Six-month sentence for teen convicted of manslaughter prompts outcry in Kugluktuk

Prosecutors consider filing appeal in case that has hamlet of 1,500 calling for her to be banned

Prosecutors in the case of a minor who was convicted of manslaughter in Kugluktuk and sentenced to six months in prison say they are considering filing an appeal in hopes of a longer sentence. (File photo)

By Madalyn Howitt

A six-month jail sentence given to a teen who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of 46-year-old Margaret Ogina has prompted outrage from community members in Kugluktuk, including a petition to have her banned from the hamlet.

Ogina’s daughter, Patti Ogina, told Nunatsiaq News there was “no justice whatsoever” in the length of the sentence a judge handed down last month.

Margaret Ogina, 46, died in April 2017 after she was assaulted by the youth convicted in the case, who was 17 years old at the time of the offence.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act prohibits the publication of any information that would identify the teen responsible for her death.

Ogina was a lifelong Kugluktuk resident who worked as a finance clerk for the Nunavut government’s Environment Department.

A written version of the Nunavut Court of Justice judge’s decision released last month details the events that led to Ogina’s death. 

After drinking alcohol with Ogina in her home, the teen left the house with a friend but returned, under the belief Ogina had stolen her cellphone.

During RCMP questioning, she described punching Ogina “millions of times.” Ogina did not fight back, according to the agreed statement of facts included as part of court proceedings.

The teen then took Ogina’s truck and some personal belongings, including her bank card and a Governor General’s medal that belonged to the woman’s daughter.

She then drove Ogina’s truck around Kugluktuk, was stopped by police after being seen driving erratically, but was not arrested. 

The next morning, police found Ogina unresponsive in her living room. 

An autopsy was conducted on April 13, 2017, but the RCMP did not receive the results until July 24, 2018, according to the judge’s written sentencing decision.

According to the pathologist’s report, Ogina died from blunt force trauma to the head and positional asphyxia, with “acute alcohol intoxication being a contributing factor.” 

Police interviewed the teen twice after Ogina’s death, but it wasn’t until Jan. 15, 2019 — roughly 15 months after the offence had taken place — that she was arrested. 

Initially charged with second-degree murder, she was ultimately convicted of manslaughter after confessing to the beating.

Judge Bonnie Tulloch sentenced her to six months in custody followed by six months under supervision in the community, followed by 12 months probation. 

The judge’s decision was influenced in part by the teen’s age and personal circumstances and the fact she pleaded guilty to manslaughter and took responsibility for the crime, a written version of the decision states.

The teen is a single mother of a young child, did not have a criminal record prior to the offence, and has shown remorse, according to Tulloch.

But Patti Ogina said the sentence in her mother’s death is not enough.

“It just sickens me how the government can just lay a six-month sentence on someone who took someone’s life, who was so precious. She did not deserve to die,” she said. 

Ogina was a grandmother who loved spending time with Patti’s son, playing with toys and going for rides in their truck, Patti said.

“She liked to be around close friends and family, having a good time and joking around,” Patti said.

“She liked to be around people who made her feel happy and made others feel good about themselves too,” she said.

Patti said the memories she cherishes most with her mother are when multiple generations of their family would spend time together — she recalled days when her grandmother, mother, and son would all be together.

“She brought the closeness to the family,” she said. “She was just the best person. I wish she was still here.”

Community outcry over the sentencing prompted a friend of the victim’s family to start an online petition to ban the teen from Kugluktuk, a community of about 1,500 people on Nunavut’s western edge. The petition currently has 130 signatures. 

The Crown had requested a sentence of 12 to 15 months in jail, followed by six months of supervision and then 12 months of probation, according to the court document.

The defence counsel requested 12 to 18 months under a custody and supervision order, which would allow the teen to serve her sentence in the community under strict conditions, such as a curfew or house arrest. 

Crown counsel Gary Wool confirmed in an email to Nunatsiaq News that prosecutors are reviewing the reasons for the sentencing and are considering filing an appeal. They have until Dec. 10 to file a formal notice. 

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