Canada’s cycle couriers: in the eyes of the law, roadkill

June 4, 2010

2004 Markus Cook Award Winner, Buffalo Bill writes an insightful piece about the failure of justice in Toronto.

By Buffalo Bill

The Guardian, May 28, 2010

What message does it send out that Michael Bryant faces no charges after his car crushed Darcy Allan Sheppard to death?

The video of the initial encounter is clear: a cyclist pulls up in front of a stationary car at red traffic light, and stops; after a few moments, the car jerks forward, reverses and then drives straight into the cyclist, knocking him off his bike and onto the bonnet and off again. The car stops briefly, and then drives around the cyclist to carry on down the road. As the car passes, the cyclist grabs hold of the car. Exactly what happens next is not as obvious, as there is no video, but at least this much is not disputed: the car moves over into the oncoming carriageway, hits some street furniture on the sidewalk, denting its side-panels, and at some point, the cyclist loses his grip on the car and falls dead in the roadway.

The driver later hands himself over the police and, in due course, is charged with “criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death”. Last week, the legal proceedings reached their conclusion. The charges against the driver were dropped by the special prosecutor appointed by the province of Ontario to investigate the case, who said that the prosecution had determined that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

An obvious miscarriage of justice, you might say, but an outcome that was feared by the Toronto messenger community once the identity of the driver became known. Michael Bryant is a former attorney general of Ontario, and Darcy Allan Sheppard was a bicycle messenger. The incident became a major media event, not least because Bryant engaged a well-known Canadian PR company very shortly after Sheppard’s death.

Read the full report at the Guardian

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Michael Bryant quietly gets a new job

December 6, 2009

Bay Street law firm Ogilvy Renault chooses entitlement over ethics

Mess Media, December 6, 2009

The Toronto Star reported yesterday that former attorney general Michael Bryant, who is facing criminal charges stemming from the killing of cyclist, Darcy Allan Sheppard, “has quietly begun work at a prestigious law firm.”

John West, senior partner at Ogilvy Renault‘s Toronto office, said Bryant is working with the firm’s energy law team.

“Michael is a person we believe brings a lot of value to the table. We recognize that in some quarters it could potentially be viewed as controversial … it’s just a human tragedy all around,” West said Friday.

“But, as lawyers, we believe in the rule of law … and that means we believe first of all in the presumption of innocence and Michael is entitled to the same treatment and respect that you and I are.

“The fact that he’s a former cabinet minister doesn’t mean that he gets lesser treatment, it means he’s entitled to the same treatment that all of us are … and Michael is equally entitled to earn a living.”

Bay Street law firm, Ogilvy Renault, with offices high atop the golden towers of the Royal Bank Plaza, certainly has the legal right to appoint Bryant to a privileged position but if the firm is only providing Bryant with the same treatment that all of us are entitled to then I’m sure Mr West could quickly name all of the other accused killers he has hired or that are currently employed by Ogilvy Renault.

The presumption of innocence applies to the rule of law. It doesn’t necessarily apply to hiring decisions and the public doesn’t require a criminal trial and a ruling by a judge to form an opinion. The public can watch what happened on video or listen to eyewitness statements as Michael Bryant’s “innocent until proven guilty” behaviour was captured live in front of many witnesses.

A couple of days after the killing of Darcy Allan Sheppard, Michael Bryant thought the charges were so serious that he should resign from his position as CEO of Invest Toronto. In a letter to Toronto Mayor David Miller, he wrote that :

“It would, however, be unfair to you, the (Invest Toronto) board and above all to the residents of Toronto to allow this event to distract from the vital efforts of Invest Toronto,” the statement says.

“I do not believe, however, that I can continue in this position on account of the circumstances of the past two days,”

In other words, Bryant’s employment at Invest Toronto is wrong but his employment at Ogilvy Renault is entitled.

What we can conclude from Michael Bryant’s statement and Ogilvy Renault’s hiring decision is that Ogilvy Renault and its senior partner, John West, have much lower ethics and standards than Invest Toronto and other firms.

Ogilvy Renault is the former employer of Brian Mulroney. “Mulroney twice failed his bar exams, but the firm kept him due to his charming personality.”