Shooting the Messenger
Till Death Do Us Part
Evelyne was taken aback by this last-minute introduction into evidence of Joe Clark’s letter, but not Thomas W. Brown. During the entire hearing, Thomas W. Brown had sat there like a lump on a log taking notes, saying very little. His demeanor when Leduc placed the letter before him, daring him to call Joe Clark a liar did not change one bit. He put the letter aside and wrote himself a note. Evelyne, in the meantime, had obtained a copy of the letter from Leduc and was quickly acquainting herself with its content.
Evelyne had told me to let her do all the talking, and to remain silent except to answer questions; but I just had to ask Leduc: “Where did you get that letter? That was between me and Joe Clark.” That last remark does demonstrate a certain naivety, I must admit. I also no longer believe in Santa Claus. Leduc, of course, ignored my question, as we all waited for Evelyne to finish reading the letter and take in the implication of what Leduc had just done. Her reaction was what Thomas W. Brown should have been.
She got up, glancing at the letter, then glancing at Thomas W. Brown, shaking her head, her arms outstretched, palms up as if pleading, as she argued that this letter had no business at this hearing, that it was a private correspondence between a citizen and an elected official.
She may also have said something to the effect that, if this letter was going to be introduced at all, it should have been during the presentation of evidence, not during final arguments; that this was totally unfair.
The normally inscrutable Thomas W. Brown listened to her, then smiled at her, then turned to Mr. Leduc and asked: “Do you have anything else to add?”, or something to that effect.
Leduc said: “No!”
Brown then adjourned the hearings. Leduc had had the last word. Foreign Affairs had had the last word. But it did not end there!
Thomas W. Brown got up and began a slow walk towards the door to his chambers; but before he got there, he stopped and turned towards Evelyne and me. He asked Evelyne if they could talk for a minute. He pointed to me, then to the exit to the hearing room and told me to wait outside.
The tête-à-tête between Thomas W. Brown and Evelyne Henry did not last more than fifteen minutes.
When Evelyne emerged from the hearing room she was a completely different person. Taking on a distinctly authoritative tone she said: “He wants you to drop this! He does not want to render a decision! He is not about to call Joe Clark a liar! He wants you to negotiate a settlement with Treasury Board!“
I needed the money, but this was not only about money, it was about doing the right thing and not getting your livelihood taken away for doing so. I felt I had done the right thing, and now I expected Thomas W. Brown to do the same and rule on the evidence. I told her that.
Evelyne was not impressed. She explained that Thomas W. Brown and she had a good working relationship and she did not want to spoil it. Then, moderating her tone, she said: “If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your union. I have three other cases pending with him and he promised me a favourable ruling if I get you to drop this.”
This could not be happening. This is how I imagined Diogenes must have felt after walking the alleys of ancient Athens with his lamp looking for an honest person and never finding one.
“No," I insisted, "he is going to do his job whether he likes it or not.”
I must admit I was upset. I did not care that Thomas W. Brown feared if he ruled in my favour he would be offending Joe Clark, and I absolutely did not care to be an accomplice to an appalling breach of professional ethics on the part of both Thomas W. Brown and Evelyne.
Thomas W. Brown and Evelyne were friends — I was just a client, a recent acquaintance. Whose interest would Evelyne champion at this critical juncture?
For a lawyer, the ethical choice would have been obvious; for Evelyne, it was not that simple.