Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Zack Bradley, 20, is a first-year Carleton University journalism student from Oshawa whose anonymous online alias was one of 18 named in a defamation lawsuit filed by former Leaf's general manager Brian Burke.
This is Zack Bradley, 20 years old and student at Carleton University, a fine educational institution known for its journalism program, its CIS basketball domination and soon to be home to a CIS football team.   Zack Bradley might need all of his journalistic acumen, and some of men's basketball coach Dave Smarts' legendary intensity to get out of the pickle that he is currently in for he is in the cross hairs of the the bombastic, curmudgeonly, truculent, belligerent Brian Burke.  Yes, the same Brian Burke who got fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in January, for reasons somewhat unknown, and in a grey area that should be reserved for the latest Crayola Crayon.  

Brian Burke, former Toronto Maple Leafs GM, has launched a lawsuit against 18 anonymous online commenters who he alleges spread untrue sexual gossip about him.

Bradley was one of 18 people who speculated that one of the reasons that Burke got turfed from MLSE was because of an unfounded, and false rumour that Burke was the father of Sportsnets Anchor Hazel Mae's  baby.  Not sure if the baby came out with unbuttoned shirt and a tie, or with a magnificent coif or not.  Its the stuff urban legends are made of. For Leaf fans back in the 80's it was that Wendel Clark was gay or that Gary Leeman was having an affair with Al Iafrate's wife. Same falsehood, same unfounded speculation, different medium.  

While the merits of the lawsuit have yet to be determined and the posts deleted, I heartily endorse Mr Burkes' somewhat zealous pursuit of this 18 alleged perpetrators.   Finally someone who has posted something on the internet under the cloak of anonymity is to be held accountable for their actions.   

Hey, the lawsuit may have absolutely no merit whatsoever, but if it serves the purpose of making those with a poison keyboard think twice before spew nonsense, hatefulness and untruths, then mission accomplished.  Far too many times people grow a set and feel they can post whatever they want under a flimsy pretense of Freedom of Expression because of a lack of Internet accountability.  I've always advocated that people post under their real names, so they can stand behind whatever it was they said and accept the consequences that come with it.  

Zack Bradley, or whatever he was known as on the Internet might think twice about what he is speculating or endorsing and even if he does not have to a dime, the message would be sent and received.  Think of  what Burke is doing  as the legal online version of employing Colton Orr and Fraser MacLaren on the same shift.   

Burke, a lawyer by trade, and an intimidating presence by nature might just be the one to blow the lid off of Internet anonymity. Nothing wrong with a little truculence or belligerence here. 

Steve Clark
some good articles on this case, and what the legal implications can be found here: 

and here: 

Monday, April 22, 2013


The scenes were horrific, almost like a war zone, and the panic was real.   From multiple angles we have seen the horror that was caused by the Boston Marathon bombing.    Blood stained pavements, limbs blown off, tales of amputation and a vivid shot of a 78 year old marathoner knocked over by the sheer magnitude of the bomb.  Now we get the most awe-inspiring form of reality television as with the cameras still in Boston there was a tactical take down and one of the alleged masterminds of the bombing was killed while another one remains on the loose.  Perhaps the visual power of live television was only matched the surreal experience of watching football hero/pseudo actor OJ Simpson lead the LAPD on a slow speed chase when he failed to turn himself in to police after the double slaying of his ex-wife and her friend.

Friday's take down and capture of the second bombing suspect played out like a movie complete with plot lines, heroes and villains.   After the suspect was apprehended, emergency personnel made the slow journey down the main road to cheering crowds and jubilant citizens happy that their streets were safe again.  

Right now we Pray For Boston as even the Red Sox vaunted Rivals the Yankees stood in solidarity with their foe.   The emotion is real, and touches most everyone in some way, shape or form.  Three lives have been lost, 180 or more have been injured, at least 18 critically and families  literally torn apart.  have read at least two stories on family members, or husbands and wives who both lost limbs as a result of the bombing. 

Contrast that with cyber bullying and sexual assault, two themes that I explore in-depth with my Grade 12 Law Classes to the point of exhaustion.   These are two very serious societal problems with long-term consequences. Getting sexually assaulted, or raped is a life long sentences, and we have read far too many stories of those who cannot take the torment of cyber bullying and have taken their own lives.   Many of those stories include the double horror a sexual assault followed by cyber bullying.  Yet in many cases, we do not empathize with these victims even though the consequences are very real and very long term, not unlike those tragic victims of Boston.    The difference is for whatever reason emotional scarring does not resonate with the average person as much as physical scarring.  We can see the real horror of a blameless spectator getting injured by an improvised bomb because of the blood and in some cases the leg that is longer there.   In sexual assault and cyber bullying the physical scarring is not as obvious in many cases, and very likely in a personal and private place.  We are taught that "sticks and stones break bones, but names never hurt", an analogy now seen as anachronistic.  Names do hurt and in the case of Rehateah Parsons, eventually have dire consequences.   We also tend to shine the light on the victim and blame them for putting themselves in certain situations, even though those victims of sexual assault and cyber bullying are as blameless as the spectator at a marathon who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.   

In fact there is sympathy for the alleged perpetrators in the Rehateah Parsons case as now there are supportive posters for the boys circulating in the very neighbourhood Rehateah took her life.   I do not see an outpouring of support for the callous, and cowardly bombers that changed a landmark event forever. Yet "the truth must come out" for four young men who hatcheted a vicious life-changing assault on a defenseless person.  In theory this also sounds like the blue print for the Boston Marathon bombers. 

