Law Text Culture


I can’t honestly say I remember, but the chances are it was cold: this was early March in Montreal after all and it usually is. I wandered south out of the Latin Quarter down through Chinatown and, as the buildings became gradually either taller or older — one or the other — through the business district. The Federal Court building was just on the corner there, after the road works and next-door to that ludicrously overpriced café with the pasta in the window. Through the revolving doors I found a man in a uniform and a dark blue hat with a badge sitting at a desk in the centre of a large room, only a metal detector for furniture and his security cameras for company. A few garbled words in French and I was pointed in the direction of the registrars’ office — juste là bas, through that door on the left. I asked to see a recent asylum file, any one at all as long as it was in English, and I remember that the lady on the other side of the counter only ducked away for a moment or two, presumably plucking the first one she could find from the nearest shelf, before reappearing case in hand. Confronting that first case in the little grey room they put me in was a thoroughly bemusing experience. For starters the file itself looked like nothing I had ever seen during the course of my law degrees. A great big blue folder (IMM: 2850-5) with a massive jumble of papers in it — six hundred pages probably, all told — bound together into various smaller bundles and arranged in no particular order that I could determine at the time at any rate. This was the law, ‘real’ law; I felt utterly unprepared for it. And so, naturally enough perhaps, my eye was drawn to the small brown folder that had been precariously attached to the larger one by a rubber band, but was now sitting there on the side, almost embarrassingly small by comparison to its big blue brother. Seemed like as good a place to start as any.