"Blogging isn't journalism, it's graffiti with punctuation."

Canadian Politics

I did three live on-air media interviews in 24 hours: a day in the life

So I’ve done a LOT of media interviews in my life. I’ve been a guest on TV talk shows, TV morning shows, TV news reports, I’ve done countless radio interviews, and I’ve been interviewed many times for print publications. In addition, the fact that I was a cast member for two different TV shows probably prepared me for a lot of the intricacies that comes with dealing with the media. And let’s not forget, I work in media! I’ve been a freelance writer and columnist since Christ was a cowboy. So perhaps I occupy this strange little nook where not only do I write stories for the media, I am actually sometimes the story.

Case in point – Remembrance Day. A couple weeks ago I was contacted by AMI audio, a radio station that caters to people with different disabilities. They had found my Globe & Mail essay about my collection of wartime love-letters, and wanted to interview me about the topic. Naturally, I said of course, and we did the interview early on Remembance Day morn. You can listen to it here or by clicking the soundcloud link below!

Fun, right? All in a day’s work. After that was over, I went about my regular day-gig as a columnist for The Loop and didn’t expect much else to occur.

Then I checked my Twitter.

A tweet of mine from the night before, wherein I was critical of the inflammatory comments Don Cherry made about new Canadians, had kind of blown up. It wasn’t exactly viral, I’ve had other tweets with larger traction than this one, but I guess it spoke to a lot of people. It clearly also spoke to CTV News Network because I found in my inbox an interview request from them.

Before I know it, I’m on Skype with the producers, whilst doing my makeup sans-mirror and trying to fix the lighting in my living room before BAM! I’m suddenly live on-air coast-to-coast to a national audience. Guy, I wish I were kidding when I tell you that it all happened so fast, I forgot to put on a bra.


It’s a very short interview, but it came out okay AFAIC. You can watch it on the CTV News Network channel here or watch it on Youtube below!

Then, after that interview was done, and my social media was blowing up with Tweets, DMs, and messages from people all across the country (Hi angry message boards! Yes I am a woman with an opinion! EVERYBODY SHIT YOURSELVES), yet ANOTHER interview request popped into my inbox from my old pals at CJAD 800.

You might remember I was interviewed by them earlier this year about my time as a cast member of two  TV shows, and this time they wanted my hot take on Don Cherry and also to talk about my unique family and our contributions to the war effort.

So this morning, after I had submitted my latest column for The Loop, I went live on-air for yet ANOTHER interview! You can listen to it here, or by clicking the interview below!

They all went very well and I’m super pleased with how everything turned out. But it’s crazy how life comes at ya fast. One day you’re writing essays, the next you have second to prepare before your face is being seen by thousands of people across the country. Hi country!

In any case, I have been selling a lot of stories lately and I’m still writing up a storm, so to keep up to date, please visit the official Christine Estima dot com for more of my media interviews, my published works, and more!

Why I Wish I Never Reported My Assault: read my latest essay in @WalrusMagazine

After the Jian Ghomeshi essay, and the Kavanaugh Hearings, it felt like a timely and relevant idea to get my story out.

I don’t have anything else to say on the matter.

In terms of writing, this process was an extremely long one. For obvious reasons, this essay had to be fact-checked. But the process took over two months, mostly because the magazine (bless ’em) wanted to make sure they had crossed all the T’s and dotted all the i’s, in case anyone wanted to come back at me and call me a liar.

The burden of proof the fact-checker required was greater than what the police required to press charges against my assailant.

So I double-dare you to call me a goddamned liar.

Thanks for reading and for the support, my munchkins.

Fuck the patriarchy.

In other news, I spent the weekend with photographer and fellow writer Graham Isador, who took nice shots of me on a rooftop.

If you don’t think photographs are important, wait until they’re all you have left.

Check out my official website Christine Estima dot com for more of my published works.

Innsbruck street art



Someone in Innsbruck thinks they are Banksy. This is one of Banksy’s old stencils, but I highly doubt this is a Banksy original. I am pretty sure this is a forgery, but whatever, we love Banksy round hurrr.



Ghetto rat with MAH-JAH bling.



Austrians love to love. ICH LIEBE DICH! (that’s what she said)




Another Bansky rat. This is why I question the authenticity of this stencil. Banksy would never put two of the same stencil in the same place.







