What is Wrong with Canada’s Criminal Justice System?

I hear this question often, usually in response to a case where an accused has been found not guilty, or where an accused receives what is perceived to be a light sentence in the circumstances. I also hear it from those who would see harsher criminal punishments set in law. Having been a player in our Criminal Justice System for over 22 years, I would like to think that I have a first-hand opinion on the matter.

I believe our system, by and large, is the best Criminal Justice System in the world. While it has its flaws, I don’t believe a better system exists. There is a balance in our system that protects us all, and I do not believe giving it up to punish a few is worth the potential risk. I believe that so long as each member of the justice system (The police, the prosecutor, the judge and the defence lawyer) plays their role to the best of their ability, the whole system works amazingly well. Most guilty people are convicted, and the innocent walk free. Yes, there are cases where the guilty walk away free as well, but this is usually the result of one of the players not living up to what is required in our system. The cases where people are wrongfully convicted almost always result from one of the players taking a short cut, or not fulfilling their role.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Benjamin Franklin

I have read in the past weeks that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are lobbying for scheme that would allow police to obtain basic information about Internet subscribers without a warrant. Part of our basic rights and freedoms guaranteed to all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives us the freedom to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure. Who gets to decide what is reasonable or unreasonable? Should it be an independent Judge who reviews the evidence from arms length, or should we just trust the judgement of any and every police officer and let them search as they wish?

I know that there will be some who say “I have nothing to hide, so it doesn’t matter to me!”, but it should matter to each and every one of us who believe in freedom. If we allow our reasonable expectation of privacy to be eroded, will we ever get it back?

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