Rafe Mair and Kari Simpson worked together for more than a decade to let the public know how government bureaucrats were sometimes abusing families in BC, and indeed, often actually putting children at risk by their abuses of the government’s enormous power.
Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin acknowleged, in a speech she made in January of this year, the important role media play in our justice system, quoting 19th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who said, “Where there is no publicity, there is no justice.”
The media, in short, are the public’s watchdog: if the media are covering the courts, they are the public’s eyes and ears.
And in those years, broadcasters like Rafe Mair were sustaining that role; he was a worthy successor to my old boss, the late, great Jack Webster.
But sometimes, when the members of the judicial club get too close, the watchdog can turn into a lap-dog.
You know, I’ve long contended that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so beloved by our Left-Liberal media, is wrongly constructed, on two counts:
First, it should be a Charter of Rights and Responsibilities; we all have an obligation to protect the freedoms our ancestors won for us. As someone has said, “Freedom is not free; it must be won and defended anew in every generation.”
Second, the primary purpose of such a Charter should be to defend citizens from the abuse of power by their government. The criminal law protects us from each other; but an old Latin proverb asks, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies”—“who will keep watch over the watchers themselves?”
For more than ten years, and in cases that numbered into the thousands, Rafe and Kari let the public know that abuses were taking place. Rafe had the Number One radio talk show in the Lower Mainland of BC, and Kari had organized the Citizens Research Institute to give citizens a place to air their grievances. Together, they were a real-life “dynamic duo”. And the public really responded: Kari’s work was a ratings-booster for Rafe.
At one point, Kari was nominated for an award as British Columbia’s “Woman of Distinction”, and Rafe wrote fulsome praise: his only objection to the proposed award, he said, was that it was too limiting—“When one considers what she has accomplished—and forced, by dint of her commitment and dedication, others to accomplish—she is a distinguished British Columbian and Canadian, who has truly been an inspiration to all she has come in contact with.”
In a later broadcast—we have it on tape—he actually proposed that Kari Simpson should be awarded the once-prestigious Order of Canada.
Together, the Dynamic Duo tackled more than the government bureaucracy; they also brought to light some weaknesses in the closed club of the professions, challenging the Law Society of BC and the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons. Self-regulating professions, they said, because they are empowered by law to sit in judgement of themselves, have an obligation to operate openly, so that the public can see that they discipline their own professions properly. Such openness is the sine qua non of public trust. Rafe Mair, as a former lawyer, knew that very well; and he was sometimes very hard on the members of the legal brotherhood. In general, however, he was usually circumspect about the judiciary; in those days, judges kept their personal opinions to themselves, and the media respected their privacy because of the importance of the independence of the judiciary.
Those days, alas, have passed into history; and today, many judges, all the way up to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, make public speeches about political matters, even declaring—as Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin did in New Zealand in December 2005 and again earlier this year—that judges ought to be even more aggressive in inserting their own “core values” into the legal system—regardless of what the law or the constitution might say.
Here on the table before me are hours and hours of audio tape of broadcasts done by Rafe Mair and Kari Simpson, and some of the many memoes, letters and lunch date appointments that their work together involved.
At one point, another radio host wanted to get Kari Simpson of his talk show; but Rafe insisted that Kari was his broadcast property. She was, after all, a very, very valuable asset to the ratings of his program, where she appeared each week.
Those were the good years; next week, we’ll all watch as things unravel.