Nunavut woman guilty of killing daughter, 6, and attempted murder of two sons
Judge rules that woman was not suffering from mental disorder when she attacked her children in 2016
A Nunavut woman has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of her six-year-old daughter, and two counts of the attempted murder of her two sons in a knife attack six years ago.
In a decision released Monday, judge Susan Charlesworth wrote the woman had intended to kill her children and was not suffering from a mental disorder when the attack took place.
The woman’s name is protected under a publication ban ordered by the Nunavut Court of Justice, to protect the identities of her children. The decision also does not name in which community the attack took place.
According to the agreed statement of facts, RCMP received a call from the woman on May 12, 2016, who reported she had stabbed her three children and herself. Police arrived at the home to find her husband running from the house in distress, the woman and her children inside, and a knife on the floor of the living area of the house.
The woman’s six-year-old daughter died after the attack, while the other two children — a four-year-old boy and a four-month-old boy — recovered from their stab wounds after being medevaced to Winnipeg.
Police charged the woman with one count of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. Second-degree murder is an intentional, unplanned killing that carries a sentence of life in prison with no parole for 10 years.
Later, at trial, defence lawyers argued she was not criminally responsible for the stabbings because she was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the attack.
During the trial, the woman had initially said she did not remember the attack on her children. Later in the trial, under cross-examination, she told the court that she did remember.
Dr. Gina Wong, a psychologist, spent many hours talking to the woman while she was in custody in Iqaluit. Wong also testified during the woman’s trial.
“Dr. Wong said she attempted to use some standard tests to assess [the woman] but felt that most of them had practical and/or cultural difficulties and so she did not continue with them,” Charlesworth wrote.
Charlesworth also wrote that Wong agreed “with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report that most psychiatric assessments are not appropriate for Indigenous populations.”
Through her conversations, Wong determined that the woman “suffered a ‘brief psychotic disorder with marked stressors’ on May 12, 2016, that caused her to be out of touch with reality, and not able to think logically.”
The woman was also assessed by Dr. Cynthia Baxter, a forensic psychiatrist, on June 25, 2016, a month after the children were stabbed.
Baxter determined there was “no evidence that she was suffering any kind of psychotic disorder at the time which would impair her contact with reality, or that she has any type of cognitive disorder that would limit her ability to appreciate her actions or consequences.”
Baxter also noted that the woman’s ability to understand what she did that day was supported by her decision to call the RCMP for help.
In determining guilt for second-degree murder and attempted murder, Charlesworth wrote that she had to determine whether the woman intended to kill one of her children and to attempt to kill her two others.
Charlesworth determined that Wong’s conclusion that the woman is not criminally responsible for her actions has not been supported by the evidence in the case.
“[The woman] repeatedly acknowledged on cross examination that she could remember the events of May 12, 2016. [She] admitted, in response to questions asked of her by Crown counsel, that she was trying to kill her children by stabbing them,” Charlesworth wrote.
The woman is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 8 to set a date for sentencing.