Senator Brazeau goes to court

Aaron Wherry on the scene at the Gatineau courthouse

The mob—maybe a dozen cameramen, a half dozen photographers and more than a dozen reporters and producers—had positioned itself in front of the elevators, in vague anticipation that the Senator would at some point soon be emerging from the floor above and walking a short distance to a nearby office where he would be required to deal with the necessary paperwork.

Courtgoers and staff stood around watching the mob as the mob stood around watching the elevators. There was some dispute with the courthouse security over the precise positioning of the mob—something about not blocking a nearby set of doors. Sheets of paper with the rules for the proper placement of an accredited mob were handed out. Negotiations eventually brokered a compromise whereby the mob would be able to maintain a position in view of the elevators without blocking anyone who wished to enter or exit the building.

And then the Senator came from a different direction, toward a different office, and the mob was forced to charge across the lobby to film the back of his head as he spoke to a woman at a kiosk who was seated behind Plexiglas.

(It is probably necessary to make an important distinction here about why this matters, at least insofar as it does “matter” in some larger context beyond the particular individuals involved and the laws of this land. Though the charges against Patrick Brazeau—one count of assault, one count of sexual assault—were filed at the end of a week in which he and other senators were subject to various other questions and criticisms concerning their conduct as senators, this particular situation is nothing to do with the Senate. There are many reasons to be done with the Senate, but the serious allegations now made against Senator Brazeau are not among them. The mob was here because he is a senator, but his being a senator is not related to the charges against him. The particular matters of the Senate are problematic. Mr. Brazeau’s legal situation is tragic and sad.)

There were television trucks on the corner and a battalion of cameras had stood by the back entrance of the Gatineau courthouse in anticipation of his arrival by van. The Senator’s appearance in court was brief and formal. He stood in a cordoned off air, flanked by two officers. A lawyer guided him through the short process. Another appearance was scheduled. He wore a long black coat. His long curly black hair came down to the base of his neck. He showed little emotion. Three sketch artists sat in the front row of the gallery, drawing him as he stood there.

Later, downstairs, he stood with his back to the cameras. Every time his head moved slightly to the left, revealing maybe half his face, there was a furious clicking of cameras. Eventually he tucked some paper into his coat jacket and, after consulting with two officers, turned to leave. There was a frenzy then as the mob rushed in close to record images of his exit and shout questions at him. Security officers led him through a narrow gap between a glass wall and a cement pillar. A sign for the courthouse coffee shop was trampled as the mob, now with the Senator at its centre, stumbled all around him. He said nothing and was quickly directed toward a door where he could safely escape. In the aftermath, a cameraman likened the scene to a “zoo.”