Former Sanikiluaq teacher gets 29-year sentence for sexually abusing students
Johnny Meeko showed no remorse, told court that God would punish his accusers
At his sentencing for sexually abusing young students over several decades, former Sanikiluaq teacher Johnny Meeko showed no remorse and suggested God would punish his “incredibly unbelievable” accusers.
In an Iqaluit courtroom Thursday, Justice Paul Bychok sentenced Meeko to 29 years in prison on 14 offences — 12 sex crimes and two counts of assault.
“Mr. Meeko is a lifelong pedophile,” Bychock said.
Meeko was convicted by a jury June 6, following a nearly three-week trial for offences that occurred between the 1970s and early 2000s.
Former students — both male and female — recounted Meeko’s various forms of abuse, which included inappropriate touching, spanking and rape.
Meeko denied the accusations throughout the trial and sentencing.
Crown prosecutor Abel Dion presented several victim impact statements — some not read aloud, some read by Dion and victim services representative Lorri Martinez, and two read aloud by victims.
All of the victims followed the sentencing from Sanikiluaq, and could be seen on video-conference in a boardroom of the hamlet’s hotel.
A court-ordered ban prohibits the publication of their identities.
“Because of you, I have trust issues,” one of the victims tearfully said.
That victim, who described thoughts of suicide, also said Meeko used God to manipulate and abuse children.
Another victim shared their stories of faking being sick often to avoid going to school. Today, that victim often checks in on children in their family to ask if abuse is happening at school.
A third victim said they experienced harassment from Meeko’s friends and family for reporting the abuse to police. That person said they were fired from their job because their boss was one of Meeko’s siblings.
Defence and Meeko speak
Ilan Neuman, Meeko’s defence lawyer, sought a sentence of six to 10 years while the Crown wanted a prison sentence of 10 to 15 years.
Neuman acknowledged the guilty conviction and that Meeko “cannot hide from that.”
However, Neuman also spoke about how Meeko’s time in residential school and pre-trial custody impacted his life, and that Meeko has lost his status in the community.
Neuman described Meeko as, still, a “deeply religious” man.
“The impact on him cannot be ignored,” Neuman said.
“It’s easy to ignore the individual and say ‘that’s it,’ and throw away the key.”
In court, Meeko appeared to be grinning at people in the gallery at various points, unaffected by his victims’ words.
When Bychok gave him the chance to speak, Meeko once again denied the accusations.
Through an interpreter, Meeko described a “vision” from God he experienced, in which God made his accusers “vanish” and that he would be compensated for their “incredibly unbelievable” allegations.
“That vision is going to become true,” he said.
“I did not do anything.”
While Meeko was speaking, some of the victims could be seen on the video screens with their backs turned towards the camera.
After a nearly two-hour recess, Bychok reconvened court to read his full 40-page decision aloud.
The video feed from Sanikiluaq was cut due to some court staffing issues in the community. The gallery could not see the reactions of his victims, but they were listening to the remainder of the proceedings on the phone.
Given credit for nearly seven years of time served, 69-year-old Meeko will serve the remaining 22.2 years in a federal penitentiary.
Meeko will be eligible for day parole in seven years.
Bychok considered numerous “aggravating” factors in his sentencing decision. Notably, the facts that Meeko was a person in a position of trust around children, the crimes were largely committed at school, and that he targeted and intimidated vulnerable Inuit children.
He described Meeko as a “serial child predator” whose crimes were “calculated and premeditated.”
“The evidence of his pedophelia is overwhelming,” he said.