R v Alphonse, 2020 BCSC 1882

A Gladue report and pre-sentence report helped inform the sentence of 44 months incarceration, with credit for 81 days pre-trial detention for an Indigenous man who shot an Indigenous woman, who now suffers from lifelong debilitating injuries from the bullet wound.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

Kelvin Alphonse was with a small group of friends and family at a home, having some drinks and sharing time with one another. Things took a turn and Mr. Alphonse was asked to leave the gathering. He complied but returned a few moments later with a gun and shot Janet Paul as she was walking down the road, having left the party with her nephew. Ms. Paul now suffers lifelong debilitating injuries as a result of the bullet wound. Mr. Alphonse was convicted of that shooting and various firearms offences connected to it. Two of the offences for which he stands convicted carry mandatory minimum sentences of four years.

Mr. Alphonse is a 53 years old Tsilhqot’in First Nation man registered with the Lhtako (Red Bluff) Dene band and a residential school survivor. He has provided the Court with substantial information about his background and about his current circumstances, medically and otherwise in a Gladue Report and a Pre-Sentence Report. His criminal record is indicative of a person experiencing alcoholism. His early record contains convictions for property related offences and impaired driving.

Parliament insists that certain firearms offences must be punished by a prescribed minimum jail sentence. The prescribed minimum sentences at issue here have withstood prior constitutional scrutiny. Parliament also directs sentencing judges to recognize the systemic racism that plagues the criminal justice system and which has caused the disproportionate incarceration of Indigenous peoples (Section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code; R v Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688). At the same time, s 718.2(e), as now constituted, directs sentencing judges to account for harm done to the victim and to the community. In this case, the harm done to Ms. Paul is grave and any sentence must properly reflect that harm. To that end, account is to be taken of Ms. Paul, her pain and suffering and her status as an Indigenous woman.

This proceeding has had a protracted history, impacted by a change of counsel, a constitutional challenge complicated by intersecting sentencing provisions and by a pandemic restricting access to the court. In this case, it is significant that Mr. Alphonse experienced residential schools both first hand and generationally. His experience at the St. Joseph’s Indian Residential School was “formally documented” and is described the horrendous history of the school in the Gladue report. Mr. Alphonse’s teenage years were similarly difficult.

Mr. Alphonse is remorseful and acknowledges the magnitude of the pain and suffering his actions caused Ms. Paul. He recognized the destructive role alcohol was playing in his life and the impact it had on others, most significantly, Ms. Paul. Also mitigating factors are his lengthy attendance at VisionQuest and ongoing involvement in alcohol treatment demonstrates his commitment to ongoing recovery, which includes abstinence for over four years. The Court imposes the sentence of 44 months incarceration, with credit for 81 days pre-trial detention.

* Read “Case highlights ‘tension’ in sentencing Indigenous offenders” here to read Ben Bulmer’s article that discusses complex issues in regards to this case.

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