Thursday, 4 April 2013

Day 133: Iron (Mountain) Filings

It was the end of the sitting week at the Montreal Tobacco trials, and the day was short and mostly sweet.  The only item of business was the (likely final) testimony of Jacques LaRivière, the former head of public relations for the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Association.

It was a much more relaxed Mr. LaRivière than this witness had seemed when he first entered this courtroom ten months ago. He greeted Justice Riordan this morning with a hearty "BonJOUR!" and joked a bit about his age.

This man could have been forgiven a more sombre reflection on the passage of time -- over the past month two of his former colleagues from the CTMC have passed away. Bill Neville died on March 13, and Jean Clavel died ten days later.

The purpose for recalling this witness was to allow him to vouch for documents that had surfaced as a result of the archives of the CTMC becoming available to the plaintiffs mid-trial - many months after he had this witness first appeared last spring. Some of these documents came from an indexed archive in British Columbia, and others from the Iron Mountain storage facility outside of Ottawa.

Of the thousands of documents that were reportedly handed over at the beginning of the year, only a trickle have found their way onto the trial record.  Most of thosepresented today as Exhibits 1486 to 1496 were CTMC publications, material from INFOTAB or the Tobacco Institute, or documents related to the CTMC's activities in the lead up to the passage of Canada's first tobacco control laws.

The questions asked by Mr. André Lespérance as he led the witness through the documents resulted in very little additional information being provided to the trial. Despite his gentle efforts, he was unable to encourage Mr. LaRivière's memory to function well enough to remember much of anything. Even though he headed up the communications function of the CTMC, Mr. LaRivière could not even recall the newsletter Tabacum which was issued under his direction.

Francois Grondin (representing JTI-Macdonald) was the only company lawyer to cross-examine Mr. LaRivière. His style of questioning is as laid-back as that of Mr. Lespérance, yet it was notably more effective at eliciting a clear memory from this witness. Perhaps it was their shared relationship with the tobacco company as a client that helped lawyer and witness find more memorable moments!

Although the witness had not much to say, the documents may - as they say in this business - speak for themselves. We will have to wait until they are posted on the plaintiff's web-site to find out!  (At this stage of the trial, the new exhibits mostly come from sources that have not previously been indexed, which causes a natural delay in their becoming available).

Watch for an update on this post when the material is public.

Next week the trial is scheduled to sit on Monday afternoon as well as Tuesday. Justice Riordan has insisted that the companies provide details on their schedule of witnesses, and the discussion of this is expected on Tuesday.