The following evening, they had a meeting with Sonya Martinez. Some questions had arisen in post-production of the documentary she’d shot of Simon’s previous assignment, organizing protests regarding the fatal shooting of an Indigenous youth by a Saskatchewan farmer.
Mattie invited Anne-Louise, her half-sister, since it was her money producing the film.
“It’s been four months now and you’ve had time to reflect on the fatal shooting of Joudy Charles, your campaign for justice, the trial and verdict,” Sonya said. “Considering the outcome, would you do anything differently?”
“We need to change the system and it has to be done from the inside,” Simon said.
He was referring to the legal system that allowed the selection of an all-white jury to hear the trial and then deliver a verdict of not guilty. He wasn’t the only one who felt there’d been a miscarriage of justice, but Simon took it personally and had been restless and at times short-tempered ever since.
“Maybe you should talk to Wendy Walters?” Sonya said.
“The cabinet minister who had the pissing match on social media with the Prime Minister and got thrown out of the party?” Mattie said.
Wendy Walters was the daughter of a hereditary Haida chief, and the first elected Indigenous person appointed to the federal cabinet. When the Charles verdict had been announced, she’d taken to social media with a post that read, “We must do better for Indigenous people.”
The backlash was swift and furious with the opposition party and many Canadians charging political interference in the justice system. The Prime Minister hinted she’d apologize, to which Walter replied she was a truth sayer and her first duty was to her conscience, not the leader.
In an ensuing cabinet shuffle, Walters was demoted. She claimed it was because she was critical of the government’s reluctance to advance Indigenous issues, which the Prime Minister’s office denied.
Walters accused the leader of using his aides to pressure her to get in line and resigned her post.
It was all a misunderstanding, according to the PM.
Walter produced emails that could hardly be misunderstood.
The PM kicked her out of caucus.
“She has a vision of a different way of doing politics,” Simon said.
“How do you know, have you ever talked to her?”
“It sounds to me like Wendy Walters blew it,” Mattie said. “She had one of the most powerful positions in the government, what better platform than to advocate for change on behalf of your people–even if she had to suck it up a bit?”
“As if you would?” Simon said.
Mattie was more surprised than hurt. Simon used to be the kindest person she knew. She attributed his sarcasm to frustration.
“One has to wonder what her motives were?” Anne said.
“Honesty and integrity maybe?”
And now nasty to Anne. This was a new Simon and not a nice one.
“You have to admit it was naïve, Simon,” Anne said. “Unless she has an agenda we don’t know about?”
“Maybe she does,” Simon said.
“I’ve got my answers and my ending.” Sonya packed up the camera.
“I hope I’m not going to see myself in this documentary,” Mattie said.
“Only in the beginning and at the end.” Sonya smiled and headed for the door.
“I’ll walk you to the car.” Simon followed her.
“I better get going as well,” Anne said.
Mattie got her coat.
At the door, Anne hesitated. “How long was Simon at the Wet’suwet’en blockade?”
“Five weeks. Why?”
“He arrived at the blockade March twenty-seventh.” Mattie knew the dates, had counted the days.
“Wendy Walters visited the blockade in the middle of April, but Simon said he’d never met her?”
“How do you know she was there? It wasn’t reported in the media.”
“The Soames Trust is responsible for millions of dollars of investments.”
“We can’t rely on the media for accurate information.”
“But why would Simon say he hadn’t met her?”
“You asked if he’d ever talked to her,” Anne said. “She was there, but maybe they didn’t speak.”
* * *
In the last ten minutes since the guests had left, Mattie had decided not to ask Simon about Walters. What difference would it make, it wasn’t her business and besides Ann was probably right, Walters was there but Simon didn’t talk to her. On the other hand, it seemed strange he wouldn’t talk to her considering how important a person she was and there were never more than a few dozen people at the remote camp? When Simon explained he couldn’t reveal everything about his activities she’d been fine with it, he’d wonder why she was questioning him now? Why was she? Because in the past he may not have been forthcoming, but he hadn’t lied. But had he lied? Technically?
Why was she self-censoring? Was this the kind of relationship she wanted?
“So was Wendy Walters at the Wet’suwet’en blockade the same time you were or not?”
“What?” Simon was checking his cell phone for messages, something he’d become obsessive about.
“Anne said Walters was at the blockade the same time you were. Yes or no?”
“How would she know?”
“Was she there or not?”
“Nasty.” Pickles had picked up on Mattie’s tone.
“No.” Simon turned off his phone and began clearing the table of plates and cutlery used to serve the cheesecake Anne had brought.
Mattie’s cell phone rang. It would be Louise. Pickles began to squawk. She wanted some quality time before her cage was covered for the night. The macaw was jealous, especially of Simon, and especially now she was separated from her own mate. Mattie walked out the front door. She needed some time to process.
On the front porch, the wind was warm off the ocean and across the black expanse of flooded blueberry fields the lights of Vancouver International Airport glittered. Only a vague outline of the event center was evident, the result of another acrimonious board debate. Some board members wanted a neon sign mounted on the front of the building for promotional purposes, but Mattie argued it would disturb the sleep of sanctuary residents. Birds needed ten to twelve hours of dark sleep time for optimum health and happiness and artificial light could prevent that from happening. That time she and the birds won.
She wanted to trust Simon, had to trust him, but it was difficult when he was selective about the truth despite his reasons. One thing was certain, she couldn’t live this way. She’d needed to take Louise’s advice and soon.
“You okay?” Simon stood beside her.
“That makes three of us. Pickles is on a real tear.”
Mattie nodded. Opening her mouth meant something would come out, and she wasn’t sure what. Finally, she said, “Is it ever going to change?”
“Lately, I’ve been wondering the same thing.”
They stood side by side looking into the dark.
“Why don’t we go on a vacation?” Simon said.
“The semester ends in two weeks, right? We could go someplace warm, I’m thinking Mexico.”
Mattie threw her arms around his neck, her resolve melting like the snow on the surrounding mountains. Why did he have to be so loveable?
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