Playing by different rules

Dianne St. Jean

Recent news events got me thinking how ludicrous and imbalanced our political system can be.

As we all have heard, Jasper Atwal, convicted of attempted murder of Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu back in 1986 and who served just five years of a 20 year sentence for the conviction, was invited to attend two functions with our Prime Minister while in India. Now, according to some reports such as the Toronto Star, he was removed from the guest list - not because he was a security risk - but because he was politically controversial.

The message we’re being given is that risk is less important than political controversy.

So just what constitutes risk? It’s my understanding that risk factors are usually determined by past or habitual behavior.

Now here’s why I’m writing about this. Currently I am facilitating a writing workshop helping individuals with their writing skills. But in order for me to be approved to lead the group, I first had to undergo a criminal background check.

That is at least the third criminal check I’ve undergone, since in the past I’ve worked with children and teens, and was also a respite worker. If I had a criminal record, I would have been refused those positions. 

In fact, almost any position that involves some level of trust or the handling of other people’s legal or financial affairs requires a background check, whether it be banking, real estate, or some other administrative positions.

Case in point.

Some years ago a friend of mine attended a baseball game and threw a bottle from the stands. She was quite young at the time, I can’t recall exactly, but let’s say not far from having just graduated. The bottle accidentally struck a passerby, and my friend, who could have ducked away and hid, went to see how the person was.

This led to her being identified, and subsequently charges were laid against her and she had to appear in court; and while the Judge was lenient on her because of her extreme remorse, she still ended up with a criminal record.

A few years later she applied for an administrative position in which was required a background criminal check. Before she could move forward she had to obtain a pardon, as doors shut on her because of her past.

We all make mistakes – some worse than others. But why should people of power, such as and especially politicians, who we elect to represent us in good faith to be responsible and to hopefully make good decisions on our behalf, not be required to undergo background checks for those positions? Apparently, any government representative can be installed into office without question.

So, in the world of politics, a convicted criminal is not considered to be a risk or even untrustworthy - only controversial - while me teaching a group of seniors some writing skills requires that I be risk or criminal-free so that I can be trusted.


It seems the standard of politics is to play by a different set of rules. Maybe it’s time for those rules to change. What do you think?