Sanikiluaq teacher faces more charges for child sexual abuse

Johnny Meeko, 65, has opted for a judge and jury trial

Johnny Meeko of Sanikiluaq is seen leaving the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit in May 2017. The retired school teacher faces a new round of charges related to sexually abusing children. (File photo)

By Thomas Rohner
Special to Nunatsiaq News

Johnny Meeko of Sanikiluaq, a retired school teacher currently behind bars for sexually abusing children, will stand trial on new charges of historic sex crimes against kids, according to documents at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.

Meeko, 65, who is currently serving a nine-year sentence in a federal prison, faces eight new charges, namely, three counts of sexually touching children, three counts of sexual assault and two counts of assault.

None of these charges have been proven in court. Three complainants, two female and one male, allege the abuse happened between 1994 and 2004.

A preliminary hearing held earlier this year in Meeko’s hometown, which was closed to the public by Justice Sue Cooper, ended with Meeko’s order to stand trial.

Meeko, who is also a former churchwarden, has opted for a judge and jury trial.

In 2018, Justice Neil Sharkey found Meeko guilty on 27 of 32 charges of sex crimes committed between 1972 and 2007. Most of those crimes involved sexual touching and happened in Meeko’s grade-school classroom, some of them during after-school “detention.”

One witness in Meeko’s first trial said she told a principal about Meeko’s abuse but was not believed. Another witness said her parents didn’t believe her about the abuse either.

The Government of Nunavut sent Meeko a letter of reprimand just before the teacher’s retirement in 2009 for “patting students on the bottom” in 2002.

Sharkey sentenced Meeko to nine-and-a-half years in jail—well over the three-and-a-half years recommended by the Crown. Prosecutors failed to provide evidence and testimony they should have, Sharkey said.

And Sharkey, in his 2018 sentencing decision, challenged Nunavummiut to break the culture of silence around sexual abuse.

“There is in my view a culture of silence prevalent throughout Nunavut, whereby sometimes family members of an abuser and even some other right-thinking members of the community essentially bury their heads in the sand like ostriches and remain oblivious to the activities of a sexual predator…. This culture of silence must be broken, particularly when young children are involved,” Sharkey said.

In August 2018, just four months after Sharkey’s sentencing decision, police laid new charges against Meeko.

The preliminary hearing in Sanikiluaq, held this year on Jan. 22 on the Belcher Island community, was closed to the public to avoid tainting the small community’s potential jury pool, Cooper said.

The court addressed Meeko’s case on Dec. 2 without Meeko in attendance. The Nunavut Court of Justice rescheduled Meeko’s matter for March 2, 2020, when a trial date will be set.

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