R v Boysis, 2019 ABQB 437

An Indigenous man may have propensity for recidivist violence, but the Gladue factors support a reduced moral culpability.

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The accused was convicted by a jury for manslaughter and aggravated assault. The accused has a criminal record which included a prior conviction for manslaughter and other crimes of violence. A high risk of violent recidivism is present which requires intensive supervision and active management if he is to be released in the community. Concerns about the accused’s potential for recidivist violence and the safety of the public must be borne in mind during the proportionality analysis.

The accused is an Indigenous male of Cree descent and the Gladue factors in this case point to impacts of intergenerational trauma from the accused’s mother and maternal grandmother’s residential school experience. The impacts include alcohol and drug abuse, violence, low educational achievement, criminal involvement, loss of language, culture, and traditions. Gang activity is common in the accused’s home community, as well as family violence, extended periods of poverty and homelessness, childhood neglect, chronic unemployment, low income, suicide among immediate family members, and physical and sexual abuse.

The accused was remorseful and had made efforts to disengage from the previous gang connections and lifestyle. He also understands he needs help with his emotional and mental wellness. The reduced moral culpability played a significant role in determining a fit and proper sentence.

Taking into account all the circumstances, including the aggravating and mitigating factors, the accused’s reduced moral culpability, the range of sentence indicated by the authorities and the principles of sentencing set out in the Criminal Code, a fit and appropriate sentence for the manslaughter conviction is 9 years and aggravated assault is 4 years.

R v GD, 2019 BCPC 179

After balancing sentencing objectives with the gravity of the violent and sexual offences committed, the offender’s Indigenous heritage was minorly influential in determining a fit sentence. 

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The accused was convicted of five offences relating to the confinment and repeated sexual abuse of a 16-year-old friend of her son’s over a two-day period. The offences were committed with her husband who pled guilty to four of the five offences and received a 15-year sentence.

There was an extensive list of aggravating features in this case. There was an element of planning to the offences. The offender was a co-perpetrator, primarily assisting in the execution of the plan once aware of it, although, did act independently at times. There was repeated violent, cruel and degrading acts over that period of two days. The assaults involved gratuitous and excessive violence for perverse reasons that went beyond what was necessary to gain the victim’s compliance. There was a power imbalance between the offender and victim by virtue of their age difference. The victim suffered multiple physical injuries.

The offender expressed a lack of genuine remorse. The offender’s criminal record was given marginal bearing, as most were unrelated offences and had lack of proximity in time. The offender’s psychological profile, however, presented a high risk to engage in future sexual offences with the accomplice, or another male offender, while in the community. Even with intensive interventions, the accused’s rehabilitative prospects are guarded.

At times, the offender showed kindness to the victim and attempted at times to reduce suffering. The offender cooperated to a limited extent with police (treated marginally given its limited nature). The offender had taken concrete and positive steps towards rehabilitation while in custody. She has engaged in individual therapy sessions and numerous programs. There was no ascertainable evidence that the offender had been affected by racism, lower educational attainment, unemployment, low income or lack of employment opportunities as a result of her Métis heritage. The proportionate sentence to the gravity of the offence and degree of responsibility is a sentence of 12 years.

R v Lagrelle, 2019 ABQB 702

A non-carceral sentence is unavailable for an Indigenous woman who pled guilty to causing an accident that resulted in a death and bodily harm to others while driving intoxicated.

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The offender, Ms. Lagrelle, had a previous impaired driving offence but still made the decision to drive intoxicated and was travelling at a high speed when a collision occurred. The alcohol content was almost twice the legal limit, and she had occupants in the vehicle. An aggravating aspect was that the offender denied driving the vehicle and only admitted to police that she was indeed the driver two weeks after the accident. Because of these actions, Ms. Lagrelle’s moral blameworthiness is high for causing an accident that resulted in a person’s death as well as bodily harm to others.

