Is a lie a mistake? Is it a mistake to lie?

CHRIS MacLEAN  –  May 3, 2017

03 May 2017

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a lie is an intentionally false statement (used with reference to a situation involving deception or founded on a mistaken impression). A mistake, on the other hand, is caused by bad judgment or a disregard of rule or principle (for example, it was a mistake to lie about one's role in a military operation).

The very nature of a mistake means it can be apologized for. However, when that error in judgment was to tell a lie, the apology must clearly state: "I'm sorry I lied" or "I'm sorry I got caught in a lie."

In the case of Minister Sajjan, he has apologized for making a mistake in "describing" his role, when in fact his mistake was that he lied about his role. He could not possibly have been "under the impression" he was "on the main assault" if he wasn't.

This wording creates a mental image of being on the front line of the assault rather than providing the intel that was used to develop the assault planning. By most ethical standards, it was intentionally misleading.

I get that he did invaluable work that was instrumental in the planning of Operation Medusa and later operations, but why not focus on that, there is no need to insinuate any false narratives of a different kind of role.

Checking back to the dictionary, while it is a mistake for an ethical person to lie, telling a lie is not the same as making a mistake.

While a person can certainly regret a lie, particularly when caught in one, an intentional attempt to deceive is not something one can realistically apologize away. A lie is not something that can be excused, in any way, as a mistake.

An erroneous statement can be a mistake if the person was misinformed, but we all expect a government Minister to have the mental acuity to know whether or not they were personally on a "main assault" – and going one step further, adding "proudly" as a descriptor.

A lie is not a mistake, it is intentional deception, and a lie told in the esteemed capacity of a Cabinet Minister speaking from a podium, be it national or international, should not be tolerated by the Prime Minister of Canada.

– Chris MacLean