|Time on The Line||June 2002|
Goals of the Law
In our society, laws are not designed only to govern our conduct. They are also expected to ensure that certain basic needs of our citizens are secured. This goal of the law is aimed at obtaining social justice.
Another goal of the law is fairness. This means that the law should recognize and protect certain basic rights..and freedoms of each individual. Sacrificing our freedom and our rights is too high a price to pay for some kinds of "law and order".
We all want to achieve the perfect ideal of a just society, a society where everyone is treated fairly and equally. The law helps us to work toward this goal by protecting members of society. Laws protect individuals against people or groups taking advantage of them.
Modern societies are very complicated, and sometimes mistakes are made in the pursuit of solutions to social problems. But, even with the best intentions, laws are created that later on may be found unjust or unfair in their application. In a democratic society like Canada, we realize that such mistakes are possible and we try to correct them. Because we have a democratic government, anyone who feels that a particular law is unjust has the right to try to change that law.
The System of Law and Justice
The law, then, is a set of rules for a society where basic rights and freedoms are protected, and everyone is treated equally and fairly. These rules can be divided into two basic categories, according to the type of matter they deal with:
Of course, there is more to Canada's system of law and justice than just a set of rules. Laws have to be enforced, interpreted and applied in practice if they are to be effective, and the legal system includes a number of institutions to carry out these duties. For example, we have police forces to maintain law and order and to enforce the law. We have courts to interpret both civil and criminal law in specific cases. And we have a system of penalties to deal with those who fail to obey the law. Convicted criminals are punished by probation orders, fines or imprisonment. A debtor's house or salary may be seized if the terms of a contract are not met.
If we are to understand Canada's legal system, we need to look at the way law is applied in actual practice - what happens to a person accused of breaking the law, and what happens if that person is found guilty? But before we can deal with these questions, we need to look at a more fundamental issue. Where did we get this set of rules called "the law"?
Excerpt taken from "CANADA'S SYSTEM OF JUSTICE": Published by the Directorate of Communications and Public Affairs Department of Justice, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0H8