A TRUE STORY OF ADDICTION TRAGEDY AND HOPE
A night that began with a dinner to celebrate his twelfth wedding anniversary ended in a jail cell for Michael Bryant. He was charged with dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing the death of cyclist Darcy Sheppard. Ironically, he had helped write the legal test for the same charges sixteen years earlier.
Bryant, as Ontario's attorney general, was the man responsible for administering 500,000 criminal charges every year in that province. He now faced prosecution by the same justice system. The charges were eventually dropped, but nothing could undo what had happened to Sheppard—or Bryant.
t was at the end of a draining three-hour interrogation, on March
23, 2010, that the prosecutor asked me a question. “Would you
have done anything differently that night,” he said, “knowing what
you now know?”
Before I could answer, my lawyer, Marie Henein, began yelling at him. This served two purposes: it shut me up, and it made her objection crystal clear to all in earshot. The question, after all, was speculative and hypothetical. Witnesses, it is axiomatic, should never, ever answer those. Marie made her point emphatically, as is her custom, and the prosecutor half-grinned as he quickly backtracked. Almost in spite of myself, when things fizzled into a brief silence, I answered:
“I never would have left the house,” I said quietly.
But I did leave the house.
IT WAS AUGUST 31, 2009. It was the 12th anniversary of my marriage to Susan Abramovitch. It was a lovely, late-summer day in Toronto. It was the morning of the night that everything changed.
“Happy anniversary,” she said, stirring beside me. And we hugged. No kiss. Twelve years of marriage, 17 years together, two kids. And morning breath. No kiss.
“So what are we doing?”
My voice croaked to life. “Well, I thought that ...”
This wasn’t actually true. I hadn’t thought anything. I remembered it was our anniversary because, a few seconds ago, she’d said so.
I had no gift, no plan, even though I’d been responsible for arranging something in the way of celebration. That was my job, probably because I was in the doghouse.
I was usually in the doghouse that summer. Somehow, I wasn’t engaged with the same human race of which my wife was a member. I was a distracted presence in my own marriage, my mind usually somewhere else. I was going through the pressure of a career change, a significant reorientation, maybe even something of a small mid-life crisis.
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Michael Bryant is a former Ontario Cabinet Minister, former Attorney General, and Harvard-educated lawyer. Bryant is currently a Principal at Ishkonigan, a consulting and mediation firm owned and operated by former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine. It assists indigenous communities, governments and the private sector to do business together. He also teaches at the University of Toronto. Bryant lives with his two children in Toronto.