by Jane Gaffin
This article was original published in the Whitehorse Star on May 22, 2002. It demonstrates that the more things change the more they stay the same, or rather “those who don’t know history–or who choose to ignore it–are condemned to repeat its most evil, tyrannical parts”.
See related articles on this site Where the Bullet Hits the Bone https://janegaffin.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/where-the-bullet-hits-the-bone/
Bypassing the Legislative Process is Deadly to Democracy https://janegaffin.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/bypassing-the-legislative-process-is-deadly-to-democracy/
The famous Ballarat Rebellion of 1854 ignited due to government’s grossly unfair licencing practices and a corrupt constabulary dispensing “kangaroo justice” in the gold rush camps of Australia.
While the origin of “kangaroo court” is hazy, the term may indeed be a souvenir from that era. Kangaroos supposedly have a strange habit of staring blankly into space for long periods, then suddenly bouncing off in the opposite direction.
Judges who leaped to irrational conclusions were scoffed for acting with the logic of a kangaroo.
History is replete with tales of justice being transformed into a mockery by replacing legal procedures, principles and ethics with dishonesty, incompetence and corruption.
Today, governments try to sell “kangaroo courts” under the politically-correct guise of “judicial activism”. Edward Greenspan isn’t buying.
The noted Toronto criminal lawyer, who believes deeply in due process and justice, recently condemned the trial of former Yugoslavia leader Slobodan Milosevic as a “kangaroo court” and a “lynching”.
Even the worst thugs are entitled to a fair trial, he was quoted as saying in the press. Peter Worthington opined in his March 22 (2002) Toronto Sun column that a fair trial certainly isn’t what Milosevic is getting or could get from the International War Crimes Tribunal.
After Milosevic was kidnapped from Belgrade, where he should have been tried, and was transferred to The Hague, he refused to enter a plea. He doesn’t recognize the International War Crime Tribunal (IWCT) set up by the United Nations Security Council as a legal body.
Much reaction to Greenspan’s assessment of the trial was hostile. The columnist thinks maybe it’s because Milosevic is known as one of the world’s unpleasant tyrants.
He sees the whole concept of international court for war criminals rife with folly and shame. He agreed with Greenspan: Milosevic hasn’t a chance in this kangaroo court, even if Greenspan himself were defending him.
Among the assorted charges against Milosevic was genocide. “He may well be found guilty, even though no genocide was involved,” reminded Worthington.
“In fact, even charging him with genocide gives respectability to those who actually have implemented genocidal policies. Atrocities are not genocide.”
He pointed out that Madame Justice Louise Arbour of the Supreme Court of Canada, appointed to the IWCT as prosecutor, suggested Milosevic was guilty of genocide before she had much more than hearsay evidence.
“Arbour cited a massacre at Racak, in Kosovo, as Milosevic’s, which later turned out to be a fake massacre orchestrated by Albanian Kosovars to frame the Serbs,” noted Worthington.
History teaches that turning away from ethics and the fine points of good law to satisfy societal whims or a judge’s agenda ultimately leads to rebellions.
The kangaroo-style system has crept unnoticed into Canada and a myriad of other countries as bureaucrats and politicians, driven by mob mentality, eagerly embrace the United Nations’ scheme for a communistic one-world government.
Nobody except the rulers are going to like the experience.
Masiphula Sithole, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe, recently told The Christian Science Monitor: “A country and its people cannot go on like this.”
They can’t and they won’t. When the toes of justice are stepped on and people’s liberties trampled too long, they can be relied on to rise up and set things straight, just as they were forced to do during the Australian gold rush–a scenario not unsimilar to the situation that has unfolded under our noses in a federally-controlled Yukon.
The government in Melbourne, the seaport capital of Victoria, had no mining law in place when the gold rush struck in the early 1850s. In typical bureaucratic-Think, the government thought it could take care of every situation with a licence.
High-priced licences authorized miners to enter, locate, prospect and mine the Crown land. Many miners, however, did not relish–or could not afford–paying high fees to look for gold they may not find. The miners complained, then ultimately ignored the dictum.
To prove who was boss, the government dispatched the local constabulary to carry out licence inspections.
