Leaders agree: Punishment first, trial later—if ever


The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small: “Off with his head!” she said, without even looking round. –– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

At last night’s debate, all three party leaders offered ringing endorsements of the Queen’s punish-first, trial-later approach to law enforcement. All three tossed the presumption of innocence on the scrap heap in response to a question from Ian McNeil of East Lake Ainslie:

How comfortable are you with a Safer Communities and Neighborhoods Act, which allows people to be evicted from their homes without being charged, or convicted of a criminal offence, or having an opportunity to face their peers?

Darrell Dexter, who purports to be a New Democrat, led the charge:

Well there are always concerns, civil liberties concerns, around whether of not people are able to get a fair hearing with respect to these kinds of matters. But what the Safer Neighborhoods and Communities Act [sic] actually does, there is an evidentiary base for decisions that are made, and there are investigations that take place, and they are designed to protect neighborhoods from disruptive activity.

It is a tool that is in the toolbox of the authorities and I have darrellfaith not only in the authorities but in the courts of this province that they administer that law appropriately, and they will protect the civil liberties of the people of this province.

Overriding all of this, of course, are the rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that is the overall safeguard for those mechanisms that  exist in the Safer Communities and Neighborhoods Act [sic].

You have to wonder, is this guy inspired by the likes of Tommy Douglas and Stanley Knowles, or by Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day? The premier, too, stood squarely in the Harper-Day, law-and-order camp.

I want to thank Ian for the question. I want to make sure that the people of our province feel as safe you do in East Lake Ainslie, that you can leave your door unlocked—not that I know if you leave your door unlocked or not. But I want to make sure they feel as safe as you do walking down the streets of Lake Ainslie.

One of the reasons why we moved forward on this legislation was to make sure we got to the very heart of the issues of drugs and prostitution and other issues. We’ve seen a number of evictions. It’s the  absolutely the right thing to do. We’ve seen over $200 million worth of drugs taken off our streets in the last year, and that’s because of the 250 extra police we put on the streets of Nova Scotia.

Yes, but don’t free societies traditionally presume people—even accused people, which the evictees often are not—to be innocent before convictions are rendered and sentences imposed? Not necessary, says Liberal Stephen McNeil, so long as you have faith in the police.

I have faith in the people of our province who are enforcing this law. No one is being evicted without due cause. As you know, these things are being investigated, and its making a real attack when it comes to drugs and communities.

How does McNeil know no one is being evicted without cause? Not because police have charged anyone with a crime. Not because an impartial judge has heard both sides and rendered a verdict. He knows it’s fair because the police say so.

In the province where an innocent 17-year-old spent 11 years in jail for a murder someone else committed, all three leaders are prepared to forgo charges, evidence, trials, and verdicts, and proceed directly to punishment. When it comes to suspected drug users and prostitutes, they are fine with punish first, trial later—if ever.

“Consider your verdict,” the King said to the jury.

“Not yet, not yet!” the Rabbit hastily interrupted. “There’s a great deal to come before that!”