One of the challenges facing this Court is that Ms. Lagrelle, and Idigenous woman who has suffered substantial abuse in her life, will be facing a carceral sentence. A non-carceral sentence, such as a conditional sentence order, is simply not available for the offence. Ms. Lagrelle, however, shows prospects for rehabilitation. Although the gravity of the offences for which she has been convicted are high, her moral culpability was lessened through the various Gladue factors stated in a Gladue report that assisted with determining the length of the sentence that is imposed (R v Abraham, 2000 ABCA 159).

The Court determined that the fit and proper sentences for Ms. Lagrelle’s offences for causing an accident resulting in death was three years and six months imprisonment and for causing an accident resulting in bodily harm was two years and six months imprisonment. The sentences are to be served concurrently. Further, it was recommended that the sentence be served in the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan.

R v Paul, 2019 SKQB 142

Offender is to be sentenced as an adult, even after consideration of Gladue factors. She is to serve, concurrently, nine years imprisonment for manslaughter and two years imprisonment for unlawful confinement.

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The accused was found guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter as well as unlawful confinement. The offender was just shy of her 18th birthday at the time of the offences; as such, these proceedings fell under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, SC 2002, c 1 [“Act”]. However, the offender was to be sentenced as an adult as the Crown filed a notice and the offender had consented to that process under s 67 of the Act.

Proportionality, the fundamental principle of sentencing, the individualistic nature of sentencing, deterrence and denunciation, and rehabilitation as the offender is a young person were all taken into account. Further, sentencing must consider the Gladue factors when considering a person of Indigenous ancestry.

While on remand, the offender took advantage of some available programming but her time in remand could not be characterized as positive. The pre-sentence report ranked the offender in the highest level of risk to reoffend, and the psychological assessment report concluded she was at a high risk for future violent offending. The offender informed the court that she does understand she needs assistance and that was the primary reason she consented to an adult sentence to take advantage of the programming. She has been connected with her family since being incarcerated. She oscillates between expressions of remorse and pride at her capacity for violence and defiance, but stated she was sorry at the sentencing hearing which was taken as sincere.

Counsel agreed that the sentencing range for manslaughter is 4 to 11 years, with a starting point of 7 years. In some circumstances, a suitable sentence will fall outside the range. Two cases were relied on, R v Whitehead, 2016 SKCA 165 and R v Littlewolfe, 2002 SKCA 143. The prolonged nature of the attack and extent of physical violence inflicted on the victim were aggravating circumstances in this case. As for mitigating factors, her youth was a mitigating factor as well as not initially being the leader in the attack. The offender was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for manslaughter and two years imprisonment for unlawful confinement, to be served concurrently.

R v Luke, 2019 ONCJ 514

Conditional discharge granted. In this matter involving an Indigenous first time female offender, the mandatory minimum sentence in s 255(1) is inconsistent with s 12 of the Charter.

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The accused was arrested for impaired driving after she took her mother’s car without consent. She assumed control of the vehicle in an extremely intoxicated state, out of reaction to her boyfriend’s infidelity with her own cousin. A monetary penalty in response to the creation of a serious risk, such as with impaired driving, will not be a grossly disproportionate punishment. The central issue is whether the criminal record which necessarily flows from the imposition of that mandatory minimum fine results in a s 12 Charter violation for an offender, such as with accused in this matter. The result of the mandatory minimum sentence demanded by s 255(1) of the Criminal Code [“CC”], the discretion afforded by s 730 of the CC was unavailable. As well, when Parliament enacted s 255(5), Ontario never opted into the application of a discharge provision.

A discharge should only be granted if the court “considers it to be in the best interests of the accused and not contrary to the public interest”. This must be answered having regard to the accused’s moral blameworthiness and to the gravity of the offence. As well, all sentencing determinations “must respect the fundamental principle of proportionality”. Taking into account s 718.2(e), a different method of analysis must also be used when determining a fit sentence for Aboriginal offenders.

Denunciation is a key consideration in drinking and driving offences, especially where the offence was motivated by extreme emotional turmoil such as in this matter. Deterrence of like-minded potential offenders seems futile. It would be more effective if the court imposed a driving prohibition in addition to the two years’ probation. The accused accepted responsibility for the offence by pleading guilty, within weeks began addressing the alcohol addiction, met with a counsellor and a registered psychotherapist, and has the intent of completing high school and becoming a youth worker. In holding it would not be contrary to the public interest to grant this specific accused a curative treatment discharge, it would also be a just sanction given the accused is an Aboriginal offender.

