R v Hall, 2021 ONSC 420

A Mohawk man has been designated a dangerous offender and sentenced to a period of imprisonment of 8 years in addition to the 769 days he has served since his arrest, followed by a Long-Term Supervision Order for 8 years. The protection of the public was paramount but it is not required that the offender should be subject to external controls for the rest of his life, as would be the case with an indeterminate sentence.

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Edward Hall, a Mohawk man, has entered guilty pleas to the offences of aggravated assault, break and enter, choking, and failing to comply with probation. Mr. Hall is 51-year-old years old. At the time he committed the offences, he was bound by two probation orders relating to two convictions for aggravated assault.

Mr. Hall has a criminal record in both Canada and the United States. Between the two countries, he has been convicted of approximately 60 offences. His Gladue report provided a detailed history of Mr. Hall’s childhood. His mother was a registered Mohawk of Akwesasne band member and former resident. His father was half-Mohawk. Both died in 2019 while Mr. Hall was in custody. Akwesasne is a nation of Mohawk people situated along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. It straddles the border between the United States and Canada, and includes territory within the jurisdictions of New York State, Ontario, and Quebec. The Mohawks of Akwesasne have been severely impacted by policies of assimilation aimed at eradicating Indigenous cultures. The intense suffering these policies have caused have had intergenerational impacts that continue to be felt today.

The impacts of this intergenerational trauma are evident in Mr. Hall’s history, including the physical and emotional abuse he suffered as a child; his early addictions to alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine; his loss of his connection to his community; the lack of employment skills, education, and functionality; and the racism he has faced in various communities and institutions. Mr. Hall states that the trauma that he experienced as a child has stayed with him, where he has nightmares and flashbacks of abuse.

The Waseskun Healing Center [“Waseskun”] is recommended as an option for residential treatment that has a culturally focused approach. However, Mr. Hall’s prior history of community supervision is noted to have been poor in almost every instance. In addition, he breached the last probation order imposed upon him, both by committing the index offence and by engaging in smuggling to support himself.

Public protection is the general purpose of the dangerous offender provisions. The protection of the public is an enhanced sentencing objective for individuals who have been designated dangerous, even while sentencing judges retain the discretion to “look at the whole picture”. The sentencing judge must impose the least intrusive sentence required to achieve the primary purpose of the legislation (R v Boutilier, 2017 SCC 64; R v Spilman, 2018 ONCA 551). Mr. Hall’s most serious offences have occurred while he was in his 40s. This pattern, however, does not place him outside the statistical pattern in the literature that sees persons who share his characteristics significantly diminishing at least the frequency of their offending in their 50s and 60s.

Mr. Hall committed a vicious assault in the context of a planned home invasion offence while he was on two probation orders relating to two recent convictions for aggravated assault. He used a weapon and choked his victim to the point of unconsciousness. The public must be protected from conduct like this by Mr. Hall in the future. On the mitigating side, the Court considered Mr. Hall’s diminished moral blameworthiness for the offences given the impact of Gladue factors, and that he pleaded guilty to the predicate offences.

Mr. Hall is designated a dangerous offender. The custodial sentence of 8 additional years will bring Mr. Hall to the age of roughly 59.5 years. The Long-Term Supervision Order [“LTSO”] will continue until Mr. Hall is 67. The custodial portion of the sentence will provide Mr. Hall with time to take the treatment offered to him and demonstrate that he can apply any lessons he has learned to reduce his risk. Parole will be available to him if he makes sufficient progress. A lesser sentence will not adequately protect the public. The need to protect the public militates against awarding enhanced credit to Mr. Hall for his presentence custody of 769 days. Awarding enhanced credit would reduce the period of time for which Mr. Hall will be subject to outside controls. On the totality of the evidence, this is the least intrusive of the options to adequately protect the public against Mr. Hall’s future commission of murder or a serious personal injury offence.

As for the importance of treatment with a cultural component such as that offered at Waseskun, if Mr. Hall has access to treatment that incorporates Indigenous culture and values, this is for the good insofar as it may assist him with certain personal issues and in reintegrating into the community. In the event Mr. Hall makes sufficient progress with his skills-based treatment for anger management and substance abuse and reduces his risk of reoffending, he may apply to and be accepted at Waseskun. If Mr. Hall does not make progress during the custodial part of his sentence, he can expect that this opportunity will not be available to him, even while serving the LTSO, because he will be ordered to reside at a community correctional centre.

