Opinion

War on DeWar: Time to get Canadian and write some letters

By C. N. Westendorf

Photo by ralphunden on Flickr

The Crown vs. Rhodes case has been heavily featured in the media after Kenneth Rhodes was convicted of rape but given “conditional” (no jail time) sentencing, due to Judge DeWar’s opinion that not all rapists are equally malicious and culpable.

In 2007, Canadian Parliament made conditional sentencing illegal in rape cases, in an effort to establish a minimum bar for punishment and to prevent judicial power from being exercised harmfully with regards to varying and minimal sentencing. The rape Rhodes was convicted of took place in 2006, permitting Judge DeWar to use his own discretion with regards to sentencing.

Judge DeWar has come under heavy fire for such comments as that Rhodes was merely “insensitive” to lack of consent, that the victim was “looking to party” and that “sex was in the air,” evidenced, according to Judge DeWar, by her wearing of a tube top without a bra, and high heels.

Following a media firestorm and public opinion outcry, Judge DeWar has been taken off sexual offender cases, but is still permitted to reside on the bench with a reduced case load, while the Canadian Judicial Council reviews complaints with regards to his conduct.

I decided to do the Canadian thing, and write a letter to the CJC. You can write one too, by e-mailing the CJC at: info@cjc-ccm.gc.ca, or mailing them a letter at: Canadian Judicial Council, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0W8. Be sure to follow the process and instructions regarding complaints.

Below is a sample letter*, that I’ll be sending to CJC.

Dear Canadian Judicial Council:

I realize that according to your complaint procedure I can’t complain about sentencing in the Crown vs. Kenneth Rhodes case presided upon by Judge Dewar, so I guess it’s a good thing that there was no sentencing!

I’m so relieved that a) the court convicted Kenneth Rhodes of a federal offense, and b) the judge in that courtroom was permitted to give him a conditional sentence served outside of jail, i.e. no sentence at all. Any concerns I may have had about violent sexual offenders and public safety have now completely abated thanks to the knowledge that we not only convict, but follow-through on that conviction in keeping with the severity of the crime, by withholding jail time! Nothing sends a forceful message like omission, and nothing says Canadian Criminal Justice like a slap on the wrist.

I’ll bet violent sexual offenders in Canada will really think twice before they re-offend, given the knowledge that there will be absolutely no consequences for their actions. It’s completely unnecessary for assailants to have their lives limited and circumscribed in any way similar to their victims, who generally modify lifestyle habits, and live in a relative state of fear and confinement after being assaulted. I mean, victims should have to pay for the actions of sexual predators! Especially because according to your man Judge DeWar, intentions count for everything, and Rhodes didn’t intend to rape the victim, it just…happened, like a sudden storm, as crimes do. Besides, the convicted didn’t really mean it; he just made the honest mistake of being insensitive to her lack of consent. How was he supposed to know that having sex with someone who doesn’t consent means rape?

Judge DeWar’s conduct totally seems fair and just, especially since the victim was wearing a tube top, and a tube top without a bra at that, which is clearly capable of inciting rape in an otherwise innocent man. Everyone knows that rapists don’t create victims, but potential victims create rapists. It’s scientifically proven that an innocent man plus any nearby woman wearing a provocative article of clothing equals instant rape. Things like women being targeted for victimization don’t exist. And if the rapist was drunk, as the defense acknowledged in this case, he’s just not capable of controlling his actions and is therefore exculpated from all real blame! Just like when drunk drivers kill people. Oh, wait. When drunk drivers kill or maim people, they do get real, grown-up sentencing. Hmmm. I guess rape sentencing is different, because it’s not a real crime; it’s really just a matter of her word against his. As Judge DeWar rightfully made sure of, once a defendant has been found guilty, it’s really important to hand out a reduced sentence, just in case she’s lying, because girls cry rape all the time. Thanks, Canadian courts, for permitting Judge DeWar to give out the judicial disciplinary equivalent of “we’re really disappointed in you, you’re grounded. Let this be an example, don’t do it again.”

Additionally, I think it’s great that Judge DeWar has been taken off sexual offender cases, but left on the bench to continue to exercise his clear and legally sound judgment on other cases. I don’t think this ruling constitutes an abuse of invested, public power, because things like laws and victims rights aren’t that important. What’s more important, is that people like Judge DeWar can capitalize on the victimization of others to perpetuate their own opinion and personal politics, without being unfairly hindered or constrained by those same mechanisms that they’re bound by some oath (and who takes those seriously) to impose on the criminals who stand trial before them.

Lastly, I’m also glad that the when Parliament made the revisions in 2007 that made conditional sentencing in rape cases illegal, that law was only made applicable to assaults that took place in 2007 or later. Any victims who were assaulted prior to 2007 and are still waiting on trial, or who have cold case files which might one day be resurrected, can take comfort in the fact that amendments made to laws that are deemed to be unfair and not sufficiently punitive will not be applied universally. It’s so important to keep people guessing.

*The tone of this letter is intentionally sarcastic, which will be made clear to the CJC. Judge DeWar’s conduct is inexcusable, and lack of appropriate action on the part of the CJC would be a major, institutional injustice.

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