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Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

It has been placed in the United States Constitution since the 1800’s, arguably one of the most important sentences in the criminal justice system: the declaration that all are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. In addition to being enshrined into the UN declaration of human rights under article 11, many other countries including Canada have this statute in their respective constitutions. In my opinion, it is one of the most important seeds in creating a civilized, democratic society; without it, a country could descend into anarchy.

On the 9th of July, 2018, Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump to succeed a retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy on the United States Supreme Court. Later, a woman, Dr. Christine Ford, accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault that she claims happened over thirty-five years ago while they were both in high school. There was insufficient corroborating evidence of this occurring. Does that mean it didn’t happen? No. However, it is still unclear what should happen when an accusation of this magnitude is brought forward.

A well known Conservative commentator and Harvard Law School graduate, Ben Shapiro, had a lot to say about the treatment of Kavaugh, arguing, “It is certainly not fair for us as a public to go along with the railroading of someone based on an allegation with not a shred of corroborating evidence. Nothing.” Shapiro has been well known for the last few years, but rapidly increased in popularity for his strong stances on right-leaning issues. He is not the strongest supporter of President Trump; in fact, he did not vote for him in 2016.

Many suggested Judge Kavanaugh should not even have been given an opportunity to be on the Supreme Court, based on these allegations. If that had happened, what precedent would be set? Not that Dr. Ford is necessarily lying, but there have been countless false accusations of rape and sexual assault. Those who suggested such are dishonouring both the legal procedures in the United States as well as the due process Brett Kavanaugh is entitled to.

A popular trend that arose shortly after the start of this debacle was the hashtag: #BelieveAllWomen. Why? Because, they said, it’s the right thing to do. Is it really, though? There is so much wrong with this statement and so many questions that emerge from it. Why should a woman’s claim be more valuable than the claim of a man? Disregarding any evidence, why should the validity of a claim in a court of law be inherently more or less valuable based on one’s gender? Is that not sexism, the very thing those people are trying to eradicate? If a man accuses a woman of sexual assault, do we believe the woman? What if a woman accuses a woman of sexual assault? Who do we believe?

“To suggest that women are inherently more believable [than men] is sexist. To say that men don’t deserve the same due process as women is sexist. To suggest that Brett Kavanaugh, because he is white and privileged, does not deserve the same presumption of innocence or due process as someone else is racism and sexism. This is absurd.” - Ben Shapiro

Something that many Canadians are not aware of is that our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau was accused of sexual assault several years ago. Said event supposedly took place while he was attending a festival in B.C. on August 14th, 2000. A younger Trudeau was accused of “inappropriately handling” a young reporter. An editorial was later posted in the Creston Valley Advance. The reporter did not wish to be named at the time, and after this editorial resurfaced earlier this year, the reporter spoke with CBC News, but still did not wish to be named. The relevancy of this is that an important question arises: should Trudeau be criticized the same way the Kavanaugh is? There has been a double standard, and the Canadian media has barely covered Trudeau’s sexual assault allegation, while Kavanaugh’s claimed headlines for weeks.

All of the following quotes are from Justin Trudeau, referring to the polarization of sexual assault claims:

“When someone makes a mistake, it’s important that they own up to it, and they apologize.” - Justin Trudeau, 2015

“It’s really important to believe and support any woman who comes forward with allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault” - Justin Trudeau, 2015

“The standard applies to everyone, there is no context in which someone doesn’t have responsibility for things they’ve done in the past”

- Justin Trudeau

All of the following quotes are from Justin Trudeau, referring to the sexual assault claim against him:

“I’m confident that I did not act inappropriately” - Justin Trudeau, 2018

“I think the essence of this is that people can experience interactions differently” - Justin Trudeau, 2018

Is there a double standard? Whatever the case, there are more questions than answers right now, in a very divisive time in our social and political history.

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