R v Simon, 2020 NWTSC 46

An Indigenous offender convicted for a major sexual assault, has been designated a Long Term Offender and sentenced to a prison term of 6 years and 8 months, with credit for time spent on remand. The offender has considerable issues to address to overcome his substance abuse disorder and traumas from his past, and maintain a pro-social lifestyle. A jail term should afford him an opportunity to have access to the programming that he needs.

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Following a jury trial held in Inuvik, Mr. Simon was convicted for a sexual assault committed against HK. The background that led to Mr. Simon’s conviction was that he and the victim had known each other for many years. On the day of the incident, they had spent some time together on the streets of Inuvik, drinking. They went to the apartment of someone that the victim knew, looking for more alcohol. Because no one was home, they broke into the apartment and stole mickeys of vodka from the fridge. They then left the apartment ending up in a staircase where they drank the mickeys. At some point Mr. Simon started pushing the victim on the chest with his hands until she fell onto her back, where she was subsequently sexually assaulted. Mr. Simon then left the building. Eventually, the victim got dressed and went directly to the warming shelter where she called the RCMP.

Mr. Simon is now 39 years old. He is Gwich’in, which engages the special legal framework that governs the sentencing of Indigenous offenders. That framework applies to Dangerous Offender and Long Term Offender proceedings (R v Ipeelee, 2012 SCC 13; R v Boutillier, 2017 SCC 64). Mr. Simon’s childhood was deeply traumatic. He does not know who his father is and lived with his mother until he was 5 years old. After that, for many years he lived mainly with his grandfather, whereupon Mr. Simon suffered very serious physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his grandfather between the ages of 5 and 18. This abuse happened when his grandfather was intoxicated. Mr. Simon witnessed violence and fights in the home on a regular basis.

When Mr. Simon was 14 years old, his mother was stabbed to death. He believes, and has for years, that his grandfather was responsible for her death. He has also suspected for years that his grandfather may in fact be his biological father. Mr. Simon began consuming alcohol at a very young age, around 5 or 7 years old, and was using alcohol regularly before he turned 12. When he was 11 years old a relative introduced him to sniffing gasoline. He began sniffing gasoline, propane and other inhalants on a regular basis. All his life, he was never cared for properly, nor had rules or structure. He went hungry and he did not have proper clothing for the seasons. Mr. Simon has an extensive criminal record which includes a wide variety of offenses ranging from relatively minor offenses to very serious ones.

Although Mr. Simon believes that the death of his grandfather sets the stage for a major change in his life, it is likely that any significant change will require intensive therapeutic intervention and ongoing support. His rehabilitation, as well as the protection of the public, require that he be subject to external controls beyond the reach of the term of imprisonment that must be imposed for his sexual assault of HK. Considering the fact that Mr. Simon has no impediment, cognitive or otherwise, to taking treatment and programming, that he is motivated and has engaged in programming in the past, it is not necessary to have him subjected to outside controls for a further 8 years after the completion of the custodial portion of his sentence.

TA v Alberta (Children’s Services), 2020 ABQB 97

The Plaintiff, a Cree woman, filed a Statement of Claim against a number of parties after her children were apprehended by Children’s Services. The Application to strike the Statement of Claim and the Application for Summary Judgement were granted. 

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The Plaintiff [“TA”] is a Cree woman whose six children were apprehended pursuant to court orders under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. The Claim criticized Edmonton Children’s Services’ [“CS”] handling of the apprehension of the children and sought a broad range of remedies. The Defendants pleaded that CS owed no legal duty of care to TA as the subject parent responding to CS actions and that the child protection proceedings have been handled properly and in good faith. The psychologist who assessed TA additionally asked for summary judgment on the basis that the only evidence has shown that they met their standard of care and acted in circumstances of qualified privilege.

The Defendants applied to strike the Claim as an abusive collateral attack on child protection proceedings pursuant to Rule 3.68(2)(d) and because it disclosed no cause of action. The Court relied on the rule that it is an abuse of process to attempt to relitigate a matter already decided (Dykun v Odishaw, 2000 ABQB 548). Further, the Court found that the wrongs in which TA says were done to her do not create causes of action against the Defendants, and the remedies she asks for are mostly beyond the jurisdiction of this Court. The action is doomed to fail because the mere fact that someone has done something that you do not like, treated you unfairly, or caused you emotional distress, does not automatically create a right to sue them.

