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Emmanuel Alviar, centre, walks with supporters as he arrives at Provincial Court for his sentencing in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday May 3, 2012.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Emmanuel Alviar, the 20-year-old man sentenced to one month in prison on Monday for his part in the disgraceful Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver a year ago, was clearly shocked that the judge handed him prison time. "This is crazy," Mr. Alviar was reported to have said after his sentencing. But it's not crazy; it is a perfectly fitting punishment and, one hopes, a sign of more such sentences to come.

Mr. Alviar perhaps expected leniency because he had turned himself in, pleaded guilty and had no prior criminal record. Given that his actions that night, like those of many others, were well documented on video, his motives for co-operating were perhaps not uppermost in the mind of Judge Reg Harris. What was clearly on the judge's mind was the need to denounce Mr. Alviar's highly destructive and irresponsible behaviour, as well as the need to deter others from acting in a similar fashion, without being heavy-handed. Mission accomplished.

Video captured Mr. Alviar kicking debris toward a burning car, pushing a parked car – which led to others joining in and the destruction of the car – and throwing a street barricade at a window. It is indeed to his credit that he co-operated and pleaded guilty, and that he apologized to the people of Vancouver during a sentencing hearing last month. But contrition cannot be used to modulate one's degree of responsibility. It is one thing to be sentenced to 16 months' probation and 150 hours of community service, as Mr. Alviar also was; it is another thing altogether to enter a correctional facility and hear a cell door close behind you for a month.

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Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu said on Tuesday that he expects 300 people will ultimately be charged with offences related to the riot. Mr. Alviar's sentence has set an excellent precedent.

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