For a second time, the justice system has had to contend with allegations of sexual misconduct at Winnipeg’s St. John’s-Ravenscourt School—and has once again failed the victims.
On February 19, Justice Janice leMaistre rejected a jail sentence for a young man originally charged with over 10 counts of sexual assault with a weapon, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, and nine counts of forcible confinement and uttering threats involving as many as victims.
Yes, the defendant plead guilty to a lesser number of charges, admitting his guilt in what the media has so casually termed “hazing incidents.” However, because he is currently enrolled in medical school and, according to his lawyer, “He’s got unbelievably top grades. He’ll, without question, qualify to be admitted,” he won’t be saddled with a criminal record, which would seriously jeopardize his ability to become a qualified medical doctor.
This is a travesty for the victims and, to me, sets an eerie precedent for future such cases.
What if this young man had instead chosen a less prestigious path? A dentist? A lawyer? What if he’d skipped university altogether and, instead, taken up a trade? A plumber? An electrician? A lowly cook? What then? Would it have increased his guilt, or the severity of his past crimes? Should it have?
Worse, of all the professions this young man has chosen, he is seeking to become a doctor. What person would want to be treated by him? Would you? Should you have a right to know that this young man, when 18, victimized as many as 15 boys in ways that can be rightly described as depraved?
More than anything, why should what he’s doing now in any way influence how negatively we view what he did three years ago? Kudos to him for his current academic successes, but surely our actions should have consequences. And his actions, depraved and heinous, should come with steep ones. At the very least they should make it more difficult, if not outright impossible, for him to become a medical doctor.
I was a student of St. John’s-Ravenscourt from 1988 to 2000. It holds a complicated place in my heart and my personal history. I was bullied at various times during my 12 years at the school. Mercifully, it was never so grotesque as what this individual did to those 15 boys. No, I suffered mere garden-variety, boys-will-be-boys stuff. You know, the kind of bullying our society continues to shrug off. Still, the subject matter of bullying, of hazing, of abuse touches a raw nerve with me.
Accordingly, maybe I’m biased and unfit to pronounce upon this case. My bias, after all, is usually with the victims, and for justice.
Still, where is the outrage over this verdict? Why have we so casually accepted the outcome of this especially disturbing case? Will the Crown appeal it? Among other things, the defendant had been charged with “pinning [a] younger boy on the floor and removing his pants. A walking stick was allegedly held near the anus of the victim and he was threatened with penetration.”
What if, I wonder, his victims had been young girls. Would we, as a society, have responded any differently? Would Justice Janice leMaistre?
We’ll never know. And neither will his patients.