Dismiss Robin Camp now.

by Mark Zaugg 20. September 2016 20:45

"Lady Justice is an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems.  Her attributes are a blindfold, a balance and a sword... Since the 15th century, Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents objectivity, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favour, regardless of money, wealth, fame, power, or identity; blind justice and impartiality."  - Wikipedia

 Lady Justice

Scales of Justice, Vancouver Law Courts. The blindfolded Lady Justice symbolizes the impartial manner in which our laws are administered: blind to all considerations but the facts

Source: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/discover/section-10.asp

Every single person walking through every single court room in every single courthouse across the entire country deserves at the very least the expectation that upon entry into chambers that person will be treated fairly and equally to everyone else.

That expectation is not met in reality, to the detriment of our court systems and ourselves.  Privilege is not always stripped from the powerful.  Race taints the outcome of trials, leaving an entire group of people disproportionally sent to prison

Let me be clear - every single person has a stake in this.  You, the reader, may find yourself in court tomorrow.  You may be accused of a crime.  You may have even performed a crime, minor as it may be - speeding, littering, smoking less than 5 metres from a doorway.  Not everything will land you in court, but some things most certainly will.  Or maybe you haven't been caught in a crime, but you're getting divorced from your former spouse.  Or your parent passed away.  Or you were simply a witness to an event someone found noteworthy.  Or you did literally nothing

You are involved.  Every single one of us needs to care about this.  Right now it is probably only theoretical that your life and well-being are at stake.  For a few of us, this literally matters at this exact moment.  The line between being pulled into court could be as fine as a police officer's mood.

That is why everyone deserves to be treated fairly in court.

Federal Court Justice Robin Camp has demonstrated how he treats people walking through the doors of his court room

No, he has not treated everyone in the same way that he treated that one particular witness in his court room.  The premise of Lady Justice is that he will do so.

In Mr. Camp's case, treating every person in his court room sinks to the putrid depths of the lowest common denominator.  Every witness becomes "The Accused."  Everyone witness under the microscope to examine every misdeed.  Pardon me; every person present in that room is treated that way.  Not just the witnesses, but the lawyers, the police officers, the court workers, the observers, the people there for other cases -- everyone.

It is ridiculous hyperbole - no judge could treat everyone in such a way.  However if we're going to believe in the principle that every person attending court be treated equally, then no one attending court should ever have been treated in the manner that Mr. Camp did on that occasion.  These are diametrically opposing, it can not be both ways.  Without question or doubt, Mr. Camp has demonstrated how he sees fit to treat people in his court.

"He's not a misogynist, he's not a racist," said Justice McCawley in Mr. Camp's defence.  No, Ms. McCawley, his actions were misogynist and racist and unacceptable.  It does not necessarily mean that Mr. Camp treats all people, particularly yourself, in such a manner.  But the fact that he behaves in such a manner to anyone demonstrates that Mr. Camp can not be expected to treat everyone fairly and equally.

That is pure poison in a role of justice that bears the power of actual life and death.  Mr. Camp cannot be trusted to treat all persons fairly.  If you can not walk into his court house with the trust that you will be fairly heard, he can not sit on the bench.

In the case of Lori Douglas, I argued that her poor decision making and the blind denial that confidence in the court was shaken from her circumstance meant she could no longer stand as an effective judge.  I said, "No one knows better than I that bad things sometimes happen to good people."

Unlike Lori Douglas, I believe Robin Camp has definitively shown that he is not a good person.  While in a position of great power, he treated a woman shamefully.  His own shame.

Mr. Camp is fighting for his job.  We, the citizens need to be able to trust the judgement of the judges.  When a justice can not be trusted to recuse himself when he fails to understand the very law he's passing sentence on, he (or she) has no right to sit on the bench.  If Mr. Camp does not understand his actions have disqualified him to sit as a judge, his very judgment cannot be trusted.

Robin Camp is fighting to retain a job he has no right to hold.  This needs to be shouted from the rooftops.  He must be fired immediately.

Lift the Hat. Lift the Stigma.

by Mark Zaugg 10. January 2015 14:27

Hey Mack,

I never knew you personally, but I'm learning a lot about you in snippets of stories.  There's no doubt that I like you a lot.  We have a lot in common, I'm sure we'd be great friends.

Let's start with the hat.  I started wearing a hat to stop my ears from getting sunburnt all the time.  I love wearing a hat now.  You loved yours, I get it!  It's comfortable, it's convenient and it becomes part of your identity.  Your hat is yours, my hat is mine - the same but different too.  From here on out, I'll always have just a tiny thought of you when I put mine on.