The Claim was struck in its entirety, save for the defamation claim against the psychologist. The Court looked to Rule 7.3(b) which provides that a party may apply for a summary judgment where there is no defence or merit to some or part of a claim (Weir-Jones Technical Services Incorporated v Purolator Courier Ltd, 2019 ABCA 49). The plaintiff offered no factual basis to conclude the professional assessment was conducted negligently.

The Court concluded that the lawsuit is an abuse of process in the technical sense that it attempts to relitigate completed court proceedings and is based on a variety of complaints that do not give the Plaintiff a cause of action, irrespective of whether they are accurate or not. The application to strike the Claim and the application for summary judgment are granted.

R v Wood, 2021 MBQB 4

An imposed sentence for 18 years’ incarceration is considered fit for an Indigenous offender convicted of manslaughter for killing his wife. His moral blameworthiness, even when tempered for his Gladue circumstances, is very high. Denunciation is critical in condemning spousal violence, particularly the chronic threat to Indigenous women. While restorative sentences are important in many situations of an Indigenous victim and abuser, that is far less so in cases of murder or manslaughter.

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In 2018, Jonathon Wood was convicted of manslaughter for killing his wife, Kathleen Wood, in their home community of St. Theresa Point First Nation, Manitoba. Both Mr. Wood and his wife are Indigenous persons who were raised, and lived in the isolated First Nation with a population of about 4,000 people, accessible only by air, boat or winter ice-road. They began their relationship in 2004 and were married in 2010. Mr. Wood intermittently assaulted Mrs. Wood since 2012. He was convicted of assaulting her four times. By this point, they had three children together, along with an older boy from Mrs. Wood’s prior relationship. These assaults followed a consistent pattern.

When Mr, Wood attacked Mrs. Wood in 2013, 2014 and 2015, he was on some form of bail or probation aimed at reducing the chance he would assault her again. When he ultimately assaulted and killed her, he was still bound by two Probation Orders which stipulated he was not to have contact with Mrs. Wood and imposed restrictions on him when drinking. Regardless of these Orders, Mr. Wood was charged again for assault and aggravated assault of several people, including Mrs. Wood, as well as four probation breaches. He was released on a Recognizance which included not to communicate with Mrs. Wood, and in part, allowed him to be arrested even if he was just in the area of St. Theresa Point.

Despite the court orders, and his promise to abide by them, Mr. Wood went to St. Theresa Point to see his family and Mrs. Wood. A party took place at Mr. Wood’s brother’s residence, and all were intoxicated. As the evening progressed, Mr. and Mrs. Wood got into an argument, which eventually led to Mr. Wood assaulting Mrs. Wood with his fists and feet, repeating the escalating pattern of the four prior convictions. The brother wanted to check on Mrs. Wood, who was then lying on the floor, but Mr. Wood told him to leave her alone, that she was just passed-out. Concerned, the brother went next door for help but returned moments later to Mrs. Wood no longer breathing.

Mrs. Wood’s injuries were awful. The autopsy revealed the true devastation. The forensic pathologist detailed many injuries including numerous bones broken, including her jaw, left clavicle, left wrist and all 24 ribs, 23 of which had multiple fractures. She also suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage, full-thickness tongue laceration, contusions and lacerations of the lungs and diaphragm, and contusion of the liver. There was no evidence Mrs. Wood’s injuries were caused by anything other than Mr. Wood beating her at the party.

A pre-sentence and Gladue report was prepared for sentencing. Mr. Wood left school with very little education, and no employable skills. There is nothing to suggest Mr. Wood experienced any mental health concerns. Poverty, unemployment, lack of education and substance abuse were negative influences in Mr. Wood’s upbringing. During the course of his times in custody, Mr. Wood participated in many programs, including anger management, parenting skills and healthy relationships.

