Opinion writer finds fault with Canada’s legal system

By Connor Fraser,

July 6th,  2022



These last few weeks I have been unusually tired. Initially, I suspected that a combination of tough assignments at work and the warm weather were doing me in. However, a string of recent crimes and developments in high-profile cases have truly taken my breath away, to the point where I am ashamed to call myself Canadian. Happy belated Canada Day, I guess.

Accident scene in Vaughan where three children and a grandfather lost their lives

A few weeks ago, Edward Neville-Lake took his own life, 7 years after his 3 children and father-in-law were killed by Marco Muzzo at a Vaughan intersection. Muzzo – who was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison (despite having admitted to driving drunk in the past a handful of times) is now a full parolee, with no driving restrictions.

Back in May, Brady Robertson, 21, who killed a woman and her three daughters in a horrific crash in Brampton in 2020, was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Considering time served, Robertson will be released in just over 14 years. With our country’s disturbing affinity for early parolees, my money says he’ll be out in less than 7.

And this notwithstanding the fact that Robertson had the gall to appeal the government’s limit of THC concentration as “arbitrary” – despite himself having a THC concentration of 8 times the legal limit during the crash.

More recently, in its decision R v. Bissonnette, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a Harper-era law allowing judges to stack parole ineligibility periods for multiple murders, alleging that such a punishment violates Section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms, which protects against “cruel & unusual punishment.”

In a country which prides itself for having a justice system designed to protect minority rights, these cases stand out for their egregious disregard for the rights of an oft-forgotten minority – victims. I cannot imagine the pain of the Neville-Lake family, who now live with the possibility of publicly encountering Mr. Muzzo. Were the roughly 4.5 years Muzzo (of his 10 year sentence) spent behind bars proportional to the damage he caused? Was the 10 year sentence?

Marco Muzzo

Perhaps more distasteful is knowing that Mr. Muzzo has also regained the privilege to legally drive a car. Sentences for drunk driving are no longer a deterrent and should be stepped up dramatically. For starters, I would advocate for a lifetime ban on driving for anyone caught behind the wheel with alcohol or THC concentrations above the legal limit.

The Supreme Court’s R. v. Bissonnette decision is a poster-child for how our justice system has been hijacked by an out of touch minority of jurists and academics. The decision is riddled with self-serving language that renders it nothing more than a pathetic monograph in defence of the most hardened criminals.

The justices write “For offenders who are sentenced to imprisonment for life without a realistic possibility of parole, the feeling of leading a monotonous, futile existence in isolation from their loved ones and from the outside world is very hard to tolerate. Some of them prefer to put an end to their lives rather than die slowly and endure suffering that seems endless to them (paragraph 97).”

Oh, I’m desperately sorry if some prisoners feel their predicament is “hard to tolerate.” Shouldn’t that be an intended result, to enforce upon prisoners a “monotonous, futile existence” that is “hard to tolerate”?

At its core, the court argued that because stacking parole ineligibility can completely eradicate a prisoner’s chance for re-integration, it violates human dignity and is incompatible with the principles of fundamental justice. Even if barely, the door to redemption should always remain open. Moreover, the court positioned its ruling as one “not about the value of each human life, but rather about the limits on the state’s power to punish offenders, which, in a society founded on the rule of law, must be exercised in a manner consistent with the Constitution (paragraph 142).”

Philosophically, I cannot agree with the court’s judgement. The concept of justice is fluid, subjective, and open to widely varying interpretations, none of which are inherently wrong. Despite what anyone might tell you, there is no such thing as “universal” or “fundamental” principles. In the United States, for example, many regions continue to apply the death penalty. Given that the United States is the among the world’s most enduring democratic societies, founded upon the rule of law, it would be hard to pinpoint what “fundamental justice” actually means when their methods of dealing with multiple murderers are so vastly different from our own.

So let us not blindly accept the narrative that there is some universal, invisible force preventing Canada from, under very specific and carefully considered circumstances, guaranteeing that a dangerous criminal will spend their entire life behind bars with no chance at redemption. To anchor the verdict, the court cited the maximum sentencing possible in a host of European “peer” countries, none of which exceeds 30 years. Regardless of what pathway others have chosen, Canada is not obligated to follow. Perhaps the prevailing narrative should be that these European countries have erred, and the law existing in Canada before May 27, 2022 was in fact more “just” according to the views of Canadians.

