Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman on Patrol in Rockies, 1937.
National Archives of Canada (PA-802283).

Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman on Patrol in Rockies, 1937.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are known worldwide as a symbol for the maintenance of law and order and the fair administration of justice.

Like every country, Canada has a legal system that addresses the conflicts that arise between citizens. Sometimes those conflicts are between an individual and society, such as acts of robbery or murder, and they fall under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Code. Sometimes they are between individual citizens, and they are subject to the civil justice system. The legal rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms do not prevent the courts from punishing citizens when they break the law, but the Charter guarantees that citizens will be treated fairly by the police and the courts. No one can be imprisoned without a fair trial. Our system of laws assumes that a person is innocent until the Crown Prosecutor proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The police have to follow rules when they gather evidence and deal with citizens. Those rules are based on the principle that it is better that a guilty person goes free than that an innocent person is punished. As well, citizens can petition the courts to sue the government if they feel that the state has violated any of their rights.

Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman on Patrol in Rockies, 1937.
Corbis (Image ID: HU061155). Available online at www.corbis.com/Hulton-Deutsch Collection, [20 March 2000].

Tanks in the Streets, Czechoslovakia, ca. 29 August 1968.

Instead of using the military and police to safeguard rights and freedoms, the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia employed them to stifle free speech and to crush a growing pro-democracy movement.

In some countries, however, the courts, the police, and even the military have served as forces of oppression. Rather than acting as protectors of their citizens, the police and armies of these nations have used violence, intimidation, and murder to control the public. Similarly, their courts have sent people to prison for dissent from commonly accepted ideas.

 

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