Powerful visuals resonate and we all feel the hurt, but the unseen remains something difficult to empathize with. Until the legal systems turns the unseen in a powerful empathetic visual that a judge or jury can appreciate, for many victims there will be no justice.

Steve Clark

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Rehtaeh Parsons. (Family photo)

Once again the justice system and the school system has failed a young woman from Cole Harbour Nova Scotia and the results were tragic as a vibrant, intelligent young lady named Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life while her family searches for answers not readily available. 

By now many people have heard the sad saga of Rehtaeh Parsons.  At the age of 15 the young girl was left alone at a family friends house and was sexually assaulted by four young men, one of whom took the time to take a picture and freely distribute it around the school.  It was a despicable crime, furthered by the viciousness of some of the young men in question when they sent it around the school.   The young girl was tormented, harassed and bullied and it continued even after she was driven her out of the school.

 The now 17 year old took her own life by hanging herself in the bathroom of her home while her mother and boyfriend tried frantically to get in and revive her.  Three days after the event her family took her off life support and took to social media to express their outrage at the failings of the justice system.  

Somehow despite a widely circulated photo and a torrent of hate propaganda spread via social media, neither the school administration nor the police saw fit to lay any charges in the case. The school, citing privacy concerns, would not comment on whether or not the perpetrators were suspended,  Ironic that privacy concerns would help out this cruel perpetrators while nothing could be done about a very, very public obscene picture that was taken.  This is the first of many missteps that would plague the investigation, a term some may use lightly in this case.   

The police cited the photo and the volume of social media outrage directed towards young Rehtaeh as more of a community concern than a police matter.   In response to that I present to you the Criminal Code on Harassment, and let you draw your own conclusions as to whether or not any of the principles apply:  

  • calling you over and over again, and perhaps hanging up whenever you answer the phone 
  • contacting you on the Internet or through constant e-mail messages 
  • following you, your family or friends 
  • leaving threatening voice messages 
  • sending you gifts you do not want 
  • watching you or tracking where you go 
  • threatening you, your children, family, pets or friends 
Worth an investigation at least don't you think?   

A rape kit was not available as Rehtaeh did not tell her parents about the incident until a few days after, something that is not uncommon in sexual assault cases.  It is not easy to prove sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt as there is either a lack of witnesses, or in this case, reluctant witnesses who could very well be incriminated.  That said, no stone should have been left unturned in this case to try and get some form of satisfactory justice for the Parsons family.   

Justice Minister Ross Landry promises a full investigation into the actions of the RCMP, and here is hoping that the wagons are circled and the justice system protecting their own.   I hope that he probes this interview that was done by the CBC with one officer who shows absolutely no empathy or really much of a clue as to how to legally handle social media.   

You can see the video here: 

I commend the mother of Rehtaeh for working through her grief and highlighting the flaws that were apparent in this system and hope that Minister Landry follows through on his promise to look into the laws surrounding sexual assault and distribution of child pornography.   

Here is hoping that something real actually gets down rather than a lot of finger pointing, a battening down of the hatches and a hope that the controversy passes.

Time to educate the youth of the perils of social media, and by educate, I mean punish.   Suspensions and expulsions must be meted out at the school level, charges must be laid, and at the very least, the fear of God must be struck into some of these youngsters who feel that they can get away with this sort of behavior. 

If not, the cycle will continue. 

Steve Clark

You can find the Facebook memorial page here

Friday, April 5, 2013



I am not a lawyer, nor a judge, nor an employee of the court system in any way shape or form. In fact none of my university degrees are in law.  They are in Political Science, Education and History. However,   I teach law at the secondary school level, and therefore profess to have a sound working knowledge of the legal system.  Plus I do a tremendous amount of reading on the subject, often reading Supreme Court decisions in my spare time. 
Somewhere deep down we would like to see justice served in our legal system, keeping in mind that everyone’s notion of justice can be different.   What spurred me to start this blog was the feeling that justice was not served in a recent case originating out of Hamilton involving a disabled man who was confined, tortured and robbed over the course of a 17 day period.  Two of the three perpetrators stand to have their sentence reduced as it was felt that the punishment meted out was unduly harsh.  One person had their sentence reduced six years (13-7) and another will have their 10 year sentence reduced to a length yet to be determined.  The third member did not appeal their 14 year sentence reduced. 
Room where a developmentally disabled Hamilton man was held and tortured for 17 days.
This is the room where a man was held for 17 days
Seems ridiculous to see perpetrators use the term “harsh punishment” when they tortured a  disabled young man in manners too graphic and disturbing to imagine. 
I do not get the reduction in sentence and that seems to be the belief of a number of people according to what was tweeted by CBC Hamilton’s Conrad Collaco.  In fact it can be argued that considering the events the sentences might have been seen as relatively light as there were three serious offenses committed during the course of the 17 days:  robbery, aggravated assault and forcible confinement.
While I take issue with some of the parameters of the US justice system, the fact that they have consecutive sentences rather than Canada’s system of concurrent sentences would seem to be more applicable here.  Three serious crimes should see 3 different punishments.  If you add them all together, that should be your sentence.   Concurrent punishment means all the punishments are served at the same time, essentially meaning that only the crime with the longest prison term is the one that actually plays. 
That in itself does not seem overly fair in this case.  Add in the notion of reducing the sentence and it seems somewhat ludicrous.