Saskatoon

La Loche shooter's Indigenous background to be factored into sentence

The La Loche shooter's background as an Indigenous person will now be factored into his eventual sentence, his judge has decided.

Crown prosecutor maintains shooter should be tried as adult

Members of the RCMP stand outside the La Loche Community School in La Loche, Sask., on Jan. 25, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The La Loche shooter's background as an Indigenous person will now be factored into his eventual sentence, his judge has decided.

The young man's attorney, Aaron Fox, made a request Wednesday for what's known as a Gladue report. Provincial Court Judge Janet McIvor granted the request. 

"[I] had anticipated that the Gladue issues would have been addressed more in the pre-sentence report, but that wasn't specifically done," said Fox after the hearing had adjourned for the day.

A Gladue report outlines factors in an Indigenous offender's life that may have contributed to their criminal history, and gives judges options to give offenders an alternative to jail time.

Aaron Fox, the attorney representing the La Loche shooter, successfully petitioned a judge Wednesday to consider the shooter's Indigenous background when deciding his sentence. (Don Somers/CBC News)

"We know, for example, that he didn't have a father figure. When you heard, for example... that he didn't have someone that he could turn to if he had a problem, that's kinda significant," Fox said.

In January 2016, the teenager stalked through the school in the northern Saskatchewan community of La Loche, firing a shotgun. He shot and killed Adam Wood, 35, and teacher's assistant Marie Janvier, 21. 

Earlier in the day, he had shot and killed teenage brothers Dayne and Drayden Fontaine at a home in the community.

Crown concerned about timing 

Crown prosecutor Lloyd Stang, while not opposed to the Gladue report itself, said he did not like the timing of the request.

The sentencing hearing had been expected to last two weeks. The Gladue report is now likely to extend that schedule.

But Fox said lawyers had never expected to wrap up the hearing this week.

"It was always understood that we were going to finish evidence and then adjourn to a later date," he said.

Asked when he expected that would be, he said, "Will it be a week or two? I don't' think that will be the case."

'Appropriate for an adult sentence': Crown 

Earlier on Wednesday, Stang wrapped up the Crown's case, with the court hearing from one final Crown witness.

Jennifer Peterson, Saskatchewan's co-ordinator of the Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision program for serious young offenders, said the IRCS program would not be appropriate for the shooter, citing his age.

Peterson said young offenders are transferred out of youth correctional facilities at age 20.

The man, who committed the killings as a young offender and cannot be named, is now 19. 

Fox will argue that the shooter should be tried as a youth.

Outside the courtroom, Crown prosecutor Lloyd Stang said he should receive an adult sentence.

Crown attorney Lloyd Stang maintained the shooter, who is 19 and was a young offender when he committed the shootings, should be tried as adult, citing the grave impact of his crimes on La Loche. (Don Somers/CBC News)

"It's not necessarily the quantity of the evidence that's important, it's the content," Stang said. "It's up to the judge to assess all that, of course, and make the determination.

"We think of course that it is appropriate for an adult sentence to be imposed, in particular given his advanced age for a young person and the extreme seriousness of the offences and the extremely serious and grave impact it had on the community and the victims."

Shooter has glorified violence: case worker

A case worker at the jail where the La Loche shooter is being held testified Wednesday that the young man sometimes refers to himself as "famous" because the shootings were on the news.

Kilburn Hall case worker Chris Hales testified Wednesday that he has had several, lengthy conversations with the shooter at the young-offender facility.

During one in-depth conversation with the shooter, Hales said the youth told him that he shot up the school because he wanted to "see what it would be like."

"He made the statement that it was an 'extreme scary rush,'" Hales said.

According to Hales, the shooter said, "Everyone wants to know why. Everyone is constantly asking me why, why, why did I do this."

Hales said the shooter told him he was "messed up" and "obsessed" after watching mass shooting videos online.

Laughing about ISIS attacks

Hales testified he had to have conversations with the shooter on several occasions because the shooter joked and laughed about ISIS bombings or mass shootings on TV.

"He tends to glorify any violence," Hales said of the youth.

"He tends to minimize things and smile afterwards."

The shooter once slid a note under his door, Hales said. The note had a stick figure drawn on it with a gun to its head and said, "I should have shot myself when I had the chance."

Hales said staff took this seriously as a suicide threat and the shooter was put into a holding cell and checked on every five minutes. It was not the first, nor the last time suicide was brought up, Hales said.

Shooter has shown improved behaviour

Hales said the youth had shown improved behaviour during his time at the facility, describing the difference between the youth when he came into Kilburn and now as "night and day."

The shooter has skipped several grade levels and is now more engaged, Hales said. The youth has made "one or two friends" on the high security behavioural unit, mostly populated by violent youth offenders, though Hale added that a lot of the other young people on the unit frustrate the shooter.

Since the last hearing, Hales said the shooter has "made comments about jail being fun." He then had some privileges revoked.

The shooter was also "grandstanding in front of the other youth, saying that he was dangerous," Hales said.

The hearing will resume Thursday. 

with files from Charles Hamilton

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