7.16.2006

reality cheque

The excellent people of Tennessee Guerilla Women have honoured me (and some other Canadian bloggers) with a visit. They have a question, which I am turning over to you.

Back before I moved, when this blog was a lightning rod for wingnuts, friends of wmtc heard a lot of myths and misperceptions lies about Canada. I'm not talking igloos and dogsleds here.

You may recall the nut-bar who said it's illegal to disparage the Queen - and if you do, the Mounties will knock on your door in the middle of the night and haul your ass to the prison. (Projection, anyone?)

I was told my children would be forced to speak French (poor Cody, she barely speaks English!), and I'd be forced to submit to sharia law - that is, if I didn't die first, while waiting for medical treatment.

The Tennessee feminists have unearthed another claim, and I can't say whether or not it's true.

When the events that eventually came to be known as the Sponsorship Scandal first occurred, was there a media blackout?

You know I don't need convincing that the Canadian media is heads and shoulders better than the US media. Relative to the US, media in Canada is more free of government interference, less biased, reports with more context, and represents more points of view. (Not as much as we'd all like to see, perhaps, but way better than the US.) Anyone who holds up the media as an example of the US's "freedom" and "liberty" is beyond misinformed - they're insane.

However, I want to get my facts straight. Was there a media blackout, and if so, why?

UPDATE: We've been quoted. Wmtc readers are the best.

29 comments:

Jacob said...

Yes, there was a media blackout. The judge in question band publishing some of the details of the scandal until the people in question could be tried. It was a temporary ban to protect three people's right to a fair trial. It gets done periodically whenever there is a series of trials (or trials and inquiries) for particularly spectacular crime that releasing the details of would make finding an unbiased jury impossible.

Personally I disagree with this process, generally speaking there aree enough oblivous people in our society that you will always be able to find a jury.

L-girl said...

Ah-ha! It was about the trial! Now it makes perfect sense. Thank you, Jacob.

Personally I disagree with this process, generally speaking there aree enough oblivous people in our society that you will always be able to find a jury.

However, then you're limited to juries comprised solely of oblivious people who like to be uninformed. That doesn't seem like such a good idea.

But regardless, there are similar media blackouts in the US from time to time. There are also countless mistrials because of jury bias through reporting.

So it's what I thought: the wingnut got it technically correct, but substantially wrong.

Thanks again.

Scott M. said...

The media blackout was limited in nature... the vast majority of the hearings were televisied and, in fact, were not only the most watched television show in Quebec, but in fact resulted in record numbers of viewers for over two months!

At the end of every day, the judge would hear arguments about what should and shouldn't be released... it was quite amazing. The media was allowed to attend -- and they did -- but they couldn't report until he said "OK". The ban actually only lasted from March 29 to April 7th. Hardly a huge disruption of our democratic rights.

A great timeline is here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/groupaction/timeline.html

L-girl said...

Excellent, Scott. Thank you!

Such a well thought-out and balanced process. May I say, how Canadian.

James said...

This isn't the first time this sort of thing has made news in the US. You may remember the Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka trials. There was an extensive media blackout there, for the same reason -- to prevent information (which may or may not be correct) from biasing potential jurors. The worst possible result in these trials would be for Bernardo or Homolka to have been released on a technicality because it turned out that some juror was basing his or her decision on incorrect media reporting of an aspect of the crime.

However, a bunch of Americans took it upon themselves to "stand up for free speech" and start publishing any and every rumour that filtered south of the border. One nut-case would go to one of the border bridges (can't remember if it was Detroit or Buffalo) and yell details across the river.

These were probably the same sort of people who complain about "all the rights criminals get", oblivious to the fact that those rights are there to minimize the chances that they might ever get convicted of something they didn't do.

However, then you're limited to juries comprised solely of oblivious people who like to be uninformed. That doesn't seem like such a good idea.

Yeah, but that's the kind of jury lawyers like. They often don't want people with good critical reasoning skills.

L-girl said...

However, a bunch of Americans took it upon themselves to "stand up for free speech" and start publishing any and every rumour that filtered south of the border. One nut-case would go to one of the border bridges (can't remember if it was Detroit or Buffalo) and yell details across the river.

Oh my lord.

These were probably the same sort of people who complain about "all the rights criminals get"

We can just about guarantee it.

