It's just a resolution

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 December, 2004, 12:00am

The Babylonians figured it out 40 centuries ago: the best way to start a new year is to admit your mistakes, correct them as best you can and resolve never to make them again. With the Babylonians, it was mostly a case of returning farm tools they had borrowed.

But the New Year's resolution tradition can also be useful for governments, politicians and judges. Gaffes made this month will often be forgiven next month. With this in mind, here are four factors Canadians should consider. All touch on our justice system.

Do not be photographed with 'reformed' terrorists. It was Canada's political photo of the year: Prime Minister Paul Martin shaking hands with Libya's Muammar Gaddafi in a desert tent, Colonel Gaddafi grinning and Mr Martin looking like he had eaten a bad oyster. It was an ignominious moment for the Canadian leader, in a tete-a-tete with the man responsible for killing 270 people (including two Canadians) when a passenger jet exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Mr Martin's handlers said Colonel Gaddafi has apologised, paid reparations, and now Canada and Libya were doing some much-needed business together. Still, many Canadians saw bloodstains in Colonel Gaddafi's smug expression.

A mugging is a mugging, even on ice. Vancouver hockey star Todd Bertuzzi walked out of court a free man after admitting he 'made a terrible mistake' when he broke rival player Steve Moore's neck in an unprovoked attack in a game last March. Bertuzzi will be going back to his C$7 million-a-year ($44.7 million ) job, while Moore faces a lifetime of therapy and unresolved anger at a system that has failed him. Some Canadians say injury is an 'occupational hazard' of hockey, but many more feel that our national sport has been besmirched.

Racism is serious; let us not trivialise it. Human rights activists in Nova Scotia are asking the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on a case where sporting goods store owners allegedly insulted a female worker who is a native Indian. Her bosses called her kemosabe. Anyone who watched The Lone Ranger, knows it means 'trusted companion', but the woman saw it as harassment.

Religion and the courts do not mix. Ontario province seems ready to go ahead with Muslim courts to bypass the public system and make rulings in civil and family-law disputes for Muslims. Officials say the rights of Muslim women would be protected, But critics fear that the women, already subservient to men in Muslim culture, will be pressured into accepting unfair judgments. And they say the separation of church and state should be an inviolate principle.