Regular people having rights in law is a fairly new concept for humans. The story of modern humans goes back perhaps about 195,000 years. About 2000 years ago people started thinking that maybe humans should be equal in law and that laws should be fair. In about the last 200 years countries started to really implement this principle, entrenching this concept in their constitutions. In Canada we were slow to adopt this. The big change in Canada came in 1982 when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted guaranteeing certain legal rights.
Our rights are a relationship between each of us and our Governments. People fought and died to earn us these rights. Many Canadians feel that these rights are still worth defending. Some people, and particularly those people who find themselves in positions of power in our Governments, seem to think that these rights are something we can do away with. These are fragile rights mainly because our Governments are always doing their best to chip them away.
For those who believe in our legal rights, they are self evident. In other words, it goes without saying that people should be treated equally in law, that an accused person should be entitled to be presumed innocent and therefore not punished until or unless proven guilty in court and that an accused person should be entitled to a fair trial before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal.
In British Columbia our fragile rights in law are being systematically taken away by our Government. A significant example is the Automatic Roadside Prohibition law (or IRP law) which was re-introduced in June 2012. This law imposes punishment before any hearing or review of the evidence. It therefore presumes people are guilty. There is no trial. The police officer is compelled by law to punish the person right there at the moment of the accusation. If a hearing does take place, it will not be fair in the common understanding of that word. Evidence to defend yourself will not be made available. The tribunal is a Government creation designed to facilitate the Government’s legislation.
As we think about our fragile rights and the untold number of people who fought and who died to get us to the point where we have a Charter of Rights, we are greatly dismayed that our BC Government has managed to do an end run around the legal rights upon which we should all be able to rely.
The Automatic Roadside Prohibition law is a tremendous step backward from the legal rights that people worked so hard to establish in Canada. In this sense this law is a smack in the face to all of the people who fought to ensure that we would have legal rights.