“Due Process”, Is it Important?

I just realized I haven’t posted anything this month and yet it has been such an information packed month.  I think the most depressing event of the month was the ease with which Prime Minister Harper was able to have “due process” suspended.  I’m going to leave the politics of that alone for the time being but I will not let the whole concept in regards to due process go.

I had a Skype conversation with one of my brother’s within days of that happening.  This brother is four years younger than me and has recently retired due to medical issues himself (now basically resolved). He’s also a sibling I didn’t really have a lot of time with when I was growing up, in part due to the age difference, but also because of the amount of time I spend in the Children’s Hospital.  By the time I was 16 I had spend about eight years in a hospital environment so that was really more of a home to me than the one where my siblings resided.

A little background here, this brother was having a major live crisis of his own about ten years ago so he came out to spend some time with me in Victoria.   Due to the limited time we had as kids followed by his career which took him all over Canada we had spend very little “quality family” time together.  That came up during that visit when I mentioned to him that I had never really felt like a member of this family due to the way I had grown up.  He appeared quite shocked over this revelation so we discussed it further.  He discovered a lot of things I experience everyday but he was totally oblivious to.  The drawback to being so addicted to independence is that people forget you have a disability.  However with that said it did appear initially to strengthen our relationship.

This led to a sibling bonding exercise that we have danced around for the past ten years.  I say dance because my brother and I are cut from very different cloth when it comes to politics.  His attitude is basically if it doesn’t affect his life directly then it is not an issue.  My attitude is to make myself as informed as possible and see what damages, if any, will be done to society as a whole by any major policy changes to our social structure.  I strongly adhere to the premise of due process.

During the Skype conversation the topic of the suspension of the three Senators without allowing “due process” to run its course came up.  Now I am in no way supportive of the Senator’s budget issues or any other behaviour we are seeing come out of Ottawa these days but we still live in a democracy.  In a democracy everybody is entitled to due process.  My brothers reply was screw them, turf them and to hell with due process.

I should point out that my brother is a hardcore Conservative supporter which is his right however the Conservative party he supported for so many years has ceased to exist.  We now have the Harper party!  I pointed out to my my brother that we still live in a democracy, we have an elected Parliament, a Charter of Rights which due process is really the backbone of.  This helps define our democracy and a democracy is not run from the PMO’s suite.

He took the opposite argument and had no problems defending the suppression of due process.  His world is pretty black and white without room for much grey.  His argument was weak and devoid of actual facts however it did raise the issue in my own mind of how little my family really knows me.  It quickly became clear to me that my brother has very little historical perspective on these types of issues.  He also lacks a lot of information on why it is so important to me.  This also re-enforced, in my own mind, how little my family really knows me or has any understanding of social justice.

When I was growing up with polio and we had no due process organizations like the Alberta Eugenics Board existed.  Boards like this existed in exchange for due process.  Well meaning people, like my brother, could make decisions that would affect people with disabilities for the rest of their lives.  In September of 1967 I came home and found a letter in the mail (to my parents) from the Board.  As a kid with a disability and an attitude (some would say border line juvenile delinquent) I became a prime candidate under the 1928 Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act.  There was no due process and there was no appeal process at that time in Canadian society.  The only redress I had at the time was to get out of town which I did…immediately, letter in hand.

I ran away at 17 and headed for Vancouver where I spend the next three years experiencing life on the streets.  With that said I was never sterilized for which I have a wonderful son and grandson today.  Would the same thing have had happened if I has stuck around a household, who knows but I wasn’t about to gamble on that.  As a 17 year old in the 60’s sterilization to me meant the same as neutered and I enjoyed the carnal side of life to much for that to happen.  And my limited understanding of sterilization led me to believe I would never be able to have sex again if I went under that knife.

These procedures went on until 1972 in Alberta but today we have “due process” which is suppose to provide us with some forms of protection.  The fact that something as basic as due process could be suspended on the whim of the Prime Minister says to me we have left the area of open democracy.  The fact that my brother could support this and not see an issue in it has led me to believe I was adopted.

Just one man’s opinion.


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