Secret deliberations at Licensing Tribunal raise serious questions
I do get myself into real a pickle at times.
At a recent Toronto Licensing Tribunal hearing I got up and objected to the panel going into an In Camera, or secret, session relating to a hearing that is coming up in the New Year.
Seems I goofed this past summer and did not attend a meeting where this case first came up and where I was told the City “may” ask that the hearing be In Camera. It would have been easier had I been there to object. I have objected to In Camera in the past, and have been successful. I’ve figured out what I was doing that day keeping me from attending. It had something to do with an event I’d already paid several hundred dollars for. It would have cost more to hire someone to attend in my place on the basis of a “maybe.”
So at this latest outing I was in a position where I was asking the panel to overturn, or vary, its previous In Camera order. My understanding is the panel has the power to vary its own rules if it wants and could have dealt with my request immediately, but it decided I did know of the impending In Camera request (somehow “may” and “will” or “shall” are synonyms in the eyes of this panel,) and I now have to go through the formal process of filing a Motion and other lawyer type stuff, and in early January argue my case for having an open hearing.
Of course, things are not made easier because I have no idea what the complaint(s) is/are against this holder of a Vehicle for Hire license.
I’ll modify that last statement a bit. It most likely has to do with some kind of sexual impropriety, either a conviction or allegation. Don’t know even that for sure. However, this is the single most common reason for holding In Camera hearings, in my experience. Secret sessions are held most often to protect the identity of the victim. The second reason is to protect the identity of the alleged perpetrator, which is kind of understandable if the accused is innocent or not guilty or not yet convicted.
My position is simple. For justice to be done, it must be seen to be done. That means cases must be public. One reason for this is because courts have to be monitored by the public as an ongoing check for fairness and reasonableness of decisions. English philosopher Jeremy Bentham wrote: “publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion and the surest of all guards against improbity.”
Another is for the protection of the public. If it knows an individual has been convicted of a crime they can be on the lookout for that person reoffending. An important note in passing: Cab owners and companies have no way of knowing about disciplinary decisions rendered against taxi drivers, other than through me or (rarely) other media.
Still another is to protect the accused. Should the case against him or her be unwarranted, the public should know it, and charging authorities can be called to account.
At the very least, open hearings allow for public awareness and discussion of what has happened, based on evidence and not rumor, hearsay and speculation.
The alternative is a regression to the old English Star Chamber style of “justice.”
For those who don’t know, with the Star Chamber, people could be dragged from their homes without a warrant or charge, held indefinitely, often tortured, tried in secret, convicted and executed, and their bodies dumped back on their home doorstep with the family being told they could bury him or her, never knowing what crime the person was supposed to have committed.
Star Chambers are precisely what In Camera leads to. A couple of years ago the TLT had a similar hearing where the name of the licensee was withheld, the hearing was conducted in secret, all evidence was sealed and the decision and the reasons for it were also sealed. A reporter present did try to have the In Camera motion denied, but failed. This is Justice in Canada?
In Camera courts are seldom, if ever, justified in any free society. They are an affront to any freedom-loving citizen.
I have, for decades, done all I could in reporting these cases to protect victim identities, even when it is shown the charge is totally unfounded. This was my personal policy long before the advent of Freedom of Information and Privacy legislation.
So for the past few days I’ve been pouring through various web sites, including Canlii (the repository of Canadian legal decisions). There are more than 4,000 recorded there relating to Open Courts. Some are obviously useful to me. The vast majority are useless, as far as I can tell. All this means I haven’t the foggiest what is potentially important and what is a waste of time. It may be that I have to wade through all 4,000 plus cases to figure things out.
I’ve actually become somewhat fluent in Legalese, that very strange language that has only a passing resemblance to English. This doesn’t mean I really know what I am reading, or that I understand the nuances, but these decisions are somewhat less like Sanskrit than before I started this exercise. Please wish me luck. And if you are a lawyer willing to do some pro bono work, please let me know. I can use your help.
Finally, our entire crew here at Taxi News wishes all a safe and very happy Christmas season. And Hanukah. And Kwanza. And whatever celebration the season has for you and your families. It all gets very confusing. So I simplify it and say Merry Christmas! Peace and goodwill to all!