Sunday, June 7, 2009

Nation of Wimps

In a 1992 radio broadcast, journalist Lynda Frum posed this question: "What's to account for many men and women wanting to identify themselves as the victims of one sort of hardship or another?"

In 2011, a University of Manitoba doctoral student failed the required exams twice. He was awarded his degree because "he suffers from an extreme examination anxiety disability." We have no reports of such a disability during his Master's examinations.

In July 2010, a Vancouver woman sued the British Columbia's Lottery Corp. for not preventing her from gambling away $330,000 over three years.

In November 2005, an Ontario judge accepted sexsomnia as a defence against the charge of rape. Sexsomnia was described to the court as a sleep state precipitated by a combination of alcohol, genetics and sleep deprivation. The judge accepted this self-imposed state as adequate defence, and acquitted the accused on the basis that the attack had been involuntary. So get little sleep and drink to excess and you  have two-thirds permission to commit legal rape. A glib lawyer can fabricate the other third of your defence.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that voluntary drunkenness is a defence against a charge of sexual assault. Away from the legal jargon, get blind drunk and the law will be blind to rape. Indeed, the blind leading the blind.

Loto-Quebec faced a $500-million class action law suit brought by 119,000 gamblers addicted to video lotteries. The plaintiffs claimed the casinos caused their financial losses, and should pay compensation. Curiously, the lawyer behind the action claims to be a recovering gambling addict. In January 2010, the government settled with a $50-million payment. How money cures addiction was not explained.

Addicted gamblers are suing the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation for $3.5 million, claiming the OLG failed to prevent them from entering provincially-run casinos.

A lawyer who gambled away $1-million is suing seven casinos because they had "a duty of care" to spot her compulsive behaviour, and intervene. Similar lawsuits are also underway in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

When these people win their pots of money, odds are they head for the nearest casino, and the wheels start over again. This mischief provides an incentive to these people to sneak into the casino, lose money, then sue because of inadequate security. And our wrong-headed courts will give them another bag of money.

The family of a Saskatchewan drug addict is suing her dealer for failing to help her after she overdosed. Guess what she will do with the winnings.

An Ottawa lawyer, Paul Ebbs, successfully sued the federal government for "wrongful hiring" by making him endure three years of boredom in his job. It took him that long to realize the job was not "exciting, challenging and demanding" as he claimed he was promised. For realizing his job was boring after 36 months behind a desk, he received an undisclosed compensation. (A job applicant in a Dilbert cartoon said, "If you agree to give me no work, I will agree not to sue with some sort of bogus employee claim.")

Canadian courts have ruled that the host is responsible if a drunken guest at his party injures himself on the way home.

What's next? A class action against automobile manufacturers because they create dangerous drivers? Suing the liquor control board for creating alcoholics? Suing bridge builders for creating jump-off points? Suing municipalities because speed limits are not lower? The possibilities are endless.

While we may understand and perhaps sympathize with these people, the question remains: Need the general public compensate individuals for private problems? Why should the rest of us pay for self-inflicted wounds?

To turn a private problem into a public problem is unacceptable. Our legal system (courts and human rights tribunals) has created a culture of wimpy people looking for a pension plan due to their own weakness, indiscretion or mindless behaviour.

Linda Frum concluded her broadcast with the question: "Why is there such willingness to concede to the wrongdoings that victims present to us?"

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