The strangest takeaway from the trial and acquittal of Jian Ghomeshi is that his lawyer, Marie Henein, failed women. She gave her client the defence most of us would want, should charges ever be laid against us. She did her job very well and – much to the distress of some I have seen comment, on social media – she was paid fairly for doing that job, and she makes no apologies for either of those facts.
All that is one for the team.
One can be saddened, even angered, by the verdict, and still raise a glass to Ms. Henein this weekend. One can hope to see aspects of the way we try sexual-assault cases changed, propose some changes, advocate fiercely for those changes, because that has brought about improvements to the way these cases are tried before, one can believe the witnesses in this case, and still raise that glass to Ms. Henein.
In fact, I think Ms Heinen's interview with Peter Mansbridge that aired on the CBC this week should be played as one small part of a mandatory Grade 7 class I'd like to see developed. Let's have something called "What Are Your Rights When You Are Stopped By a Cop and How To Report a Crime to the Police 101."
As much as I enjoyed dissecting a frog in school, the knowledge I gained that day has proved to be less useful than I'd hoped. After that week in science class, I wanted a life in which, when faced with an obstacle, all I had to do was dissect a frog, and the issue would be resolved.
"Lady, do you know how fast you were driving?"
"No, but pass me that Leptodactylidae and I'll show you its scapula."
"Ms. Southey, there seems to an issue with your HST payments …"
"Okay," rolls up sleeves, "I love the smell of formaldehyde in the morning …"
Most of us leave school better equipped to dismantle and label an amphibian than we are to navigate the legal system, and that would seem a problem easily solved.
Mr. Mansbridge's interview with Ms. Heinen covered aspects of the Ghomeshi case, but mostly it provided an enticing overview of our adversarial court system and the role of a defence lawyer within that system.
"Justice does not mean that you are guaranteed the result that you want; justice does not mean that you will be presumptively believed, or that your evidence will not be tested … You are guaranteed an opportunity to be heard and … a fair trial," Ms. Henein said in a measured, yet somehow impassioned, way.
I made everyone I know who has young children see The Martian because science is the star of that film, and you never know what will inspire a child. In the same spirit, I hope people show their children the Henein-Mansbridge interview.
It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that circulating the words of an accused and acquitted man's defence lawyer might be a fine way to achieve a higher conviction rate for sexual-assault cases, but hear me out, please.
If the verdict in the Ghomeshi trial made you think to yourself, "Something, somewhere along the line, went terribly wrong here," don't encourage the next generation to abandon the legal system, and don't denigrate all the women who work within it.
Instead, encourage the kids to be in that courtroom as judges and prosecutors and defence counsel and, yes, witnesses and plaintiffs, ready to make sure it doesn't happen again, or at least not forever.
I'm seeing a torrent of anger about this case on social media, and a veritable cataract of misinformation, much of which I fear will ultimately decrease the number of sexual assaults that are reported and thus, yes, the number of convictions.
I wish more people would hesitate before stating, even in the hyperbolic land of Twitter, that the court just ruled that it is okay to punch and choke women.
When courts acquit people of murder, they're not granting the rest of us licence to kill. They're just saying the facts as presented here do not merit a conviction – regardless of how emblematic a case may have become to the public at large.
Sexual assault remains a crime, on the books. Please, no matter how many likes or retweets it may get you, don't say that the courts have declared that it is now "open season" on women.
Telling a generation of boys that is a touch dangerous. Telling a generation of young girls that is beyond unhelpful. Just as telling them that the Ghomeshi case proved that, unless every single, minute, often-irrelevant detail of their assault is remembered, and then recited verbatim with complete consistency from the first time it was told, they will be destroyed on the stand is unhelpful.
Read the court transcript, read the ruling by Justice William Horkins in its entirety; that is not what happened here.
Nor were the women on the stand – as some have characterized it – "whacked" by another woman, who some have implied doesn't even deserve to be called a woman.
Last time I checked, competence and professionalism didn't exclude a woman from the club. It sure would be a shame to cut Ms. Henein from our ranks.
Because that's not cool, and those seeking to characterize her as the legal profession's Cruella de Vil may want to consider that, among her other work, she represented the Feminist Coalition pro bono in the Bedford case. You may remember that case – the Supreme Court struck down Canada's anti-prostitution laws, a ruling that holds the promise of improving the lives of many of the most vulnerable people in society.
I happen to be sympathetic to "hashtag activism" in principle, and support and sometimes engage in the endless debate that now goes on online, often to my own edification.
Those hashtags we see bandied about are easily mocked, but they serve much the same purpose as chants at a rally. By themselves, they're unlikely to change anyone's mind, but they can unite people, often previously voiceless people, and sometime that does affect change.
Every "#" is a digital "Hey-hey, ho-ho" of sorts, and what matters is what follows, and #BelieveSurvivors is, in fact, a perfectly good hashtag. After generations of "Hey-hey, ho-ho, how short was your skirt again?" it's a valuable redress.
It's a good philosophy to adhere to in one's personal and even professional life, and we should encourage people to report crimes and tell them how to do that and direct them to the resources that are out there and support them, as is being done online.
That world, though, is still largely about profile and power and justice being weighted in favour of the person with the most vocal followers and the biggest platform.
We moved away from that a long time ago; we are all entitled to a day in court.