Quebec courts bury an injustice

The 86,501 disputed ballots will now be destroyed. What an outrage.

01. Actualité - articles et dossiers

The last deadline came and went yesterday without a whimper, and with it went the last feeble hopes to uncover the truth about the rejected 1995 referendum ballots.
Lawyer Michael Bergman filed no appeal yesterday for the simple reason that the Quebec Court of Appeals in 2006 warned him, in essence, not to appeal. So that, it appears, is that. The 86,501 disputed ballots will now be destroyed. What an outrage.
It was already too late for justice - the votes that had been unaccountably rejected in heavily federalist districts had already been stolen from the people who cast them in 1995 and there could be no recount or replay of the referendum. But there was not the faintest reason for the court's quasi-decree not to appeal.

At stake that night was the future of Canada. But all that Bergman has faced in his long struggle to set the historical record straight was supreme indifference from the public, the political class, the media - and an uphill battle in the courts.
How is it that in Quebec, a court can tell a litigant not to appeal, or else? How can it determine what a higher appellate court will do?
Judges René Dussault, Pierre Dalphond and Jacques Dufresne reflected the rest of Quebec's reaction. The cause of the rejected-ballots scandal had few champions. Not Quebec's elections chief, not Premier Jean Charest or Action démocratique du Québec leader Mario Dumont. We won't mention the Parti Québécois that appointed the people who rejected the ballots - not judges, not civil-rights activists, not union leaders usually so hypersensitive to any perceived injustice. Even the francophone media have treated the issue with haughty disdain - "encore les fédéralistes" - the same media that create and fan an atmosphere of grave crisis for months by showing ad nauseam a few yahoos in Ontario trampling a fleur-de-lys. But such a basic tenet of democracy as the right to have one's ballot counted fairly in a referendum deciding the fate of a country is not, it seems, valued.
Bergman is right to say this process was not so much for the past as for the future. There isn't the remotest reason to destroy the evidence these ballots represents. To argue that they've been there for 13 years to no effect is absurd. There has been no effect because they haven't been counted. And they haven't been counted because the courts prevented it.
Bergman said yesterday that not filing an appeal "really sticks in my craw. If there was a crack, the tiniest opening (by the court) to see this thing through, I would have taken it."
It's truly a sad day when that justice can't and won't be done.

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