The vulnerability of a victim, particularly a woman in a domestic context, are well established aggravating factors on sentencing and ones which emphasize denunciation and deterrence (R v LP, 2020 QCCA 1239). Generally, spousal killings attract a higher sentence, and greater condemnation, than other types of manslaughter (s 718.2(a)(ii) of the Criminal Code). Mrs. Wood’s Indigenous status, and living in a community so under-serviced and isolated as St. Theresa Point First Nation, heightened her vulnerability to spousal violence (R v AD, 2019 ABCA 396). It is clear that this event was not only catastrophic for Mrs. Wood but also for her four teenage children.

The nature of the beating was merciless. His previous pattern of beating Mrs. Wood and resulting convictions, his sober defiance of court orders, and his willful disregard for placing her, his wife, in situations of grave danger, adds considerably to his blameworthiness. Denunciation is critical in condemning spousal violence, particularly the chronic threat to Indigenous women. There is the need to separate Mr. Wood from his community so he is no longer a threat to them.

R v Nahanee, 2021 BCCA 13

Appeal dismissed. The Appellant’s guilty plea was not accompanied by a joint submission on sentencing, thereby the trial judge was not obliged to notify counsel that she planned to impose a longer sentence than what was sought by the Crown. The sentence was not demonstrably unfit, as the Appellant’s Indigenous heritage was taken into account when assessing aggravating factors.

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The Appellant, Mr. Nahanee, who grew up in the Squamish Nation Capilano Reserve in West Vancouver, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault and was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. The first count was against SR on one occasion, the second was against EN on many occasions. The sentencing judge ordered a pre-sentence report, a psychiatric assessment, and a Gladue report.

The offences against EN were committed over a long period. EN lived in the care of her grandparents, together with the Appellant, her uncle, between 2010 and 2015. When she first moved into their home, she was 13 years old, and the Appellant was 19 years old. The Appellant repeatedly assaulted her at night, and when she was 14 years old, the assaults escalated with so much frequency she lost track of the number. EN came forward to the police in 2018, after learning that Mr. Nahanee had also assaulted her younger cousin, SR. SR had told her grandmother about past assaults by her uncle, but was not believed by her family.

Gladue factors were considered at length by the trial judge, but did not weigh significantly in sentencing. The Appellant had not endured violence or abuse, and was raised in a safe home. She described the Appellant’s family’s history, and his forebears’ experience in residential schools and their loss of cultural and spiritual connections. She placed significant weight upon the fact the victim and the community in question here were Indigenous, and the victims, as a result, were much more vulnerable to sexual assault than their non-Indigenous counterparts (R v Barton, 2019 SCC 33; R v SPS, 2019 BCPC 158).

The admission made by the Appellant, amounted to an admission that there had been prior, uncharged assaults, the victim had reported them to her grandmother, and she had been disbelieved. Given that the admission was made to assist the court in sentencing following a guilty plea, no other purpose could be served by the admission. It was certainly not an admission that the victim had previously made false reports to her grandmother.

The sentencing judge acknowledged the obligation to consider the Gladue principles in this case, as in every case involving an Indigenous offender. Having done so, it was not an error to consider the extent to which the offender himself was affected by cultural oppression, social inequality and systemic discrimination. Appropriate care was taken in this case to identify Gladue factors and to determine whether they attenuated the Appellant’s moral blameworthiness. It should be borne in mind that the application of the Gladue principles in this case must also have been tempered by consideration of the fact the victims were Indigenous children. The effort at reconciliation that, in part, motivates the Gladue approach to sentencing, is not served by sentences that do not sufficiently deter violence against Indigenous children.

R v BTL, 2020 BCPC 185

The Court imposed a custodial sentence on a young Indigenous first time offender that sexually assaulted his young cousin. A 90-day custody and supervision order served concurrent with a two-year intensive support and supervision program is determined to be best suited to promote his rehabilitation and is in harmony with all the Youth Criminal Justice Act’s principles and purpose.

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An Indigenous youth, BTL, at the age of 14, invited his then 13 year old cousin, SP over to his residence for a visit where he forced unprotected sexual intercourse on her. SP disclosed the assault to her mother who then reported it to police. BTL claimed that he had no memory of the event but his DNA was found in the victim’s underwear. He subsequently pleaded guilty to the offence of sexual assault.

