R v Komak, 2020 NUCJ 12

Weighing the sentencing principles of deterrence and denunciation with Gladue and other mitigating factors, the Indigenous accused is sentenced to 3 and a half years minus pretrial custody with 3 years of probation, for the manslaughter death of a friend at a party.

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The accused hosted a cribbage game at his home in Cambridge Bay. Some of those present, including the accused, smoked cannabis throughout the evening but none were drinking alcohol. The victim sent a text message to the accused that he was drunk and wanted to go to the accused’s house to drink with him. After coming over, the victim drank and tried throughout the evening to convince the accused to drink with him, who eventually succumbed.

At one point the victim became aggressive with the accused and throughout the night, arguing was witnessed. In the early hours of the morning, the victim was discovered dead from a stab wound, and the accused passed out with no recollection of the offense.

By his guilty plea, the accused admitted responsibility for the stab wound that killed his friend, and that he acted in the heat of passion caused by the accused’s sudden, provocative, intoxicated and aggressive behaviour. He admitted to using excessive force and in those circumstances he is guilty of manslaughter and expressed remorse.

Section 718.1 requires that a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. Consideration was also given of potential Gladue factors of the unique systemic or background factors on the accused to help shed light on his level of moral blameworthiness. The accused is 45 years old, a husband and a father of three. He suffered through a very difficult childhood, as his parents were alcoholics who often chose excessive drinking over the welfare and safety of their son. There were times when he had to actually sleep outside in the cold. His criminal record of committing property offences were in context with a lack of supervision and the inability to count on three meals a day and a warm bed to sleep in.

Although rehabilitation is always important, this is a case where the primary goal of sentencing is deterrence and denunciation. The accused is sentenced to three and a half years in jail minus pretrial custody to be followed by three years of probation, along with a number of mandatory orders imposed.

R v HO, 2020 ONCJ

Gladue factors were asserted, but due to very little information beyond the assertion of Aboriginal status, it had limited weight in this case. The offender was sentenced to a global jail sentence of 8 months, following a period of probation for 18 months.

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The offender was found guilty after trial of five sexual offences contrary to the Criminal Code. The sexual assault conviction was stayed when the parties made submissions on sentencing pursuant to the rule in R v Kienapple, [1975] 1 SCR 729. Defence counsel challenged the constitutionality of the remaining four conviction’s mandatory minimum sentences arguing a sentence involving a mandatory minimum would be grossly disproportionate and sought an order declaring their unconstitutionality under s12 of the Charter based on the offender’s learning disability.

The aggravating factors in this case included the fact the victim was 13 years of age. There were numerous offences including kissing, touching of her breast, request for sexual acts, sharing graphic sexual videos and the ultimate request for intercourse. The offender had a related youth record for engaging in similar conduct with a child victim. He knew right from the outset the victim was 13 years old. His acts could not be considered “grooming”, as they escalated in severity. A potential aggravating factor that was missing from the proceedings, was the impact on the victim as she chose not to provide a victim impact statement. His moral blameworthiness remained high based on his conscious decision to engage with a 13-year-old for two weeks and engaging in conduct after completing a program where he would have known about the moral boundaries of intimacy with partners.

The offender is an adult, but is still young and inexperienced. These are his first adult convictions. The offender had the full support of his family and community as evidenced by many letters of support. He had taken positive steps towards rehabilitation by addressing his learning disability, but the learning disability itself was not a mitigating factor. There are many collateral consequences for the offender. Gladue factors were asserted, but due to very little information beyond the assertion of Aboriginal status, it had limited weight in this case.

Balancing the aggravating and mitigating factors, and having regard to an undue sentence having a disproportionate impact on the offender’s learning disability, a sentence of imprisonment of 8 months was warranted for the child luring offence. Having arrived at this conclusion, the Court did not have to consider a s12 Charter analysis of the 6-month mandatory minimum, as the sentence imposed was not grossly disproportionate in the circumstances of the offender and this case. Accordingly, the s12 Charter challenge as framed on this record was dismissed.


