Home CommentaryEditorial How do we support victims while maintaining the idea of innocent until proven guilty?

How do we support victims while maintaining the idea of innocent until proven guilty?

by The Concordian November 12, 2013
How do we support victims while maintaining the idea of innocent until proven guilty?

In the Canadian justice system, alleged perpetrators are judged by a jury of their peers. It is up to the jury to decide whether the person that has been charged with a crime by the police, is in fact guilty of said crime. Up until that point, according to Section 11 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a person is presumed innocent:

“Any person charged with an offence has the right …(d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.”

For this reason, it is hard to say that the McGill administration, in the case of the alleged rape of a former Concordia student by members of its football team, has acted inappropriately.

Although we do not deny the victim’s allegations, the fact remains that despite being charged by the Montreal police, the football players have not been shown to be guilty in a court of law. For the McGill administration to take action would mean superseding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. McGill must act according to the players’ rights to be presumed innocent.

What is deplorable, however, is that the alleged incident happened in 2011 and the matter is only being brought to court this December.

These alleged perpetrators have been allowed to continue their normal lives for nearly three years, while the suspected victim has had no justice and has moved away, most likely to be as far from these men as possible.

Therefore, the problem is not that the McGill administration has taken no action, but rather that the Canadian Criminal Justice system is too slow to take action.

It is difficult for a community to provide support for rape victims without falling into the trap of presumption of guilt. Despite how we might feel about rape, it is unfair to call someone a rapist until it has been lawfully proven.

Although we are inclined to believe the victim, mistakes in naming perpetrators have been made in other situations and everyone has the right to defend themselves. We cannot allow ourselves to only hear one side of the story. We must hear both sides before declaring someone a monster.

In 2006, three members of the Duke University lacrosse team in Durham, North Carolina, were accused of rape. The community was incensed and the players were labelled as criminals and verbally brutalized by the media and community members.

As it turns out, the investigation, namely DNA and alibi evidence, proved that these three men were innocent. However, the damage was irreparably done. Not only were the players’ names dragged through the mud and forever tainted, but the university’s image suffered as well. And all because these men were presumed guilty.

The McGill administration is not alone in allowing members of its sports teams to continue playing despite pending criminal charges.

Colorado Avalanche goalie, Semyon Varlamov, was charged with second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault of his girlfriend and he continues to play professionally.

Varlamov will likely keep playing until the court renders a decision. The football players in question will soon be graduating. If the allegations against them prove to be true, the reputations of McGill and Colorado Avalanche will be tainted, but there is nothing they can do without violating the players’ rights.

The justice system needs to speed up the process for trying these cases. Until a decision is rendered on the guilt or innocence of alleged perpetrators everyone suffers.





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