Protect Due Process For Traffic Violations
Due process is a key part of a free society.
It's the idea that defendants must be treated fairly, and that any legal processes must follow set rules and procedures, rather than being arbitrary.
Due process is what protects individuals from being unfairly punished by governments that - by their nature - hold all the cards when it comes to being accused of something.
It also isn't some recent fad - it dates all the way back to the Magna Carta in the 13th century!
Closely intertwined with due process is the legal principle of the presumption of innocence.
That is that people are presumed to be innocent until they are proven otherwise by the state, rather than assumed to be guilty until they prove they are innocent.
This concept dates back even further to Roman times, in the 2nd century.
Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat.
Proof lies on him who asserts, not on him who denies.
Unfortunately, there has been a concerning trend away from these core principles in the west in recent years.
Around the world, over a period of many years, police and governments have worked together to slowly but surely remove the rights of individuals.
It started in Alberta way back in 2013 when government officials started working on plans to "reduce or eliminate traffic courts".
It's taken those government officials nine years to wear down multiple governments and multiple ministers to finally get what they wanted, but now they're almost there.
In 2020, the current Alberta government passed the Provincial Administrative Penalties Act.
The key feature of that law, at least as explained by the government, was increased penalties for impaired driving - something everyone can get behind.
But buried in the details, and barely mentioned at all, was the launch of an innocuously named "online ticket dispute system" that was supposed to "make it easier for Albertans to pay, request more time to pay, or dispute a ticket".
What it actually does, is unfortunately far less benign than this description.
The act abolishes the right of individuals to go to court to contest traffic violations and along with it all due process and presumption of innocence.
Once implemented, roadside tickets will include a QR code that links to a website to pay the fine.
Anyone wanting to contest the fine will have only 7 days instead of 30 days and will have to pay a non-refundable fee of between $50 and $150 to do so.
That's right, even if your appeal is successful, you still are out $50 to $150!
Finally, even once you've paid your non-refundable fee, you'll still not be allowed to go to a traffic court.
Instead, you'll have to speak to an adjudicator, and you'll only be able to do so online or over the phone.
The kicker - adjudicators can't even reduce fines or shorten suspensions.
We should at least acknowledge that the government claims they are making this change to reduce overflowing courts.
But while we agree that the delays in the justice system in Alberta need to be addressed, they shouldn't be addressed by simply removing justice!
Now, we've been following this issue since the introduction of this law two years ago, and many good people have been working behind the scenes to try to fix this.
The new rules were originally supposed to be implemented next week, but thanks to a lot of coordinated public pressure, the government announced today that they will be delaying the implementation for a few months.
While a delay is good, unfortunately, it doesn't look like the government has backed down on their plans in any way.
Apparently, the delay will give the government time to “educate” us - their words, not ours - on the changes proposed, and while they do promise to listen, they don't promise to change anything, rather they will be "sharing the benefits of these changes".
Here's the full quote:
"We will take the next 90 to 120 days to ensure that we communicate and consult with Albertans and they are educated on the changes proposed."
"We will listen to what Albertans have to say and we will share the benefits of these changes with them."
How condescending is that?
We cannot allow the principle of due process to be eroded in Alberta.
A precedent cannot be set that lets governments make access to the justice system so inconvenient and costly that people simply give up - that shouldn’t happen in a free society.
If we do, where does it end?
It might start at red light violations, but what if the same principle was applied to more serious crimes?
Think we're exaggerating?
In fact, the government has ALREADY announced that they will be expanding this system to other offences.
The changes above are Phase 2 of the government's "Justice Transformation Initiative".
Here's Phase 3, scheduled to be implemented once Phase 2 is complete:
- expand the administrative adjudication process such that it could be adopted and adapted for use by any regulated area of provincial jurisdiction.
This slippery slope is real, and it needs to be stopped now.
No consultation, education, or explanation, just a cancellation of the whole idea is what we need.
Due process must remain a function of our society.
People must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Let’s not waste time with an education period. Just cancel this farce.
If you believe in due process and the right of Albertans to have their day in court, please sign the petition.
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