Why lawyers appealed the La Loche shooter's sentencing as an adult

The man convicted of the 2016 mass shooting in La Loche, Sask., is appealing his adult sentence, with his lawyers contending that the judge failed to consider tests set out in the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Factors like cognitive ability, fetal alcohol syndrome and rehabilitation not considered, appeal states

Members of the RCMP stand outside the La Loche Community School in La Loche, Sask., on Jan. 25, 2016, just a few days after a then 17-year-old went on a shooting rampage in the building. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The man convicted of the 2016 mass shooting in La Loche, Sask., is appealing his adult sentence — and we now know why.

The man, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, was given a life sentence with no chance for parole for 10 years last month, after a judge decided he should be sentenced as an adult.

His lawyers filed an appeal on June 5, citing seven grounds and their belief that the trial judge failed to give proper consideration to the criteria set out in the Youth Criminal Justice Act in order to sentence a youth as an adult. 

Among those grounds, lawyers Aaron Fox and Darren Kraushaar contended that:

  • The judge misconstrued and didn't apply evidence about the shooter's cognitive ability, fetal alcohol syndrome, mental disorders and Gladue factors (a Gladue report outlines special considerations for Indigenous offenders in sentencing). The lawyers say all these factors "significantly impacted" how much their client could be blamed and how culpable he was for his actions.
  • The judge failed to direct that the man be subject to intensive rehabilitative custody and a supervision order.
  • The judge erred in deciding the youth's culpability and moral blameworthiness were of a level that he should be sentenced as an adult.

The defence had argued the killer suffered from a host of mental disorders and didn't fully understand what he was doing, and therefore should be sentenced as a youth. 

The teen was just weeks from his 18th birthday on Jan. 22, 2016, when he shot brothers Dayne and Drayden Fontaine at their home in La Loche, a northern Saskatchewan village just over 500 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

He then drove to the town's high school and opened fire, where he fatally shot teacher Adam Wood and teaching assistant Marie Janvier, and wounded seven others.

He pleaded guilty in October 2016 in Meadow Lake provincial court to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder.

Four people were killed by teenage shooter on Jan 22, 2016, in La Loche: (clockwise from top left): Marie Janvier, 21; Adam Wood, 35; Drayden Fontaine, 13; and Dayne Fontaine, 17. (Submitted to CBC/Facebook)

In February, Judge Janet McIvor laid out her reasoning in sentencing the youth as an adult.

She said he planned his rampage to a "very sophisticated" degree, despite having a lower IQ and being on the spectrum for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

"The planning, the deliberation, the resolve all had an adult-like quality," she cited among other factors as the reasoning for her decision.

While the appeal has been filed with the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, a hearing date has not been set.