Fight Nazis Rats. I guess Nazism is still a problem in Austria? Hitler WAS an Austrian after all … I dunno. But I found this stencil several times.



Another bridge with the lovers locks on it. Found these in Ljubljana, in Paris, in New York, in Toronto, in London …. every city does it!






This is a lovely wheatpaste, it is a shame so many people were walking by without noticing the CHEEZBURGER.



AWW. fatty.



This was a tile! I love this kind of ceramic art.



Perhaps Antifa is a taggers name, I dunno.



Me too! Let us throw things and then dance like children of the night.



Jokes aside, well done. Very thought-provoking.



You again?



It’s LE PETIT PRINCE! Someone made a stencil of Le Petit Prince! ZOMG you hafta message me because I wanna be your friend.



We get it already!



Superman logo backwards, with the caption Mindfuck.

Ok, I dig it.



I like stencils of CCTV cameras. Dunno why, it makes me feel like an anarchist making fun of authority or something.



COOL! Someone put up a stencil of Barack Hussein Obama. I don’t know how old this stencil is, but I was in Cambodia when he was reelected as the POTUS. So I feel a bit out of the loop on things. But speaking of politics, I just found out that Toronto’s stupid monkey Mayor Rob Ford has been removed from office by the courts for conflict of interest. I CAN JUST IMAGINE ALL THE WONDERFUL GRAFFITI BIDDING HIM ADIEU GOING UP IN PARKDALE RIGHT NOW! If you check out my Fordzilla category, you will find a whole bunch of graffiti and street art from around Toronto poking fun at his shitstormanity. I just made up a word. Go me.


Oh-Bama, you are Ba-racking my world.



pretty sure this is the fine work of Denial 🙂

Shaw and Argyle 🙂

Harper: turning Canada into a deathstar since 2005.

Fuck Charest, la résistance est un devoir!

As promised yesterday, here’s a nice post on the Montreal student protests. Graffitists and street artists have done some amazing work around the plateau and Mile End, expressing their anger but also their solidarity.

For more in the Montreal student protests, read the Wiki of it. All I want to do right now is relish in the photos!

The above red stencil was found outside the Mont-Royal metro. It translates to “Resistance is your homework” and has an image of an A+ grade on a red square. It’s a call for Montreal students to protest because it is more important than their exams.

This was found in the back alleys of Mont-Royal near Christophe-Colombe. For those of you who don’t know, Jean Charest is the premier of Quebec.

As I mentioned yesterday, the red square is the symbol of the student’s resistance. I found it spraypainted all over Van Horne near St. Laurent. Here’s one.

Here’s another.

And another.

This was stencil’d on the sidewalk right next to the red squares.

a beautifully-realized stencil of a police officer, with a red square on his breast, which says “avec vous dans l’ombre.” that translates to “with you in the shadows.”

so glad i spotted that from afar!

I found this stop sign on Saint-Viateur near St. Urbain. Reminds me of this, n’est-ce pas?

found in an alley near Mont-Royal and brebeuf. it looks like this originally said “l’argent et la mort” which means “money and death.” but then it was changed to “l’argent est la mort” which means “money IS death.”

PLQ is a political party in Quebec, and this roughly translates to “The PLQ is in the shitter”

fuck mcgill!

no justice
no peace
fuck the police

a stencil of a riot cop

and another one

this says “Leave Iraq, leave afghanistan.” This confuses me a little, because while Canadian soldiers are in Afghanistan, we never went to Iraq. Canada didn’t participate in the Iraq war. Maybe this isn’t just about Canada, but meant for others outside our borders. Or maybe it’s meant for stupid monkey Prime Minister Harper, who wanted our troops in Iraq.

Rob Ford’s Vandalism

I had previously found two instances of “VAN”-dalism (here and here) but I hadn’t seen one in a while!

i go by this wall often, and the “rob ford” had been there for a while, but the VAN-dalism wheatpaste is new. the two aren’t done by the same artist (i don’t think), but they are definitely related thematically.

$20 says right this very instant, Rob Ford is saying something stupid in public.

Photos the media didn’t print of the Montreal Student Protests

copyright Darren Ell

does silence equal compliance?

this guy doesn’t seem to think so. the line through the equal symbol means, no, silence doesn’t equal compliance.

i disagree.

found in an alleyway behind The Green Room.

