in Right Edition

Political influence in our Courts – Canadians Right to Self Defence

To state the obvious, Americans do not trust the federal government, and that includes the Supreme Court. Americans believe politics played “too great a role” in the recent health care cases by a greater than two-to-one margin.[1] Only thirty-seven percent of Americans express more than some confidence in the Supreme Court.[2] Academics continue to debate how much politics actually influences the Court, but Americans are excessively skeptical. They do not know that almost half of the cases this Term were decided unanimously, and the Justices’ voting pattern split by the political party of the president to whom they owe their appointment in fewer than seven percent of cases.[3] Why the mistrust? When the Court is front-page, above-the-fold news after the rare landmark decision or during infrequent U.S. Senate confirmation proceedings, political rhetoric from the President and Congress drowns out the Court. Public perceptions of the Court are shaped by politicians’ arguments “for” or “against” the ruling or the nominee, which usually fall along partisan lines and sometimes are based on misleading premises that ignore the Court’s special, nonpolitical responsibilities.

Criminal lawyer Howard Cohen adds that there is a “huge misconception” in Canada regarding the use of self-defence, and many people think they don’t have any rights.
The laws around self-defence are a grey area — the criminal code states a property owner can only make a citizen’s arrest if the alleged wrongdoer is caught in the act. But many people don’t take in to account, “the flexibility and reasonableness of our juries,” a factor that has affected many cases where people have acted to defend themselves or their property, Cohen says.
Stephen Harper introduced legislation last year to try and clarify the self-defence rights of Canadians. It was dubbed the ‘Lucky Moose’ bill, after a case in Toronto where Lucky Moose grocery store owner David Chen and two employees apprehended a thief after he returned to the store.
The three men were charged with kidnapping, carrying a dangerous weapon — a boxcutter— assault, and forcible confinement in the case. The accused thief, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to robbing the store and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

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