Innocent until proven Guilty? No thanks, this is Canada!

…or “Give us your DNA or else!”

That’s basically the statement from Ontario Provincial Police Constable Peter Leon the other day.  If you don’t give police a DNA sample, then you will be presumed guilty of murder and treated as a murderer.

Evidence?  We don’t need evidence?  You refused a demand from the Almighty State!  Clearly you missed your “re-education” sessions and shall be punished accordingly.

Sounds outlandish?

Perhaps.  But “outlandish” does not mean ridiculous, and ridiculous is exactly how I would describe Constable Peter Leon’s statements regarding anyone who refuses to submit to his “voluntary” procedure.

Take the case of Toronto nurse Susan Nelles.  You can be forgiven if the name is not familiar to you.  She was accused of murdering four children in 1981.


She refused to speak to Toronto City Police without a lawyer present.

Is that evidence of guilt?  Hardly.  If anything, it’s evidence that a person understands their God-given Rights and Freedoms, and is willing to exercise them.

Unfortunately, the lack of respect for those very God-given Rights is not a new thing. It wasn’t even a new thing in 1981 when the Toronto City Police and Crown prosecutors bludgeoned Susan Nelles with the club of “guilty until proven innocent“.

Simply because she refused to talk to them without a lawyer present, she became the sole focus of their high-profile murder case.  Police basically ignored all other evidence and focused solely on trying to make the evidence fit their [flawed] case against her.

Her father, a doctor at the same hospital, died of a heart attack during the police vendetta against his daughter, and it’s hard not to believe the stress of seeing his daughter being wrongly accused contributed to his death.

After being exonerated at the end of a preliminary inquiry, Susan Nelles sued both the police, the Crown and the Attorney General of Ontario for malicious prosecution.

It’s no big surprise that she lost that case, Nelles v. Ontario, [1989] 2 S.C.R. 170.

The Crown enjoys absolute immunity from a suit for malicious prosecution.  Section 5(6) of the Ontario Proceedings Against the Crown Act exempts the Crown from any proceedings in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by a person while discharging or purporting to discharge responsibilities of a judicial nature or responsibilities that he has in connection with the execution of judicial process.

We’ve seen where this lack of accountable can lead before.

Canada has a very long list of people convicted of crimes they did not commit, generally because their rights were violated by police and prosecutors more interested in “closing the case” than in getting to the truth.

A short list of those wronging convicted is:

Tunnel vision on the part of police and prosecutors, as well as outright misconduct, can and HAS led to people being not just wrongly accused, but wrongly convicted of heinous crimes they did not commit.

Susan Nelles is the poster-woman for this atrocity.

Accused of murdering four children all because a she dared stand up for her God-given and Constitutionally protected Rights and Freedoms?

I personally find THAT offensive.  Susan Nelles did nothing wrong.  She stood up for herself and her rights and for that, police and prosecutors shredded her life and did their very best to destroy her, killing her father in the process.

Then they hide behind a law that says they cannot be held accountable for their actions, no matter how reprehensible or malicious.

It’s exactly this sort of mindset that is so terrifying to me in the Sonia Varaschin murder case.

Police are completely willing to toss anyone under the bus who refuses to have their rights violated.

The Canadian Civil Liberies Association is 100% correct in standing up for the Rights of all Canadians in this case.  From their press release:

Suggesting that such individuals can choose to provide DNA samples on a “voluntary” basis is misleading, and ignores the coercive nature of police requests.

Moreover, it ignores the reality that innocent individuals who assert their privacy rights could be perceived as guilty of a heinous crime, even where there is absolutely no evidence to support this perception.

That’s what happened to Susan Nelles.  She dared assert her right to have a lawyer present during questioning by police.

For the “crime” of standing up for herself and her Rights, she was charged with four counts of murder, and never got so much as an apology from the people who tried so hard to destroy her life.

My admonishment to the Canadian public is simple:

When the Ontario Provincial Police trot out one or more men before you and declare their guilt in this heinous crime… if the only “evidence” police can offer up is that a man refused to give them a DNA sample, question that. Demand that the police provide something far more tangible of guilt than refusing their DNA test.

Do not take as Gospel the Police claim that he’s guilty of anything… other than standing up for his God-given Rights, that is.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms still says we have the right to be presumed innocent until we are PROVEN guilty in a court of law.

11. 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; been varied between the time of commission and the time of sentencing, to the benefit of the lesser punishment.

It seems our police and prosecutors have long forgotten that simple yet unassailable Charter Right.

2 thoughts on “Innocent until proven Guilty? No thanks, this is Canada!

  1. Re: OPP “mass” DNA testing:

    ” … if the only ‘evidence’ police can offer up is that a man refused to give them a DNA sample, question that. Demand that the police provide something far more tangible of guilt than refusing their DNA test”

    YES — the more tangible evidence would be a DNA match!

    Look, I do appreciate people’s concern over abuses of authority and violation of individual rights. But when I reflect on your list of wrongfully accused men, several were convicted because forensic matter was NOT tested, and many were exonerated because of DNA screening.

    My feeling about this case is that police probably have 4 or 5 reasonable suspects from different types of leads of varying potential — but that the “evidence” they have is too circumstancial to ask for court orders. In my guess, there are probably 15-20 men on their list, all identified as prospects, but a much more select number than that who seem more likely suspects based on the evidence. For the men who are innocent, the DNA testing does, as many have argued before me, provide an opportunity for those men to be cleared.

    I appreciate your blog, and your deep commitment to protecting individual rights and freedoms. But for my part, I just deeply hope this police strategy will quickly and decisively offer justice — and peace for the Varaschin family. All our rights are violated when a murderer walks free among us.

    Thanks for your passion and integrity, even if I respectfully mostly disagree with you on this one.

  2. “lady who has many cats”, thank you for your kind words about my blog and commitment to our rights and freedoms…

    I’m 100% with you on “peace for the Varaschin family.” They desperately need the peace of knowing their daughter’s murder is brought to justice.

    That’s what makes writing about this issue so difficult. One of the questions I had to ask myself before writing about this case was this:

    If it was my daughter who was murdered, what would my position be?

    That is such a difficult question to answer. It’s easy to say that I would want people’s rights respected. Very easy to say. But as a parent wanting my daughter’s murderer brought to justice???

    It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty that I would care about anyone else’s rights in that situation.

    While I would like to believe I would hold the same position… that our individual Rights and Freedoms *must* be held in the highest regard…

    It’s pretty easy to understand why the family would see things very differently.

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful response “lady who has many cats”… and for your respectful disagreement with me in this case.

    I truly feel for Sonia’s family, and my prayers are that her killer is brought to justice, and soon. He must be made to pay for his heinous crime.

    Yours in Liberty,

    Christopher di Armani

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