Court’s sen­tence: Any­where but here

Is this a le­git­i­mate way to help some­one start over and solve a prob­lem?

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky

It’s just a strange lit­tle court story, a de­ci­sion on sen­tenc­ing signed and sealed in a court­room in the im­pos­ing down­town ju­di­cial stone build­ing that houses New­found­land and Labrador’s Supreme Court.

A St. John’s man, Gor­don Bishop, had been found guilty of drag­ging a po­lice of­fi­cer be­hind his car as he tried to flee a rob­bery.

Bishop’s lat­est con­vic­tions are for ag­gra­vated as­sault of a po­lice of­fi­cer, as­sault­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer with a weapon, break and en­ter, dan­ger­ous driv­ing and a few other charges, to boot. That, on top of a 27-page crim­i­nal record.

This week, the court in St. John’s sen­tenced him to time served — he’s been in jail for two years and three months while his lat­est charges wended their way through the sys­tem. But that’s only part of the story. The other part?

A con­di­tion of the sen­tenc­ing deal is that Bishop agrees to stay out of New­found­land and Labrador for a min­i­mum of a year — there’s ac­tu­ally a con­di­tion of his pro­ba­tion, one that he’s agreed to, ex­il­ing him from the prov­ince. New­found­land’s loss is go­ing to be Fort McMur­ray, Alta.’s gain, ap­par­ently; Bishop has fam­ily in Al­berta.

But it could be any­where in Canada, just not in New­found­land and Labrador.

I mean, it’s one thing to send a child who is be­ing bad to their room.

But to send some­one to their room in an­other prov­ince?

Bishop has never been out­side his home prov­ince — but his lawyer, Stan Mac­Don­ald, says this isn’t about shift­ing a prob­lem to some­one else.

“It is im­por­tant to know that this is not de­signed to foist a crim­i­nal on an­other ju­ris­dic­tion. It’s de­signed to break a cy­cle of crim­i­nal­ity,” Mac­Don­ald told the New­found­land court. “It’s been rec­og­nized by Mr. Bishop that he needs to do things dif­fer­ently, and he does have prospects out­side New­found­land and Labrador.”

That be­ing said, Bishop will es­sen­tially be leav­ing ev­ery­thing he knows be­hind — and it will be an up­hill climb for the 32-year-old to start anew, let alone to start anew in a prov­ince where he has next to no back­ground.

And it’s hard not to see that there’s great po­ten­tial for the move to up­set peo­ple in the area where Bishop ends up.

Heck, look what hap­pened when a western prov­ince de­cided one of the ways to help with its home­less­ness prob­lem was to ex­port it us­ing tax­pay­er­paid bus tick­ets.

Just over a year ago, there was great con­ster­na­tion when it was re­vealed that the prov­ince of Saskatchewan was buy­ing oneway bus tick­ets for home­less men — in­clud­ing at least one with men­tal health is­sues — to head for Bri­tish Columbia. (A re­view of the pol­icy later found it was rea­son­able, be­cause it sought to help peo­ple move to bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties, and since then, the pol­icy has qui­etly con­tin­ued.)

In the Saskatchewan case, the prov­ince’s So­cial Ser­vices depart­ment wouldn’t pay the cost of keep­ing two men in lo­cal shel­ters, but would spend a com­bined to­tal of $500 to send them both B.C. — one to Van­cou­ver, the other to Vic­to­ria, where both men ex­pected to have to find a bed in home­less shel­ters.

To be blunt, you’d have to think that ex­port­ing a ca­reer crim­i­nal — re­gard­less of his de­sire to turn over a new leaf — is un­likely to be wel­come news. What do you think?

Is this a le­git­i­mate way to help some­one start over and solve a prob­lem, or is it just mov­ing trou­ble into some­one else’s back­yard?

For the prov­inces do­ing the ex­port­ing, I could see it be­com­ing quite pop­u­lar. Es­pe­cially if it doesn’t raise much of a stink.

Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 30 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetele­gram.com - Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

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