Earlier this week I got watching #CHHSLetsTalk gather steam.  My daughter attends Crescent Heights, I admit I feel a solidarity where I'd otherwise feel no affiliation at all.  My hat's off to Brett Rothery, too.  What we saw this week was a crucially important conversation with some of the most affected of us taking part.  I had an opportunity to get involved.  I RTed a pledge from Zach Laing pretty early on, I tracked it as it gathered momentum and was really curious to see how a pure tweet dedicated to Mental Health Awareness would fare.  In the end, I was proud of the campaign and I'm proud of Brett for putting in the time and effort beyond mere clicktivism.  I matched what he raised, Ryan V. matched as well.  The three of us totalled a $321.00 donation - that's pretty okay in it's own right.

But this is my real donation.

I don't know everything about Mack, but I intimately know my own story.  It hasn't always been great.  Barring the best, most caring doctor I've ever known and some supreme support from my Dad and a few very close friends I would have not survived my fight against depression.

It has come and gone over the years.  Different rounds have been very different fights.  Today it's never soul-crushing and overwhelming the way it has been in the past.  I've got better coping skills now and I've got experience as to how things turn out given time and effort.  I can feel the difference between feeling bummed out and feeling depression set in and I've learned the first thing to do is talk about it with someone I trust.  The dread, the worry, the suffocation and hopelessness that used to paralyze me becomes less significant when I talk with someone who knows me and has an external viewpoint.

At my absolute worst, I needed help from my doctor.  I got lucky, he found a medication that worked for me and I stuck with it - even when I didn't feel I needed it - until I actually did not need it any longer.  I know that should I even need it, I have a tool I can rely upon again.  I'll be happy if I never need to, though.  I don't want to have to fight that hard again.

A few years back, when I started climbing out of my pit, I had went to visit my doctor.  I needed to refill my prescription and was back into financial issues at the time, but I knew it was more important to stick with my treatment so I rode my bike down to see him.  It was a longish wait that day, when I got in we went through our usual questions as how I was doing.  At the end of the visit he commented on me riding my bike - I had caught pneumonia previously and riding helped strengthen my lungs and get healthier.  He caught me with a very unexpected question, "Did you notice the guy who just left?"

Well, no, not really.  I was somewhat self-absorbed that day.

"He's fighting the same thing you are.  You know what he said to me when he got in here?  He said, 'There's a guy in the waiting room with a bike helmet under his arm and a smile on his face.  I want to be THAT guy.'"

I hope that guy knows that both him and I are in this together.  It's why having this conversation about mental health is so important to us all.  It's that outside perspective that matters so much!

It's also one of the many reasons I ride a bike.  It's entirely good for my physical and mental health.  I curl in the winter for the same reasons.  Going for neighbourhood walks (especially taking a borrowed dog for a walk) does the same thing.  Taking the time to care for myself physically helps me mentally.  Another tool in my belt to help myself, learned from another man's viewpoint of me.  Everyone's tool set is a bit different, we could use a hand finding what works for each of us.

Time with my friends means everything.  People who care, people who spend the time to talk, to touch base and keep life in perspective.  We all need friends like that.  We need to have these conversations on social media to change the world, but we need to have these conversations in person to change our circumstance.  Take the time to have those conversations, it will literally change our lives for the better.

So Mack, we never got to have this conversation together.  I'm sorry we didn't, I bet you had some really interesting insights that would help me.  Maybe this conversation will be someone who's not you and not me, but is in their own way just like us.

The most important part is that we start the conversation and never stop talking about it.

One parting shot: The downside of posting this to my blog is that it's publicly known and will never go away now.  There was once a nurse for an insurance company who was probing and intrusive and generally stigmatized the fact that I have "a history of mental illness."  She can kiss my ass.  This is about me, not about her, not about insurance, not about anything other than making each other's lives better.  It doesn't have to be a life sentence, it doesn't have to be an everlasting unchanging problem, it doesn't have to be anything more than one of life's experiences many of us go through.

Let's ditch the blame game and get back to healing and making life richer and more fulfilling - even those times when there are only lows, really lows and very, very lows.  The stigma just gets in the way of making it better.  Life usually does get better.

Lift the Hat.  Lift the Stigma.

My hat's off to you, Mack.

Positive change is far overdue in Alberta's child welfare system

by Mark Zaugg 10. January 2014 08:42

When Karen Kleiss and Darcy Henton wrote their Fatal Care series, I felt devastated, sad and very angry.  I knew I had to write about my feelings over it, I had no idea what to say or even how to go about saying it.

Now there are further details of deaths outside of the parameters of the Fatal Care series.  The deaths of 741 Albertans troubles me deeply.  I'm appalled they were children or young adults.  I'm sickened because children taken into the child welfare system are supposed to be there for their own safety and protection.  Children enter the child welfare system for serious reasons.  It happens by the authority of the Government of Alberta, which is supposed to be on behalf of all of us.

I want to believe that a child would only enter the system when they were in a situation of little hope, given a chance to excel and become one of the very friends and neighbours I value.  I know the struggles and sacrifice a couple endures just to be willing to open their home to a foster child.  I want to believe every foster parent meets the standard of adoptive and foster parents I have known through the years.  I want to believe every child that enters the system has a chance to graduate and find a career that suits them and affords them a life of happiness.

I know that no matter how altruistic I could feel on my very best and most selfless day, I would never be capable or willing to take on the role of Foster Parent.  In no way am I diminishing those who excel at making childhood better.  It must be a very, very hard job that must be equally rewarding or no one would ever bother.

I'm far from surprised there have been problems with the child welfare system.  It's not a far stretch for the imagination to make.  We knew of 56 official deaths of children while in care, those are the children that we were told "fell through the cracks."  Learning the number was higher thanks to the Fatal Care series was shocking, but believable.  I can't think of any parent who would be pleased to have a child enter the system.  No parent would want a case worker to show up on your doorstep unannounced for any reason.  It is not a place you want your loved ones to be.  Knowing the problem is much more wide-ranging than we thought even two months ago is heartbreaking.

There is a very simple rule in Information Technology: Be cautious about what you choose to measure.  The metrics you use will be far less meaningful if they are measuring the wrong thing, or focus too much on one facet and neglect a more important piece of the puzzle, or if the measurement itself can be gamed.  Now we learn the government was not adequately tracking the numbers and could not even answer Ms. Kleiss's question of how many children had died in foster care or after they were involved with the child welfare system.  This has been an epic failure to collect and process data, and we are all the more ignorant because of it.

That's just not acceptable in this province.

These are not simple situations.  You don't wind up in the child welfare system because you forgot to brush your teeth after dinner.  I will not simplify what surely must be complex and broad-reaching decisions, nor will I demand a simplistic resignation of a current or past minister.  That has to be a tough, tough position to hold and I sincerely thank those who have been willing to take up the role.  On the other hand, I will not accept another study on the matter that gets stuffed up on a shelf and gets left on a pile of other ignored studies; Alberta's children deserve better.  Neither shall I minimize the role the child welfare system plays in saving children's lives every day in this province.  There have been 741 tragically unacceptable outcomes since 1999, but I still do not have a clue of the total scale of the problem.

Karen Kleiss and Darcy Henton had to scratch and fight for every scrap of information every step of the way.  That was flat out unacceptable.  Ministers and spokespeople hid behind privacy laws and barred parents from talking about their own children's deaths.  That is unconscionable.  My deepest gratitude for their persistence and starting what I hope is the start of reform.

I do have some credit to offer.  I was pleased with Heather Forsyth's call for a public enquiry.  She will understand much better than I the issues involved and it takes considerable courage to step forward and look for ways to make improvements - particularly with the possibility of exposing past mistakes.  I'm grateful for her insight and would do whatever I can to assist.

I was extremely pleased to read Manmeet Bhullar's stance on making data public today.  He said, “I strongly believe that better and more data leads to better decision-making."  I agree, this is a great start.  I also insist that this problem has been created over fourteen years of not being forthright and honest and Mr. Bhullar has a deep deficit to overcome.  We can overcome it, though.  We must work together, using our best and brightest, and we must resolve the problem of children dying while in Provincial care, but also the obfuscation and lack of transparency that has masked the true extent and has prevented an honest and open look at making lives better.

This problem was created over fourteen years.  We do not have fourteen more years to solve it.  Lives are literally on the line.

Reflecting on a Dream

by Mark Zaugg 29. August 2013 04:35

I have always known who Martin Luther King Jr. was.  Always.

In and of itself, that statement may not be remarkable.  Dr. King was a powerful orator and a deeply driving force for civil rights in the USA.  He had a great affect on millions of people, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics and millions of others not enumerated.  Billions upon billions of people should know who Martin Luther King was.

I'm certainly not a scholar of MLK, I know the man was as flawed as he was inspiring - but really aren't we all?  I honestly wonder the degree of character assassination suffered at the hands of the FBI.  I am happy to accept Dr. King as the persona I know - as a man of peace and vision.

The reason I feel that to be a special statement is that I'm a white, Canadian man that probably doesn't have right or reason to feel such a connection to Dr. King.  By default I represent the privileged class that has the most to lose by ceding rights and powers to others.  Not for a moment do I believe that to be true.  Treating all people with respect and in equity makes us all greater beings.

I do know that in as long as I can remember I have always known the phrase, "I Have a Dream," and I have always understood that phrase to mean that all of us are meant to be equal.  My mother spoke it often, and today, on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I've been thinking about her.

She would have been 16 years old when Dr. King gave that speech.  I struggle to imagine the impact such a speech would have had upon a young woman in Winnipeg, so far removed from the American South, so far removed from segregation, but aware of racism and discrimination enough that the speech was able to touch her entire being and through her shape my own life.

"I Have a Dream!" she would echo.  When she was exasperated that I had not cleaned my room, it would come out as a light hearted barb.  Looking backwards, when I had shamefully treated someone with disrespect and contempt the words, "I Have a Dream" would be said seriously and with all due meaning.

My mother was born in Germany after the Second World War.  The daughter of a Russian artillery soldier and the Polish "Angel of Mercy" who attended him in the prisoner of war camp.  I don't know all the details, many of them are shrouded in the struggle to survive and find a safe place to raise a family in post-war Europe.  Eventually, after much hardship, my grandparents found their way to Canada and settled in the north end of Winnipeg in a tiny, beautiful home where I knew love, kindness, great music and even better food.

I have shadowy fragments of my mother's childhood.  Once, just before they tore it down, we were taken to the home they first lived in when the arrived in Canada.  A mere shack, hardly habitable for a bachelor, let alone a family with four young children.

I once had a powder blue parka.  To this day I love powder blue as a colour and I'd proudly wear that coat now, but as an elementary kid I was teased mercilessly over that coat.  It was trying on my mother because she did not understand my love/hate relationship with a parka.  She only understood the sacrifice she had made to provide me with suitable clothing.  She let slip, "When I was your age I was lucky to have a coat at all."  Possibly one of those parental exaggerations, but from the perspective of today I'm not so certain that it wasn't exactly as she described.

The deepest knowledge I have of my mother's childhood, or perhaps adolescence, happened when we had time alone together.  I would have been around high school age and made the trip into Calgary while she attended University to get her degree in Social Work.  I don't remember the exact circumstance, I don't remember the whole conversation, but her words have been seared into my very soul.  We were talking about "fitting in" versus being your own self.  At some point in this conversation she confided the very taunt that formed her person.  When she was in school she had been called a "damned dirty DP."  She spat it out when she told me that day.  She had to explain to me that a "DP" meant "Displaced Person" and I had a staggeringly hard time imagining that to be any cause for discrimination or abuse.  We are all immigrants in some shape or fashion, varying only in the timing of when we or our ancestors arrived where we are today.  Unless you happen to be the fortunate few living in the cradle of humanity somewhere in Africa, and even then your ancestors probably migrated around some.

It saddens me immensely to consider the people displaced in the world today.  Particularly with the current news from Syria, of course, but the thought of anyone struggling to live a life of safety.  It is also sad to know people amongst us suffer from horrible mistreatment and not the dignity they deserve from what we consider a modern and civil society.

Throughout her life, my mother had friends of all ages, all heritages, both genders.  She wasn't perfect, but she extended a welcoming hand to anyone and everyone around her.

And she taught me "I Have a Dream."

A speech with such impact to a 16 year old girl it still echoes in her grandchildren.

We have not yet achieved Dr. King's dream.  We need to keep striving.  But we have not turned back, together we have made significant strides and we have not forsaken his dream.    I pledge for the next 50 years that I will not judge a person by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character, and I will do my very best to give everyone I meet the courtesy to consider them good and kind until they prove otherwise.

If I fail, and I sometimes will, I need to be challenged to live better.  I am, after all, just the son of a damned dirty DP.  My love for her must live through living up to the standard she set.

If you don't know the speech, you are now challenged to read or listen to it yourself.  Thank you, Dr. King.  May your dream come true soon and forever.

Understanding appropriateness

by Mark Zaugg 24. March 2013 18:20

I'm ashamed to say I've raged on this topic before and I'm saddened that I'll rage on it again.  And so it goes on, and once more I blather into the void that is blogdom.

And I'm okay with that.

I'll point out again when I started this blog it began as a place for me to throw up photos to share with my family.  It's went through a whole lot of change since then - now instead of my Mom being my target reader, the me of the future is my own target reader.  This serves as a sort of journal to my life these days in that uncomfortable, self-absorbed kind of way.

The major point is that I am going through another significant round of transition right now.  As I go through a more significant change I certainly draw from previous experience and some of the lessons I've learned along the way.  I'm drawing strength from that knowledge, it is through learning to apply it in new ways that we grow.

I'm five paragraphs in and I have yet to actually say, "Yet another tech conference.  Yet another uproar over comments perceived as sexist and inappropriate.  Yet another escalation of an otherwise insignificant event."  In reality, my favourite response came from Ken Fisher at ars technica.  I liked it so much I gave it a link and recommend you go read it too.

The last time I recall addressing a similar issue was a few years back at the Golden Gate Ruby Conference.  For context, I was working in a Ruby on Rails environment at the time with an exceptionally talented Ruby on Rails coder as our lead programmer.  She brought it to my attention and it became formative to my life's plan.

Simply stated, I have become a huge admirer of some of the people involved and they have influenced me to both become a better person but also to increase my abilities.  Sarah Mei was one of the first to draw my attention, Mike Gunderloy has become a massively inspirational figure to me from his integrity and thought.  I have remained distant fans of both - from afar and in a very non-creepy manner I hope.  Along with Lori, they inspired me to tackle the Ruby route.

No, it hasn't went as smoothly or as quickly as I had hoped, but I have found a whole world of abilities within myself that I did not know existed.  Last week I met with a recruiter in downtown Calgary who mentioned that I sounded like a huge fan of Agile.  "Not really," I thought out loud, "I found it very disruptive on occasion when we had a set of pair programmers that simply didn't fit into the environment too."  A true, good Agile programmer ought to recognize which of their Agile methodologies are working and which ought to be de-emphasized based on the feedback around them.  And it clicked in my mind.

Being a generalist means I love to learn from the environment around me and to try to understand everything I possibly can in order to bring improvements around me.  I've discussed this while reworking my resume last week -- it's a talent to recognize that CRM "A" needed upgrading, when CRM "B" languished from disuse we had to find a new solution that solved the problems of the first and wasn't so cumbersome that it would actually be used.  I have to understand appropriateness.  I don't quite know how to best explain it, but that's why I hash out ideas here.

So when inappropriateness occurs at a Python conference, my ideas line up again.

It is completely and entirely inappropriate to fire off sexist jokes at a technical conference.  Period.  It has been too much of a problem for far too long, too many people have been uncomfortable about it, too many people have been upset by it.  At this stage ignorance is no longer an excuse (and let's be honest, it was never a good excuse in the first place).  Go to a conference, act professionally.  If I go to a comedy club and hear a racy joke I won't be upset, if I'm at a professional conference it's fair to say, "Not cool."

Saying "Not cool" is, in fact, very cool.  When people like Mike stand up to express their opinions in a public forum it becomes inspiring to people like me.  Bringing that inspiration to others makes those around us even better than before, we all need to maximize our talents.  Some times we all need our own reality checks.  If you accept it as constructive criticism and improve, all the better.

Escalation is very uncool.  I've learned long ago that disciple involves correcting a mistake, an error or a misbehaviour.  Escalating by means of degradation, humiliation or even by giving ultimatums ('Shut up or else you'll be escorted from the building!") has little to do with disciple.  Set the standard, when people do not abide by the standard then it's valid to point it out and offer an opportunity for them to redress themselves.  Usually things stop there and positive outcomes result.  When it doesn't, that's the time to firmly and politely ask the offender to leave.

Ultimately, we ought to be looking towards the positive outcome.  Even in the negative of GoGaRuCo 2009 I'd argue the positive came from my inspiration from Sarah and Mike.  Learning and applying those lessons are key.  Improving myself, increasing my knowledge and skills base, and actually becoming a better person are incredibly important outcomes.  The ultimate result must be an increased drive to help each other improve ourselves.

From a coding perspective, we want to provide opportunity for women to apply their skills.  Right now they are under-represented in technology fields.  Any barrier to recruiting or retaining a skilled woman willing to participate needs to be eliminated.  We need every person we can get.  We need every diverse viewpoint we can get.  It enriches us all, we are not in a position to be exclusionary in the slightest.  Only positive outcomes will come when we encourage everyone to work to the best of their abilities.  Programming as a career is one window into the wider issue of gender balance we need moving forward.

There's a flip side to this, too.  When I attended university there were more men than women graduating.  That's now reversed and the gap is increasing.  As a society we cannot afford to have an entire gender ghettoized.  We gape at the prospect of keeping a woman "..in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant" as an anachronism today.  It would be equally unacceptable for men to fall into the same role in 20 years.  We need each other to succeed.  We need to recognize professionals in every field.  It is fundamental to being a complete society.

We need to recognize that bringing and end to the lame jokes is more than just Political Correctness run amok.  The outcome needs to be about working together and letting every person bring their best to the table.  We need to understand that we need educated men and women for tomorrow's society.  We need talented men and women to excel in skilled trades.  We need to encourage everyone to contribute.  We do not have the luxury of floating - especially with a shaky economy and an infrastructure deficit, an environmental deficit and where the gap between Haves and Have-Nots is increasing.

If treating each other respectfully is a part of the answer, I'm all for it.  I'm not so trite to believe it's the complete solution.

Back to myself, I need to remind myself that ultimately my endpoint needs to include basic survival, but also I need to explain that I bring with me the ability to distinguish what is ultimately essential for business success.  I know appropriate infrastructure, I know appropriate staffing, I know appropriate business models (yeah, that was hard knocks).  I can improve my skills appropriately to fill business needs.  Applying lessons from around me and applying them to other situations is a skill I need to apply daily.

I'm still growing as a person.  It's amazing what you can accomplish when you apply your best to get better.  Don't let the cruft get in the way, learn from the lessons and drive forward.

The Expense Game

by Mark Zaugg 3. August 2012 02:34

Expense accounts.  You're think that the very phrase was self explanatory.

It's an accounting of the expenses you incurred in order to perform your job.

I don't submit my expenses to drive to work.  I don't submit my expense for my morning coffee.  I'm not a great fan of the office coffee, so I get my own tea.  If someone else brings in a box, I'm grateful, but I don't get upset when I buy it myself.

Now, my boss brings in a scone or a muffin for me which I hugely appreciate.  I don't have to worry about something to munch on, if I don't bring a lunch usually it's enough to power me through my 2:00 lull.  I'm not going on strike if I don't get a muffin every day.  I won't work harder if I get two.  I take it as a sign of appreciation of what I do.

If I have to drive to Alberta Printer to get supplies, I'll submit my expenses to be reimbursed for the ink.  But they're close to my home and it works out to going a few blocks out of my way.  I'd do it on days that I would drive anyways.  I wouldn't charge travel expenses for that.  It's my sign of appreciation.

It's also my responsibility to do things as inexpensively as possible.  Combine trips.  Think ahead to be efficient.  Expense cheques aren't free money, it's money that covers costs.  It's money that the company needs to spend to operate.  I spent it on behalf of the company in order for me to operate.

The company doesn't need coffee in the morning.  I needed coffee.  Well, to be honest I wanted coffee.  That's clearly over the line.

Meeting a client over lunch?  Sure, I'm okay with that.  Except I'd almost never take on that role.  I got grumpy with a former co-worker that picked up the tab when meeting with a sales rep giving us a quote.  You're selling me something, you pick up the first tab, I'll pick up the second when we close the deal.  You're exchanging my time for lunch, I'm willing to reciprocate.  But things are orderly and spelled out and follow basic rules.

I don't go for fast food to do business, nor do I go to the best steak house in town.  I want someplace quiet, somewhere not rushed, suitable to conversation and thought.  I'm not looking for a special meal, I'm looking for a special discussion about what are my best options.  Business is primary in any business lunch.  Any place that serves a healthy meal that meets those requirements is fine.

If you need to expense your muffin in the morning, you have a problem.  If you're making $425,000 and that's not enough for you to fix your own car, you have a serious problem.  If you're forgetting that you are a public SERVANT first and foremost, we have a management problem.

We deserve a permanent solution to this problem of ours.

I judge the judges. We judge the judges.

by Mark Zaugg 31. July 2012 02:00

Editors note:

The Op-Ed section of my blog is both new and old.  Make no mistake, my blog is my opinion, my happenstance and circumstance, my experiences, my joys, my beliefs, my favourite mistakes and my foolish nonsense.  It's a place to have my say and monitor my own development of thought.  It has always been so.

I have also strayed to regions of great seriousness and importance of varying significance.  I've spouted nonsense, I've taken every chance I can to crack a joke, and sometimes I have vented complete and total rage at some of the most dreadful instances of injustice I have ever encountered.

I have previously called for criminal charges to be laid against the four (lamentable) officers of the RCMP who tasered and - in my opinion - murdered Robert Dziekanski.  I have been openly and caustically critical with the police for their attitudes towards tasering and their lack of restraint in previous situations.  Make no mistake, as a divorced man I remain keenly aware of their ability to take me down by any means at their disposal with merely the threat that I could potentially be physically violent.  They don't have to prove anything, they don't have to justify their actions, they only need say I have been reported as a threat.  No matter how credible the source.

So with the news that Benjamin (Monty) Robinson has quit the RCMP, and received a disgracefully light sentence for slaying a motorcyclist with his vehicle, I've renewed my interest in addressing these issues regularly.  My Ed-Op section is straight opinion, perhaps not entirely timely with the issues but I'll do my best to keep myself informed, to crystalize my opinions.  I've been writing this post in my mind for a while, what's new is the category in my blog.


There is a terribly sorry inquiry happening in Manitoba.  I have personally found it both upsetting and unsettling.  Almost everyone reading this will instantly recognize I'm discussing Lori Douglas before I even mention her name.

A judge who, without her knowledge or consent, who was "...pimped out by a slimebag of a husband with a shaky grasp on reality and a shakier grasp of marriage" to (probably) misquote a female friend of mine.

The story is, without question, salacious and will appeal to so many of us simply because it represents an example from the pillars of our society who turned out to be no different than the rest of us.  It's always nice to see those who put themselves above us knocked down a peg or two.

But Justice Douglas did no wrong and is the unwitting victim of a mad fantasy of the deranged man whom she loved, is she not?

No.  She is no victim, she is not unwitting and she is no longer capable of sitting on the bench.  The nude photos on the internet do not bother me in the least.  Questioning whether she know or participated in a quest for interracial sexual relations with or without her husband do not interest me at all.  I have truly not bothered keeping up with all the details reported in the news.  The minutia of argument holds absolutely no water for me - what happened between Ms. Douglas, Mr. King and Mr. Chapman remains insignificant contrasted with how this case and their behaviour affects the courts each and every Canadian must rely upon.

The fact that graphic images of Ms. Douglas exist and have been propagated on the internet does not wither my opinion of her as a judge one bit.  Quite the opposite, in fact, I find solace that the judges and the lawyers who are placed into positions of power and decision making must retain their own humanity, living amongst the huddled masses which are ourselves and not isolate themselves in an ivory tower.  I believe that each and every judge be able to exemplify a cross section of humanity's characteristics - with limits.

A judge who has been convicted of first-degree murder has clearly demonstrated a complete disregard for the law they are to uphold and must be removed from the bench. 

A judge who has never received so much as a parking ticket probably has no business being on the bench either because they are unable to grasp that the law itself is imperfect and each and every one of us must have a slight broach the law on some occasion.

The Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association presents an exceptional page on the qualities required of a judge.  They cite the Supreme Court of Canada as saying the judge is "the pillar of our entire justice system" and the public has a right to demand "virtually irreproachable conduct from anyone performing a judicial function." 

Note that the Supreme Court did not say that judges need be without flaw, controversy free, or entirely free from scandal.  We critically rely upon people who are prepared and capable of rendering clear, decisive, impartial and open minded decisions.  We need judiciary with access to full and enriching lives, access to flaws and errors of judgement so they can be open and impartial to those who stand before them and render fair and appropriate decisions for each individual.

Ms. Douglas' standards of integrity are being questioned right now.  May people question her integrity on merely allowing compromising photographs being taken of her.  I don't question her standards on that, I question her standards on how her and her husband have dealt with the situation.  It is we, the people who must trust in her judgement as we stand before her, who must have confidence in her reasoning as a judge, and every last one of us who have questions for whatever reason need to be heard as forcefully as Ms. Douglas herself deserves.  Because Ms. Douglas is a family court judge, she absolutely requires a higher understanding of marriage and the requirements intrinsic to that institution.

