In what is something of a departure (in length, rather than its serious intent) the current (Winter) issue of Precedent magazine carries an excellent cover story by senior editor Daniel Fish about Michael Bryant. The coverline asks the apt question: Whatever happened to Michael Bryant? The former attorney general of Ontario who was caught up in a controversial prosecution after a confrontation with a cyclist on Bloor Street in Toronto, a confrontation that turned into a tragedy. And after a considerable and complicated aftermath how he is in the process of rebuilding his life built on empathy for the less fortunate, spending long hours as duty counsel in bail court in Brampton.
I asked him if there is anything he now finds toxic about the justice system that didn’t bother him as attorney general. “Start with this: everyone I represent today is in cuffs. And they’re innocent. That’s wrong.” To cuff everyone, he says, strips them of their presumption of innocence. “And if you treat people like they’re guilty, they start to believe they’re guilty. That’s when they start thinking, Well, you know what, I’m sitting in cuffs. I’m in jail. I must have done something wrong. Then they plead guilty.”The personal transformation of Bryant into a criminal lawyer for an underclass who badly need one, ..well, you can read about it yourself online. And you'll know, at least in part, the answer to the cover question.