In keeping with the sentencing principles, including a focus on Gladue factors, the Aboriginal accused has been granted a last chance of a total sentence of 90 days to be served intermittently and supervised probation that includes an essential focus on therapy.
The accused is an Aboriginal person who is a member of the Mashteuiatsh Innu Nation. Paragraph 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code provides that the court must take into consideration all available sanctions, other than imprisonment with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders.
In 2018, the accused entered a guilty plea to a charge of trafficking cocaine. Presentence and Gladue reports (R v Gladue,  2 CNLR 252) were ordered. Despite the presence of aggravating factors, such as objective gravity and the scourge of drugs in the community, the court accepted the defence’s position and imposed an intermittent sentence of 60 days with two years’ probation, including 18 months with supervision, and 100 hours of community work.
The accused continued to use cannabis but reduced the quantity and for a time stayed away consumption. During submissions on sentencing in this matter, the Court granted the application of counsel to file the presentence and Gladue reports that were previously prepared because they remained relevant. The reports highlighted that since childhood, the accused has been exposed to instability, violence, and substance use. He is aware of the problem and has consulted an addiction counselor, but has not managed to remain abstinent. The accused has a spouse with substance abuse issues as well, with whom he lives with, along with their two young children in the Mashteuiatsh community.
The Court asked for information on the programs available in the community. There are no justice committees in Mashteuiatsh. The Court refers to the work of the “Viens Commission”, a Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec that focus on listening, reconciliation and progress. The Viens Commission describes the roles and responsibilities of justice committees as varying with each community’s needs and priorities. In general, it can be said that their goal is to offer an alternative to or complement the structures of the existing justice system. They take care of a number of things, including diversion, sentencing recommendations, supervised probation, suspended sentences, conditional release, authorized leave, crime prevention and community support such as healing circles, offender reintegration and citizen mediation.
However, there are other resources available in Mashteuiatsh to all types of clients. There is a housing resource that is a community organization that some members of the Mashteuiatsh community attend. It helps those suffering from issues related to substance abuse or addiction. With respect to Aboriginal clients, there is the Centre Kapatakan Gilles-Jourdain in Mani-Utenam, near Sept-Îles. It is an organization accredited by the Ministère de la Sécurité publique whose mission is to provide services adapted to Aboriginal values and traditions to Innu adults and other First Nations members, with the objective of healing and rehabilitation. There is also the Wapan rehabilitation centre in La Tuque. It provides treatment and follow-up services to First Nations adults. Mashteuiatsh social services can also provide support and direct a person to the appropriate resources, to the extent that they are willing and participate in the follow-up required.
In this case, the accused has been noted as open and cooperative. Before his relapse, he had made sincere efforts to change. The accused decided to testify and was transparent and described his drug addiction. He now realizes that he must get to the root of the problem and that long-term therapy is needed even if that causes him to be away from his family. He realizes that he is reproducing for his children the conditions that has led to his own substance use.
Cocaine trafficking is an objectively serious offence, for which the offender is liable to imprisonment for life. What is more, this case concerns a subsequent occurrence of the same offence for which the accused was convicted a few months earlier, along with a breach of probation. However, the Court cannot ignore the unique systemic and background factors that are mitigating in nature in that they have played a part in the Aboriginal offender’s conduct. The Supreme Court of Canada urges sentencing judges to address the sources of the problem rather than reproducing the “revolving door cycle in the courts” (R v Gladue; R v Ipeelee,  2 CNLR 218).
The accused is granted a last chance with a total sentence of 90 days to be served intermittently and supervised probation including the essential focus on therapy. To prioritize that initiative and taking into consideration the accused’s family obligations, the Court will not add community work.