Ontario Court of Justice=Ontario Court of Profanity

This year I have spent way to much time in court houses! Earlier this year I was called in for jury duty for a First Degree Murder Trial (which I blogged about here, and subsequently broke the internet. Hello traffic!), and today I attended traffic court to fight a ticket I received in 2010. Speedy trial, eh? Two years later, I get my court date! That’s justice for you.

Anyway, I won my trial. I went to traffic court once before, about 10 years ago, and the officer didn’t show up so my case was dismissed. This time, the officer showed, so I had to go to trial. I was the only person who had to go to trial at this session, so I watched all the other cases go before the judge and what not, and was the last person to be called forward.

When I was called forward, the prosecutor (a spindly, sour-faced, fraction of a woman whose antic disposition was written in the huge crevices of her face) asked me if the parking officer and I had shared our information and evidence. I said no, so the three of us (the prosecutor, the officer, and myself) stepped aside while court was in session to go over each others evidence.

The parking officer was a bit hyper and kept interrupting me, so I said, “I’d like to finish my thought, you’re not letting me finish my thought.”

The prosecutor then said to me, I kid you not,

“Clearly you’re not going to shut up so let’s go back into the court room.”

WHILE COURT WAS IN SESSION, this green-pants-suit prosecutor hurled profanity and abusive language at me.

Shocked and appalled, I looked at her and literally said, “Did you just tell me to shut up? It’s inappropriate for you to speak to me that way and I find your language offensive.”

She then addressed the judge and said that I was interrupting court proceedings. ME!

Yeah, because I’m the one hurling obscenities while court was in session.

There are signs posted outside and inside that court room which say that abusive language will not be tolerated, yet the court prosecutor hurled abusive language at me (which at best was inappropriate and at worst was offensive) and NO ONE disciplined her.

I won my court case because the parking officer was a bit scattered and contradicted herself on the stand, so the case was dismissed and thrown out. Yay!

But after I left the court room, the parking officer came up to me and said that she found the prosecutor to be “rude and out of order” and that she felt sorry for me when the prosecutor spoke to me that way. Other people in the area, who witnessed her speaking to me that way, also came up to me to express their disgust about her language.


Clearly this prosecutor thinks all people are stupider than her and beneath her, and she has the right to speak to me that way. Everyone is an idiot, right lady? Who cares how you speak to them? You’re a PROSECUTOR!

Well, you may think being a prosecutor means you’re in the upper echelons of society, but really, all it confirms is that you’re a liar, a cheat, a swindler, a hustler, and untrustworthy. And tantamount to that, you’re also filthy-mouthed and lack proper manners.

And let’s not forget, I won my case!

So I’ve sent a complaint to the Attorney General.

Remember, citizens, no one has the right to speak to you that way, especially in a court of law.

Fight the power! Stand up for yourself!

Did I mention I won my court case?


(* above artwork by Deadboy, ‘natch)

EDIT: I’ve also sent a complaint to the Toronto Prosecution Services, and to the Law Society of Upper Canada

Rob Ford is no quitter! (when it comes to eating)

we all know rob ford loves his gravy


but now, our stupid monkey mayor Rob Ford has gone a step further and proved it.

back in January, our 330 lbs-of-fun Mayor launched a “cut the waist” program designed to inspire others to lose weight. since he is considered morbidly obese, he joined in with the goal of losing 50 lbs by June

guess who just scrapped the program because he was eating at KFC and McDonalds every day and couldn’t drop the weight?

Rob Ford found out that losing weight is analogous to being a Mayor. It requires EFFORT. And in both cases, he’s failed.

(ps nice work, as always, Spud)

time to drink a scarborough suitcase


it’s Victoria Day long weekend!

for my international readers, we Canadians affectionately call this weekend “May 2-4” because it occurs in-and-around May 24th,

AND a 2-4 is slang for a case of 24 beers (in scarborough, ontario,  it’s called a ‘scarborough suitcase‘ hahaha).

I’m off to cottage country for the long weekend, cannot wait for the fireworks along the beach!

enjoy your 2-4s responsibly, hombres!

Listen Bird: 330 lbs of pure bullshit!

the great thing about riding your bike around toronto is that you get to explore the nooks and crannies those stupid cars can’t squeeze into…. AND ya don’t hafta worry about parking. a couple weeks ago, i’m riding my bike through the annex and found this Listen Bird!

no where but up!

then i’m scooting south from the annex into parkdale and find this OTHER Listen Bird!

this Listen Bird looks like it’s a bit old, but it’s still awesome! it’s referencing out shiteous mayor rob ford.

