Justice in a Fallen World

Copyright 2016, Public Art of Toronto. All rights reserved.

Equal Before the Law, 2011
Located: McMurtry Gardens of Justice (361 University Avenue)
Artist: Eldon Garnet
Website: https://eldongarnet.com
Contact: eldongarnet@rogers.com
Copyright 2016, Public Art of Toronto. All rights reserved.

Equality Before the Law is a 10-foot scale supporting the figure of a lion and a lamb in perfect balance. The two forms sit in repose, looking at each other squarely, neither challenging nor cowering from the other.

There are the obvious religious connotations to consider when viewing Garnet’s work. The lion laying with the lamb evokes the Isaiah’s prophesy of a coming utopia (“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them”.– KJVB, Isaiah 11:6), although there is more going on here than an invocation for Heaven on Earth created by judicial equality.

The lamb is a symbol of purity, of innocence, and vulnerability. It’s small and delicate, and yet, in this piece, it perfectly balances the worldliness, power, and strength of the much bigger lion. They have achieved equilibrium, but they are not being treated equally. If you notice, the lion is moved close to the center of the beam, while the lamb is further away. This is because in Physics, in order to balance an unequal load, the heavier of the two weights needs to be close to the fulcrum. In fact, the distance of the lamb from the center is greater than the lion by a two to one ratio.

These physical considerations keep Garnet’s piece from feeling trite. It’s very easy to say that people are treated equally under the law, but in practice, it’s a lot of work. It requires measurement, and balance and ongoing evaluation. This is why Canada has the Charter Challenge process and why organizations like the Court Challenges Program of Canada exists.

The title for this article comes from a quote by Kevin Deyoung: “Justice in a fallen world is not equality of outcome but equal treatment under a fair law.”

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