"I am human and I have failed.1"

Svend Robinson stunned Canada in April of 2004 when he admitted to stealing an expensive diamond ring from an auction house. Robinson turned himself in to the police shortly afterwards, and made the situation public during a press conference. NDP leader Jack Layton announced that the party would support Robinson in his decision to step down as MP for Burnaby-Douglas, British Columbia, and to seek professional help. He indicated that he had been suffering from trauma following a hiking accident and he believed this may have been a contributing factor. The owner of the store is reported to have said that he was willing to forgive Robinson and was impressed with his honesty.

An RCMP inquiry was called to determine whether or not charges should be laid, which they were in June 2004. Robinson was scheduled to appear in court in July but his case was held over until August. The maximum penalty (he's been charged with theft over $5000) is ten years in prison. His lawyer has indicated that he will plead guilty.

The reaction

The reaction of Canadians and Canadian politicians was largely supportive; many lauded Robinson's decision to own up to his actions and turn himself in. His confession also came in the midst of the federal sponsorship scandal2, and many of the major players were denying any involvement in it. Robinson's admission of guilt and willingness to turn himself in was a major contrast to denials from people involved in 'adscam' -- some argue it even earned the NDP support (there's little evidence to support this, though).

Robinson's actions weren't without controversy. He had been one of the main contributors to drafts of the proposed bill C-250 (the bill that would explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation; Robinson himself is openly gay) and family values groups insisted that because the bill had been influenced by an individual who had admitted to breaking the law, the integrity of the bill itself was called into question. This argument convinced few people in the government, however, and the bill was not dropped because of Robinson. Another group took out an ad in an Alberta newspaper urging officials to press charges, insisting that while it was certainly noble of him to confess and turn himself in, he was not above the law.

The effects

This is the first federal election in which Robinson hasn't run in 25 years. One of his assistants is representing the NDP in his riding, and according to several feature news articles, some citizens are planning on voting for him in Robinson's honour. Most other candidates have shown enough consideration for him and for his party to not make this a campaign issue -- the groups who are attempting to discredit several of his causes and beliefs are groups, not political parties.

Robinson attemped a political comeback in the 2006 Canadian federal election and ran in the Vancouver Centre riding. He is running against Hedy Fry, the Liberal incumbent who knocked Kim Campbell from power in 1993.


Footnotes:
1 Of all the things Robinson said at the April press conference, this was probably the quote used most often after the fact.
2 The "sponsorship scandal" refers to the alleged misuse of millions of public funds by the Government of Canada. Auditor-General Sheila Fraser released a report that indicates the Liberals put public money into Qu├ębec advertising firms in order to generate Canadian patriotism in the province.

Robinson plead guilty to the charge on August 6, 2004. He was given a conditional discharge.

Resources:
Ex-MP charged in theft http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&call_pageid=971358637177&c=Article&cid=1087855810199 23 June 2004