R v James, 2020 YKTC 7

Although the Court did not have a Gladue Report, it recognized that the accused faced a history of abuse and neglect, often associated with systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples. All other reasonable options to incarceration were considered in weighing the harm done to the victim and the community.

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The accused pled guilty to five offences contrary to ss 334(b), 430(4), 266, 267(b), and 129(a) of the Criminal Code. A Gladue Report and Pre-Sentence Report were ordered. However, the accused decided not to participate in the preparation of the two Reports, so neither Report was available. The author, who was to have prepared the Gladue Report, suggested to the Court that the accused’s declination to be interviewed was due to the childhood difficulties that he had endured. Such challenges included his father abandoning him when he was ten years old and his mother passing away within the same year. His family had their struggles and addictions, so he lacked support and was faced with low self-esteem. He made it to grade 8 but could not read or write. The accused expressed remorse for his actions, and he acknowledged that he needed help through counselling to learn to love himself.

Following the sentencing principles of s 718 of the Criminal Code, the Court analyzed the mitigating and aggravating factors surrounding the accused and his offences. The aggravating factors included his criminal record and his intimate relationship with the victim. The mitigating factors included his guilty pleas, acceptance of responsibility, and the positive and rehabilitative steps he had taken since the last offence was committed, including his compliance with his strict bail conditions. The Court did not have a Gladue Report. Still, the sentencing judge recognized that the accused faced a history of abuse and neglect, which is often associated with systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples. Since the accused was an Indigenous offender, the Court was required to consider all other reasonable options to incarceration while weighing the harm done to the victim and the community.

The accused is the father of a young child, and he had been working with the mother of his child to create a secure and stable home environment. He was supported by the community, and he had the support to allow him to serve his sentence in the community. After analyzing these factors in combination with the accused’s potential risk of reoffending, the Court sentenced him to four months served conditionally in the community, a probation order of two months, and a recognition of his time served.

R v Awasis, 2020 BCCA 23

Appeal dismissed. Public safety must be heavily weighed when sentencing a dangerous offender. Despite the consideration of Gladue factors of the Indigenous offender, his patterns of conduct and the factual findings of treatment would have made a finding of dangerousness inevitable.

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The offender was designated to be a dangerous offender and was sentenced to an indeterminate term of imprisonment after being convicted of two sexual offences. He is Indigenous and had an “unfortunate, tragic background.” He became involved with the criminal justice system when he was 13 years old, and he has continued to violently and sexually reoffended in the community. He has severe addictions to alcohol and drugs and has suffered from a lot of trauma, including sexual assault. The offender also has been diagnosed with a severe personality disorder which has contributed to the risk he poses to public safety.

Since the appellant was designated as a dangerous offender, indeterminate detention was available as a sentencing option under s 753(4) of the Criminal Code. To properly exercise discretion under that section, the Court must impose the least intrusive sentence required to reduce the public threat posed by the offender to an acceptable level (R v Boutilier, 2017 SCC 64). To do so, the sentencing judge must conduct an individual assessment of all relevant circumstances and consider the sentencing objectives set out in ss 753(4), (4.1) and 718–718.2, including those developed for Indigenous offenders. An offender who is found to be a dangerous offender has the right to appeal his designation and sentence on any ground of law or fact or mixed law and fact as per s 759(1). The offender applied to submit fresh evidence on appeal, but it was denied due to the credibility and lack of perceived effect on the outcome.

The offender argued that the trial judge failed to take into account evidence of his treatability at the designation stage, which would constitute a reversible error. Consideration of treatability is relevant at both the designation and sentencing stage. When it came to the trial judge’s analysis at the designation stage, the Court found that treatability was not considered. Nonetheless, the offender’s patterns of conduct and the factual findings of treatment would have made a finding of dangerousness inevitable. At the sentencing stage, the trial judge found a lack of evidence that the offender’s risk to the community could not be managed which was upheld by the appellant court.