BTL is now 16 years old. He is Carrier and a registered status member of a First Nation. His Pre-Sentence Report described the adverse impact of colonization on the Carrier people and his Nation, that included the legacy of residential schools, child apprehension, poverty, poor health, unemployment and substance abuse. BTL experienced a difficult and chaotic childhood rife with domestic violence, drug and alcohol misuse, criminality, instability and dysfunction. The Ministry of Child and Family Development became involved with BTL’s family due to violence, alcohol and drug intoxication, neglect and parental inability to care for the children.

BTL has a number of developmental, cognitive and psychological issues as a result of his prenatal exposure to alcohol and unstable childhood. He suffers from unspecified seizures and displayed extreme behavioural issues in school, leaving without completing Grade 8. Presently, he lives an empty, solitary life at home devoid of any community, prosocial or cultural activity and has succumbed to intergenerational substance misuse. He has no prior criminal record, however, he does have a poor history of reporting to his Youth Worker and attending appointments. As is his right, BTL refuses to discuss with anyone the circumstances of the offence.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act [“YCJA”] provides a detailed sentencing regime governing the sentencing of youth offenders. The focus of sentencing under the YCJA is balancing conflicting principles to arrive at a sentence tailored to the individual circumstances (R v Okemow, 2017 MBCA 59). Sentencing youth pursuant to the YCJA is a context-specific approach unlike the sentencing regime for adult offenders set out in s 718 of the Criminal Code. The YCJA places mandatory restrictions on the use of custodial sentences. The Court concludes, however, that the serious and violent nature of the offence BTL committed against SP precludes them from imposing an alternative to a custodial sentence.

R v TK, 2020 SKQB 262

The Court allowed an Indigenous youth’s application for judicial interim release pending trial for first-degree murder. The Court accepted that the Gladue principles were relevant to his application for bail under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, SC 2002, c 1, particularly as they pertain to the secondary and tertiary grounds. The strength of the Crown’s case was not strong, the youth would be in pre-trial detention for a considerable length of time before trial, and a release plan with extensive conditions was proposed by defence counsel. 

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 T.K. is a 16-year-old male who stands charged with first-degree murder in the death of D.D. contrary to s 235 of the Criminal Code. He attended a house party in Regina, Saskatchewan in which it is alleged he brought the suspected murder weapon, a machete. An altercation broke out, and when police were called the next day, D.D. was found dead in the house from severe lacerations to his skull, similar to what would be from a machete. T.K. is one of four young persons charged with first-degree murder in D.D.’s death. Two adults also face first-degree murder charges in respect of his death. Counsel for the Crown served notice that it will be seeking an adult sentence in the event T.K. is convicted of this alleged crime, in which he has elected to be tried by a judge and jury.

T.K. has applied for judicial interim release pending his trial pursuant to s 28 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act [“YCJA”]. He asks that he be allowed to reside with his mother at her home in Regina pending his trial on the murder charge. The YCJA commends judges to release young persons from detention pending trial, even in cases where the young person is charged with an extremely serious criminal offence for which the Crown will be seeking an adult sentence upon conviction.

T.K. is an Indigenous person of Cree descent. Consequently, Gladue factors are relevant and must be taken into consideration on this bail application (R v Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688 [“Gladue”]). T.K. had been in the care of the Ministry of Social Services from age 11 to 15. T.K.’s youth record is lengthy, commencing when he was only 14 years of age. At present, T.K. is detained at the Paul Dojack Youth Centre [PDYC], where he has Level 4 status. This status offers T.K. the greatest flexibility at that centre. T.K. is actively pursuing his Grade 10 education and is apparently doing well in his studies. He proposes to continue with his education if he is released. The Crown has not proved on a balance of probabilities that if released from PDYC, there is a “substantial likelihood” T.K. will commit a serious offence.

The Court analysed the strength of the Crown’s case against T.K. on first-degree murder. It is not strong. Apart from T.K. being present at the scene, there is no evidence currently which physically links T.K. to the commission of the offence or to its aftermath. If T.K.’s detention continues, he will be detained for a considerable length of time before he is tried on this offence. No preliminary inquiry has yet taken place, and none is scheduled until March or April 2021, at the earliest, approximately one year after the date of the offence. Once it is concluded, and if T.K. is committed to stand trial on this offence, it will be many more months before his trial would commence.

