In his hard-hitting autobiography, Outlier: Life, Law and Politics in the West, retired lawyer and author Garrett Wilson doesn’t pull any punches. He tells it as he sees it, exposing scandalous government corruption at both provincial and federal levels. His chapter on Hazen Argue and his wife Jean, for instance, exposes outrageous abuses in the Canadian Senate.
The Outlier title may be somewhat misleading as it implies Wilson is on the outside looking in while momentous decisions are being made. But Wilson is not merely an eyewitness to history; he‘s at its very nerve centre and plays a role in making that history.
When the Ku Klux Klan tries to intimidate Wilson’s father in the 1920s by burning a cross just outside their village, Wilson may sense he’s in for a rough life. He develops a severe kidney infection and his older brother Kevin is killed in World War II.
While studying law at the University of Saskatchewan, Wilson becomes editor of The Sheaf, the student newspaper, winning three trophies, including one for best editorials. He begins to realize he has some talent as a writer.
He tries his hand at business, opening a lodge in northern Saskatchewan. A bad omen for the business’s future is when the transport carrying his shipment of beer falls through the ice. Somehow the beer is saved, minus the labels.
Like his father, Wilson is a staunch Liberal and neighbour of the Thatchers in the village of Limerick, SK. As Ross Thatcher’s campaign manager, Wilson becomes a member of his inner circle, a very exclusive circle. But he can’t get into Thatcher’s good graces or exert much influence on his decisions and eventually they part ways.
Trying to achieve a lifelong goal as an elected politician, Wilson throws his hat into the 1968 federal election in Assiniboia, but fails to win the nomination, coming in a close second. After a stint as President of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party, he watches the provincial party sink into political oblivion.
In his more than fifty years as a lawyer, Wilson experiences some notable cases. He negotiates on behalf of the Regina police union; failed negotiations result in the 1976 police strike. He defends against a lawsuit by David Milgaard’s mother, Joyce. His chapter on Colin Thatcher’s trial for the murder of his ex-wife JoAnn Wilson is a must-read, as is his chapter debunking the legends of former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.
Outlier: Life, Law and Politics in the West comes complete with an index and twenty-two black and white and colour photos. One photo that particularly stands out is of twelve-year-old Garrett, looking dapper in a white shirt and tie, holding an ice cream bar to his mouth and another for his dog to lick. Set against the backdrop of a prairie village, this creates an evocative and iconic image of rural Saskatchewan in the 1940s.
While Wilson considers himself only an outsider, at the very least he makes his observations from a ringside seat.
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