Going Out

WEB EXCLUSIVE: A judge and a developer speak about being “Books” at the Human Library, taking place on Saturday

By Adelle Farrelly

Justice Hugh Fraser is a judge in the Ontario Court of Justice and an Olympian (Montreal ’76). Doug Casey is a chartered accountant turned real estate developer and the owner of Charlesfort Developments. What do these two men have in common?

The answer: They’re just two of the of the 38 Living Books participating in the joint CBC Ottawa and Ottawa Public Library Human Library project that’s taking place this Saturday, Jan. 26, at libraries around town. This is Ottawa’s second time putting on the event, which allows participants to “borrow” complete strangers, or “Books,” for 20 minutes at a time. You can talk face-to-face with people from all walks of life, from a mother of eight to a drag queen to an Algonquin spiritual advisor. What they have to say might surprise you.

Justice Hugh Fraser, Ontario Court of Justice

People think they know what a judge is, but how would you describe your job?
“To effectively administer justice and determine guilt or innocence” — but I [also] think one of the big responsibilities of a judge is the administration of the criminal justice system. Most people think it’s what they see on television. Quite often when I talk to younger people, I tell them, “Well, we can’t behave the way Judge Judy does.” There are certain rights that one has to respect and protect.

Is addressing those misconceptions one reason you’re participating?
Yes. Judges, by and large, don’t go seeking opportunities to speak. Sometimes you wish you could explain your position, but it’s not something we believe is appropriate. You can’t discuss the cases you’re involved in, so you tend to more general topics. But I think that judges are part of their community and that we do have some obligation to demystify judging.

Is this your first time as a Book?
Yes, it is.

You’re an Olympian as well as a judge. Do you expect questions to go one way or the other?
I expect it to be half-and-half. People have a strong interest in sport as well as some of the mysteries behind the criminal justice system.

How does your athletics background relate to your role as a judge?
[In] athletics, there’s always a sense of unpredictability, but you prepare to the best of your ability and deal with whatever comes your way. To some extent, judging is similar. You prepare and you listen as intently as you can. You have to be very focussed, almost in the way that an athlete has to be focussed. You don’t know what’s going to happen in your courtroom until it does happen, but you have to be prepared for anything.

If you could borrow one of the other Books, who would it be?
I don’t know how I could choose, but I attended high school with one of them. He works in architecture, and that’s always fascinated me.

Property Developer Doug Casey, Charlesfort Developments

What does it mean to specialize in infill developments?
We build houses that are outstanding by blending in. I’m not a fan of the modern things that don’t tie into the street at all. I think they stand out like a gold tooth. I don’t like driving, I hate suburbia, and there’s a shortage of land, so we build high-rises now. We want buildings to feel unique as opposed to anonymous nothings.

How did you end up in this line of work?
I was at an accounting company when my wife and I bought an old house in the Glebe and renovated it. It’s fun. You knock down walls and you redo things. You’re being creative, and you sell the house and make a bunch of money – and you go, “Wow, that’s kind of neat. This is more interesting than my day job.” So I started looking for land to build on.

What was your reaction to being approached to be a Book?
I had trouble reading when I was a kid. I didn’t do too badly: I’m a [Chartered Accountant]. But if I could have read better, I probably would have become a doctor. So libraries are interesting to me because I was a poor reader, and I’m interested in anything I can do to help.

Do you know fellow participant Justice Hugh Fraser?
Yes, he was one year ahead of me at Lisgar [Collegiate]. I was the trainer of the football team. I was five-foot-nothing and weighed about 103 pounds, and the teacher said to me, “Doug, you may be mad at me, but I’m not letting you on the team. You’re going to get killed.” So I became the trainer. Hugh was on the field. He was incredible – that guy can run!

A little about the history of the Human Library: In 2000, a Copenhagen, Denmark-based organization called Stop the Violence launched Menneskebiblioteket, the Human Library project, to promote inter-personal connection and to reduce prejudice. Canada is just one of the 27 countries contributing to the movement, which takes on a variety of forms. Australia has a permanent human library, and this year Canada holds the world’s first National Human Library Day with events going on across the country.