The mandatory minimum sentence in s 255(1) prevented giving effect to several important factors such as: 1) the accused is a first offender with strong rehabilitative potential; 2) the offence was largely motivated by alcohol addiction and there is good reason to believe continued treatment will effectively deal with that issue; and 3) the accused’s offence was connected to their Aboriginal background which also provides for rehabilitative and restorative sentencing options. There is recognition of the stigmatization, stereotyping, and further challenge to the Aboriginal accused in finding future educational and employment opportunities. S 255(1) was stated to result in at least some grossly disproportionate sentences and could not be saved under s1. A Provincial Court’s power to determine constitutional validity of a CC provision is limited to the case that is heard, therefore no formal declaration was made for s 255(1). In this case, the accused was granted a curative treatment discharge for the reasons above.

R v Stride-Drew, 2019 NLSC 147

A first offender’s Aboriginal status triggered a Gladue analysis. She was sentenced to 33 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to sexual interference involving a 14 year old child.

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The Offender pled guilty to sexual interference contrary to s 151 of the Criminal Code [“CC”]. She was 22 years of age and older than the 14 year old victim by 8 years. In this matter, the issue is the determination of a fit and just sentence for the Offender considering the circumstances of this offence. The Crown submits that a term of imprisonment of three years with mandatory ancillary orders is appropriate and is at the low end of a sentence for sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 16 years. The Defence requests a term of imprisonment of two years plus a day be imposed on the basis of Gladue considerations support a sentence outside the range (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252).

S 718.01 of the CC states that when a court imposes a sentence for an offence that involved the abuse of a person under the age of eighteen years, primary consideration should be given to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence of such conduct. S 718.2 (ii.1) requires that the abuse of a person under the age of 18 years be deemed an aggravating circumstance. S 718.2 provides a non-exhaustive list of secondary sentencing principles, including the consideration of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the principles of parity and totality. There is also the instruction to consider all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances, with particular attention paid to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders.

The extent of the sexual interference on the victim is very grave and on the high end of the scale. The victim’s unwillingness and distress should have been obvious to the Offender. She took full advantage of the opportunity to sexually abuse the child when she entered the room. The traumatic and long-lasting effects of sexual abuse on children are well known. The victim was only 14 years old, was very upset during the incident which was partially witnessed by two persons who came to his assistance. The victim was also required to testify at a Preliminary Inquiry.

The mitigating factors for the offender is that she is a youthful first offender, she entered a guilty plea to the charge and has expressed remorse. The offender was not in a position of trust with respect to the victim. There was no violence on the part of the offender to perpetrate the offence or evidence of planning to have sexual intercourse with the victim.

The offender is Mi’kmaq and member of the Miawpukek First Nations Band of Conne River. She has a positive attitude towards employment and is very receptive to counselling. She agrees that a Federal term of incarceration would be in her best interests given the available programs. The offender’s upbringing was extremely unstable, as she endured physical violence and mental abuse for many years. She has physical and mental health problems requiring daily medication. While this is not offered at all as an excuse to sexually abuse a child, it does give an understanding of this young Aboriginal woman, how it has impacted her and the offence as Gladue requires. The Court believes her prospects for rehabilitation are positive.

If not for her high degree of intoxication on the date of the offence, the Offender may not have committed this offence, but the facts are very grave. Denunciation and deterrence remain the primary considerations. Other than the Gladue factors, this is not a case where a sentence would be on the low end of the scale. The sentence would be three and a half years imprisonment as imposed in R v Barrett, 2012 NLCA 46. Given the compelling pre-sentence report and a thorough Gladue analysis, that sentence has been reduced to a sentence of 33 months.

R v Abram, 2019 ONSC 3383

Application granted. The Applicant is entitled to a hearing before a jury to request that his parole ineligibility period be reduced.

