The last time a Canadian judge defended himself in public was 1999. Alberta’s Justice John McClung responded to harsh criticism from the Supreme Court of Canada’s Honourable Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé by saying he was unsurprised so many men in Quebec were committing suicide.
Justice McClung later claimed to have been unaware that L’Heureux-Dubé’s husband had committed suicide in 1978.
It was quite the scandal.
The decision under dispute at the time, R v Ewanchuk, expanded what are now considered to be “rape myths” in current Canadian jurisprudence, and L’Heureux-Dubé was rather harsh in her attack against McClung’s verdict in that ruling.
Justices discouraged from making public comment
Judges are discouraged from making public comment to preserve judicial independence and, since the evidence in 1999 that such commentary can be the momentary equivalent of “winning the internet,” we are left to believe that judges no longer have a sense of humour.
The honour of the courts seemingly depends on both seriousness of language use and an intolerance for ill placed, dry wit.
Mostly, the deterrence from making a public comment is intended to protect our esteemed judges from bringing scandal upon themselves or the courts. The result is that when our judges are under attack they have no line of defence.
PEI has recently announced a private bill to mandate education for all new judges, in line with the federal Bill-C337 currently before the Senate, which would require all new judges to take specialized training before they can adjudicate sexual assault trials. It’s not controversial to expect our judges to be educated. We should hope they graduated at the top of their class.
I’ve often remarked that some doctors may have received their degrees but they also may have only barely passed.
There is a broad distrust for lawyers and other members of the legal system in our society. Judges are deemed to be aloof, lawyers to be corrupt, and police… well, they are constantly working on the public confidence vote as well. And yet we depend on all of the above for peace, order, freedom, and a sense of safety. Without public confidence in the legal system there is no rule of law.
The judicial branch of our social structure is a check and balance on our legislative branch. They are designed to be independent so that politicians can’t pass laws that are unconstitutional and judges are not supposed to make law, they may only enforce the laws in existence. Judges have erasers, not pencils.
What is Trudeau teaching our judges?
If we were to hold a vote of public confidence, I’m not sure who would come out ahead: judges or politicians. But politicians are permitted to make public statements whereas judges are not. When Justin Trudeau commits an act of cultural appropriation, playing Mr. Dressup, he can engage his PR team to explain or divert attention and shell out a few million taxpayer dollars to display his diversity apologetics.
We can demand accountability and transparency from our politicians but, when it comes to who is educating our judges and lawyers, the public are left in the dark. We can question Trudeau but, apparently, we can’t make him tell us what he’s teaching our judges.
It doesn’t take much research to find out the perils behind the Wrought Iron Curtain. At the end of 2017, The Globe and Mail’s celebrated “Unfounded” series by award-winning journalist Robyn Doolittle announced Lori Haskell as a hero of the year. Haskell teaches the “neurobiology of trauma” and brags in her biography credentials that she has taught this theory to Canadian judges, prosecutors and police forces:
[Haskell] has educated judges, crown attorneys, police officers, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, service providers and community groups on these issues. In recent years she has presented to the Canadian judiciary, both nationally and provincially, on behalf of the National Judicial Institute in Ottawa.
Though hailed as a “pre-eminent expert,” Haskell’s neurobiology claims are far from proven. In fact, many view similar theories as “junk science” and a repackaging of the dreaded “recovered memory syndrome” that fuelled the disastrous “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s.
One of the leading US experts in the same “trauma-informed” theory is Russell Strand who has a copyrighted training system called “Certified FETI.” Strand recently touted his involvement in the Harvey Weinstein criminal case saying he trained New York police officers who interviewed the complainants resulting in their ability to lay charges. Strand specifically names detective Nicholas DiGaudio as one of his prized students.
Weinstein has successfully had one charge dropped after evidence was submitted to court that DiGaudio interfered with a witness telling her “less is more” to eliminate evidence that would undermine their case.
Weinstein’s lawyer is now requesting all charges be dismissed claiming they have a vast amount of evidence of police corruption in the investigation including another complainant being told by the detective to “clean up her phones.”
On October 11, 2018, the same day it was being announced that DiGaudio had compromised the Weinstein case and was now under investigation himself, Canada’s Global News glorified Russell Strand for having trained that same officer. We’re told “the way police and law enforcement are interviewing trauma victims, including sexual assault victims, is changing based on scientific data.”
But that scientific data has already been debunked. And no matter what you think of Harvey Weinstein and his behaviour, the fact that his criminal case was moved forward as the result of junk science and witness tampering should be of concern to all of us. Especially since the Trudeau government is relying on the same “experts.”
In December, 2017 leading “neurobiology of trauma” expert Jim Hopper, who had built his credentials telling people that to understand trauma they had to understand the amygdala, found out the brain didn’t work the way scientists previously thought. When neurobiologists made a discovery that undermined Hopper’s product he simply shifted his terminology. “So let’s remember the ‘defense circuitry,’ even if it doesn’t sound as cool as ‘amygdala.’”
Reached for comment, Lori Haskell who teaches her version of the theory to Canadian judges, said it was “incorrect” that Hopper had referred to “new discoveries about the amygdala.” Haskell said. “The more sophisticated understanding of the defense circuitry does not change the validity of trauma-informed interviewing and investigation approaches.”
The flashiness of using scientific jargon has been a main selling point to the “trauma-informed” approach. Where we were once told we need to understand the amygdala to understand trauma, we are now told to just trust the experts.
The re-education of judges offered by these “experts” is being sold to our courts and foisted on our police services without any proper scrutiny. No one is asking questions. No one is raising an objection. After all, it’s the current year and our attention has moved on to the latest tweet.
As Jim Hopper, the neurobiology of trauma expert says, “Importantly, we don’t need to know.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Trudeau is busy figuring out what socks to wear when he makes his next apology.