Art by Noel Ransome
Gordie Bishop, the Newfoundlander who was last week sentenced to exile plus time served for dragging a police officer behind his getaway car, is now a hot-button issue in Fort Mac's upcoming municipal election. Allan Vinni and Don Scott, two candidates for mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo—which includes Fort McMurray—have both gone on the record to say Bishop is not welcome in their town.
Vinni and Scott are both lawyers, and neither one is particularly thrilled at the prospect of Fort Mac hosting a criminal with a 27-page rap sheet hailing from the strange and distant island known as Newfoundland. Scott in particular seems the most incensed, because Bishop hurt a cop and if you hurt a cop you should be in jail, not banished to northern Alberta where cops are beloved.
For his part, Vinni told CBC he's not sure how Justice Alphonsus Faour reached his unorthodox sentencing. "I also don't see how rehabilitation is assisted by having this person move from what sounds like a place they were born and raised and grew up and have them come out to Fort McMurray. Presumably most of their support is back in Newfoundland."(Bishop, in fact, has family in Fort McMurray, and reconnecting with them while getting away from the negative environment keeping him roped into a life of crime was part of the reasoning behind the sentence. I suppose you can't fault a municipal politician on the other side of the country for failing to keep up with Newfoundland and Labrador crime reporting, though, even if he was asked to comment about it for Canada's public broadcaster.)Of course, it's not clear how exactly they'd go about banning Bishop from the town. But that didn't stop him from getting banned from Newfoundland either, so where there is a will there might be a way. The whole fracas underscores precisely why exile is a convoluted punishment in the 21st century, not the least of which is the impression that one jurisdiction is just dumping criminals into another, and God knows Fort Mac has seen its share of east coast rowdymen before.Personally, I am inclined to say let Bishop have his chance to heal together with his family out West. But rural Alberta attitudes about crime and punishment tend to skew more Old Testament than New, so the man will definitely have his work cut out for him.Maybe there is some way he can prove to the incoming mayor of Fort Mac that he is indeed worthy. Wandering through the western wilds in his exile, a lone traveller solving mysteries and righting wrongs from town to town, in search of justice, truth, and perhaps… himself.Carry on, my wayward son—there'll be peace when you are done. Just… maybe not in Fort McMurray. Follow Drew Brown on Twitter.