However, then you're limited to juries comprised solely of oblivious people who like to be uninformed. That doesn't seem like such a good idea.

Yeah, but that's the kind of jury lawyers like. They often don't want people with good critical reasoning skills.


In NYC, if you wanted to get out of jury duty, you only needed to have an opinion. A strong opinion in any direction would disqualify you.

M@ said...

On the jury thing -- I can't remember where, but I remember Canadian judge saying once that they don't expect, or even want, jurors who know nothing about the case; they want jurors who are capable of cinsidering the evidence, following the judge's instructions, and making reasonable decisions. I think this whole jury contamination thing is ridiculous.

But I do understand what was going on with Bernardo. With high-profile trials, it's critical to avoid giving the accused any reason to invalidate the process. Imagine if Bernardo had been able to beat the rap! I can't imagine the fallout.

The thing about these publication bans, however, is that they must have a clearly-defined endpoint. The Bernardo ban lasted until the day he was convicted (or sentenced maybe).

The trial of the Stupid Seventeen going on right now (the Muslim youths and their nutty terrorist plans) is a good example of a bad publication ban. They've "broken" a criminal cell that didn't actually do anything, and didn't have any plans that didn't involve RCMP moles at some point. Yet their hearings, so far, have not been public.

My point is that the bans are allowable only to protect the accused. I think the current ban is to protect the RCMP and the government from having their rationale criticised, and I don't like that one bit.

Whew. Sorry. Bit of a rant there. But it's a really interesting topic.

But as my kids would say, if I had any: c'est la vie...

L-girl said...

I think a little less media circus surrounding high-profile cases is a good thing. Quiet the whole thing down, make sure the jury is only getting information within the court proceedings. The public does have a right to know, but not necessarily simultaneously with the proceedings.

A judge may say the system wants such-and-such types of jurors, but what a judge wants and what defence lawyers and prosecutors will use to their advantage may be something different.

But as my kids would say, if I had any: c'est la vie...

Excuse me, but if you don't have any, how do you know what they'd say...? This I must know. :)

James said...

In NYC, if you wanted to get out of jury duty, you only needed to have an opinion. A strong opinion in any direction would disqualify you.

That's true here, too.

On the jury thing -- I can't remember where, but I remember Canadian judge saying once that they don't expect, or even want, jurors who know nothing about the case;

Judges want that; lawyers often want people who'll buy their arguments hook, line, and sinker (especially if they have a weak case). That reduces the case from an argument based on evidence to a contest based on rhetorical skills. The evidence can really only favour one lawyer's side, after all.

But I do understand what was going on with Bernardo. With high-profile trials, it's critical to avoid giving the accused any reason to invalidate the process.

Exactly. You don't want either side to have any excuse to have the result thrown out if you can avoid it, especially one where there's no doubt that the decision is correct, but it has to be overturned because someone bent or broke a rule.

The thing about these publication bans, however, is that they must have a clearly-defined endpoint. The Bernardo ban lasted until the day he was convicted (or sentenced maybe).

Yup. That was not well understood in the US at the time of the Bernardo/Homolka trials -- this wasn't the courts sealing something away forever. This was just to make sure the trial was run by the book.

The trial of the Stupid Seventeen going on right now (the Muslim youths and their nutty terrorist plans) is a good example of a bad publication ban. They've "broken" a criminal cell that didn't actually do anything, and didn't have any plans that didn't involve RCMP moles at some point.

This (and the one or two similar cases that have cropped up in the US recently, like the guys who had talked about blowing up the Holland tunnel to flood Manhattan) are bizarre to begin with, but given how wild media accusations against Muslims have been known to get at times, I can see why it was done.

My point is that the bans are allowable only to protect the accused.

I think the bans are allowable to protect the integrity of the trial process either way, myself.

(Flooding Manhattan? Wasn't that a They Might Be Giants Song? Yes, here it is:

I'll sink Manhattan
Right under the sea
I'll find the sweetest spot to watch
As it goes away

You were so happy
With the things that you said
Like, "He's my lower half," you laughed
But you're going to cry

A river of tiny tears flow from your crocodile eyes
Too late to apologize, I say, as flood waters rise

I'll sink Manhattan
I'll sacrifice friends
I think they'd understand my plan
I'll never be sure

I've got a message
So before I get through
I'll find your answering machine
And I'll sink it first

Burn your forget-me-nots
Admit that true love can die
No, I won't apologize, my love, just kiss me goodbye.
)

egalia said...

