Jian Ghomeshi's lawyer has called out NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair for tweeting that he believed survivors of sexual assault, just hours before her famous client was acquitted.
Mulcair, however, doubled-down Wednesday afternoon with another tweet.
Jian Ghomeshi leaves court in Toronto on March 24, 2016 with his lawyer Marie Henein. (Photo: Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
In an interview with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge that aired Tuesday, lawyer Marie Henein was asked about the #IBelieveSurvivors hashtag that resonated on Twitter in light of the Ghomeshi verdict and, specifically, Mulcair's use of the term.
"Hashtag 'I believe' is not a legal principle, nor should it ever be," she said. "Because you can't believe people based on who they are, the nature of the crime. We would never want that."
Pointed criticism for Mulcair
Historically, she said, presumptively "believing" has not been to the benefit of the most disadvantaged or marginalized in society.
And she had pointed criticism for Mulcair, a lawyer by trade, saying it was "concerning" to see the politician weigh in.
"You're a person who is engaged and should be more knowledgeable about what you're commenting on," she said, accusing Mulcair of "denigrating" the legal system in which he worked without "having read a word of transcript" or informed himself of the case.
"That's disappointing and not something I would put much stock in," she said. "But it sure does get you a lot of votes, doesn't it?"
When asked by Mansbridge if such a gambit really translates to votes, Heinen said: "It might. It gets you attention."
CBC News has a video of the exchange:
Mulcair, who faces a leadership review at his party's convention next week, took to Twitter to respond in kind.
"I believe strongly in the presumption of innocence and the right to a strong defence but I also believe survivors," he wrote.
I believe strongly in the presumption of innocence and the right to a strong defence but I also believe survivors. https://t.co/KaoxUtpvX7
— Tom Mulcair (@ThomasMulcair) March 30, 2016
Mulcair's initial statement last Friday — included in his attention-grabbing tweet — did not mention Ghomeshi by name. However, it touched on how the crime of sexual assault often doesn't lead to a conviction and that a fear of not being believed can keep women from coming forward.
"I believe we need to strengthen protections for survivors of sexual assault. I believe that access to comprehensive support services for survivors should be a right," he said.
"And most importantly, I believe survivors."
But Mulcair was not the only politician to weigh in on social media. And others were more blunt.
Ontario NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo said the Ghomeshi verdict felt "like a personal assault — something shared with all women, particularly victims of assault."
After the verdict, Lisa MacLeod, an Ontario Conservative MPP, wrote simply: "And you wonder why women do not come forward after abuse."