Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reena Virk and Kelly Ellard: social reintegration and forgiveness

I've had a lot of down time lately because of sick days and pulled wisdom teeth, which has lead to a lot of media consumption on my part (for example: I've watched all of Angel, season 3 in 3 days). In this time I've also caught up a bit on the news. The recent continuation of the Reena Virk case in particular caught my attention.

This particular case was big news way back when I was living in Victoria, BC. I remember being asked to sign a petition about trying Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski as adults. At the time, given the horrific nature of the crime, I wasn't against the idea. I was 21 and closer to the ages of the individuals who participated in the act. In my mind at the time, there was no grey area: these individuals were, at the ages 15-17, old enough to know better and their actions were nothing short of criminal.

Ironically, I think time may have mellowed my opinion on the issue. While I still believe that they should have known better, I am also more aware of how stupid teenagers really are and how various pressures, personal crises, etc, can influence our actions at that age. This does not mean that I condone the act in any way, shape, or form, just that over 10 years later I'm not entirely sure if the girl who is still in jail still deserves the punishment she's received. Is she murderer or an accomplice, I don't know, but in either case, her life has been ruined. No, that doesn't make up for the loss of Reena Virk's life. However, when do we draw the line between punishment and social re-integration. The act was malicious and heinous, but who was Kelly Ellard at the time that it was committed and who is she now?

And more importantly: what could she be now if we actually gave her a chance?

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