A 26-year-old who committed a range of crimes in Yellowknife to raise drug money – while also threatening to kill a corrections officer – received a five-month jail sentence in territorial court on Friday.
The Crown had called for Kelly Canadian to be handed a sentence of between six to eight months.
Canadian is separately pursuing legal action against the territory over his alleged sexual exploitation by staff at the North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC) – two of whom were dismissed following an internal investigation into the matter.
During the sentencing hearing, Deputy Judge Brian Bruser revised his written decision from the bench – reducing the total time Canadian would serve for a series of 12 crimes he admitted committing last fall.
Those crimes included uttering threats to kill a NSCC employee with whom Canadian is said to have been sexually involved.
“This is a complex sentencing,” the judge said. “This offender is 26 years old and Aboriginal, and I am required to pay particular attention to his circumstances. The Gladue factors in this case … are highly significant.”
The Gladue principle, named after Cree woman Jamie Tanis Gladue, requires judges to take into consideration circumstances facing Indigenous peoples in order to arrive at an appropriate sentence.
“Your lawyer put it very well, I think,” said the judge, “when she said you had, over the years when you were growing up, significant trauma – and I accept that.”
Between October 23 and 27 last year, Canadian was out of jail on probation with orders to keep the peace and be of good behaviour when he stole items from several local businesses – Overlander Sports, The Source, Walmart, Canadian Tire, and the downtown Liquor Store.
He also told his probation officer he had a knife and was going to kill a corrections officer and his common-law partner.
On Wednesday, during the first part of the sentencing hearing, the court heard Canadian attended the residence of the corrections officer twice looking for money.
Crown prosecutor Alex Godfrey said Canadian also used social media to harass the corrections officer and his spouse, threatening to tell people that the corrections officer was selling drugs at the jail.
Later in the hearing, defence lawyer Jessi Casebeer said the corrections officer – who first met Canadian inside NSCC – had “pursued” him after he was released from jail “for a homosexual relationship.”
The relationship had been taking place “both outside the facility and inside the facility,” Casebeer told court.
On Friday, Canadian stood in court and, in a steady, quiet tone, apologized for his actions – including harassing and threatening the man and his partner.
“The multiple thefts [were to fuel] my crack cocaine addiction,” he said, while wearing the orange shirt of an inmate in segregation at NSCC.
“The stolen items were sold to street-level dealers for next to nothing – a fraction of their total value,” said Canadian. “During the thefts I was awake for days at a time.”
Canadian said he had voluntarily asked to be placed in segregation as he was under a great deal of stress at the jail.
Part of that stemmed in the past, he said, from having to see a corrections officer he alleges sexually assaulted him.
Canadian said Friday he was sexually abused “30 to 40 times” by a jail employee. He said it was emotionally difficult to serve time at NSCC as he would have to “walk by this individual’s office every day.”
‘I began to wonder’
In a civil case unconnected to Friday’s criminal matters, Canadian is suing the territorial government for $1.25 million in damages over alleged exploitation while he was inside the jail.
Canadian alleges “systemic failures” allowed abuse to take place behind the jail’s walls.
The claim states dozens of sexual encounters took place over the course of three sentences Canadian served at NSCC between February 2016 and May 2017.
As a result of the incidents, Canadian claims he has been left with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and a loss of self-esteem.
The territorial government has 30 days to respond to the claim.
On Wednesday, Casebeer explained the ongoing lawsuit against the GNWT does not name the corrections officer who Canadian threatened to kill.
None of the corrections staff have had a chance to answer to any of these allegations in court and are presumed innocent.
Last week, deputy justice minister Martin Goldney said two corrections officers had been dismissed following a workplace investigation into Canadian’s allegations.
During the Wednesday hearing, when legal discussions began to frustrate him, Canadian stood up and stormed from beside his lawyer toward the door heading downstairs to the courthouse holding cells.
“Earlier in the week, I began to wonder if you cared about what was going on,” the judge said on Friday. “You displayed anger, rudeness – and perhaps contempt of court, which I have decided not to do anything about … (I’ll) just let you get it out.
“I accept your apology and it won’t in any way count against you.”
Bruser went through each of the 12 counts in front of him – uttering threats, criminal harassment, four charges of theft under $5,000, resisting arrest, and several breaches of court orders – and determined many of the sentences would be served concurrently, or together.
Canadian had asked the judge for a sentence of four to six months. Four months would have seen Canadian effectively freed immediately, once his time in pre-trial custody had been taken into account.
Bruser said he acknowledged that “on its face,” the sentence he was handing out was “light.” He suggested the Crown could appeal if desired.
With a credit of 119 days in pre-trial custody, Canadian will serve one month before being released.
At that point a one-year probation term will come into effect, during which Canadian will be barred from contacting the corrections employee and his spouse. During that time, he will also be offered addictions counselling.
He is also prohibited from attending any of the stores from which he stole. One of the businesses, Overlander Sports, has asked for restitution of $566.
Canadian must also submit another DNA sample to the national criminal databank, and will be barred from possessing firearms for five years.
In an earlier, unrelated case, Canadian received $5,000 in an out-of-court settlement after he complained to the NWT Human Rights Commission about harassment by jail staff while serving time in 2016 for theft and assault.