Rob Ford once described himself as 330 lbs of fun….. lots of other street artists have poked fun at that…. and LB says he’s 330lbs of pure bullshit. last name WIN, first name EPIC.

I have a pretty cool collection of Listen Birds that i’ve found around toronto and montreal if you’re so inclined to click!

Rob Ford would never eat an apple

found this in graffiti alley.

considering that Mayor Rob Ford weighs 330 pounds, and cannot lose weight even though he publicly weighs in every week in the hopes of cutting the fat, that man probably hasn’t eaten an apple in years …. unless it was in the form of a McDonald hot apple pie.

of course, this apple has a worm coming out of it…

no wait, that’s his brother.

DeadBoy is Under The Influence

Moi & DeadBoy at his gallery opening! photo by Rob (who was tanked on the awesomesauce.)

Last night, DeadBoy launched his Under The Influence exhibit at the Don’t Tell Mama gallery (on the Ossington strip), and the exhibit is up for the rest of the month. I would highly recommend checking it out, and buying one of his pieces asap before they’re all snatched up. I’m telling all of you now – in a couple years, his pieces will be selling at Christie’s and Sotheby’s for 6 figures. Mark my words. Buy now! Collector items and they’re fucking gorgeous.

See for yourself:

from his “Adore” series.

this is the one Adore piece that hasn’t hit the streets… yet.

does this piece look familiar? it should.

back in October, Deadboy gave me this piece. it was the very first piece of his i had ever found on the street, and to this day, it is still my favourite and means the most to me. sometimes i get pre-menstrual just looking at it…. stupid girlie hormones. (sniffle).

the piece he’s selling is gold instead of white like mine…. it really makes the image pop and gives it a haunting, antiquated quality to it.


and speaking of “Madonna,” back in 1983 when she was working the club scene like CBGBs and Danceteria in New York, she briefly dated a then-unknown street artist named….

Basquiat! i think this is my favourite piece at the entire exhibit. it’s an homage to one of the first street artists to change and revolutionize the form. Deadboy actually created this on a door he found! i love found-art! if you know anything about Basquiat when he was a street artist, his tag was “samo” with the crown symbol next to it, which deadboy has incorporated here. Basquiat said that “samo” was in reference to art being “same old same old” but the word also is related to racist language (sambo) used during slavery (and for a century afterwards).

Basquiat influenced his girlfriend Madonna so much, that for a brief time, she engaged in graffiti around new york as well. Her tag was… you guessed it…. “Boy Toy.”

Basquiat eyes. I really really want this door, but I can’t actually USE it as a door because I have a tendency to slam my doors when i’m pissed off (which is often. i have a temper).

“thanks for not voting!”
this one guy showed up at the exhibit and said to me that he found this piece offensive because he’s a card-carrying member of the Conservative party. i said, “really? my condolences.”

the dude then went on and on about how he thinks Canadians abuse the health care system because it’s universal, whereas in other countries where they have to pay for it, they don’t go to the doctor as often. i told him he was talking out of his ass, and that caring for its citizens and ensuring the right to life for every member of society should be the first priority of a government.

he said his taxes were too high because of our universal health care…. to which i replied, “oh of course. who cares about the suffering and disease of other people. all you should care about is your bottom line.”

and he goes, “exactly. i don’t care about other people as long as i’m making money.”

and there you have it folks – this one douche perfectly sums up the Canadian Conservative party in one sentence.

he then got all defensive and was like, “i don’t want to debate my political beliefs!”
and i calmly replied, “you brought it up, dude. i didn’t ask for your political beliefs, you offered up the info to me and started ranting. if you don’t wanna debate it, don’t bring it up.”

opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. and while i respect your RIGHT to an asshole, i don’t respect the shit that comes out of it.

the eponymous piece.

la piece de resistance.

that’s goddamn right. ATHEISM FOR THE WIN!

Check out my DeadBoy category for more of his work that I’ve photographed, and please please please go to his exhibit! It runs all month! Buy art!

