The shackles on Allen Richardson emphasized his fragility, as did the flanking, beefy bailiffs who escorted him to a New York state prison to serve the remainder of a 28-year-old sentence. Originally, when I wrote about Mr. Richardson, I called him the latter day Jean Valjean. Richardson was wanted in the US for escaping a 4-year sentence for selling a small amount of hallucinogen to an undercover law enforcement agent almost three decades ago. Then 19-years-old, Richardson bolted to Canada, after being told he would be returning to the infamous Attica where 43 people had just died in a riot. An exemplary member of the community ever since, Richardson has worked for a UBC-affiliated research facility for almost 20 years.
When the story broke, I noted with irony that it was not the Americans who had issued an extradition order, rather, it was the Canadian immigration authorities that piped up, whining righteously that those with a criminal record were not welcome in Canada. Since when? I was under the impression that Canada had extensive---if unofficial---welcoming schemes for criminals, and that, once they availed themselves of Canadian benefits, these prized individuals were well positioned to launch successful careers throughout the commonwealth of NAFTA. For every one terrorist caught at the US border, there must be many Canadian success stories who make it across.
Back last year, there was at least one specimen known to me, Jose Mauricio Jimenez, who had been welcomed into Canada under the criminal reunification and recruitment tacit agreement, inspite---or maybe because--- of concealing a series of convictions in the U.S. Clearly Jimenez had what it took, and was able to exhibit the kind of moxie Richardson couldn't muster, and, as it turns out, Canadian authorities are looking for: once in Canada, Jimenez was convicted of assault with a weapon. Was he deported? Are you kidding, not with AIDS he wasn't. Go Jimenez! Even my plumping can't make Richardson look good in the face of such stiff competition. An absolute wimp, Richardson is non-welfare dependent and a tender partner to his ailing wife, Amalia. The man never stood a chance.
Why, on the same page updating the Richardsons' recent travails, loomed the story of another shining recruit to whom Richardson could not hold a candle. With her less than supple mind, Supreme Justice Le'Heurex-Dube averted a huge loss to Canadian society. A Le'Heurex-Dube ruling enabled an equally cerebral lower-court judge to keep a rapist, who had been declared a danger to the public, from deportation. Now that's a close call. The judge concluded it would be devastating for the Canadian wife and children to do without the rapist's tender ministrations (we females like our men a little rough around the gills). No, I applaud the justice system. I applaud Immigration Canada for ordering Richadson to leave the country. Good riddance: Canada does not need the kind of riffraff who, for all his years in Canada, has failed to slurp at the Human Resource Minister's patronage trough. What's more, I will go so far as to hail the Foreign Affairs Minister for having the fortitude to intervene on behalf of those exported Canadian arch-criminals, Christie Lamont and David Spencer, but still having the gumption to remain silent in the Richardson affair.
Dear me, all these accolades and I almost forgot the magnanimous Justice Connell of Rochester, NY, whose stellar logic led him to make Richardson an example for aspiring future "papillons". I'm sending a message that escaping prison will not be tolerated, he said. Three cheers for the Justice for knowing when to discard hundreds of testimonials and when to discount a life well lived.
Okay I'm cool. Allen Richardson was never rehabilitated, because Allen Richardson was never a criminal. Just because government legislation decrees that consenting adults may not voluntarily choose to use or exchange certain substances---does not make government right or give it the moral (as opposed legal) authority to aggress against the people it condemns for such activity. Allen Richardson did not hurt or coerce anyone. If it is the health of the population at large that Richardson allegedly imperiled, then government ought to criminalize tobacco, alcohol, bungee jumping, fatty foods, and my own nemesis, the chocolate dealer. The laws of the land can and often do diverge from the principles of justice. The facts of the law, however, should never make a discussion about justice moot. Call it reason, call it Natural Law, or, for all I care, call it the law that dare not speak its name, but a justice system that fails to be informed by its principles is an ass.
©2000 By Ilana Mercer
The Vancouver Sun