Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What Does An Ordinary Hero Do For Kicks?

Judge Joe Donohue Heads to the Arctic

H/t Norm Sutherland

The Honourable Mr. Justice Joseph M. W. Donohue is a judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, in the South West Region of the Province.  Here come da Judge, this time for a one week volunteer stint in the Arctic, not your fun in the sun capital during the winter time.

The Sarnia Observer notes the following:
Joseph Donohue won't be using his free time to visit a palm-treed beach this winter.
"I've been out shopping for all my cold weather equipment," said the Superior Court Justice, who leaves Sunday for Nunavut where he'll serve as a deputy judge for a week.
"I'm calling it my island vacation in the winter," he said. "My all expenses-paid trip to Nunavut, to work."
Donohue will join a "court team" that includes legal-aid lawyers and prosecutors.

"They have a contingent of judges who will travel there from time to time," Donohue explained. "They needed a judge so I volunteered to help out."

Judges who travel to the Arctic preside over everything imaginable -- and quickly, he said.

"Everything on the docket at once. It all has to be wrapped up because a judge may not be back there for six months."

The experience is expected to be a far cry from the proceedings of Ontario courtrooms.

"Everything is kind of rough," he said. "There's no real courthouses there. You have to use whatever community hall is available.

"And all the proceedings will be interpreted," he added, noting the languages spoken include Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English and French.

"I will have village elders sitting beside me to advise me," he said.

Donohue said crime statistics in Nunavut are about twice as high as those in Ontario, with substance abuse and spousal abuse rampant.
Though the territory has just 30,000 inhabitants, there are currently 11 murder and nine attempted murder trials pending.
"If we had that same ratio in Lambton County, we'd have 80 pending charges of that sort," he said.
"The conditions are very harsh there," he added, noting rising unemployment and poverty. "They don't have the same opportunities we do."
Donohue will be stationed in Rankin Inlet, an Inuit hamlet high on the northwest shore of Hudson Bay.
He's already heard the stories from a handful of judges who have made the trip. One described a minus-50 degree windchill, and another who was actually stranded in a blizzard for six days.
"I hear there's more polar bears there than people," the judge said with a laugh. "I hope I only meet the people."
But he's already talking about return trips.
"I hope it will be an eye-opener for me," he said. "And I'm sure if it works out, they'll need me for years to come."

Another lawyer who has known him for almost 40 years had these things to say about him:
I have known Joe Donohue for almost forty years. . . .  He is a great guy, and he should do famously Up North.  I have appeared before him in Chambers, and . . . I . . .  remember being impressed by (his) equanimity.  I asked him once how he managed to appear at all times to be at peace with himself and the world; he just patted the breast pocket of his shirt, and said "This is the answer".  He pulled out a well-worn copy of The New Testament and just smiled.
I just realized the above notes about Joe sound like a eulogy;  I didn't mean that.  But I do admire the man and his life-work.  He will be applying high moral values in his decisions Up North, and will certainly be listening to the elders beside him.  He has no false pride. 
If you want to be an Ordinary Hero, you don't have to go to such extremes.  Heroism is not temperature controlled.  It is about blooming where you are planted, or in this case temporarily transplanted.

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