"... we overheard them in the men's toilette groaning about the media circus surrounding the trial."
-Michael Hendricks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"The hall of the Palais de Justice was swarming with media ... and the scrum at the noon break featured every camera in town ..."
-Michael Hendricks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

... women could not serve in the Senate because they were not persons in the strict definition of the BNA (British North America) Act.
-Me. Goldwater, lawyer for Michael Hendricks and Rene LeBoeuf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Essentially, she (Goldwater) labeled Pitfield (Judge in the B.C. marriage case) as representing the extreme right wing in Canada, far from what the founding fathers and mothers had in mind."
-Michael Hendricks

 

 

In their own words / Dans leurs propres mots

Quebec Day One - November 8, 2001

Folks, we survived Day 1 !

First of all I should say that the day started with a lovely e-mail from Joe (Kevin and Joe - Toronto) which boosted a then sagging morale. Plus two birthday greeting cards from you guys which reminded me that I am still here and kicking. And it ended by coming home to a special delivery letter (with photos) from the "BC Bunch" sent by Shane and Dave, wishing us luck. A happy note on which to end the day (and open a Molson X). Thanks to you all, that was most helpful.

As I saw John Fisher taking elaborate notes, I will stick to highlights as seen from the dug out, not a journalistic report.

In the front of the courtroom, around the judge, we are divided, the "Drones' Club" on one side and "Girl's Team" on the other. The Drones are the two male smartypants who represent the fed plus two certified drones who are there for Québec. The last member is a older (but younger than I) Montréal lawyer who represents the religious right (he combs his hair over his baldspot). The "Girl's Team" is headed by Me Goldwater and Me Dubé plus René and me. A recent addition is Me Noël Saint-Pierre who is there for the civil society coalition who support us.

By the end of the day, the Drones looked peaked and down (but we overheard them in the men's toilette groaning about the "media circus" surrounding the trial). By 3h30, the coiffure of the lawyer for the religious right had come apart and was hanging over his left eye. He looked somewhat sour and dyspeptic. So we named him "Wrapper" because he looked like a "pita wrap" sandwich coming apart.

The judge is a woman of my age group (60ish), kind of school marm in appearance, who laid down the law on lateness and sticking to the schedule. During the day, she took copious notes and made few comments with the exception of a mild warning to our lawyer about jokes about Alberta (trying to put an image to the dichotomy between more open Canadians and more closed).

The hall of the Palais de Justice was swarming with media when we got there at 9AM and the scrum at the noon break featured every camera in town (guess the murder trial for members of the Hell's Angels which started today was dull because they were all there).

The community turn out was good---the courtroom seats 46 and there were about 5 people sitting on the floor. They laughed at all of Me Goldwater's jokes which encouraged her natural tendencies towards the polemic. I testified first and there was (I am told) not a dry eye in the house when Me Goldwater led me through how our friends, in a group on New Year's Eve 89-90, told René and me that they were all infected with HIV (and thus how we ended up as gay rights activists). I had not expected that line of questioning and was pretty rattled myself. René followed with the saga of how we met and started our lives together in the midst of the gay sexual revolution (and survived as a couple).

What I found most interesting was Me Goldwater's exploration of the Edwards decision, called the "Persons case", when the Privy Council struck down a decision of the Canadian Supreme Court saying that women could not serve in the Senate because they were not persons in the strict definition of the BNA ACT. To paraphrase her, the Privy Council said "So what?".

The morning creeped on as we covered jurisdiction and the federal government's responsibility for marriage. This is pretty dry stuff but Me Goldwater worked hard to make it interesting. The presence of an audience seemed to inspire her in this task. But it is not easy. We are not allowed to talk about the expert affidavits which you used in BC and are using in Ontario. We have to deal with jurisprudence only.

The afternoon featured Me Goldwater's discussion of Québec's 1994 heterosexist marriage law and how the federal government reinforced/ legitimatized that law, giving it federal and thus royal assent, in May 2001, once we had filed our suit. Goldwater harped away on how the Canadian Parliament has ignored, even undermined, what the Supreme Court is doing in its decisions since Egan and Nesbitt. This part ended with Me G asking the judge to rule that the Québec marriage law, the federal law recognising that law, and section 1.1 of C-23 ("marriage is between a man and woman, to the exclusion of all others") are all unconstitutional.

Then she went after the Pitfield decision with some gusto, going through "frozen rights" and the "Living Tree doctrine". Essentially, she labelled Pitfield as representing the extreme right wing in Canada, far from what the "founding fathers and mothers" had in mind. As she pointed out, two gays could not have "shacked up" on Gilford Street in Montréal in 1867 so how could they have been intentionally excluded? She then called for a national standard for marriage, including gay marriage, so that the dream of a national marriage standard so defended by the founding "fathers and mothers" could be a reality. She wound up stating that our marriage bid is no drama, it is simply the Canadian Charter in action, contrary to what the people who promise that there will be "hellfire and damnation" if we do we marry.

The gays and lesbians in the audience told us that they really enjoyed Me Goldwater's delivery and arguments so they at least worked for us! We will know how they worked for our judge sometime in the future.

Thanks for your support -- it helps,
Michael Hendricks (René is at work so he could not participate in this letter)


Michael Hendricks & René Leboeuf

Read Michael and René's account of day 2