Taking all considerations into account and mindful that T.K. is a young person, his detention pending trial should be the very last resort and ordered only where no other alternative is available. The Court is satisfied that his application for judicial interim release should be granted and orders that T.K. be released from the PDYC with terms and conditions.

R v Reddick, 2020 ONCA 786

Appeal dismissed. There is no error on the sentencing judge’s imposed sentence of an Indigenous offender who committed a robbery with an imitation firearm. Gladue principles was given appropriate consideration, along with hardships arising from the Covid-19 pandemic related lockdowns in determining a fit sentence.

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Mr. Chad Reddick entered a guilty plea to robbery and using an imitation firearm while committing an indictable offence. This was an extremely serious offence committed by a 33-year-old man with a significant, albeit largely non-violent, criminal record. The sentencing judge imposed a two-year sentence for the robbery, to be followed by the one-year mandatory minimum sentence for the firearm offence. The sentencing judge also granted the Crown a 12-month non-reporting probation order.

Mr. Reddick appeals the sentence imposed, claiming that the sentencing judge erred in applying Gladue principles and failed to pay attention to the sentencing objective of rehabilitation. He argued that there has been a change in the law that makes a conditional sentence possible for the robbery conviction, and that there has been a high frequency of lockdowns Mr. Reddick has experienced related to the Covid-19 pandemic since the sentence was imposed (R v Sharma, 2020 ONCA 478 [“Sharma”]).

Mr. Reddick is remorseful and has commited to change, however, his appeal is dismissed. Despite the fact that Aboriginal Legal Services declined to provide a Gladue report because he and his family members lacked specific information about his Aboriginal ancestry, the sentencing judge accepted that Mr. Reddick was Indigenous and drew on relevant information in the presentence report in order to comply with s 718.2(e). She applied the Gladue principles appropriately and sensitively, as well as considered rehabilitation.

Even if this Court was to accept that after the Sharma decision a conditional sentence may be imposed on a robbery conviction where a weapon is involved, there is no error by the sentencing judge that would permit resentencing Mr. Reddick using this “new” sentencing tool. As well, pursuant to s 742.1 of the Criminal Code, a conditional sentence cannot be imposed unless the accused is being sentenced to less than two years of imprisonment. The trial judge determined that the least restrictive sentence she could impose was two years. Despite hardship arising from lockdowns which can qualify as a collateral consequence that warrants consideration during sentencing (R v Morgan, 2020 ONCA 279), the sentencing judge already took the current Covid-19 pandemic into account on the hardship of the sentence imposed. The Court is not satisfied on the evidence that circumstances have changed to the point where additional credit should be given.

R c Kanatewat, 2020 QCCQ 3293

A jail sentence is warranted for the offender who committed a sexual assault on the victim after entering a private residence. Gladue factors were considered, along with other competing sentencing principles, in crafting a restorative sentence that includes probation and community service.

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In 2019, Mr. Kevin Kanatewat, the offender, entered very early in the morning the residence rented by the victim, a male of 30 years old, and sexually assaulted him. The attack lasted approximately one hour and was for the victim intimidating, intrusive, humiliating and a painful experience. The offender was found guilty of sexual assault committed on the victim under s 271 a) of the Criminal Code; two counts of breach of his conditions under s 145; resisting or wilfully obstructing a peace officer in the execution of his duty, s 129 a); and with assaulting a peace officer engaged in the execution of his duties, 270 (1) a). The offender pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a conditions of an undertaking not to drink alcoholic beverages and to not completing all of the 150 hours of community work services he had to execute on a probation.

The Presentence Report mentioned a number of Gladue factors, including an upbringing marked by negligence and violence induced by consumption problems. The offender ceased school in Grade 9 and did not return to any scholastic or vocational program. He has an unstable history of employment where he worked various jobs, some which he lost or quit because of his consumption difficulties. The offender suffers from drug and alcohol abuse but would not participate in any services offered in the correctional facility, nor has he made any therapy demands. There are a number of priors regarding breaches and offenses against persons where the offender got short sentences of jail, generally suspended sentences and probations and even community work. The offender has a low level of maturity and a mitigated sense of responsibility with an elastic capacity for empathy.