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The Applicant was convicted of the first-degree murder of his 17-month-old stepson in 2005. He received the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with no parole eligibility for 25 years. Having served more than 15 years of his sentence, the Applicant applied for a faint hope hearing where it will be asked that his parole ineligibility period be reduced. S 745.61 of the Criminal Code requires that such applications be screened for merit before a jury hearing is granted.

The primary purpose of the s 745 hearing is to call attention to changes which have occurred in the applicant’s situation that might justify imposing a less harsh penalty upon the applicant (R v Swietlinksi, [1994] 3 SCR 481). The Applicant was given the benefit of the lower screening standard, meaning, whether there is a “reasonable prospect of success” due to the uncertainty in the law, as well as this being the standard imposed at the time the offence was committed. If success falls within a range of reasonable outcomes, it qualifies as a reasonable prospect of success. Further, Gladue bears on whether the Applicant should have the right to make an application before a jury which applies in this case.

This Court considered victim impact statements, the community impact, the Applicant’s character and conduct in the institution, as well as his remorse/acceptance of responsibility. Many correctional records reported that the Applicant had a deep understanding of what he did, and a compelling need to make amends by becoming a better person. His community was eager to have him return. The most striking features of this case is the level of unqualified support offered by correctional officials towards the Applicant.

The Crown attempted to argue that the Applicant failed to accept full responsibility because he was unwilling to enrol in treatment programs aimed at sex offenders. The Court stated that the absence of sexual motivation did not affect the characterization of the crime but bears on whether the Applicant requires treatment as a sex offender. Because professionals within the correctional system had concluded there is no need for such treatment, the Applicant cannot be faulted for abiding by the recommendations of institutional officials. The Crown also attempted to argue a comment made in a psychological assessment 12 years ago showed his lack of remorse. The comments made then do not reflect the applicant’s current conceptualization of his crime. The prospect of success is therefore reasonable when one considers the Applicant’s present character, institutional history, adherence to Indigenous traditions, and his ongoing commitment to personal growth.

R v Napope, 2019 SKPC 23

The nature of a breach by the accused of a s 810.2 recognizance does not put the public at risk. It is the Court’s view that that his release back into the community is important if he is to make any progress on the restorative path as contemplated by Ipeelee and Gladue.

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The accused pled guilty to one breach of a recognizance issued under s 810.2, contrary to s 811 of the Criminal Code. The Crown sought a 15 month jail sentence minus his remand at enhanced credit from the time of his arrest. Defence sought a two month jail sentence minus his remand at enhanced credit. The accused is sentenced to time served of 44 days actual jail time but with credit for 66 days at enhanced credit.

In this matter, the accused was released on an 18 month s 810.2 recognizance and was required to register to and report in person with Police Services and to his Probation Officer. The accused had ongoing difficulties with reporting in a timely manner which compelled the Probation Officer to submit a breach. The accused was residing with his mother at that time and been experiencing serious medical issues because of long-standing addictions issues. He was not intoxicated, he committed no substantive offence and did not remove himself from supervision. His health concerns may have impacted his ability to get to his appointments and attend programming, however, he always kept in touch with his supervisor, albeit late. An aggravating factor, however, is that this is not the accused’s first breach of this recognizance. He was sentenced on two breaches for not complying with his assessment, treatment, programming and a curfew. He also has a lengthy criminal record with violent convictions.

The purpose of a s 810.2 recognizance is to protect the public by preventing future criminal activity. Paramount consideration is not only placed on this purpose but also specific and general deterrence. The gravity of the breach must be examined in the context of the offender’s history (R v Zimmerman, 2011 ABCA 276). The court is required to consider the prior offences and circumstances of the accused in determining an appropriate sentence, keeping in mind that this type of recognizance has a different purpose from an undertaking or probation order.

With respect to Gladue factors (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252 [“Gladue”]), the accused had a difficult childhood, including attending residential school. The accused grew up from residential school to the penitentiary. The Supreme Court of Canada reiterated the seriousness of the incarceration problem and called on the justice system to address it. Rehabilitation was emphasized and sentencing judges were directed to ensure that they were not contributing to ongoing systemic racial discrimination (R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218 [“Ipeelee”]).