The offender also argued that the trial judge failed to give a tangible effect to Gladue factors when determining his sentence, which resulted in a disproportionate sentence. The Court acknowledged that it is necessary to look at the whole picture (including Gladue considerations). Still, the sentencing lens for a dangerous offender is constrained as there is an emphasis on public safety which narrows the options available to a sentencing judge. The trial judge recognized that the offender’s Gladue factors reduced his moral blameworthiness; however, his repeated history of reoffending and failure to address the issues that contributed to his criminal conduct made the need to protect the public paramount. It was decided that the trial judge adequately considered the offender’s Gladue factors and overall, the indeterminant sentence that was imposed was acceptable to the Court.

R c Dubé, 2019 QCCQ 7985

After interpreting the new provisions that codify the consideration of Gladue principles at bail, specifically s 493.2(a) of the Criminal Code, the Court found no basis for detention of the accused if supervisory measures are established.

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The accused, Mr. Dubé, is an Aboriginal person and a member of the Opitciwan Atikamekw community. He is charged with a number of offenses, but he undertakes to respect all the conditions that the Court may impose. The prosecution objected mainly on the ground of the substantial likelihood that he would not comply with any potential conditions, as had been demonstrated by numerous past breaches. The accused has regularly found himself before the courts for assaults, threats, mischief, and thefts. There are about 20 breaches of conditions related to recognizances or probation orders and he has had several stays in prison.

The Court considered the new provisions of the Criminal Code that came into force concerning the principle of restraint, s 493.1, and the particular attention that must be paid to Aboriginal accused who are overrepresented in the prison system, s 493.2. Section 11(e) of the Charter enshrines the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause. Release is to be favoured at the earliest reasonable opportunity and on the least onerous grounds (R v Antic, 2017 SCC 27). The Supreme Court of Canada [“SCC”] examined the principles governing interim release and noted that nearly half of the individuals in provincial jails are accused persons in pre-trial custody, where the conditions are dire; Indigenous individuals are overrepresented in the remand population, accounting for approximately one quarter of all adult admissions; such a situation can have serious detrimental impacts on an accused person’s ability to raise a defence in addition to proving costly for society; and therefore, pre-trial detention is a measure of last resort (R v Myers, 2019 SCC 18).

The SCC pointed out the recurring problem of the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the prison system. Based on section 718.1(e), the Court proposed a special approach to sentencing in light of the particular circumstances of these offenders whose lives are far removed from the experience of most Canadians. Judges were encouraged to take judicial notice of the broad systemic and background factors affecting Aboriginal people generally (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252; R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218).

The Gladue factors, with the necessary adaptations, are applicable to the hearing on interim release (R v Hope, 2016 ONCA 648). This Court places the accused’s lengthy criminal history with respect to breaches in the above context. The accused’s release plan with various supervisory measures put in place, while imperfect, makes sense given this Aboriginal context.

Note: French translation of R c Dubé, 2019 QCCQ 7985 found here.

R v BMW, 2020 BCPC 9

After weighing the sentencing principles with the Gladue factors of the offender, a 32-month term of imprisonment was imposed for the guilty plea of two offenses.

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The offender pled guilty to one count of sexual interference and one count of sexual assault under ss 151 and 271 of the Criminal Code. At the time of the first offence, the accused already had a criminal record with 38 convictions, and at the time of the second offence, he had committed an additional 14 offences, that included multiple assaults. The issue for the Court was to determine a proper sentence by taking into account all of the relevant purposes and principles of sentencing, including the circumstances of the offence and the circumstances of the offender.

The offender held Indigenous status and lived in a reserve community that has a legacy surrounding residential schools, intergenerational alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty, family violence, suicide, and unemployment. He attended residential school from grades eight to ten. He had a job but lost it for being late and not getting along with his supervisor, which he attributes to alcohol abuse. In his early twenties, the offender lost both of his parents to alcohol abuse and his brother later passed away from a hit and run motor vehicle accident.

Following s 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code, it was necessary for the sentencing judge to consider the above background factors which may have played a part in bringing the offender to the Court and the types of sentencing procedures and sanctions that may be appropriate because of the offender’s Indigenous heritage. The mitigating factors included the offender’s early guilty pleas, his support from his family and his community, and his Indigenous heritage. The aggravating factors included his criminal record, details surrounding the offences, and the offences’ impact on the victim, a vulnerable Indigenous female. Considering the aggravating and mitigating factors, the Court ordered a term of imprisonment for ten months for the first offence and 22 months for the second offence, for a total of 32 months of imprisonment less time served.