Thanks guys, this is great. So, I take it, everyone does not want to be American? heh.

A media blackout to protect the rights of the accused certainly pales beside a government that pays journalists to sell its propaganda via newspaper columns and even distributes fake news videos to media outlets - as the Bush Administration has been caught doing.

I don't know where the widely acclaimed 'America, land of the free' went, but I know it's gone.

Just one of many reasons to kick myself for giving up my Canadian immigrant status!

L-girl said...

Just one of many reasons to kick myself for giving up my Canadian immigrant status!

!!!!! Say it ain't so.

The PA_Lady said...

Oh, you Canadians - so nice, so sensible...so damned intelligent! Such a great change of pace from the lunatics on the right-wing!

Any chance you'd be willing to adopt some of us "normal" Americans if things get too bad south of the border? I'd even learn to say "aboot"! :)

L-girl said...

Any chance you'd be willing to adopt some of us "normal" Americans if things get too bad south of the border?

"If"...? You don't have to wait to be adopted. You can do what I did. Download your application now.

M@ said...

Excuse me, but if you don't have any, how do you know what they'd say...? This I must know. :)

Didn't you listen to your intelligent and well-informed visitors early on? On what your kids would have to speak if you moved here? I mean, my god, didn't you guys get the memo with your immigration papers, or anything!?

Socialist re-education team to Port Credit, STAT!

Incidentaly, it's really cool that you were able to get this info to those down south. I'd love to have more USA citizens know that things like universal public health care can work -- not because it would tell them that Canada is so great, but to tell them that they could have this too.

The PA_Lady said...

"If"...?

Hmm...good point.

You can do what I did. Download your application now.

I did! Also did a lot of exploring through your handy links. Thx!

GarySTJ said...

In case no one metioned this yet, its check, not cheque. A cheque is something you pay your rent with. For example - "Check out this cheque".

I would suggest you let your spellings change organically. Both styles are correct, and no one is forcing you to change. Switch when one style no longer looks correct, or when writing formally for Canadian media publications.

Also, I should mention that you (L-Girl) are sounding more like a Canadian apologist than the radical progessive you claim to be. In fact, you sound an awful lot like the American "right wing, wing-nuts" you rail against regularly - only the Canadian version of them.

Nothing personal, but I say this (coming from the Left) because Canada doesn't need anymore of these types of people. We've become complacent, and self-congratulatory attitudes such as yours only complicates the matter. Yes I realize that its "better than the US" (even though in some respects it isn't), but you live in Canada now and unless you want to live life playing the comparison game, you're not serving anyone. In fact, its a slap in the face to people like me who see real injustices here faced by real, living people.

Anyways, just my 2 cents. I've been reading your blog regularly, by the way (and will continue to do so), but just wanted to air the issues I have with your presentation of this country.

L-girl said...

In case no one metioned this yet, its check, not cheque.

It was a joke.

L-girl said...

Also, I should mention that you (L-Girl) are sounding more like a Canadian apologist than the radical progessive you claim to be.

Hey, this is who I am. I don't claim to be one thing or the other, nor do I care what I sound like to you or anyone else.

I can only express my opinions. What category they fall into in your view is not important to me.

Canada doesn't need anymore of these types of people

Too late, I'm already here! What's more, Canada is not you. If you don't want any more of "these types", that's your opinion, but it may or may not be what Canada needs.

but you live in Canada now and unless you want to live life playing the comparison game, you're not serving anyone.

I've been here less than one year. This is how it looks to me now. Ten years from now, I'm sure it will look different.

I've never claimed to be "serving anyone". I am merely giving my view of the world.

While I can appreciate your perspective that Canada should do better, and that we should strive against injustice, not just say "we're better than the US", this is still how things looks to me.

If every day in my blog, I criticized Canada and railed against its problems (which I haven't really seen yet, although I'm sure they're there), people would get on me for that, too. "You've been here less than one year and you're already complaining?"

So you see, I can't alter my view to suit your idea of what an immigrant from the US should do and say, or anyone else's. I can only tell observe the world and comment on it as I see it. Same as you.

Lone Primate said...

I'm chiming in a little bit late here, but I have something to add that might illustrate some of the differences here in Canada relative to the States.

