Vicious bite against partner lands woman in jail

Woman’s addiction, childhood trauma and guilty plea lessen sentence


An Iqaluit woman who bit her partner after a drunken argument this past July received a four-month prison sentence after she pleaded guilty at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit Feb. 26.

Mary Laisa, 28, appeared before Justice Andrew Mahar, where she changed a not-guilty plea to guilty, avoiding a trial.

Laisa admitted biting her partner, Steven Dupuis, after being “heavily intoxicated,” Crown prosecutor Myriam Girard said.

Dupuis and Laisa are in a decade-long relationship, and adopted a child together, the court heard.

Justice Andrew Mahar described the bite as a “nasty assault” after looking behind the judge’s bench at photo evidence of the bite.

Laisa pleaded guilty to the assault as well as three other breaches of court orders following the incident, including contacting Dupuis, and breaching curfew twice.

Girard said Laisa bit Dupuis so hard that it left “two noticeable scars” on his body.

“I would be surprised if it didn’t,” Mahar remarked.

Girard described the incident as a “situation of reverse domestic violence.”

Girard asked for a six-to-eight month stint in custody.

Laisa’s lawyer, Lana Saleh, stroked Laisa’s back to comfort her every once in a while during Girard’s sentencing submissions.

Saleh said Laisa grew up under very difficult circumstances.

At an early age, Saleh said, her stepfather sexually assaulted her, a trauma for which she received no counselling.

Laisa then went on to have a child in her teens. Two years after her son was born, his father — Laisa’s partner at the time — was murdered, Saleh said.

That’s when Laisa started drinking — at age 18 or 19.

Saleh said when she explained to Laisa that she was probably going to face jail time for the bite, Laisa said, “At least I’ll be sober for a little bit.”

Saleh suggested a four-month jail sentence, and asked if Laisa could be released early if availability at Mamisarvik Healing Centre in Ottawa opened up.

Mahar agreed to both requests.

Because Laisa failed to comply with many conditions the court imposed after the incident, she has to face jail time, Maher said, but added, “Gladue factors are glaring in this case.”

Under the Gladue provisions, a judge must take into account the unique circumstances of aboriginal ancestry including the impacts of colonialism, suicide, substance abuse, overcrowding and residential schools, when sentencing an aboriginal person.

Mahar said Laisa has a “critical” problem with alcohol, which is slowly ruining her life.

On top of the four-month jail term, Mahar handed Laisa 18 months of probation and a no contact order with Dupuis, unless he initiates contact.

“You could have done far more damage than you did,” Mahar said when sentencing Laisa.

“Mary, good luck, I hope this is the last time we see you here.”

After a hug from Salah, Laisa was escorted out of court.

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