There ought to be dents in our collective heads from banging them against the proverbial wall so many times after reading about the goings-on in our courtrooms.
People’s hues and cries continue to reverberate across Canada when talking about the justice system in terms of sentencing, some of which leaves much to be desired on the accountability front.
Recently, two BC women were sentenced to jail for protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. They were reportedly playing badminton in dinosaur costumes while flouting a court injunction against blockades. Despite pleading guilty they were sentenced to more than 20 days in jail and ordered to pay fines.
Okay, they broke the law. But so did a BC man who also broke his girlfriend’s wrist during a violent altercation last year. His sentence – 18 months’ probation. No jail.
The court heard how the intoxicated man became enraged and attacked the woman, hitting her in the face twice. The prosecutor reported that when the victim got up, her boyfriend pushed her, causing her wrist to snap.
Before you pass judgment too quickly, there’s more. Another pair of protesters, including a hereditary chief, were sent to jail after they disrupted pipeline work in Mission Flats in 2020. They too violated an injunction and broke the law, with the judge referring to the chief’s actions as serious, noting that probation was not strong enough to deter his behaviour.
But another BC man received a conditional discharge (house arrest) after beating his ex-wife in front of their child. The court heard how he punched her in the head, neck and shoulders during an argument. It was disclosed that he was convicted of assaulting a previous partner in 2011.
Some may argue that we’re comparing apples and oranges here without legal expertise, but something is seriously wrong when wife beaters get probation while protesters are sent to jail for trying to protect the land. How do we expect to turn the tide for victims of assault when there is little deterrence? Intimate partner violence is a growing concern in Canada, and until we treat it seriously it’s going to continue to dominate our court files.
We are not saying that violating court injunctions is not a serious offence, but beating up women is an atrocious crime which is often watered down with the ubiquitous defence of intoxification.
It sounds like a broken record, but we urge our politicians to press this issue. We really owe it to the countless women trapped in abusive relationships with nowhere to turn.
Lyonel Doherty, editor