Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Lawyer Peter Wardle described the challenge facing Commissioner Stephen Goudge extremely well in his closing submissions to the Goudge Inquiry on behalf of the Affected Families Group.

Wardle began his oral submissions with a famous quote penned by Martin Luther King in a letter from the Birmingham jail, written in 1963: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"To come back to King's phrase, what is the threat to justice everywhere which stems from these individual injustices?," asked Wardle.

"In my submission it is a loss of confidence; it is a feeling that the system has failed us and might fail again; it is a feeling that we one day might be in a similar situation to one of the families here if we lost a child in unusual suspicious circumstances."

As Wardle pointed out, there was not only injustice experienced by Dr. Smith's victims, there were devastating consequences such as loss of liberty, loss of reputation, families split, children separated from their mothers, and financial hardship.

The criminal justice system that was supposed to protect them turned on them with a vengeance.

As bereaved parents and caregivers they deserved the protection of the police and prosecutors and the sympathy of their neighbours.

Instead they were relentlessly pursued by the authorities who were armed with the all too willing support of Dr. Charles Smith - and they were turned into pariah's in their communities.

Many wonder how this could have happened in our Canadian Justice System which is based on democratic principles - but clearly run by individuals who were capable of losing their course and a sense of our country's values.

That is the challenge that Justice Goudge faces when he releases his report this afternoon - to help restore not only Dr. Smith's victim's confidence in our criminal justice system - but to restore the confidence of all of us.

In a sense, Justice Goudge started that restoration process by conducting a fearless, thorough pursuit of the truth - whether it be hidden in the bowels of the government, the chief Coroner's Office, the Hospital for Sick Children, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario - or in the offices of police and prosecutors.

Now it is up to Justice Goudge to follow through by communicating to us the truth of what happened during this awful era - and his prescription for ensuring that such dangerous lapses in our criminal justice system never happen again.

Over to you Justice Goudge;