R v Matchee, 2019 ABCA 251

There were errors of law present in the sentencing judge’s assessment of the offender’s Gladue factors and moral blameworthiness. The sentence has been reassessed.

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Mr. Matchee appealed his seven-year custodial sentence on the basis that the sentencing judge erred by not giving effect to Gladue factors. The sentencing judge’s desire to avoid the appearance of a “race-based discount” was demonstrated by an error of law that Gladue factors do not apply to serious offences – Gladue factors apply to all offences. There was a failure to recognize a connection between the offender’s mother and grandmother’s attendance at residential schools and his current circumstances. In turn, Mr. Matchee’s mother’s substance abuse led to his eventual placement in foster care and abuses suffered there during the first 10 years of his life. The sentencing judge made an error to deny the link. Lastly, the view of any community on what is an appropriate sentence is not an animating principle of sentencing law in Canada – to the extent these comments impacted the sentence, this was an error. Due to these reasons, sentencing must be assessed again.

The harm to society in the undermining of people’s security and safety in their homes, as well as the harm to the victim, is significant in assessing the gravity of the offence. Mr. Matchee had many opportunities to leave but chose not to. He was on probation at the time of the offense and has a long-related record. The pre-sentencing report indicated a failure to take responsibility for his actions or has not taken any positive steps to try to address the underlying issues that have been identified. The factors identified above, in particular the lack of any stable home until 10 years of age, sexual and physical abuse, no meaningful connection with his mother or father, an interrupted connection with his Aboriginal culture, lack of education and employment, diminish his blameworthiness for the current offences.

Taking into account the errors in the application of Gladue factors and the inadequate assessment of Mr. Matchee’s moral blameworthiness, a fit sentence for this offender and these offences is a period of six years incarceration. The other sentences and ancillary orders are unchanged. The net sentence, after the deduction of three years 7.5 months credit for pre-sentence custody, is two years 4.5 months.


Peepeetch v R, 2019 SKQB 132

Application granted for a publicly-funded Gladue report. A Gladue report, however, is not required on every occasion on which an Indigenous offender is being sentenced and a full Gladue report is not the only possible or appropriate source of such information.

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The applicant was convicted after a trial on charges of impaired driving and refusing to provide a breath sample. During the trial, he also pled guilty to a charge of possession of brass knuckles, a prohibited weapon. Following the trial, sentencing was adjourned so that a Pre-Sentence Report [PSR] could be prepared. Since the applicant is of Aboriginal heritage, the court directed that the report should contain information, such as Gladue factors (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252; R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218), particular to Mr. Peepeetch’s circumstances as the Gladue analysis is mandated by the Criminal Code. The applicant’s counsel submitted an application for a publicly-funded Gladue report as the applicant did not have the resources to cover the costs himself.

It was determined that when evaluating whether a publicly-funded Gladue report should be ordered, the following parameters must be met: i) the assistance of the Gladue report must be essential to the judge discharging their judicial function in the case at hand; and (ii) the authority to order for the preparation of Gladue reports should be used sparingly and with caution, in response to specific and exceptional circumstances (Ontario v Criminal Lawyers’ Association of Ontario, 2013 SCC 43; R v Sand, 2019 SKQB 18). Such circumstances exist where a PSR prepared by a probation officer is not capable of providing the information necessary to conduct the proper analysis under ss. 718.2(e), and there is no other effective method of obtaining the necessary information and bringing it before the court in a timely fashion.

When deciding if a publicly-funded Gladue report was appropriate in this case, the court considered a number of factors including the nature of the analysis called for by ss 718.2(e), the sufficiency of the information provided in the current PSR, and if that report is lacking the availability and likely effectiveness of other measures that may be taken to address the deficiencies. Further, the court decided that a Gladue report is not required on every occasion on which an Indigenous offender is being sentenced and a full Gladue report is not the only possible, nor the only appropriate source of such information. Whether or not such a report is required is based on the context of the situation. It is the duty of the sentencing judge to ensure that the information they receive is relevant and necessary for such analysis. Overall, it was determined that the information contained in the PSR report was not sufficient for the court to carry out its judicial function in sentencing the applicant and thus, a publicly-funded Gladue report was ordered.

