Women are trying to make their voices heard in a male dominated world. At a time when the economy no longer needs on muscular strength, women have increasingly found their niche and taken challenging roles in society – and in court.
Two pre-trial hearings in a provincial offence court made the International Women’s Day more memorable. The Provincial Court system hears cases of municipal code offenses and issues penalties and fines for violations – after a guilty plea or a court trial.
A young, pregnant Chinese woman in her late 20s stood in front of a Justice of Peace defending multiple charges her family was facing, leaving her male partner on the bench in the courtroom. Believing that the violation charges were laid unfairly against her and her family, she told the court calmly through an interpreter that she wanted to take the case to the next level – she was willing to proceed with a trial without pleading guilty.
Apparently, fighting her case through a trial would be an uphill battle for her, a young immigrant woman with no legal background and a huge language barrier. But courage is grace under pressure. While losing a trial after rejecting a plea bargain will bring harsher punishment and higher fines, she was determined to fight it.
But a trial may not be the natural choice for everyone. A middle-aged Chinese immigrant couple whose company facing offence charges argued fiercely over how to proceed with the case –which carried a disclosure document in hundreds of pages and may lead to fines for over tens of thousands of dollars. While the husband wanted to fight the charges, the wife chose to plead guilty. But her aspiration to stand in court as a defendant evoked stiff resistance from her husband, who was yelling at her to shut up.
Believing a guilty plea was the only right option to save the company from more legal troubles and much higher fines, the wife decided not to let her husband’ emotion and personal ego to get the better of him. By expressing her views and intentions to the prosecutor, she was given the opportunity to replace her husband as the company’s legal representative and allowed to speak in court.
“I didn’t mean to create a scene here,” said the woman with grey-hair and winkled face. “but I cannot watch the company suffer more financial losses to irrational decisions.”
The court was in complete silence as she was giving a vivid account of the financial crisis the company was facing, as well as depression that her husband was battling with over the years.
“While there were no excuses for these violations, there were indeed, unfortunate circumstances that had led to these violations and prevented us from addressing them in a timely fashion… We feel sincerely sorry by pleading guilty and are willing to accept the fines,” she said.
Her heartfelt guilty plea seemed to have find empathy in the court. Considering the company’s financial situation and husband’s mental health conditions, the court allowed the fine to be paid with an extended time period, reflecting the compassion value in the Canadian court system.
And by pleading guilty, she has saved several thousands of dollars for the company.
“In Chinese cultures, men always try to be dominate, and allowing a woman to take charge would make them lose face,” she said after the hearing. “But that doesn’t mean they will take every right move and fight every battle successfully, especially when they become emotional and lose their cool.”
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