Friday, June 4, 2010
Joke of the day – Ontario Court Provincial Division – “Stupified”
Disgust and concern how our "legal" system treats victims and law abiding citizens
It all started on February 23 of this year. An “alleged” impaired driver (no one bothered to follow up with THE VICTIM in this case so who knows what charges the accused actually faced) with an alleged suspended licence allegedly blew through a stop sign in our neighborhood a block from a school, allegedly striking our truck while my husband was driving, allegedly causing considerable damage to our vehicle. The driver was allegedly arrested at the scene by Thunder Bay Police, handcuffed, charged (with who knows what) and put into the back of the cruiser. I arrived minutes after the accident occurred (continue to insert the word “allegedly” where needed – I’m not a lawyer).
Luckily, my husband, THE VICTIM, was not injured. Insurance companies are taking care of the damage costs to our business vehicle, but, of course, we have the displeasure of dealing with the aftermath of someone else’s negligence and disregard for others’ safety on our public roads/highways – insurance claim, dozens of emails and phone calls to get the vehicle damage appraised, getting repair estimates, and ultimately coordinating vehicle repairs so as not to negatively impact our business. The offender, of course, allegedly didn’t own the vehicle he was driving so doesn’t allegedly have any of the inconveniences that we have been enduring (once again, insert “allegedly” where needed). Now, let’s fast forward to May.
THE VICTIM got a Summons to Witness personally delivered by a police officer (someone needs to correct the spelling mistake on this “official” court document) COMMANDING him to attend “CONERNING THE ABOVE-MENTIONED CHARGE...”
No responsibility for actions
According to the Summons, the charged driver was contesting: "operate a motor vehicle on a highway while his licence was suspended, Highway Traffic Act, section 53. Court date set for June 4th, 9 am, 110 N. Archibald Street, Thunder Bay."
No parking nearby
Court day. Parked four blocks away since we had no idea how long the proceeding would take and metered parking is enforced in that area. We went into the “court” building (I use this term very loosely to describe the environment), not having a clue what to expect, how things work, etc. The last time I was in that “building”, it housed the Regional Multicultural Youth Council, which was probably 15 years ago or more.
The first thing I noticed when we walked in was the total lack of security. No metal detector and no security guard – just one domed ceiling camera in a corner. I found this lack of security protocols disturbing, given the June 2 stabbings of an RCMP officer and a Calgary police officer at the downtown Calgary offices of ASIRT, the provincial agency that investigates serious cases of death or injury involving police officers. According to media reports, that building where the attack occurred had no security protocols, either. No security and no protection for anyone in the waiting area and courtroom at 110 N. Archibald Street. That is totally unacceptable!
No safety, no privacy
Adding to the morning’s entertainment: two police officers brought in two male suspects in handcuffs, and they sat in the same waiting area less than five feet from us for well over an hour. While the four of them waited, a lawyer discussed their long list of charges, possible concurrent jail time sentences and plea arrangements right there with them. So much for privacy issues. Everyone in the waiting room could hear their conversation and legal “negotiating”.
Didn't feel safe AT ALL being in that small waiting room. If a fight or attack takes place, no one is there to help; you’re pretty much on your own. The girlfriend of one of the accused sat disturbingly close to all of us, which should not have been allowed at all by the cops “babysitting” the accused, but thankfully, the female police officer had enough common sense to finally tell her to move away, considering she was holding a long umbrella with a pointed end. The first thing I thought when she walked into the waiting room was, "Hmmm...nice weapon." It appears that public safety isn't a priority with the Ontario Court Provincial Division at that location.
The courtroom was jam packed, so we had to stay in the waiting room until the name of the accused we were waiting for was called over the intercom. We had no idea if he was even in the courtroom. For all we knew, he never showed up. Maybe he was in jail? Maybe he moved? Maybe he was not on this Earth anymore? Who knew? Of course, no one is there to answer basic questions. No one signs in or out. No one knows who’s there and who’s not. Nobody really seems to know what's going on, yet there are people constantly going in and out of the building and courtroom. There should be revolving doors. Organized chaos or mass “stupification”? I couldn't tell! It was interesting, yet disturbing to watch, to say the least.
I lost count how many times people asked us questions : “Do you know if they called my name?” “Is this the right courtroom?” “Are you a lawyer?” “Which case are they on now?” “How long have you been waiting?” “Do you know what time it is?” "Do you know where Duty Council is?" I didn’t see a clock anywhere, either. They can be bought at most discount stores for a few bucks. For the record, there isn't any Duty Council at 110 N. Archibald Street, according to a suit I talked to.
At this poor-excuse-for-a-court, there is no one to give you directions or answer questions (unless you’re the accused, then there’s a public defender in or near the interview room - sometimes), no one in the Crown attorney’s room, no pay phone, nada. Just a pair of public bathrooms, seats, two interview rooms (the Crown’s room was always closed), a private doorway to judge’s chamber (I guess) and two doors to the courtroom. Signage on the court door and a wall spell out courtroom decorum - no noise, no gum, no recording devices, no photos, no food or beverages, no cell phones, etc. There’s a sign on a wall with a phone number to contact court administration. No public phone anywhere in sight, so how are you supposed to phone them!? Now, that’s brilliant planning! If you’ve never set foot in that place, I implore you to check it out beginning at 9 am. Hang out in the waiting room for an hour or more, observe and listen. You’ll quickly be immersed in the “stupification” of this place.