R v McGinn, 2019 ONSC 4499

Joint submission for sentencing granted. After considering the Gladue report and at the offender’s request, part of the sentence will be spent in the penitentiary to take advantage of programming specific to Aboriginal offenders.

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After a search of his vehicle, the offender was arrested for drugs and weapons offences. The nature of the drugs involved in this case, are highly addictive substances and this was an aggravating factor. The offender also had a lengthy criminal record, which is reflective of an individual with a substance abuse problem.

The mitigating factors included a guilty plea, as well he expressed insight into his problems. Drug and alcohol abuse, as well as suicide and mistreatment within his family were present in his experiences as a child. His childhood and adolescence were traumatic for reasons that were not of his making. The drug abuse that he fell into has contributed to his involvement within the criminal justice system. The offender recognized that drug addiction had led him down a bad path. His paternal grandparents remain supportive of him and are willing to have him live with them on his release from jail.

The offender’s Aboriginal background no doubt had an impact on him but he appears to have benefitted from involvement in programs for Aboriginal offenders while in custody. The joint submission was accepted, modified slightly to accord with the offender’s request to be housed in the penitentiary to take advantage of programming. The offender was sentenced to three years and nine months in jail, less days spent in presentence custody.

R v Kowtak, 2019 NUCJ 03

Appeal allowed. The Justice of the Peace is required to consider Gladue factors in crafting an appropriate sentence. This was an error in law that justified an appellate intervention. A conditional discharge is a fit sentence for the appellant.

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The appellant was at home, and while intoxicated and arguing with her spouse, assaulted her 15-year-old-daughter who attempted to intervene. The accused plead guilty and received a suspended sentence with nine months probation and a $100 victim fine surcharge. This is an appeal of that sentence on the grounds that the Justice of the Peace failed to consider Gladue factors, made impermissible statements about the accused, and deferred to the Crown’s position as presumptively reasonable.

It was determined in this appeal that the sentencing Justice of the Peace made an “impermissible speculation” about the accused’s lack of previous criminal record (R v Morrissey, 22 OR (3d) 514). The presumptive reasonableness of the Crown’s position was reviewed, and it was decided that the Justice of the Peace accepted the recommendation without considering the Defence recommendation. Any official deciding on an appropriate sentence must hear and consider both positions before deciding on a sentence. Further, there was no consideration of whether a conditional discharge would be appropriate, and this impacted the sentence. After considering these factors, and the role and value of Community Justices of the Peace, it was determined that the Justice of the Peace made a significant error in law as well as errors in the principle that affected the sentence in the case.

In deciding the sentence, the circumstances of the offender, and the applicable sentencing principles, including aggravating and mitigating factors, were considered. The Court followed s 718.1, which requires that the sentence be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. The charge of assault is statutorily aggravated under ss 718.2(a)(ii.1) and (iii) because it was committed on a person under the age of 18, to whom the appellant was in a position of authority, as her mother. The mitigating factors of the case included the fact that the appellant demonstrated remorse by pleading guilty early on and stated she was sorry for what she had done; she was 35 with no prior record; her future employment would be put at risk with a criminal record; the assault was relatively minor and no injuries resulted; as well the Gladue factors of overcrowding and victimization of Indigenous offenders were also taken into account.

The Court determined that it would be in the best interests of the community of Rankin Inlet to see that a history of employment and good behaviour be given substantial weight, as this is a guilty plea to a single, one-time breach of the law. It was determined that the Inuk first offender should be given a chance to show that it was an isolated incident from which she learned an important lesson, and also to avoid a criminal record which could significantly impact her ability to find future employment. The appeal is allowed and she is sentenced to a conditional discharge which will not result in a criminal record. This appeal was held after the Supreme Court of Canada declared victim fine surcharges unconstitutional with immediate effect, therefore, the appellant shall have the victim fine surcharge removed from her sentence (R v Boudreault, 2018 SCC 58).