rule of law, it is important that we stand up for freedom and justice. And that means that justice must not only be done, it must shine forth!