Saturday, March 29, 2008

EZRA LEVANT: A day in the life of Canada's kangaroo court

I've read the blogosphere's several accounts of Tuesday's Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearing in Ottawa in the Warman v. Lemire case, and it's on that basis that I've formed my first impressions. You can read some of those reports here, here, here, here, here, here, here and from the defendant himself here. I've also seen two newspaper stories, this one from the National Post's Joseph Brean, and this one by the Ottawa Citizen's Don Butler.

I'd prefer to review the actual transcripts of the hearing, but from what I've read, there will be no transcripts made, only an audio recording.

No transcripts

Let's start there in our analysis: This matter has been proceeding for four years; to investigate and prosecute this case, the CHRC has not only deployed the full weight of their own government staff, but they've retained a series of expensive private sector lawyers as well, such as the comical Giacomo "Serenity Now!" Vigna. I'd conservatively estimate that $2-million in taxpayers' money has been spent to date, but this being a government enterprise, the true number might be closer to $5 million. A half-dozen interveners, including the federal government, have sent lawyers, too, even if they merely sit in the hearing all day, not saying a word. And, of course, the Tribunal itself has been seized with this matter for well over a year, with about 20 days of hearings to date, in at least two cities.

Why was Tuesday's hearing the one day that won't be transcribed and published? Why was a trifling savings of a court stenographer -- who costs, what, a third of what a lawyer bills? -- chosen as the one area of economy to find? Is the Tribunal, with the unlimited resources of the government, out of cash?

The Tribunal's decision to nix transcripts is transparently biased: the one day that the hunters became the hunted -- where the CHRC itself was being grilled -- was the one day that accurate, typed, searchable transcripts were omitted. Try to "search" an eight-hour audio recording for a key word, as opposed to searching a written transcript. Try to hear words that are spoken quietly; try to learn the spelling of unusual names of words; try to skip to important matters and avoid others. It's yet another irregularity in a system where arbitrariness and capriciousness have replaced the rule of law.

That's offensive to anyone, like me, who cares about the openness of our legal system. But it's more than just offensive -- it's unfair to any defendant who will now not be able to rely on such transcripts for his appeal when he's convicted.

One day only!

So the one day in which there will be no transcripts is the one day the CHRC is on the defensive. But why was Tuesday's hearing limited to just one day?

Again, this matter has been grinding on for four years, more than a year of which was in the Tribunal. Richard Warman, the nominal complainant, was given four days for his examination in chief -- that is, four days to make self-serving comments, with Vigna leading him along. Why the sudden impatience? Is it because, with the CHRC's own conduct on trial, it's just not as much fun as shooting white supremacist fish in a barrel?

According to several blog reports, the Tribunal chair, Athanasios Hadjis, was visibly impatient, repeatedly saying "this case is closed". In real courts, it's up to the two sides to announce "we rest our case," not for a bored judge to merely declare it. But don't bother Hadjis with such trifles. He's not a judge, so why should he pretend to act like one?


(Well worth the read!)

Rest at: