Kamloops Daily News

August 11, 2001

Court was correct to apply the law

A Daily News editorial by Robert Koopmans
Kamloops Daily News

The outrage from some quarters about a B.C. Supreme Court judgeís jailing of a man who refuses to pay child support seems difficult to understand.

The latest outcry comes from The Childís Voice, an Ontario group angered by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Hunterís decision to jail Jeffrey James Unruh indefinitely.

Hunter declared Unruh in contempt of court Aug. 1, for failing to pay court-ordered child support. At last count, the Dawson Creek man owed his ex-wife more than $150,000.

Bill Flores, president of The Childís Voice, demanded Hunter be removed as a judge from B.C.ís Supreme Court. Why? For applying the law? Regardless of how one views Unruhís defiance, one thing is clear Ė he failed to obey a court order. It matters little that he did it with protest in mind.

Imagine what our society would look like if we all ignored laws we didnít like or thought were unfair. What kind of societal order could we maintain if we all had the ability to say, ďNo thanks, I donít want that one to apply to me.Ē

Surely loads of people would stop paying income taxes. Already there are groups challenging the governmentís ability to such funds from its citizens. And how about gun owners? How many would comply with unpopular firearm legislation if they could wave their hands and say, ďIíll take a pass on that one.Ē

What about those on bail, probation or bound by restraining orders? Would we want them to have the ability to ignore the courts as well?

The fact is, itís the duty of all members of a democratic society to abide by the laws created by the majority.

Elected politicians make legislation intended to reflect the wishes of the citizenry. Not everyone will like all laws and itís possible some laws will stink. If thatís the case, people can work for change.

But donít be surprised when the courts come down hard on those who flout the laws, even if offences are committed in the name of protest.

Unruh is offering the court his middle finger. He may believe he is doing it for a purpose, but does that change things?

He will stay in jail until he decides to recognize the courtís authority. Should it be any different?

If changes are needed to address perceived concerns about the fairness of family law, advocacy groups would do better to work in political channels. Ranting about the courts and supporting a defiant lawbreaker will accomplish little.

And calling for Hunterís removal as a judge is just plain dumb. He is doing his job as required by his employers, the people of Canada. Would we want him to do otherwise?