Social Media Street Art: Facebook “likes” the city

i found this on the sidewalk on college street near bellevue. i almost didn’t recognize it because my Facebook account is set to french, so i’m never clicking “like,” i’m clicking “j’aime.” i think if it hadn’t been for the distinct blue used in this stencil, i might have missed it. the thumbs-up symbol is a bit distorted as well, it looks like a weathered mitt.

that being said, i fucking J’AIME this to death. i have no idea who the artist is behind it, but i love the idea of social media mingling with street art, because that is essentially what this blog does!

social media has a huge political component to it, as it has the power to encourage revolutions, to whistle-blow on corrupt regimes, to bring hidden scandals to light, and to spread the daily news of the world to people who might not otherwise see it.

street art is very much the same, as it has a huge political component to it, the power to encourage revolutions, and to satirize/comment on/lampoon political leaders, corrupt regimes, along with the ability to question what the news corporations are telling us to believe.

so to summarize: more of this mingling, please. the two mediums are so heavily linked, they deserve to occupy the same conversations in greater frequencies.

Rob Ford’s Gravy

so i’m walking down Markham street when i see a familiar face looking down at me…. see it?

i have found those Rob Ford Gravy stickers many, many times before, but i’m always delighted when i find them again, because they are so cleverly done. they incorporate Shepard Fairey’s “obey” style, whilst poking fun at our stupid Mayor’s end to the ‘gravy train.’

for those of you outside of toronto, our Mayor Rob Ford (whom Keith Olbermann called ‘the worst person in the world.‘ TRUE STORY) had this redonkulous campaign promise to “end the gravy train” at city hall…. even though our previous mayor david miller left the city with a huge surplus …. turns out there was no gravy, unless you count the extra sauce on our obese mayor’s plate. Yes, yes, I know fat jokes have no place in a civilized discourse about our mayor, and i feel bad for saying that to an extent … but i find it rather fitting that a mayor who feeds off of greed, avarice, corporate corruption, conflicts of interest, and appealing to his wealthy base whilst marginalizing many groups in toronto would call for an end to “gravy” when it seems that very gravy is sugar-coating every bad decision he makes in this city…. and he’s a fat cat as a result. the man has so much gravy, he’s probably knee-deep in gout and scurvy.

horrible cunt.

and a few blocks away, here was another sticker.

i never did find out who was behind these stickers …. but to the anonymous artist … nicely done!

our mayor sucks!

YYZILLA: the garbage can is your polling station

much like the elections canada vote here” stencils i found spray-painted on garbage cans on queen street a couple weeks ago, street artist YYZILLA (who may have been behind the former…. who knows) takes the idea a step further on garbage cans in kensington market.

if you’re not from toronto, the artist’s name is a bit of a double entendre. the airport code for toronto’s largest airport (pearson airport) is YYZ. so i’m assuming he thinks he’s toronto’s godzilla of street art. that remains to be seen, but if the rest of his work is amazeballs like this, i would be highly inclined to agree.

a further note about my watermarks: as i blogged about last week, i have decided to watermark all my photos from now on to prevent people from ripping me off. yes, it may ruin the aesthetic and composition of my photos, but it’s necessary in order to protect my intellectual and creative property on the internet.

just remember everyone that i’m doing this blog for free.

how i go graff-hunting FOR HOURS EVERY DAY,  i write,  i take hundreds and hundreds of photographs every month, i design, update, curate, and operate this blog every day FOR FREE.

AND EVEN IF I WAS GETTING PAID TO DO THIS (which i’m not), that still wouldn’t give anyone the right or the tacit authority to steal from me.

you know, i’m really not interested in being a martyr for street art. i love the shit to death, so i photograph it and share it for free with people who love it.

but honestly, there are very few people in the toronto graff and street art scene who are genuine people. most that i’ve encountered are self-serving brown-nosing users. they think that because you’re courteous to them, you will also be their monkey.

seriously, sending me message after message, asking me to plug their projects in my posts, mining me for artist contacts, for insider info,  for access into the graff community, and even (incredulously) asking me to spy on opposing crews, while offering in exchange only some kinda bullshit promise of being included in their next “big project” at some point isn’t going to make me shit my pants with excitement, nor with gratitude.

i’m bored about blogging about this already.

hey, let’s bring the focus back to YYZILLA! dude, i feel like i’ve photographed your stuff before, but if you didn’t put your tag next to your work, i might not have known it was you. got a website? a flickr? a tumblr? lemme know so i can photograph more of your exciting work.

