Canadians skeptical about motivations for bringing Duffy, Ghomeshi to trial

Canadians skeptical about motivations for bringing Duffy, Ghomeshi to trial

By Ian Holliday and Dave Korzinski

July 22, 2016 – A recent Angus Reid Institute poll found fewer than half (44%) of all Canadians have “complete” or “a lot of” confidence in provincial criminal courts.

This total has actually increased significantly in the last few years – it was just 19 per cent in 2012 – but it’s clear that Canadians are still somewhat apprehensive about the judicial system in their country.

Whatever the reason for it, the relative lack of confidence in courts forms the backdrop against which two high-profile cases recently played out.

Ghomeshi has disappeared from the public eye, leaving in his absence conversations about sexual assault and consent in this country, while Duffy remains in the news after rejecting the Senate’s request for repayment of $17,000 in disputed expenses.

Each man’s trial dominated the news cycle for weeks at a time, and each captured about the same amount of attention from Canadians. One-in-four said they followed each trial closely, (23% Duffy, 25% Ghomeshi) and slightly more than half were following each one with at least some interest (see comprehensive tables for greater detail).

Since these trials concluded, some commentators have suggested that each case was relatively weak, and might not have been brought to trial if the charges were against a different defendant.

The Angus Reid Institute asked Canadians whether they agree or disagree with a statement about the motivation for each trial. As the following graph indicates, a majority (60%) see Duffy’s trial as politically motivated, and fully half (50%) see Ghomeshi’s as the result of public pressure:


Views on these two statements are fairly consistent across age and gender groups, but there are significant regional differences on Ghomeshi.

Three-in-five Albertans (61%) disagree that the former CBC host’s trial was the result of public outcry, while just as many Quebecers (61%) agree. Views in B.C. are nearly as strong as in Alberta (58% in B.C. disagree), while Ontario is split basically down the middle (49% agree, 51% disagree).

Quebecers are also more likely than residents of other regions to agree with the statement about Duffy (66% do), but there is less regional variation overall on that question (see comprehensive tables).

Despite concerns, many believe the trials were worthwhile

Though neither of these trials ended in a conviction, most Canadians are unwilling to declare either of them “a waste of time.”

In the case of Duffy’s trial, fewer than one-in-three (32%) feel this way, with respondents more likely to say the case was worthwhile (42%), and one-in-four (25%) unsure.

The view that trying Duffy was a waste of time is strongest among older Canadians (those ages 55 and older) and men:


By comparison, Canadians are rather less conflicted about the value of the Ghomeshi trial, with nearly half (49%) saying it was worthwhile, almost twice as many as say it was a waste of time (25%). The rest (26%) are unsure.

Here again, men and older Canadians are more likely to view the trial as a waste of time, but in this case, these views are considerably less pronounced.


While many Canadians believe each of these two trials was ultimately worthwhile, at least half think each one was not brought to trial for the right reasons.

These findings clearly reflect opinion on the cases themselves rather than on the court system more broadly. That said, the fact that most Canadians say they lack confidence in provincial criminal courts may make it more likely for them to question the motivations for – or handling of – specific trials.

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