Outrage ensues

Canadians are unhappy – and deservedly so.

The reaction to a plea bargain in Orangeville this week has many people concluding there is a double standard when it comes to justice in this country.

A $500 cheque and a plea of guilty to reckless driving had many people seeing red. Former MP Rahim Jaffer was in an Orangeville court answering to charges of cocaine possession, speeding (43km/hour over the posted speed limit) and impaired driving – based on failing a breathalyzer test.

According to reports in the national media, the mechanics of the search and the accumulated evidence were such that a conviction on some of those charges was not guaranteed. On that basis the Crown proceeded with a plea to a reduced charge.

While the Crown has every right to enter such arrangements there is something at its core that seems wrong here. Jaffer is a former Conservative MP and his wife, Helen Guergis, is a sitting MP and cabinet minister from Simcoe. Canadians know intuitively that if Jaffer carried a lunch pail to work, no such treatment would be afforded him. And that is wrong.

On such occasions we are reminded of the old days when law and order themes formed part of election campaigns, or times in opposition when the Conservatives (nee the Reform Party of Canada) floated the notion of zero tolerance.

Under that formula, there was no wiggle room for extenuating circumstances – or room for an officer to use some common sense. Of course, such laws apply to others – with no group more harshly treated than the guy with a lunch pail who is unlikely to have any strong connections within the system.

As the federal Conservatives dealt with such questions on Canada AM on Wednesday morning, we could hear the faint sound of a “thump-thump,” as Jaffer’s political corpse was thrown under the bus. Conveniently, the court dealing with him is under provincial jurisdiction, allowing the Conservative commentator an out. Never answered was the question to whom zero tolerance should apply; to all of us or just some of us.

Confidence in our institutions continues to erode and we find it increasingly difficult to offer optimistic assessments for a public that grows weary of these double standards that seem to present themselves.