Former N.W.T nurse convicted of possessing child pornography

Mario LaPlante, a former nurse in Whatì, was convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography. The 64-year-old man was found with thousands of images and videos on his computer while working and living at the Whatì health centre.

Mario LaPlante, 64, was found with thousands of digital images while working at Whatì health centre

Mario LaPlante, a former nurse in Whati, was convicted of two counts of child pornography. He was found with thousands of images and videos on his computer while working and living in the Whati health centre. (Walter Strong/CBC)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details. 

A former nurse in Whatì was convicted Wednesday on two counts of child pornography.

Mario LaPlante, 64, admitted to possession and distribution of thousands of images and videos of children. 

The victims of the materials ranged in age from infancy to approximately 13 years. 

Charges were laid against LaPlante in August 2019.

He was at the time working and living in the Whatì health centre as a registered nurse. He used the health centre's internet to download and circulate the materials through file-sharing service BitTorrent. 

Wednesday's hearing in the territory's Supreme Court was the first half of a two-part sentencing hearing scheduled to continue on September 13. 

To view or not to view

In Wednesday's hearing, lawyers discussed whether or not Justice Louise Charbonneau should review samples of the pornographic materials in question. 

Crown Prosecutor Jill Andrews said that seeing the images is the only way to understand the seriousness of the offence. 

"These are real infants, real children being photographed while being abused," she said, describing victims showing trauma and distress in the images and videos. 

"More troubling," she added, "are victims so well groomed, showing signs of cooperation to please their abusers."

While LaPlante is not accused of creating the materials, Andrews called the victims' trauma the "death of a thousand cuts," where each watch and download contributes to the abuse. 

Defence lawyer Mallorie Malone argued that it would not be necessary for Charbonneau to view the samples and "the court can come to an appreciation of the horror," without reviewing the materials first hand.

Malone said that in providing the samples, the court risks conflating the crime of abuse in creating the images and videos, with the offence at hand of possessing them. 

Community victim impact statement proposed

The lawyers also argued on the admissibility of certain victim impact statements to be read at September's continuation of the hearing. 

In addition to statements from individual victims, the Crown proposed a community victim impact statement from a group of child pornography victims.

The Crown said the community statement speaks to the seriousness of the offence and its mark on the group of victims. 

Malone again argued that the community statement risks "inflating the offence before the judge."

She reminded the court that LaPlante is convicted of possessing and distributing the materials, but not of the abuse in creating them. 

Charbonneau said she would need some time to consider the arguments, and will decide later this month whether or not she will review the pornography samples and hear the community statement in September. 

LaPlante remains in custody until then.