Thursday, 11 April 2019

Civic Duty (Part One)


I arrived at the courthouse half an hour ago, after dropping the baby to a friend for safekeeping and finding myself a parking spot downtown. I don't know how long I'll be waiting. The smartly-dressed and uncommonly tall lawyer I've been speaking to doesn't know either, but it could be a while -- the judge is working to resolve a case that rolled over from yesterday. I wonder how many cases roll over like this? I hope for the sake of my child-minding friend that this won't be an all-day affair.

I've been in a courtroom a hundred times through the rectangular box of a television set, but only once before in real life. Then I was a passive civic observer, curious about the process and atmosphere of Canadian justice in action. I was encouraged by a then-clerk friend of mine to sit in on part of a case, and she escorted me to the doors of a trial she thought was interesting. I'm still interested in the process of law. I am a person who holds police officers in high regard for the work they do, and I've seen a glimpse into the personal world of people who face trouble and danger on the regular. It's a societal role that requires a great deal of courage and compassion. Policing is important and difficult work, and I do not in any way want to diminish the stresses and responsibilities of the job.

I am in court today as a witness to minor violence and major disrespect, on the part of the officers that responded to a medical emergency in my neighbourhood. I haven't been warned not to talk about it publically, but I'll leave things vague for the moment.

When Ben and I moved into our house three years ago, we knew our neighbourhood had a rough reputation in the city. While we have seen brokenness, we have experienced much more hospitality and love in the generally stigmatized communities of our city than anywhere else. In my admittedly limited experience, poverty tends to unite people, and wealth can be isolating. The number of conversations we naturally have now that we live in a house is a fraction of the interactions that I had with neighbours when we lived in the apartment building at John and Barton. When you share space with others, you share life with them. I miss a great many things about living there, actually.


I have never seen so many rolling suitcases anywhere outside of an airport, and never more formal suits and high heels anywhere but a funeral. I'm still waiting for my case to be heard. Sitting on these metal benches is rather uncomfortable, but it's nice to at least be inside on such a blustery winter-again day, and my view of the city is a unique one: Looking down over Main Street from street-light height, watching a busy bus stop. There's a man in the park carrying four of those big, reusable grocery bags, stuffed full. There's a pick-up truck waiting at the light with several bags of soil in the bed. A father walking with his little tyke in a bright red coat, holding hands as they cross at the intersection.

I love people-watching, especially from such private perch. Humans are fascinating.


Well, the previous case took a lunch break, and I was instructed to stretch my legs and be back for 2PM. They also asked me to prepare a list of holidays coming up, in case they need to reschedule our trial entirely, which is somewhat less than encouraging. I took a walk to Tim Hortons and got myself a weather-appropriate soup for lunch, and I'm back in the waiting-waiting-waiting room, though now taking up a little floor space to give my back a break from the benches. One other person is sitting here with me -- facing towards the far wall, staring up at the clock. The second hand is red and has a nice, firm tick to its movements. I've just noticed that there are actually two analogue wall clocks in this tiny space. No need to turn your head to discover exactly how much time you are wasting. How considerate.


My trial has been postponed. I've been asked to wait ten more minutes until they can settle a new date, factoring everyone's upcoming schedules. So now I have a month and a half to stew until I can (hopefully) give my testimony. Stay tuned for Part Two, I guess!

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