Once again – women in the NWT travel second class


Yellowknife under a full moon


NWT Supreme Court Justice Louise Charbonneau wasted her time making a “strong recommendation” that Beverly Villeneuve be permitted to serve her sentence in the NWT.  And the reason is that the NWT doesn’t care about women enough to make it happen.


The GNWT had to be embarrassed into providing proper arrangements for female prisoners on remand in Yellowknife.  Now, once again, it is clear that women come second.


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Maybe the saddest story of the North?

CamBay Graveyard


Your Honour, this may be the saddest story of the North I have ever told in a Court – or at least one of them.


It a story of abysmal systemic failure the dimensions of which are mind boggling – it is the one of the most Gladue intensive tragedies I have ever related to a Court.


Sam was born to a disabled woman named Suzy Smith in 1986 – he turned 30 in June.

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Another Successful Jury Address

Mad Trapper Tabletop


First some Background:

This was a Facebook trial.  The underage complainant (Suzy) alleged that the accused had forcible intercourse with her within a few feet of the accused’s sleeping girlfriend (Sharon). The accused testified that she consented and that he thought the complainant was close to his age because (amongst other things) of the age she posted on Facebook, the ages of her Facebook friends, and the content she posted on Facebook.  A critical piece of evidence was a Facebook message the complainant sent to the accused’s girlfriend the next day saying that she was sorry for what happened.  The reality is that victims of abuse do apologize for being abused (and do lots of other things that appear to be inconsistent with what they allege happened) but in this case it was just another piece of the puzzle that did not fit.  Names have been changed:


What the Jury Heard:

Members of the Jury – the starting point for all of this is that what Suzy Q. described to you in this Courtroom simply cannot be believed.  Your common sense tells you that this could not have happened the way she tells it.  Who is able to tell you that she said stop 3 times and remembers that she was scared to wake up Sharon but cannot give you details about what actually happened.  She says she has forgotten that.  She says she forgets most of being raped because she was ½ asleep and the rest she forgot because it was so long ago.

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Without Northern Justice, Southern Justice steps in

Snaking through the delta


The CBC Forum on indigenous justice underlined the fact that Northern communities, composed generally of well-intentioned and law abiding members, have not acted as nations by taking control of their non law-abiding members.  The point is that, ultimately, if there was Northern justice, southern justice would not have to step in.


I see this problem in Court all the time, where the presiding Judge is faced with sentencing an individual who has injured another member of the community and having no real option but to send him or her to jail.  The southern justice paradigm the Judge brings with her/him includes the idea of jail as a collective expression of repudiation for the violence that brings the offender before the Court.

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Indigenous Justice – Part 2

Reindeer in the delta


Is putting people in jail the best way to enforce the law?  The fact that the NWT and Nunavut have the highest crime rates in Canada, followed by Yukon, suggest that there is something the justice system is missing.

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Indigenous Justice – Part 1

Sunrise on the delta


Huge kudos to CBC North!  It has tried to ignite a discussion about aboriginal justice by hosting an “Indigenous Justice Forum” in Yellowknife on April 27th that featured a documentary about Tony Kalluk – “Tony: Back from the Brink”.


Although the documentary suggests that Tony has managed to get his demons under control, I am not sure that is the case; only time will tell.  The more important message is that Tony is not a bad man making deliberate choices to engage in criminal misconduct – rather he is a simple man with a wife and kids who is struggling to deal with issues that seem to overwhelm him.  Sending a Tony (or Antoinette) to jail, it seems clear, is only going to harden the heart and fuel the anger making it increasingly difficult for to get to the core of what needs to change to live successfully in a community.

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Charter Application; Truth in Sentencing (sic) and dead-time credit – sections 12, 7, 11(e) and (h)

Spring Aurora

After extended deliberations at the conclusion of a trial conducted before a judge and jury, the jury entered an acquittal in relation to one of the charges Patrick Nadli faced.  The jury was not able to reach a conclusion in relation to the most important remaining charge – sex assault cause bodily harm.  The Crown gave notice that it would be seeking another trial to resolve this count and Nadli (who had been waiting in jail for over 2 years) decided to enter a guilty plea.


Nadli was sentenced to 5 years in jail for these reasons – R. v. Nadli, 2014 NWTSC 71 (CanLII).  The remaining question was – what credit should he receive for his pre-sentence custody?

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What does successful jury address look like?

Mountains west of the Delta

My guy (whose name has been changed to protect the innocent) was acquitted of sexual assault after trial by Jury. You can read about the result here.


But why was he acquitted?  What about the case was so weak that he did not even have to testify before the Jury?  The fact that someone said “he did it” doesn’t make it true.


Here are my jury address notes:

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How did the Lawdawg get his name?

Qiviuq and Ovayuk


A few years ago when I began doing a public legal education column with the CBC in Iqaluit, a discussion with a producer about Inuktitut got side tracked into dogs and the idea that qimiq is a word for dog but it does not need kamotiq (sled) as a descriptor because qimiq includes a notion of sled already.


She agreed that you would have to describe a guide dog or a police dog in a particular way. Anything out of the ordinary for an arctic dog would be required as an adjective, but anything that dogs traditionally do, is an unnecessary descriptor – it is captured by the concept qimiq.

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Facepalm(s) in the North

Clouds in CamBay


David is the second of Suzy’s children.  David is the only one of Suzy’s children with a formal diagnosis of FASD.  David has an on-again/off-again relationship with Christine (on-again when she misses him and wants help to take care of their two-year old daughter and off-again when he gets drunk and beats her up).  During the off-again times, he lives with Suzy, his 2 younger siblings and Suzy’s mother Gloria.


David lives in a tiny Arctic community of about 1000 souls.  As is the case with all of Canada’s tiny Arctic communities, this one has primary and high schools, a Northern Store, an Arctic Co-op store, a post office, government offices of some sort, a Health Centre and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment.

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