Do not judge a book by its cover

A few months ago a colleague gave me a book to read that he thought I would be interested in. We worked together on the Board of Directors of New Dawn Enterprises and I guess I made an impression. The book by Thomas Berger titled "One Man’s Justice: A Life in the Law" was supposed to be an autobiography of sorts( );  Hence, I wasn’t too eager to get into it. But, I do love to read, and the book came with a personalized note that encouraged me to read, learn, and pass it on because “books are meant to be read.”  I broke it open more out of boredom and guilt than any burning desire to read lawyers autobiography.  I’m glad I did.

I won’t do a full book review you can read those elsewhere. But, I will share some reflections. Thomas Berger was a lawyer in BC, for a time, a Supreme Court judge, and over the years he worked on some fascinating legal cases. Cases that made me think about human nature and what inspires people to act in one way or another. It provided me with a better understanding of Canada’s legal system and the power that lawyers and judges have had and can have in influencing society and for generations. (It also made me realize how much energy and stamina you need to argue as an individual when a much larger system is working against you.)

The most interesting parts for me were the numerous chapters on Aboriginal Rights Cases and his experience working with and for Aboriginal clients. He shared his few personal experiences with a handful of cases in BC.  I learned that I know very little about British Columbia and things that happened on that side of the country over the years.  Things that, had I lived in proximity, I may have heard of through news or discussion. The judicial system, the complex arguments, and the time required to fully unearth the truth about specific situations before you can get to the one critical bit of information are amazing to me. I feel I now have a greater appreciation for lawyers, but also for all the time and the work that has been invested to date to correct the purposeful wrong doings and simple mistakes of past governments.   It blows my mind to think about how many lawyers doing similar work on Aboriginal Rights and Treaty cases all across the country with so much passion. It blows my mind how hard they have to work and why they have to do the work in the first place. When I think about the sheer magnitude of how much is still left to be done, and about how many people still don’t understand what the key bits of information are, I’m overwhelmed. It will take so much longer to clean up the mess than it did to make it in the first place.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m also inspired by the energy, enthusiasm, and dedication of those who are working to address these issues and to educate the general populace. Canada has come a long way in the last 60 years.  But as often as I’m inspired, I’m also disappointed and discouraged to see how much ignorance still exists. I should learn to not  read the comments at the bottom of online articles from people who don’t understand the legacy of complexity that our communities and governments are navigating.

How long does it take to break a dish and how long would it take to fix it?  It’s relatively easy to destroy something beyond recognition and even when it’s mended it may never work the same as it did before.  My father was a person who would take apart something broken and save the pieces, he always believed they could be used again later to fix something else. I believe our indigenous communities have done the same. As their systems and societies were breaking down, they kept the most valuable pieces for re-use down the road. They couldn’t be put to use immediately but not knowing when they would be needed, they saved them believing they would be used again fix what would inevitably break.   

– Mary Beth