Jailing an Ulukhaktok woman who admitted sending sexually explicit messages to a 12-year-old girl would “make it harder for her to recover,” her lawyer believes.
Residents in the hamlet might know of Rhea Alikamik’s crime – invitation to sexual touching with a minor – but the stigma of sending the 21-year old away to jail would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Paul Falvo argued in court.
Moreover, he said, Alikamik is a victim of sexual abuse herself and shouldn’t be subject to the mandatory minimum sentence for the crime, which in this instance is three months.
“Many people will know what she is charged with,” said Falvo in territorial court Wednesday, noting a number of people usually attend court when it sits in the community.
“Everyone in Ulukhaktok will know if she is sent away to jail for a few months – and she will know that.
“I submit [being sent to jail] would make it harder for her to recover, not just for the punishment but looking at her overall life … That stigma will contribute to the cycle of Gladue.”
The longstanding 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.
“Miss Alikamik is the perpetrator in this case, but she has been the victim of abuse in the past,” said Falvo, referencing a pre-sentence report prepared about his client.
“She has been a victim of abuse, and now she is engaged in it.”
Falvo called that “a terrible cycle” and said a “strong deterrent message must be sent” to others who would consider propositioning a child for sex.
“But I would argue the burden must not be placed on Rhea Alikamik. The cycle of abuse in the North must be broken, but not over her.
“She is as much a victim as a participant in this cycle.”
Sore leg postponed meeting
Crown prosecutor Jay Potter read an agreed statement of facts in territorial court Wednesday. Alikamik wasn’t in court.
In January 2018, the 12-year-old girl started communicating with Alikamik, then 20.
The pair soon exchanged explicit messages via SMS and Facebook.
Later that month, Alikamik proposed the pair meet up at the girl’s house to engage in various sexual acts.
“The conversation was initiated by the victim, but Miss Alikamik was in agreement with the plans,” said Potter.
The arranged meeting was postponed as the adult had a sore leg.
On January 24, RCMP received a complaint about the communications between the pair. Alikamik was arrested on January 25.
Under questioning by RCMP, Alikamik admitted communicating with the 12-year old and asking her to “have sexual relations,” said Potter.
She also admitted asking for sexually explicit photos, and that she knew the girl was under the age of 16.
Alikamik was originally charged with five offences – invitation to sexual touching, child luring, sexual assault, and two breaches of court orders – but, on December 5, admitted guilt in a plea arrangement to only the first charge.
Alikamik has a criminal record which includes convictions for assault and assault with a weapon in 2016, and a breach of a court order in 2017.
Falvo called for her sentence to be served in the community, which usually means house arrest or an intermittent sentence.
Judge Robert Gorin called for further written submissions and adjourned the sentencing hearing until May 8 in Ulukhaktok.