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N.W.T. offender Beverley Villeneuve to serve manslaughter sentence in Edmonton

Despite an N.W.T. Supreme Court judge’s recommendation that Beverley Villeneuve serve her sentence for manslaughter in the Northwest Territories, she will be sent to the Edmonton Institution for Women because the territory does not provide federal corrections programming for women.

Territory does not offer federal corrections programming for women

Despite an N.W.T. Supreme Court judge's recommendation that Beverley Villeneuve serve her sentence for manslaughter in the Northwest Territories, she will be sent to the Edmonton Institution for Women because the territory does not provide federal corrections programming for women.

Last month, Villeneuve was sentenced to five years for stabbing Archie Paulette to death at his home in Ndilo in June 2015. She was given 28 months credit for the time she's already spent in jail awaiting trial, leaving her with two years and eight months remaining on her sentence.

Peter Harte, Villeneuve's lawyer, says he was told that she could not serve her time in N.W.T. because "Corrections Service Canada has a program they deliver for females with serious charges like this and there is no one in the N.W.T. who is certified to do the program."

Harte says the programming is designed to help Indigenous female offenders come to grips with the issues that brought them into conflict with the law, like abuse and domestic violence. Offenders also get employment skills training and upgrading.

'A fragile, vulnerable woman'

"That's what CSC wants [Villeneuve] to be part of before they release her so that they can avoid problems she's had in the past."

But he says the Edmonton Institution for Women might not be the best fit for Villeneuve, saying she "is a fragile, vulnerable woman who was living on the streets for years and she is going to have a tough time in the environment."

He also says Villeneuve has developed a close productive relationship with correctional staff at the territorial women's facility in Fort Smith.

Harte says the justice department receives funding from CSC to train its staff to deliver similar programming for men but "if you're a woman in the N.W.T., tough luck."

In an email, the N.W.T. Department of Justice says it can take in federal offenders through an Exchange of Services agreement with CSC. It says Corrections Service Canada provides $100,000 in annual funding through the agreement to cover the costs associated with programming for federal offenders. 

Number of federal female offenders in N.W.T. 'very low'

The offender's programming needs, sentence length and security measures determine whether or not the offender will be kept in the territory.

"The N.W.T. does not currently offer federal programming for female offenders," the department said.

"Historically, federal female offender numbers have been very low in the N.W.T."

In the past 10 years, it says four women received federal sentences, with never more than one at any given time.

"If it is deemed that appropriate programming needs of the offender cannot be met in territorial facilities or the security [of] the offender cannot be properly managed, the sentence will be served in a federal institution."

But Harte says women should be treated equally in the territory.

"It's outrageous that this woman who received the sentence that she did because her life has been a tale… of unhappiness and misery, I would like to see her treated fairly and not shipped out to Edmonton because the GNWT is not capable of delivering appropriate programming."

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