THE LAWYER’S OFFICE was in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, four blocks from the beach.
“It’s Khatsahlano,” Simon said. “He was a Chief and medicine man of the Squamish people. The name Kitsilano is an anglicized version appropriated for this use by the Canadian Pacific Railway when it developed the area.”
They bought fish and chips for lunch from a park concession at Kits Beach, or for the culturally sensitive, Khats Beach, and ate sitting on a log looking across English Bay toward the skyline of downtown. It was an idyllic late summer day with a salt breeze kicking up white caps and gulls shrieking and whirling in a cloudless sky.
Despite the perfect setting the euphoria that buoyed Mattie in the morning had leaked away like air from a balloon. Simon seemed to sense her mood and reached over to hold her hand.
“I have a million questions I’m afraid to ask,” Mattie said.
“You can ask me anything, Mattie. There’s no reason to be afraid.”
“It’s not that I’m afraid to ask you, I’m afraid of your answers.”
“I am as well,” Simon said.
“I don’t understand.”
“I can’t lie to you, Mattie, but I’m afraid the answers will drive you away.”
“Now I’m really afraid.”
Simon moved closer and put his arm around her shoulders. “Some things might be better left unsaid, at least for now.”
“I’m not too good at leaving things unsaid.”
“I know and I admire that about you. You’re honest and passionate.”
Honest and passionate? She imagined most people found her opinionated and abrasive. “Thanks, I guess.”
“Events are unfolding. Actions and reactions. They’ve been in play a long time, some for generations. What happens to us will depend on how they’re resolved.”
“Do you want there to be an ‘us’”, Simon”?
“Yes. Yes, I do.” Simon looked out across the bay. “But we have to keep in mind what Grandmother said.”
Grandmother. The old woman was Mattie’s nemesis.
It was time to go meet with the lawyer and the six other co-defendants. Mattie had researched the other trials as well as similar cases in the United States and deemed this meeting a waste of time and hope, more so now that Simon had suggested the real issues were ones that had been in play for generations. Whatever Simon was involved with a brief time in jail was a short term strategy in a very long game.
“WE’RE GOING TO PLEAD a defense of necessity.” The lawyer was young and cocky. He had fashionably long hair and dressed in what Mattie imagined he thought were casual clothes; designer jeans, a buttoned-down white cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up and those orange-brown shoes that the Prime Minister wore.
The other defendants there included an Anglican priest, a retired school teacher, an anti-poverty activist, a mother of three children, and two students. One student brought her mother.
“What exactly does that mean?” the student’s mother said.
“In an emergency situation, not of the person's own creation, the defense allows the person to act in a criminal manner to avoid greater harm from occurring.”
“Like oil spills and climate change,” the retired school teacher said.
“So what are the chances of my daughter being found not guilty?”
“Good, depending on how compelling a case we make,” the lawyer said.
“Are you serious?” Mattie said.
“It won’t work.”
The lawyer crossed his arms. “And where did you study law?”
“You don’t need a law degree to do an internet search and find out this defense has been presented in several similar cases in other jurisdictions and has never been successful,” Mattie said.
“On the contrary, there have been many situations where the necessity defense has–”
“To make your case, the danger must be more than just foreseeable, it has to be imminent and unavoidable.”
“And so it is.” The retired school teacher again. The woman must want to be a martyr.
“All this grandstanding will do is piss off the judge,” Mattie said.
“What would you suggest?” The mother of the student said. “I don’t want my daughter to go to jail.”
“Then plead guilty,” Mattie said. “And if you want lighter sentences, display some humility and respect for the court. In previous cases the judge has considered financial hardship and the defendant’s health and handed down sentences that only included fines and community hours.”
The room filled with voices; some agreeing, others opposing, the mother of the daughter wanting clarification.
“I agree with Mattie.” Simon was standing. People were listening. “Breaking the law was a moral act, one of conscience and courage, and now we must face the consequences. These consequences strengthen our resolve and that of our brothers and sisters. We have made our stand and we’ll continue to resist, but there’s no reason to be punished unnecessarily.”
In the end, it was decided the lawyer would ask to present each individual’s case briefly putting forward any special circumstances that might mitigate sentencing. In Simon’s case there were none, and it worried Mattie. The exception was the retired school teacher who insisted on addressing the judge herself.
As they filed out, five of the six defendants and the mother of the student thanked Mattie.
“Well done,” Simon said. They were walking to Range Rover parked a block away.
“The lawyer was a pompous ass which I wouldn’t have minded, but he was an idiot as well. I’m surprised you got him to represent you.” Mattie hadn't planned to take over the defense, but she was relieved Simon wasn’t upset.
“I didn’t. I was arrested with those people. It was an act of solidarity.”
Was Simon his own worst enemy? No, there was something else going on.
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