Landmark appeal court ruling in Nunavik assault case highlights need to protect Indigenous women from violence

Quebec Court of Appeal overturns two-year sentence in favour of better protection for Inuk woman victim

The courthouse in Puvirnituq. The Quebec Court of Appeal has overturned a two-year sentence delivered to an offender in a Nunavik domestic assault case, issuing a steeper penalty to the perpetrator in order to better protect the victim and discourage further violence. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

Warning: This story includes graphic details that may disturb some readers.

The Quebec Court of Appeal has overturned a two-year sentence delivered to an offender in a Nunavik domestic assault case, issuing a steeper penalty to the perpetrator in order to better protect the victim and discourage further violence.

The Sept. 25 ruling appears to be the first time a Canadian appeal court has considered new changes to federal sentencing law that prioritize deterrence in cases of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

In April 2018, L.P. attacked his common-law spouse with his fist, causing a 15-centimetre tear in her vagina. The Inuk woman lost a litre of blood and had to be medevaced to Montreal for care.

The following year, L.P. pleaded guilty to seven counts related to the 2018 attack and a previous one in 2012.

In October 2019, Quebec court judge Peggy Warolin sentenced L.P. to two years less a day of prison time, followed by three years’ probation. That sentence considered L.P.’s past as spelled out in a Gladue report, which indicated that the Inuk man had suffered from generational trauma from the impacts of assimilation policies in Canada’s North, bullying in school and had lost loved ones to suicide.

But last month, in a 2-1 ruling, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned that sentence, saying that the victim’s history and well-being should be considered too. Instead, L.P. will now serve a 44-month sentence, as originally proposed.

“Considering the respondent’s past breaches of probation and undertaking, his history of domestic violence, his lack of insight concerning his alcohol problem, and the need to protect the victim and the community, the Crown was of the view that the respondent was not a good candidate for a probation order,” wrote Justice Simon Ruel.

“The victim is very vulnerable,” Ruel wrote. “Because of the recurrent criminality and incarceration of the respondent, she is currently assuming sole responsibility for the parties’ children.

“She too, as an Inuk woman and victim, suffered from policies of community dislocation, sendentarization, forced relocation, suicides or shootings in the community.”

In the ruling, Justices Simon Ruel and Suzanne Gagné argued that Gladue factors affecting the offender must be weighed against the necessity of considering the circumstances of Indigenous women victims of sexual and domestic violence.

Dissenting Justice France Thibault argued that the victim was indeed considered in the original sentencing, and raised the risk of ignoring Gladue principles.

“It’s a significant decision,” said Adam Bond, legal counsel for the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

“As far as I can tell, it’s the first appellate-level decision balancing the Gladue principles of an offender and deterrence factors for an Indigenous woman victim.”

Bond said the majority in the ruling did a good job of balancing differing principles.

“They really soundly explained that these new criminal code provisions, with respect to denunciations of violence against Indigenous women, that they need to be really effectively weighed in sentencing. And that’s a good thing for Indigenous women,” Bond said.

“They really took that seriously and put a lot of thought to it. I think it’s a helpful guidance in how those provisions will be applied going forward.”

The appeal court decision was prompted by changes to criminal justice legislation the federal government adopted in 2019 through Bill C-75, which called on judges to consider harsher sentences in cases of violence against Indigenous women.

The legislation itself was a response to concerns and recommendations made by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which asked for stiffer penalties for those who commit violent crimes.

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, which had official standing at the inquiry, told commissioners that the application of Gladue principles in Inuit Nunangat often put women victims at further risk.

“Families said that Gladue sentences give the message to Inuit men that intimate partner violence will result in no jail time or only a short time in jail and, as a result, are not a deterrent,” Pauktuutit wrote in its submission to the inquiry. “Finally, Inuit men return to their communities where they re-offend.”

The changes to federal sentencing law also acknowledged a 2019 Supreme Court decision called R. v. Barton, in which it warned against stereotyping Indigenous female victims.

R vs L.P. by NunatsiaqNews

Share This Story

(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Bravo on

    That’s great. Hopefully less slaps on the wrist now. Getting real with the lock and key in the name of victims . Gladue principle is a flawed phenomenon. It does no justice to the victims. If you look at criminal behaviour, notwithstanding Gladue, all behaviours therefore can be excused, based on some kind of abuse or trauma suffered by the perpetrators, Inuit , white , black or brown.

  2. Posted by Tulugaq on

    This decision makes sense in the context of a colonial court system that sees punishment as a tool for deterrence. Unfortunately, it has side effects and one sentence in the article deals with this issue: “Because of the recurrent criminality and incarceration of the respondent, she is currently assuming sole responsibility for the parties’ children.”

    One has to be aware that the offender will eventually be released, probably well before 44 months, and he will have spent this time among a bunch of criminals in a perfect crime school, far away.. He’s likely to go back to his home community, probably very angry, and will he be rehabilitated? Will the victims and her family be safe? Past evidence has shown that this is highly unlikely and that the rates of reoffending after jail terms are significantly increased.

    In the actual legal system, the decision must be applauded because the victim will have a few years to breath while the offender is away. But, one must ask whether there is a better way of doing things to reduce the risks of reoffending and how to restore peace in the community. I think Inuit have a better chance of success in that respect than a “foreign” court system, from a different culture and that functions in a foreign language.

    • Posted by Forgive amen on

      Oh yes, speak to him in Inuktitut, forgive him. It’s the foreign system they causes him to beat up his wife. Yes, do things the Inuit way. Take away all these foreign things, don’t forget to take his beer and drink, that foreign stuff.

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*