Due to a manpower shortage, many goldfield cops were hardened ex-convicts who carried out their duties in a ruthless manner. The police lorded their authority over the vulnerable gold miners who had no vote and no representation in Parliament.
A miner caught without a licence was chained to a log until the stiff fine was paid. Without legal rights attached to the licence or to their claims, the miners fell victim to the constabulary’s bribery, extortion and, finally, murder.
The miners demanded the government grant a more secure form of claim ownership. The words fell on deaf ears. Their only recourse was simply to refuse to cooperate with the hated licencing system. The government’s response was to increase inspections to twice a week. It generated more resentment.
As a measure of last resort, miners took up arms. On November 11, 1854, they organized the Ballarat Reform League. About 175 men occupied a stockade in Eureka.
On December 3, they set fire to the worthless pieces of paper and sent word to Melbourne they wanted to negotiate for something better.
The governor, Sir Charles Hotham, reacted by mobilizing every member of the constabulary and military in the district. Their orders were to go quash the Ballarat rebellion.
When the troops arrived, the entire garrison of miners was asleep. Unchallenged, the enforcement units opened fire on the sleeping rebels and took the stockade in about 15 minutes.
Up to 30 miners and six government troopers were killed. Of the 114 miners taken prisoner, 90 were wounded. Only about 30 escaped.
In another shameful display, Commissioner Robert Rede then unleashed his troops to slaughter both innocent and rebel miners in the surrounding mining camps. The untold casualties must have been extraordinary, for Governor Hotham spoke of the military commander’s actions as “imprudent”.
When news of the small rebellion and subsequent bloody massacre reached London, the British government was horrified that such savage events had taken place in its farthest colony. It was bad from a political perspective.
Rede was immediately posted elsewhere and the governor fired. The role of the diplomatic replacement was to do whatever necessary to satisfy the angry miners.
It didn’t take an iota of imagination to quickly recognize the myriad of injustices the government had committed against the miners. The first step toward reparation was to release the men arrested during the rebellion as well as three miners who were earlier sentenced to prison for taking justice into their own hands.
They had burned down Bentley’s Eureka Hotel in protest of the hotelier’s kangaroo acquittal for murdering James Scobie. A retrial, following better legal procedure, found the hotelier and two other defendants guilty of manslaughter.
The government gave miners the right to vote and opened a seat for a member from Ballarat in the local legislative assembly.
Within six months, Parliament passed the Victoria Mining Act of 1855. It was a major victory in so far that it offered miners a fairer deal and was the first “modern” free-entry law in the British Empire.
The Mining Act abolished the hated miners’ licence and granted miners rights which provided legally secure tenure for their mining claims as a form of property.
The Mining Act was a template for subsequent parliamentary law, notably the Yukon Quartz Mining Act, which, unfortunately, has since been overthrown by the comeback of a licencing and kangaroo-style system.
The result of the Ballarat Miners Rebellion, however, was the finest thing in Australian history, according to great American writer Mark Twain, whose quote was shared with readers by historian Douglas Fethering in his book, Gold Crusades: A Social History of Gold Rushes.
“It was a revolution–small in size, but great politically; it was a strike for liberty, a struggle for a principle, a stand against injustice and oppression.
“It was the Barons and John, over again; it was Hampden and Ship-Money; it was Concord and Lexington; small beginnings, all of them, but all of them great in political results, all of them epoch-making.
“It is another instance of a victory won by a lost battle.
“It adds an honorable page to history; the people know it and are proud of it. They keep green the memory of the men who fell at the Eureka Stockade.”
Then, why, one must ask, are legislative bodies everywhere–Canada and Australia inclusive–frustrating people by willfully overthrowing good laws for bad laws and replacing fair justice systems with kangaroo courts when it only serves to force ordinary citizens of the world to have to rise up against thuggish and tyrannical oppressors like Milosevic.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien isn’t helping matters either by supporting the United Nations.
The majority of the world’s population would prefer living in peace, harmony and in pursuit of their dreams. But government members of the United Nations intentionally stir the pot with an electric prod to instigate civil unrest so police and military can practice their mean-spiritedness by quashing the likes of the Ballarat Rebellion.