Editorial: Being a good neighbour

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In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a traveller came to the aid of an injured man who was beaten and robbed by bandits. The two were strangers, but he bandaged the man’s wounds, took him to an inn, and gave the innkeeper two silver coins to look after him.

Ontario’s legal community has its very own Good Samaritan: Ottawa’s Eugene Meehan.
To wit: In the middle of the night a trio of thugs, one brandishing a handgun, invaded a family’s home in Barrhaven, Ont., and made off with $500 - the father’s earnings from a long, 12-hour shift as a cabbie.

 Meehan read about the shameful event in the Ottawa Citizen, and moved by the terrible facts, he offered to replace the stolen amount.

Meehan, a former president of the Canadian Bar Association, a partner at Lang Michener LLP and chairman of the firm’s Supreme Court of Canada advocacy group, was planning to visit the family last weekend with one
of his four children.

“I’m going to bring one of my kids with me and they’re actually going to hand over the money because it’s a lesson learned; there’s a lesson for my kids too that this is what you do,” said Meehan.

Meehan told Law Times the story was “compelling,” and what caught his attention was the part about the plucky 12-year-old daughter who scurried between one of the robber’s legs and grabbed a cell phone to call 911.

Her mom, who was being held by one of the hoods, directed her to get help in their native language, knowing the intruders wouldn’t understand. Spying her on the phone, the bandits fled - with the cash, an Xbox, DVD player, and the keys to the family’s car.

“It’s a tough story,” said Meehan. Here, in his words, is why he stepped up:
“I read the story and thought, here’s a guy who busts his ass for 12 hours, brings what he earned for that day … [and] not only is it taken away but other things are taken away from the house, and he has a feeling of personal, emotional, familial violation. He’s an immigrant to Canada and Canada’s a great country.

Here another immigrant [Meehan’s from Scotland] has an opportunity to make good that loss.
“We have a country where it’s a strong, robust democracy where the police are trusted, and that’s not the case in every country in the world.

This family, and this kid knew that the thing to do was to call the police because the police would be fair and just and deal with it . . . It’s a powerful statement to make about a powerful country that we have. It’s not a lot for me to simply validate and acknowledge that, so that’s why I’m doing it.”

Meehan said he didn’t expect his donation to become public knowledge but he is comfortable with the family in question knowing who he is and that he’s a lawyer because, “I’m proud to be a lawyer. I’m proud of the good lawyers do in our communities.”

He added, “When opportunities come along to do something that for us is relatively small but for somebody else might be big and practical, that’s something that it’s easy to say yes to. It’s that simple.”

And so, Meehan was going to tell the family that he doesn’t “need or want their thanks, and years from now they will have the opportunity to do something small for somebody else that for the other person is big, and they will remember it and they will follow through and do that.”

To borrow from the parable: go, and do likewise.
- Gretchen Drummie

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