Pubdate: Thu, 11 Mar 2010
Source: Gateway, The (U of Alberta, CN AB Edu)
Copyright: 2010 Gateway Student Journalism Society
Author: Tyler Dawson


Last September, former Conservative Member of Parliament Rahim Jaffer
was pulled over for driving nearly double the 50 km/h speed limit in
Palgrave, Ontario. He has since pleaded guilty to "careless driving,"
and has been ordered to pay a $500 fine for his transgressions in the
ruling by an Ontario judge. The charges of "excessive blood alcohol
while driving" and cocaine possession that were initially laid against
him were dropped by the prosecution.

When he was pulled over on the morning of September 11, the constable
administered a breathalyzer test for alcohol, which Jaffer failed. He
was then held for four hours by police, and tested twice more - he
failed both times. He was also charged with possession of cocaine,
which police said they found in his vehicle.

Let's look at this for a moment. Jaffer failed three breathalyzer
tests over four hours, yet apparently there were issues with
prosecuting the case. How the defence refuted a charge based upon
multiple and repeated quantitative testing of the amount of alcohol in
Jaffer's system is beyond me - if you have over 80 milligrams of blood
in 100 millilitres of blood, then you fail the test, which means you
face consequences. Instead, Jaffer had these charges dropped in
exchange for his admission of guilt for careless driving in a blatant
case of shameless plea-bargaining.

Driving drunk is not the same as careless driving, and should never be
treated as such. It's a crime, and a dangerous offence that needs to
be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, regardless of the social
status or public image of the transgressor. That Mr. Jaffer got off
without any sort of meaningful punishment is a travesty of justice,
and a sad example of a legal double standard.

Now, conceptually, I admit I'm in favour of total legalization of
drugs (I'm actually even opposed to standardized blood alcohol
testing). But at present, there are laws that deal with serious
offences, and as much as I disagree with their conceptual framework, I
recognize their authority over behaviour on issues that are seriously
dangerous - like drunk driving. And despite my personal opposition,
the fact of the matter is if these laws are going to be applied to
Canadians, then they must be applied equally, and without
consideration of social status. This has not happened in this instance.

On the subject of his alleged cocaine possession, the fact that Jaffer
managed to avoid a charge here indicates that there was reason to
suspect that the substance found in his car was not cocaine. It seems
unlikely to me that police screwed this up; they would have been able
to easily verify that the substance in Jaffer's car was, in fact,
cocaine before they laid charges. So, the question is, how on earth
did Jaffer (a former crusader for harsher drug sentences) manage to
avoid indictment for possession if not by a distortion of justice?

This is a fine example of how the justice system turns a blind eye to
the actions of wealthy and important people. Indeed, that Crown
prosecutor Marie Balogh refused to elaborate on her reasoning for
dropping the charges beyond citing "legal issues" is cause for serious
concern in the integrity of this judicial process. People are found
guilty of impaired driving and drug possession all the time, so why
did the prosecution make a mistake here that set Jaffer free?

This is a coincidence that is simply too good to be true. That the
repeated evidence of impaired driving, and charges of cocaine
possession were dismissed by the court is legally confounding. There
is no logical reason why Rahim Jaffer should have escaped the scrutiny
of the law, and more importantly, there has been no good legal
reasoning as to why this occurred. It's a shame that this disgraced
public figure cannot be pilloried in front of Canadians, but at least
he isn't in office anymore. And hopefully he'll stay off the road as
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D