Lately, the concepts of “innocent until proven guilty” or “presumed innocent” have been a subject of discussion following accusations of sexual assault against actors, directors, and politicians, among others. It’s the side of the argument which in layman’s terms probably means “to have compassion for” or “wait for him to be judged in a court of law, first.”
Michael Spratt’s recent article attempts to explain what the term ‘presumption of innocence’ means, in terms of the legal definition, and the way it is being used inappropriately about one of the most well-known subjects of attention from the public – Patrick Brown, recently resigned leader of the opposition in Ontario. Michael Spratt is a lawyer, so he knows the law. But I don’t think he knows much about common sense, which is, as I see it, an uninformed opinion in many cases. What I thought I knew 20 years ago, or a year ago, about something that I understood as common sense, is no longer. Many of my views are not the same as other people’s. And theirs are not the same as mine. It could have something to do with diversity – of experience, country of origin, culture, education, interests, family, or career. Or it could have something to do with growing older – a kind of wisdom developing, one would hope.
I wrote a paper about wisdom once (Narratives and Wisdom, 2004), including interviews with women, in an attempt to find out what it was and if I stood a chance of achieving that state, with no luck. I might just as well have watched ‘Lucy,’ with Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman.
Michael Spratt writes, “Certain columnists wrote that what happened to Brown was wrong and that ‘every man in the world is now vulnerable’." He takes a different point of view, that it makes sense to stop and realize that these men are doing something terribly wrong. He describes the allegations as “shockingly serious: Brown is alleged to have taken advantage of his position of power over very young women, plied them with alcohol and then made inappropriate sexual advances” (The presumption, Jan 30, 2018).
“The presumption of innocence,” he says, “should not be used as an excuse to disregard common sense.” But sometimes, using common sense can be as bad as relying on the common understanding of the presumption of innocence to guide one’s thoughts on a matter. One of the girls reported feeling intimidated because Patrick Brown had not been drinking but she had been. When I was growing up, it was men who had been drinking whose behaviour we needed to feel intimidated by. Now men have to be afraid of women.
Spratt continues, “The complaints were made on a confidential — not anonymous — basis to reputable journalists,” attempting to convince himself of their truthfulness, and of the ability of the journalists to understand. But there cannot only be common sense used where sex is concerned. There has to be some understanding of what the differences are between the sexes. Sexual freedoms, as they are called, are more widespread in society today both here and abroad, from what we hear in the news. I wonder if men like Patrick Brown recognized the power they held over women, or did they see it as part of the sexual culture in our society today - the supposed freedom of young women to behave as though they were free to make those kinds of choices. On the other hand, men are no longer permitted to treat women the way they have done in the past, when women’s voices were not being heard and acted upon.
In The Star, another story on Patrick Brown has one of the girls’ explanation:
“Despite the fact that this happened, I didn’t want to let this impede on what I saw then as a career opportunity,” she said, adding that she’s choosing to speak out now to support women in similar situations.
“I don’t think that any woman young or old should be subjected to that and put in a situation where they have to decide between the career opportunity that’s in front of them and . . . taking themselves out of a situation that’s at best uncomfortable and at worst unsafe” (Two women, Jan 24, 2018).
Is she saying that she drank to feel good, or to be able to be flirty unflinchingly, or to not feel the pain of what she was having to do in order to have Patrick Brown advance her career? I cannot see how that provides support to any other young women growing up, except to inform them this is what the world is like.
If she knows that what she is doing is so that it will help her get the career she wants, at what point did she decide to stop what she was doing, ie drinking, flirting, letting Mr Brown get close to her, telling him to stop, getting driven home by him and then later claiming it was sexual assault. Surely, the problem was that she didn’t want sex as much as he did, that she didn’t even like him. It was all about the career. And she seemed to know that if she didn’t allow him some gratification, he wouldn’t further her career. Don’t the young women of today even like or admire the men who they do this with? She called Brown an “old, single politician preying on young girls.” (Two women, Jan 24, 2018).
That sounds remarkably similar to what Jessica Leeds, the woman on the airplane with Donald Trump, was doing. She left her first class seat beside him to return to her own in tourist class when he went below the waist. That was her cut off point. But was it sexual misconduct, or was it a mutually beneficial interaction that simply ended?
A year ago, I was in a situation where I was accused of being rude, in effect, (or “upset with”) to the staff of a specialist at a local hospital. It would appear that the idea of “presumption of innocence” didn’t need to be applied in that situation. I was deemed guilty by anyone who heard about it. A hastily written very negative black mark against me was put onto the report he wrote of that appointment, which was available to any doctor I wished to have as my family doctor, as well as to other doctors in the community I had appointments with.
