I just got back from my first circuit a couple of days ago. Susan and I were slated to go to Igloolik and Hall Beach, communities that are next door to each other just off the Northwestern tip of Hudson's Bay. We were scheduled to leave on Saturday but got weathered in both Saturday and Sunday. When we finally made it out on Monday, I was ready to cheer as the plane took off, though I thought better of it given I was sitting next to Igloolik's mayor and only 3 feet away from the judge. We got to Igloolik in the afternoon. The judge cancelled court so that we could meet with witnesses and police and the defence counsel could meet with their clients. After waiting several hours for the police, who were out on calls, we ended up meeting with defence counsel and sharing a dinner of fried eggs, fried potatos and chicken fingers while we discussed possible resolutions. We got to the police station at 7, to discover that they had rounded up a grand total of 2 witnesses. At 9, we met with the local Justice Committee at our hotel.
Our hotel was the Tujormivik Hotel, which is more like a hostel than a hotel really. It reminded me of the places I stayed travelling in Southeast Asia and Sout America--only it was a lot more expensive. The cost for full room and board is $250 per night per person, shared room and common washrooms notwithstanding. The meals are pretty simple (think first-year undergraduate residence) though the staff are kind and the living room really homey. I brought my own veggies and my own breakfast food. I even brought soups and tofu for meals, but I hesitate to make them because I don't want to offend our hosts. After all, a little fried chicken never killed anyone.
Tuesday was our big day in court. Susan and I are the last to arrive. Court is being held in the local community hall. The tables are those big, metal tables we used to write exams with. As we walk in, they tape one up with duct tape just for us. The judge, clerk, interpreter, translator, and defence counsel already have their tables. When we sit down, I take the chance to look around and notice that a disco ball hangs from the ceiling and that there are giant woofer speaker in the corner. The judge wears a sealskin vest and kammiks. I wear hiking boots. It strikes me that this is a far cry from Finch or the West Mall.
As things progress, however, they are a lot like Finch or the West Mall. We deal with the easy matters first: adjournments and speak-tos. As accused and witnesses appear, counsel take breaks to talk to them. After lunch, we start the pleas and I realize--suddenly on my feet--that I am making my first submissions. I launch right into them until the judge gently reminds me that I need to start with the facts. Flustered, I forget to enter the criminal record. I sheepishly do so after defence counsel makes his submissions, as the judge gives me an impatient stare. Still, nothing dire happens and I am ready for the next time, when I make sure the criminal record is entered and I have the facts ready to go. It's all a lot of fun, actually, as well as a little frenetic.
Sadly, that was my one day to make submissions. When we get to the airport ti fly to Hall Beach on Tuesday night, we find out defence counsel has been bumped off the flight. They ask if I mind staying behind since I have so few matters on the go. So, I spent the night in Igloolik, reading a book and chilling out at the Tujormivik. The next day, I fly back to Iqaluit.
I plan to do it all over again next Friday, when I head to Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven, via Yellowknife. It'll be the farthest west I've ever been in Canada. And this time I may even get to run a trial...