Saskatchewan

Man caught with sawed-off rifle was in fear after finger was cut off during gang torture: Prince Albert judge

A Prince Albert judge, who delivered an 18-month sentence this week, accepts that a man whose finger was cut off during gang torture was motivated by fear when he was caught with a sawed-off rifle.

Cameron Morin was sentenced to 18 months in prison, less time served and 18 months probation

A variety of different factors played into the final sentence for a Prince Albert man who was tortured by gang members, endured loss through his early years and hopes to change his ways. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

A Prince Albert judge says a man she sentenced for having a sawed-off rifle while he was prohibited from doing so was motivated by fear from gangs, and that she believes the offender is genuinely trying to escape that life.

Cameron Morin received an 18-month prison sentence from Judge Felicia Daunt for possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm.

Morin was arrested in the bar of the Ramada Hotel in Prince Albert on Jan. 23, 2019, with police finding several 22-calibre rounds on Morin, and a sawed-off 22-calibre rifle in the back seat of his SUV.

The Crown prosecutor asked for a three-year sentence, and his defence lawyer asked for a two-year sentence for Morin. 

When deciding on his sentence, Gladue factors had to be considered by the judge, as Morin is the child of a Métis man from Green Lake, and a Cree woman from the Flying Dust First Nation. 

Gladue factors are not an automatic sentence reduction for Indigenous offenders. 

Rather, they take into account colonialism, displacement and residential schools and how that history translates into lower education, incomes, higher unemployment and rates of substance abuse for Indigenous offenders. 

In Morin's case, Judge Daunt found Gladue factors played a significant role in his story. 

A life of crime, loss and gang involvement 

Daunt's written ruling, which included a summary of the evidence brought before her by defence and the Crown prosecutor, showed Morin had a troubled childhood.

Despite living on his mother's home reserve for two years growing up, he did not retain close connections to Flying Dust. Morin and his siblings are the first generation of his family to lose their Cree language, Daunt wrote.

"Both parents abused drugs and alcohol, leading to domestic violence and child neglect," her ruling said.

Morin's mother died from a drug overdose when he was either 16 or 17 years old.

It was a turning point for him. It led Morin down a path of abusing drugs and alcohol, not finishing high school and having very limited work experience, Daunt wrote.

He got embroiled in selling drugs and eventually entered into gang life while at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary serving sentences, which were always connected to selling drugs — whether it was violence associated with it, or the act of selling.

At the penitentiary between 2014 and 2018, Morin joined the Terror Squad, a regional Indigenous gang.

In his own words, he joined "to make his time at the penitentiary easier," which Daunt interpreted as meaning he needed protection while doing his time.

Morin tried to leave the Terror Squad once done serving his sentence, Daunt wrote, but Morin told court that people who have been in the penitentiary can't leave the gang.

When Morin was arrested in January of 2019, he had regularly been carrying a sawed-off rifle out of fear for his safety, especially since gang members wanted to punish him for not smuggling drugs into prison, Daunt's sentence read.

Tortured

Morin got bail, on the condition that he had to wear an electronic monitoring device. He didn't last long before cutting the device off and going on the run, fearing retribution from the Terror Squad, Daunt wrote.

Morin's fears were realized when gang members found him and kidnapped him, she wrote.

"They beat and tortured him. They cut off his index finger," the ruling reads.

Morin managed to escape from the gang members when they left to retrieve more torture implements, but was arrested again in May. 

He stayed in custody until his Monday sentencing.

Looking for a change in life

Morin has several positive supports in his life, the ruling notes.

"The offender seems genuine in his desire to leave the gangster lifestyle… although he will need significant community support," Daunt wrote. 

"He says he no longer fears the people who tortured him as they are now in custody facing serious charges and are likely to receive lengthy prison terms [at a different facility]."

The first support, is that his girlfriend and their child have a place for him to stay, on the condition that he is working on sobriety — which Morin's now-sober father can support him in — and taking care of their child while she attends school.

With that, comes an offer for Morin to work as a labourer with his girlfriend's father.

He will face probation and a lifetime ban from owning firearms once he's released.

Daunt's written sentence said the remaining time Morin has left behind bars would allow for him to arrange his release plan and to find support in the community to help him in his rehabilitation. 

Harsh sentences won't deter people: judge

Judge Daunt's analysis of the case didn't mince words.

The judge considered that Morin never threatened anyone with his firearm, nor did he use it.

"Mr. Morin was genuinely and justifiably afraid for his personal safety because he was leaving the gang and because he failed to smuggle drugs into an institution," Judge Daunt wrote.

"There was no lawful place for him to turn."

The Crown had asked for a three year sentence to send a message, as firearm related crimes in Prince Albert are on the rise.

But Daunt disagreed with that method of deterrence. 

"Lengthy sentences from this court seem not to have deterred people from possessing them," court documents said.

"Rather, they seem more common than ever."

About the Author

Bryan Eneas

Web Writer

Bryan Eneas is a journalist from the Penticton Indian Band currently based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he worked in Prince Albert reporting in central and northern Saskatchewan. You can contact him at Bryan.Eneas@cbc.ca.