Just Imperfect Justice


Convivium, 20 September 2018

Recent sexual scandals have ensnared those who might be legally innocent but they are just desserts of a time when too many guilty walked free

How should allegations for sexual abuse, harassment or assault be handled outside the criminal justice system? That question is dominating the news, and will have a serious impact on our common life together.

This week the American Senate is debating how to handle an accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh made by a professor who says that, while in a drunken state, he was sexually aggressive toward her at a high school party 36 years ago. Kavanaugh vehemently denies the incident ever took place, and that he has ever acted that way toward anyone at any time or in any place.

Last week, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was subjected to withering criticism by almost all the former New Democrat MPs and MLAs in Saskatchewan for his decision to boot MP Erin Weir from caucus after accusations of sexual harassment. A secret investigation found that Weir was guilty of standing too close to women when speaking, and not picking up on non-verbal cues. What has struck some as Weir being a creep might just as likely social awkwardness. Singh packed him off to sensitivity training, but even then has ruled that a safe workplace requires Weir be persona non grata.

Also last week, the New York Review of Books ran an essay by Jian Ghomeshi, who was fired from his popular CBC radio show four years ago after some 20 women accused him of sexual assault. Some of those charges went to criminal trial where the case against him fell apart so quickly he did not even have to testify in his own defence.

He was acquitted on all charges.

He wrote as essay arguing that he was a victim of the excesses of the #MeToo movement before there was such a thing, a claim that brought such opprobrium down upon Ghomeshi and the magazine that its editor, Ian Buruma, was fired – or at least left immediately and unexpectedly in a manner and timing that would suggest just that.

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