Justice is a term we often hear, but what does it mean? Is it about fairness, equality or something else? Do we have a true sense of justice here in Canada? This seems like a simple question on its surface, but it has deeper implications hidden within it. Justice speaks to the whole system of institutions within our society and how they reflect ‘power’ within Canada.
In most circumstances, justice is about order — the idea of maintaining order to create a society that functions to protect the ideals of life, liberty and property. To achieve these ideals, we are a society that is bound by rules. To be a just society, these rules must be applied consistently and equally to all persons, as no one person or institution of government should be above them. But we all know this is not true. There are tiers within our justice system, where some — the rich and well-connected — are not held accountable for their actions, receiving minor punishment or none at all where others would have faced stiffer penalties. Is this justice?
What about our law-enforcement agents who transgress the law? Should they be held to a higher level of accountably than another citizen? Or should their transgressions be overlooked as part of the job?
This question comes from observing the photo-radar vans and how they operate here in St. Albert. Usually hidden behind transformers, trees, billboards and snow piles on boulevards, they are ostensibly there to help reduce speeding, though we are all aware this really is just an income-grab for the municipality — call it a ‘speeding tax,’ if you like. Recently a photo-radar vehicle was observed parked in a school bus loading/unloading zone, forcing school children to get off the school bus in an unsafe manner.
The idea of slowing drivers down in a school zone is laudable, but photo-radar does not effectively achieve its immediate goal. Instead it punishes the offender after the fact. The fines for speeding through a school zone are a lucrative gain for our city. But there is something grossly wrong when our children’s safety is compromised to make such gains. Such actions are questionable, yet nothing was done. Why not? Where was justice here?
As seen in many authoritarian countries, Canadians act as if we cannot question authority, trying to get through our days unnoticed. One could even say that we are scared to challenge or stand up to authority when it is unjust or wrong. We look upon those that do as anarchistic or insane in a quixotic manner. Instead we take the easy course of action, pay our fines (or speeding taxes) and grumble about ‘the system,’ doing nothing to improve it.
It is not wrong to question the actions of authority from time to time. It is only through challenging authority, demanding it to defend itself so that we can improve our society. If we do not do so, we only legitimize their misdeeds, undermining the ideals of justice and giving them power over us. In the words of Lord Acton “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Is this what we want for Canada?