Nunavut court overturns sentence for repeat offender
“He needs to get some help,” not more jail time
A 31-year-old Cambridge Bay man and his common-law partner who “want to be a family again” will get another chance to work out their relationship.
That chance comes after Justice W.G. Grist from the Nunavut Court of Appeal overturned a sentence that would have seen Gregory Ehaloak of Cambridge Bay back in jail for 246 days and under a one-year probation order not to have any contact with D.A., his common-law partner, without a third adult present.
The focus of the appeal was on whether the sentencing judge had “overemphasized deterrence and denunciation,” said Grist’s judgment from June 20, which was released June 26.
The sentencing judge had decided last January against taking off any credit for time served due to Gladue principles, the judgment said.
These principles, which flow from a 1999 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, are used in reports on sentencing Aboriginal offenders and are supposed to take into account Aboriginal peoples’ historic and social hardships such as the effects of poverty, suicide, residential school and dispossession.
Instead, the sentencing judge had said in his decision that “the sentence I impose must emphasize denunciation and deterrence.”
In his appeal judgment, Grist reflected that the record of Ehaloak’s numerous breaches in the past may have prompted “an exasperated recourse [by the sentencing judge] to the dramatic increase over previous sentences imposed upon the accused.”
Ehaloak’s adult record includes “a steady litany of convictions, many for various forms of assault, uttering threats and conflicts with police officers,” Grist said.
But Grist said he found the last two of about 30 previous breaches in Ehaloak’s record did not reveal “threatening behaviour.”
And Grist determined that Ehaloak’s case illustrated, “a lost opportunity to attempt to appreciate the personal history and systemic and background factors influencing this offender.”
So Grist decided there would be no more jail time for Ehaloak and that the terms of 12-month probation with respect to contact between Ehaloak and D.A. wouldn’t require the presence of a third-party adult through most of the period of probation “if they are intent on resuming their relationship.”
Grist said Ehaloak and D.A. shouldn’t be in direct contact without the presence of a “third party sober adult” until they have participated in at least three sessions of relationship counselling.
The provision requiring Ehaloak to leave for 24 hours when requested to do so by D.A. or the police should remain in effect, Grist said.
He also required Ehaloak to attend personal counselling and undergo an assessment so he can attend a treatment program.
“He has a two-year-old daughter that needs to have her father in her life; but he needs to get some help in order to be there for her,” Grist said in his 14-page judgment.
This appeal judgment came after a sentence handed out Jan. 11 in Cambridge Bay where Ehaloak had pleaded guilty to a breach of a condition in a probation order put in place Nov. 20, 2015.
The probation order was linked to two counts of assault—one on D.A. and the other on her mother—and a breach of a previous probation order.
The sentence imposed in November 2015, after 10 days’ credit for time served, was for 110 days’ imprisonment.
Ehaloak’s relationship with D.A. has been marked by convictions for common assault, Grist noted in his appeal judgment—on Aug. 11, 2014 and Nov. 20, 2015, with a conviction for assault causing bodily harm in June 2016.
That last conviction resulted in a jail sentence of 180 days for Ehaloak, less 43 days for time served. This was accompanied by a concurrent sentence of 60 days for an outstanding breach at the time of the assault.
While in jail in 2016, Ehaloak sent D.A. a letter and was found in breach of contact and received 45 more days in jail.
When Ehaloak returned to Cambridge Bay, RCMP officers reminded him that he remained the subject of orders restricting his contact with D.A.
But soon after his return, on the weekend of Dec. 3, 2016, D.A. contacted Ehaloak and asked him to come over.
In a letter dated Dec. 4, 2016, which D.A. provided to defence lawyers, she said she wanted to revoke the peace bond against Ehaloak.
“As a couple we would like to enrol in therapy and work towards earning custody of our daughter… I am committed to making the relationship work, becoming sober and working towards living a healthy lifestyle.
“We have talked about our future and we see ourselves together. I need him to help me pay the bills that we owe and I can’t do that alone. I understand meeting with him without consent of his probation officer was wrong but it was the weekend and there was no one to talk to. We just want to be a family again.”