Billy Earle is the first to admit that he’s no saint.
He’s a survivor of abuse at the Mount Cashel Orphanage and, as with many, that survival is a complicated and difficult thing. Truth be told, he has more than his fair share of demons, and he probably has a right to every one of them.
And his demons sometimes come out to play: he’s facing criminal charges now for a violent night and a run-in with police officers that he says he can’t even remember, charges he says he will deal with in court as best he can. And it’s not just a single incident: Earle admits he’s been in a bad spiral.
Ask questions on the street before writing a column about Earle and the responses are unsettling: don’t deal with him — he’s out of control.
That may be true. But what’s also true is that the justice system failed Earle before, and seems now about to fail him again, this time through simple bureaucratic carelessness and intransigence.
After his arrest, Earle found himself facing an uphill battle: first, the government balked at renewing support for his counselling, saying he couldn’t get the help it was pretty clear he needed while he was still facing charges. But counselling was something that, years ago, another government had promised Mount Cashel survivors they could always have, any time they needed it.
And everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
Funding for counselling was eventually provided, but it wasn’t an easy or quick argument.
When Earle did get a new counsellor, that counsellor wrote to the government and said that Earle would benefit from regular physical exercise, and suggested a gym membership should be part of his treatment.
Once again, there were hurdles. The government agreed, but with a caveat: it would provide the services, but only at one particular facility.
But that’s where it gets complicated. Earle makes his living as a process server, showing up at the front doors of people who definitely don’t want to see him. They are, in fact, occasionally extremely displeased to find him at the door.
Through the jigs and reels of the bureaucracy, some of those same extremely displeased people are provincial government-sponsored clients of the same gym the government wants Earle to use. So are some former residents of provincial correctional institutions.
Earle puts it simply: he’d have to have eyes in the back of his head to work out there. It’s hard to lose yourself in the endorphins and concentration of physical exercise while keeping your eyes open all the time and ramping up on stress, which would seriously reduce the benefits of exercise.
Earle says the province has been unable to understand the point he’s making, even though it’s pretty clear.
Just like there are regulations about getting counselling when you’re facing charges, there are probably criteria in place about which gyms are acceptable. Earle has been paying to use a different facility, and he’s running out of cash.
There are plenty of people who would advise anyone not to champion Earle — the same ones who caution you to steer clear. And I hear that, loud and clear.
But I’ve know Billy and others from Mount Cashel since I was at The Sunday Express when the scandal was first breaking. And to me, the biggest thing that Mount Cashel survivors are owed by any provincial government is enough honesty and integrity in their dealings with the government to eventually garner something close to trust.
How do you do that?
You make a promise and then you keep it.
And the province promised to help those victims when they needed counselling and other supports.
What some people in the Justice Department may have forgotten is that they’re still part of the same justice system that originally failed in its responsibility to help boys at Mount Cashel.
What message do those victims hear when that same justice system fails to keep its word?
Time does not actually heal all wounds, and like any other kind of hurt, turning a blind eye to the issue does anything but make things better.
Sort this out.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.