A marriage need be a partnership between two people eager and willing to support each other and work with each other to succeed as a couple.  Mr. King's integrity of putting his wife in such a position is clearly beneath a standard I would consider acceptable.  His shouldering of the majority of the blame for this disgrace is appropriate.  His actions have violated the trust implicitly required in a marriage, particularly when his actions have severely impacted his wife's career, her esteem as a judge and her dignity as a person.  Ms. Douglas may or may not have been a party to Mr. King's actions at the time they happened, but she was a party to the marriage.  When $25,000 of hush money was paid to Mr. Chapman, it surely must have come up at some point.  I can't help but picture at some point between supping on foie gras and pear brioche and enjoying the Blanquette de Veau entree one would not speak out and say, "Pip, pip, my love, but the staff informs me that there was a transaction of $25,000 last month that is not showing in the accounting."

Okay, it's a stretch, but if lawyers can drop $25k without a spouse knowing about it, they're charging too damned much and we, the public, are well and truly in the right to demand better value in return.

A spouse does not just let that kind of money go without a reckoning.  Even had Ms. Douglas never been aware of such an unusual financial transaction (an unplausible assertion at best), she was a judge and has the expectation to be aware of what would affect her professional standing.  Whether she was ignorant or blindly ignorant, it is evident that this coming to light would negatively affect her and any such allegations must be treated carefully.  Instead they tried to bribe Mr. Chapman into keeping silent and going away and in doing so have brought disrepute upon the entire judiciary.

Judges cannot be open minded, decisive and unbiased when they have glossed over a major scandal like this with a sum of money.  Ms. Douglas can not demonstrate sound decision making with such a horrendously bad decision festering in her past.

Each and every man who stands before her has the right to question her bias.  Every man can ask the question, "Is this a judge who feels in her heart of hearts that the solution to all marital problems comes down to coughing up a particular sum of money?"

Each and every woman who stands before her has the right to question her bias.  Every woman can ask, "Is this a judge who feels I need to be submissive to my husband and acquiesce to his whims and desires in deference to my own?"

Every single case she has ever heard involving infidelity now has the question hanging above it of how the judge's bias impacted the case.  It may be positive, it may be negative, but it remains the right of each and every individual who stood before Ms. Douglas expecting a fair and open trial to question her bias.  Are we to accept that a judge who has made incredibly poor personal decisions is capable of only making rational and fair decisions within the court room?  Must she recuse herself from every case involving infidelity?  I will not begrudge a single soul the right to retroactively question their judge, but we simply cannot review each and every case.  Can we?  Is that the time and expense we can accept on an already overloaded family court system?  If you accept my argument that it is fair and reasonable that every case be able to raise questions, Ms. Douglas has potentially brought an enormous backlog of work back to the courts.

Ms. Douglas has held that it is not her doing, it was not her fault and she remains blameless in her own action and capable to render judgement.  She has single-mindedly defended her abilities as a judge and that none of her husband's actions impact upon her judgements.  I agree.  I don't believe for a second that the merely the presence of nude photos of her has tainted her decision making process.

But her inability to step backwards and acknowledge how detrimental the actions of her husband and herself could potentially be to the entire family court system screams of an ego driven, non-pragmatic blindness of how the Chapman "non-affair" has already affected her court.  The public uproar itself is evidence that she has damaged confidence in the family court system right across this country.

I have stood in front of a judge much like her.  I find it unfathomable to believe only a fair and balanced decision could be made by someone so disconnected to the cause and effect relationship of what has already happened and is now well known.  I cannot accept the judgement such a person would make in a pronouncement upon my life (thankfully I will never have to encounter Justice Douglas in a courtroom).

No one knows better than I that bad things sometimes happen to good people.  No one knows better than I that singular flaws in a marriage can lead to the breakdown of a relationship and irreversible damage.  No one believes more than I that a life lived earnestly, with time and great effort cannot be redeemed.

But just as a judge can sit before me and tell me their judgement is for the best, I am saying now that Ms. Douglas can not be an effective judge any longer and it is for the best that she stand down now.  Just as us mere plebeians must sometimes change career directions, she needs time to step away, reconnect with her own direction in life and rediscover how to serve herself, her profession and the public.

Without any doubt, I believe she has the potential to recover and become an excellent lawyer, capable of much greater empathy and forceful defence of her clients interests in the future.  This is wholly dependent upon her demonstrating an understanding of what we, on the other side of the courtroom, experience in marital breakdown.  She has failed to demonstrate the self-judgement to do the right thing and resign as a family court judge.  I have little faith she will come to the necessary epiphany soon.


Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.


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