A U.S. citizen who illegally entered Canada 20 minutes after being deported has lost an appeal of the nine-month jail sentence he received from a Surrey provincial court judge in 2020.
Gabriale Rene St. Constantine, 59, pleaded guilty to one count of returning to Canada without authorization, after being deported under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and was sentenced to nine months in jail less 47 days for time served.
The sentencing judge in Surrey didn’t accept his explanation he entered Canada because of political unrest and violence in Oregon and as a “Caucasian citizen of the United States of Jewish faith” had experienced intimidation, harrassment, and threats “or violence” there.
St. Constantine also felt, given his age and medical conditions, he would be much safer from COVID-19 in Canada than in the United States but the judge concluded he “would have been well aware that COVID is a global pandemic.”
She characterized his actions as “selfish,” and found he flagrantly disregarded Canadian law by re‑entering Canada only 20 minutes after being deported, and ignoring COVID‑19-related health restrictions and protocols.
St. Constantine appealed the sentence as demonstrably unfit, arguing the judge overemphasized deterrence and failed to consider “collateral consequences associated with COVID-19.”
Subject to two previous deportation orders, he was arrested by Canada Border Services Agency officers and taken to the Pacific Highway Processing Centre where he pursued but later abandoned a claim for refugee status.
“Nine hours after his arrest, a third deportation order was issued to Mr. St. Constantine,” Justice Leonard Marchand, of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia, noted in his Jan. 11 reasons for judgment.
“He was escorted to the border and returned to the United States. Twenty minutes after his deportation and removal, Mr. St. Constantine again entered Canada unlawfully. He was promptly arrested. He candidly admitted that, despite his arrest, he intended to enter Canada again. He indicated that he preferred being in jail in Canada to being in the United States.”
St. Constantine was held in custody until his sentencing hearing and was returned to the U.S. after his sentence was served. Marchand noted in his reasons that St. Constantine has a diploma in computer science and most recently resided at a shelter for the homeless in Eugene, Oregon. The appeal court judge dismissed St. Constantine’s appeal, with Justices Barbara Fisher and Patrice Abrioux concurring.
“The judge imposed a sentence that was toward the top end of the range. In doing so, she took a defensible view of the circumstances,” Marchand decided. “She appropriately emphasized deterrence and did not err in her application of the principles of proportionality, parity and collateral consequences. Mr. St. Constantine has failed to establish that the sentence he received was demonstrably unfit.”