This is a mood-setting background description – for the actual event itself, please, see here.
361 UNIVERSITY AVENUE
That is what the carved letters beneath the royal crown on the wall of a 70’s, perhaps 60’s looking stubby concrete building said.
Nestled in the shade of the CN Tower and skyscrapers looming all around, it looked more like a prison fortress than a hall of justice.
Right in front of the downtown Toronto Court House was an indulgently big open space – inlaid brick and slate slabs, of course, greenery only in confined concrete grave-beds, and of the prickly kind too. Perhaps some of the bushed might look friendlier, had they had any leaves, but on this cool, damp and foggy April morning, they were only prickly sticks, as bare and lifeless as the concrete building beyond them.
This urban opening – is it a park? – seems made even more open because University Avenue is a split road, with a wide median, keeping the buildings opposite farther than most city streets manage to. And, in addition to the squat bunker of a courthouse, there are several other ‘historical’ buildings which boast their opulence by not being tall: every square meter in the heart of Toronto’s downtown is serious money, so a building that is short is, in fact, wasting tons of money each minute it refuses to grow tall!
In order to attend the courthouse today, to hear the appeal in the case of Eric Brazeau, Canada’s honest-to-goodness political prisoner, I took the overnight bus from my home to Toronto, thinking this would be a convenient way to spend the night and arrive refreshed and ready to go. I can sleep quite comfortably on an airplane, in a car, so, why not a bus? After all, these days, long distance buses have more legroom than airplanes!
My 5-1/2 hour bus ride was to start at 1 am, so arrived at the station nice and early (2+hours ahead), so my poor, long-suffering hubby could get to bed. There I discovered that while the seating at the Ottawa bus depot is plentiful, it is uniquely uncomfortable… Oh, well. I put my earbuds in and listened to the audiobooks of ‘The Song of Ice and Fire’ by GRR Martin.
I read the books years ago, then followed the show faithfully. Now that the narratives of the two are set to diverge in the 5th season of the show, I thought I’d refresh my memory of the books by listening to the audiobooks of them when I had insomnia or time on my hands – like a bus ride between Ottawa and Toronto!
My plan seemed flawless….the key word being ‘seemed’!
It turns out that the seats on this particular doggy bus are even more uncomfortable than the Ottawa bus depot ones!
Not only is the seat short and somewhat forward sloped, making you feel like you will slide off the smooth surface of the seat with every slight breaking of the vehicle, the back rest is concave so that if your lower back is actually touching the seat, your head and shoulders are thrust into an aching forward-crouching position. And since the seat is so short, trying to sit sideways will jolt your ‘hanging’ hip with every pothole on the highway. And in today’s Ontario, the potholes on the highways are exquisite!
I was glad to escape my little torture-chamber on wheels when we reached the downtown Toronto bus depot at 6:30 in the morning! Making my way through the throng of waiting and eager taxi drivers, I walked the few short blocks from the bus depot to the courthouse, only stopping briefly at Timmy’s to pick up a tea.
Aside: I’ve discovered a most amusing way to converse with our British cousins! One time, in a line-up (queue for our cousins) I struck up a conversation with a couple of Brits in front of us. Inevitably, the Canadian obsession with Tim Horton’s came up. I professed my deep love and appreciation for fine tea, which met with their full appreciation. I ended by pointing out that tea just does not taste the same if it is served in anything but a Timmy’s paper cup!
I thought they were going to choke! But, eventually, they seemed comforted by the thought that I was just joking them – so I left them happy.
Currently, I am sitting on a cold concrete bench in front of that dungeon-ish courthouse and waiting for 8 o’clock, when the doors are supposed to open. Hence the, perhaps, over-sharing of my impressions and experiences so far.
As I am sitting here, typing, the sun is beginning to shine and burn off the early fog. It looks like it will be a glorious day outside! Let’s just hope that it will be as glorious inside…
Looking around, one cannot miss the centerpiece of this urban square: a nod to the Greek roots of our democracy. Sort of…
It is a statue-type thingy with the triangular roof resembling an ancient Athenian temple, but instead of supported by Greek pillars, it is supported by 12 flat, two-dimensional grey metal abstract representations of humans. 3 males and 3 females on each the front and back. These abstractions of the human figures are featureless – no faces, no arms: so the ‘triangle of justice’ roof thingy is not being supported by their arms, it is standing on their heads.
Let’s hope the justice meted out beyond them today will not also be standing on its head….