Before today I think that my very favourite moment in the ten years of the Harper disaster was the moment that Dean Del Mastro commented on his conviction for electoral fraud. As we all remember, Del Mastro didn't just reassert his innocence as so many convicted criminals do. Rather, Del Mastro did something I have never actually seen before, he claimed that his guilt was simply a matter of the judge's "opinion." You have to give the HarperCons high marks for pure gall! This remark by Del Mastro is deeply symbolic because it sums up the Harper regime's attitude toward judges, the courts, and the law in general. Many convicted criminals proclaim their innocence, but they usually do so by speaking about incorrect or unreported evidence, police malfeasance or incompetence, or a poor defence. However, by choosing to refer to his conviction as simply a matter of the judge's opinion, Del Mastro did something different; he was symbolically suggesting that he, in a very important sense, above the law, that the law (even in a case such as his where attorneys commonly suggested that his was a blatant and clear violation) is really just whim of individual judges.
Here's the thing - I am as skeptical and cautious as anyone out there concerning the justice system. I understand that it is designed in such a way that prejudice and bias are systemically unavoidable. The working-class, racialized people, women, the poor; all of these groups are at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to the courts. Not only do laws themselves favour the rich and powerful, but the process (which is infused with money) makes it difficult for the vulnerable to get a fair hearing. However, Del Mastro had won the lottery of life before he ever stepped inside a courtroom. He's a prosperous, white, male with significant political ties to the most powerful people in the nation. He came to the justice system with every possible advantage. Thus, when the hammer of the justice system comes down on a man like Del Mastro, I am as sure as I can be as a skeptic that he is guilty.
But Del Mastro says it is a matter of "opinion" for the simple reason that for Harper and his barking seals, the law isn't something to be respected and judges are not there to adjudicate it. Rather, the entire legal system is just another pawn of their political goals, that is to say convenient when it can be used to thwart and pervert democracy or victimize the vulnerable, but a simple impediment when it gets in the way of their political agenda. The Harper regime is the most perverse and sinister kind of political body - one that cares nothing for law, for due process, for separation of powers, for respect of difference, or even basic human rights. They are pure criminality, a group of megalomaniacs who, in a different historical context would joyfully send their opponents to death-camps, and routinely "disappear" activists, all the while proclaiming righteousness and honesty, just like a tin-pot dictator of the Cold-War era.
My new favourite moment of the Harper era is the one we saw today - Dean Del Mastro, once a mindless harping bulldog of Harper himself, being lead off to jail in hand-cuffs and leg-irons. A man who rudely and ruthlessly attempted to dishonour and discredit anyone who disagreed with the Harperites and stood up in Parliament day after day proclaiming the lily-white purity of the Harper regime, being lead to jail like the petty criminal that he is for consciously attempting to undermine democracy itself. What more appropriate symbol could we have of the entire Harper Era of government?? Only, I suppose, one of Harper himself being taken to prison in much the same way.
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