S 718.2(e) is properly seen as a “direction to members of the judiciary to inquire into the causes of the problem and to endeavour to remedy it, to the extent that a remedy is possible through the sentencing process” (Gladue). No two offenders will come before the courts with the same background and experiences, having committed the same crime in the exact same circumstances. S 718.2(b) simply requires that any disparity between sanctions for different offenders be justified. Sentencing judges, as front-line workers in the criminal justice system, are in the best position to re-evaluate these criteria to ensure that they are not contributing to ongoing systemic racial discrimination (Ipeelee). Uniformity hides inequity, impedes innovation and locks the system into its mindset of jail. There is a constitutional imperative to avoiding excessive concern about sentence disparity (Ipeelee).

While specific and general deterrence are significant factors in assessing these types of breaches, the accused’s past and criminal history at this time and in this particular breach does not give the Court any reason to fear that the public is at risk of a violent crime. The accused’s lack of reporting is not significant as completely removing himself from supervision, which did not occur. He was lackadaisical in reporting as opposed to complete non-compliance. He turned himself in at the earliest opportunity and did not commit any other substantive offences. While a s 810.2 recognizance has a similar purpose and method as a long-term offender order, the accused is not a long-term offender. He was reporting and participating in his programs, albeit not as stringently as he should have been concerning his attendance. While these types of breaches are something the Court should be concerned about, there is no evidence that the accused has fallen back into his addictions that would open up a risk to the public.

The determination of a just and appropriate sentence is a highly individualized exercise and involves a variety of factors that are difficult to define with precision. It may happen that a sentence falls outside a particular range, that may never have been imposed in the past for a similar crime, but is not demonstrably unfit. Everything depends on the gravity of the offence, the offender’s degree of responsibility and the specific circumstances of each case. The fact that a judge deviates from a sentencing range established by the courts does not in itself justify appellate intervention. The accused is not more likely to commit a violent crime because he missed an appointment.

 

R v Terris, 2019 NSPC 11

Courts must give special consideration to restorative approaches to sentencing, particularly in cases involving Aboriginal persons, but not scrutinize minutely a person’s Aboriginal status for the purposes of applying the provisions of 718.2 (e) of the Criminal Code.

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The accused pled guilty to a single count of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. This case follows soon after the sentencing decisions which this court rendered in R v AL, 2018 NSPC 61 and R v Livingstone, 2018 NSPC 62 that are currently under appeal. There are some differences between these cases and this matter such as the circumstances of the offences and the biographies of the accused. The court, however, imposes the same sentence upon the accused in this matter as in R v AL and R v Livingstone because the seriousness of the offences and levels of moral culpability are similar.

The accused is only 28 years old, has no record and enjoys abundant family support. He did well in school, is in a common-law relationship and has children that he is involved with. He is also employed and described as a reliable worker. The presentence report informed the court that the accused holds a status card from the Confederacy of Nova Scotia Métis. He has never resided in an Aboriginal community, does not speak an Aboriginal language or is connected to an Aboriginal culture.

It is not for the court, however, to scrutinise minutely the Aboriginal status of a person for sentencing and applying appropriately the provisions of 718.2(e) of the Code (R v McInnis, 2019 PECA 3). Sentencing courts must give special consideration to restorative approaches to sentencing, particularly in cases involving Aboriginal persons (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252; R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218). A person’s Aboriginal status, however, depends on more than producing a card (Daniels v Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development), [2016] 3 CNLR 56, [“Daniels”]). Daniels makes clear that Aboriginal rights are community-held rights inherent in a distinct, rights-bearing collective. It is unclear if the accused self identifies as Aboriginal. The accused’s status was not argued or advanced by his defence counsel, and it is not necessary for the court to decide the validity of it.