It's not infrequent in Canada for judges to set publication bans for high-profile cases. The basic premise for doing so is to ensure that the accused receive a fair trial. The person is presumed innocent, and part of the idea is to promote this in the face of jury selection. Relatedly, juries are often strictly sequestered in order that they are shielded from news that might prejudice them.

The case I remember in particular was that of Francis Roy in 1999. He was accused of the murder of 11-year-old Alison Parrott in Toronto in 1986 (I remember thinking at the time that they would never find the murderer... this was before the real advent of DNA evidence, which eventually led to his arrest ten years later, astounding me). The newspapers reported his previous convictions for two other rapes, but this was kept from the jury. I remember being very angry at the time that the previous convictions were not disclosed in the trial, but the fact is, the evidence needed for a conviction was there, and the jury went ahead and did its work, and did find him guilty of Alison's murder. It was at that moment that it dawned on me that this was an individual case. Either there was enough evidence to convict on its own merit, or there was not. If our standards were lower, how convenient it would be for sloppy investigators to simply say, "well, look, he did X and Y, so you can safely assume he's guilty of Z". But that's precisely why such evidence is inadmissible. And this was anything but sloppy police work. They did a brilliant job, over long years, of creating an airtight case, and had no need to ply a jury with previous convictions.

So long as they're used wisely, in the interests of fundamental justice, I support the use of temporary publication bans and non-disclosure. A fair trial is a difficult enough prospect from the moment of the charge; its maintenance needs all the help it can get.

Another interesting departure between the jury systems in Canada and the US is that Canadian jurors are permanently enjoined, under penalty of contempt, from discussing jury room deliberations with anyone outside the jury, even the judge, for fear that the administration of justice would be brought into disrepute.

L-girl said...

If every day in my blog, I criticized Canada and railed against its problems (which I haven't really seen yet, although I'm sure they're there), people would get on me for that, too. "You've been here less than one year and you're already complaining?"

On the way to work, I thought of several things that I do criticize Canada for - most notably, its involvement in Afghanistan.

I'll post more about this whole theme later in the week.

L-girl said...

Didn't you listen to your intelligent and well-informed visitors early on? On what your kids would have to speak if you moved here? I mean, my god, didn't you guys get the memo with your immigration papers, or anything!?

Socialist re-education team to Port Credit, STAT!


HA! I wish I had gotten this the first time round. Very good. :-)

Incidentaly, it's really cool that you were able to get this info to those down south.

Yes, I feel a bit like a spy.

I'd love to have more USA citizens know that things like universal public health care can work -- not because it would tell them that Canada is so great, but to tell them that they could have this too.

Exactly. The information Americans see about (to use your example) the Canadian health care system is comprised almost entirely of lies. (I'm not exaggerating.) Whatever bit of truth telling I can do, I'm glad for it.

L-girl said...

The newspapers reported his previous convictions for two other rapes, but this was kept from the jury. I remember being very angry at the time that the previous convictions were not disclosed in the trial, but the fact is, the evidence needed for a conviction was there, and the jury went ahead and did its work, and did find him guilty of Alison's murder. It was at that moment that it dawned on me that this was an individual case. Either there was enough evidence to convict on its own merit, or there was not.

Yeah, that's super tricky business, what's admissible and what's not. It often leads to convictions on lesser charges. One reason rape statistics are always lower than reality (besides that most rapes go unreported) is cases being bumped down to "aggravated sexual assault" or just "sexual assault" because there's a better chance of conviction.

Re DNA, anti-violence groups in the US are working double time to try to get the statute of limitations for rape cases expanded. In many states, it's still 5 years, while DNA evidence is now available that could help convict serial rapists who've been at it for 10, 15 years.

GarySTJ said...

"If every day in my blog, I criticized Canada and railed against its problems (which I haven't really seen yet, although I'm sure they're there), people would get on me for that, too."

No one is asking you to rail against Canada every day unless this the stated purpose of your blog. To my knowledge it isn't.

I think the point I was driving at is that you seem to be well on your way down the slope to Canada fanboyism. And when I say it serves no one, I'm inlcuding yourself into that equation for what I think are obvious reasons.

Now, the case may well be that you are, in fact, a proponent of everything that is fundamentally "Canadian". You might, save for a few current events here and there, feel confident in the overall direction this country has taken in the past few decades.

