R v SR, 2020 BCPC 227

The Court considered the frequency of sexual abuse perpetrated by a father of a child that took place over the course of a year in 1982. From balancing of the competing sentencing principles and objectives, a period of jail is warranted as the daughter’s emotional, spiritual and physical integrity has been scarred through her lifetime. The father is sentenced to a period of one year jail, without probation after a pre-sentence report and Gladue factors were also considered.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

Over a number of months in 1982, S.R. did indecently assault his daughter J.R. contrary to s 149 of the Criminal Code. The charge is dated, as the offence took place 38 years ago when S.R. was 28 years old and J.R. was 6 years old. She is now 43 years old. In 2018, J.R. reported to the police that her father sexually abused her. The charge is indictable, the accused elected to proceed in Provincial Court, and he pled guilty in 2019. S.R. does not remember any specifics of the sexual abuse but does not deny any of the acts, and told the Court he was drinking alcohol excessively during this time of his life.

Of particular importance in this case is the provision of s 718.01 which deals with offences against children. The Court gives primary consideration to deterrence and denunciation when sentencing for any offence involving abuse of a person under 18. The applicable sentencing principles for child abuse, both statutorily and in the common law, are well established (R v D(D), 2002 CanLII 44915 (ONCA); R v Woodward, 2011 ONCA 610 (CanLII)). The harm is enduring, intergenerational, and well recognized. J.R. is now an adult and has told the Court, through the Crown, that her life has been devastated by this crime. J.R. is an Indigenous woman. With that comes a greater chance that she will be emotionally, physically or sexually abused than if she were not Indigenous.

S.R. is now a 65 year old First Nations’ man. S.R. states he and his cousins witnessed countless acts of sexual violence on a regular basis. He described watching his uncles sexually assaulting women on countless occasions. S.R. saw this so often he states he believed this to be normal behaviour. He was six years old when he was exposed to sexual behaviour and pornographic images. As for alcohol, he spoke of the normalization of excessive alcohol consumption. He grew up believing it was normal to drink non-stop all weekend long and partying until all hours of the night.

When she was 14, J.R. told family members what had happened. Family members and a social worker became involved and some sort of community intervention took place. However, the social worker that became involved was S.R.’s sister-in-law and turned to S.R.’s oldest brother for advice. Subsequently the family decided to deal with the offending in a traditional way and not involve law enforcement. The Court would have welcomed input from Elders as to what the ‘traditional way’ meant. Without a better cultural understanding, the approach taken might leave one with the impression that the issue was simply ‘swept under the rug.’

As for Indigenous background, many of S.R.’s family members went to residential school where they were physically, emotionally and sexually abused. The Court acknowledges the systemic horrors that have taken place on S.R.’s First Nations community as a result of the residential school system. As the Gladue report confirmed, the majority of S.R.’s family was mandated to attend there where for over a decade the school performed horrid nutrition experiments on the children without anyone’s knowledge.

Despite the cultural cuts that residential schools scarred his community with, S.R. is involved with cultural practices such as singing, drumming and other cultural events, including language classes. There is a long list of culturally appropriate supports provided, such as clinical counselling, support groups and relapse recovery options in the community. There is also a Men’s Group that is offered to men who have sexually offended and cultural healing retreats. The Court hopes S.R. can use his position as an Elder in his community and work with others to help support a restorative healing event that can help bring his community together. I hope J.R. is able to have supports in place that make her feel welcome to participate in any community apology.

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