Which arrives at my second and final disagreement, specifically with the notion that there was ever a need, through this case, to place “limits on the state’s power to punish offenders.” The original law enabling stacked parole ineligibility was advanced by a democratically elected, Conservative majority government. The government’s lawyers in R. v. Bissonnette advocated upholding that same law, and were acting on behalf of a democratically elected, Liberal minority government. With such clear and bipartisan support, I hardly concur that any government abuse of power was amok. This is the will of the people today, from which a uniquely Canadian notion of justice should flow.

The current mess we have gotten ourselves into will not be easy to rectify given the importance our legal system places upon precedence. The Charter of Rights & Freedoms is a vital document, but one which leaves the door too far open to an ultra-lenient interpretation of the rights that criminals ought to have. A mere “slap on the wrist” for killing four people while driving drunk, or even the chance at being released into society after shooting up a mosque, is inappropriate.

Connor was born in Hamilton in 1997, is a long-time resident of Aldershot.

In 2020, Connor completed undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, with a B.A.Sc. in Engineering Science and a major in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

 Between 2018 and 2019, he worked as a member of the technology development team at Microchip Corporation (North San Jose, California) where he contributed to the design of computer memory for FPGA chips. During the summer of 2013, 2015 and 2017, Connor lived in Quebec thanks to support from the YMCA Student Work Summer Exchange, and the Explore Program and is decently proficient in spoken French.

Connor has returned to U of T to enrol in the dual Master of Global Affairs and Master of Business Administration program.


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4 comments to Opinion writer finds fault with Canada’s legal system

  • Alfred


    The Charter does not comment on length of sentences. It does protect from cruel und unusual punishment penalties.

    But given the fact that there were 5 deaths involved. Having lived on this earth for 64 years and after speaking to hundreds of people on this topic. If every reasonable person in Canada voted for what would be an appropriate sentence. I would suggest that 20 years and up would be that range for actual time to be served. After 20 years supervision for the rest of his life.

    This would accomplish 3 things amongst others.

    1. Prevent him from re-offending(keeping him off the road and keeping Canadians safe)
    2. Serve as a deterent to others from committing the same crime. Once again keeping Canadians safe.
    3. This will send a message of how Canadians are strongly opposed to this kind of crime and others that result in the loss of life. While we are kind generous people. Make no mistake offenders will becrushed under the weight of the law.

    The only saving grace for Mr Muzzo is the fact that this was an accident involving negligence ( severe impairment) and not deliberate. 20 years to me seems appropriate. I’m not interested in rehabilitating this individual. The crime is unforgivable.

    Had he murdered 5 people willingly. Then the majority of reasonable Canadians would vote for the death penalty or if they were in a nice mood. Nothing less than life inprisonment without parole.


    Congrats on this article. There appears to be hope for this next generation. Canadians should make certain decisions not dirty Lawyers or Politicians.

    • Mary Hill


      As you often do, you do not understand what is being said. For the record I think the consecutive sentences originally handed down were well deserved and appropriate. My point, that you missed, ever eager as you are to have a go, is that the SCoC only applies the law as allowed for under the Charter of Rights & Freedoms. The CoR&F overrides any law passed in parliament. So if those consecutive life sentences are to be handed down and not be overturned the CoR&F must be changed. That can only be done with approval of the Provinces. So again I say to Mr Connor do not have a go at the Chief Justices, they are not at fault.

  • Mary Hill

    Don’t blame the SCoC judges. They only apply the laws and the Charter of Richts and Freedoms. The terms of the Charter take precedence and override laws passed by parliament. So Mr. Fraser whilst remembering the Charter protects you and your rights, if you wish to apply harsher penalties to criminals that presently would be deemed to be contrary to the Charter, go lobby all the premiers to agree to amend the Charter. Good luck with that !

  • Hans Jacobs

    Connor, Thank you – I am in complete agreement with your comments. I don’t understand how anyone can become a supreme court judge and fail to understand how they are failing this country.