Don't kill me, I'm Canadian

Brian Jones
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Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) sure get around. Take any given news story from the mainland, the U.S. or more greatly beyond — in the temporal sense — and there’s a 50-50 chance a Newfoundlander will be involved.

Anecdotal wisdom says there are only the famous six degrees of separation between someone and anyone — or anything — else on the planet. With Newfoundlanders, it’s reduced to two degrees of separation.

News item: Canadians accused of bribing officials in Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya. Newfoundlanders? Alas, no. Several SNC-Lavalin executives are alleged to have paid millions to corrupt Libyan officials to win construction contracts in that northern Africa country.

The local connection? Gadhafi, when he was alive and going on speechifying tours, was once rumoured to be coming to St. John’s. But that’s not all. More specifically, SNC-Lavalin has several contracts to work on megaprojects in Labrador (and Newfoundland).

The rest of the world can have their six degrees of separation — we’ll make do with two.

Newfoundlanders do indeed find themselves in odd places and strange predicaments.

Like, for example, on death row.

Apparently, Japan and South Korea could absorb only so many Newfoundlanders before some of the overflow found themselves in the U.S., down and out and without a job teaching English, their only recourse being to rob a bank and fatally shoot a security guard.

Setting aside the pros and cons of capital punishment, adherents on either side of the issue must agree that sitting on death row often inspires its occupants to undergo an inner revival. Suddenly, they become nice people, a conversion their supporters energetically remind everybody of, lest the switch be pulled one night when they’re not looking.

Sometimes, death-row residents — despite living rent-free and with three meals a day, albeit temporarily — discover a renewed fondness for home. This is especially true of Canadians who find themselves on the wrong side of a date with a prison gurney in the Yoonited States.


Finding roots

Convicted killer and death-row inmate Robert Bolden’s lawyers hope to use his Newfoundland birth certificate as a ticket to life, so to speak.

According to The Canadian Press, in 2002 Bolden shot a bank guard in the head during a robbery in St. Louis. He is in a prison near Indianapolis.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that Bolden’s lawyers found out he was born in Stephenville. American authorities never conveyed this fact to Bolden’s defence lawyers. Neither it seems, did Bolden.

Presumably, American lawyers don’t indulge in niceties upon first meeting their clients.

“Say son, where are you from? Whaddya mean, you don’t know?”

Where a common person might see trivial technicalities, lawyers see opportunities.

Bolden’s rights were violated, his lawyers say, because at the time of his arrest and during his trial he was denied the services of a Canadian consul, which was his right as a Canadian citizen.

No matter that his mother took him away from Stephenville and to the U.S. when he was about three years old. He’s still a Canadian, and a Newfoundlander.

Quick, somebody grab the pink, white and green and head to Indianapolis. Never mind … there goes Ryan Cleary.

In Montana, convicted murderer and death-row veteran Ronald Smith has been seeking clemency, based partly on the argument that he is a Canadian citizen in a foreign jail. Smith murdered two young men in Montana in 1982.

Some Canadians have said the federal government should support Smith’s bid for clemency. Other Canadians, and I’m one, say our government should stay out of it.

I’m against the death penalty, but using citizenship as a deciding factor brings disrepute to both countries’ justice systems.


Brian Jones is an editor on desk row at

The Telegram. He can be reached by email at


Organizations: SNC-Lavalin, Canadian Press, The Telegram

Geographic location: U.S., Labrador, Libya Northern Africa St. John's Japan South Korea Indianapolis Stephenville Montana Yoonited States St. Louis

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Recent comments

  • In response to your mentioning of SNC Lavalin in this article
    May 12, 2012 - 10:14

    I was listening to a Business News Network (BNN) Call-in Show last week when a caller asked the guest's opinion on SNC Lavalin. The guest gave an explanation that was mixed, while she said SNC was having legal problems, it was fortunate enough to secured a couple of big projects in recent months. She didn't identify who the contracts were with. I am now wondering if they are the ones we hear touted in this province between Nalcor on Muskrat Falls and SNC Lavalin. I am also wondering how safe and secure is any money that has already been passed over to SNC Lavalin by NALCOR, that belongs to the tax payers of Newfoundland and Labrador, monies that should instead have been utilized to replace rotting infrastructure a provide much needed services. We have had our Newfoundland and Labrador Treasuary stripped too many times over the past 63 years for schemes and things by our uncaring politicians, who have not done too badly themselves in the economics department, matter of fact some of them are multi-millionaires.

  • Duffy
    May 12, 2012 - 06:40

    GOOD COMMENTS! I agree. Too bad everyone assumes that everything said by his "mouthpiece" (defense lawyer) is the gospel. They come up with every excuse possible to explain the un-explainable. He was potty trained too early or Daddy made him take the garbage out - therefor he is not responsible. Every jailhouse criminal gets reliogion and takes AA to help them get out of jail to commit more crimes. Instead look at the victims, their family and friends. The children left homeless, mothers losing sons & daughters, brothers and sisters never seeing each other again, friends gone all because of some criminal. This is one Newfoundlander that says "Fry Him" and good ridence!

  • David
    May 11, 2012 - 18:17

    The 'justice system' has been completely trumped by the 'technicalities system'. If you can't get off on a charge, you just didn't pay enough for your lawyer.

  • Billy Maguire
    May 11, 2012 - 13:18

    SNC/Lavalin bribing Libyans to get contracts? HMMMMM!

  • Ed
    May 11, 2012 - 11:10

    What a load of rambling gibberish.

  • Holden
    May 11, 2012 - 09:30

    What was the need for first couple of paragraphs? This could have been confined to a sentence for it's relevance to topic. Then you might have had more space and time to devote to the real topic. If you had, you might have thought a little more on the real topic and realized that a policy to intervene by a country cannot be subject to the right or wrong actions of the person being assisted. Such a decision would make the policy conditional when it should not be and deserving person could be harmed. We have no real control over the actions of another country so what is the harm in making a plea. When a just case comes along our response will be clear.

  • Agnes
    May 11, 2012 - 08:29

    Brian, would your point of view change depending on the country involved?