Close your eyes and try to imagine this. You have a gathering at your place, some friends and acquaintances, some of whom bring along strangers. You have to head off to a party somewhere else, and unwisely leave them to close the place down. When you get back, your place has been trashed and raucous partiers refuse to leave.
You order them out. A drunken, cocaine-stoned lout slaps you across the face. He is older than you, and outweighs you by thirty pounds. He pursues you, with a couple of buddies. You grab a kitchen knife to ward them off. The lout ends up stabbed, and then dead.
You are 18 years old. And the system decides to make an example of you.
You are charged with second-degree murder. It was just a fist-fight, says the Crown. It was fair. Then you brought a knife into it. You should spend the next decade in jail, punk.
The case for self-defence, stunningly obvious in this case, is argued by your lawyer. But, bamboozled by an over-zealous prosecutor, the jury goes for the great Canadian compromise: not second-degree murder, but the included offence of manslaughter. After all, someone is dead. You’re now looking at years in jail—for defending yourself in your own home.
This is not the first time we have read about this kind of perversion—sometimes an actual inversion—of justice. After a couple of cases in Toronto, I posted this piece: I now think I might have been wrong about the racial angle. Any one of us can be targeted, first by intruders, then by the state.
Matt Gurney wrote a provocative article after the Mahilal travesty began, espousing a Canadian form of the so-called “castle doctrine”. He cited several other examples. He and I are not ideological soul-mates, to put it gently, but it’s hard not to agree with him when we see utter miscarriages of justice like the one that unfolded in an Ottawa courtroom this past week.
This case should—must—be appealed, or none of us are safe. Over to you, Pat McCann.