Elections Canada throws your vote in the garbage

Garbage bin number one.

For my international readers who may not get what this is referencing, other than the obvious, the current conservative federal administration is embroiled in a “robo-calls” controversy right now, where liberal and NDP voters were told that their polling stations had changed locations during the last federal election, when in fact no such change had occurred. the calls originated from members of the conservative (aka ruling) party, and were an attempt to prevent opposition votes from being logged. That’s our disgusting prime minster for you. Stephen Harper, try polishing that turd. And stop building your death star.

literally, if you try voting in this country, it will most likely end up in the rubbish bin.

it all goes back to that infamous saying — “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

Garbage bin number two.

Garbage bin number three. Some people just don’t notice their surroundings, she’s blissfully oblivious.

These were stencil’d all along queen street, just west of bathurst. I don’t know who the anonymous street artist is, but if it’s you, email me! I wanna give you props, brah!

women, we gon’ march

International Women’s Day (which is tomorrow, March 8th) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. This past weekend, there was a protest march in toronto to draw attention to the issues in this city and country that affect women.

i love these events because they show just how informed, organized, and tightly regimented our communities are when it comes to issues that affect  not just women, but everyone. Notice how it’s not just women in this march.

they shut down yonge street, and were protected by The Filth (aka the cops), who prevented cars and traffic from getting anywhere near them. while i am grateful that i do live in a city and a country where the right to assemble and to protest is protected, i am still DISGUSTED by how that same right was denied us during the G20 in 2010. That stain will never be removed from the core of Torontonian’s hearts. We will never forget how peaceful protestors were beaten, detained, kettled, and illegally arrested.

“break the cycles, stop the silence, women in jail is state violence!”

“capitalism can’t be fixed – expropriate the banks!”

toronto women’s city alliance.

“free maricon montajes! free all political prisoners in the philippines!”

as we were observing this protest, someone said to me “international women’s day? when is international men’s day?”


march 8th and december 6th (national day of remembrance and action on violence against women) must be kept holier than the sabbath.

the function of the people

the city should be the function of the ppl, the ppl should not be the function of the city


You hear that, city council?

found in an alleyway near ossington and dundas

Jack Layton: Alive in our hearts

Jack Layton’s death, which gripped our country and sent us into an everlong wave of mourning, has somehow been inextricably linked with street art. When he passed,  ordinary citizens grabbed pieces of coloured chalk and wrote their condolences into the pavement in front of city hall, as I did here.

And then, the street art community responded with their own spraypainted tributes and stencil’d remembrances.

To this day, it continues. This above photograph is of Jack Layton’s home.  His wife, MP Olivia Chow, still lives there. When he passed, that porch and walkway was covered in flowers, lit candles, little gifts, and notes.  Now it’s clear.

Or is it?

Look closer. Do you see it?

I took this photograph, and then had to walk away really quickly down the street and around the corner. I slammed my heels down with each footfall, with an exaggerated force, so that my tendons would ache and my toes would callus. I pulled my hoodie over my head and didn’t look anyone in the eye for the rest of the afternoon.

you’re not my eater, i’m not your food

took a day offa bloggin’ yesterday because it was a statutory Canadian holiday called Family Day. for all my international readers, it’s basically a bullshit bank holiday dreamed up by our conservative government as a new form of torture. i mean, really, who wants to spend time with their family? TORTURE, I TELLS YA.

anyway, time to dropbox like it’s hot.

ADORE is really good at stickers and tagging his name …. just waiting for him to do something, you know, interesting.

a massive erection

golden globes, sag awards, oscars… it will never end. if celebrities stop publicly congratulating each other, then the earth wins.

now let’s take a solemn moment to remember some of the stars of showbiz who sadly ARE STILL WITH US.

… and the award for special effects goes to the team behind Stephen Harper’s smile.

the juror

EDIT: hey CBC Ottawa!

