"I Didn't Know Truth Had A Gender"
Lisa MacLeod is a young female politician who commutes to her job at Queen's Park from Ottawa and leaves her husband, Joe, and four-year-old daughter, Victoria, at home. Mr. Justice Douglas Cunningham of Ontario Superior Court said this is a big distraction for the 34-year-old woman and as a result he felt he could not accept her evidence as corroboration of the Crown's key witness in the recent high-profile, influence-peddling trial of Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien.
Judge Cunningham is 69; he was appointed to the bench in 1991.
His comments, delivered last week in his ruling dismissing the charges against Mr. O'Brien, are now drawing criticism from political strategists and activists who are shaking their heads, wondering when women will be treated as equals in politics.
Taber goes on to quote a plethora of outraged individuals, including Lisa MacLeod who laments "I didn't know truth had a gender". It's not hard to get worked up over this shocking incident. In fact, I was left pretty aghast after reading this article the first time.
The problem is, this shocking incident didn't really happen.
As was pointed out to me in an e-mail from a frequent reader, this sensationalist story falls apart as soon as you bother to read the actual ruling. Click on the link and read items 61 to 64 on page 14. The quote raising the fuss is simply a recap of the defence's case and is not given as the judge's reason for dismissing her testimony.
If you don't feel like reading the ruling, James Bowie has a fantastic post up where he neatly summarizes the case:
In her own words, Ms. MacLeod says she didn't know if it was Kilrea who initiated discussions. She said that "somebody" was talking to Kilrea about "an appointment," but she can't say who. She is unable to testify as to exactly what words were used. Asked if she didn't know about Kilrea working on an appointment himself, or whether the discussion had taken place earlier, she herself admits she doesn't know.
That is the salient point here - the witness, by her own admission, does not know the answer to the question. Asked "and you didn't know?" She responded "Yes." Asked "and you didn't know...?" She responded, "correct."
It is all a bit rich, therefore, for Ms. Taber and Ms. MacLeod to say that the judge was motivated by sexism in his apprisal of the witness. She herself said she did not know, and her recollection was not clear. It is only reasonable in such cases to assign little weight to the evidence of the witness.
Now, I don't want to criticize Jane Taber on this - no one can take a few anonymous quotes and pass them off as real news better than she can. But this story should never have run - one look at the ruling would show that there was absolutely nothing there.
I would love to see more articles on the problems facing female politicians, because the low number of elected women in Canada remains a travesty. But trying to drum up faux sexism charges against a judge doesn't help anyone.
UPDATE: Chris Selley also weighed in this morning, and points out the idiocy of the Globe accusing Lisa MacLeod of overracting, a day after running with the story on the front page.