Theories of Justice: Application

Photo taken from

Photo taken from

In today’s learning experience, we investigated the concept of Justice and how various people have conceptualized it. We learned what Kant, Bentham, Aristotle, Locke, and Rawls all had to say about the idea of Justice. Michael Sandel helped us realize that Justice is not a concrete idea, but one that is very much up for debate:

We tried to match our understandings of justice with the scenarios he posed and then we tried to see how the theorists we explored might view justice in the context of the trolley car example.Here are the resources we looked at in the event you need to refresh yourself:






Now here are the facts of a real case in Canadian legal history. What we would like you to do is familiarize yourself with the facts of the case and then comment on how your philosopher might perceive justice in this case. Next, what would be justice for you? Comment and/or comment on what someone else has said. Be courteous, concise, and thoughtful. Take time to reflect and read what your peers have offered.


On October 24, 1993, Robert Latimer, a farmer from Saskatchewan, placed the helpless body of his 12 year old daughter, Tracy, in his pick up truck and connected a hose from the exhaust to the cab resulting in her asphyxiation by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Tracy had been born severely disabled with cerebral palsy and at age 12 still had the mental capacity of a three month old. She was completely dependent on her parents for round the clock care. Just prior to the events that would lead to his arrest, Latimer had been told that his daughter would require further operations to correct a hip dislocation that had been aggravated by her advanced scoliosis- a condition that had reached the point where her spine diverged from a perpendicular position by 75%. He was advised that the operation would place her in even greater pain than the intense pain she was already experiencing. Moreover, because of other anti-convulsive medication she had to take to control her epileptic seizures, she could not be given pain killers of greater strength than regular Tylenol without the risk of inducing a coma. Latimer would later contend that he was faced with the dilemma of subjecting his daughter to ever more agonizing operations without the ability to limit the intensity of her pain because of the adverse interaction between the drugs she was taking and any pain medication stronger than regular Tylenol.

It was under these circumstances, he would claim, that he chose to end her life.

October 24, 1993- Wilkie, Saskatchewan, Latimer ‘places’ his 12 year old severely disabled daughter- Tracy -in cab of pickup truck- piping CO into the cab through a series of connecting pipes and hoses and resulting in her death by asphyxiation.

November 4, 1993- RCMP bring Latimer in for questioning and arrest him on charge of 1st degree murder.


Rawls, Justice, & Assisted Suicide

Yesterday, we had a fantastic visit from from Brian Keenan from the University of Winnipeg. He engaged us in a dialogue about the notion of justice and helped us solidify some of the ideas we have studied. Dr. Keenan also elaborated on Rawls’ conceptualization of justice. Many of us were “okay” with this theory of justice, whereas others questioned his second principle.

Coincidentally, the Supreme Court of Canada is listening to arguments on whether physician-assisted suicide should or should not be constitutional. Those who are on the “right to die” side of things, argue that certain sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are being violated.

How does Rawls’ theory of justice inform the debate on assisted suicide? How does your understanding of justice inform your opinion on the decision the SCC will make? Be sure to be clear with your argument and use evidence to support it.

To help answer these questions, I have posted the following links:

CBC Article and Video clips on SCC Case

Rawls and the Question of Physician­Assisted Suicide

LA Times on John Rawls (a Primer)

Law Day 2014: R vs Brogue

Story submitted by Winnipeg Free Press crime report James Turner:

A city high school teacher was cleared Sunday of accusations he planned and carried out the cold-blooded murder of a suspected drug trafficker who plunged to a grisly death from his balcony.


The only eye-witness to the crime is examined by the Crown.

An emotionless Wally Brogue, 28, left court Sunday a free man after a provincial court judge found she had serious doubts about the key element of the Crown’s case against him.

Judge Tracey Lord ruled the testimony of an eyewitness wasn’t reliable enough to pin a first-degree murder conviction on Brogue for the July 14, 2013 death of her boyfriend, David Benning. Brogue faced a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison without a chance at parole for at least 25 years if convicted.

Benning died tumbled from his balcony after an argument with Brogue, who admitted he’d been drinking and went to confront Benning at his apartment for framing his younger brother in a drug deal — a move which landed Brogue’s kin in jail.

But, Lord said, it made no sense that Brogue would toss Benning over the four-foot-high railing of the balcony to his death, Lord found.

“Mr. Brogue needed Mr. Benning to be alive to exonerate his brother,” Lord ruled.

Brogue, a teacher and youth counsellor, had no prior history of violence.

Volsky testified Brogue turned up unannounced at the apartment she and Benning shared, roughly pushing past her when she opened the door.

He then angrily confronted Benning, she said.

“‘You creep,'” she recalled Brogue saying. “‘You should pay for what you did to my brother.'”

She said Benning responded by calling Brougue a “fool,” after which came a fatal scuffle, she said. “Wally pushed David over the railing,” Volsky testified.

Lord found Volsky’s level of intoxication (she admitted being “buzzed” from marijuana at the time of Brogue’s visit) left her unable to rely much on what she said.

Volsky had also conceded she was in love with Benning and was prepared to lie in defence of that.

Prosecutor Rishav Kayastha failed to prove Brogue had planned out the killing.

Through the testimony of a serial convict, Kayastha presented to the court comments Brogue allegedly made the day before Benning’s death while visiting his brother, Tom, in jail.

Repeat B&E artist Peter Tomas told Lord he’d overheard Wally say concerning things. “He was angry. I even hear that he want to kill David,'” Tomas said. “‘That creep does not deserve to live,'” he said he overheard Brogue telling Tom.

Tomas’s credibility took a major hit, however, when he told defence lawyer Will Rattray he was testifying in hopes of gaining an advantage at an upcoming parole hearing.

Lord called evidence surrounding any comments Brogue may have made at the jailhouse “ambiguous.”

In an unusual twist in a first-degree murder case, Brogue took the stand and denied any involvement in Benning’s death.

He said after simply asking Benning to come clean with the truth about his brother’s frame-up, Benning rushed at him and tripped himself over the balcony’s railing.

The Crown, Defence, and witnesses pose with the Judge in a bizarre moment of solidarity.

The Crown, Defence, and witnesses pose with the Judge in a bizarre moment of solidarity.

“He just flipped off,” testified Brogue, adding he waited at the scene in utter shock as police were called. “He charged into it and his body weight just flipped him over it,” he said.  “People can say what they want,” Brogue told Lord. “I didn’t want Benning dead.”

The case marks the second recent homicide in Winnipeg where a person fell from a building under murky circumstances.

In November, police charged Adam Perrier, 33, with manslaughter and forcible confinement after Christopher Meier fell three floors out of a window at the Royal Albert Arms hotel and died. That case remains before the courts.