We kept re-reading the list of names on the docket taped to the courtroom door. Apparently, it’s actually not followed in order. In fact, there wasn't any sort of order at all. Cases scheduled for 11 am were heard at 9:30 am or 10 am; cases scheduled for 9 am still weren't heard yet by noon. People who were there by 9 am sitting in the courtroom were told at 11:45 that their cases were dismissed, charges dropped. So, they sat in the courtroom for almost three hours for nothing. What is the point of this circus? Once again, a complete JOKE. We stayed in the waiting room for three hours. THREE HOURS. And, for much of that time period, we were completely alone – THREE HOURS. Thankfully, I brought a recent issue of a magazine with me. I think it’s the first time that I’ve ever read through an entire issue cover to cover.
I finally had had enough and asked a suit (a public defender), the only helpful person in that place, where they were in the list. It seems the docket has no order. It seems to be there mainly for decoration, a “guideline”, if you will, of cases that may or may not be heard on that particular day. Lawyers in their expensive suits and their clients came and went, even though their cases were supposed to be scheduled for 1-2 hours after the case my husband was summoned to attend as a witness. According to the informative suit, the lawyers with “seniority” (aka make a lot of $) get their cases pushed through first; the public defender cases on that day's docket, well, they might get heard that day. Isn’t that special!? The more money you make, the more muscle you have to bully your way through the court system. I'm assuming that the accused we were waiting for has/had a public defender, maybe the suit I talked to.
No signs of intelligence
My watch read noon – we left. Nobody was paying us to be there, nobody cared if we were there or not. It wasn’t important to “them”. If “they” cared, “they” would have made an effort to acknowledge our existence in that waiting room. THREE HOURS. As business owners and operators, taxpayers and law abiding citizens, we got screwed again. Victimized once again by an inefficient, disenfranchised legal system. What’s the point of it all? The repeat offenders know the system. We watched them for THREE HOURS - they knew where to go, what to say and what to do. It’s nothing for them to sit there all day, besides it was a dreary, rainy day. At least it was dry inside. Those of us who actually work for a living and do our best to follow the rules are sick and tired of being screwed around - first by the law breakers, then by the “justice” system. The joke is really on us, isn't it? After all, WE sat there for THREE HOURS.
Thanks to today’s blundering “procedures” we have at least a day’s worth of work to catch up on, but unfortunately, THE VICTIM is sick in bed again. Being self-employed small business owners, if we don’t do the work, we don’t get paid, and we can’t pay our bills. It’s that simple. Once again, we are asking ourselves, “Why do we live here?” Are democracy and justice real “rights”, or mere figments of our imagination? THE VICTIM sat in that waiting room for THREE HOURS despite being sick to carry out his “civic duty”. Indeed, “civic duty" was served; too bad justice was not. This experience further reinforces my stance that the justice system is grossly inadequate, basically a JOKE. We heard plenty of repeat offenders in the waiting room laughing about the system. It’s a JOKE to them, too.
It was a totally wasted day, and none of it was our fault. Victimized over and over again. That’s how our “justice” system excels, at least from my perspective. It’s a façade. Wasting not only valuable time, but also money – OUR MONEY. The money that WE earn HONESTLY. The money WE pay taxes with, unfortunately, to support these inefficient, ignorant public systems. How can anyone take the “justice” system seriously when it acts with blatant disrespect and disdain for the rights of ordinary citizens like us, who just want to go about their daily lives and mind their own business – literally. We didn’t do anything wrong; we didn’t break any laws; we didn’t get charged with any offences. But, somehow WE got screwed - AGAIN.
There’s a saying that “justice is blind”. In my opinion, justice is also ignorant and in dire need of learning and practicing some manners. It has been “stupified”. From what I saw and heard today, it’s a JOKE, and the joke’s on all of us tax paying, law abiding citizens. The “justice” system turned its back on us a long time ago. WE - the people, the taxpayers, the ones who go about our daily lives trying to make our way in this world honestly, doing our best to follow the rules, be good citizens and mind our own business - don’t matter. That’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
To whom and where do we send the invoice for our services rendered (civic duty) and wasted time today? Surely, someone out there can answer this simple question.
*** I realize that construction of the new courthouse in that area is currently underway and that this “courthouse” is provincial jurisdiction. However, there are current gross communication and safety issues at the Archibald Street “courthouse” that MUST be addressed forthwith as they directly affect city and surrounding area residents who attend proceedings at that location. These important issues cannot wait for buildings to be constructed. It is unacceptable and deplorable how “business” conducts there, while ignoring the safety, security and rights of everyone – private citizens, public servants and peace officers alike - who visit and work in that publicly funded building. As a voter, taxpayer and law-abiding citizen, I am thoroughly disgusted with today’s experience, and am raising public awareness of these safety and procedural blunders. ***
Kathy McGowan, disillusioned citizen, voter and taxpayer
cc: Thunder Bay Mayor Lynn Peterson, Thunder Bay City Councillors, Chief of Police Bob Herman, MPPs: Mr. Bill Mauro, Mr. Michael Gravelle, various media organizations (local and abroad)
No more updates today
So, thanks to today’s stupidity on behalf of others’ incompetence and ignorance for OUR rights, we are a day behind getting the Viking recumbent tandem trike plan online. This deplorable experience has totally pissed us off. We need to chill out tonight and get our brains back on track first thing tomorrow.
It’s supposed to rain all weekend, so will be stuck indoors anyway and will be getting ‘er done. Once Brad is feeling better, he will be locking himself in his room, spending many hours in front of his computer getting the plan done. Stay tuned here and to the forum for announcements.