Am I A Criminal?

Canada does not, to the best of my knowledge, have a statute of limitations on criminal acts. There is no sunset clause for minor offences, as is found in some American jurisdictions.

I mention this because I am about to confess to a crime. My hope is that the authorities will decide it isn’t worth prosecuting me given the passage of time and the gravity of the offence.

You see, technically I am a vandal.

Ottawa’s Carleton University has a marvelous feature that makes it the envy of many other institutions. It has tunnels. Every building on the rather extensive campus is connected by an underground network. You can immediately see the appeal. There are students living in dormitories who never purchase winter clothing or boots; they never have to go outdoors when it is cold.

Admittedly the tunnels aren’t always the most direct route between two points. It is pretty much always faster to travel above ground, but sometimes comfort wins over convenience.

One feature of the tunnels is the artwork. There was a tradition, started I think in the 1960s, that residence students would leave behind a tunnel mural signed by their floor and year. Some became quite iconic and known to generations of students, lasting for years before being painted over.

When I first started attending Carleton in the early 1970s, the murals were limited to the tunnel closest to the residences. Now there are a couple of other areas where groups have been given permission to show off their artistic talents. Note what I said there: given permission.

When I took part in creating a tunnel mural we had no permission and it wasn’t in an approved location. I can’t remember how long it was before the administration painted over it, but it was at least several months, maybe longer than a year. It was more than 40 years ago, so my memory might be a little hazy.

Those who know me know that I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. I can’t even do paint by numbers. So I don’t think I actually picked up a brush – but the concept was mine.

Well, not really. I was the one who had seen the comic panel, I don’t even remember where now. I don’t know who did the original, and haven’t been able to find it on the Internet. I had planned just on posting it here and letting the picture say what I had to say for today. Instead I will paint a word portrait.

It was a drawing of two Roman soldiers walking down a hill at the conclusion of a day’s work. In the background at the top of the hill can be seen three crosses. One turns to the other and says “Well I guess that’s one troublemaker we won’t hear from again.” At the bottom of the panel, in very large font were the words: “He ain’t coming back as a carpenter!”

As I remember it, we had half a dozen people involved in painting the mural, at the intersection of two of the tunnels, a high traffic area. Took about three hours. Then after the paint dried we painted over it with a clear sealant, so that we could easily remove the inevitable graffiti. Even though the tunnels have been painted at least twice since then, it should still be there under the paint. I could go in some night at midnight with some paint remover and bring it back. Some days that is really tempting.

Technically I suppose it was vandalism, we had no permission to do what we did. But it was also art. And free speech. I doubt I will be charged with any crime at this point.

Today, as we observe Good Friday, the message of that mural remains the same as it was 40 years ago, the same as almost 2.000 years ago: He ain’t coming back as a carpenter!


One comment

  1. CA Jenkins · · Reply

    I remember you showing me where it was when we first met, not 40 years ago quite. I volunteer!

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