This op-ed was originally published in The Victoria Times Colonist
Recent op-eds and letters have suggested that “perhaps the time has come to defund our judges” and that we “get the judges we put up with.”
It is a foundational principle of the Canadian criminal justice system that all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all accused persons the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause.
The Supreme Court of Canada has made it clear that people who are charged with criminal offences are entitled to be released on bail, with conditions if appropriate, unless their detention is necessary.
This is the law that judges and judicial justices apply in bail courts every day across British Columbia, while considering the unique circumstances of each alleged offence, each accused person, and the plan for that person’s release into the community.
Judicial independence and the principles of fundamental justice, which are essential to a functioning justice system, require judges to be free from political influence or public opinion.
It is essential to remember these principles when looking at the actions of an individual judge in an individual case.
We can’t know everything about a case, an offender, or all the factors the judge was required to consider in their decision. If judges miss a public safety issue, there is a mechanism for Crown Counsel to appeal decisions.
While you may disagree with a judge’s decision, that does not mean they are doing it wrong or don’t care about their communities.
Aleem Bharmal, Q.C.
Canadian Bar Association