Nova Scotia

Kale Leonard Gabriel sentencing postponed for background assessment

A judge has agreed to postpone the sentencing of Kale Leonard Gabriel, pending an assessment of whether his African-Nova Scotian background "played a role" in the crime.

Gabriel was convicted in February of second-degree murder for the 2010 shooting of Ryan White

In February, Kale Leonard Gabriel was found guilty in the 2010 shooting death of Ryan Matthew White (pictured). Gabriel faces an automatic life sentence for the murder, and Nova Scotia Judge Pamela Williams will determine when he is eligible to apply for parole. Before sentencing, she is waiting for a cultural assessment, which will examine how circumstances related to Gabriel's African Nova Scotian background led to his criminal actions. (

A judge has agreed to postpone a Halifax murderer's sentencing pending an assessment of whether his African-Nova Scotian background "played a role" in the crime.

Kale Leonard Gabriel's defence team told a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge Tuesday it is preparing a "cultural assessment" on his racial background.

The 27-year-old Gabriel was convicted in February of second-degree murder for the 2010 shooting of Ryan White, in the Mulgrave Park housing project.

'Appropriate rehabilitation' 

Defence lawyers say the assessment will examine whether Gabriel's racial and cultural heritage had a role in the offence and should be a factor in sentencing.

"We do hope it will address the appropriate rehabilitation for him," defence lawyer Geoff Newton said Tuesday. "We hope it's something that's considered especially if the historical roots ... (are a) factor."

Brandon Rolle of Nova Scotia Legal Aid, who devised the legal strategy, said he believes cultural assessments are the way of the future for sentencing African-Nova Scotians.

"It should be clear case-by-case if it really is a factor," Rolle said. "And in this case, we think it is."

Mother says race shouldn't be a factor

Rolle said such assessments are similar to a Gladue report, which aboriginals facing sentencing have been able to request for more than a decade.

But Theresa White, mother of Gabriel's victim, said she doesn't believe race should be a consideration in his sentencing.

The defence team says social worker Lana MacLean will write the report, which should be prepared by mid-June.

History of cultural assessments

At least one Nova Scotia judge has previously considered a cultural assessment.

In November, 2014, provincial court judge Anne Derrick decided not to sentence an African-Nova Scotian youth as an adult for attempted murder, citing his social context as "significant."

Derrick wrote that a cultural assessment entered by the defence provided, "a more textured, multi-dimensional framework for understanding (the defendant), his background and his behaviours."

She found that he was "an immature, dependent 16-year-old caught up in the dysfunctional dynamics of his community, dynamics that are relevant to my understanding of his context, background, and choices."

"(The defendant) has been both a perpetrator and a victim of violence in the context of his criminally impacted community."

The author of the assessment in that case, social worker Robert Wright, said he believes his report was the first of its kind.

"We know that black and aboriginal people have had a systemically impoverished and discriminated experience," Wright said in an interview. "As we see their paths into crime and violence, we can better understand how they got there if we understand that history."

Assessments in other provinces

In 2003, Ontario's highest court ruled that judges could consider systemic racism when handing down sentences for young black offenders convicted of less serious crimes.

In a unanimous Ontario Court of Appeal decision, Justice Marc Rosenberg wrote that "systemic racism and the background factors faced by black youths in Toronto are important matters and in another case I believe that they could affect the sentence."

But the court found that Quinn Borde's crimes were "so serious" that the systemic factors should not affect the length of the sentence. The Toronto man was convicted of an array of weapons offences, including repeatedly pistol-whipping a man's face.

Second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence. The court will hear arguments on August 16 to determine when Gabriel should be eligible for parole.