The accused’s conduct might be seen as more voluntary and calculated for profit and less driven by dependency or need. The accused had no aggravating factors under the statute, nor was there evidence of weapons or violence, and he cooperated with police. This combined with an early guilty plea, bail compliance and good prospects for rehabilitation, is why the court suspends the passing of sentence, and places the accused on probation for three years with conditions.

R c Kanatsiak, 2019 QCCQ 1888

A second discharge for the accused is denied. Despite the offender’s Aboriginal status, it would be inappropriate to grant two consecutive discharges considering the violation of the first.

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The accused pled guilty to two counts of failing to comply with a probation order pursuant to s 733.1(1)(b) of the Criminal Code [“CC”]. She failed to perform 75 hours of community service within a period of 8 months (an extension granted from the original 4 months) and failed to attend her mandatory meetings with her probation officer as required by the terms of her supervised probation. In addition, she was also charged with domestic violence offences against her boyfriend.

The origin of the probation order that was breached and the granting of the previous discharge, was from breached conditions imposed in the context of various domestic violence charges against her, all involving the same boyfriend. Ultimately, all of the substantive domestic charges were withdrawn or stayed by the Crown. The accused was sentenced to a conditional discharge under s 730(1) CC on a 18-month probation order included mandatory supervision with a probation officer, with the above conditions. She now requests a second successive discharge.

The accused is now 25 years old and has no prior convictions, although she has breached her conditional discharge. She is from Nunavut but lives in the Montreal area where she works at a facility that provides Montreal-based services for Nunavik communities. A letter from the accused’s employment said nothing about the consequence of a criminal record or any other employment requirement or condition.

Granting of a discharge under s 730 CC is one of the most lenient sentences available under the CC. S 730(1) CC sets out two conditions which must be met before a discharge may be granted by a sentencing court: 1) it must be in the best interests of the accused; and 2) it must not be contrary to the public interest.

According to the Supreme Court of Canada in R v Gladue, the main purpose of s 718.2(e) CC is to help correct the problem of over-incarceration, in particular to the disproportionate incarceration of Aboriginal peoples. The court must take into account the circumstances of the offence and the offender including a consideration of the unique circumstances Aboriginal peoples face, such as systemic background factors, and the sanctions that may be appropriate because of Aboriginal heritage or connections. Gladue factors do not serve to depart from a proportionate sentence in a given case, but it is to achieve a proportionate sentence.

The Gladue principles require sentencing judges to give s 730(1) CC a generous application when sentencing Aboriginal offenders so as to attempt to break the cycle of systemic criminalization. The court concludes that s 718.2(e) CC in this matter applies, in particular the “unemployment factor” weighs heavily in the court’s assessment. The accused contends that she is now steadily employed. In light of all the s 718 CC considerations, the court must fashion a sentence that would not result in her losing her employment or other future employment opportunities.

The accused has already benefited from a discharge, although this does not automatically disqualify her from receiving a second one. When an offender has already benefited from a discharge in the past, however, a subsequent request for another discharge will generally be refused by the courts. There is a clear continuum between the offences sentenced in the previous discharge and the new offences of failure to comply with the probation order imposed. Orders of the court must be scrupulously respected unless and until they are cancelled or replaced. The accused must comply with conditions, even if the underlying charges ultimately fall apart. The accused did not take her obligations seriously or make them a priority. As for mitigating factors, the lack of a criminal record, her guilty plea and her steady employment does show some structure in her life.

It was not shown that the burden of a criminal record would affect her work or reduce her employment prospects in any way, and to suggest otherwise would be speculation. The court needs to enter a conviction against the accused to deter her from future offences and to impress upon her the importance of respecting court orders. The breached court order was imposed to help her in the first place, therefore a conviction is also necessary for her rehabilitation. The accused did not respect her probation period imposed with the first discharge and there is no significant passage of time between the offending behaviours. With respect to the public interest, the conditions breached were specific and important. The hours of community service were integral in ensuring a sense of accountability, as well as a source of social contribution that justified in part the discharge that she received. After balancing all of the factors, including the degree of moral blameworthiness, general deterrence and denunciation, rehabilitation, her guilty plea and her Aboriginal status, a short period of imprisonment is deemed appropriate.