Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut February 23, 2018 - 11:00 am

Nunavut man avoids trial on firearms, domestic assault charges

Rankin Inlet man dodges serious firearms charges, but surrenders weapons, including sawed-off shotgun

STEVE DUCHARME
Michael McKeen, 52, of Rankin Inlet avoided a trial at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit on multiple charges Feb. 22 by entering guilty pleas to one charge of assault, stemming from a domestic abuse incident where he shoved his former partner at an Iqaluit cabin in 2016, and to three counts of breaching conditions imposed on him after being released on bail, related to abstaining from alcohol and contact with the victim. (FILE PHOTO)
Michael McKeen, 52, of Rankin Inlet avoided a trial at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit on multiple charges Feb. 22 by entering guilty pleas to one charge of assault, stemming from a domestic abuse incident where he shoved his former partner at an Iqaluit cabin in 2016, and to three counts of breaching conditions imposed on him after being released on bail, related to abstaining from alcohol and contact with the victim. (FILE PHOTO)

A Rankin Inlet man facing over a dozen charges involving harassment, assault, firearms and breach of conditions successfully negotiated a plea deal mere minutes before his trial was set to start yesterday at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.

Michael McKeen, 52, entered a guilty plea to one charge of assault, stemming from a domestic abuse incident where he shoved his former partner at an Iqaluit cabin in 2016.

He also entered guilty pleas to three counts of breaching conditions imposed on him after being released on bail, related to abstaining from alcohol and contact with the victim.

The four-hour trial was scheduled to take place at the courthouse on Thursday, Feb. 22, but Crown lawyer Lori Hunter told Justice Bonnie Tulloch that lawyers had reached a plea deal earlier that morning.

The Crown stayed 10 charges as part of the agreement, including multiple counts of careless use of a firearm, unauthorized possession of a firearm, and committing an offence in possession of a firearm in which the serial number had been altered or removed.

And despite not being convicted of any firearms offence, two guns owned by McKeen will continue to be held by the RCMP until he provides proper firearms certificates.

And what lawyers described as a “sawed-off shotgun” was also forfeited to the RCMP as part of the plea deal, Hunter told Tulloch.

It was not clear in the facts provided in open court whether McKeen is the owner of the sawed-off shotgun.

Shotguns that have been altered to less than 18 inches in length are illegal weapons in Canada, and since 2008 those convicted of owning such a concealable weapon face five-year mandatory minimum sentences.

After accepting the guilty pleas, Tulloch sentenced McKeen to an 18-month suspended sentence with probation, on the recommendation of lawyers.

McKeen was ordered to attend anger management and spousal abuse programs in Rankin Inlet, and not to have further contact with the victim of the assault, who continues to live in Iqaluit.

McKeen was also told not to bring any firearms with him if he visits Iqaluit, and to abstain from consuming alcohol.

McKeen’s lawyer, Jean-Pierre Rancourt, told the court his client “regrets what happened” with the victim.

“It was a bad relationship and alcohol was involved,” he said.

Hunter added that the victim of the assault declined to submit a victim impact statement to the court, but is “pleased with the outcome” of the plea deal, and “happy that [McKeen] is taking responsibility for his actions.”

McKeen appeared in court for sentencing, and told Tulloch that the last-minute plea deal, avoiding a trial, “went well.”

Tulloch said “we have a lot of domestic violence in Nunavut,” but credited McKeen with accepting responsibility for his actions.

“Women are meant to be respected,” she told him, but added “this is one of the cases where I suspect that alcohol was the real culprit.”

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