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The Litton defense rests

Richard Kopycinski — March 1984

In the trial of 63 defendants charged with trespassing at Litton Systems (Canada), 12 of the defendants declared their continued commitment to further protests despite the fines levied against them and against the ‘other participants.

The defendants suggested that, in order to deter such future actions, the courts should instigate criminal proceedings against Litton.

The defense was led by mathematics professor and self-taught lawyer Peter Rosenthal and counsel Mike Smith. They based the defense case on five points:

  1. Inadequacy of the prosecution’s case. All but four of the defendants were arrested under section 2 (I) b of the Provincial Offenses Act – Failure to leave when directed by an officer. The crown brought forward no evidence showing that all persons were directed to leave; many defense witnesses testified that they were not so warned.
  2. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to Life, Liberty and Security of the individual. The defense holds that these rights are being denied,
  3. The Common Law Defense of Necessity allows for the breaking of a lesser law to prevent the commission of a greater crime. Section 79 of the criminal code provides that everyone who makes an explosive device or any part thereof, with the intent to do serious damage to property or to endanger life commits an offense.
  4. Section 46 of the criminal code provides that anyone providing an article of a military or scientific nature to an agent of a state other than Canada which he knows or ought to know may be prejudicial to the safety of Canada commits Treason. Section 50 puts the onus on the citizen to make efforts to prevent acts of treason that he believes are occurring.
  5. International law provides for the illegality of preparation’ for acts which would be an offense against humanity, and defines nuclear war as such an act.

Defendants expressed disillusionment with the court’s decision. One person stated that “In a case that clearly involved greater ethical and political questions it was a shirking of responsibility to interpret the law on such narrow grounds.”