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Judge explores 'cycle of abuse' in Kamloops sentencing

April 07, 2021 - 7:00 AM

A Kamloops man who sexually assaulted a child who viewed him as a grandfather figure was sentenced to five years in prison last week. 

In a decision published online, B.C. Supreme Court Justice L.S. Marchand handed down the sentence, offering insight into how multigenerational harms against Indigenous Canadians factored into his decision, both for the abuser and the girl who survived his attacks.

“On the one hand the circumstances call on me to denounce and deter the sexual victimization of an extremely vulnerable Indigenous girl,” Marchand wrote. “On the other hand, I do not wish to exacerbate the grotesquely disproportionate rate of incarceration of indigenous people. There is no easy solution.”

According to the decision, on Sept. 11, 2020 a man whose name was redacted to protect the identity of the victim, was convicted of sexual interference. 

The girl had come into his life after her mother had been murdered, and she went to live with her maternal grandmother. He was her grandmother’s husband. She viewed him as a father figure, Marchand wrote, but over several months, when he was drunk, he forced the girl into various acts, including sex. How much of this happened and for how long is not known. It ended Jan. 2019, when the girl was 11.

Since then she’s felt “hated, helpless heartbroken horrified and hurt,” Marchand wrote. And now, at age 13 or 14 years old, she has begun cutting herself.

“While the complainant is obviously resilient, strong and bright, she has been deeply scarred. I am very concerned for her future and can only hope she receives the love, care and support she needs and deserves,” Marchand wrote.

“She needs to be reassured that what happened to her was very wrong, was not her fault and all these belong exclusively (to her abuser).”

On the other hand, Marchand said the abuser has also suffered from generational harm, and he is obligated to approach his sentencing in a holistic fashion.

“(He) has committed monstrous acts but he is not one dimensional. He is a complex human being. Along with his faults and frailties, he has a number redeeming qualities. Based on the information provided to me in his thoughtfully prepared Gladue report, I can see that, these crimes aside, (he) has overcomes own set of harrowing childhood experiences to lead a productive and prosocial life.”

The man is 65, a member of an undisclosed band and in a 25 year relationship. He grew up in an abusive home, marred by alcoholism, violence and neglect.

While his dad was physically and verbally abusive alcoholic, his mother was a residential school survivor who, when sober, was a loving parent.

He was placed in a number of foster homes and spent two years at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, where he experienced indiscriminate physical abuse and hunger. He has some happy memories from childhood but started drinking at 12 and quit school before finishing his year.

While alcoholism’s been a continual problem, he’s led largely a prosocial lifestyle.

The histories of both parties made the sentencing process more nuanced.

“Where vulnerable victims like the complainant are Indigenous and female, (the court is directed) to give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence,” Marchand wrote. “At the same time, where an offender is Indigenous, (the court is directed to), where appropriate, take a more rehabilitative and restorative approach to sentencing.”

Factoring into his sentencing decision was the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which documented a crisis of violence, including sexual violence, against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

“One of my takeaways from the Inquiry's work is that Canada's colonial history and destructive assimilationist policies, as well as racism and sexism, have embedded and normalized violence into the everyday lives of Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people,” he wrote.

As such, the inquiry’s report called on the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to make violence against Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people an aggravating factor at sentencing. 

After taking all relevant factors into account and exercising an appropriate degree of restraint, however, Marchand wrote he’d settled on a sentence of five years.

“In my view, this sentence reflects the gravity of your offence and your relatively high degree of moral blameworthiness,” he wrote.

“Looking forward, my hope is that you will engage in culturally appropriate programming while in custody and find a way to take responsibility for what you have done. If you do, I hope that will help the complainant with her healing. The last thing any of us wants is for the cycle of abuse and inequality to continue.”

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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