I usually describe that part of the situation-in-its-entirety first, because it was so emotionally distressing, and it is the part that comes to mind. And besides, when I filled out the application for a Human Rights Tribunal it said to write the incidents down chronologically, as they happened. So I tried to do that. It has been a fiasco, with backlogs, being put in a queue, clerical errors, and not having a caseworker, and being sent a ‘Notice of Intention to Dismiss’ (NOID) my application, by some unnamed person, because it might fall outside their jurisdiction.
I realized the other day how my application appears to whoever reads it, as chaotic, done in a chronological order, not even taking the most important incident first, to the extent that, the adjudicator who sent me a Case Assessment Direction (CAD) stated in the heading, McPherson v LHSC instead of McPherson v ‘The Dr et al’. It seemed as though my case were getting pulled apart, with first one, then another administrative staff member of the HRTO looking at it, and making decisions that were not always the best ones or not explained in a way I could understand. See (Why and How, Dec 29, 2017).
As chance would have it, in my response to the CAD/NOID, I started writing about it again, but starting with the main incident, which was not about me being accused of being rude. It was about me being shortchanged on a diagnostic test the specialist offered me, and then presumably ordered for me, one that was unlikely to be sufficient to make a firm diagnosis. I made out an application with the HRTO that I was discriminated against, by him, on the grounds of age and gender, and marital and family status.
I don’t think I was able to get the adjudicator see that in the previous response I wrote. I didn’t know what was expected of me, and I was given only clues, no direction that made sense. No wonder it appears to him that I have taken on the entire hospital, seeing my allegations that I was discriminated against by being treated differently than other patients - because they accused me of being rude to the Dr‘s staff – and “upset with.” So the adjudicator worded it McPherson v LHSC. So who is presumed to be innocent in this case? Well, it’s certainly not me.
I don’t know if starting my latest response with the main incident, instead of the accusations by the girls, is enough to have the next adjudicator or admin staff member realize the situation I am in, that I have been ganged up on, because the Dr knows I know I was getting lesser treatment, as many older people probably are in our medical system. See (Ageism in Ontario's health care, Dec 21, 2017).
What is important, whether the Drs and their secretaries protecting him, or the girls like the ones who accused Patrick Brown, is getting their stories in, and the more of them the better, which makes them more powerful against him, and having the credibility that comes with who they are, now that they have careers, as well as getting their stories in first. If they can accuse him first, and be believed, or if the Dr at the local hospital can accuse me of something so chaotic that it can’t be taken in easily, and if they do it first, then they have the upper hand. They have the credibility, although it sickens me to know that they do, despite all they have done to me.
Those girls accusing Patrick Brown didn’t have to do that. They could have tried to find another way, instead of accusing him of that and destroying his career (Would-be Ontario PC leader , 2015). The girls at the hospital who colluded amongst themselves and with others including the Dr, to accuse me of something I did not do, didn’t have to do that. Doctors don’t lose their licence to practice that easily. But the answer does not lie with Patient Experience, or Patient Relations, or with the media taking on people who pass their credibility test. What is needed are people with the knowledge to sort out the problems, not to try to fit my experience into their framework and then dismiss it if it seems to them it doesn’t fit right, and not journalists doing a job they may not be capable of doing.
I find it appalling that the Dr and his staff have been granted credibility, in making accusations against me, that have affected my health and sense of well-being, and that my allegation against him, in regards to this specific incident in particular, has been diminished by having it included as just one of a number of allegations I made against the hospital. The way the Application form was laid out, the name of the organization comes first in the list of respondents, followed by the list of individual respondents. But not all doctors are employees of the hospital. The specialist I saw was an independent surgeon/specialist, not just another employee who I was alleging had harassed me and discriminated against me.
There have been several mistakes made in the HRTO’s treatment of my application. I hope that it won’t get dismissed because someone hasn’t been able to take in everything that I wrote about, or expects me to prove my allegations before I get to the hearing. As the closing sentence of Michael Spratt states, “At the end of the day, insisting on proof beyond a reasonable doubt outside the courtroom can lead to, and certainly does not protect from, injustice.”
Ageism in Ontario's health care and human rights (HRTO)
by Susan McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Dec 21, 2017
Narratives and Wisdom: the lives of women growing older
by Sue McPherson
S A McPherson web site
The presumption of innocence is for courtrooms, not politics
by Michael Spratt
Jan 30, 2018
retrieved Jan 30, 2018
Two women accuse Patrick Brown of sexual misconduct
Jan 24, 2018
By Victoria Gibson
retrieved Feb 2, 2018
Why and how I was discriminated against – explaining to HRTO’s Dr Fthenos
by Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Would-be Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown driven to win
Torstar News staff
May 3, 2015
retrieved Feb 5, 2018
Added Feb 21, 2018
Added Feb 21, 2018
Party nomination committee weighed his candidacy amid sexual misconduct allegations, ethics complaint
By Amara McLaughlin
Feb 21, 2018
By Amara McLaughlin
Feb 21, 2018