There certainly is nothing wrong with this point of view, nor is there anything wrong with having these same feelings towards the US. But it does beg a question, namely, how does one who is so fundamentally opposed to the United States find themselves so fundamentally a proponent of Canada - so much so that one emigrates from the former to the latter - when any honest analysis of the macro-level direction of both countries reveals an almost indistinguishable destination.

More specfically, I'm left with a number of other questions. For instance, I wonder why you pass on a Republican invasion of the Middle East in favour of a Liberal invasion of the Middle East. I wonder why Canadian flag-waving jingoism is tastful while American flag-waving jingoism is ignorant. I wonder why you abhor a news agency which is interfered by government in practice (Fox) to one which is interfered by government in defintion (CBC). I wonder why you can justify a history of slavery, genocide and imperialism while not being able to justify a history of slavery, genocide and imperialism. I also wonder why you admire an immigration system which favours wealthy, educated immigrants over one which favours wealthy, educated immigrants. I think these are questions which deserve answers, and ones which I assume you've mulled over during the months you contemplated your choice to migrate.

I believe that one can emigrate legitimately from one to the other without answering these questions, but I think to do so without admitting that the choice was based on anything but aesthetics is intellectually dishonest.

I guess I should also say that I'm not holding anything against you or trying to sound cheeky. Its just that someone denoucning a place one day then holding its partner in crime on a pedestal the next puts me at a loss. Maybe you could clarify your position...

L-girl said...

Ah, big questions and many of them. I'll respond tomorrow when I'm home - too big to do at work.

You don't sound cheeky, you sound downright nasty. But I'll answer anyway.

GarySTJ said...

Nasty? Where and why did you find my post offensively filthy, very dirty, foul, defiled, disgusting and/or nauseating?

Now that was cheeky.

Lone Primate said...

I wonder why Canadian flag-waving jingoism is tastful while American flag-waving jingoism is ignorant.

Where does this come from? I haven't seen Laura waving the flag over the invasion of Afghanistan by Canadian troops. I can't speak for anyone else here, but I found the idea objectionable from the outset. And I think that it is objectionable generally is reflected in the fact that Canadians are questioning our role there, and it's what kept us from participating in the subsequent invasion of Iraq.

... one which is interfered by government in defintion (CBC).

Where, exactly?

I wonder why you can justify a history of slavery, genocide and imperialism while not being able to justify a history of slavery, genocide and imperialism.

Have you ever examined the relative histories to compare the breadth and depth of these phenomena? Your thesis proceeds from the logical fallacy that all apples are equally tart, all water is equally polluted, all mushrooms are equally toxic... no distinction is made, nor is the recognition that one might be made acknowledged. But the fact is, some apples are sweeter than others, some water more potable, some mushrooms more edible. Choices can be made, based on examination and value judgements. A car with a scratch on the fender and a car with a bent frame are both, technically, "damaged". But you were selling the former and someone offered you the value of the latter on the basis that "they're both damaged cars", I'll bet the distinction would become abundantly and immediately clear to you.

I also wonder why you admire an immigration system which favours wealthy, educated immigrants

Well, this one doesn't even make sense. As a developed First World nation with the capacity to admit and settle approximately 1-2% of its population in any given year, who ought we to favour? Unskilled, uneducated people who may not even be able to support themselves, much less contribute to a demographically aging society, and are likely thus to inspire nothing but resentment for themselves and opposition to further immigration? How does that serve the interests of either Canada or its immigrants, present and prospective?

I think these are questions which deserve answers, and ones which I assume you've mulled over during the months you contemplated your choice to migrate.

I think they're poor questions based on unsupported ipse dixit assertions that really require you to reconsider their bases. With the exception of perhaps the last one, they're not arguing points, but merely the use of equivalency of terms to give the illusion of equivalency of condition; a device of rhetorical dishonesty people have been wise to at least since the time of Cicero.

L-girl said...

Nasty? Where and why did you find my post offensively filthy, very dirty, foul, defiled, disgusting and/or nauseating?

I am using the word nasty to mean rude, caustic, not nice. Sorry to confuse you.

I will respond to these questions shortly, in the main blog, not in comments. Thanks for your patience.

L-girl said...

Damn, Lone Primate, I wish I could write like you.

redsock said...

GarySTJ: "Nothing personal, but I say this (coming from the Left) because Canada doesn't need anymore of these types of people."

Love it or leave it, baby!