Saturday, September 17, 2011

Addendum: R v Effert: Perspective

To be perfectly clear: the previous post was not an endorsement of Abortion or Infanticide. in point of fact I think the laws should be somewhat more stringent for both.

What the previous post was was a general admonition against sensationalism. I've spent the last few days having to explain to both Catholic and Agnostic friends and acquaintances from the US that this judgement isn't a legalization of infanticide but an application of a concept in Canada called common law. Previous rulings have all treated mothers who have committed this crime in much the same way, provided they have sufficiently similar circumstances.

Judges in Canada are not empowered to alter the criminal code on a whim. The SCC is empowered to overturn laws on the basis of violations of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, but the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench (the jurisdiction involved) is not.

Infanticide has always carried a lighter penalty than murder, even within the text of the code itself. That's because not every murder of a child qualifies. The killer has to be the biological mother, and she has to be shown to have a suite of clearly-defined mental illnesses.

We might not like that the original homicide conviction was overturned in favour of infanticide, but that's not our choice. There is a reason why we have a right to refuse trial by jury in this country. Laws are not the structure of the public opinion, and they are not the codes of morality. In point of fact, morality cannot be legislated. For every person, the moral code is a higher bar over which we must jump. The laws are merely the bare minimums of behaviour we expect out of people who wish to live in our society.

Again I invite all of you to pray for the peace and the souls of those involved, from the deceased infant to her mother, to the rest of their family, and all the judges and lawyers engaged. And, again, I implore you, do not make the mistake of letting a journalist's good story get in the way of the news.


  1. Hi Zachary-

    Thank you for the additional information. I actually find it slightly more disturbing, having read all of it (we have common law here too) and asked Paul to look it over also (he didn't believe me at first when I was reading parts of it out loud to him, and questioned whether it was actually real... when I assured him it was he used the law office program to get it and print it out...). It just kind of seems, to me, like a flaw that goes back further than the original reports reported.

  2. Well, I forget the exact year the infanticide clause in the Criminal Code was inserted (it was quite a while ago that I studied any criminal law), but it was well before my time.

    It's certainly a law though, and if memory serves the criminal code is particularly hard to amend.