This intrusive and forceful sexual assault has seriously harmed the victim, a pharmacy technician, as he suffered a very humiliating and destructive harm on his sense of dignity and security. The subjective gravity of the sexual assault warrants a sentence of jail that symbolizes strong denunciation and deterrence but also calls for weighing appropriately the historic and systemic community background factors as well as the personal background factors in a restorative and individualized fit sentence. This sentence has to be proportionate without trivializing or condoning the violent course of behavior.

The offender’s risk of reoffending is considered high, but could be reduced through the healing process under judicial surveillance. The Court is of the opinion that a sentence of imprisonment of 18 months would be a fit sentence, and probation of 24 months with a long healing and compelling process, along with 240 hours of community work to be performed. The probation and the community work are more likely to get the offender on the right track after a significant term of jail and an involvement in the healing programs.

Tallcree First Nation v Rath & Company, 2020 ABCA 433

Permission to appeal is not needed for a chambers judge reserved decision regarding an appeal by an Applicant law firm that entered into a contingency fee with a First Nation for 20% that resulted in around $11 million dollars for a relatively small amount of work. The decision under appeal is not a decision “as to costs alone.” However, the decision under appeal is interlocutory in nature because the chambers judge’s final order on the amount of recoverable fees has not yet been issued. Appeals of interlocutory decisions are generally discouraged. Interlocutory appeals may turn out to be unnecessary and are normally contrary to the Court of Appeal’s policy against litigation by installment.

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Rath & Company and Jeffrey Rath [“Applicants”] apply for confirmation by way of declaration that they have a right to appeal a decision of a chambers judge overturning a Review Officer’s decision that a contingency fee agreement was reasonable. In the alternative, they seek permission to appeal, if their appeal is of a decision “as to costs alone.”

In 2015, Tallcree First Nation [“Tallcree”] entered into a contingency fee agreement with the Applicants, who were retained to settle certain agricultural benefits claims under Treaty 8 made by Tallcree against the federal government. The initial contingency fee agreed to was 20%. The Applicants resolved the agricultural claims quickly, although Tallcree did not receive the payment of $57,590,375 from the federal government until 2018. The 20% contingency amounted to $11,518,075. Tallcree subsequently applied for a review of the contingency fee agreement under the Alberta Rules of Court. The Review Officer was asked to determine whether the 20% contingency fee was reasonable. It appears that all the Applicants did on this matter was file a formal claim, send a three-page settlement letter, and engage in “minor negotiations”.

The Review Officer found that the contingency fee was “not … clearly unreasonable” based on a comparison with personal injury lawsuits in which a 20% contingency fee is commonly charged in clear cases where liability is not in issue. Tallcree appealed the Review Officer’s decision to the chambers judge who revoked the Review Officer’s decision because the wrong test was applied (“clearly unreasonable” as opposed to “reasonable”). The finding that the 20% contingency was the minimum percentage for cases taken on a contingency basis was unsupported by evidence or authority as it failed to account for other considerations relevant to the reasonableness of the contingency fee. The chambers judge the asked for further written submissions on what the Applicant’s recoverable fees should be. A further hearing took place before the chambers judge in 2020, but the chambers judge has reserved his decision.

No appeal is allowed to this Court from a decision as to costs only unless permission to appeal has first been obtained. It is doubtful that the decision under appeal is a decision “as to costs only”. It concerns a dispute about the recovery of lawyers’ fees between a lawyer and his or her client, not the payment of costs between parties to litigation. Even if a Review Officer’s review of a lawyer’s charges to his or her client amounts to “a decision as to costs alone”, a review of a contingency fee agreement does not. A review of lawyers’ accounts is a largely discretionary exercise but a review of a contingency fee agreement for reasonableness raises issues of principle about whether (and when) clients who enter into such an agreement and allow the lawyer to fulfil the contingency can decline to pay the contractually-agreed contingency fee.

The policy behind the rule requiring permission to appeal for “a decision as to costs alone” does not apply to an appeal of a review of a contingency fee agreement. No previous decision of this Court has held that such an appeal requires permission to appeal its predecessors. The decision under appeal is not a decision “as to costs alone.” However, the decision under appeal is interlocutory in nature because the chambers judge’s final order on the amount of recoverable fees has not yet been issued. Appeals of interlocutory decisions are generally discouraged. Interlocutory appeals may turn out to be unnecessary and are normally contrary to this Court’s policy against litigation by installment.