Court pauses extradition of B.C. man wanted by U.S. because he's Indigenous | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Court pauses extradition of B.C. man wanted by U.S. because he's Indigenous

Lady Justice (the Goddess of Justice in Greek mythology).
October 25, 2019 - 2:00 PM

The United States is trying to have a B.C. man extradited on money laundering charges and while the Canadian Justice Minister has agreed to hand him over a B.C. Court of Appeal decision has blocked it, at least temporarily, because he is a member of a Canadian First Nation.

The court said the Canadian principle of taking Indigenous history into account in sentencing should be thoroughly considered before extradition to the U.S. because if convicted, he could be sentenced to between 19 and 27 years in prison. In Canada, the sentence for the same crime would have been closer to 10 years.

The U.S. alleges that between 2007 and 2012, when residing in B.C., Glenn Harley Sheck, a member of the Bonaparte Indian Band, acted as a money broker and directed 26 money laundering transactions involving drug trafficking proceeds of more than $7 million.

Twenty-three of these transactions allegedly involved Sheck directing the pick-up and delivery of large amounts of money in the U.S. It also alleges he directed the pick-up of money in Canada and delivery of it to locations in Canada and the Dominican Republic on three occasions.

By diplomatic notes dated Dec. 9 and 21, 2015, the U.S. formally requested the extradition of Sheck. On May 12, 2016, the Minister approved the order.

Now that order must be revisited by the Minister of Justice because the minister didn’t adequately consider his Indigenous heritage. Canada’s highest court has established as law and practice that Canada’s legacy of dealing with First Nations and its effect on families and criminality must be considered in sentencing. In typical court cases, judges must consider other options than jail where appropriate, in part because First Nations are already over-represented in prisons.

“(The Minister) failed to consider their Indigenous heritage and the context of the historical mistreatment by Canada of Indigenous families which forcibly separated children from their parents and culture,” Justice Susan Griffin wrote in a disputed decision posted today, Oct. 25.

“These were relevant factors in light of the much more severe sentence Mr. Sheck faced in the U.S. if convicted, but the Minister also failed to appreciate and consider the disparity in the likely sentence.”

If convicted at trial in the U.S., the estimated range of sentence was 27 years imprisonment. If he entered a timely guilty plea, his potential sentence would be in the range of 19 to 27 years imprisonment, Griffin wrote.

In Canada, on the other hand, the corresponding offence of laundering proceeds of crime carries a maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment. The U.S. also doesn’t factor in indigenous background while sentencing, as is the case in Canada. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons, instead, provides religious programming and services for Native Americans in its custody.

“The separation of an Indigenous parent from Indigenous children, to face a much more severe sentence in the U.S. than in Canada, is a highly relevant factor when considering the surrender of the parent for extradition to a foreign state,” Griffin wrote.

The B.C. Prosecution service also told the court that an investigation and prosecution in Canada was very unlikely, meaning if he’s not extradited he may never be tried.

While Sheck will have his file reviewed, the court decision was not unanimous, with Justice Mary Saunders dissenting.

“While Mr. Sheck would have us require a firmer commitment than was given as to the mitigating effect of his Aboriginal status, here the Minister was told and accepted that Mr. Sheck could raise mitigating factors 'that may result in the reduction of the sentence, including his aboriginal background and personal circumstances',” Saunders wrote.

“There was no evidence to the contrary, and absent good reason, the Minister was entitled to accept the information that Mr. Sheck’s Aboriginal background could be advanced as a mitigating circumstance… Mr. Sheck may advance his Aboriginal status as a mitigating circumstance that may reduce his sentence.”

Sheck was between the ages of 26 and 31 at the time of the alleged offences.

He grew up in the Lower Mainland and as a child, his ties with his culture included going to family reunions and hunting and fishing with relatives.

It also included the damage wrought by the residential school system as many of his relatives from his mother’s side of the family were sent to those schools and suffered from alcohol-related difficulties and anger issues, including his mother.

Sheck was at times witness to violence, reads the court decision, and his cousin was murdered when she was 15 years old, a crime which remains unsolved.

He also spent much of his time working with his father in his father’s business.

He has four children, ages ranging from five to 15, all of whom have Indigenous status. The financial stability of his family depends on his financial contributions, the court said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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