Shooting the Messenger

Say It Ain't So

"Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain't so." Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935

Shooting the MessengerOne of my first memories is of a man crying. I had played with the crying man's son in a sandbox that afternoon. It was not a real sand box, just a pile of sand dumped in the middle of a muddy driveway.

The boy's father, who was in the gravel hauling business, came home at the end of the day, unaware that his son was still playing on the pile of sand, and drove over him.

My older sister took me to my friend's house to see him one last time.

I was standing in front of the open coffin admiring how good he looked in his tidy little suit and tie, his black hair combed back all slick and shiny, when the tiny coffin started rocking back and forth and a voice started to shout.

I looked up and noticed a man with his hands resting on the open end of the coffin, jerking it back and forth and yelling “wake up, you're not dead, wake up!” (Réveilles toé, t’es pas mort, réveilles toé) over and over again.

The man was crying, with big tears running down his face. It was the first time I had seen a grown man cry. I promised myself I would never do that when I got older.

I did not cry when, maybe seven years later, I suffered a similar fate to my childhood friend — crushed under a giant wheel.

This near death experience would serve to remind me, later in life that we are not here just to occupy space; that we are here for a reason and not just “to live well”, to quote George Herbert [1593-1633], while waiting the join the Almighty in the here-after.

It's not that I don't get all emotional; an unexpected kindness can bring on the outset of tears, but disappointments only a brief sadness that rarely lasts very long. I am easily disappointed, not easily discouraged.

Even as the months, then the years passed and the struggle took on more and more the trappings of a Kafkaesque nightmare, I did not let my emotions get the best of me. Throughout this ordeal, I was convinced that truth would eventually prevail; all I needed to do was find an honest man (or woman).

I thought I had found, not one, but three honest men, when I appeared before the Federal Court of Appeals with my tale of corruption and lawlessness in high places only to be told regulations barred them from finding government officials guilty of unlawful acts and disreputable conduct.

This requirement of the Federal Court Act did not sit well with Justices MacGuigan, Pratte and Marceau. They asked if I would enquire from the Supreme Court as to whether they were bound by regulations when there was clearly an egregious breach of the public trust and a terrible injustice done. They made it possible for me to do so.

I made my way to the highest court in the land where I told the Right Honourable Chief Justice Brian Dickson and his equally illustrious colleagues my tale of corruption and lawlessness in high places.

In 1987, as a layperson, with no legal training or the benefit of a lawyer which I could not afford, I pressed my case for justice all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. It remains to this day one of my proudest achievements.

The justice I seek still remains elusive, the reason for this book.

Shooting the Messenger is not simply my latest attempt at getting justice, it is also, I hope, a suspenseful, cautionary tale from which we can all benefit.

Bernard Payeur