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The Vital Importance of Due Process

What do Hewlett Packard and MP Scott Andrews have in common? As Conrad Black writes in today’s National Post, both are being denied their right to due process.  In Lord Black’s opinion, the penalizing of Canadian corporations for their alleged (but unproven) conduct in other countries and the allegations of sexual harassment being levelled against MPs are all part of the same disturbing trend. They indicate that “Canada is becoming a nation of prudish, prurient, repressive and even compulsive false-puritans, hypocrites, squealers and lynchers.”

Marni Soupcoff at the Canadian Constitution Foundation has also recently discussed the issue of due process in the context of individuals and companies faced with punitive “administrative monetary penalties.”  These penalties are essentially regulatory fiats that impose harsh and excessive fines without granting the presumption of innocence or the right to a fair public trial.  As Ms. Soupcoff notes, “it results in the absurd situation that someone charged with a minor traffic infraction gets more legal protection than someone who is accused of a regulatory violation that carries a $10,000 per day fine.” The Canadian Constitution Foundation will be intervening at an upcoming hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada to challenge the constitutionality of administrative monetary penalties. Let us hope they are successful.

No person should be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person or property without due process of law, regardless of whether they have been accused of a regulatory infraction or sexual assault. If due process is not applied to everyone, then it may be denied to anyone. Those who call for pitchfork justice today may find themselves on the other end of the pitchfork tomorrow.