R v Wentzell, 2020 NSPC 20

The Court sentenced an Indigenous offender who stabbed her significant other, to a global sentence of a suspended sentence with a period of probation for three years with conditions. This sentence provides the best mechanism for assuring that the offender continues on her path towards a pro-social lifestyle. Society’s protection is best assured by the continued supervision and encouragement of the offender’s efforts and progress in her rehabilitation.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

Ms. Jennifer Wentzell is a 38-year-old woman of Mi’kmaq ancestry and a member of the Gold River First Nation. One night, when intoxicated, she uttered a threat to kill and then subsequently stabbed her significant other. The use of a knife and a resulting penetrative wound to the victim coupled with Ms. Wentzell’s prior criminal record must have a sentenced imposed that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of Ms. Wentzell.

A Gladue Report was prepared in 2019, and a sentencing circle was held in the Gold River community in 2020. At the sentencing circle, two videos were viewed regarding the events that led up to the altercation, including Ms. Wentzell being told her body was gross and some physical altercations between the couple. The victim in this matter declined to provide a Victim Impact Statement or participate in the sentencing circle.

Ms. Wentzell’s life has been marred with instability, poverty, homelessness, and a lack of education and employment opportunities. She has experienced domestic violence, sexual abuse, and the involvement of the child welfare system. She has suffered from addictions to alcohol and drugs, along with intergenerational trauma as result of the legacy of the residential school system, discrimination and colonization. She has three children from two long term relationships.

Ms. Wentzell has been attending programming at Holly House, which is run by the Elizabeth Fry Society. Ms. Wentzell has been engaging in individual addictions counselling. She has attended the Rising Sun Treatment Rehabilitation Centre on two occasions and has plans to attend again for the relapse prevention program. She has attempted to reduce her consumption of alcohol. Her plan going forward is to continue with counselling for addictions and healthy relationships. She also will be attending sweats on a regular basis and is working towards long term sober living. She would like to continue her education by attending the Nova Scotia Community College in a trades program and find part time employment.

Ms. Wentzell was involved in a volatile and abusive spousal relationship. The victim’s prior treatment, assaultive and degrading behaviour towards Ms. Wentzell along with her intoxication and impulsive reaction to the events must be taken into consideration. These events in addition, to Ms. Wentzell’s prior history of trauma and experiences of an Indigenous person, reduce her moral culpability in these offences.

The long-term protection of the community requires that Ms. Wentzell’s efforts be acknowledged and that she be allowed to continue on that path without interruption. It is hopeful that she will be able to show the community, by her example, that there is life beyond addiction and involvement in the Criminal Justice System. A suspended sentence with a significant period of probation was the reasonable alternative to incarceration in this case and is of significant consequence to Ms. Wentzell.

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