It could well have happened
Where else but in The Interim could you read such a hot news item? Where else but in Canada would the prime minister of the country be convicted of threatening an intruder with an Inuit carving?
Somebody spiked my tonic water recently and I found myself dreaming I was in a Québec courtroom reporting the trial of André Dallaire, the man accused of trying to kill Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and his wife, Aline. (Québec was able to extradite Dallaire from a jail in Ottawa on the grounds the P.Q. claimed that he would not be able to get a fair trial anywhere but in Québec).
When Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard entered the courtroom to be sworn in as character witnesses for André Dallaire and gave André a high five when they passed him on the way to the witness stand — things did not appear to be hopeful. And when I looked up and saw a large painting of Réné Lévesque over the judge’s chair I began to look for the exit.
Bernard Landry, the defence counsel, was the spitting image of the late General Charles de Gaulle, with a personality disorder that didn’t seem to bother him one bit.
When his tongue wasn’t lashing helpless witnesses, it was cloyingly supportive of other witnesses whose ability for total recall for what they wanted to recall was astonishing. From the sworn evidence given, many onlookers might have been left with the impression that Jean Chrétien and Aline had broken into Andre Dallaire’s bedroom and threatened him with a knife.
To prosecute the case, the P.Q. government had selected a young government lawyer whose only previous law experience was handling the disposal of government real estate in Chicoutimi. He gave bumbling a new meaning.
When Landry got through eulogizing André Dallaire, “that brave nationalist from the soil of Québec,” and “that freedom fighter,” you felt that the Nobel Peace Prize was only a matter of time.
On the witness stand Dallaire became a cross between Joan of Arc and Mother Teresa. I was a little concerned when I saw the jury as a body rise up and throw their arms around Dallaire. And when the crowd in the courtroom had to be restrained from carrying him out on the street on their shoulders I just put that down to an excess of Gallic enthusiasm.
I thought Jean Chrétien was used to the rough and tumble of the House of Commons debates but he was a French omelette in the hands of Landry. Landry bellowed at Chrétien on the witness stand: “Were you not aware that André Dallaire had only come to 24 Sussex Drive at 2:30 a.m. to look for a job as a chef because he could not find you in during the daytime? Were you not aware that he was carrying a knife only to demonstrate that he was quite capable of cutting up vegetables with only a small pocket knife?”
“Were you not aware that this native son of Québec sought only a country of his own?! And you feel no shame, Monsieur Chrétien—you the traitor—about denying him and millions of others their rightful aspirations? Shame! I say shame!!
Loud applause filled the courtroom. “And what about that bloody glove that the RCMP found on the grounds? Where is that—I ask? Where is that?”
“What bloody glove?” Chrétien asked, astounded.
“Oh sorry—wrong case,” replied Landry.
At that time, it didn’t really matter what Landry said. “Did you not realize the damage you have done to the image of the Inuit people by threatening my client with an Inuit carving? What is an Inuit carving carved for, Mr. Prime Minister? Certainly not for striking people—of any race. Is this the kind of hospitality that André Dallaire can expect from the Canadian people in the future! Shame! I say shame!”
It was then that government lawyer asked for an adjournment and agreed to a guilty plea for Chrétien of threatening with a deadly weapon and a suspended sentence. Aline was let off scot free. I heard the federal government has appointed nine new Supreme Court Justices—all staunch Liberals—and is appealing the verdict.
Chrétein should win that one.