Court’s sentence: Anywhere but here
Is this a legitimate way to help someone start over and solve a problem?
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 email@example.com - Twitter: @wangersky.