I see you reading this post like every flippin’ day! if you want to know something, just ask! stop making me paranoid with all the stalkin’! hee!

i wasn’t selected to serve as a juror, so i can now talk about it.

a few weeks ago, i received a summons from the attorney general to attend jury duty selection. citizens of canada are chosen at random, so anyone can be required to fulfill their civic duty as long as they have never been convicted of a serious criminal offence, are legally sane, are medically able to, aren’t in law enforcement or lawyers, and are 18 years of age.

usually, when people get jury summons, it’s not for a particular case, but for a wide range of cases that they may or may not be selected for. however, this summons was for a particular case, and in it, they provided me the name of the defence and crown lawyers, the two accused, all of the witnesses, and all of the police officers involved in this case.

the reason i was given the names of everyone involved ahead of time was so that i could confirm that i, in no way, knew any of the people involved. if i did know any of the people involved, that would be a conflict, and i would immediately be dismissed.

i was summoned for the First Degree Murder trial of Jermaine Gager and Corey Smelie who are accused of shooting Darnell Grant in 2008 in the Jane & Finch area. Grant, 31, died at the scene. at the time, gager was 18 years old and smelie was 20 years old. they have spent the past 3 years in jail awaiting their trial. back in 2008, they were charged with second degree murder, but since this was now a First Degree Murder trial, i guess the crown must believe they have evidence to suggest this murder was premeditated.

i showed up at the superior court of justice on the morning of january 26th. gager and smelie were sitting in the dock in the courtroom as justice steven clark brought the court to session to commence jury selection, which gager and smelie are allowed to attend and partake in the selection process.

there were about 300 other people summoned to serve for the 14 juror places, so i knew going into this that the odds of me being selected were slim to none. justice clark began reading out a long procedural lecture on how things worked. there was a lot to take in.

when it was read out that gager and smelie were charged with “first degree murder, which is a violation of the canadian criminal code,” my stomach dropped and i felt sick to my stomach. shit just got real. surrounded by the government and law enforcement, i suddenly felt the full power of the authorities around me, their ability to revoke all your freedoms and rights as a citizen, and incarcerate you for life. extremely petrifying stuff that i am having a hard time articulating.

if gager and smelie are found not-guilty, they still have spent the past 3 years of their life in jail, and this trial will no doubt be the defining event of their lives. who could ever get over such an event?

we walk around the city all day, enjoying the sunshine and our freedoms, and we never think (or perhaps, we refuse to confront) that at any moment, we could either be dead, or behind bars. i have never been around violence of that extreme nature. never in my life. i’ve never been around guns, really. i’ve never even seen a gun, unless it was on the holster of a police officer. i have never been arrested, and have never been in jail. being confronted with criminality, especially in this degree, scared the living daylights out of me.

gager and smelie each stood up to plead not guilty to the charges, and then the 300+ potential jurors in the court room were called out by their appointed numbers and vocations, and divided into groups of 25. i was called at random to be in the 4th group of 25. group D. we were told to return the following day, the 27th, at 10am to be interviewed by justice clark, the defence and the crown. we were told that if the crown or the defence said CHALLENGE during our interview for any reason, that it was not a personal attack on us, they were just applying their knowledge and experience, and that they could challenge any juror for whatever reason they wanted.

i returned the next morning, and after being shuffled from room to room to room (even at one point being sequestered in a room all by myself, which really fucked with my nervous nature), i was summoned into the court room.

the only people in the court room were the crown attorneys, the defence lawyers, the two accused, justice clark, the stenographer, a court reporter, a few bailiffs, and some unidentified people in plain clothes sitting in the juror box.

i was told to stand in the witness box.

i handed justice clark my completed juror questionnaire. he said, “good morning, how are you?

“good morning, i’m doing well thanks.”

he looked over my questionnaire, and in his booming but friendly voice, he quipped that i was only the second person in all the jurors they had interviewed to notice that the form accidentally had a duplicate question on it. in my brain, i wanted to say something cute, but i refrained because my nerves were going off and my knees were knocking.

he said that the trial might start on monday, and if i had a conflict with that should i be chosen, they could work around my schedule.

the bailiff then approached and asked if i wanted to be sworn in on any of the holy texts sitting in front of me. i saw a bible and a koran. there was a few other books there (which i’m assuming were the torah and perhaps an eastern religious text) but i didn’t look. i immediately rejected, “absolutely not!”

so the bailiff said i could give an affirmation.

the court reporter asked me to give my juror number which i recited aloud. then she read out a statement which basically stated that i was affirming to tell the truth to the best of my abilities.

i said, “i do, yes.”

