The indictment of former U.S. president Donald Trump for crimes invented by his political opponents is the most egregious example yet seen of the weaponizing of the law. The United States is now full of examples. However, in Canada, we also see the law being manipulated to handcuff opponents.
A fundamental principle of a rule-of-law democracy is that everyone is entitled to equal treatment under the law. When citizens are subjected to different treatment, depending on their politics or ideological convictions, the rule of law is threatened. A liberal democracy cannot survive if the law is weaponized to persecute citizens with unpopular views.
The Trudeau government’s obvious unequal treatment of the trucker convoy protesters, in contrast to the previous protests that it favoured (such as the Black Lives Matter and Wet’suwet’en protests), is Canada’s most glaring example of unequal treatment under the law. The prime minister actively supported the BLM protest, but crushed the convoy protesters. He explained that one had “acceptable” views, and the other had “unacceptable views.” (He would decide what was “acceptable” and what was “unacceptable.”) He weaponized the law to suit his ideological agenda.
However, there are an alarming number of less visible examples of this extremely disturbing trend to weaponize the law.
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek provides one. A Christian pastor, Derek Reimer, was unhappy with a decision to have “drag queens” interacting closely with children. He legitimately exercised his right to protest a “drag queen story hour” at a public library and was promptly evicted forcefully from the premises. But Mayor Gondek then took it upon herself to sponsor a bylaw that would prevent anyone with the pastor’s view from exercising their right to effectively protest. In this mayor’s view, she holds an “acceptable” view, while Reimer’s is “unacceptable”.
It is that simple. She will pass a law that only her view can prevail. In fact, Reimer has just as much of a right to oppose exposing children to sexualized drag queens as Gondek has to promote her idea of inclusivity. She doesn’t see that. So, Calgary has weaponized the law to prevent Reimer from exercising his rights, and he sits in jail, having been arrested for the third time on April 4.
If Gondek was the only politician doing this, perhaps it would not be overly concerning. But this intolerance appears to be spreading. An Ontario NDP MPP wants to legislate a “bubble zone” around all drag queen events. “Bubbles” sound nice, but the result could well be more “Derek Reimers” sitting in jails. At a societal level this weaponization of the law to promote an extreme ideology, while stifling legitimate criticism, will have profound consequences.
Another recent example of law weaponization is found at the policing level. “Billboard Chris” Elston is a father who doesn’t believe that children should be surgically or chemically altered to conform to a gender the children think—or are told—might suit them better. He exercises his right to protest peacefully by wearing a sign in public places. He was recently assaulted by a trans activist in the plain sight of Vancouver police, and they simply ignored the unprovoked assault.
It was clear that the police would have charged him if the situation was reversed—that is, if he had assaulted the trans activist. The police officers involved have the support of their superiors. Put simply, it appears to be official police policy in Vancouver that assaults on religious and other traditional thinkers will be overlooked, while assaults on trans activists will be prosecuted. Vancouver police officialdom is weaponizing the law to make it conform to a preferred ideology.
A final example of the unequal application—hence weaponizing—of the law is the special treatment accorded to indigenous and black people accused of committing violent crimes. Overrepresentation in prisons is cited as the reason for releasing indigenous and black people—called “vulnerable populations”—accused of committing violent crimes, in situations where a non-indigenous or non-black person would be held in custody. Canadian police chiefs have warned that this dangerous and illogical practice puts the public and their officers at risk. Some have died as a direct result of it.
However, the Trudeau Liberals ignore the police chiefs and insist on putting ideology ahead of officer safety, public safety, and common sense. They weaponize the law to suit their ideological agenda. They also don’t explain how releasing violent indigenous offenders, who will then victimize mostly law-abiding indigenous people, even makes sense.
These are a few only of a growing number of alarming examples of the weaponizing of the law to favour one set of ideological beliefs over another. A rule-of-law democracy cannot survive if citizens are treated differently depending on their politics and beliefs.
If we want to preserve our democracy, politicians who weaponize the law to promote their own agendas must be shown the door.
Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and senior fellow at Frontier Centre for Public Policy.