PAINFUL TRUTH: One legal system for all

Down in our neighbour to the south, former president Donald Trump has been indicted, yet again.

One of the things that fascinates and bothers me about Trump’s case is the fairly large number of people who have stepped forward to suggest that the rules ought to be different for him, as an ex-president, or as a current presidential candidate.

These are serious people, politicians themselves, legal scholars in some cases.

But it’s a viewpoint that doesn’t make any sense to me.

Surely, the health of a democracy can be judged best by whether it willingly – maybe even gleefully – puts politicians on trial?

Canada offers a number of valuable test cases.

Right here in British Columbia, we saw the first bribery conviction of a cabinet minister in the entire Commonwealth.

This was back in the 1950s, not long after W.A.C. Bennett and the Social Credit Party had swept to power.

Robert Sommers – an elementary school principal and part-time band leader – was placed in charge of the Ministry of Forests, an even bigger responsibility in those days, as it constituted a truly massive part of the provincial economy.

Within a few years, there were rumours that Sommers was having money problems.

Perhaps, it was whispered, the massive and wealthy forest firms who were getting their forest management licences from Sommers were helping him out a bit?

After accusations that nearly caused a riot in the legislature, there was eventually an RCMP investigation and a trial in 1958. Not before Sommers spent some time on the lam in the U.S., though.

He was sentenced to five years in prison for five charges of accepting bribes, and spent 28 months in prison. While there, he studied piano tuning.

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There’ve been other politicians convicted of malfeasance in Canada.

At the far end of the scale of viciousness is Colin Thatcher, the Saskatchewan cabinet minister convicted of murdering his ex-wife.

At the more venal end was NDP politician Dave Stupich, whose charity kickback scam was dubbed Bingogate.

Dean del Mastro, of the federal Conservatives, was packed off to a few months in jail for violating election spending rules.

Some politicians even do things in reverse order, like Liberal MP Ivan Grose, or longtime NDP politician Frank Howard, both of whom spent time in prison for armed robberies as young men. (Cue the jokes about how politics is a better form of robbery, etc.)

All these convictions – and various investigations, inquiries, and trials of others – are the surest sign of a healthy political system.

Political power already provides people with high salaries, prestigious positions, and access to the levers of power.

It’s vitally important in every society that considers itself a democracy that when dragged before a judge, there’s no difference whatsoever between the highest elected officials and anyone else.


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