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Give a Fair Court Hearing to Denis Rancourt

This petition had 1,181 supporters

I'm involved in this case because a terrible wrong has been committed and I want to see justice.  I'm standing up for a professor who stood up for University of Ottawa students and then got fired for doing so.  Help me stand up for justice by supporting Professor Denis Rancourt.  Here's what happened and here's how you can help.

Petition Background

Denis Rancourt is a former tenured physics professor at the University of Ottawa who was fired in 2009. He ran the “U of O Watch” blog critical of the university administration, and created popular activism courses for social change.

In 2011, the University of Ottawa sponsored a defamation lawsuit against him after he defended a student report that accused the university of racial discrimination. The lawsuit is about a blog article on “U of O Watch” in which Dr. Rancourt concluded (correctly, it turned out) that the university president had asked a black professor to criticize the student report. [See student video "Hazel Gashoka Speaks Out on SAC...".]

This petition is to protest an Ontario Superior Court judge’s decision on May 15, 2014, to summarily toss out Dr. Rancourt’s legal defence during his opening statement to the jury, in the defamation lawsuit funded by the University of Ottawa to silence him. The judge, Michel Z. Charbonneau, is an alumnus of the university and an annual donor to the institution.

In any justice system, a judge cannot be or appear to be biased, and each party is entitled to a fair hearing. A fair hearing means that a defendant must know the charges against him and must know the defences available to him. In this case, after more than three years of legal procedures, the judge summarily discarded Dr. Rancourt’s main defence without any valid justification, when asked to do so by the opposing party, in the middle of Dr. Rancourt’s opening statement to the jury.

The off-the-cuff gagging of Dr. Rancourt by the judge during the opening statement to the jury was so egregious that the professor walked out of the trial in express protest so as not to further legitimize the unjust hearing. Under Canadian law, the trial is continuing in his absence. The university president who fired Professor Rancourt and who asked for the criticism of the student report is a former Liberal Party of Canada federal Minister of Justice and a witness at the trial.

Prior to trial, Dr. Rancourt, who is self-represented, had asked then Regional Senior Judge Charles Hackland (who resigned on May 8, 2014) to name a case judge who had no connection with the University of Ottawa, and had made a formal motion for the trial judge to recuse himself because of the judge’s shared interests with the University of Ottawa. Dr. Rancourt’s defence was introduced more than three years prior to trial, and had been scrutinized in detail and allowed, only to be abruptly cancelled while Dr. Rancourt was presenting it to the jury.

Help defend justice by signing this petition telling the national, provincial, and regional chief justices of Canada to stop the trial against Dr. Rancourt and to start again with a judge that has no ties to the University of Ottawa.

To:    Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada
    Alexandra Hoy, Associate Chief Justice to the Court of Appeal for Ontario
    Heather Forster Smith, Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
    James E. McNamara, Regional Senior Judge of the East Region

We, the undersigned, wish to express our grave concern about the on-going Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s unjust treatment at trial of Dr. Denis Rancourt, by the trial judge summarily tossing out Dr. Rancourt’s main defence while Dr. Rancourt was explaining it to the jury.

This is an egregious anomaly, and an affront against justice in Canada. The circumstances are such as to put Canadian courts into disrepute.

The defendant had asked then Regional Senior Judge Charles Hackland to name a case judge who had no ties to the University of Ottawa, had made a formal motion for the trial judge to recuse himself because of the judge’s shared interests with the University of Ottawa, and had successfully defended his main defence in a pre-trial motion.

The trial judge’s in-court behaviour, in allowing the defendant’s statement of defence to be edited on the fly by the opposing party during the defendant’s opening statement to the jury is a shocking affront against basic justice.

This attempt to railroad Dr. Rancourt in his defamation trial is a disservice to all justice-seeking citizens. As such, we, the undersigned, ask the Canadian judicial system to uphold its commitment to justice and to the citizens of Canada by allowing a new trial with a trial judge who has no ties to the University of Ottawa or to the Liberal Party of Canada.


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