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Nunavut man sentenced after request for Gladue report denied

Justice Neil Sharkey sentenced a Nunavut man to four months in jail last Friday for the sexual touching of a minor in a case that saw the territory’s first application for a Gladue report.

Nunavut man sentenced to four months for the sexual touching of a minor

The Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit. Chief Justice Neil Sharkey sentenced a Nunavut man to four months in jail after denying his request for a Gladue report. (David Gunn/CBC)

A judge sentenced a Nunavut man to four months of jail last Friday for the sexual touching of a minor in a case that saw the territory's first application for a Gladue report. 

Gladue reports, common in other Canadian jurisdictions, detail an Indigenous offender's personal and community history. 

They are produced for sentencing judges, who must consider the impacts of colonization in order to come to a fair sentence, according to the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling, R v. Gladue. 

The Nunavut Court of Justice has never ordered a Gladue report, the man's lawyer, Eva Taché-Green, told Justice Neil Sharkey in arguments earlier this year. 

That's likely because, according to Taché-Green's Gladue application, the Nunavut court is considered a "Gladue court," as nearly all those whom it sentences are Inuit.

Nunavut's six resident judges are expected to know the lasting impacts of colonial trauma, such as forced schooling and relocations, and the culling of sled dogs. 

Nunavut courts rely heavily on deputy judges from outside the territory, however — 60 of them, according to the last annual report posted by the courts in 2017. 

Pre-sentence reports, which are prepared by probation officers according to the Criminal Code of Canada, detail many of the personal impacts of colonial trauma. But Taché-Green argued Gladue report writers are specifically trained and information they present is more likely to be taken as unbiased compared to information relayed by a defence lawyer about a client. 

Lawyer commissions Gladue report

In June Sharkey denied Taché-Green's application for a Gladue report, but he has not yet provided written reasons for this decision. 

Taché-Green had a Gladue report done anyway by a law professor and former commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission.

Chief Justice Neil Sharkey said he would issue a written decision this week for his rejection of the application for a Gladue report. (Sara Frizzell/CBC)

Sharkey said the report was "very useful" and "informative."   

The report explains how the first-time offender in this case grew up on the land and learned traditional harvesting and survival skills from his father. 

At the age of seven or eight, this 42-year-old man, who CBC has agreed not to identify, moved into a community where he learned English. 

The man experienced a number of traumatic events commonly associated with intergenerational trauma as a result of colonization, including sexual assault, the report says.

At the time the man committed his crime, he had recently moved to the same community as his alleged abuser. 

The man also received news that his father had been diagnosed with stage-four cancer. 

The man pleaded guilty to rubbing a 13-year-old girl's private parts through her pyjamas while she slept, though he doesn't remember doing so because he had drunk too much that night, the report says.

He has since given up drinking and is a patient teacher and holder of traditional skills whose family and community rely on him for country food, added the report. 

The man was sentenced to four months at Makigiarvik Correctional Centre in Iqaluit. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

His wife, family and friends worry about the impact on them if he is sent to jail, said the report. 

It recommends the man serve a sentence in his community or on the land. 

Sharkey, who is chief justice of the Nunavut Court of Justice, said he would release a written decision outlining his reasons for rejecting the Gladue application this week. 

That "lengthy" decision outlines the future of Gladue considerations for Nunavut, Sharkey said. 

Man sentenced to Iqaluit jail

Taché-Green also argued that the mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days set by parliament for this crime is unconstitutional because it amounts to cruelty.

But Sharkey disagreed. He sentenced the man to four months at Makiagarvik Correctional Centre in Iqaluit.

When Sharkey delivered his sentence late last Friday, the man's wife was sitting in the back of the courtroom. 

She began crying as soon as Sharkey gave his sentence. 

She shared a long hug with her husband over the railing that separates the courtroom from the gallery. 

She sobbed into his neck and when they separated, the man took off his glasses and wiped tears away. 

He was then led out of the courtroom by sheriffs. 

Clarifications

  • This story has been updated to clarify who prepares pre-sentence reports.
    Oct 01, 2020 9:20 AM CT

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