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.
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 email@example.com.