Canadian drama at its best
We’ve seen the final episode of Downton Abbey, but the finales of two real-life Canadian dramas will be aired within the next few weeks.
A verdict in the Jian Ghomeshi sexual assault case comes down March 24. And, decisions on 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery against Senator Mike Duffy are expected in late April.
Ghomeshi is a former CBC star, while Duffy was a high-profile CBC and CTV news personality before being named to the Senate.
Their trials concluded over the winter and the verdicts, whether “guilty” or “not guilty,” will generate much discussion. Both involve interesting and important issues.
Three women testified in the Ghomeshi trial, accusing him of physically hurting them while alone with him. The roughing up included slapping, pulling hair, choking and punching.
Ghomeshi, once host of the CBC radio show Q, has admitted in a Facebook post that he enjoys rough sex that some people might find offensive. CBC fired him after executives say they saw evidence he had injured a woman.
However, he said he practices rough sex only with consenting partners. His defence is that any partner he punched or choked consented.
Defence lawyer Marie Henein produced emails and a letter to show how at least one complainant continued to communicate with Ghomeshi after the alleged assault. The letter included a picture of the woman in a red bikini and was put forward as evidence as someone not disturbed about being slapped around.
Ms. Henein ran the complainants through a meat grinder, shattering their credibility. She accused them of lying under oath and of colluding to bring Ghomeshi down.
One of the issues in his trial is how to be less vicious with sexual assault complainants on the witness stand without weakening the accused person’s presumption of innocence. It is a fact that many rape victims do not step forward because they don’t want the trauma resulting from aggressive defence counsel tactics.
In the Duffy case, our corrupt political system is on trial. Specifically, how our prime ministers appoint senators as money raisers and vote getters, instead of working on behalf of citizens.
The charges against Duffy relate to expenses he racked up and whether he cheated in charging the Senate for purely personal items. There also is the issue of Nigel Wright, former prime minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, giving Duffy $90,000 to repay questioned expenses.
It is interesting how Ghomeshi and Duffy handled their defences differently. Ghomeshi exercised his right to remain silent, while Duffy was on the witness stand for eight days, testifying in his own defence.
Duffy gave back as good as he got on the witness stand. He accused the PMO (prime minister’s office) of forcing him to repay questioned expenses that might cause political damage.
Paying back expenses gave the appearance that he had done something wrong, said Duffy. He did nothing wrong but feared retaliation if he did not accept the PMO’s plan to avoid political problems by repaying the expenses.
Everything Ghomeshi had to say was said before he was charged and on the Facebook post explaining why he was fired. He hasn’t said anything since.
That decision has been questioned privately, and in the media. Some people feel that the honourable thing for Ghomeshi to do was to take the stand, face his accusers and tell his version of what happened. On the witness stand he would face the same type of questioning his accusers faced – questioning designed to indicate whether a person is being entirely truthful.
At any rate, the judges in both cases are experienced and well respected and will figure it all out. Their rulings, however, will not end the debates over the issues in each case.
And, whether they are found guilty or not guilty, neither Ghomeshi nor Duffy will ever be viewed by the public as innocent victims.