This commentary is the first of a series on Winnipeg's (in)justice system and is posted as an exclusive to the Rebel Youth blog. Part 2 will quote some testimonies from the Manitoba Human Rights Commission report and focus on the issues of police and crime in Winnipeg's inner city. It will be printed in the next issue of Rebel Youth magazine, you'll have to get yourself a copy to read it. But to begin, part 1 goes back over 40 years ago, starting with a reprint from the People's Voice predecessor newspaper, Canadian Tribune from the spring of 1968.
WHO SAYS “THE LAW IS AN ASS” ?
By Tom Morris
When Charles Dickens said, “the law is an ass”, he could have been standing on the windy corner of Winnipeg’s Portage and Main streets, or reading the morning paper’s account of police strong-arming another citizen in Toronto.
George Paulowich arrived in Winnipeg from Toronto on Jan 11, checked into a hotel and discovered his wallet had been stolen. Innocently believing that the thing to do was call the police, Mr. Paulowich did just that. What followed was a piece of impressive public relations work by the Winnipeg Police Department.
Detectives arrived at the hotel and arrested George Paulowich. He was jailed for 30 days pending completion of investigation and preliminary hearing of two men charged with the robbery. When finally released, he was told not to leave town and to report each Friday until a trial date had been fixed- which turned out to be on April 26-105 days after his arrest.
Judge C. I. Keith, in dismissing the robbery charge against the two men, condemned the treatment of Paulowich and suggested the crown pay him a witness fee for the time spent in jail as well as for attendance at the trial. Winnipeg director of prosecution, A. A. Sarchuk, has called for reports of the case. Great move, Mr. Director of Prosecutions, but where in hell have you been for 105 days?
Mr. Paulowich, having lived in Toronto, might think that his experience is simply a dose of Western hospitality. He could exchange notes with Mr. Kenneth Bruton, who is trying to get his house fixed up following a visit by Toronto’s finest.
The damage was caused when police arrived to arrest Mr. Bruton’s brother-in-law April 29. To apprehend the slightly built 17-year-old youth, police ripped off a door, tore a wooden fireplace from the wall, twisted the suspect’s arms and pushed Mrs. Bruton against a wall. Now there seems to a question about who is going to put the house back together. “They told us to get it fixed and they’d pay for it,” said Mr. Bruton. “I guess that is an admission of liability,” Police Chief James Mackey, with an eye on the taxpayer’s dollar, says. “It doesn’t mean we’ll pay for it at all. It isn’t any kind of an admission.”
By all means, nothing should be admitted. When a 15-year-old boy is shot in the leg by police is there any admission? It was “an accident.” This police officer, in the performance of his duty, don’t you understand, slipped, fell, found his holstered revolver in his hand which went off and shot the boy.
The sad chronology could go on and on. For every case reported, there are hundreds of cases where the citizen is so damn happy just to get home that he doesn’t say a word. “I don’t want any trouble,” says he.
Countless men and women file into Canadian courtrooms, only to have their case remanded over and over again, and are sent back to the cells to await their time.-Most of them young, none of them rich.
Canadian police chiefs raised a storm last year by asking for greater powers. Some of them called for a return to flogging, arrest without charges, wiretapping, the right to enter homes without a warrant and a “detention law” which would take care of ‘rabble-rousers’ and ‘trouble-makers.’ The hue and cry raised by the community prevented such laws and a return to the Middle Ages.
And so, Mr. Paulowich, there isn’t any law under which you can be arrested without charges. Maybe it was all a bad dream. In any case, you should feel good because there isn’t a flogging law either. Had there been, you might have “confessed” stealing your own wallet.
As much as we think we have progressed from 1968, we have fallen more and more behind as you'll find in part 2. When the Federal Conservatives made law and order an issue in the election in 2008, it would do good to look at the above article with that in mind. Whose Law and Whose Order? Hindsight is 20/20 but we don't have 40 years to fix an issue that affects youth today. Police continue to screw up: in February 2000 Corinne McKeowen and Doreen Leclair were stabbed to death while the 911 operator listened to their fifth call for help. William John Dunlop murdered them in their Winnipeg home. The Fort Garry Women's Center published a study report showing police response times are less for poor callers and in poor neighbourhoods.
Beyond incompetence, outright malice and cold blooded murder occur. The Saskatoon "Moonlight tours" where police drove homeless men to the city limits to freeze to death. Eventually, one made it back to uncover the crimes. Trigger happy police shootings and taser deaths (almost on par with actual non-police murders in Winnipeg briefly this past summer), in parallel with poor response times show a pattern of two class justice. There are 40 years between the Newark Riots of 1967 and the Riots in Paris in 2007. Riots occurred in Montreal during the summer of 2008. Now Greece. All followed from acts of police brutality.
There is a pattern. Social condition. And racism.