Nunavut teacher shows no remorse ahead of sex crime sentencing
"I can’t work in school because it brings back too many bad memories"
Former Sanikiluaq teacher Johnny Meeko has until this afternoon to surrender himself into custody at the Baffin Correctional Centre ahead of his sentencing for decades of sexual abuse against young students, after a Nunavut judge revoked his bail on April 13.
The senior Nunavut judge, Justice Neil Sharkey, revoked Meeko’s bail last Friday after hearing sentence submissions from lawyers, who agreed on certain broad issues, but submitted different sentence recommendations that they argued were appropriate for Meeko’s crimes.
Sharkey found Meeko guilty of 27 of 32 charges of sexual abuse last December, stemming from what the judge called in his written decision a “decades-long pattern of abuse involving young students in his charge,” between 1972 and 2007.
The charges Meeko was found guilty of range from sexual touching to sexual assault to soliciting oral sex from minors, usually involving young children in his Grade 3 class.
Meeko maintains his innocence, and has not accepted the decision of the court, said lawyer Stephanie Boydell, who took over representing Meeko after he fired his previous lawyer in February.
Boydell recommended a sentence for Meeko of two years less a day in territorial prison, while the Crown opted for three-and-a-half years in a federal institution. That’s after both lawyers subtracted time Meeko already served in custody between 2012 and 2013.
Meeko has been living in Iqaluit on restrictive conditions since he was released on bail in 2015.
The elephant in the room for both the judge and lawyers was how to square Meeko’s crimes with precedents set by other serial sex abusers in Nunavut’s past, like Ed Horne and Eric Dejaeger, who each similarly violated positions of authority over children for decades. Both men received more lengthy sentences, but for worse crimes.
Sharkey also appeared to question the Crown’s jail sentence recommendation, based on case precedent derived from those cases.
“People in Mr. Meeko’s position have been given sentences for five or six years [based on the charges they had in common], [but] has not that culture of culpability and accountability changed as we realize now the impact of these types of crimes upon the victims?” Sharkey asked.
One of Meeko’s victims fought back tears as she delivered a victim impact statement to the court via video link from Sanikiluaq.
“I don’t trust teachers anymore … I can’t work in school because it brings back too many bad memories,” she said.
Boydell told Sharkey that he must focus on the harm caused to the children that Meeko was found guilty of, but that “rehabilitation, totality and restraint must also be applied.”
“What would a teacher today, in 2018 … what would a Inuit or non-Inuit teacher receive as a sentence, on a guilty plea, if they were putting their hands down the pants of Grade 3 girls?” Sharkey asked lawyers.
“Just in one offence, in relation to one little girl, the climate has changed, has it not?”
Meeko was present during the day’s proceedings, but shook his head when asked by Sharkey if he had anything to say to the court.
Due to Meeko’s age and poor health, Sharkey allowed him the weekend to prepare for incarceration ahead of his sentencing date, which is currently scheduled for April 26.