Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Man From Niagara Falls

I was seated alone in the bar of the Chateau Laurier, nursing my third Screech on the rocks. I was recovering from conversation with Ed, a guy from Alberta, who had wanted advice on breaking up confederation with the help of Quebec. I wasn't sure how that would go down with the Law Society of Upper Canada, but I was pretty sure - despite his enticements - that I hadn't become a constitutional lawyer to trash the constitution. He left, regretfully.

I was moodily conemplating the body of a seal, thrown carelessly into a corner by the bartender, when approached by a nondescript man remarkable only in that he was wearing a helmet, skates, and an NHL Referee's Uniform.

"I heard you're the go-to guy for consitutional law in Canada," he said. "Can I buy you a drink?"

"That all depends," I replied. "Tell me why you're asking."

"OK," he said, " I'll lay my cards on the table."

He spread out a fresh deck on the bar, still unfortunately sticky with clotting seal blood.

"I represent an important client, and the assignment is one requiring extreme delicacy, fast footwork, and a comprehensive knowledge of Canadian consitutional law." Two out of three ain't bad.

"First thing is, I need to know the client."

"Is this conversation protected by solicitor-client privilege?"

"Of course."

"OK, he said, "it's the CBC."

"And the assignment?"

"The client wishes to get close to the Attorney-General and collect sensitive information with regard to possible obstruction of justice at proceedings before the Canadian Military Complaints Complaints Commission, and specifically with regard to the possible misuse of Section 38.01 and 38.02 of the Canada Evidence Act."

I finished my drink, and ordered a fourth, fifth, and sixth refill.

"Where are you from: the fifth estate; Ideas?"

"They won't touch it."

"What makes you think I will?"

"I'm from Hockey Night in Canada."

I was stunned by the implications.

"We have a source at Rideau Hall who gave us your name," continued the Man In Stripes, persuasively. "You come highly recommended."

"The Governor General's Horse Guards?" I asked.

"I can't reveal my sources," said the striped figure emphatically. "Let's just say we got it from the horse's mouth."

Horses, seals. I was starting to feel less like a lawyer and more like a vet.

"This isn't an episode of All Creatures Great and Small" I snapped. "I need to know exactly what the job is."

"Is this conversation protected by solicitor-client privilege?"

"Of course."

"OK, we need you to get close to the Attorney-General on the Afghan prisoner file, and without him knowing, find out what he knew and when he knew it, what he didn't know, and when he didn't know it, and when he didn't know what he knew, even if he didn't know it. We also want to know who would investigate the Attorney-General for alleged obstruction of justice."

My head ached. "Rumsfeld's got a lot to answer for," I said wearily.

"You know Don?"

"Rumsfeld or Cherry?"



A silence settled over us like ink from an octopus. I was back to animals, admittedly invertebrates.

"OK," I said finally, "tell me more about Nicholson. I haven't said yes and I haven't said no, but I need to know more about him. I can't approach him directly, obviously. Where's he from?"

"Niagara Falls."

A strange sensation came over me. I turned to the Man in Stripes and grasped him by the throat. Niagara Falls! Slowly, I turned, closer I came, step by step, inch by inch....

He knocked me to the floor with his elbow. "Pull yourself together!" he hissed. "This isn't Saturday night at a Flyers' game."

"Philadelphia?" I inquired from the floor.

"No, Niagara Falls."

Niagara Falls! Slowly, I turned, closer I came, step by step, inch by inch... I found myself on the floor again.

"Look," he said, "I'm offering you work. Do you want the job or not?"

"I thought the Flyers moved to Michigan."

"OK, have it your way. This isn't Saturday night in Saginaw."

"Why should I trust you? Maybe you're from the Colbert Report."

"What's that?" he asked convincingly.

I had to admit, I was intrigued. Who would investigate the Attorney-General for alleged obstruction of justice? I had to take the job.

...to be continued.