American Sentenced to Exile in Canada

October 27th, 2006

There has been much talk these days about Malcolm Watson, the 35 year old American teacher recently convicted in the United States of having sexual contact with a 15 year old female student.

What is particularly strange about this case is the sentence that was imposed. The judge offered the culprit a choice – one year imprisonment or banishment to Canada for three years. Mr. Watson obviously chose the latter. At first blush the punishment appears rather random but if you bother to connect the dots there is some reason behind it. You see, Mr. Watson is a Canadian Landed Immigrant and has been a Permanent Resident of Canada for the last four years. He has been living on the Canadian side of the border with his Canadian wife and kids, while teaching at a US private school near the border.

Now, comes this hue and cry from Canadian federal and provincial politicians of all stripes. We must, they insist, bar Mr. Watson’s entry to Canada. Our Border Services personnel, being no dummies, got the message and they arrested Mr. Watson when he attempted to enter Canada a few days ago.

There’s only one major hitch here and that is Mr. Watson has the right to be in Canada. As a Permanent Resident, he needs nobody’s permission to be in Canada and whether you, I, or Prime Minister Harper, prefer otherwise is irrelevant in these circumstances.

The only way that Mr. Watson could have his Permanent Resident status removed would be if he had been convicted of an offence outside Canada, which would have been an offence had it been committed in Canada that is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or more. Sexual contact with a student under the age of 18 is indeed a criminal offence in Canada but the maximum term of imprisonment is only 5 years – end of story.

If the politicians and those for whom they thump their chests wish to change the laws of Canada then they ought to follow the proper procedure to do so. That is why we have Parliament.

In the meantime, we must remember that if we are a nation of laws, then the laws apply equally to those whom we admire and to those whose actions offend us.

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