justice clark then looked at the unidentified plain clothed people sitting in the juror box, and a woman there said she had no objections. i am assuming she was perhaps a juror foreperson? or someone who helps in deciding along with the attorneys who can serve on the jury. i never found out who those people were.

the stenographer was sitting right in front of the witness stand (where i stood), and she was sporting a huge afro. it was at this point that i noticed the crown attorneys, who were sitting in front of the stenographer, kept leaning to the side to see me. they couldn’t see me behind the stenographer’s afro. i found this internally funny, but was too petrified to laugh, or even acknowledge the smiles emanating from that side of the courtroom. from where i stood, i couldn’t see the accused gager and smelie.

the defence attorney who had a shock of white hair and a small low ponytail approached the podium and wished me a good morning. i smiled back and said the same. he then read his question out to me, which was: given the nature of the trial, did i feel that my judgement or my impartiality would be affected by the issue of race.

through all the sugar-coating, he was just asking me if i was a racist.

i guess i wasn’t expecting that question, because i inhaled sharply. i then stuttered, “oh gosh” and then managed to say through my disbelief and shaking voice, “n-n-no.”

i recall some nervous giggles in the court room. my nervousness was perhaps charming and endearing to everyone else, but this here pipsqueak was about to die of nerves. i was shitting myself.

absolutely shitting myself.

the defence lawyer smiled and walked back to his bench.

the bailiff then instructed me to step down from the stand and to walk in front of the stand, and face the two accused.

i couldn’t see them before because i was so short. so as i stepped down on the floor, gager and smelie stood up.

we faced each other across the court room. i looked them both in the eyes, not knowing which one was gager and which one was smelie. they were so tall (or i’m just redonkulously short). they didn’t smile. they had massive dark circles under their eyes (3 years in prison, 3 years in prison….), and i had no idea why this was part of the juror procedure. their two defence lawyers stood on either side of them and had warm smiles which contrasted sharply with gager and smelie. the first defence lawyer said he had no objection. the second defence lawyer said she had no objection.

then the crown attorney, who was still sitting behind his desk, simply said, “challenge.”

justice clark then said, “okay thank you, you are dismissed.”

and the bailiff showed me out. in fact, i think i sprinted out of there, because i don’t remember leaving exactly.

once out the doors, another bailiff confirmed i was dismissed, and that i won’t be called for jury duty again for another 3 years at least.

i literally threw my hands up in the air and squealed THANK FUCK!

i have no idea why the crown attorney said challenge. everyone who was directly in line ahead of me was also challenged, and everyone that came directly after me as well was challenged.

as i walked away from the bailiff, i stumbled over to the opposite wall, dropped my bag, and had a nervous breakdown.

my heart was racing, my legs were failing, and my lungs were heaving. i tried dialing my mother’s phone number but my fingers were shaking too much, i literally had to hold onto the wall and steady myself.

i have no idea really why i was so nervous. the whole legal proceeding scared the shit out of me. weeks ago when i initially received the summons, i thought it would be super cool to serve on a jury. i’m a writer, i thought, i can mine this trial for storylines. and it’s an experience! and it’s civic duty to boot.

but considering how petrified i was in that court room, i know now that i would have made a horrible juror.

i probably would have cried the entire time, especially during family member’s tearful testimony, or viewing dead body photos, and so on.

and because jurors aren’t allowed to talk about the trials, i would have probably had to cut off all my friends and family for the duration of the trial, retreat into my mind, get all depressed, and have zero support.

i would have been a nervous emo-wreck of a juror.

thank fuck for dismissals.

i finally managed to pull myself together, and walk down the escalators to the main floor of the court house. there, i finally called mum’s number and told her the news. but even after i got off the phone, got all my gear, and was ready to leave, i couldn’t walk.

scrambling, i found a bench in the main lobby, and shrank into the seat.

i was immobilized for 20 minutes. i just sat there … staring at nothing in particular  … thinking nothing in particular. lawyers, bailiffs, jurors, and crown witnesses sauntered past me in slow hazes. footfalls echoed. cell phones rang. elevator doors opened. voices echoed.

finally, slowly, i managed to stand up, and i inched my way to the exit. it had been snowing all morning, a big fat christmas-like snow, but now the sun was coming out. removing myself from the whole thing, i pushed through the revolving doors. standing on the other side, i tilted my head back, and for a very brief moment before running to catch the streetcar, i enjoyed the sunshine on my face.