Since being arrested for violating a court injunction in 2018, activist Mairy Beam’s views of the judiciary have evolved. Beam, who prefers the pronouns they and them, thought that B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ken Affleck was an exceptionally stern judge when he presided over the case.
Beam, also a playwright, had defied Affleck’s order against protesting near the Burnaby Tank Farm gates. As a result, the judge sentenced Beam to 28 days under house arrest.
But now, Beam believes that Affleck demonstrated more flexibility than his colleague, Justice Shelly Fitzpatrick. In 2022, Fitzpatrick sentenced SFU professor emeritus Tim Takaro to 30 days in prison for peaceful protesting in a tree near the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project.
Also last year, Fitzpatrick ordered UBC professor emeritus William Winder and SFU student Zain Haq to serve two weeks in jail for their peaceful civil disobedience.
“We were quite critical of Judge Affleck but when Judge Fitzpatrick came on the scene, she was much more hardline,” Beam tells Pancouver by phone.
Beam’s experiences as a defendant and courtroom observer led the playwright to pen The Judge’s Daughter. It’s a fictional play inspired by Justice Fitzpatrick, with Jennifer Fahrni playing a character named Judge Kelly Saint Patrick.
In the play, Judge Saint Patrick spends several weeks in Whistler with her husband, a lawyer named James Brown (Linden Banks), and their daughter, Erin (Sidney Klips). When Erin falls in love with an activist (Arsham Farasat), tension arise within the family.
“I want to let audiences know that it’s going to be engaging,” Beam says. “There’s humour and there’s drama.”
The Vancouver Fringe Festival will present The Judge’s Daughter at the Granville Island Revue Stage between September 8 and 17. Beam is one of the producers; the co-directors Lindy Sisson and Kymme Patrick.
Audience become jury in The Judge’s Daughter
In writing the script, Beam was also inspired by Indigenous elders, in particular Jim Leyden (Stehm Mechok Kanim). Fitzpatrick convicted him of criminal contempt in 2021 and sentenced him to 45 days in jail. This came after he had held a traditional pipe ceremony in 2020 near the Burnaby Terminal.
The Anishanaabe elder appealed the ruling. A B.C. Court of Appeal panel ordered a new trial, but the Crown chose not to proceed.
In The Judge’s Daughter, on the other hand, a female Indigenous elder receives a severe sentence and does not benefit from a judicial reprieve.
“In the play, we put the judge on trial and ask the audience to be the jury,” Beam says. “So, we’re very much inviting participation from the audience.”
This is Beam’s second play probing the role of judges in sentencing climate activists. In 2020, Beam drew on court records to write Irreparable Harm?, In which actor Karl Perrin played Justice Affleck.
Beam is especially concerned about statistics around injunctions, which judges award to corporations, governments, and private citizens when others are violating their legal rights.
According to data collected by the Yellowhead Institute involving more than 100 cases of injunctions, First Nations applicants have fared far worse than large companies. Only 18.5 percent of First Nations succeeded with applications against corporations. That contrasted with an 81 percent success rate for corporations’ applications against First Nations.
“The legal system is so stacked in favour of corporations and against individuals,” Beam insists.
South of the border, there is intense debate over the role of the U.S. Supreme Court in various public policies, including abortion and campaign-finance regulations. Nowadays, the media and members of the U.S. Senate are raising many questions about certain U.S. Supreme Court justices receiving gifts from billionaires and whether some justices’ friendships may collide with their public duties.
Pipeline expansion project costs top $30 billion
In America, U.S. Supreme Court justices are not subject to a legally enforceable code of ethics. That’s not an issue in B.C. Supreme Court where justices must answer to the Canadian Judicial Council.
However, unlike U.S. Supreme Court justices, Canadian judges aren’t required to disclose any personal financial information. This prompts Pancouver to ask Beam whether financial-disclosure rules for politicians should also apply to judges.
“I think that would be a good step,” the playwright replies. “It’s not something I’ve been thinking of prior to you raising it.”
The Judge’s Daughter will be staged in the wake of the price of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project surpassing $30 billion. The project’s annual upstream and downstream emissions will exceed the yearly total for the entire province of British Columbia, according to a 2014 study for the City of Vancouver.
When the pipeline was initially proposed, the parent company, Kinder Morgan, claimed that it would cost $5.4 billion. In 2018, the federal government bailed out Kinder Morgan by buying its Canadian infrastructure. This means that taxpayers are on the hook for rising expenses.
“It’s such a crazy, crazy thing because it’s never going to make money,” Beam predicts. “It’s going to pollute the land and the water.”
The Vancouver Fringe Festival presents The Judge’s Daughter on September 8, 10, 12, 15, 16, and 17 at the Revue Theatre on Granville Island. For showtimes and tickets, visit the festival website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.