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Fall 2006 Edition
JOHN   HOWARD   SOCIETY   OF   ALBERTA

The Reporter

double line
scales of justice

Community Issues in Criminal Justice

"People are not disposable."
                               A. Lees


"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933

Canada has been ranked by the United Nations Human Development Index as the most desirable nation on earth in which to live, 10 times in the last 25 years. It is ranked 6th in 2006, behind only Norway, Iceland, Australia, Ireland, and Sweden.

Do we have problems that have to be addressed? Of course we do! But by every conceivable measure there are very few (if any) more desirable places on this planet to live.

As we move into the 2nd half of the 1st decade of the 21st Century do we, as Canadians, have reason to be so fearful of our fellow citizens that we are prepared, indeed willing, to turn our backs on the fundamental human rights and freedoms that have been centuries in the making, and that have arguably attained their pinnacle in our nation?

Ours is a nation governed by the rule of law and due process. As we pointed out in the Fall 2005 Issue of The Reporter, what that means with respect to the criminal law is that the rule of law requires:

  • the treatment of all citizens with dignity and respect;
  • the imposition of penal sanctions as a last resort, when all else fails, and that such sanction be appropriate to the crime and the offender;
  • the right to counsel; and
  • the right to be tried by a fair and impartial Court, according to law, and to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The foundation for this is found in Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215 A.D. which, by the British North America Act (Constitution Act 1876) remains the law of Canada today, and which, by The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Constitution Act 1982) has been affirmed by Federal and Provincial Governments as fundamental to our Canadian way of life.

Magna Carta states, in Clause 39:

"No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed, or outlawed or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him, nor will we send against him except by the lawful judgment of his peers or the law of the land."

And in Clause 40:

"To no man will we sell, or deny, or delay, right or justice."

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